October 12, 2013

CARTOON SATURDAY: BIRDMAN

Spy Vibe goes back to the days of Saturday morning cartoons, when a winged avenger was called from his secret volcano lair by an intelligence operator with an eye patch to thwart crimes by the evil organization, F.E.A.R. Does that scenario sound familiar to Spy Vibers? Hanna-Barbera produced a number of hero/adventure cartoons in the 1960s, Space Ghost perhaps being the most well-known of the lot. They also aired a program called Birdman between 1967-1969. Like Space Ghost, the format for each episode was two short stories packaged with a B-series that ran in the middle of the program. Space Ghost was paired with The Herculoids and Birdman with The Galaxy Trio


Birdman follows the typical Hanna-Barbera conventions of a costumed hero who flies into conflict with baddies and quickly dispatches them with energy beams that shoot out from his hands. Except for brief moments of capture, the only suspense is created in ubiquitous scenes where the good and evil energy beams compete for dominance. Pretty simple fair to accompany those spoonfuls of Cheerios and Cap'n Crunch.


What makes Birdman especially fun for Spy Vibers, however, is its use of conventions that were at their height during the 1960s spy boom. Birdman indeed has a lair hidden inside a volcano (ala You Only Live Twice/1967). The opening sequence shows an aerial view, but we get an even cooler perspective when our hero flies up through a thick glass hatch to exit the secret base. Birdman receives his orders from Falcon 7, the eye-patch wearing leader of Inter-Nation Security -who bears a striking resemblance to Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. (spy debut in Strange Tales #135/1965). Falcon 7 was voiced by Don Messick, the man behind such famous characters as Scooby-Doo, Astro (Jetsons), Muttley (Whacky Races/Dick Dastardly), Papa Smurf, and Dr. Quest (Jonny Quest). Production model sheet below.


Birdman fights a host of villains, but Spy Vibers will especially enjoy his battles with enemy agents. In the sample clip below from Murro the Murader, a mysterious baddie named Murko (not Murro) harnesses the shadow world to steal a briefcase containing vital secrets and then positions himself to become head of F.E.A.R. There are wonderful moments, including the dispatch of an evil underling who learns the bitter cost of failure (ala Spectre). Like Space Ghost, Birdman always sings out his name when he goes into action. Did Hanna-Barbera think there were young opera fans out there in TV land? Funny! Enjoy! DVD set on Amazon here


Recent Spy Vibe posts: David Tennant's Ian Fleming audio books, The Prisoner & Captain ScarletPeter AsherGerry Marsden tour, Elio Petri on Blu-ray, Sophia Loren, new Beatles BBC album, new Hercule Poirot novel, Beatles fall 2013 releasesA Hard Days Night cinematographer diesMagic Christian on Blu-ray, Early Beatles image archive, Julie NewmarErno GoldfingerHitchcock tribute

Recent Ian Fleming posts on Spy Vibe: Erno GoldfingerIan Fleming Music Series links: Noel CowardWhispering Jack SmithHawaiian GuitarJoe Fingers Carr, new Ian Fleming CatalogJon Gilbert interview, Double 007 Designs, Bond audio book reissues, discovery of one of Ian Fleming's WWII Commandos, James Bond book coversIan Fleming's Playboy interview for Kindle, Spy Vibe's discovery of a rare Ian Fleming serialization, rare View to a Kill, Fleming's Royal gold typewriter, Ian Fleming's memorial address

2 comments:

  1. IIRC, Space Ghost's "B" feature was Dino Boy, and The Herculoids were on another show. But my memory may be playing tricks after all these years.

    The Herculoids may have guest starred (along with Shazzan and other heroes from H-B series on CBS) in the serial where Space Ghost fought the Council of Doom. Such crossovers and team-ups were common in comic books, but rare in TV cartoons at that time.

    There was also another Hanna-Barbera cartoon series, The Impossibles, about a trio of costumed super heroes who were a rock & roll band in their civilian identities. They received assignments from "Big D," so apparently they were agents for some sort of secret service-type agency. That series seemed to be trying to combine all three pop culture fads of the mid-1960's: Bond, Batman, and the Beatles.

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  2. that's right! although it looks like the Herculoids appeared on Space Ghost, Dinoboy was the regular pairing.

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