9 overlooked and forgotten TV superheroes ready for a reboot
The small screen has long been home to heroes, from Mr. Terrific to Manimal.
Top image: The Everett Collection
The spandex and cape industries must be in heaven. Superheroes are bigger than ever. There is no end in sight to the steady flow of comic book movies and television series. As the demand keeps up, Hollywood has to dig a little deeper for more obscure characters.
Case in point: Legendary Entertainment recently released a reboot of Sid and Marty Krofft's Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, starring two YouTube celebrities. The modern take on the 1976 Saturday morning duo hit digital media platforms last week. Watch the trailer to see how the characters and costumes were updated for the 21st century.
That got us thinking about other overlooked TV superheroes from the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Everyone knows The Incredible Hulk, Batman and Wonder Woman. After all, we air them every Saturday evening. Here are some superheroes from decades past that did not quite remain household names.
When Batman hit the airwaves at the start of 1966, it was an immediate POW! to the ratings. Airing twice a week, Batman filled two slots in Nielsen's Top 10 for that year. Naturally, other studios tried to copy the formula. CBS launched Mr. Terrific a year later, the adventures of a gas station worker named Stanley Beamish who popped power pills for superhuman strength. He soared through the air in a winged silver suit, looking like a glittering WWI aviator. The show lasted one season.
Running concurrently with Mr. Terrific on another network was Captain Nice. Carter Nash was a mild mannered (aren't they always?) police chemist with a secret formula for super strength. His monogrammed "CN" belt buckle lead to his superhero alias, Captain Nice. Created by the brilliant Buck Henry, this was played for laughs, as our hero could fly, but was afraid of heights. Captain Nice, too, sadly lasted a mere season.
"Danger is my middle name," proclaimed this brainchild of Batman creator Bob Kane. McCool combined the superspy traits of James Bond with, well, Batman. Kane shamelessly ripped himself off when creating the villains. The Owl and the Pussycat were clearly just the Penguin and Catwoman. Why not? They were all his idea in the first place. Here are more things you might not know about Cool McCool.
Image: King Features
The Super 6
Sounding more like a chain of budget motels, the Super 6 were an eclectic cartoon crew consisting of Super Bwoing, Granite Man, Magneto Man, Elevator Man, Super Scuba and Captain Zammo. Bwoing spoke like Jimmy Stewart and flew through the air on his guitar, the "Super Bwoinger." Man, the '60s were gloriously weird.
Image: DePatie-Freleng Enterprises / NBC
Paul Frees, the voice of Bullwinkle baddie Boris Badenov, also gave life to this powerful POTUS. James Norcross, leader of the free world, gains his powers in a cosmic storm and henceforth hunts down evildoers in his Omnicar. He could change his molecular make-up into any substance, from stone to water. He could literally become a Teflon president.
Image: United Artists Television
"It's a word… It's a plan… It's Letterman!" So narrator Joan Rivers would proclaim in the "Adventures of Letterman" animated shorts that aired during The Electric Company. That's not a number 11 on his chest, rather two lowercase L's. Letterman's archenemy was Spellbinder, though, today, the villain would likely be emojis. We could use a good spelling hero.
Captain Marvel and Isis
Filmation, the animation studio behind dozens of cartoon favorites, produced a handful of live-action series. Shazam! came from the pages of DC Comics. Teenager Billy Batson could transform into the Superman-like Captain Marvel by shouting "SHAZAM," summoning his powers from Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury. Following a year later, The Secrets of Isis was the first weekly, live-action series featuring a female superhero on American television, premiering before Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman. The character was akin to an Egyptian version of Wonder Woman. Of course, despite her history, you will probably never, ever see her again due to her name. A Shazam movie, on the other hand, is on the horizon, starring the Rock. The two series fused into The Shazam/Isis Hour for a couple years in the mid-'70s.
Image: Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Man from Atlantis
DC has Aquaman and Marval has Namor, but Patrick Duffy was the first Atlantean hero to dolphin-kick across the screen in live-action. (Marvel would publish a Man from Atlantis tie-in comic, too.) With his webbed feet and hands, Mark Harris (Duffy) could swim at great depths and breathe underwater. His only weakness? Low ratings. Just 13 episodes were produced, along with four TV movies.
Image: Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Dr. Jonathan "Manimal" Chase had the ability to shape-shift into any wild beast, though he seemed to prefer the form of a hawk or black panther. Special-effects master Stan Winston created the transformations, which included everything from dolphins to snakes. A decade later, Manimal would briefly return, appearing on an episode of Night Man, a 1997 series about a saxophone player named Johnny Domino who is "struck by a lightning bolt in a freak cable-car accident." Now there's a concept that never gets old.
Image: 20th Century Fox Television