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The Marvel Superheroes consisted of five different segments, each starring a well-known superhero from a particular Marvel comic – The Sub-Mariner, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Thor.
“The Sub-Mariner” was the title given by surface dwellers to Prince Namor of Atlantis, a half-human, half-Atlantean. More anti-hero than superhero, Namor hated all surface-dwellers regardless of who they were.
As luck would have it, the moody prince often found himself fighting against polluters or other villains who wanted to hurt his underwater home as well as the innocents on land.
Blessed with super-strength and the ability to fly using wings attached to his feet, The Sub-Mariner would repel any threat to Atlantis and usually ended up helping the “land-lubbers” he so despised.
Next on the bill was the popular Captain America. Steve Rogers was a skinny World War II G.I. who volunteered to be a guinea pig for an experimental “super soldier serum.” After taking the drug, Steve was endowed with heightened strength, speed, and agility, making him the finest specimen the human race had to offer.
With the use of his newfound powers and a nearly indestructible shield, Captain America battled super villains like the Red Skull, as well as an inexhaustible supply of Nazi soldiers.
Both Namor and Captain America had been comic book stars since the 1940s, but the show also included some new blood.
One of the more recent creations was The Incredible Hulk, a creation of Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby. The green-skinned Hulk was really Dr Bruce Banner, a scientist who had helped develop a new bomb that used gamma rays to destroy its target.
After accidentally being caught in the blast, Banner found himself transformed into a giant green creature with unbelievable strength. There were only two drawbacks: First, the good doctor had no control over his transformation, and second, when Banner became the Hulk, he retained none of his alter ego’s intelligence or memories, essentially becoming a completely different (and angrier) person.
While the Hulk usually ended up fighting simply to protect himself, the general public saw him as a threat.
Iron Man was another Stan Lee creation. While in Vietnam to see his weapons designs tested out first-hand, millionaire inventor Tony Stark was struck in the chest with a piece of shrapnel.
In order to keep himself alive, Stark jerry-rigged an armoured suit, part of which acted as an external pacemaker to keep his damaged heart alive. But the benefits were much more than medical: as Iron Man, Stark possessed the powers of flight, super strength, and an array of weaponry.
After the war, Stark used his wealth and technology to make numerous modifications to the suit, the better to help him fight criminals like the Mandarin.
Rounding out the roster was The Mighty Thor. The Norse god masqueraded as scrawny human Dr Donald Blake, but when the doctor tapped his walking stick, it became the mighty hammer Mjolnir, and Blake himself became the legendary God of Thunder.
The powerful being spent most of his time defending the earth, but he would often return to his Asgardian home to converse with his father, the all-powerful Odin, or to foil the plots of his brother Loki, God of Mischief.
In order to meet the demands of presenting so many characters each week, the stories were told in a cliff-hanger format, requiring fewer scripts.
The creators also saved time through the use of Xerography, a process developed for Disney’s 101 Dalmatians that allowed animators to copy pencil sketches directly onto animation cels, thereby saving them from having to redraw any scenes.
While this technique resulted in a severe stiffness of the characters and almost no movement, it allowed the animators to churn out regular battles between our heroes and their super-powered nemeses.
Despite the limited animation, The Marvel Superheroes won its share of loyal fans. Namor, Captain America, and Thor continued to appear in later Marvel cartoons, and The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man later got shows of their own.