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Marvel Action Hour, The

USA



Original Air Date:
1994
Channel:
Syndication
Prod. Co.:
Marvel Productions
Genre:
Series
 

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Two titans of the Marvel Comics universe joined forces for this weekend syndicated package. The Fantastic Four were old television pros, having starred in two previous animated series, but Iron Man was a relative newcomer to cartoondom, with only a run of five-minute serialized adventures on Marvel Superheroes to his credit. Both were 60’s creations of Marvel founder Stan Lee (along with Jack Kirby for the FF and Don Heck for Iron Man).

The Fantastic Four came into being thanks to a rocket designed by ace scientist Reed Richards. Pilot Ben Grimm (Reed’s best friend) took the experimental rocket up for a test flight, bringing along Reed, Susan Richards (Reed’s wife), and Johnny Storm (Susan’s younger brother). When the ship passed through cosmic radiation too strong for its shields to withstand, the passengers were all bombarded with cosmic rays. Crash landing on earth, the four discovered that the radiation had left each of them with a strange, new power.

Reed, soon to be called Mr. Fantastic, became a pliable mass, with limbs that could stretch to seemingly endless limits. Sue gained the power of invisibility, and was thus named The Invisible Woman. Ben became The Thing, an incredibly strong, orange granite behemoth who constantly grumbled about his new lumpy appearance. Johnny gained the ability to "Flame on," encasing his body in fire and giving him the power of flight. The impetuous youth's new powers earned him the nom de superhero The Human Torch.

Unlike previous versions, this Fantastic Four ran storylines adapted straight from the comics, sometimes taking a more serious tone than earlier FF cartoons. Arch-nemesis Dr. Doom made his obligatory appearances, but the FF were also menaced by the planet-eating Galactus and his heralds, the shape-changing Skrulls, and Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, who wanted to make the Invisible Woman his undersea bride. Two and three-part stories were commonplace, and romantic flings (such as Johnny’s with the Inhuman Crystal) covered full seasons.

Iron Man was the alter ego of billionaire industrialist playboy Tony Stark, who suffered a life-threatening heart condition and built an advanced suit of armor to keep himself alive. The suit possessed the power of flight, could fire “repulsor rays,” and had a variety of other advanced weapons and gizmos. In the series, Iron Man was teamed up with Force Works, consisting of bow and trick arrow expert Hawkeye, sorceress The Scarlet Witch, War Machine (Tony’s buddy Jim Rhodes in another Stark-designed suit), time/space traveler Century, and Tony’s girlfriend Julia Carpenter, a.k.a. Spider-Woman (not the same one from the 1970’s cartoon). Logistics were handled by Tony’s intelligent computer, H.O.M.E.R.

The heroes most often matched forces with The Mandarin, who wore multiple rings of great power. Assisting The Mandarin was his dragon, the equally evil Fin Fang Foom. A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) frequently showed up to raise a ruckus, as did their creation M.O.D.O.K., the guy with the extremely oversized head. Other villains ranged from technology-powered baddies like Blizzard, The Beetle, and Stiltman to otherworldly enemies like Dark Aegis.

Like The Fantastic Four, Iron Man took most of its plots from the comics, including a memorable two-parter in which Tony went on a vigilante crusade and eventually had his armor destroyed (he later built a new set).

Both components ran 26 episodes over the course of The Marvel Action Hour’s two-year television stint. After the show’s cancellation, the superheroes continued their long runs in the comic book world, and rumors still circulate about feature film adaptations of each title.
 
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In 1951, comic book writer Tony Isabella was born.