Monday, January 11, 2021

Weird Revisited: The Hanna-Barbera Superhero Universe

This post originally appeared in December of 2014. After I wrote this DC did a big crossover series Future Quest with some of these characters...

Art by Carlos Mota

I have, at various times, considered a supers campaign set in the universe of Hanna-Barbera's superhero cartoons.

One unusual thing about Hanna-Barbera's supers characters is that, when you leave aside the licensed properties (Super Friends, The Fantastic Four) and the completely comedic ones (The Impossibles, Atom Ant), very few of the characters follow traditional superhero conventions. For example, few are set on modern day Earth, or have a stable base of operations and supporting cast. The only one that does (Birdman) is unusual because he's a superhuman agent of a governmental organization, not unlike the THUNDER Agents.

Despite this different in focus and presentation, I think many of them could be adapted to a more traditional superhero mold. Call it "Ultimate Hanna-Barbera," if you will.  Let's run the list:

Art by Alex Ross
Space Ghost: A very superhero-y and well realized character as-is. Perhaps like the Legion of Super-Heroes he is a futuristic character in the same universe as the others? A future Phantom/Batman in the same way Captain Future is kind of a futuristic Doc Savage. The other option would be to make him sort of Green Lantern-like. A space cop assigned to protect earth. Or some combination of the two?

Young Samson: (Also known as Samson & Goliath) A teen with a Captain Marvel schtick who wanders around Route 66 or Incredible Hulk style, getting into adventures, works pretty well as-is. As suppose, it would be better to have him settled down and become more of a Peter Parker.

Shazzan: The cartoon has two kids transport to an Arabian Nights fantasy-land after finding their genie, but they could have just as easily stayed in the modern day. Two teens sharing a genie to fight evil would be an interesting concept.

Mightor: A Stone Age Thor, essentially. There isn't any reason a worthy successor couldn't find the magic club and become Mightor in the modern day. Of course, the character is a bit on the silly side and would probably work best for a Silver Age vibe rather than a Modern Age one.

Herculoids: In a comic book universe, the Herculoids could be sort of Ka-Zar type characters where their Savage Land is a world in another dimension, or they could be treated like a primitive Forever People and have them arrive on Earth to be super-powered fish-out-of-water.

Art by MarioPons
The Galaxy Trio: These teen heroes are probably better candidates for Forever People stand-ins. You can transport them to the modern day and have them be alien heroes stranded on Earth for some reason.

1 comment:

Dick McGee said...

The Young Samson I remember was very much a "government agent" superhero the same way Birdman was. He had some "wander into trouble" episodes but usually he was fighting some kind of foreign agents, evil genius type, or Hydra/AIM-like organization, often at the behest of some official SHIELD-clone group. He also shared Birdman's proclivity for needing to be rescued by his animal sidekick, although not to quite such a degree. Avenger really was the star of the show where that sap Harvey was concerned.

The Galaxy Trio are probably closest to DC's Legion of Super-Heroes writ small, and would be even more so in a 2000's era campaign with the requisite time travel involved. Alternately, maybe have them be a Silver Age Hawkman equivalent - alien law keepers with a starship in orbit and all that. I don't recall them being teenagers though - they always struck me as adults in the same way Space Ghost was.

Blue Falcon is, of course, what Batman would be if he was less broken and angsty and had been saddled with an utterly incompetent sidekick for his entire career.

The Filmation original supers are also worth a look for inspiration. Web-Woman and Manta & Moray were all fairly traditional supers, but Superstretch & Micro-woman were quite a bit more unique. Always reminded me of Ralph & Sue Dibny if Sue had powers herself.