Captain America and his costumed cohorts made their television debuts way before the Marvel Cinematic Universe began dominating box offices around the world. THE MARVEL SUPER HEROES debuted in 1966, at the height of the BATMAN camp craze, with Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, and The Sub-Mariner the rotating stars of this limited animation series. And I do mean limited – Grantray-Lawrence Animation literally made copies of the comic book artwork of Jack ‘King’ Kirby, ‘Sturdy’ Steve Ditko, and other Bullpen artists, transferred them to film and basically just animated the character’s mouths and an occasional swinging fist!
The cartoons (and I use that term loosely) were syndicated to local stations, who filled holes in their time slots with the mighty Marvel heroes. Some stations ran them as stand-alone series, while others used the segments as part of local kid’s shows. Up here in New England, we watched on WNAC-TV (Channel 7 at the time), with an actor named Arthur Pierce dressed as Cap, constantly asking if anyone out there in TV Land had seen his pal Bucky!:
Eat yer heart out, Chris Evans!
Marvel’s Rogue’s Gallery of swingin’ super villains were also on hand.. after all, what good’s a superhero without a nefarious scheme to thwart? Baron Zemo, The Enchantress, The Mandarin, The Mole Man, Super-Skrull, and dastardly Dr. Doom himself all made their way into the stories. The Avengers assembled in various iterations (Giant Man and The Wasp, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and The Scarlet Witch all appeared), as did mutant teen team The X-Men, called the ‘Allies for Peace’ because Grantray-Lawrence didn’t own the rights to them (the more things change….)
The voice cast was strictly unknown, with two exceptions: Sandy Becker, a New York kid’s show host and voice actor (KING LEONARDO’s Mr. Wizard, GO-GO GOPHERS), who played Cap, and actor John Vernon. That’s right, ANIMAL HOUSE’s Dean Wormer himself did the voices of Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, and the Hulk’s nemesis Major Glenn Talbot. But for me, the most memorable part of the program was the individual theme songs for each hero: