Monday, March 17, 2014
Hong Kong Phooey is a frothy bit of 70's fun from the Hanna-Barbera house. Featuring the memorable voices of Scatman Crothers and Joe E. Ross, this somewhat different looking cartoon (thanks to its Oriential water color-style backgrounds) lasted one season for sixteen shows and thiry-one episodes. It's a fun send-up of the Kung-Fu craze sweeping the popular culture of the time in the form of Bruce Lee movies and the television show Kung-Fu. Wearing the classic red shirt like his comics cohort Shang-Chi, Hong Kong Phooey uses his super-powered "martial arts" as well as his gadgets which were part of his miraculous "Phooeymobile" to bring an array of wacky criminals to justice.
The character is a cartoon conundrum. He's a talking animal who operates in a human world without comment or question, not dissimilar to other Hanna-Barbera creations. He is a humble janitor named "Penry" who, when duty calls, secretly but dramatically transforms into "America's Super Guy", the crime-fighting Hong Kong Phooey. Originally called "Kung Phooey" his name was changed before his show debuted in 1974 for a single season of original episodes before running many years in rerun.
Hong Kong is surrounded by some memorable humans, in particular Sergeant Flint a blustery blowhard voiced by Joe E. Ross intentionally evoking his classic Car 54, Where are You? character. Also on hand is the very daffy and very sexy telephone dispatcher Rosemary, who wears some some awesome mini-skirts and has some utterly fantastic cartoon gams. His real secret weapon is his cat Spot who works tirelessly to save Hong Kong time and again from the dangerous situations he stumbles into.
As much fun as the cartoons were, the series did prompt a relatively brief two-year comic book run from Charlton Comics. Below is a gallery of the full run of Hong Kong Phooey comics from 1975 through 1976. Featuring covers by Paul Fung Jr. and others this comic captured the general flavor of the cartoon if not its delightful pacing.