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Published on November 26th, 2010 | by admin

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Mars Needs Culture! #3: Video Killed The Comic Book Star: Part Two

You needn’t feel confused! If you have not read the previous Mars Needs article, please do so; then come back and join the fun!

So, when we left off we were discussing the varying degrees of success achieved by assorted superhero and comic book properties on the television. Let’s continue down that path, but I’m feeling inclusive, so let’s add some properties that didn’t start on the comic page, or maybe fall outside the usual label of superhero, shall we?

6) The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978) – While not a superhero in the traditional sense, there is no denying that Steve Austin’s implants take him out of the realm of mere mortal. There is so much about this show that is iconic. So iconic, in fact, that it has become cliché over the years to run in slow motion with the ba-na-na-na-na-na-na (or how ever you made it as a kid) sound. However, you should remember these guys did it first. Imagine a world where they had never figured out the trick of springing over the camera to simulate a high jump. Is that a world you want to live in? I know I don’t. Besides, this guy fought Bigfoot! 9 1/2 issues of a twelve issue miniseries.

7) The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982) In an attempt to keep some semblance of journalistic integrity, I need to make a confession. When I was a child, I had a pair of green inflatable muscles. Pecs, shoulders, and biceps all filled out with the clever application of a nozzle. This was one of the coolest Halloween costumes I ever had, even though the makeup cost me my only chance to bob for apples as a kid. With this information at your disposal, let me state for the record that I think this is the most successful superhero adaptation to date. In the last thirty years, we have made great strides in special effects, but nothing is as gripping as a former Mr. Universe in green greasepaint. This past weekend, I was lucky enough to notice that the entire Hulk series is currently streaming on Netflix. So I sat down and watched an episode for the first time in years. I was more than pleasantly surprised. While storytelling styles have changed quite a bit in the intervening years, the tales told still hold emotional resonance. The Hulk dared to tell depressing stories; almost all the iconic images from this show stem from pain. From the line “Don’t make me angry, Mr. McGee. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” to the lonely hitchhiker walking along the road at the end of each episode, backpack on shoulder, head down, one thumb always looking for the ride to the next week…er, town. The Hulk dared to tell the kind of stories I cannot even imagine on television today. Good luck Bruce, I mean, David. 11 issues out of 12

8) The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983) I know exactly what is in your head right now. “Look at what’s happened to me-e, I can’t believe it myself. Suddenly I’m up on top of the world, should have been somebody else…Believe it or not, I’m walkin’ on air….” (Let the record show, I typed those out of memory.) It’s hard for me to even comprehend that this show only ran for three seasons. When I was young it was omnipresent. Sure it has the Stephen J. Cannell formula working for it: Mix two parts humor to one part action and Viola, a hit! But that changes nothing. This show is just fun. Interestingly enough, it is also streaming on Netflix so I watched a bit of it, too. Not only is it almost exactly the show I remembered from childhood, it made me think of the same thing. 99% of the problems the characters get into on this show would be straightened out in no time if Ralph (William Katt) would just grow a pair and suit up. The little me made a promise to myself and that if I ever get a super suit, I will use it. You hear me Little Green Men? If you need a champion, I’m right here. Lay that sucker right on me, instructions or not. 10 issues out of 12

9) The Flash (1990-1991) Only one season. Shortest run of the bunch. It could easily be skipped, except one thing. I liked this show. This is the first show I watched and understood how ratings affected it. Here is a true story for you. When this show was airing, all the usual pundits declared it to be a show in trouble. It seemed it might get cancelled any second. I would make sure to be home and in front of the television each and every week to help Barry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) outrun the axe. I hoped and prayed as only a child can for something magical to happen to save my beloved Flash. Then it happened. My family got a Nielsen ratings book. This little tale has no great ending, as even though I recorded my viewing habits faithfully, the program only had 22 episodes. That began my path to the dark-hearted husk I am today, but I digress….The Flash was fun, but not perfect. So what? It deserved to be on the air if for no other reason than it cast Mark Hamill as the Trickster. It may well be the closest we ever get to seeing what his live action Joker might have been. 9 issues out of 12

Well folks, I don’t think we are done with this topic yet. So my suggestion for the bestest show ever will have to wait. After all, there are a few more shows to touch on including a show featuring an ex-cheerleader with a proclivity for wooden stakes and one that jumped the shark during the pilot but continued on and on and on…

See you next week. Feel free to drop me a line at MarsNeeds@Gmail.com.

– JJ

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