So Sayeth the Odinson: The Odinson Explores the Age of the TV Super Hero

Greetings from the Odinson,

In the last few weeks, we have seen Marvel release their schedule for movies through 2019 and DC Comics schedule for movies through 2020.  So, for the next six years, we will be treated to no less than four major comic book based movies featuring A-List heroes like the Justice League and Avengers, exciting adaptations like Captain America: Civil War, and never before seen Big Screen adaptations of beloved heroes like Black Panther and SHAZAM!  And, fanboys and girls everywhere rejoiced!

It truly is a great time to be a comic book and movie fan.  It’s an embarrassment of riches.  It is truly mind-blowing to see exotic locales like Asgard and planet Krypton come to life on a giant movie screen in glorious IMAX.  However, this was not always the case.  Sure there were films like Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie, Tim Burton’s Batman, and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man scattered here and there to keep us chomping at the bit, but there was another medium that carried the torch through the decades and kept our hope alive until the day when Hollywood would truly embrace our heroes, and that medium was television.

The TV has been in the 20s, Action Comics #1 launched the Age of the Super Hero in 1938, and television replaced radio as the preferred method of household entertainment over the course of the following decade.  Long before the comic book movie boom of the New Millennium, there was the Age of the TV Super Hero (1952-Present).

1950s-1960s – He launched the super hero genre in comics, so it should come as no surprise that it was the Man of Steel that launched the Age of the TV Super Hero with the Adventures of Superman (1952-1958) starring George Reeves, a perfectly casted actor who looked just like a Curt Swan drawing come to life.  Soon after that The Saint (1962-1969) starring the dashing Roger Moore who would go on to portray another legendary hero on the Big Screen – James Bond.  Superman may have started it all, but it was Batman (1966-1968) starring the immortal Adam West that launched the super hero genre into the stratosphere and firmly implanted comic book culture into the lexicon of pop culture.  We finish out the decade with the ultimate catfight.  Bewitched (1964-1972) starring the sultry Elizabeth Montgomery featured a woman trying to balance the challenges of being a wife, homemaking, and parenthood.  Oh, and she just so happens to be a witch who with but a twitch of her nose can stop time and transmute matter.  And, I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970), starring the beautiful Barbara Eden, followed the madcap adventures of an astronaut and his girlfriend who just so happens to be a reality-bending genie named Jeannie.

1970s – The next decade kicked off with arguably the most legendary TV Super Hero not based on a comic book in history.  The Six Million Dollar Man (1973-1978), based on the novel Cyborg and starring the uncanny Lee Majors, chronicled the adventures of Steve Austin, an astronaut that was transformed by modern super science into a half man/half machine super hero.  Its spin-off, The Bionic Woman (1976-1978), starring Lindsay Wagner, followed the adventures of Austin’s erstwhile girlfriend who was also transformed into a cyborg super hero.  SHAZAM! (1974-1976) was the first live-action adaptation of Captain Marvel and crossed over regularly with its sister program The Secrets of Isis (1975-1977), a show that starred a super heroine inspired by the ancient Egyptian goddess.  DC Comics had success with Superman in the 50s and Batman in the 60s so in the 70s it was the Amazing Amazon’s turn for the spotlight.  Wonder Woman (1975-1979) starring the eternally beautiful Lynda Carter was a pretty darn good adaptation of the DC icon.  Other shows featuring television super heroes were Electra Woman and Dyna Girl (1976-1977), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981), and one of the Odinson’s personal favorites, Bigfoot and Wildboy (1977-1979).  And, not to be outdone, the 70s saw the live-action television debut of two of Marvel Comics biggest icons – Spider-Man (1978-1979) starring Nicholas Hammond as Peter Parker and The Incredible Hulk (1977-1982) starring the fantastic Bill Bixby and perfectly cast Lou Ferrigno.

1980s – The decade of Moonwalking and the Rubik’s Cube had the biggest explosion of live-action TV Super Heroes in the history of the medium.  There are so many in fact that the Odinson can break them down into subgenres.  The street-level heroes – The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985), Magnum P.I. (1980-1988), The A-Team (1983-1987), MacGyver (1985-1992), and The Equalizer (1985-1989); the tech heroes and super vehicles – Knight Rider (1982-1986), Blue Thunder (1984), Airwolf (1984-1987), and Street Hawk (1985); and, the shows featuring science fiction and supernatural elements – The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983), Manimal (1983), Automan (1983-1984), V (1983-1985), Werewolf (1987-1988), and Quantum Leap (1989-1993).

1990s – The decade of Grunge kicked the TV Super Hero genre into overdrive!  The Crimson Comet made his first live-action debut in The Flash (1990-1991) starring John Wesley Shipp.  The protector of The Green battled evil in Swamp Thing: The Series (1990-1993)M.A.N.T.I.S. (1994-1995) featured a unique hero who overcomes the loss of the use of his legs by inventing an exoskeleton that grants him super powers.  Long before the Last Son of Krypton there was the Son of Zeus and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-1999) follows the amazing exploits of the greatest super hero of the ancient world.  Herc’s spinoff series, Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001), even surpassed the original in popularity featuring the devilishly beautiful Lucy Lawless as a female super hero on par with Wonder Woman herself!  The next generation of X-Men made their television debut in Generation X (1996).  Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) and Angel (1999-2004) had action, horror, comedy, and drama, all the elements that make reading comics so wonderful.  And, Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007) features the adventures of an elite Special Forces unit that polices the multiverse.

Age of TV Super Hero Hall of FameDoctor Who and Star Trek.

That’s quite a list but by no means is it complete.  These are just the shows that make up the Age of the TV Super Hero that the Odinson could think of off the top of his head.  But it’s fair to say these are my favorites.  As we all move into and through the New Millennium, even as the super hero genre rules at the Box Office, from Dark Angel (2000-2002) to Smallville (2001-2011), Alias (2001-2006) to Heroes (2006-2010), and Arrow (2012-Present) to The Flash (2014-Present), the small screen format is keeping the Age of the TV Super Hero alive and well.  God bless television and God bless America!

This is Odinson bidding thee farewell

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About Odinson

I am a lifelong comics fan and pop culture enthusiast. Comic books, novels, games, television, movies, I love it all. From fantasy to science fiction, drama to comedy, as long as the writing and execution are interesting, I love it, and I want to talk about it.

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