From the Vault: Marvel Super Heroes -

From the Vault: Marvel Super Heroes

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From the Vault: Marvel Super Heroes

On the small screen in 1966

By Tim Janson     September 22, 2012

As a kid I can remember coming home from school to flip on WXON TV here in the Detroit area to watch my favorite comic book heroes every afternoon.  In 1966, Marvel Comics, still a budding young company dipped their toes in the water of animation by bringing several of their most popular characters to the small screen in an animated anthology series known as Marvel Super Heroes.  Each day featured an episode featuring a different Marvel character:  Captain America (Mondays), The Hulk (Tuesdays), Iron Man (Wednesdays), The Sub-Mariner (Thursdays), and Thor (Fridays).  13 episodes were produced for each character and each of the episodes was broken down into 7 minute segments to give it a cliffhanger, comic book feel. 
The show was produced by the Gantray-Lawrence Animation studio who would also produce the first season of the Spider-Man animated series in 1967.  Now, calling Marvel Super Heroes “animation” is a bit of a stretch.  The show was in reality an early motion comic.  Panels were used from actual Marvel Comics and then given some limited movement such as throwing/punching motions, mouths moving, etc…But on the other hand the show provided an opportunity to see the artwork of Silver Age greats like Jack Kirby, Don Heck, and Steve Ditko brought to life.  Even better, the show adapted stories directly from the comics, largely unchanged.  The show usually even used the same story titles as the comics. 

Captain America would battle against the Red Skull and his Sleeper Robots, taken directly from Tales of Suspense # 72 – 74.  Thor would battle Hercules in “Who the Gods Would Destroy” an adaptation of Journey into Mystery # 126.  The Hulk meets The Watcher in an adaptation from Tales to Astonish #74.  One of the highlights of the show was that it featured numerous other heroes making guest-star appearances.  When Baron Zemo firsts puts together his “Masters of Evil”, The Avengers including Thor, iron Man, The Wasp, and Giant Man come together to battle them in one of the Captain America episodes.  Other Avengers like Hawkeye, Quicksilver, the Swordsman, and The Scarlet Witch would also make appearances.  On Iron Man, guests included The Black Widow, and the Black Knight as Iron Man faced off against his most lethal foes including The Mandarin, Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, and Ultimo.


The Sub-Mariner gets an assist from the X-Men to battle Dr. Doom in Episode 12 of his series: “Dr. Doom's Day, The Doomed Allegiance, Tug of Death”  The Angel, the Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, and Marvel Girl take the place of the Fantastic Four from the original comic story since Gantray-Lawrence did not have the rights to the FF.  Those rights were held by Hanna-Barbera who produced a Fantastic Four animated series from 1967 to 1970.


The voice cast featured an eclectic group of actors and personalities.  The most famous was deep, gravelly-voiced John Vernon who provided the voices of Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, and Major Talbot.  Vernon would go onto fame in such films as “Dirty Harry”, “The Outlaw Josey Wales” and perhaps most famously as Dean Wormer in “Animal House”. 
Sandy Becker, who voiced Captain America, was a well-known TV personality in New York who hosted various children’s TV programs in the 1950s and 1960s.  
Chris Wiggins, voiced Thor, Hawkeye, and several others.  Wiggins is an veteran English actor of film and TV who lent his voice to numerous animated productions including Star Wars: Ewoks, Star Wars: Droids, Care Bare Movie II, ALF the animated series, Tales from the Cryptkeeper,  Robocop The Series, and Sailor Moon.  Wiggins might be most recognized from his role as occultist Jack Marshak from the 1987 – 1990 syndicated Friday the 13th TV series. 
Paul Soles was a long-time voice actor and provided the voice of Bruce Banner, Hawkeye, and Rick Jones.  Soles also provided the voice of Spider-Man/Peter Parker in the 1967 animated series as well as the voice of Hermey the Elf from the holiday classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. 
And I would be negligent if I did not make note of the catchy theme songs that each character had, especially the Hulk’s with the famously singable, “Doc Bruce Banner”. 



Marvel Super Heroes was released on DVD by Disney several years ago and its availability is iffy.  Hopefully with the wave of popularity of the Marvel Films we will see a re-release or a blu-ray release in the near future.  The quality of the animation may not have been the best, but compared to the watered down simplistic stories of the DC Comics animated shows from Hanna Barbera or Filmation from the same time period, Marvel Super Heroes gave you the chance to re-live the glory of Marvel’s Silver Age with classic stories and artwork. 




And I would be negligent if I did not make note of the catchy theme songs that each character had, especially the Hulk’s with the famously sing-able,  "Doc Bruce Banner, belted by gamma rays, turned into the Hulk. Ain't he unglamo-rays! Wreckin' the town, with the power of a bull, ain't no monster clown, who is that lovable? It's ever lovin' Hulk! HULK!! HULK!!"



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Wiseguy 9/22/2012 10:29:34 PM

LOL Tim I wasn't even born when these things first came out but was lucky enough to catch them on re-runs years later. These are part of the foundation for my love of comics and superheroes

I have been begging for them to release these on dvd but I've read that Marvel may not even own the rights. If they ever did I'd go and buy the lot just to take a trip down memory lane. I am very fond of these toons as well as the SuperFriends and the old Superman toons on the DC side.

And yeah the tunes were a huge draw too. I still recall singing along with my cousins. I was more partial to Thor and Cap's though

Ah to be a kid and be able to enjoy this just for the love of it with no snark, no criticism judgement or bias. I can still do that. Well I'm off to sleep, maybe I'll dream of those good ol days

doublec 9/23/2012 1:35:35 AM

 I AM old enough to remember when these were new, sadly. Although The Hulk theme had the best lyrics, the best song was easily Cap's. I was really sad they didn't use it in the movie.I was fully prepared to stand up in the theater and roar, "WHEN CAPTAIN AMERICA THROWS HIS MIGHTY SHIELD"...

jarga28 9/23/2012 6:36:39 AM

I remember wacthing Namor and my brother found Cap at video store or tv one I can't remember which but they were cool but Amazing Spider Man and his Amazing Friends were my favorite followed by Dungeons & Dragons, The Muppet Babies, Galaxy Rangers, and Sports Billy. The 90's of course Batman TAS, Superman, TMNT, and X-men.

jedibanner 9/23/2012 7:03:09 AM

I like that the first Iron Man movie used the exact opening music from this old cartoon TV show in their music for the movie.

Those were classic and sicne I"m a Hulk fan, this cartoon was always one of my favorite as a kid.

jsmulligan 9/23/2012 7:13:26 AM

 "The ever lovin' Hulk"?  So now we know the real reason behind the animosity between him and the Thing.  Copyright infringement!

domino2008 9/23/2012 7:50:11 AM

yeah , the animation is very crude for cartoons , but its so great to watch these cartoons. I did as a kid , an always remembered them . If you search on U-tube, there s many on that ! they have many Captain  America's an Thors an Submainers , an some Hulk an Ironman . And yes , the artwork is from  the comics . If you want more of 60's cartoons check out the 60's ' Fantastic Four " , also on U-tube. Too bad they dont sell them but least you can download um on your computer to watch whenever.Only thing is the title song is cut .

Dazzler 9/23/2012 8:33:46 AM

I wish I could update my bootlegs on this.  They should put out a full collection of them on dvd/blu ray.

tjanson 9/23/2012 12:16:49 PM can actually find a lot of the eps on Youtube.  I didn't see these during  their original run like doublec but these were a staple afterschool watching for me on re-runs in the 1970s

ObiWannaJones 9/23/2012 6:07:19 PM

 WXON TV 20 in Detroit - fond memories of that show, Spider-Man, Batman, and UltraMan! 

monkeyfoot 9/23/2012 8:14:49 PM

March along, march along, march along to the song of the Merry Marvel Marching Society!

That closing musical number to Marvel Super Heroes is also up on youtube under

Marvel Super Heroes (1966) - Closing Theme and Credits

That show and the Hanna-Barbara Fantastic Four & Spider-Man shows formed the mental groove in my brain that every other Marvel comic, TV, or movie falls into.The little boy eating his bowl of cereal in front of the TV in my head watched The Avengers movie holding it up to the mighty standard of that crude animation. Everytime I see a Marvel movie I am humming those songs even if they don't use it in the film.

So sad they aren't availble on DVD or streaming. Luckily, youtube allows us to actually hear the dialogue of Stan Lee and see the moving artwork of Jack Kirby.

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