Softness in his eyes,
Iron in his thighs,
Virtue in his heart,
Fire in every part of
The Mighty Hercules!
--Johnny Nash

Voices:
Jimmy Tapp: Hercules, Zeus
Helene Nickerson: Helena.

Yes, we've noded the Classical hero, the stellar constellation, the Marvel Comics metahuman, and the Walt Disney cutesification. But what about 1963's Hercules? Something called Oriolo Studios/Adventure Cartoons, in association with Trans-Lux, created more than 100 little episodes about the square-jawed, ducktailed, skirt-wearing palooka. This bargain bin effort may well be the worst animated cartoon ever produced, a work of spectacular awfulness, and yet it has been rerun with unreasonable frequency since ending its run in 1966.

This Hercules lived (as might be expected) in ancient Greece, hung with King Dorian, and dated the fair Helena, a limited animation version of a Vargas girl. Newt (short for Newton), an annoying centaur of variable but always diminutive stature usually accompanied Herc, and failed to endear himself to the audience, largely due to his tendency to repeat things in a helium-sucking voice. Repeat things in a helium-sucking voice. The cartoon also occasionally featured a satyr named Toot; mute Toot communicated with Herc and Newt by toodling his pipes.

The villains included, inexplicably, the inventor Daedalus, as well as Wilamene the sea witch and the Mask of Vulcan.

Individual stories were each about five minutes long, so very little thought could be given to plot. Actually, very little thought was given to anything. Typically, some villain (usually Daedalus) would commit a pointless crime and be stopped by Hercules, who would end the episode by shouting, "Olympia!" Herc also possessed a magic "H" ring which possibly gave him additional strength, but mostly provided the animators with an excuse to reuse footage of the ring in close-up. A voice-over sporadically intoned narration which alternated between covering huge plot gaps and pointing out the blindingly obvious.

Gold Key tried to make this disaster work in comic books. The Mighty Hercules only lasted two issues, both published in '63. These featured an accurate imitation of the cartoon's minimalist style and, as a back-up feature, retellings of Classical myths which actually attempted to be accurate.

The Mighty Hercules enjoys a significant cult following, probably because sheer ineptitude can be fairly entertaining.

Sources:

Scott Adams. "Oddball Comics." Comic Book Resources. http://www.comicbookresources.com/columns/oddball/

Ron Kurer. "The Mighty Hercules." Toontracker. http://www.toontracker.com/hercules/hercules.htm

The Mighty Hercules. http://www.pazsaz.com/herctoon.html

And thanks to the allseeingeye for spotting the omission of the Mask of Vulcan.

caknuk reminds me that Newt frequently lost and then found Herc's sword, bow, and arrows, and that the show used the same two sound effects for every monster.

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