From Screen to Page: Future Quest by Jerry Whitworth
Announced near the end of January 2016, DC Comics will be adapting several of the animated properties from Hanna-Barbera Studios for print. From Entertainment Weekly, we learned of upcoming series Scooby Apocalypse by Jim Lee, Howard Porter, and Keith Giffen, Wacky Raceland by Mark Sexton and Ken Pontac, The Flintstones by Amanda Conner and Mark Russell, and Future Quest by Jeff Parker, Evan “Doc” Shaner, and Darwyn Cooke which begin publication this coming May. For Future Quest, Parker (well known for his work on Batman ’66) will be teaming the various action heroes of Hanna-Barbera including characters from Jonny Quest, Space Ghost and Dino Boy, The Herculoids, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, Moby Dick and Mighty Mightor, and Frankenstein, Jr. and The Impossibles. Of note, all of these series, save Jonny Quest, were part of the anthology series Hanna–Barbera’s World of Super Adventure with only Fantastic Four and Shazzan missing from the bunch (the former for obvious reasons). Of course, the Hanna-Barbera characters are no strangers to DC Comics as that studio produced the various Super Friends series and had Batman and Robin emerge in The New Scooby-Doo Movies while Space Ghost and Scooby-Doo would appear in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Further, the comic series Scooby-Doo Team-Up almost exclusively features the members of Mystery, Inc. interact with various versions of DC characters. Lets take a look then at the characters that will make up those appearing in Future Quest.
Before Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot, there was Frankenstein, Jr. Likely inspired by the series Gigantor, Frankenstein, Jr. featured a thirty foot tall robot called Frankenstein, Jr. (or “Frankie” for short) built by Professor Conroy to combat crime in Civic City. However, Conroy decided he would bequeath this power to his son Buzz who, with the help of a ring that would summon the robot, would direct the giant what to do. The show ran as part of Frankenstein, Jr. and The Impossibles in 1966 with eighteen episodes and Frankie would subsequently appear in Space Ghost. Re-runs of Frankenstein, Jr. and Space Ghost would be paired together for the series Space Ghost and Frankenstein, Jr. in 1976. Tetsujin 28-go and Giant Robo, known in America respectively as Gigantor and Johnny Sokko, were both created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama and were hugely influential in Japanese culture, giving rise to Go Nagai‘s work with the giant mecha genre as well as in the field of tokusatsu. While details are limited for how Frankenstein, Jr. will be adapted in Future Quest, the initial promotional art seems reminiscent of Warner Bros.’ The Iron Giant and Sunrise’s The Big O (which was inspired in part by Batman: The Animated Series).
A Beatles-inspired rock band (but likely also inspired by their parody the Monkees), The Impossibles were a guitar-playing male musical trio who performed atop a bandstand with their group’s name prominently featured across its base. When contacted by the mysterious “Big D,” the trio would transform into the Impossibles, a super-powered team of heroes that fought crime in Empire City. Coil-Man, Fluid-Man, and Multi-Man would transform their bandstand into any number of variations such as the Impossi-Mobile or Impossi-Jet. Oddly enough, the group seemed to maintain secret identities however they would transform in front of their fans and use the same name for both their band and superhero group. The Impossibles appeared as part of Frankenstein, Jr. and The Impossibles in 1966 with eighteen episodes. The group would in a manner be re-imagined later in The Super Globetrotters, which featured a Spaghetti Man, Liquid Man/Fluid Man, and Multi Man as well as Super Sphere and Gizmo and saw the Harlem Globetrotters re-imagined as basketball playing celebrities who were also secretly superheroes. As an aside, The Monkees would satirize the popularity of the Batman television series with the creation of the Monkeemen, which saw the group parody Superman.
Perhaps best known today for the series Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Birdman was a solar-based superhero empowered by the sun god Ra and adorned with large bird-like wings permitting him flight. Recruited by the organization Inter-Nation Security, Birdman become an international officer of the law answering to his handler Falcon 7 and generally combated the evil organization F.E.A.R. The eagle Avenger his constant companion, Birdman would later acquire a sidekick in Birdboy whom Birdman saved the life of by transferring some of his power to the youth. Birdman’s enemy Dr. Mentaur would also create a Birdgirl to combat his foe but Birdman managed to return her to a normal life. Birdman aired as part of the series Birdman and the Galaxy Trio in 1967 for two seasons with twenty episodes in total. The character would subsequently live on in the comedy series Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
The prehistoric superhero Mightor was once caveman Tor before being given a magical club which he could use to transform himself and his pet winged dinosaur Tog in a manner reminiscent of He-Man and Battle Cat from Masters of the Universe. Mightor ran as part of the series Moby Dick and Mighty Mightor which premiered in 1967 and aired for two seasons with eighteen episodes. The character would later appear in an episode of Space Ghost. Mightor bears some resemblance to the DC Comics character Super-Chief who emerged in 1961 as a native American superhero from the days before Europe colonized America. Elements of Mightor’s story bear some qualities to that of Fawcett’s Captain Marvel and Marvel’s Thor (which may have influenced his creation). Mightor would subsequently become a reoccurring character in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
A law enforcement team that journeyed the cosmos aboard Condor One, the Galaxy Trio were members of the Galactic Patrol seeking out villains across the various planets under their protection. Vapor Man, Meteor Man, and Gravity Girl answered to the Chief who would alert them of dangers within their vicinity. Galaxy Trio aired as part of Birdman and the Galaxy Trio in 1967 for two seasons with twenty episodes in total. It’s believed the group was inspired at least in part by the popularity of Star Trek and it’s likely the team helped inspire Teen Force in the later series Space Stars (which in turn inspired Aqua Teen Hunger Force in a manner). The Galaxy Trio would subsequently appear in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular action heroes to emerge from Hanna-Barbera, The Herculoids told of a humanoid family of three in Zandor, Tara, and Dorno who ruled the planet Amzot/Quasar alongside intelligent, powerful creatures in the space dragon Zok, rock ape Igoo, triceratops-like Tundro, and the protoplasmic masses Gloop and Gleep (as well as the rarely seen giant lizard Saju) whose union was known collectively as the Herculoids. While largely local to the planet Amzot/Quasar, their reputation is known across the galaxy as they enforce a policy of preventing the influx of technology into their chosen culture (drawing parallels to the Amish), often making foes of those that try to force the use of technology onto their world. The original series run in 1967 was for one season of eighteen episodes before returning later as part of Space Stars. As noted, the group would return in Space Ghost and would team with Space Ghost and Teen Force in Space Stars. Some of the characters would make appearances in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. It’s likely the series would inspire the Cartoon Network animated show The Secret Saturdays which featured the Saturday family and their cryptids (rare, believed fictional, animals).
Where Jonny Quest was largely the genesis of action heroes for Hanna-Barbera, Space Ghost was the genesis of superheroes for the studio. Around the same time Filmation started to produce animated versions of DC Comics characters like Superman and Aquaman, Grantray-Lawrence loosely animated The Marvel Super Heroes, and Batman spawned Batmania, Hanna-Barbera’s brilliant cartoonist Alex Toth created Space Ghost. A brilliant scientist who had designed the Inviso-Belt that bestowed invisibility and powerbands able to discharge any number of rays (heat, freeze, force, stun, and dozens more), the enigmatic Space Ghost became an intergalactic crimefighter based off of the Ghost Planet who travels the cosmos in the Phantom Cruiser/Ghost Ship with his wards Jace and Jan and their pet monkey Blip. In these adventures, Space Ghost developed a large menagerie of enemies, chief among them the humanoid-mantis Zorak who was affiliated with the Council of Doom, a group whose membership included the hero’s other greatest enemies in Brak, Mettalus, Spider-Woman, Creature King, and Moltar (as foes like Lokar, Tansut, Toyman, Wizard, and Space Spectre also bear note). In order to combat the Council, Space Ghost had to align with other heroes like the Herculoids, Shazzan, Mightor, and Moby Dick. Space Ghost emerged in 1966 as part of the series Space Ghost and Dino Boy in the Lost Valley which aired for two seasons with a total of twenty episodes. Despite cancellation, Space Ghost thrived in syndication eventually being re-branded with other series into Space Ghost and Frankenstein, Jr. in 1976 and Hanna–Barbera’s World of Super Adventure in 1978 before returning with new episodes in 1981 with Space Stars. Therein, he was packaged alongside the Herculoids, Teen Force, and Astro and the Space Mutts (whom he would at times team with, notably against Teen Force’s nemesis Uglor). The show would last for one season and Space Ghost would largely fade into obscurity until 1994 when he returned in Space Ghost Coast to Coast, an original comedy series spoofing late night talk shows featuring Space Ghost, Zorak, and Moltar. The series would become wildly popular lasting ten seasons with over 100 episodes, spun-off other shows like Cartoon Planet, The Brak Show, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and largely became the bedrock that formed [adult swim], undoubtedly the most lucrative product coming out of Cartoon Network (arguably what has kept the embattled channel afloat). For Future Quest, the story appears to depict Space Ghost emerging from Earth’s future and coming to the time period of Jonny Quest. While details are yet known, artwork seems to suggest an alliance of heroes from Space Ghost’s time (the Herculoids), Quest’s time (Frankenstein, Jr., Impossibles, Birdman, and the Galaxy Trio), and the far past (Mightor) and might include a battle with the Council of Doom (joined by Tansut and the Heat Thing).
One of the most successful series to come out of Hanna-Barbera, Jonny Quest featured Dr. Benton C. Quest, US government contractor and one of the most brilliant scientific minds on the planet, his son Jonny, their bodyguard, pilot, and secret agent “Race” Bannon, and the adopted son of Dr. Quest (and Jonny’s best friend) Hadji, a practitioner of judo and adept at the mystic arts. The quartet (with Jonny’s pet dog Bandit) travel around the world generally on the transport jet Dragonfly solving mysteries which often involve thwarting the schemes of villains, notably Dr. Quest’s arch-nemesis Dr. Napoleon Zin. While animation is generally known for being aired at times when children could best watch it (before going to or after coming home from school), Jonny Quest was a prime time series alongside the likes of The Flintstones, Top Cat, and The Jetsons. Its success also gave rise to the action hero genre at Hanna-Barbera inspiring the creation of Space Ghost, Herculoids, Birdman, et al. The original Jonny Quest series aired in 1964 for only one season of 26 episodes despite critical acclaim, high ratings, and being perceived as unlike anything anyone had seen at the time (with its beautiful animation style depicting a world slightly ahead into the future than the present with jetpacks and hover platforms). The show continued to make money and draw an audience in syndication running successfully in re-runs for over six years across the Big Three networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), though when shown in time slots for children, content was edited due to its more mature tone in depictions of violence and death. New episodes of the show wouldn’t return until 1986 with The New Adventures of Jonny Quest which aired as part of the programming block “The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera” alongside Galtar and the Golden Lance, Paw Paws, and Yogi’s Treasure Hunt. Lasting one season with thirteen episodes, it would be followed by two TV movies in Jonny’s Golden Quest (1993) and Jonny Quest vs. The Cyber Insects (1995) leading into the series The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest the following year. Airing for two seasons with 52 episodes, Real Adventures added Race’s daughter Jessie to the mix and introduced a virtual reality component in QuestWorld (paying homage to the original concept of being just slightly into the future). Jonny Quest largely declined into obscurity (aside from making guest appearances in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated) until recently when its characters teamed with Tom and Jerry in the 2015 direct-to-video film Tom and Jerry: Spy Quest. The [adult swim] series The Venture Bros. parodies Jonny Quest and has at times incorporated variations of its characters into the series. It’s likely the “Quest” in Future Quest maybe a nod to Jonny Quest as the series seems to prominently feature the franchise.
While not announced, it wouldn’t be surprising if other action series such as Samson & Goliath, Shazzan, Arabian Knights, Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, Galtar and the Golden Lance, and The Pirates of Dark Water end up being represented in Future Quest.