I was the perfect age to soak in the super-hero craze of the 1960s. We all knew way back when how cheap these Grantray-Lawrence Marvel Super Heroes cartoons were – but we forgave them. It was TV versions of Captain America (on Mondays), The Hulk (on Tuesday), Iron Man (Wednesday), Thor (on Thursday) and Submariner (on Friday). In New York, we had some guy in a Captain Marvel suit named “Captain Universe” climb down a ladder to introduce the films and sell us Cocoa Marsh or Bosko chocolate syrups.
What these cartoons lacked in animation, they made up for it in other ways. The voice acting was ernest and intense – and pretty much how I expected to hear my favorite super heroes speak. The theme songs were catchy and memorable (I suspect more money was spent on them than anything else); and best of all – I enjoyed seeing Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Gene Colon, and Bill Everett artwork on TV. Like radio shows of old, we had to bring something from our own imaginations to make these cartoons work – but we did.
Here’s the original sales brouchure that went out to TV stations (cover above, click below to enlarge the center spread below):
Yeah, Krantz Films distributed the show. The same Krantz who would later produce Bakshi’s Fritz The Cat and Heavy Traffic. The animation in the individual episodes is still awful, but the bumpers, opening titles and closing credits have a little more effort in them – perhaps because they were going to be used repeatedly. Unfortunetly the opening and closing sections are apparently very rare. Here’s the opening theme, and some Captain America interstitials:
The four page article below originally appeared in a professional cartoonists journal, The World Of Cartoons #3 (1967, cover at left). This might be the best (and only) article showing the process on how these cartoons were produced (click thumbnails below to enlarge). It should be noted that the Thor cartoons were produced in New York at the Paramount Cartoon Studio, under the direction of Shamus Culhane(!), the rest of the cartoons were made in Hollywood. Below that are the rare end credits (forgive the funky copy below; as already stated these are very rare) listing the folks responsible, including such veterans as Sid Marcus, Otto Feuer, Doug Wildey and Clyde Geronimi (who co-directed Disney’s Cinderella and Peter Pan – oh, how the mighty had fallen). Not sure why NY kids-show host Sandy Becker isn’t credited with the voices (he was Captain America), perhaps the show was non-union and he’s under a pseudonym?
(Special Thanks to Shaun Clancy and Albert Bryan Biglee)