The best 1960s superhero TV show or movie openings

As a companion to my previous “top 10 superhero TV show or movie openings” post, I thought I’d list my various runners-up. Since there’s a lot to choose from, especially for the 60s and 90s, I’m breaking this up into separate posts. Since there isn’t much from the 40s or 50s I could think of to use, I’m starting with the 60s. However, Golden Age radio fans might note the opening for “The Adventures of Superman” radio show.

The top 1960s superhero TV show/movie openings, of course, are the Adam West “Batman” TV series opening and the 60s Spider-Man cartoon opening. But the decade gave us plenty of other great ones, as listed below.

Underdog

Total Television’s most successful show, Underdog ran for nine seasons on NBC and CBS Saturday mornings, though the latter half of that run was reruns. A childhood favorite of mine, Underdog had a pretty good theme song. Good enough that it was covered by a rock group for a Saturday morning theme song CD in the 90s.

Underdog’s alter-ego was a shoeshine boy named, well, “Shoeshine Boy.” Appearing in most episodes was his love interest, TV reporter Sweet Polly Purebred (a fellow beagle).

While the name of Underdog’s home city wasn’t reveled, Polly’s TV station was named “TTV.” The station also sometimes had the call letters “WTTV”—which would make the city Indianapolis. In real life, WTTV is Indianapolis’ channel 4, these days its CBS affiliate.

The entire series has been released to DVD as a complete box set, as well as several compilation DVDs.

Aquaman

Aquaman starred in his own half-hour TV show in the late 1960s. Animated by Filmation, the show featured the Sea King engaged against various undersea threats, ranging from a version of Starro to lava men. Aquaman’s theme song is also classic. The first Mermaid Man episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants” features a dead-on parody of Aquaman’s theme song, right down to the water-ball ending.

The entire series was released to DVD a few years ago.

The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure

See my post on this package show co-starring the Man of Steel and the Sea King.

Space Ghost

The space-based Hanna-Barbera series “Space Ghost and Dino Boy” debuted in 1966. Space Ghost was part of the explosion of superheroes on TV during the mid-to-late 60s, and had a classic theme song of his own. Space Ghost has been revived a few times—once in the early 80s as part of the “Space Stars” series, and again for Cartoon Network’s classic talk show “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.” He’s even teamed up with Batman, on “Batman: The Brave and the Bold!”

The entire original series has been released to DVD.

Captain America

The Marvel superheroes first came to TV in the mid-60s. Spidey’s own show is the most well-remembered of the bunch. However, several other Marvel heroes appeared in the syndicated TV show “The Marvel Super-Heroes,” debuting in 1966. The heroes included: Thor; Iron Man; the Hulk; the Sub-Mariner; and Captain America. The series was notoriously cheaply animated, taking panels from the original comics and animating them. Still, this is the first animated appearances for these characters.

The most remembered theme song from the series was Captain America’s. Fans still make references to Cap throwing his “mighty shield” on occasion.

Parts of the series have been released to video (mostly as extras on DVDs, or overseas in PAL format), but there’s no complete set yet for North Americans/NTSC format.

Super Chicken

Super Chicken appeared as a backup segment on the Jay Ward series “George of the Jungle.” Super Chicken was in reality Henry Cabot Henhouse III, a millionaire playboy in the model of Bruce Wayne. When duty called, he’d swing into action by downing his martini-like “super sauce,” transforming into Super Chicken. Accompanying Henry on his adventures was his sidekick/servant Fred, a dopey but loyal lion.

The entire series is available on the “George of the Jungle” DVD set.

The Mighty Heroes

“The Mighty Heroes” debuted in 1966, during the last season of the long-running anthology series “Mighty Mouse Playhouse.” The Mighty Heroes were a team of bumbling superheroes:

  • Strong Man: a super-strong guy with a Southern accent; an auto mechanic in his civilian ID.
  • Cuckoo Man: the least effective member of the team, living up to his name; a clock shop owner in his alter-ego.
  • Tornado Man: a hero with Red Tornado-like wind powers; a meteorologist in his everyday life.
  • Rope Man: a hero whose entire body’s made of rope; a sailor in his alter-ego.
  • Diaper Man: a talking toddler with some strength/invulnerability powers; his alter ego’s, well, a toddler.

All five of the Heroes could fly (Cuckoo Man rather clumsily).

The 80s series “The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse” revealed they had subsequently retired during the intervening 20 years, opening the accounting firm of “Man, Man, Man, Man, and Man.” Most of the team was well into middle age, with Diaper Man now in his 30s.

While the team’s 80s appearance is on DVD (on the “New Adventures of Mighty Mouse” set), their original shorts aren’t on video.

Atom Ant

See my post on Atom Ant’s show.

Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles

Debuting on CBS in 1966 and running two seasons, “Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles” featured two segments: Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles.

Frankenstein Jr. was a giant robot commanded by a genius boy scientist, similar to the Japanese anime series “Gigantor.”

The Impossibles were a team of superheroes who also performed as a popular rock group of the same name. The heroes’ names were: Fluid Man (the ability to turn into liquid); Coil Man (the ability to extend his limbs in a spring-like manner); and Multi-Man (the ability to create multiple copies of himself).

The Impossibles’ enemies included the Bubbler, a villain whose shtick was using bubble-based weaponry. The Bubbler, from what I can tell of his physical appearance, seems to be non-White, a rarity in US cartoons of the time. If so, his race isn’t commented on during the episode; he’s just another bad guy to the Impossibles. Similar to another villain created around the same time, Black Manta, the Bubbler’s hideout was in the ocean, and made use of sea creatures to help fight the Impossibles.

Hanna-Barbera later recycled the Impossibles’ powers/costumes for another group of African-American animation stars, the Harlem Globetrotters, in the late 70s series “Super Globetrotters.”

The entire series is available as a DVD box set via the Warner Archive.

(Updated 11/26/16)

2 comments

  1. No objection there on Spider Man, it’s a classic, whether you look at it as good or bad. It’s still considered one of the most memorable cartoon series and comic-book shows, as this video I saw somewhere online would imply.

    1. Nice video… though if “comics” includes all genres (including horror, in “The Walking Dead”‘s case), then they’re glaringly missing the theme song from “DuckTales”…

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