Do you remember waaaaaay back when having a day off meant Saturday, and Saturday meant waking up at the crack of dawn to plop yourself in front of the television set with a bowl of sugar based cereal substitute to watch Saturday morning cartoons? Yeah, me neither. But that’s okay. Let’s get NOSTALGIC!
On this day, September 9, 1967: It’s a Saturday. If you are a Virgo, you should avoid eating salads. A man in a tan jacket will hand you an equally tan briefcase. Do not open it. Further instructions will follow. And, airing for the first time on this date is The Herculoids.
The Herculoids was an action adventure series (in SPACE!) produced by Hanna-Barbera featuring Zandor, his wife Tara, and their son Dorno, brave heroes who defend their alien home from invaders with the help of various creatures: Igoo, Tundro, Zok, Gloop, and Gleep. Although I can’t find anything to prove it, I would assume that “Herculoids” is meant to be a variation on “Hercules,” a Greek demi-god known for his superhuman strength, and “humanoid,” a term for anything that resembles a human. Together, it would mean “strong human-ish people”. The Herculoids ran for 18 episodes between 1967-1969 with 11 more produced for Space Stars in 1981.
What I remember
Absolutely nothing! The Herculoids falls into the category of cartoons I could have watched as a kid, or any point between then and now, but didn’t. I think I’ve seen the show parodied on the Cartoon Network (maybe on Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law), but I never watched any of its episodes before this. (And NOW I want to track down episodes of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.)
The Herculoids falls into the same sort of liminal space (a transitional space between one thing and another where you have left one thing behind but not fully embraced the other) as Thundarr the Barbarian in that it is not quite fantasy or science-fiction. Unlike many cartoons, or television shows in general, no backstory is given in the opening title sequence. This makes it difficult to describe the plot of the first episode (two titles in one episode: “The Pirates” and “Sarko the Arkman) because there is so little context given to what is happening. Why is there a ship full of pointy-eared aliens, and why are they trying to bury a literal treasure chest on what their leader refers to as Zandor’s planet? If they are aware of the presence of Zandor, why are they not better prepared for the giant stone ape, huge many-legged rhinoceros-dinosaur who shoots energy rocks out of its horn, and the dragon with eye beams that accompany him? Why does Zandor have his own planet when he appears to be just a guy in a kilt with no obvious powers or special abilities, other than being able to communicate with the ape, dinosaur, dragon, and two shape-shifting blobs that arrive later with Zandor’s wife after their son is captured by the space pirates? The only explanation that occurs to me is that maybe Zandor and his family are supposed to be kind of a “The Swiss Family Robinson” set in space. Which would make it a kind of Lost in Space with giant monsters instead of a robot.
If you like the aesthetic of the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons, you’ll like The Herculoids. It has aliens, robots, monsters, and… space barbarians? It’s also kid friendly, provided that you’re not looking for diversity or inclusion and you can accept that Zandor’s wife will be spending a lot of her screen time either kidnapped or being protected from being kidnapped instead of engaging in whatever is going on in any particular episode. If you watch the episodes out of order, I doubt that will have any impact. Warning: the screech of the dragon thing gets old REALLY quickly.
If you liked The Herculoids
Also check out
The Herculoids History and Origins – It does a much better job of describing what the show was all about.
For more on Saturday Morning Cartoon Rewatch by Kevin
More to come (live from what I remember about the 80’s!) as this story continues.
Kevin Wadlow is 100% a real human being and definitely not a murder of crows wearing a person suit. He is an avid reader of horror, tabletop gamer, and drinker of coffee who enjoys drawing things of strangeness along the way. When the zombie apocalypse comes, he will probably be eaten first after saying something about how he fully expected to go out like this.