Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Marvel Of The Age!


It's been rather odd over the last several years as I've plumbed the catalog of Gerry Anderson's many Supermarionation series.  I grew up on Captain Scarlet, the only show I ever saw on actual television aside possibly from a stray episode of Thunderbirds. I began this excursion with little understanding of how the whole operation, so finely honed by the Andersons and others during the 1960's developed. It's been rather like spelunking as I began with the live-action Space:1999 shows, then moved to Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. I was not disappointed. I'd seen UFO on TV so I then shifted and watched that series through. After that it's been rather odd. First the Thunderbirds, then Stingray, then Fireball XL-5 and now finally Supercar. At each stage I've descended a bit deeper into the past, the canon and into less refined techniques. I do have one more show to go, Joe 90, which of course is at the other end of the...ahem... spectrum from Supercar.

(Doctor Beaker, Mike Mercury, Jimmy Gibson, and Professor Popkiss)

Supercar though has impressed much more than I expected. It's rather infamous for not including a female character, and that might be strange for Anderson shows, but not for adventure TV. I am much reminded of Jonny Quest and how we are presented with no regular women save the guest-star showings of Jade. In Supercar it's even more extreme with women showing up even more irregularly and only one that I'm aware of who repeats. Instead we have two oddball scientists - Professor Popkiss and Doctor Beaker. Popkiss is the credited creator of Supercar and the somewhat more sensible of the two. Beaker is a great character, smart and bold, but incredibly absent-minded. Mike Mercury is the pilot of the Supercar and the nominal hero of the show and he's helped by the kid Jimmy and his monkey Mitch. The villains too were quite good. Masterspy (based on Sydney Greenstreet I assume) and Prince Zarin (Peter Lorre) were broadly done but quite fun. 

(Zarin and Masterspy)
While much is made of the show being more primitive in technique than its descendants, I found the mixture of puppetry on this show as deft as any and while the characters are more cartoonish in design they worked quite well in the stories they were put into. Mike Mercury was downright gargoylish for a hero but fit in with the bug-eyed Beaker and bubble-headed Popkiss. Mitch was my favorite of the critters the Andersons seem to fit into stories from time to time, much less annoying than Zoonie from Fireball. (Loved the dream episode where the monkey talked by the way -- hilarious.)

All in all I found the show quite entertaining, and I'm glad I finally got around to seeing it. Below are the comic book covers from Gold Key which tied into the show, aside from one issue of Fireball, the only Gold Key comics dedicated to an Anderson show.





And this Golden Book looks like a hoot.


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5 comments:

  1. I guess you're aware of the Thunderbirds comics by the brilliant Frank Bellamy, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. His weird 3-D puppet/human hybrids have always fascinated me, though not enough to buy one of those TV Century 21 collections. I did spring for the big Heros the Spartan tome, which contains some of the most beautiful double page spreads I've ever seen.

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    1. Oh yeah. I have some of those albums around here somewhere, but have hidden them from myself in recent years. I bought them for tiny money many many years ago when I knew hardly anything about the Thunderbirds. I'd like to find them again some day in the archeological dig I call a collection.

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  2. I watched Supercar on TV when it was first screened back in the early '60s and now have the DVD box set, but I've only re-watched a handful of episodes. I'll get around to seeing them all one day. Unlike the Gold Key comics, Supercar was more of a humour strip in TV21, although it was played straight in an earlier strip in TV Comic.

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    1. I was much impressed by the easy characterization of the series, the puppetry seemed really in many ways the most natural of any of the shows I've seen. As the shows got more technically sound and sophisticated it's clear that some of the vigor leaked out of the proceedings. There's really a rough charm to this simpler outing.

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  3. Of course after Joe 90, you'll cover this, right?

    https://vimeo.com/105682941

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