Nether Regions 06.07.11: The 1966 Hulk Cartoons
Posted by Chad Webb on 06.07.2011
This week I tackle the cartoons of another Marvel super-hero. This time it's the Hulk, and after watching a few of these episodes, you'll be glad he doesn't talk in the feature films...
Nether Regions started as a segment of the Big Screen Bulletin that meant to showcase films that have been discontinued on DVD, are out of print in the United States, are only available in certain regions outside the United States, or are generally hard to find. Now it is a column all its own! You might ask, "Why should I care about a film I have no access to?" My goal is to keep these films relevant because some of them genuinely deserve to be recognized. Every time I review a new film I will have a list of those I covered below so you can see if they have been announced for DVD release, or are still out of print.
THE 1966 HULK CARTOONS
Featuring the Voices of: Paul Soles, Peg Dixon, and Max Ferguson Directed By: Grant Simmons and Doug Wildey Written By: Ralph Bakshi, Doug Wildey, and more Running Time: 19-21 minutes per episode without commercials Release Date: 1966 Missing Since: Never Released Existing Formats: An unknown # of episodes are said to be available as an extra on a DVD for the 1996 series Netflix Status: Not Available Availability: Extremely Rare
The Hulk cartoons were part of the anthology animated series The Marvel Super Heroes, which was syndicated and first shown in the US in 1966. It was a half-hour show that ran three separate seven-minute segments that focused on an individual super hero each day of the work week. It was broadcast at different times on various local stations. Here is how the line-up went:
- Monday: Captain America
- Tuesday: The Incredible Hulk
- Wednesday: The Invincible Iron Man
- Thursday: The Mighty Thor
- Friday: Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner
For those who read my review of the Thor cartoons from 1966 and sat with crossed fingers in hopes that the other super heroes were given superior quality episodes, you might be a bit disappointed once you peruse this article. One new discovery I made is that each seven-minute segment of a spotlighted character has its own title. The entire episode itself has no singular title. I suppose I should have realized that last time, but the bootleg copy I own was edited in a manner so that only one title pops up, at the beginning of the episode. Because I bought this bootleg copy from a different person, every segment's title is visible. The downside of this is that the theme music plays at the start and finish of each seven-minute segment, so in essence, kids who tuned in heard the following theme music SIX TIMES per sitting:
The Hulk Theme Music and Lyrics
Doc Bruce Banner,
Belted by gamma rays,
Turned into the Hulk.
Ain't he unglamor-ous!
Wreckin' the town
With the power of a bull,
Ain't no monster clown
Who is as lovable.
As ever-lovin' Hulk! HULK!! HULK!!"
In case you haven't seen Ang Lee's Hulk from 2003, Louis Leterrier's The Incredible Hulk from 2008, or even the television series starring Lou Ferrigno and Bill Bixby from the late 70's, the story surrounding Hulk follows Dr. Bruce Banner, who is described as a nuclear scientist initially, but over the course of the episodes is universally praised as the most brilliant mind on Earth by ordinary citizens and aliens from far off galaxies. Banner has a damn fine publicist apparently. Anyway, he is experimenting with a gamma bomb and goes out into the test site to save a teenager who has wandered in aimlessly. Banner's jealous colleague Igor, who is actually a Soviet spy, detonates the bomb in hopes of getting rid of his competitor. Rick manages to get to safe ground, but Banner is affected by the gamma rays. Here's where it gets strange. At first, Banner and Rick find out that he changes into the Hulk at night. This happens consistently many times. As the episodes roll along however, he then says the mutation occurs because of his nervous system, and in another episode the transformation is specified deeper as happening due to a spike in blood pressure. In episode #4 "On the Rampage", he channels Hulk basically on command. One wishes they would make up their mind.
The wicked "Leader" admires his own complexion.
Getting back to the origin story, The Hulk causes endless destruction, so General Thunderbolt Ross becomes obsessed with hunting him. He has a daughter, Betty, whom Bruce Banner is in love with. Banner is incessantly being condemned for helping the Hulk because he shows up wherever the Hulk is last seen. Duh. These scenes truly are hilarious as someone always walks away when Banner changes, but even if they turn around directly after the change; they never think that Banner and the Hulk could be the same person, despite torn clothes and NO ONE ELSE IN SIGHT. If Banner is locked up on accusations of treason, and magically escapes, the logical conclusion is that he "called" the Hulk, who then broke him out. Everyone seems to be an idiot. The transformation is cued by waves around Banner's body. When this is going down he looks constipated more than angry.
Bernard Cowan is the narrator once again and he has superb commentator-esque vocals, but simply states the obvious over and over again to the point of exhaustion. The Rick character is an enigma. Perhaps comic die-hards can elaborate. I understand that Banner saved him from the gamma bomb, but why he keeps tagging along, virtually for no reason is never covered. His primary purpose is that of a nuisance who gets in the way. Eventually he is appointed to lock Banner inside a cell at night when he changes into Hulk, but that doesn't pan out as he changes more than just at night. If you were Rick, would you continually put yourself in danger just because you were bored? As a teenager, Rick must be a dropout, or an equivalent to Doogie Howser who requires no further education. How else to explain why he is allowed to hang around a nuclear facility all the time? He is one of the few that knows that Banner is the Hulk, but having that knowledge never amounts to anything. He just follows like an annoying dog. In my humble opinion, these two convey homosexual tendencies. Moving on.
General Thunderbolt Ross is voiced here as a schizophrenic psychopath who rants and raves like a lunatic when people are suspicious of Banner. But of course Banner is always cleared somehow and then Ross finally calms down, however he still persists in not trusting him. Ross and Major Talbot are excessively eager to accuse Banner regardless of how many times he vindicates himself. He is also placed right back in the position of nuclear scientist, and you would think that someone who has been under scrutiny on numerous occasions for treason wouldn't be hired back. Perhaps he's just that damn good. His daughter Betty is the main squeeze, but any romance is almost as an afterthought for the majority of the episodes.
If Hulk is more entertaining than Thor, it's only slightly. In this series, the flaws rest mostly with the lack of continuity. The Hulk is also a more intriguing character, compared to Thor, who is extremely goofy and dimwitted. As for continuity, it can be maddening to endure in this cartoon. For instance, unlike the live-action movies, Hulk can speak, though he sounds like someone has shoved a broom up his arse, but he does mumble like a caveman. The problem is, it rarely makes sense. Sometimes he is aware that his other form is Bruce Banner, while at other times he blames Banner for bringing him to a certain location and vows to hunt him down. Rick even tells him, but gets a backhand for his troubles. Also, Betty's hair color changes regularly from black to brown to even blonde. Banner's look differs from episode to episode too. I would not carp about this so much, but the episodes are linked. Events in episode #3 will be mentioned in episode #4, yet story background, character traits, and/or looks will have changed dramatically.
Hulk is irritated by Rick.
I admit to not being a connoisseur of Incredible Hulk shows or comics, but when Ang Lee's Hulk was released, I heard many people complaining about the jumping ability. In that film he would leap long distances in short periods of time. He does that here too, including one ridiculous flip through the air over a train tunnel in episode #3 "A Titan Rides the Train." In episode #4, "Where Strides the Behemoth", they attribute this to his strong leg muscles. Hulk is usually straightforward and tough, which is effective, but the jumping borders on lame. Keep him grounded.
The rogue gallery is mediocre in this series. At least in the Thor episodes, they were laid out fairly well and sporadically posed a threat. Here they pop up suddenly and just get right to the villainous actions with little motive. Take The Leader, a lazily named foe who is highly intelligent and sends out plastic soldiers (called Humanoids) to defeat Hulk. They are invincible because things just bounce off them. Yeah. He commonly has an invention to try and control or destroy Hulk, or recruits others for help. In Episode #7, "Another World, Another Foe", The Leader subdues Hulk and sends him to a random planet to steal the "scientific wonders" of the Watcher, some wise dude who…you know, watches everyone. Upon arrival, the Lizard King of the Galaxies (I think that's his name), who looks suspiciously like The Thing from Fantastic Four, arrives for an epic battle. It gets very convoluted. Then we have The Gorgon, who is described as super strong, but resembles John Hurt in David Lynch's The Elephant Man with a deformed head. His body is also orange. How he came to have this grotesque exterior is never explained even fleetingly.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of watching this series was the unique words to signify hitting sounds effects. This time we have oddities like: "Booo", "Baroinng", "Bakoww", and "Kerlank".
Below you can take a gander at the episode list, complete with all the different titles:
- Episode 1: The Origin of the Hulk, Enter the Gorgon, To Be a Man
- Episode 2: Terror of the Toadmen, Bruce Banner: Wanted For Treason, Hulk Runs Amok
- Episode 3: A Titan Rides the Train, The Horde of Humanoids, On the Rampage!
- Episode 4: The Power of Dr. Banner, Where Strides the Behemoth, Back from the Dead
- Episode 5: Micro Monsters, The Lair of the Leader, To Live Again
- Episode 6: Brawn Against Brain, Captured At Last, Enter the Chameleon
- Episode 7: Within this Monster Dwells a Man; Another World, Another Foe; The Wisdom of the Watcher
- Episode 8: The Space Phantom, Sting of the Wasp, Exit the Hulk
- Episode 9: Hulk vs. Metal Master, The Master Tests His Metal, Mind Over Metal
- Episode 10: The Ringmaster, Captive of the Circus, The Grand Finale
- Episode 11: Enter Tyrannus, Beauty & The Beast, They Dwell in the Depths
- Episode 12: Terror of the T-Gun, I Against A World, Bruce Banner is the Hulk
- Episode 13: The Man Called Boomerang; Hulk Intervenes; Less Than Monster, More Than Man
COMMENTARY - EPISODE #8
PART 1: THE SPACE PHANTOM - This episode begins with Hulk recalling The Avengers, and describing how inferior each member is to himself. At times, Banner hardly ever appears and Hulk seems to stay Hulk all the time. Ok then. We have Thor, The Wasp, Giant Man/Ant-Man, and Iron Man. I must say, I like the Wasp. She's a sneaky little minx in hot tights. They meet to get to now one another. Soon The Space Phantom travels light years to face them. He looks like a mix between Dracula and Spock. He can put people in a limbo state and take over their body. Hulk, stubborn as an ox, tries to beat him alone, but goes to that limbo state. Space Phantom, disguised as Hulk, fights with the rest of the Avengers, while Wasp instigates. It's like observing a bunch of jocks butting heads.
PART 2: STING OF THE WASP – The Space Phantom is still disguised as Hulk, but is confronted by Rick, who attempts to talk some sense into him. Rick, as usual, accomplishes nothing. He then steals Tony Stark/Iron Man's missile gun to cause havoc. The real Hulk is then brought back, but before he and Iron Man get into another fight, Giant Man separates them on instructions from Rick. Meanwhile, The Space Phantom, now transformed into a Wasp, attacks the female Wasp.
PART 3: EXIT THE HULK – Apparently Giant Man has some transistor radio in his helmet. Watching him run to save the Wasp is hysterical. Space Phantom's secret of assuming other bodies is discovered and Hulk is pissed. Soon no one knows who anyone is. Thor then finally shows up. Where was he exactly? Fondling Jane Foster? He stops the Space Phantom, who is now Iron man, with a lightning storm. Very anti-climactic. He cannot put Thor into limbo because his powers only affect human, not Gods. In the end, Hulk is whiny because The Avengers don't like him, so he leaves.
The Hulk series is not quite as bad as I expected, but there are still so many problems that prevent this from being watchable. The limited animation is chief among them. The stories gradually become more complex and interesting. As that happens, they get increasingly messy and are filled with more gaps in logic. It might sound harsh, but the flaws definitely add up. If you want to check out better Incredible Hulk cartoons, the series from 1982-83 and the one from 1996-97, neither of which are not entirely available on DVD, are much more satisfying.