Sunday, August 12, 2012

There's No Need To Fear

A non-Marvel nod to: Underdog

"When Polly's in trouble,
I am not slow,
So it's hip-hip-hip
and away I goooooo!"
A comment in another blog reminded me of Underdog, the canine super-hero of the 60's cartoon series.  Cartoons were so innovative then, and Underdog certainly fit into that category.  The "city crowds" in the background were just normal people--but Underdog, some of his villains, and his friends resembled, well, dogs.  And here's a confession--I didn't realize this at the time.  His girlfriend, Sweet Polly Purebred? I thought they meant Purebread.  Slipped right by me.

Underdog (voiced by the fantastic Wally Cox) was always rescuing Polly from some villain's clutches.  She could always summon him by singing "Oh where, oh where has my Underdog gone... oh where, oh where can he be?" And his villains were classics--the mobster Riff Raff; the hooded ace-in-the-hole Just In Case; and of course, his most persistent nemesis, the mad scientist Simon Bar Sinister (with his dull-witted assistant, Cad).  Does anyone remember who Just In Case turned out to be?

I'm still not sure why Underdog always chose to remain as his alter-ego, Shoe Shine Boy, until danger threatened.  Given the choice of shining shoes all day vs. flying around to cheering crowds, which would you choose? It's not like he's going to miss the money.  Still, they did say he was humble.  And there was always that nifty change scene where he'd race into a phone booth and explode it to reveal himself in costume.  God help you if you were standing anywhere nearby.  Underdog probably sent more than a few innocent people to the hospital with shrapnel wounds.

The weird part about Underdog is that he never really had the stamina to see a battle through.  He always relied on his energy pill (within the secret compartment of his ring) to restore his strength.  It provided a good "will our hero be able to save the day" bridge, but in retrospect it just seemed like an odd thing for the writers to throw in.  Of course, Astro Boy had to have energy to remain at his peak, too.  I guess the villains of the time weren't clever enough to get the upper hand otherwise.

Underdog is available on DVD, and I believe some include his companion cartoons--Tennessee Tuxedo, The World of Commander McBragg ("Quite."), et al.  You can also look up his comics, published by both Charleton (1970-72) and Gold Key (1975-79).

1 comment:

Murray said...

I can't read a blog entry about Underdog and not comment, even if nearly two years late!

Jay Ward Cartoons were great. Ranking alongside Bugs and Muppets for being great fun for kids, but having a certain cheeky wink that only adults could laugh at.

I loved me some Underdog back in the day. And he had the best superhero, go-fight-some-evil, stir-the blood theme song of any of them. Really

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