‘The Herculoids’ - Hanna-Barbera’s ‘Lost’ Hit Animated Show 

by Will Stape 3 years ago in comics / tv / superheroes

Amid 1960’s Comedy of ‘The Flintstones’ & ‘The Jetsons’ Soared Action Packed Herculoids 

‘The Herculoids’ - Hanna-Barbera’s ‘Lost’ Hit Animated Show 
Narrator: Somewhere out in space live The Herculoids! Zok, the laser-ray dragon! Igoo, the giant rock ape! Tundro, the tremendous! Gloop and Gleep, the formless, fearless wonders! With Zandor, their leader, and his wife, Tara, and son, Dorno, they team up to protect their planet from sinister invaders! All-strong! All-brave! All-heroes! They're The Herculoids!

Quirky animated fare commands our loyal attention on television. Long running shows such as TheSimpsons, FamilyGuy and SouthPark still churn out the well drawn chuckles for loyal fans. After a collective near three decade of being broadcast, these animated icons are still brewing comedic mischief, and are often still on a cutting edge of fun and frolic. These naughty toons, which began as rebellious outsider romps, are outrageously drawn and wonderfully realized. They're now illustrated staples of pop culture goodness.

Fans can debate reasons for an animated sitcom’s consistent allure. It’s arguably many variables. We love the wacky stories and beloved characters who offer up incisive, even biting social commentary. Bart and Homer are hopelessly, fun goofs. Peter Griffin never stops being a lovable, blue collar doofus. Cartman is - um, simply Cartman.

Why are cartoons so compelling and so dynamic? Why do they last so long? Why do wild cartoons keep entertaining America - and the rest of the animation loving world - so terribly well?

There's an important, universal concept: Family.

Cartoon gangs, looney toons, animated sitcoms - whatever name you call em, are all a kind of family. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Sylvester and Tweety - they’re family. Fred and Wilma Flintstone, Barney and Betty Rubble - these are neighbors, close friends, they’re a stone age family. The Jetsons - George and Jane, his boy Elroy, daughter Judy, dog Astro and robot maid, Rosie - they’re a space age family. Scooby Doo and his ghost sleuthing gang are family.

The early 1960’s shaped up as a heady time for TV cartoon families. Toons did well reaching back into our ancient past, or warping ahead into a far flung future, but still uncharted regions were yet untouched. What of alien worlds out there, worth exploring? In the late 60’s, television series such as Lost In Space and Star Trek offered glimpses into fanciful space exploration - albeit as highly fictional romps. However, in both cases, a family element still figured strongly in both hit shows.

Hanna Barbera - the animation studio responsible for both Flintstones and Jetsons - sort of creatively merged the two narrative concepts by setting a show boasting the most outrageous high technology, and gadgets yet immersed in an environment with characters and creatures which looked at home alongside Fred and Barney rumbling around the stone age town of Bedrock.

In 1967, with a primal, deafening roar of defiant arrival, hailing from the deepest regions of the cosmic space ways, came The Herculoids.

TV animation would never be the same.

Hanna Barbera - 20th Century Titans of TV Animation 

Tara and Husband Zandor

You may not actually know the name Hanna-Barbera, but you definitely are familiar with much of what they created. Characters like cranky, caveman Fred Flintstone or cloud dwelling, future guy George Jetson cross over into many generations. You can even catch Fred and Barney on those clever Fruity Pebbles TV ads. Scooby Doo is still going strong - constantly being reintroduced with new shows and theatrical films.

After creating the iconic duo of Tom & Jerry, William Hanna and Joe Barbera joined professional forces and opened up Hanna-Barbera Productions Inc. The two artists headed up their high volume animation studio which was one of the most successful television animation production houses during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Household names like Yogi Bear and Josie and The Pussycats originated under the prolific Hanna-Barbera TV banner.

Alex Toth’s Herculoids - Raw, Rough & Ready

The only way to fully appreciate something as visually fun and exciting as Herculoids is to experience it first hand. Describing them at boisterous play is sort of like picturing The Avengers or X-Men melded into J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts. Herculoids play much like a Justice League or X-Men animated adventure - without all those nasty secret identities, geopolitics or legal hassles to get in the way.

Modern animators admire Alex Toth, Herculoids creator, for his visionary designs and eye popping style. Before Toth’s Herculoids, Saturday morning cartoons didn’t depict the outlandish science fiction settings and comic book kind of look which Toth lovingly crafted for his space opera romp. When it arrived, it impressed viewers as something distinctly new and truly original.

Hardcore animation aficionados have much to love and relish in its plentiful retro delights. From Toth's striking principal character designs, to villainous enemies forever causing chaos, Herculoids effectively captures a golden age of science fiction, yet also moves it strikingly forward. Gloved hands grip pulsing ray guns, flowing caped, ruthlessly mean bad guys stand menacingly astride floating, gleaming discs of anti-gravity. They swoop down at dizzying speeds to attack in sleek rocket powered assault fighters.

Infinitely cool gadgets abound in the episodes such as time machines sending out ear splitting temporal waves, or pulsating alien orbs composed of multi-faceted crystals. It's a true feast for science fiction lovers, and animation fans in particular. Standout episodes include; Invasion Of The Electrode Men, Attack Of The Faceless People, The Time Creatures and Mindbender.

A Human Clan 

Igoo Isn't Shooting Pool With A Tree Trunk - He's Kicking Robot Ass

It's a core family element which programs such as Herculoids cultivate so well, especially in defending their beloved world of Qusar from rampaging evil doers. It begins with people. Human Herculoids aren't from Earth, but you could fool most anyone from that little backwater planetary burb in the Milky Way galaxy, the clan hails from the 3rd rock from the sun.

Zandor

He’s the rad Dad of the brood - but he’ll never be caught sporting a modern day Dad bod.

Surfer agile Zandor boasts the chiseled physique of Hercules, coupled with the authoritative bent and vocal gymnastics of a world class orator. Zandor could kick your ass while lecturing you on social issues, and you’d somehow be the better for it. Zandor is no rocket scientist, but he’s no dim bulb - it’s just that he lets his physical gifts do what they do best. He uses a shield - ala Captain America - which serves as defense and a nifty weapon.

Tara

She’s the mom to a young boy and 5 creatures - and Carol Brady thought she had it rough with her suburban bunch.

You know who really ran the Brady household? Alice, that’s who! Anyway, Tara is as able at fighting bad guys as her husband and son, and she still keeps her clan together in the off times, puttering around their cool cave home. Marge Simpson, eat your blue hair and heart out!

Dorno

Some kids get dogs, cats - maybe tropical fish or hamsters to care for and keep as pets. Dorno gets to hang around with slightly more exotic animals. He gets to play with flying dragons with lasers coming out its eyes and tail. Yes, FREAKIN LASERS!

Dorno's nearly as fit and an Olympic level athlete as his dad. He's never afraid to try to engage and fight the bad guys. But who wouldn’t when one of your buddies is a mini King Kong and a massively armored triceratops like thing which shoots flaming rocks out of its head. Yes, FREAKIN FLAMING ROCKS!

The Creatures 

Zok Shooting His Laser Ray

Yeah. Sure. Humans are darn great, aren’t we? Humanity is a nice, little race of interesting mammals, but what sci-fi fans really want are the creatures. Herculoids serves up a smorgasbord of creature feature goodies for all.

Igoo

What can you say about a massively strong ‘Rock Ape’? Quite a lot actually, though he may just grunt and scream loudly.

Igoo is the strong, silent type. He lets his mammoth physical strength and rock exterior speak volumes. He regularly throws trees at adversaries. Not bonzai trees or little hot house plants - we’re talking uprooting ridiculously thick, old growth trees and hurling them at the big bads. Yeah, he sorta comes in handy in a fight.

Zok

Dragons. Everybody loves them. Many of the more traditional fantasy tale inspired dragons breathe fire. That's nice. Even quaint when compared to Zok, He rolls a bit differently. He blasts destructive energy beams from his eyes and tail.

At times these lethal beams of force resemble laser/energy beams - other times they look like blasts of electricity. No matter the energy type. It gets the battle job done and then some.

Tundro

If you’re basically an armor plated rhinoceros with legs which telescope incredibly long in seconds, what do you do for fun? Shoot out flaming rocks from your head!

Tundro serves as sort of an all terrain armored vehicle. His legs can grow to fantastic lengths - perfect for getting one of his human family members quickly out of danger. He also growls a lot.

Gleep and Gloop

Gloop and Gleep are nearly universally looked upon as the two cutest of the Herculoids - in both adorable look and sweet sound.

They’re essentially undulating blobs of ‘something’ - existing as big, bouncy jelly globs. They stretch up and out to what it appears to be miles - and can carry most anything within their incredibly pliable bodies. When they talk, it’s a jittery series of cute gibberish sounds - sort of like R2D2’s droid speak. They constantly wobble, jiggle and bounce - sort of like living silly putty or Playdough.

Villains abound in Herculoids. They’re ever present. The big bads are always invading the peaceful tranquility of the planet Herculoids call home. Something about Herculoids themselves - or planet Quasar - draws them in to try to wreck, destroy, kidnap or even kill our gang of galactic heroes.

Herculoids have many enemies.

From insect races intent on stinging our heroes to death, or the metal monster madness of renegade robots, the Herculoids fight all manner of creep and big bad. Even hardened battle experts such as Guardians of the Galaxy would be amazed at the level of battle they endure on an almost daily basis.

Herculoids - A New Future?

Can Herculoids return to inspire a new generation of animated action lovers? Could Zandor and Tara inspire new Herculoid recruits to their action oriented clan?

If Saturday morning TV classics such as Land of the Lost deserve a big screen reboot - even though it pretty much sucked (thanks, Will Ferrell!) - Herculoids definitely needs to be re-imagined for the big screen.

Who could really do them justice? I’d love to see a visionary director like Robert Rodriguez tackle the project. He loves and has respect for retro material and his stuff is awesomely playful (The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl) and always full of intense action (Sin City) - just like The Herculoids.

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Will Stape
Will Stape
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Will Stape

Screenwriter, book author, and producer. Wrote for 'Star Trek: The Next Generation & Deep Space Nine,' and has created docudramas for cable TV and the web.

See all posts by Will Stape