WORLD OF SUPER ADVENTURE – THE STORY OF THE HANNA BARBERA SUPERHEROES of the 60’s [Good Friday, Part 4]: The Herculoids and Shazzan.

The Herculoids:

“Somewhere out in space live The Herculoids…Zok the laser-ray dragon! Igoo the giant rock ape! Tundro the tremendous! Gloop and Gleep, the formless fearless wonders! With Zandor their leader, and his wife, Tara, and son, Dorno, they team up to protect their planet from sinister invaders! All-strong! All-brave! All-heroes!! They are The Herculoids!!!” –  The Herculoids opening narration.

Alex Toth’s initial designs for The Herculoids

With designs from Alex Toth and scripts written by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, The Herculoids is seen as the successor series to Space Ghost. According to Reel Rundown, “ Joe Barbera would go on to claim in his autobiography, the network was so impressed by what they saw of the show that they essentially took the funding for a full second season of Space Ghost and gave it to Herculoids”( Measimer, 2019, ‘ History of Hanna-Barbera: ‘Herculoids’, ‘Shazzan’, and ‘Mighty Mightor’ Reel Rundown).

Debut: September 9, 1967 on CBS :  Set on the planet Amzot, the show follows the adventures of a group known as the Herculoids, led by the human warrior Zandor. Alongside him were his wife Tara, their son Dorno, and five native creatures of the planet:

  • Zok :A flying space dragon that shoot laser beams from his eyes and tail. Zok is capable of interstellar travel, and can breathe fire.
  • Igoo: A large and powerful ape-like creature that has extremely dense rock-like skin and is nearly invulnerable to harm.
  • Tundro:  A ten-legged, four-horned rhinoceros/Triceratops hybrid that shoot energy rocks from his horn. His natural armor-plating is exceptionally strong, like Igoo’s rock skin. His legs can extend to a remarkable length, somewhat like stilts. He can also spin his head at blinding speed, allowing him to drill through solid rock.
  • Gloop and Gleep: Two protoplasmic creatures. They can stretch and form shapes like cushions, trampolines or parachutes to break falls. They can also absorb and deflect energy blasts and laser beams. Gloop is the larger of the two.

The usual Herculoids episode involves technologically advanced alien conquerors attempting to force their tech upon the planet Amzot. This causes The Herculoids to fight back and keep Amzot in its natural state.  NOTE: The Herculoids was the first stand-alone superhero series for Hanna-Barbera as it had no middle segment.

Shazzan:

Inside a cave off the coast of Maine, Chuck and Nancy find a mysterious chest containing the halves of a strange ring. When joined, the ring forms the word “Shazzan” and with this magical command, they are transported back to the fabled land of the Arabian Nights. Here they meet their genie, Shazzan. Shazzan presents them with Kaboobie, a magical flying camel. Shazzan will serve them whenever they call, but he cannot return them home until they deliver the ring to its rightful owner. And thus begins their incredible journey – Shazzan opening narration.

Shazzan’s inspiration: The genie from 1940 film The Thief of Baghdad played by Rex Ingram

Airing right after The Herculoids was a new show that went in the opposite direction from most Hanna-Barbera: the world of supernatural fantasy.  The blog Rip Jagger’s Dojo states that “Shazzan appears clearly to be based on Rex Ingram’s jocular Genie from Alexander Korda’s 1940 The Thief of Baghdad” (2018, ‘The Power of Shazzan’).  NOTE: A basic retelling of the story of Aladdin, The Thief of Baghdad won the Academy Awards for CinematographyArt Direction and Special Effects. The film is famous for the first major use of blue screen technology in film history. In a noted sequence, the movie’s young hero finds a bottle on a deserted beach. When he opens it, a gigantic genie appears. The genie is depicted as a 50-foot tall Arab man with a bald head and a long ponytail.

Debut: September 9, 1967 on CBS :  Two kids from Maine named Chuck and Nancy come across a cave and a mysterious chest containing a strange ring split into two halves. When they first join the rings together, they end up magically transported to the fabled land of the Arabian Nights. More accurately, they end up in an alternate universe where the legends of the Arabian Knights still exist. Upon their arrival, they meet their giant genie, Shazzan. Shazzan explains their predicament to Chuck and Nancy: Shazzan can’t return them home until they deliver the two rings to his rightful owner (who is apparently unknown).  To help with this journey, Shazzan creates a magical flying camel named Kaboobie to serve as their transportation. Shazzan also provides an invisibility cloak and a magic rope which both come in handy repeatedly. After this, Chuck and Nancy begin their journey.

The world is made of many different kingdoms. The villains are usually evil sultans and sorcerors.   Typically, Chuck and Nancy are captured by the weekly villain who wants fortune, obtain power or even control of Shazzan. Both Chuck and Nancy wear one half of the broken ring, which must be joined to bring forth Shazzan.  Often, the two kids are separated and can’t summon the genie until they manage to find each other.

‘Ring Time!”

When they did find each other, Chuck usually utters the line ‘Ring Time!” and they bring the two ring halves together (forming the word Shazzan).  After a brief display of smoke and lightning, the towering Shazzan appears, always in a happy mood.  His actual size is never revealed but he is large enough to hold Chuck, Nancy and Kaboobie all in the palm of his hand.  He greets Chuck and Nancy with a cheerful “Ho-ho ho-HO, little masters”.  Shazzan take care of the villain with relative ease and then disappears when the problem is resolved.

Powers:

Shazzan as designed by Alex Toth

Magic/Transmutation:  Shazzan possesses all kinds of magical powers so he could do just about anything.  Shazzan can grow to tremendous size, transform into anything or empowering others. He can change his own form to escaping situations commonly referred to as inescapable, to altering reality itself. This all may have made it seem like he can do anything and survive anything. A commercial for the series describes Shazzan as “the greatest of all genies”.  Creator Alex Toth hated the character’s almost god-like power: “The genie had no weaknesses; once you summoned him, the episode was over.” ( Measimer, 2019, ‘ History of Hanna-Barbera: ‘Herculoids’, ‘Shazzan’, and ‘Mighty Mightor’ Reel Rundown).

Later Years:

TV Funhouse: 

SNL’s version of Shazzan, SHAZZANG!

The May 14, 2005 episode of  SNL  featured a satirized version of Shazzan named Shazzang! as part of Robert Smigel‘s “TV Funhouse“segment. The parody depicted the genie Shazzang quickly defeating the villain, but then maiming and executing the villain in an increasingly sadistic fashion, including spraying his mouth with ammonia and severing his limbs with a chainsaw.  These acts  horrify  Chuck, Nancy, and Kaboobie.  It is shown on the DVD version of the SNL special “The Best of TV Funhouse”

-JaDarrel Belser

Next Time: The Fantastic Four and The Conclusion!!

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