Monday, October 22, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Fantastic Four (1967)

The first Fantastic Four cartoon aired on ABC from 1967 to 1970 for a total of 20 episodes.
Fantastic Four's First Cartoon in 1967
This cartoon was produced the same year as the original Spider-Man cartoon. Everyone knows the first Spider-Man television show but the first Fantastic Four television show is all but forgotten even though it is actually a better show than the Spider-Man from 1967. Why? It comes down the the theme song. Spider-Man had a very memorable theme song while Fantastic Four's is ultimately forgettable.

For its day, the animation on Fantastic Four is great. It reminds me a lot of early Scooby Doo episodes. The use of repeated stock footage is kept to an absolute minimum. Characters are expressive and faithfully adapted from the comics (except for some reason Galactus was all green...). However, some of the character designs look ridiculous in their "simplified" form. The Thing looks ridiculous because his head is a bunch of small rocks while his body is simply orange with a couple of lines drawn on it. Dr. Doom looks like a nutcracker robot with his mouth mechanically moving up and down along two tracks.

The voice acting is all fine... except for The Thing. Everyone imagines The Thing to have a deep, gravely voice but the voice they gave to him just sounds like your best friend in the ninth grade... just too normal to be coming from The Thing's body.

Generally, the show is very faithful to the comics. The villains used are mostly actual villains from the comics along with hordes of identical "henchmen" robots or lizard men or whatever is needed for that episode. Some of the series's stories are directly inspired from the comics. The series features notable characters such as Namor, The Watcher, Klaw, The Red Ghost, Blastaar, The Molecule Man, and Dr. Doom to name a few.

You can really tell that the thin plots had to be stretched to fill the thirty minute time slot. Character development for the Fantastic Four is unheard of in the show, instead you're treated to a lot of action with The Thing and Human Torch taking center stage. Frequently long sequences where the FF are beating up the aforementioned "faceless" henchmen are used as filler for the series. At one point in one episode, the action stops and several minutes is dedicated to The Thing remembering beating up henchmen from all of the previous episodes.

The plots are generally pretty campy, leaning heavily on action and eye candy while being light on logic. The dialogue is mostly exposition and can almost become laughable at times. Each episode is also riddled with bad puns such as, "Now that's what I call a real smash hit!" Still, continuity was kept from episode to episode which I appreciate.

You know, I don't want to make it sound like it's all bad with this show. For its time, the 1967 Fantastic Four show was quite successful in many ways. It is easy to point out the many deficiencies of a show like this when compared to today's big-budget, CGI-polished cartoons. Still, The Fantastic Four is deserving of a lot of credit for what it did right.

1LR REVIEW - 13 out of 20! It's a Glancing Hit!

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