Hanna-Barbera cartoon shows poster by Alex Ross
There is a very large, very soft spot in my heart for the Hanna-Barbera superheros.
Blue Falcon and Dyno-Mutt, Birdman, Space Ghost (SPACE GHOST IS THE BEST), The Herculoids, the Galaxy Trio, Thundarr…
There’s something timeless about them, something that always works, that always plays well. And they’re a group of superheros that only, really, existed and worked in one medium, a medium that, quite frankly, most actual superheroes never really worked in: cartoons.
Sure, Batman: The Animated Series is the pinnacle of superhero cartoons, but, outside of X-Men: The Animated Series (which mostly doesn’t hold up, and is painfully dated) and, perhaps, the larger B:TAS universe, comic book superheroes translated to cartoon superheroes largely doesn’t translate that well.
You either dumb down the character and the world, or you aim it just at the kids demographic, or you aim it just at adults, and either way, it doesn’t work as well as the actual comic.
Whereas the H-B cartoon heroes just work across the entire board. Though dated, they’re dated to the cartoon world of the 60’s, which is, like I said, timeless. Computers are large and cartoony, everyone looks like Mad Men, and the technology is broad and Kirby-esque. Unlike, say, something like the X-Men: The Animated Series, wherein everything looks like the 90’s. This is why B:TAS works so well, because it’s a cool noir world without the 90’s timestamp.
And, you know, Blue Falcon sounds cool! And Space Ghost looks cool! And the Herculoids are SO WEIRD. And Dyno-Mutt is basically just a robot Scooby Doo!
As superheroes who were designed to move and exist in the television medium, the characters work 100% better than ones designed to exist in comic books. And yes, comic book characters can and do work in a 3D medium (The Avengers movie, the aforementioned Batman: TAS, um, some parts of The Walking Dead), but the H-B cartoons are vibrant, colorful, fun, goofy time capsules that, quite frankly, we may never see again.
And that’s probably okay.