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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #244

Welcome to the two-hundred and forty-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and forty-three.

Comic Book Legends Revealed is part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. I’d especially recommend you check out this installment of Music Legends Revealed to find out how the girl band behind “He’s A Rebel” was not the actual girl band behind “He’s A Rebel”!

This week, a special theme week based on comic book characters being adapted into other media!

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: The musical “It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman” was inspired by the success of the Batman TV series.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

In his column last week, our own Greg Hatcher wrote about It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, the Broadway musical about Superman:

In the late sixties, given the television success of the Adam West Batman, it’s not surprising that someone thought it might be possible to succeed with that same campy superhero take on Superman. It’s a little more surprising that they thought it should be done as a Broadway musical.

Especially given the technological hurdles they’d have to overcome in trying to make Superman look, well, super. It didn’t work out and the play closed after four months.

I say this not to pick on Greg, but to point out that this is how MOST people view how things went down. If Greg is repeating the story, then that’s surely something that is accepted among fans, as Greg knows his stuff.

So the idea is that it was…

The Batman TV series was a major success…

So then someone tried to cash in by doing a similar project with Superman, only as a Broadway musical (here is Bob Holiday as Superman in the musical)…

Only (and I’m sure you’ve guessed this by now, why else would I have led with the following sentences?), that’s not really how it went down.

The Batman TV series debuted on January 12th, 1966.

It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman began its previews on Broadway on March 9th, 1966 before opening on March 26, 1966.

So this was not a case of putting out a musical to cash in on the success of the TV series, as Broadway is faaaaar too slow for such a thing. Theaters are booked well in advance, and the Superman musical had work started on it a good long time before the show’s opening.

Not only that, but the writers behind the songs, composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Lee Adams (writers of the hit musical Bye Bye Birdie, which had already won the pair a Tony Award in 1960), were playing the musical as straight as they could. The show actually is famous in musical circles as a show that ENDED UP being campy, but was not originally intended that way. Says Strouse, “In hindsight, we were ahead of our time. We thought it was clever, but people thought we were being “clever,” that we were trying for a trendy cult show – whereas we wanted something for everyone.”

That doesn’t seem like he was trying to emulate the Batman show, now does it?

And it’s not like musicals based on comics were new, as Lil’ Abner was a hit in 1956…

In any event, while the music of the show is actually well regarded, it was, indeed, a notable financial flop, closing in July of 1966.

Interestingly, though, even with this flop, Strouse was still a big fan of the idea of doing a musical based on comics – “A comic strip is an ideal basis for a musical comedy because they are similar forms of popular culture, both dealing in broad strokes, telling simple stories in as few words as possible.”

And sure enough, in 1977, Strouse returned to the comic world, with much greater success, with the Tony Award-winning Annie (his THIRD Tony Award! He also won in 1970 with Applause).

Story continues below

So while the musical has certainly been conflated with the Batman TV series (obviously, the media coverage of the musical at the time totally tied in to the TV series, as how could it not?), it was its own thing.

Thanks to Chris Stansfield, who wrote in to the blog on this topic, inspiring me to feature it as a legend. And apologies to Greg for featuring his quote at the beginning! It’s meant as a compliment! Honest!

COMIC LEGEND: A Japanese television show about Marvel superheroes eventually led to the Power Rangers!

STATUS: True Enough for a True

One of the longest running live-action children’s series is Japan’s “Super Sentai” genre of shows.

The basic concept of the shows is that they all involve a team of highly trained good guys who wear colorful outfits band together to fight the bad guys. Almost invariably, they then are forced to go into giant robot form to fight the bad guys (who invariably have somehow become giant-sized).

However, when the basic foundation of this idea was developed in 1975 in the series Himitsu Sentai Goranger, only part of the premise was in place. There was a team of highly trained good guys wearing colorful outfits, but there were no giant robots, and that really HAS become a major aspect of the genre. It was followed by a show about cyborgs, but still no giant robots!

So guess what show first introduced the Super to the Super Sentai (basically, what show added giant robots to the mix)?

None other than Spider-Man!!

You see, as I mentioned in a previous installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed, Marvel made a deal with the Japanese entertainment company, Toei, in the late 1970s to produce animated programming. That did not work out. However, they also made a deal where Toei could do LIVE-action stories featuring Marvel characters, and that had greater success.

In 1978, Toei debuted their Spider-Man series…

The series held pretty true to Spider-Man’s roots…except, you know, the whole part about him having a giant robot that he would fight bad guys in…

Toei quickly realized that people inside humanoid giant robots was what they were missing with their Sentai series, so they then debuted in 1979, in conjunction with Marvel Comics, Battle Fever J, based in part on Captain America, this series adapted the previous Sentai series only now the team also use the giant robots debuted in the Spider-Man series.

Commenter Carl felt it worth pointing out, and I agree, that there HAD been giant robots in Japanese pop culture before, but they were specifically robots, not people within giant robots like the Spider-Man series and the Super Sentai series that followed. Thanks, Carl!

After years of different shows riffing on basically this exact premise, eventually one of the shows, 1992’s Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger (where the twist is that their robots are dinosaur-based) ended up inspiring an American TV series.

Here is the Japanese show…

Look familiar?

Yep, the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers were based on this series, and it has been around ever since.

So, if you were a Power Rangers fan, you have Spider-Man to thank! If you hate the Power Rangers, well, you have Spider-Man to blame!

Thanks to reader Lunchboxkun for suggesting this one!

COMIC LEGEND: Two episodes of the 1960s’ Spider-Man animated series were made up of re-used footage from the cartoon series “Rocket Robin Hood.”


As you all likely know by now, cartoons have not always been the place to go if you want good production values. We, as viewers, have been spoiled by the Bruce Timm and Paul Dini level of quality on recent superhero cartoons.

In the 1960s (heck, in the 1980s! Heck, some of the shows in the 1990s weren’t exactly anything to write home about), the key to many productions was to do a show as cheaply as possible.

So one approach was to use as much stock footage from previous episodes as possible.

This was a common practice with the popular Spider-Man series that ran from 1967-70.

After a fairly high quality first season, the original producers of the show, Grantray-Lawrence, went bankrupt. Krantz Films did the last two seasons at a highly reduced budget, and they commonly re-used older Spider-Man footage to create “new” episodes of the series.

Story continues below

But that was one thing (however annoying it was), but for two episodes in the last two seasons of the show, they went even farther than that – it not only used footage from another cartoon series, it used practically ALL OF THE FOOTAGE from another cartoon series!

Rocket Robin Hood was another show by Krantz Films that ran from 1966 to 1969. It was produced and aired in Canada (although a few United States stations also carried it).

The concept of the show as as delightfully simple as the name might suggest…

It was stories starring Robin Hood and friends…only in SPACE!

Well, in the episode “Phantom From The Depths Of Time” of the Spider-Man series (season 2), they practically lifted the entirety of the Rocket Robin Hood episode, “From Menace to Menace.”

Check it out…

Here’s from the Robin Hood show…

Here’s the Spidey episode…

Robin Hood…


Robin Hood…


And here’s from the Spider-Man episode…



Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

As you likely know by now, last April my book finally came out!

Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!


I loved Rocket Robin Hood, despite knowing, even as a kid, that it was terrible.

God, Rocket Robin Hood was horrible. Only that stupid Hercules cartoon was worse.

Thank you for using a picture of Adam West before he developed the paunch…


Fun, tangentially-related facts: Paul Soles, who voiced Spider-Man/Peter Parker in the old cartoon was also the voice of Hermey the Mistfit Elf in the Rankin/Bass’ Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer special, and worked on Rocket Robin Hood and other early Marvel cartoons. Actors Bernard Cowan and Paul Kligman also did a lot of work on SM and RRH, in addition to appearing regularly on the Canadian comedy show Wayne & Shuster, featuring Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster, whose cousin was some dude named Joe Shuster.

And NOW you KNOW – the REST… of the story… that no one asked about.

(Okay, maybe I should have just said “Tangentially-related facts”.)

why didn’t they keep the quality of those stolen clips? the images of the Rocket Robin Hood look much better than the stolen Spiderman clip. If they were going to outright steal from another show, they should have at least kept it as good as it was before it was stolen.

On the Superman legend, the evidence for false is stronger than recorded. David Newman, the book writer for It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane and later one of the screenwriters for the Christopher Reeve Superman movie, incessantly blamed the failure of the musical on “cape-lash”. The idea was that the Batman TV show poisoned the well for the musical, completely satisfying the public appetite for superhero adaptations.

This was (of course) a ridiculous theory, but all members of the creative team seemed to have bought into “cape-lash”. Interestingly this included not just Strauss and Adams, who are kind of hacks, but director and producer Hal Prince whose non-Superman Broadway accomplishments are historically great (he has 21 Tonys…the non-Prince record is 8). In the middle of defining the Broadway musical for 50 years, he butchered Clark Kent.

In reality, the show is just not…very…good. The best song, “You’e got Possibilities” is primarily remembered for being excerpted in an ad for Pilsbury …(They are “more than meets the eye”). The show sounds almost exactly like Bye, Bye Birdie failing completely to evoke the style of Superman.

To proffer a REALLY obscure related question, the Superman musical featured a sort filmed documentary telling Superman’s origin. The underscoring to the documentary is the best superhero music in the show. It includes the first line from the John Williams Superman theme (Dah da DAH…da da da da Dah)…long before John Williams composed it. The first three notes can be traced back to even earlier Superman themes- by the mid-60s Superman was known to sound like “Dah da DAH”.

But I can’t find any solid evidence that the second half of the phrase was used before the musical. It seems highly unlikely that John Williams stole his theme from the underscoring to a disastrous musical. Presumably there is an earlier source…does anyone know what it is?

Incidentally the underscoring was almost certainly composed not by Strauss but by Eddie Sauter, a who had many years before composed a big band number for Benny Goodman called, you guessed it, Superman.

why didn’t they keep the quality of those stolen clips? the images of the Rocket Robin Hood look much better than the stolen Spiderman clip. If they were going to outright steal from another show, they should have at least kept it as good as it was before it was stolen.

It’s just the quality of the Spider-Man episode scan. Originally, I’m sure they were basically the same.

I just watched “Revolt in the Fifth Dimension” on Youtube. It was quite the acid trip of a cartoon. They should bring Infinata back in ASM.

Matthew Johnson

January 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Another thing Spider-man and Rocket Robin Hood had in common was the two best theme songs ever.

The funniest bit about Spider-Man is they once did one episode where an alien raised Manhattan into the air and another where an “Atlantean” sunk Manhattan into the ocean (nicely putting up a dome first). They were the same episode with fins put on the same alien to make him into an “Atlantean”.

By the way Giant Robots were used prior to the Japanese Spider-Man. Gigantor and Giant Robo came before, but they were actual robots, as opposed to piloted vehicles with humanoid shape.

By the way Giant Robots were used prior to the Japanese Spider-Man. Gigantor and Giant Robo came before, but they were actual robots, as opposed to piloted vehicles with humanoid shape.

Good point, Carl, I should have included that distinction.

Dimentia Five was one the scariest things in my childhood.

If you ever have a chance to see the 1959 movie version of the L’il Abner musical, I strongly recommend it. It’s very charming, has a lot of subtle (and some not-so-subtle) sexiness, and it’s got dancin’ Julie Newmar for Pete’s sake!

Brian from Canada

January 22, 2010 at 1:23 pm

RossW –

Williams’ lifting the phrase may not be as unlikely as it appears. His previous success, Star Wars, was based on other pieces that director George Lucas had put in as mood markers for the final score. (“The Imperial March,” for example, is based on Mussorgsky’s “Night On Bald Mountain” and others). Williams could have easily listened to the original musical for inspiration and the phrase caught his ear.

What really matters is what you do WITH that phrasing. If Williams changed the tempo, orchestration, etc. and made it part of a bigger piece, then kudos to him.

The only score component I’ve seen with mentions of the original are the Star Trek scores, which always reference the original series composer with the basic themes for the series.

Marvel actually have the trailer fo Japanese Spider-Man on their youtube channel, i’ve lineked it in, look out for Spider-Mans new weapon of choice, ridiculous…

Peter S. Svensson

January 22, 2010 at 1:38 pm

The main thing that the Spider-Man live action show pioneered was the formula that Sentai would later adopt. The hero faces the monster at normal size, and then the monster grows large and the hero uses a giant robot to finish the job. While there had been shows featuring Giant Robots before, the precise formula of having two fights an episode, one a human-scale and one on a giant-scale was made for the Spider-Man live action show and then adopted by Battle Fever J and the subsequent super sentai series, becoming the hallmark of that franchise.

Mr. M

Li’l Abner is great. And doesn’t Peter Palmer look like he’d make a great Superman in that movie?

Rocket Robin Hood was so great.

“In the 1960s (heck, in the 1980s! Heck, some of the shows in the 1990s weren’t exactly anything to write home about), the key to many productions was to do a show as cheaply as possible.”

Why stop there? Even today, a flip over to Nickelodeon, Disney, or the increasingly inaccurately-named Cartoon Network will show plenty of poorly-animated Flash fare.

I remember back in the late 70’s early 80’s Marv Wolfman complaining how a Japanese company made a animated Dracula movie that was a “Tomb of Dracula” ripoff. He was ticked at them doing it, and I believe Marvel may have sued the company. vHe had a VHS copy, and I made a deal to get him to make me one as well. Some of it was almost a panel by panel of Gene Colan’s work. I may still have it somewhere, it’s probably in the same place where I will also find Amelia Earhart!

Maybe the story of that tape would be fodder for a future column?

Maybe the story of that tape would be fodder for a future column?

Check the link to the previous column I mentioned in the Toei piece, Bobb, I feature a legend on that very topic!

All these years later and Marvel and the Power Rangers are likely to become even more closely related as both are now part of Disney.

“Marvel actually have the trailer fo Japanese Spider-Man on their youtube channel, i’ve lineked it in, look out for Spider-Mans new weapon of choice, ridiculous…”

As of last year they had entire episodes up on Marvel.com.

I remember noticing the re-used Rocket Robin Hood footage as a kid. The Spider-Man cartoon also re-used footage from its own series- there are two episodes about an underground race, in one they’re blue ape-men, in the other they look like giant flowers. The funniest part is that in the second episode, during a fight scene they showed Spider-Man punching one of the blue ape-men.

I’m surprised there was enough of an episode of Rocket Robin Hood to recycle. There was so much filler in an episode that it seemed like there was only about 5 minutes of original material in a half hour. Unless there was also a scene were Spidey was sitting at a giant table of food and just took one bite out of each piece before throwing it over his shoulder.

I used to watch this bloody show every day at 6:00 in the morning as a kid but I don’t think I ever liked it much. Just watching clips on YouTube is infuriating as an adult. At least it had a good theme song.

While the Spider-Man & Battle Fever J are progenitors of the Super Sentai series and thus, the Power Rangers, it’s a little misleading to say Spider-Man was a clear break from the non-piloted giant robots of Japanese Pop Culture.

They’d been around for years prior to Toei’s Spider-Man, with Go Nagai’s Mazinger Z (1972) being the turning point in the use of giant robots in manga and anime.

The John Williams Superman theme is probably closer to Sammy Timberg’s theme to the 1940s Max Fleischer cartoons than the Overture used in “It’s a Bird…”

Back in 1966, when Batman got the cover of Life Magazine, It’s a Bird was also covered in the same cover feature (along with the little known Mad magazine-based revue, The Mad Show) so I think that has also aided the general impression that Batman and It’s a Bird were part of the same trend.

Oops, that should’ve read “…the use of piloted giant robots in manga and anime”.

I was about to bring up Mazinger Z as well, but Brack beat me to it.

The Superman musical was adapted for television in the 1970s, and ran in late night on ABC’s Wide World of Entertainment. Anybody else see it? The adaptation twisted the original book around to make it even campier. Lesley Ann Warren as Lois Lane, Alan Ludden as Perry White (“Rosebud? A sleigh!? Nobody will believe that!”), David Wayne, Loretta Swit, Kenneth Mars, Malachi Throne, Personally, I adored it.

Most of the music is derivative, but Lois’ solo “I Wish I Weren’t In Love with Superman” is lovely. And the finale — “Pow! Bam! Zonk!” — in which Supes mops up the villainous gangsters while singing “Gosh I’m hungry, I’d sure like a T-bone steak….I haven’t felt this good in Krypton-knows when…” is unforgettable. At least to a 14 year-old fan.

The Superman musical also previewed in Philadelphia before New York, and the original cast album was recorded on April 3, 1966. See this link for a first hand account of someone who saw the Philly preview: http://users.bestweb.net/~foosie/superman.htm

Thanks, Allen!

I couldn’t find out where the show ran for try-outs (if it did at all).

That’s quite helpful!

The Superman musical was in trouble in Philadelphia. One of the mistakes was hiring Jack Cassidy and having to make his character prominent to justify his star billing. So, Superman is not the featured role. When you read the liner notes for the CD reissue, there is discussion of a song (the demo is on the CD) that was a spoof of Walter Winchell three dot journalism – in fact, it was called “Dot, Dot, Dot” – and it got no laughs. Cassidy was mortified, according to the liner notes. I saw a recent version of the show – and it is okay. The original stereotype chinese villains became bad gangsters in the ABC version – and were turned into Russian acrobats in the version I saw. It’s not a bad show – it’s just average -with some good songs, but the wrong characters being given the best parts.

Why didn’t they keep the quality of those stolen clips? the images of the Rocket Robin Hood look much better than the stolen Spiderman clip. If they were going to outright steal from another show, they should have at least kept it as good as it was before it was stolen.””

It’s just the quality of the Spider-Man episode scan. Originally, I’m sure they were basically the same.

A lot of the Spider-man material from the later seasons exists only as poor quality 16mm film or a poorly transferred telecine. So in many ways, the Rocket Robin Hood stuff actually looks better.

And dang it, Revolt in the Fifth Dimension has to be one of the creepiest, wackiest cartoons ever shown on Saturday morning. There’s an almost iconic shot of this red staircase that leads to a door with doorknob that’s actually a hand with long fingernails. Spidey feels compelled to open the door and the doorknob/hand grabs him and pulls him through the door. The darn door doesn’t even open. That and there’s some creatures that look like lampreys that chase Spidey and shock him electricity. Brrrr!

I have Ralph Bakshi, Shamus Culhane, and Grey Morrow to blame for my screwed up childhood. Possibly Steranko too, it’s rumored he worked on Rocket Robin Hood for Krantz in NYC. I’d like to see a future Legends column about comic book creators who crossed into animation (Kirby, Steranko?) and also animation guys who crossed into comic books (Darwyn Cooke).

“The series held pretty true to Spider-Man’s roots”

Yes, Japanese Spidey getting his powers from some crashed alien ship totally mirrors the works of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko ; )

Cool as they may be, Japanese heroes are pretty stupid.
They could defend their cities better if they used their Giant Robots to squash the bad guys BEFORE they turn into Giant Monsters!

Also, Rocket Robin Hood is the greatest cartoon ever made, with the best theme song of any tv show animated or otherwise.
How Hollywood didnt yet buy the rights to make a live action trilogy is just pathetic.

Has Adam West’s paunch been discussed here?

I had a second hand copy of the album to “It’s A Bird…”, but it went missing some time ago.

The Crazed Spruce

January 22, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I spent many a Saturday afternoon as a kid watching Spider-Man and Rocket Robin Hood back-to-back. I still say that’s where my love of horrible, horrible movies comes from. (And yeah, it’s the scans. When they aired, they were practically identical.)

Rocket Robin Hood was a staple of Canadian television in the 70’s. It counted as mandatory Canadian content since the original animation studio was Canadian and of course Paul Soles and Chris Wiggins, who provided voices for Spider-Man and RRH were Canadian. I used to be obsessed with this show, and would catch it every Saturday morning.. its crudity and hokiness was never a problem. I looked forward to the rhythm and repetition, the inevitability of recurrence of those immortal scenes every episode.The image, at the opening credits, of Friar Tuck taking a single bite of his chicken drumstick, and then cavalierly throwing it behind him only to engorge on another tasty morsel is indelible. It is truly a bizarre wonder that Spider-Man was forced into the most un-Spider-Man like setting… the vague impressionist psychedelia of another dimension (those sombre swaths pinks and purples!)… simply because he was actually borrowing the vague impressionist psychedelia of his sister show. Astounding and magnificent!

Kevin, don’t you dare dis The Mighty Hercules!

The Mighty Hercules cartoon was my absolute favorite TV show when I was five. It’s the first TV show I really remember. It’s the first thing I was ever a rabid fan of, if you don’t count my teddy bear. I had a coloring book of Hercules that I took to bed with me. I still remember everything about it. I even remember wondering why Daedalus wore a helmut on his head when his body was just covered by a robe. This was the true beginning of my fanboy life.

I was watching The Mighty Hercules when they interrupted my regularly scheduled program to tell me that JFK had been shot.

I can still sing the theme song!

With the strength of ten
Ordinary men
He’s the Mighty

Mighty Hercules is not mocked!

But that Sinbad cartoon? That sucked monkey balls.

“They could defend their cities better if they used their Giant Robots to squash the bad guys BEFORE they turn into Giant Monsters!”

Well, actually, most of the time they did. But then some other entity with some sort of “power up” or resurrection device would come in and revive the bad guy as a giant.

And the earliest instance of using five people (like in the later Super Sentai stuff that followed) to pilot one giant robot I could think of is Voltes V, which aired in Japan in 1977 (clearly predating the Spider-Man series) but I think Combattler V came in even earlier.

OMG, thank you for reminding me of that Spidey ep. It’s high art, dudes.

As mentioned upthread, Paul Soles was the voice of Spider-Man.

Soles was a fixture on Canadian TV. He hosted an afternoon talk show called Take 30 on the CBC in the ’70’s. I can recall one episode where he interviewed Stan Lee. He also played “the Law Breaker” on a panel show called “This is the Law”. The panelists would watch short film segments featuring Soles, all of which ended with Soles’ character getting arrested. The panelists would then have to guess what obscure law he broke.

Soles also appeared in the Incredible Hulk film, as Stanley, the Pizzeria owner.

That animation is almost as bad as Family Guy.

I bet it was really confusing when a giant ant killed Uncle Ben.:_

Wow. That picture of Spider-man holding the alien in his hand almost gave me a flashback or something. I can almost remember that episode but not quite. Weird.

Even as a kid I could tell when they were reusing animation. Some of those Spidey cartoons are so similar I couldn’t tell which episode it was going to be if I’d seen it before. And later on, I couldn’t help but notice that whenever He-man jumped down and started walking, it was EXACTLY the same every time except for possibly a different background. It sucks that quality animation is so expensive :(

Seeing that tidbit about Rocket Robin Hood and Spiderman. wow. Still, I think as far as recycled footage goes, Filmation still beats it. Didn’t they do an entire season of Tarzan without animating a single frame of new footage?

That Japanese show is known as Bioman in the Philippines.

It so totally ruled.

I was just two days ago telling a friend (a former professional animator, come to think of it) about the trippy re-used footage on RRH and SM.

RRH is a weird kind of Canadian pop-cult touchstone, in that everyone of a certain age will get the friar tuck reference/gesture, but it’s the kind of thing that never gets mentioned/joked about in US (i.e. mainstream) pop culture, so it feels pleasantly underground.

Fantastic premise, with the electro quarter staffs and Prince John who looked just like Vincent Price, if I recall correctly.

If someone got the license and started putting out a decent comic adaptation, I’d buy it for sure.

Dr. Manta's intern

January 22, 2010 at 10:55 pm

In regards to the Spider-Man 67 footage, you may remember back around 2004 or so a DVD set was released of the whole series, the quality was superb (except for a couple of episodes, which I’m assuming they didn’t have a chance to polish up due to deadlines). Look on eBay for it, it’s worth the investment.

Volume 1 of Rocket Robin Hood was just released on DVD a couple of months ago in Canada after a series of delays. One episode was left out, with the claim that the footage couldn’t be found, which is strange as it aired on Teletoon, fortunately someone loaded it on YouTube. I wonder though whether that episode was left out as there’s a scene where Wil Scarlet swings a sword at Little John drawing blood on his arm, something I don’t ever remember happening in a children’s cartoon before.

Great info today, thanks Brian.

The York Theater in New York City did a concert version of SUPERMAN in June 2007. It was delightful. Superman/Clark Kent was played by Cheyenne Jackson. This was before he rescued XANADU and I’d never heard of him. I’ve been a fan ever since. The woman playing the mad scientist (a gender change) looked strangely familiar — I realized at last it was Lea DeLaria, as hilarious as I’ve ever seen her. The show was done without scenery or costumes, but the actors’ body language said it all. When Superman became Clark Kent, Jackson simply slumped; you could see the change and it was funny. A bonus was an interview with the show’s author, Charles Strouse, who was engaging. I found a review of the production on the Web, written about a different night when some of the original stars attended:


I suspect that this “reading,” which relied on our imaginations, was as effective as the Broadway production. And I’ve now sat twenty feet from Cheyenne Jackson and seen Lea DeLaria in person.

I know other people suggest some of the same topics, but I also sent you the suggestion about the Spider-Man Power Rangers connection.


A new version of the musical, using the original songs with a new book written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, will debut at the Dallas Theater Center.

Another comic book link to Rocket Robin Hood- James Steranko developed storyboards for this series while working for Grantray-Lawrence

I saw the late-night TV adaptation of It’s a Bird, and I agree it was pretty entertaining–though I’m not sure it would hold up as an adult.
The Spidey episode which most sticks in my mind is Blotto, in which a living shadow sucks up Manhattan. It’s loooooong sequences of skyscraper backgrounds turning black, then turning normal again after spidey saves the day.
I would have loved to catch Rocket Robin Hood back in the day, but never did.

“He also played “the Law Breaker” on a panel show called “This is the Law”. The panelists would watch short film segments featuring Soles, all of which ended with Soles’ character getting arrested. The panelists would then have to guess what obscure law he broke. ”

I remember that show shooting one of their segments across from my place at my friend’s townhouse. Someone was up on a ladder (painting the front of the house IIRC) and Soles walked under the ladder. The painter accidently knocked the paint bucket down onto his head, but Soles was the one arrested! When they were done all us kids were given a “This Is The Law” button. :)

A few years ago, Disnazi…ummm…I mean, Disney released a boxed set of that old Spidey cartoon. I can’t remember why, but Marvel ended up fighting with Disney over it.
Pixar also had a huge falling out with “The Mouse”.
Guess who owns both companies now?
Funny how things work out, huh?

As for the poor quality of the last 2 seasons of 60’s Spidey…
I don’t completely lay fault with Krantz. I blame Ralph Bakshi and those damn weird-looking skies he always has to have in his productions.

I remember watching reruns of RRH and Mighty Hercules. I loved RRH, but didn’t care too much for Herc. It was that bloody centaur who insisted upon repeating everything he said. That just annoyed the heck out of me.

The theme song for Mighty Hercules was sung by Johnny Nash. He’s most famous for the song “I Can See Clearly Now”.

It is correct that piloted Giant Robots are older than Japanese TV shows and cartoons. I think the first time I saw the concept was in an issue of UNCLE SCROOGE where he had human-shaped bulldozers built to help with construction projects, but the Beagle Boys steal them to try to rob his Money Bin with them. I thought it was so cool back then! (And I still do! ; ) ) Of course, the idea may be older than that; I know that Starship Troopers (The original novels, not the movie) featured soldiers in powered armor, though I’m not sure how big they were.

As for Rocket Robin Hood, that too was aired here (in Spanish); that show was a hoot to watch, and it was one of the first cartoonswhere I went “man, this is too hard to believe!” even as a kid. I mean, they never explained WHY the events of Robin Hood were replaying in the future, did they? (At least Camelot 3000 had reincarnation as an excuse.) It wasn’t THAT bad, overall, except that the stories were not particularly impressive.

And about reusing footage, well of course toons of the time did that often! You think I never noticed how Spider-Man always was shown swinging in the exact same shot? But hey, even then I understood that, if you’re going to reuse the same sequence, why not reuse the same footage? Saves money! It only bothered me when *important* parts of the story (like the fight scenes) were reused entirely.

And yeah, Filmation reused a LOT of material. I remember watching He-Man and noticing how he not only had the same body as their earlier Tarzan, but there were scenes where he ran in EXACTLY the same way!

Before Power Rangers became a hit, didn’t MTV dub a few episodes and air them as a comedy? The dialogue had nothing to do with what was on the screen and was loaded with pop culture references.

As for the Superman musical, I located a soundtrack on CD in the 1990s with four songs that weren’t used, including “Dot, Dot, Dot” performed on piano and sung by the composer.

I watched an old episode of ” The Mod Squad” and a few weeks later the same story was done on “Charlies Angles”. In the 1950s, they padded episodes of “Captain Video” with stock footage from old westerns.

If anyone cares, the giant robot Spiderman pilots is called Leopaldon (sometimes Leopardon) and had a toy of him made in the Jumbo Machinder style, which were what we called Shogun Warriors (basically 2′ tall robot toys made out of shampoo bottle material that fired fists and rockets which included Mazinger, Raydeen and even Godzilla amongst others). Unfortunately, that toy never made it to these shores and it is very difficult to obtain now, costing literally thousands of dollars. It’s too bad, as it even had a Spidey car that came out of it.

turk – the Soul of Chogokin range of die cast nostalgia toys for Japanese dads did a Leopardon a while back that came with the Spidey Car (and a Spider-Man!).

DoubleWide – There was a joke dub of the Super Sentai series Dynaman which aired on different stations occasionally throughout the eighties. Not sure if it ever aired on MTV, but that could be what you were thinking of.

For another example of reusing footage, Mumm-ra’s transformation into the Everliving in Thundercats was reused for Monstar’s transformation in Silverhawks.

I had never connected the “Paul Soles” who voiced PP/S-M with the fellow who, as one commenter pointed out, was a fixture in Canadian entertainment during the period of my youth. That’s so awesome! I can now put a face to good ol’ Spidey from my childhood!

Another great column, as always!

Now, there is a fascinating question: What is the first instance in fiction of a human driving a giant robot?

I’d just like to add that Spider-Man (Toei) wasn’t the first to have piloted mechs in Japanese culture either. Mazinger Z debuted as a manga in 1972 then later became an anime in the same year. Though it may have been the first to do this in a Live Action series…

The re-dubbed Dynaman episodes were not from MTV but from Night Flight on the USA Network.

And to explain the Captain America vibe for Battle Fever J, the members are (from back to front)
Battle Japan
Battle Cossack
Battle France
Battle Kenya
Miss America

Of course all of the characters were played by Japanese actors (except for the original Miss America who was..American). But hey, Battle Cossack could do a Russian dance.

@RossW: I think one of the reasons the creative team attributes the failure of IABIAPIS to “cape-lash” is because the New York critics largely disagreed with your assessment that the show “wasn’t very good.” I’m not saying they’re right, but again, when you have pretty good reviews and a pretty well known character, it’s natural to look for other explanations for your show being a flop. (See “Shrek” as “Exhibit B.”)

If it’s possible to win five Tony Awards (combined), be nominated for an additional seven, write the music for two of the best-known musicals in history (Bye Bye Birdie and Annie) and two or three more semi-successes, and also be responsible for one of musical theater’s best known songs (“Tomorrow”) and one of its most-recorded (“Once Upon a Time”) and still be “Hacks”….well, please sign me up to be a hack. My rent is due next week.

The Mutt – that may be Robert Heinlein’s 1959 novel STARSHIP TROOPERS. I don’t remember how giant they were, but they did have human-driven infantry mechs.

There is a Golden Age Superman story that has always stuck in my head because it is soooo bizarre. Clark and Lois go to see a movie about Superman. Every time the movie shows a scene of Superman in his secret identity, Clark has to spill Lois’ popcorn or distract her some way so that she doesn’t learn that Superman is… Clark Kent! It’s in the movie! FTW?

And if I’m remembering right, the bad guy in the movie was a mad scientist inside a giant robot. I’m pretty sure it was from the 1940s, based on my vague memory of the art.

But there is bound to be a “man in a man-shaped giant robot” in Sci Fi much earlier than that, right? Anybody?

While i love the fact that the entire run of 1960s Spider-Man is out on DVDs, I was disappointed that there were no extras. I was even more disappointed when I I subsequently read a then-new interview with Paul Soles, and he had an amazing recollection of his work on the cartoon, so a DVD interview with him would have made for a great addition. When someone has excellent recollections of material they did four decades earlier, you ought to take advantage of that. I would love to meet him in person someday to say thank you for his great voicework on ths series.

Dr. Manta's intern

January 24, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Agreed. Paul Soles was/is super talented.


If the Spider-Man Japanese show inspired all those Japanese shows with robots that combine to become one big robot, did it also inspire all the cartoons of the same premise, like Voltes V or Voltron?

In fact, the only entirely positive review of the original “It’s a Bird…” came from the New York Times, and the review is riddled with contradictions but constantly referred to anyway in order to imbue the production with legitimacy by an authorized critic. All other reviews were lukewarm (including Walter Kerr’s) and agreed that the production seemed geared more for children but it was also campy, though Prince & Co. certainly did not intend it to be. Your statements assume that critics (specifically, Stanley Kauffman from the Times) offer the “right” opinions on shows and that the popularity of certain shows (Bye, Bye Birdie and Annie, as you mentioned) automatically means that they are good. Neither are necessarily true. Furthermore, the popularity of the Batman tv show and resurgence of superheroes in the mid-1960s should have ensured an audience for “It’s a Bird,” but Strouse, Adams, Prince, Newman, and Benton repeatedly distanced themselves from Batman in many newspaper articles and in some stylistic choices before their production opened, and then when their show flopped, they blamed Batman for stealing its audience, citing “cape-lash,” as RossW said. And, their claims are ridiculous. If “It’s a Bird…” was a quality production with broad appeal, then it would have run for more than 129 performances.

Donatella, I’m not sure why the tone of your post is so hostile- I’m not affiliated with the show, but it sounds like you lost money on it! :). Of the reviews I read (and I admit it was a few years ago- most of them are only available to me at the Lincoln Center Library), none were outright hostile. What you call lukewarm may have been positive, or I may have misinterpreted them as such, and with the passage of time been influenced by the others who have interpreted them that way. Either way, the point is the show wasn’t panned.

As for the rest of your statements- I can’t find a single instance where I ever said critics were “always right” or anything of the sort. In fact, I never say ANYONE is “right” when it comes to matters of subjective taste. What I said, and what is factual, is that the success and longevity of Broadway musicals owes a whole lot to opening night reviews- not as much anymore, but certainly a huge deal in the past. If that weren’t true, producers and casts wouldn’t wait anxiously after opening night to see the damn things- and if you think they don’t, you clearly aren’t hanging around the same theaters and restaurants and bars that I do.

As for whether a show being popular makes it “good” or “bad”- that’s a debate for the ages. But anyone who says that two shows that are revived as much, performed as much, and known as well as the two I mentioned didn’t clearly touch a nerve in multiple audiences – enough that the creative team deserves some respect – is placing his or her own opinion on a higher level than history’s opinion, and I think that’s a mistake. I’m not myself a particular fan of “Bye Bye Birdie,” (like everyone else who’s ever performed in musical theater, I’ve been in two or three tedious productions) but if its success was just a matter of market forces, hype, or the times, it just wouldn’t be around as long as it has been.

“If “It’s a Bird…” was a quality production with broad appeal, then it would have run for more than 129 performances.”

It’s interesting that you called me out for giving credence to mass appeal (and critics) and then closed your paragraph with that statement. So, do the masses count, or don’t they? Pick a side other than “This helps me with my slam.”

FYI- Porgy and Bess closed after 124 performances the first time it played on Broadway. Come on, I dare you!

Again, not sure why your tone is so hostile- I’m not going to insist that I haven’t in some threads come across as pompous, snarky, maybe even adamant, but I’d like to think it’s usually about matters of actual provable fact or subjects a little more serious than this. People disagree on theater. That’s what theater fans do- they disagree. Go into a New York piano bar sometime and ask for a song from “Ragtime”- you’ll get twenty people who want to sing the entire score and another twenty who choose that moment to go get a cigarette, go to the bathroom, or just stand around and make fun of the people who like “Ragtime.”

When I called out Ross it was because he called Adams and Strouss “hacks,” which is a matter of opinion, and kind of rude, actually, to two people who have had a great deal of success and a lot fans.I’m calling you out, first of all, for the hyperventilating tone of your rebuke and for being adamant when adamancy isn’t called for. If I like something (or don’t), I say I like it (or don’t)- I don’t feel the need to tell everyone else they’re “wrong” when they disagree.

The last time I got into an argument of this sort (hopefully not serious) was with Brian when we tried to match up John Wayne and Fred Astaire- in the end, we whipped out lists of awards, box office grosses, and a number of other things, and in the end, I conceded that it was a draw (don’t know if Brian did). The point being, I can argue the facts, but when it comes down to subjective beliefs, we’re both bound to hit a dead end.

As Jack Webb never said, “Just the facts, ma’am.” No one’s making you listen to Linda Lavin! :)

I’m sorry–I truly did not mean to be hostile, but I wanted to qualify all claims and to present the facts concerning the reviews, particularly the “cape-lash” story because I have been researching “It’s a Bird” for a while, and the many conflicting stories over why the show did not run for long absolutely fascinate me. Reviews certainly influence length of runs, as you said (though there’s an interesting study from a business journal that disputes this, but again, I think the study was problematic because it used too small a sample size), and I was just pointing out that the reviews for “It’s a Bird” were not overwhelmingly positive, which seemed to be your implication when disputing Ross. Personal letters to the editor regarding the production were mostly negative, but that is probably because these writers were responding to the reviews, since, naturally, people disagree about theatre. I really didn’t (and do not) mean to pick a fight but to point out discrepancies in the creative team’s claims and in scholarly interpretations of the production that take up the “cape-lash” theory or, for instance, assert that a hot New York City summer declined the show’s ticket sales without checking out other information, and I just found that frustrating in my research, so, truly, nothing personal, and I hope that there are no hard feelings. I rather wish that I could have been around to see the original production.

As for Porgy and Bess, at the time of its debut, having more than 100 performances was a huge feat, especially considering that so many more shows opened during those seasons making for high turnover.

No hard feelings at all- like I said, I take this sort of thing “seriously” only inasmuch as I have fun with the debates. And, with that in mind, I just wanted to point out about Porgy and Bess…

23 musicals opened between January 1, 1935, and December 31, 1936 (not counting operetta revivals (there were literally dozens of small bootleg productions of G&S works at the time) and plays with incidental music). Of the 23, at least 12 ran longer than 100 performances, and 11 of them ran longer than Porgy and Bess (which also had lukewarm reviews)- that’s taking into consideration that 2 of the remain productions have no opening/closing dates that I can find, and that I also can’t find anything that tells me which of the 23 productions was intended in the first place to be a limited run.

I’m not saying that shows didn’t have significantly shorter runs back then, but by any measure Porgy and Bess was, at best, a middle of the road show that is now universally considered a major landmark of musical theater- illustrating both your point that critics and audiences can’t always be relied on for judgment, and my point that JUST because IABIAPIS didn’t run long doesn’t NECESSARILY mean it was a bad show.

Like I said, when it gets into objective argument I come out guns a-blazing- which, incidentally, at least partially led to Brian writing about the show in the first place, so don’t hate me. ;)

Mutt, the story was “Superman Cartoon Hero” (I think is the title) and it has Lois and Clark watching a Fleischer cartoon (Mechanical Monsters, from your description). It is a decidedly oddball concept—reading it as a kid, before I’d even heard of the Fleischer cartoons, I kept waiting for an explanation that never came.

I bought that collection of 1967 Spiderman cartoons when it first came out, and I remember thinking that I had not even seen half of the cartoons on the collection. I was a stalwart viewer of the series on it’s original run…I recall seeing the re-runs of the first year’s installments with the regular Marvel villains. Then during the 2nd year, all of the villains dissappeared, with the exception of the Kingpin in the 2nd episode. After that, everything was either mad scientist driven, or some underground world.

Then while viewing this new DVD collection, I see a 2nd episode starring the Kingpin and Mary Jane based upon a story appearing in the ASM #59-60 called the Barinwasher! There was another episode with Mysterio without his regular costume, and his face was GREEN! Wild!

Were these episodes produced solely to fulfill a syndication agreement, because they were never shown on the original Saturday morning run…I would love to hear the lowdown on it!

That Dynaman redup for Night Flight featured Mark Mckinney who would go on and join The kids In The Hall a few years later.

I’ve written about the marvel/Sentai connection quite a few times. Here’s how I imagine that first meeting went:

Toei Executive – We are very excited about working with you on Spider-Man program. You have our gratitude.

Marvel Executive – We are pleased as well. We hope you will have much success.

TE – We have read about character from comics you sent. We do have some questions.

ME – Of course, we’ll be happy to help.

TE – Ah, good, thank you. We could not find any pictures of Spider-Man’s flying car.

ME – Um…he doesn’t have one, as such.

TE – Really? (muffled conversation in Japanese) Ah, We will fix this, it is not a problem. OK, next question…exactly how tall is his Giant Robot?

ME – The say whonow?

Mazinger Z may well be the first piloted giant robot in cartoons, but I’ll lay odds there’s one in Science Fiction that wildly predates that. Most people see a direct connection to the powered battle suits from Starship Troopers and Mobile Suit Gundam.

Some of my earliest memories are of watching the Spider-man cartoon as a kid. Heck, I thought they had made a comic from the cartoon when a kid brought one to show and tell! A few years ago I did an interview with Science Fiction painter Vincent Di Fate, he told me one of his earliest jobs was doing background paintings for the Spider-man cartoon series. I was really impressed that he had worked on a show that had been so important to my early development.

I also watched Rocket Robin Hood, but all I really recall was the opening animation and theme song. I remember being thrilled when visiting New York around the time that they hosted the winter Olympics and catching an episode of RRH on the TV…it brought back fond memories even back then.

I also have some distant memories of a Sinbad cartoon being projected at school where Sinbad was a kid, had a pet parrot and would tighten his belt to get super strength?

Yep, I remember that Sinbad cartoon from my youth. The parrot was Salty.

What I remember of the discussion of the Superman musical following the concert version at the York Theater in 2007 didn’t involve cape-lash. The feeling was that the plot had been distorted by casting problems. The plot had Clark Kent and another star reporter competing for the affections of Lois Lane. But the rival reporter was played by Jack Cassidy, a bigger star, so the script was adjusted to favor his part, leaving Superman an extra in his own show. When people came to see Superman, they saw a show mostly about other people. This came to seem a mistake.

I wonder which of the Spider-Man DVDs is worth having for someone as interested in animation as in the character. I have “the entire first season” of “Spider-Man: The New Animated Series” which seems to have aired in 2003 or 2004. It features excellent computer artwork and Neal Patrick Harris in the vocal cast. Other productions on the market seem to be Saturday Morning cartoon quality. The new series recently run on the CW network was, for me, unwatchable — flat drawing, pastel colors. Advice welcome.

Those are good points, Christopher. In the 1965-6 season, I think that 13 new musicals opened, and 4 had longer runs (at that point) than “It’s a Bird,” most prominently Man of La Mancha and Sweet Charity, while 6 or so had runs in the single digits.

According to Brian McKernan (http://www.supermanhomepage.com/other/other.php?topic=broadway-review3), who attended the York’s production, “Prompted by audience questions, Strouse confirmed the generally held view that the original show’s run of only 129 performances was due to the societal craze triggered by the twice-weekly Batman TV series, which premiered just weeks before It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman. The public incorrectly perceived the musical as a campy Batman-style send-up for kids.”

You’re right, too, that the book and music mostly focused on Max Menken as played by Jack Cassidy and other characters not in the traditional Superman comics. This may be changing with Dallas Theater Center’s revised book, which will introduce Lex Luthor and set the show in 1939. But in the original production, Cassidy received top billing with Holiday (Superman) at the bottom of the poster, and Cassidy got another song, “So Long, Big Guy” when “The Superman March” was scrapped after the Philadelphia try-out. Musically, the show swings back and forth between rollicking superhero tunes and the sounds of vaudeville (Max used to be a hoofer) and Bye, Bye Birdie. And a note on Life Magazine, which was mentioned earlier, Holiday was supposed to be on the cover as Superman, but he was bumped for Adam West as Batman.

The first combining multi-pilot robot in any Japanese fiction is Go Nagai’s Getter Robo, from about 1972 or thereabouts. It was a three-unit combination, however, and not “realistic”– you didn’t see mechanically how the transformations worked, they just did.

The first five-unit combiner of the quasi-realistic sort Americans know from Power Rangers and Voltron is Combatter V, from the 1974 or 75 show directed by Tadao Nagahama. Nagahama produced a follow-up called Voltes V the following year that is more famous in most parts of the world, as it features a much better cast and a much darker storyline than Combattler V.

Voltes V went on to profoundly influence virtually all subsequent robot anime and also the development of Super Sentai, the series that Power Rangers is adapted from. The late 70’s Super Sentai series Denjiman is a near-exact knockoff of Voltes V. Voltron’s pre-dubbed form, Go Lion, is generally regarded as a poor knockoff of either Voltes V or a series called God Sigma by most Japanese fans I’ve spoken with.

Voltron is one of those rare cases where what American audiences saw in the dub adaptation was a tremendous improvement over what Japanese audiences saw. In the course of dubbing Go Lion, the writers improved the characters and plot significantly while also introducing a new soundtrack that was much better than the original.

Live-action Spider-Man is noteworthy mainly for being Toei’s first live-action show using a giant robot, but a lot of people believe the introduction of the giant robot formula to Super Sentai saved the series after the second season, JAKQ, was a tremendous misfire. Given that Super Sentai has since run about 35 seasons, that makes what live-action Spider-Man accomplished a pretty big deal!

Japanese Spider-Man often gets compared favorably to American Spider-Man because it followed the formula of feeling much more grim and realistic than what other superhero shows were doing at the time. I believe Sailor Moon creator Naoko Takeuchi once commented that she was disappointed in the American Spider-Man comics when she finally obtained them, because they seemed much too light-hearted to her!

Lynxara, I guess Robotech would also be considered in the same rare cases boat too?

@Daryll B: It depends, since Robotech is a Frankenstein of three different shows.

The Macross portion of Robotech is generally considered much better in its original version than the dubbed version, since the Macek rewrite removed all of the elements of satire and parody that made Macross’s approach to the mecha genre memorable.

It spawned both a Super Dimensional series of successor series and a line of sequels just based on the Macross timeline and characters. Macross ultimately has become a major franchise in Japan with numerous noteworthy OVA and TV sequels of varying types. The most expensive anime ever produced to date was the Macross Plus sequel OVA.

The Southern Cross and Mospeada-based portions of Robotech are usually considered improvements over the original shows, which were both pretty bad and forgettable in their own ways. The Macek rewriting improved the cast and storylines quite a bit, while emphasizing the mecha spectacle a bit better.

Lynxara, thanks for the clarification.

Dr. Manta's intern

January 25, 2010 at 3:58 pm

For andyh40:
That’s very interesting to hear you’d never seen a lot of them, because I grew up in the late 70s/early 80s, long after they hit syndication, and I saw each episode at least a dozen times each. The second episode you mentioned, “Kingpinned” had the potential for being one of the most classic episodes, but there is WAY too much filler. Spidey swinging and swinging and swinging and swinging…

In response to mudduck, while I grew up with the 1960s cartoon (and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends), from an animation standpoint, and granted I haven’t seen the newest series, I’d go with the 1990s series, available on various DVDs though “volume” set are rumoured to be coming.

I tried the Harris series and had no trouble with it from a story perspective, but there was something about the computer animation that seriously messed with my head somehow. Logically i admired the attempt to try something different, for some reason part some subconscious part of my brain just would not accept that particular look. It’s hard to explain because it hasn’t happened to me before or since, but I physically could not watch the show.

@Andy: I had the same exact problem with that version. Interestingly, I have had similar problems with shows like “Beast Wars.” Though I love good film-quality computer animation (eg, Pixar, Dreamworks, etc), there’s is something about cheaply done computer animation (maybe it’s a frame rate issue?) that literally (yes, literally), gives me a headache. It’s physically difficult for me to watch.

In the case of Spider Man framerate is indeed the issue, specifically that moving backgrounds in animation are typically animated on “ones” (i.e. one frame at a time), with the foreground characters also moving on ones to match(when the background is static, they move every other frame, enough to signify full motion for cartoons).

The full motion is required because of all the movement on the screen. In the case of 3D CG, motion blur is also recommended or else the dimensionality just makes it feel like stop-motion, which can be even more disorienting.

If I recall correctly Spider-Man’s CG backgrounds was not in smooth 24fps (at least not all the time), and definitely neither was 2D spidey swinging in front of it.

re: Spider-man Season 3

“Were these episodes produced solely to fulfill a syndication agreement, because they were never shown on the original Saturday morning run…I would love to hear the lowdown on it!”

From what I understand almost all of the Spider-man episodes aired during the original run, except possibly Revolt in the Fifth Dimension. I have at least two faithful (albeit anecdotal) accounts that ABC didn’t air that episode but substituted a first season episode in its place and the episode later showed up in the syndication packages. Many people missed the season 3 episodes because they aired a lot of reruns and then with little warning showed a ‘new’ episode. Some of the last episodes produced — The Winged Thing/Connor’s Reptiles, Up From Nowhere, Specialists and Slaves, Neptune’s Nose Cone — were all reconstituted from previous episodes and likely people thought they were reruns as well. Trip to Tomorrow, the final episode, was basically a clip show. Then there are the two ‘borrowed’ Rocket Robin Hood episodes.

Strangely, the new syndication package episode order of Phantom from the Depths of Time has been swapped with a second season episode (Madness of Mysterio/Rhino — I think). Even the DVD set has it in the wrong order but ironically Phantom is the only episode on the DVD set to have it’s “next episode” trailer intact — the voiceover announces the next episode as “Revolt in the Fifth Dimension”.

BTW, the DVD set for Spider-man 1967 has gone out of print and commands a pretty hefty price on the aftermarket.

The irony: Disney released that set (under the Buena Vista label) and pissed off Marvel over some licensing issues. Now The Mouse pwns Marvel.

I wonder if we’ll see a reissue of the box set with restored footage for every episode, the “next episode” trailers, and some interviews with the surviving cast. Paul Soles is still alive, as are Tom Harvey and Carl Banas (both who voiced a ton of villains). Banas has to be in his 90’s now. The clock is ticking.

Dr. Manta's intern

January 25, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Yeah, the 67 series box set had a throwaway intro by Stan Lee. A short documentary on the series would have been a great addition. I’m glad I got the set when I did.

If you don’t mind a used set, some of Amazon’s affiliates are still seeling it at a somewhat reasonable price: http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B0001I55O2/sr=1-1/qid=1264485845/ref=olp_tab_all?ie=UTF8&coliid=&me=&qid=1264485845&sr=1-1&seller=&colid=

Despite my problems with a lack of extras (especially interviews with people like Soles who are definitely interested in talking about the series), even for a used copy, $45 isn’t bad for a total run time of 1,144 minutes. I still hope they eventually upgrade this set but if this is all we ever get on DVD, it’s only a bad purchase if you don’t like the show.

In the meantime, here are a couple decent interviews with Paul Soles. In the second interview it’s unfortunate he sees comics as something you outgrow, but at least he took the voicework on the series seriously.


@Lynxara: Voltron was closer to Robotech than you mentioned, in a way. GoLion wasn’t the only series adapted for Voltron. Dairugger XV was re-edited and dubbed by World Events to become the Vehicle Voltron series.

Interestingly enough, World Events later produced a special which brought the Lion and Vehicle Voltron teams together.

And @Brian Cronin, I have to mention, it’s kind of misleading to say the giant transforming robot was the only deviation from Spider-Man’s roots in the Toei series, even if you are being sarcastic. After all, the costume and powers are the only aspects of Spidey kept the same. In Japanese Spider-Man, he’s a motocross racer whose scientist father is murdered by the show’s alien antagonists.

I will say, however, I love telling people that Spider-Man influenced the creation of Power Rangers, so thanks for getting to this one. It’s a really awesome fact (and as someone above mentioned, pretty crazy when you consider the current owners of Power Rangers, Disney, now own Marvel).

@Frankie: I’m aware of Vehicle Voltron, but it ran in so few markets that it’s not generally what people think of as Voltron. So I didn’t bring it up…

The crossover special was actually not entirely produced by World Events. It did come out in Japan under a different name, produced by the Go Lion/Dairugger animation studio Toei. World Events did help fund it, though.

As to how Vehicle Voltron stacks up to original Voltron, opinions seem to be mixed. Dairugger XV isn’t regarded especially well by Japanese sources, who regard the plot as derivative, though the toy was very popular. US audiences seemed generally confused by the whopping horde of 15 protagonists and by a plot that was severely complicated by footage edits. Dairugger XV was more violent than Go Lion in a bit to goose ratings, so World Events frequently found itself editing out chunks of plot-related footage.

Something interesting about the Disney/Marvel/Toei situation– by all reports, Disney only owns the Power Rangers back catalog at this point. The 2009 Super Sentai series, Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, is not going to be adapted into a US Power Rangers season. It also appears unlikely that the 2010 series Tensou Sentai Goseiger will be adapted.

Reports indicate that Toei and Disney have broken off their production arrangements. Essentially, Disney wanted more control over the content of the Japanese product, so it could make the adaptations easier, and Toei refused. Since the Power Rangers fad isn’t what it used to be, there’s some theorizing that Disney actually bought out Marvel to replace Power Rangers as its main attempt to reach young male audiences.

Layne wrote: >> Paul Soles, who voiced Spider-Man/Peter Parker in the old cartoon was also the voice of Hermey the Mistfit Elf in the Rankin/Bass’ Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer special <<

Okay, is it Hermey or is it Herbie? Or, in fact, is it both? And why does the voice of the head toymaker change when the elves are rehearsing their "We Are Santa's Elves" song?

For those of you curious about that wacky Superman story in which Clark and Lois watch a Superman cartoon (and Clark protects his secret ID from Lois, even though everyone else in the theatre can plainly see)… , the explanation is right on the splash page:

“Our very first Imaginary Story!”

According to Mark Evanier’s blog, the DVD set of the original Spider-Man was originally intended to have more extras (he was interviewed for a documentary that was to have been included). However, Disney wanted it to be in the stores when the movie SPIDER-MAN 2 opened, and this resulted in a rush. In the end, the DVD producers were able to meet the deadline only by abandoning the extras.

I don’t feel spoiled by the “Bruce Timm and Paul Dini level of quality.” I was spoiled by the high quality of animation in the 1980s and everything has been a disappointment since then.

@Felicity: What are some examples of high-quality animation in the 1980s, to you?

[…] from tuning in to the highly rated ABC-Television show.  And as discussed in a 2010 column of Comic Book Legends Revealed, composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Lee Adams (who also wrote the hit musical Bye Bye Birdie) […]

Am I the only one who noticed that the chick standing last in line the Battle Fever J image (“Miss America”, I guess) is dressed exactly like Power Girl? She just traded her cape for a mask!

I mean, “last in line IN the Battle Fever J image”. Heh.

Well, the Spiderman legend explained some of the weirder stories in that series. I thought it was just the psychedelic drugs in the 60’s.

And while it wasn’t “piloted”, live-action controlled robots all owe a debt to Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot, in 1967.

[…] fact the creators of this turd loved recycling footage so much that they flat out lifted scenes from this show and dumped them into the Spider-man cartoon, which they’re also responsible […]


Is this a joke? 80’s cartoons were filled with cheesy and predictable plots and terrible dialogue and writing!

William Dozier himself once covered this situation. ABC had wanted to do a comic strip or comic book adaptation:

Superman was the number one choice; Dick Tracy was the number two choice

They couldn’t get the rights to Superman, not because of the old George Reeves series, because their rights had long since evaporated, but because there was a Broadway show called It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman, and that is what stopped them.


The first sentai series, Himitsu Sentai Goranger, was inspired by the success of Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman, first known in the uS as Battle of the Planets (and later, G-Force). in that series, you had 5 youths in superhero costumes, each with their own weaponry and vehicle. These elements carried over into the sentai series and would remain, with the giant robot evolving, as stated above. It’s also one of the few Japanese hero series that more closely resembles American superheroes, compared to things like Ultraman (who pretty much fights monsters) and Kamen Rider (who is a bit of a mix of monster fighter and superhero).

Minor Battle of the Planets trivia point: It ran on several Christian broadcasting stations in US syndication that eliminated footage of the villain talking to his boss “the Luminous One” because they realized correctly that in the original Japanese, it was some sort of evil god.

“And yeah, Filmation reused a LOT of material. I remember watching He-Man and noticing how he not only had the same body as their earlier Tarzan, but there were scenes where he ran in EXACTLY the same way!”

Heh, yeah. All the main characters share that rotoscoped walk cycle.
It looks good.

There is a Golden Age Superman story that has always stuck in my head because it is soooo bizarre. Clark and Lois go to see a movie about Superman. Every time the movie shows a scene of Superman in his secret identity, Clark has to spill Lois’ popcorn or distract her some way so that she doesn’t learn that Superman is… Clark Kent! It’s in the movie! FTW?

I seem to remember that story as being from the 1990s when they did the GA retro issues, but I guess I am wrong.
As for a piloted robot in the movie, no. They’re watching one of the Famous Studios shorts. I remember it being the first one (“Superman”, which has a mad scientist as a villain), but you seem to be describing the second (“Mechanical Monsters “, which does not have a scientist). The robots in the latter are that; automatons. No pilot.

“Is this a joke? 80?s cartoons were filled with cheesy and predictable plots and terrible dialogue and writing!”

Don’t forget the horrifically bad animation! =0D

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