Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Other Hercules

Sunday morning, circa 1965-67. I can't sleep even then. Just like this morning, I'm up and the rest of the world is still asleep. But back then I was only three or four. I had learned not to wake everyone else in the house. I would get myself a pop tart, usually cinnamon, creep into the living room and turn on the massive television that took up one corner of the living room. I'd sit close, with the volume on low and turn the channel dial until I found some cartoons. One of the local channels seemed to show a lot of random cartoons. A lot of Popeye. Some strange Warner Brothers stuff. The occasional Terry Toons. And they would show the Mighty Hercules.
He looked sort of like Superman. Black hair and square jaw. He fought monsters and bad guys. He had super strength, and a magic ring that could temporarily make him even stronger. He had a centaur named Newt for a sidekick and a girlfriend named Helena. Newt had a really annoying high pitched voice. "Herc! Herc! Helena's hurt!"
And Herc had a theme song. Oh, that theme song.

Hercules, hero of song and story.
Hercules, winner of ancient glory.
Fighting for the right,
Fighting with his might,
With the strength of ten, ordinary men.

Hercules, people are safe when near him.
Hercules, only the evil fear him.
Softness in his eyes,
Iron in his thighs,
Virtue in his heart,
Fire in every part,
Of the Mighty Hercules.

Not sure what 'iron in his thighs' meant, but that, along with 'Fire in every part' makes me suspect that Helena was a very happy girl. Anyway, the oddest thing when I remember this cartoon is, I could never figure out exactly how Hercules fit into the bible. I went to Sunday School. I went to vacation Bible School. In all the pictures they showed me, everyone dressed kind of like the cast of Hercules. Lots of robes and funny hats. The show was on on Sunday mornings before the broadcasts of various church services began. Obviously Hercules had to be in the bible. I suspected that he and Sampson were buddies. Probably watched football together. Years later, when I learned that Hercules belonged with a different religion, I was terribly disappointed. But for a couple of years there, I thought of Hercules as a member of the gang that included Moses, David, Jonah, and Sampson. Kids.


Lanny said...

I was probably watching Herc cartoons on a Sunday morning on the same Atlanta station as well. I too had total Old Testament disconnect over the show. I equated his magic ring with my older brother's class ring. Didn't it have a big "H" on it?

Years later I worked with a guy who had sang with a rather well known southern gospel group.

He shared alternate lyrics for the Hercules theme song. I recall a bit of it...

Fighting for his life,
With an army knife
With the strength of ten, plastic army men
It's the mighty Herculeeeeeees.

There's another Herc/Church crossover!

Also, the REAL song was sung by Johnny Nash.
I thought is said Johnny Cash, though as a kid.
Was it the same Johnny Nash that had a hit with the song "I Can See Clearly Now" in the 70s?

Ah synchronicity...

cliff said...

Yes indeed, it's the same Johnny Nash! One of relatively few cases of a television theme-song writer moving on to produce major hits. Harry Nilsson had already had a hit when he did the song for Courtship of Eddie's Father; Randy Newman had hits prior to doing theme songs for several shows, including Monk.

The cartoon was around when I was a kid, and I'm older than both of you. I used to get up early on Saturday to watch it. I suspect that it's not only the clothing but the strong emphasis on moral values that made the show seem Old Testament-al.

coyote said...
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