SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS: The Mighty Hercules – The Mask of Vulcan

THE MIGHTY HERCULES: THE MASK OF VULCAN

There were very few things I could set my watch to when  I was a kid.  I always new there would be football practice.  I always knew there would be school.  I knew my father would lose his shit about something during the day and take a swing at me.  And, I knew there would be The Mighty Hercules before school.  Cereal in my belly, clothes on my back, book bag full of homework to bring back to the teacher, my brother and I would sit on the couch, each and every day, and watch this historical super hero take on the dumbest of villains.  Nope, this is one that didn’t come up on Saturday morning, but it actually helped to make EVERY day feel a bit more like Saturday morning.  It’s amazing that the original versions were in black-and-white, and shit, the sound the monsters made.  It was the same sound for all of them.  Awesome. – FATS


 

The Mighty Hercules is a low-budget animated series based loosely on the Greek mythological character of Heracles, under his Roman Mythology name, Hercules. It was created in 1962 and then debuted on TV in 1963 and ran until 1966 coinciding with the sword and sandal genre of films popular at the time. the_mighty_hercules_h_logo_vector_by_datanalle-d6xghy5Each standalone episode runs approximately five minutes with opening and closing credits, and in syndication several such episodes are compiled to fill 30-minute timeslots (including commercials).

he cartoon features Hercules, the legendary hero, who dwells on Mount Olympus. When villains threaten the people of ancient Greece, often in the fictional kingdom of Caledon, Hercules comes to the rescue of the Kingdom or whomever may be in trouble. When in serious danger, Hercules puts on his magic ring from which he gets his superpowers. Once wearing the ring and raising his fist, the ring is struck by flashes of lightning (referred to as the Thunder of Zeus in several episodes). Hercules is then endowed with super-strength, and goes forth for several brief episodes to do battle with nemeses such as Daedalus, an evil wizard who is the chief villain (sometimes accompanied by his pet cat Dydo); as well as others such as Wilhemine the Sea Witch (accompanied by her pet bird Elvira); and Murtis (aka The Mask of Vulcan), who was invulnerable due to his wearing of an iron helmet, itself known as the Mask of Vulcan.

MightyHercules-NewtonseatedHercules’s friends and allies are:

  • his main sidekick, Newton, the helpful boy centaur who has an annoying habit of repeating himself every time he speaks
  • Helena, Hercules’s incompetent girlfriend
  • Prince (later King) Dorian of Caledon
  • Tewt, a small satyr who vocalizes only by playing his bagpipes
  • Timon, a young human from Caledon
  • Pegasus, Hercules’s winged steed.

Also featured atop Mount Olympus are Hercules’s father Zeus and Dodonis with his crystal rock of seeing. Both often warn Hercules of the troubles going on down below in and around the Kingdom of Caledon or deep in the Lernaean Forest.

In the original episode, Hercules beats his friend Theseus in a footrace and a wrestling match, and for his victory is granted any request by Zeus as a reward. Hercules wishes to go to Earth to fight evil and injustice, but Zeus 0reminds him that going to Earth would cause him to lose his godly powers and become a mortal. Zeus then creates a magic ring that allows Hercules to access his godly strength while on Earth, rendering the whole thing redundant. The rest of the cartoon involves Hercules meeting Helena and fighting a giant named Cacus and the giant’s pet dragon. None of the other familiar characters make an appearance in this episode, and it features different character designs for Hercules (who in this one short has a yellow belt and wristbands, with a black H in block lettering on the belt; the ring is of similar design, large and yellow, with a black H in a giant sunburst) and Helena (who has a different hairstyle, a silver necklace, and more makeup than her later versions).

The show generally used real Greek myths for their inspiration, but used the influences oddly. Daedalus, the evil wizard who is Hercules’s most frequent herculesfoe, is named for Daedalus, mythological artificer who wasn’t a villain at all,
and Cacus, the giant in the first episode, is based on the mythological monster Cacus. Other recurring creatures like the Nemean Lion, the Lernaean Hydra, the Erymanthian Boar, and the Stymphalian Birds were taken directly from Hercules’s Twelve Labors, but most weren’t presented as trials for him to overcome. (For example, Hercules defeats the Lion in one punch before Murtis gives it a Mask of Vulcan to help it; the Boar is already bound by a silver chain, and Hercules first stops Murtis and later Daedalus from freeing it).

In addition to the ring, later episodes added new equipment for Hercules and his friends to use: a “moon stone” beam in his belt (and a matching belt that Newton frequently wore) that could be used to summon him from Mount hqdefaultOlympus, an invulnerable sword and shield (both with the same “H” symbol as his ring and belt), and a set of pipes to summon Pegasus, his winged steed. (Hercules was not paired with Pegasus in the original myths, but this concept of the two together was also included thirty years later in Disney’s animated version of Hercules).

Episodes invariably ended with Hercules, having defeated the villain, racing towards Mount Olympus (usually with the villain in tow), shouting “Olympia!”