Monday, July 23, 2007

RIP Birdman

The Cartoon Channel killed Birdman last night.

The character began in the 1960s when superheroes ruled Saturday morning. Space Ghost was Hanna-Barberra's first realistic superhero. He was a big success and the next year saw nothing but superheroes. Space Ghost was in the future so they flipped it and gave us Mightor, a caveman with a club that could project energy beams. There was Shazam, a genie who fought evil sorcerers; the Herculoids a group of super-powered animals who fought off invading aliens; Atom Ant, an insect-sized hero; the Incredibles, a super-powered rock band; Frankenstein Jr, a super-powered robot; the Galaxy Trio; Underdog; Mighty Mouse; and Birdman.

Unlike other heroes, Birdman used wings to fly. He was solar-powered, able to project energy beams and force fields. He received assignments from a James Bond-inspired character with a tuxedo and an eyepatch who went by the code name Falcon 7. Birdman also had an intelligent eagle helper and both a Birdboy and a Birdgirl.

None of these series lasted to the following year. They were all canceled after an outcry about violence on TV.

Years later Space Ghost reappeared as a talk show host. Two of his villains were with him, one as the musician and the other as the producer/director. The show was a hit and launched Cartoon Chanel's Adult Swim. Birdman popped up a couple of times as a down-on-his-luck hero who needed a job.

Years later Birdman got his own show. This time he was Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. He worked for Phil Ken Seben (Falcon 7). He handled cases for the rest of the Hanna-Barberra universe. Boo Boo Bear was arrested as the Unibooboo Bomber. Fred Flintstone was a mob boss. It was often (but not always) brilliant.

But all good things come to an end and they gave him a great send-off. First, because of a technicality, he had to re-try all of his cases at once. Then he had to revert to being a superhero to fight a major villain.

Then he got run over by a bus.

Good bye, Harvey. I'll miss you.

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