Friday, November 11, 2016

Favorites :: Inks and Paints :: Alex Toth Character Sheets for The Herculoids (1967)

 And then, of course, you needed some bad guys to fight.

You know, I tried to explain The Herculoids (1967) -- Hanna-Barbera's short-lived but eternally syndicated cartoon series, to a friend the other day. It was about this family of space barbarians who lived on this weird planet, said I, where they hung out with these monsters --  a giant rock ape, a mutant rhinoceros that shot concussive fireballs out of its horn, two malleable Silly-Puddy blobs, and a dragon that shot lasers out of its eyes and tail, and together, they fought robots. That's it, asked my friend, 'they fought robots?' That's it, said I. And it was awesome and then some.

Like his heroes Milton Caniff and Alex Raymond, Alex Toth had always wanted to illustrate a syndicated newspaper comic strip. He settled for a job at DC Comics in 1947, where he worked on Golden Age titles ranging from Green Lantern to the Justice Society of America, where he brought Black Canary into the fold. Drafted into the army in 1954, once his two year hitch was up, Toth got a job working for Dell Comics until 1960 when he was hired on as the art director for Cambria Productions' Space Angel (1962), their follow up feature to Clutch Cargo (1959). This eventually led to a job at Hanna-Barbera, where he created such iconic characters as Space Ghost, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, Dino-Boy, and the Herculoids, and would later serve as an important cog in the development of the Super Friends.

Like most H-B cartoons of the time, the animation is pretty rough and recycled but Toth's designs still shine through with Zandor, Tara (-- one of the most pro-active female characters of the era) and Dorno, but especially with the creatures, Igoo, Tundro, Zok, Gloop and Gleep, voiced by the familiar cadences of Mike Road, Virginia Gregg, Ted Eccles, and Don Messick. Technically, the series only lasted one season with a mere 18 episodes, but was then chopped up and repackaged with other H-B sci-fi fare to haunt many a Saturday morning for the next two decades and was briefly resurrected in the early 1980s in H-B's Space Stars package.

This cartoon got back on my radar after I was keyed into DC Comics' new series, Future Quest, which, through the first six issues, rather hilariously and awesomely has drawn all of those old H-B cartoon characters mentioned plus the Johnny Quest team, Mighty Mightor, and Frankenstein Jr., Buzz, and the Impossibles to fight off some cosmic big baddy. Can Moby Dick, Shazzan, Samson and Goliath, and the Valley of the Dinosaurs gang be far behind? I, for one, sure as hell hopes so. Rally-ho!

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