Somewhere out in space live the Herculoids.
The Herculoids was one of the many Hanna-Barbera adventure-themed cartoons featuring design work by comics legend Alex Toth, and it has a reputation as one of the weirdest. Somebody - exactly who is lost to time, probably, but somebody said, "Hey... kids like monsters, right? Why don't we do a series with lots of monsters?" And the result is one of the most fondly-remembered corners of Saturday mornings in the late 60s, pined forand impatiently waited for in the realm of DVDs - until now.
On a distant planet (named only twice in the series, then rapidly forgotten as unnecessary) is the human trio, Zandor, Tarra, and their son Dorno. Igoo, a giant ape made of rock. Tundro, a bizarre, ten-legged, armored rhinoceros who can shoot "energy rocks" out his horn. Gloop and Gleep, two apparently immortal and indestructible blobs who can change their shape instantly. And Zok, a flying dragon who can fire laser beams from his eyes. And his tail.
When you're ten years old, this is the coolest damn thing ever.
(Frankly, that doesn't diminish much with age, either.)
When episodes aren't separated by a week, the stories can start to get repetitive; some space villain shows up on the planet, seeking conquest or revenge, or some menace crops up from the planet's incredibly diverse biosphere. Flying monkeys, bird people, spider people, destroyer ants... it's never a dull moment when you're a Herculoid, and it's to the writers' credit that while the formula varies little, the action is creative and different from episode to episode.
And again, when you're ten years old, you just don't care. Git him, Igoo! Rull! RULLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!
No major remastering has been done to the cartoons, but the elements used are flawless and, best of all, uncluttered by “bugs” or logos for cable channels. The menus are spare and uncluttered, offering either a “Play All” or “Episode” option. Each episode plays as a unbroken whole, from theme music to end credits. Though the menu lists the titles of each story in the episode, there is no option to simply go to a specific story.
The Warner Archives discs are not known for their special features - in point of fact, almost none of their discs carry them. The fact that their Manufacture On Demand model allows them to market niche items - like The Herculoids and Frankenstein Jr. & The Impossibles, among a bunch of older movies that generally appeal only to serious collectors - doesn't leave much room for the production of featurettes. Nonetheless, this set has one.
Like the sole extra on the Frankenstein Jr. set, this brief (four and a half minutes) piece is titled "Saturday Morning Cartoons: the 60's" with a subtitle: "The Herculoids: The First Family of Planet Quasar".
(RAMPAGING NERD ALERT: The planet is called something like "Amzot" in this series; when it was revived in the early 80s as a part of Space Stars, the planet was renamed to the only slightly less ridiculous Quasar. RAMPAGING NERD ALL-CLEAR)
First Family is a fast-intercutting series of interviews with animation historians, writers, and industry names like Paul Dini, Doug TenNapel and Mark Evanier. It's good and it's informative in its limited time, but it's obviously part of a larger whole and only serves to leave you hungry for more.
In any case, if you're like a lot of people (I'm looking in a mirror, here), that won't matter. What matters is, this is the freakin' Herculoids, man. It's the Herculoids!
Dr. Freex, 7/24/2011