Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Frankenstein Meets The MopTops!

In 1966 we were treated to Space Ghost from the mavens at Hanna-Barbera, a wonder featuring the designs of Alex Toth. That year also saw the debut of Filmation's Superman and the wonderful Lone Ranger cartoon done with a Wild, Wild West style. (The latter is not available in DVD because of squabbles over ownership...more's the pity. But I digress.)

Also in that year debuted Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles, a cartoon which bridged the gap between the somewhat more realistic look of Space Ghost and the typical Hanna-Barbera material such as The Flintstones and The Jetsons.

While Frankenstein Jr. gets first billing his adventures were sandwiched between two of The Impossibles each week. The cartoon has a nifty atmosphere, especially in the early episodes worth of the tradition of any feature with the "Frankenstein" name.

We have a young inventor named Buzz Conroy who has a robot name Frankenstein Jr. who at Conroy's command emerges from his high-tech cabinet to save the world for all manner of exotic and amazing threats to the peace of the world. Buzz rides along with "Frankie" as he calls him and they enter battle with a glee and spirit which keeps the adventures a happy frolic even in the face of danger. The folks at Hanna-Barbera were quite adept at finding that line between neatly scary and truly frightening.

On either side of Frankie's misadventures are The Impossibles. In the heyday of nutty rock bands we get this trio of musicians who never seem to stop playing their guitars (they even play in a rowboat) and travel the world to the  screaming adoration of young girls everywhere. These shaggy not-quite-The Beatles have at their disposal a few upbeat tunes they play in episode after episode. They seem always to be at the scene of any crime and then are weirdly contacted by their boss who sends them into battle as their other, true selves The Impossibles, a super-team. There is Coil Man, Fluid Man and Multi Man and they fight an inventive array of arch-villains who are up to mischief more than true villainy. The Impossibles almost always attack the secret lair of their enemy using their strange    and completely inexplicable powers to save world order. The cartoons are a ton of fun, light and frothy and never ever taking themselves even remotely seriously. Superheroes were about to be everywhere in the media, not unlike rock bands and this daffy trio capture that weird period perfectly.     

If you haven't even seen this series I highly recommend it. I love Space Ghost, but Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles is a rather different companion from a very formative year.

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