Opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of the author, David C. Matthews (unless otherwise indicated). Images used are copyrighted by their respective owners, and appear under the "fair use" provisions of the copyright laws.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Herculoids fan art #2

So after I posted the first "Herculoids fan art" post, bemoaning the fact that there isn't more Herculoids fan art, I read the comment left by "Adam" on the post before, where he links to nine pieces on deviantART I wasn't even aware of (and didn't show up in my Google search.

So here's the second of what I hope will be a continuing series showcasing fan depictions of our favorite animated monsters and the humans who love them. Here's four from 14-bis:

Igoo by *14-bis on deviantART

Gloop and Gleep by *14-bis on deviantART

Zok by *14-bis on deviantART

Tundro speed painting by *14-bis on deviantART

And five from Maiss-Thro:

The Tremendous by ~Maiss-Thro on deviantART

Formless-Fearless Wonders by ~Maiss-Thro on deviantART

Giant Rock Ape by ~Maiss-Thro on deviantART

Space Dragon by ~Maiss-Thro on deviantART

The Herculoids by ~Maiss-Thro on deviantART

And more in the future, when I can collect some more. In the meantime, if you happen to come across any, leave a link in the comments, please?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Episode Review: #3, "The Pod Creatures" - Sept. 16, 1967

(Spoilers, spoilers, getcher red hot spoilers rat cheer!)

Prologue: A saucer-shaped space craft enters the atmosphere of Amzot.

"We have reached the jungle planet," intones a mechanically-filtered voice. "Prepare to drop pods. And remember: no life is to survive." Circular ports ringing the bottom edge of the saucer open, and pods like tailless lawn darts drop to the planet's surface.

Cue the title card...

The strange sounds caused by the deployment of the pods do not go unnoticed by Tara and Zandor, though they are puzzled by the cause. Zandor summons Zok from a nearby cave, and they fly off to investigate. "If you find Dorno and Igoo, tell them to stay close to home," asks Tara.

An airborne search proves fruitless for the moment, and Zandor decides to start a ground search, sending Zok to find Dorno and Igoo.

Dorno is apparently having "Iggy" do his chores for him: as the boy relaxes against Gleep, Igoo uproots trees with segmented trunks, and karate-chops them into shorter logs for firewood.

"That's enough firewood, Iggy. Gleep and I are tired just from watching!" But the bucolic moment is cut short by the strange noises again; "Let's go see what it is."

The saucer continues to drop pods, row upon row; conceivably hundreds, if not thousands, have now landed.

Finally the saucer's ports close, as Gleep, Igoo and Dorno (carried in one of Igoo's giant hands) approach. They come upon a patch of pods, which Dorno describes as looking "like some kind of weird vegetable."

A pod opens behind Igoo, revealing a strange creature shaped like a large bullet. "It's alive!" exclaims Dorno.

Pods are suddenly splitting open all around them, the creatures inside extending thin black tentacles toward Dorno and Igoo. "They're after us... head for the caves!"

A tentacle grabs Gleep, but at Dorno's urging the protoploid separates in two, slipping out of the tendril's grasp. The creature's tentacles continue to pursue Gleep, as another creature's tentacles wrap themselves around Igoo. The stone ape breaks their grip, and fights them off with karate-like chops of his hands.

Gleep joins Dorno in the shelter of the cave, as the boy urges Igoo to get to safety as well. But Igoo is surrounded on two sides by pod things, which hover on rocket-like engines. Grabbing the tentacles of one group of pods, Igoo flings them against a cliff face, repeating the stunt with the other group.

A creature flies straight for Igoo, punching him squarely in the midriff... and putting himself right into the ape's mighty grasp. Igoo slams the thing into the ground. Three more creatures launch themselves at Igoo, who catches them, shoves them into the ground, and proceeds to pound them even deeper into dirt like the pegs in a child's workbench toy.


Tara hears Igoo's battle roars, and asks Tundro to call for Zandor; Tundro does so by projecting his growl through his hollow forehead horn. Zandor hears Tundro's summons, and bounces off tightly stretched vines. Zok hears Tundro as well, and joins Zandor, Tundro, Gloop and Tara in a nearby clearing.

Zandor orders Zok and Tundro to follow him to aid Igoo and Dorno, and Gloop to stay behind and guard Tara (which he does by surrounding her with multiples of himself).

Igoo is beset by more pod creatures, whose tentacles are apparently becoming harder to repel. Dorno is grabbed by a creature until Igoo chops its tendrils away and smashes it. Still more pods attack Igoo.

Gleep ties himself into a knot around a pursuing tentacle, causing the hydraulic pressure on either side of the knot to split the tendril apart.

But the creatures press their attack, and their numbers seem endless..

Zandor, Zok and Tundro finally arrive on the scene, to find Dorno and Igoo helplessly bound in tentacles, being dragged toward a group of pod things. Energy rocks fired from Zandor's slingshot and Tundro's horn prove to be very effective weapons against the creatures.

Zok struggles to break free of tentacles; Zandor throws his shield and severs Zok's bonds. Zok destroys several creatures with his eye and tail beams, as Zandor wrecks a few more with another expert throw of his shield, and Tundro makes like a shooting gallery...

Finally, all the pod creatures are destroyed. "But I have an idea that there are a lot more where they came from," Zandor muses. As the saucer rises into the air and fleees the planet, he adds, "I suspect that that spaceship could give us all the answers."

"And our answer to them was our animal army," Dorno replies, as they all return home.

Comments: Remember what I've written, about how some episodes would benefit from being expanded to a half-hour story? "The Pod Creatures" is not one of them.

This episode is about as basic as you can get: a mysterious alien race infiltrates the planet, and the Herculoids drive them off. So bare-bones, in fact, that it wouldn't be surprising to find out that the staff actually had trouble filling nine minutes; there certainly seems to be a lot of reused and repeated footage, especially of Igoo fighting off the tentacles.

This episode is actually pretty typical of one type of Herculoids story: the mysterious extraterrestrial invasion force. An unnamed alien culture comes to Amzot and drops warriors, machines or creatures onto the surface to conquer, colonize, and/or "cleanse" the planet of its existing life (as in this case). And it's up to Zandor and co. to save the planet from the threat of annihilation or conquest.

I believe that's Paul Frees doing the voice of the saucer.

The "Oh, Come ON!" Moment: This episode didn't really have a notable OCO, at least not one which took me out of the story or made me wonder about the intelligence and/or competence of the character(s) involved. There are a few scenes that get me scratching my head, though:
  • Isn't it convenient that the tree Igoo is chopping up grows a segmented trunk that separates easily into equal-sized logs? I'm not saying that couldn't happen…

  • Why doesn't Zok use his power beams on the pod things holding him captive? Why does Zandor have to free him first, using a shield that is apparently razor edged?

  • I guess the closest to an OCO we have in this episode is that Zandor's shield returns unerringly to him, no matter how many objects it's struck in its trajectory. But I have that same gripe about Captain America's shield, so it's not like Zandor is unique in that regard. (It's certain that Cap was the inspiration for this "boomerang shield" thing in the first place.)

  • And: why is Zandor so nonchalant about the departing spacecraft that tried to wipe out all life on Amzot (once again unnamed, referred to only as "the jungle planet")? I think I would've jumped on Zok's back and pursued that thing, to at least find out what section of space it probably came from. (And they could've pursued it quite a distance, even into interplanetary space, as we'll see in the next episode.)

This is the first episode that shows what would become a recurring image in future cartoons: Zandor bouncing between tightly-stretched vines. The purpose, I'm guessing, is to build up speed to be "launched" at… what, exactly? After Zandor flies away from the final vine, we're never shown where he lands! Is this to get him on Zok's back? There have to be easier ways, like maybe Zok kneeling down so his rider can climb onto his shoulder? This has always been the most mystifying aspect of the series, because there's simply no need for this elaborate procedure.

This is also the first occurrence we see of what becomes (for me, anyway) a rather annoying habit of Zandor's: his insistence that Tara stay behind, and that Gloop (or sometimes Gleep) guard her while the rest of the crew go off to face the latest danger to their existence. I understand the impulse; hey, I'd want my wife to stay safe if I think I'm about to face danger, but -- Zandor's taking his son (who looks to be anywhere from ten to thirteen years old) with him! Besides, we've already seen what a great shot Tara is with the family weapon (the slingshot), and that she's capable of great courage, so it seems to me that she'd be an asset on any mission they'd undertake. But the pop culture of the time still wasn't quite comfortable with the idea of a truly heroic female (with the exception of Wonder Woman, perhaps), so stay behind like a good little wifey she does. (If there's one thing that I think the Space Stars revival did better than the original series, it was to give Tara a bigger role in their adventures.)

It's fortunate that the pod creatures are, individually, easy to destroy. It's the sheer number of them that make them a formidable foe. I also wonder, too, why is a fleet of creatures whose purpose is the destruction of all life on a planet not equipped with a broader array of weapons? Tentacles? that's a "capture and hold" weapon, not a "destroy everything that lives" weapon.

So one wonders how the Herculoids would fare against an invasion force whose numbers are as great as the pod creatures', but one in which each individual unit is practically invincible? …yes, if you remember the show, or have watched it recently, you know which episode I'm referring to. And it'll be coming up for review in just a few weeks.

Finally: another shot of Tara, just because I like her…

…and the dirty old man in me wishes that Tara hadn't been left behind, and had fallen victim to the pod things herself…

Herculoids fan art

I'm disappointed that there isn't more fan art of The Herculoids on the web. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised; the original series is 43 years old(!), and even the Space Stars revival series dates back 19 years, so that even the typical comics/animation fan of today would have little or no personal contact with them. But I have found a few fan art pieces on deviantART, and I've even drawn a couple myself.

Herculoids by ~Ferigato on deviantART

HERCULOIDS by ~nocturnals23 on deviantART

The Herculoids by *nelsondaniel on deviantART

And, my own contributions:

Tara and Zok - fanart by *dcmatthews on deviantART

(I see I got Tara's dress color wrong.)

Tara Attacks - fan art by *dcmatthews on deviantART

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Episode Review: #2, "The Raiders" - Sept. 9, 1967

(WARNING: Spoilers!)

Synopsis: Prologue: An alien spaceship cruises the skies of Amzot.

Its crew: two single-eyed androids and a bald-headed, green-skinned creature with large pointed ears, who wears square spectacles with one lens blacked out.  Spotting Zandor flying on Zok's back below, the alien orders the ship be made invisible to escape Zandor's notice. Prologue ends…

"I was almost sure I saw a strange ship in this area," Zandor muses; "I guess I was wrong." He urges Zok to continue their journey. Safe from detection, the alien orders the ship made visible again, and "Eject the decoy smoke". Thick smoke billows from the ship's rocket exhaust, creating a convincing illusion of a spacecraft suffering a mechanical breakdown, as the alien directs the ship to fly to "Zandor's territory".

Tara watches as the ship lands in front of the Herculoids' treehouse, concerned that the occupants might be in trouble. As the alien and his two androids exit the ship, Tara asks, "Are you all right?"

The alien's reply, after ascertaining that Tara is alone in the compound, is to pull a gun on Tara! "Into the ship! With you as my hostage, the riches of this planet will soon be mine!"

Tara calls for help from Gloop; the alien orders his androids to "destroy that creature!" Gloop evades the android's eye-beams, by splitting into multiples of himself.

The alien orders the ship to leave, but Gloop grabs the rocket exhaust tube and attempts to prevent its takeoff. But the application of "magno-power" overcomes Gloop's grip, and the ship breaks free -- but not without damage that forces the ship to land once again, for genuine repairs this time. "You'll never get away with this!" Tara says, but the alien responds, "With you as my hostage, I have nothing to fear!"

Gloop watches the ship land, and bounces off in search of help. He finds Dorno, Igoo, Tundro and Gleep at a swimming hole, where Dorno is being catapulted by Igoo into the water -- "That was great, Iggy! The highest dive yet!" Gloop tells Dorno of his mother's kidnapping, and Dorno summons Zandor on a ram's-horn-like instrument.

Zandor and Zok find the ship's landing place, and survey the scene from hiding. One of the aliens is working on repairs to the ship, while Tara, her hands bound behind her back, sits on a rock with the alien holding a gun on her.

"I've found them! At the base of the White Cliffs!" With Zandor in the lead, the others march to Tara's rescue. Fade to black…

After the break: Zandor outlines his plan to the others: Dorno and Tundro create a diversion, the rest is up to Zandor and the others.

Just as the repairs are finished, Dorno and Gleep, riding on Tundro's back, charge the camp. The alien and his androids fire stun-rays at them, stopping Tundro in his tracks, Dorno flies off Tundro's back, but his fall is cushioned by a pillow-shaped Gleep. Igoo is spotted climbing down the cliff toward the camp, and is fired upon by an android. The robot's beams break Igoo's grip on the rock face, and he falls -- onto the android, crushing it flat. Igoo confronts the alien, who threatens to shoot Tara.

From the top of the cliff behind Tara and her captor, Gloop stretches down to lift Tara up and away from the alien, as Gleep snatches the gun from his hand.

Two androids attack Igoo, who dismantles them with mighty blows of his stone fists. Two more androids attack Tundro, but are dispatched with energy rocks fired from Tundro's horn.

"I can still escape!" cries the alien, beating a hasty retreat to the ship. But once again, the ship will not move because it's being held back -- this time by Igoo, who unfortunately doesn't know when to let go, and is carried aloft when the alien turns on the full power of the engines. Igoo finally falls from the ship, conveniently landing in a mudpit that cushions his landing.

It's now up to Zandor and Zok -- "Don't let him get away!" But the alien has "a special surprise" planned for Zandor. Zok manages to get above the ship, and Zandor urges the dragon to ease in close, but be ready for anything. Good advice: Zok is just inches from the ship's hull when the alien fires a "mega-blast" at Zok's underbelly! Fortunately, the slow-moving beam is easy to avoid, as Zok flies away just in time.

Zandor and Zok try an approach from the rear, but he ship has ray-guns pointed in that direction as well; Zandor's shield deflects the blasts. "Now, Zok!" The dragon fires beams from his eyes at the ship, blasting a hole in its rear hull. Zandor fires an energy rock from his slingshot which damages the forward hull; from the ground, Igoo uses a tree as a catapult (much as he'd done with Dorno earlier) to launch a giant energy rock at the ship, finally knocking it out of the sky to crash behind some distant cliffs -- could the evil alien have survived?

Reunited with her family at last, Tara asks why would someone do such evil things. Zandor muses, "I don't know, Tara. But creatures like that help us to realize that what we have is worth protecting."

Comments: I had to re-watch this episode twice to confirm a suspicion I was having the first time I watched it (that is, the first time after not having seen it for 30-some-odd years): no reason is given for the actions of the villain in this story!

His name is never revealed, although I've seen him referred to as "Enemy One-Eye" on a couple of fan sites, so that's as good a name as any.  But we know he's a villain, 'cause just look at him!  He's ugly, he wears square spectacles with one lens blacked out (the space-age equivalent of pirate eyepatches, I suppose) and he talks in that hoarse, growly voice that always marks a Hanna-Barbera villain.  But what he does that makes him evil, well, that will have to remain forever a mystery.

He knows Zandor, obviously, and has reason to want to hide from him the first time he sees him.  And yet, seconds later, he flies right for "Zandor's territory", fakes mechanical trouble with his ship, and takes Tara hostage in order to... what? Force Zandor to do something?  Prevent Zandor from doing something?  We don't know. His statement about "the planet's riches" being his is too cryptic to be a real explanation.

I'm wondering if this episode, like "The Beaked People", wouldn't have benefitted from being expanded to a half-hour, in order to explore the relationship between Zandor and Enemy One-Eye a little more.  There's obviously bad blood between these two, or at least hard feelings on the part of EOE toward Zandor, and it would have been useful to find out why.  Was Zandor responsible for bringing EOE to justice, and a long stretch in a galactic prison?  (As we'll see in future episodes, it wouldn't be the only time Zandor's done that.)

I love the moiré patterns the last two androids produce when they blow up.

Continuity error: when Gloop comes rushing rushing to the pool, gibbering for the attention of Dorno and the others, Dorno looks toward screen right, the opposite direction from which we see Gloop approaching.

And: from the beginning of the episode, we see EOE accompanied by only two androids. Suddenly, in the big battle with Igoo and Tundro, we see that he apparently had five: one flattened by Igoo's fall, two punched to pieces by Igoo (in a scene that can be seen every week in the show's opening titles), and two destroyed by Tundro.

The "Oh, come ON!" moment: the whole episode is kind of an OCO moment, since the villain's purposes and motivations are never made clear; but if I had to choose one, it would be the "Mega-Blast" weapon. Any other blaster, ray gun or beam weapon would've moved too quickly for Zok to avoid; how conveeeeenient that the Mega-Blast moves as s-l-o-w-l-y as it does.

And, almost any scene in which Gloop or Gleep has to cushion a character's (usually Dorno's) fall from a great height is good for an OCO moment, since the writers and artists couldn't resist having Gloop/Gleep form himself into a pillow, mattress, etc. to do so. And don't get me started about the parachutes...

All in all, a pretty weak episode, and not one I'd recommend to newcomers to the Herculoids.

ADDENDUM: Re-watching a batch of random episodes, including one called "The Return of Sta-Lak". And what do you know? Turns out this unnamed alien, "Enemy One-Eye", actually has a name: Sta-Lak (pronounced "stay lack"). Geez, fellas, thanks a lot for not telling us his name in the episode he's first introduced in!! But although "The Return of Sta-Lak" chronicles his plan for revenge against the Herculoids for the events in this episode, it's still never revealed why he had a beef with the Herculoids in the first place.