Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nose-Talgia: "The Mighty Hercules"

I was inspired by a Facebook profile photo event -- change your pic to a favorite childhood cartoon -- to revisit The Mighty Hercules, an animated series which started in 1963 and utterly captured my imagination back then. Starting out with an exciting theme song sung by pop singer Johnny Nash, and featuring the exploits of mythological hero Hercules -- always one of my favorites -- The Mighty Hercules was plenty thrilling to a kid and we all loved it.

I was a nut for Greek mythology; I first got turned onto it from the entry in The Golden Book Encyclopedia set which was found on a many a baby boomer's library shelf. (I credit this set for starting my intense curiosity and lifelong love of mummies, volcanoes, and so many other things!) Haunting illustrations (especially on the covers -- yikes! Look at that Punch and Judy!) which tantalized the imagination -- like something from the Twilight Zone, hyper-real images from all of history -- made reading these an unforgettable experience! I remember the images for the mythology page so well -- Andromeda on a rock, Perseus holding Medusa's head (fostering my complete love for all things Medusa), and so many others.

Then along comes an amazing cartoon on weekday afternoons that ties right into my fascination with mythology! The Mighty Hercules had just enough characters straight out of mythology to satisfy my classical bent, and enough crazy powers to feed my science fiction/monster gent. Perfection! (The series was made by Trans Lux who also did Felix the Cat, so you might recognize some voices.) Here's the catchy theme song!

And here just a little taste of the excitement in every episode -- Hercules' girlfriend Helena gets stuck in some quicksand, thanks to the evil powers of chief baddie Daedalus. The little centaur who says everything twice is named Newton. He's annoying, but memorable. I must say Hercules looks mildly annoyed at the clingy Helena in the pic to the left here; it's been said more than once that The Mighty Hercules has a homoerotic frisson, but you can say that about most any muscle man-oriented entertainment. However I totally get where young gay boys' hearts might have gone pitter-patter over Hercules. Honestly, Herc falls into the pure hero type. I know he probably likes Helena just fine, but he's fighting evil...who has time for a girlfriend?

We're not the only ones who love The Mighty Hercules; there are some terrific places on the web with great TMH info: The Cartoon Scrapbook page, on the A Dispensable List of Comic Book Lists, Infinite Coolness has a great TMH article (scroll down to it), Toon Tracker, and others, including a great episode listing here on plus there are some full episodes on YouTube though it doesn't look like there is an official DVD release yet. Long overdue, that! Okay, the animation is primitive and it's hardly Disney, but the show was wonderful!

So, as Hercules used to say as he flew off up to Mt. Olympus...Olympia!!!!


Jane said...

The main thing I remember about this animated show IS the annoying little centaur. "Hi Herc!, Hi Herc!" I used to drive my sisters nuts doing Newton impressions all day long. Good show, but never a favorite for me like Gumby, Davey and Goliath, Felix and the very obscure but wonderful "Krazy Kat". Remember that terrible mouse Ignatz? And I think she had a crush on him!

Lisa said...

So many mice fall for cats! Or Kat!

I can never forget and also love Gumby and Felix, but there's an Olympian place in my heart for Hercules!