13 QUICK THOUGHTS on FILMATION’s Groovy GREEN LANTERN Cartoons

A GREEN LANTERN WEEK edition of THE FILMATION FILES…

Welcome to THE FILMATION FILES, a recurring series that takes a deep dive into some of the most entertaining cartoons ever – the DC Comics segments first broadcast in the ’60s but which were also a staple of ’70s syndication. Click here for the complete index of features, as well as links to our podcast with John S. Drew.

But wait, there’s more! It’s also GREEN LANTERN WEEK, celebrating 80 years of the Emerald Gladiators. Click here for the full INDEX of features.

Green Lantern was another DC hero who made his screen debut in Filmation’s 1960s “super superhero” shorts — along with the Justice League (click here), the Flash (click here), the Atom, Hawkman and the Teen Titans.

So for this GREEN LANTERN WEEK edition of THE FILMATION FILES, we bring you 13 QUICK THOUGHTS ON FILMATION’s GROOVY GREEN LANTERN CARTOONS:

1. Like most of these segments, the Green Lantern episodes have a great opening sequence, with John Gart’s peppy theme accompanied by Ted Knight’s stentorian narration and dynamite visuals, complete with Filmation’s signature strobe effect. Dig this:

2. I love the way Oa looks from deep space, with it’s triple rings and flaming heart. Now correct me if I’m wrong but I think that’s a total Filmation invention. I don’t believe the planet looked like that in Gil Kane’s Silver Age issues but it’s been awhile since I’ve read them. Either way, man is that cool.

3. Of all the Filmation “super superheroes,” Green Lantern (voiced by Gerald Mohr) is the closest to on-model. His outfit is exactly the same as Kane’s wonderful design, though his all-black mask is more of a domino than GL’s classic face covering.

GL doing his best Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.

4. Speaking of Kane, once again the Filmation animators did an uncanny job of emulating a comics artist’s style. Aquaman looks like Nick Cardy’s Aquaman. Superman looks like Curt Swan’s Superman. Batman looks like Carmine Infantino’s Batman. This doesn’t extend to every character but it certainly does to Hal Jordan — especially when they show the close-ups of his pupils.

5. Now, as far as being wayyyyyy off-model, why in the universe are the Guardians Caucasian? My simple theory is that it’s because Filmation changed Hal Jordan’s Inuk comics sidekick Tom Kalmaku — who carried the racially insensitive nickname “Pieface” — into a blue Venusian named Kairo. So to avoid confusion, I’m guessing they decided not to make the Guardians blue. But couldn’t Kairo have been a different color? Strange.

6. By the way, it’s also weird that Tom shows up as a Caucasian junior test pilot, giving Hal two proteges to look after.

7. Sirena, Empress of Evil is the best of the three segments, hands down, because it’s loaded with kitsch — from the goofy-looking yellow bat-creatures to Sirena’s over-the-top histrionics to the oddball introduction of Beepee (which I swear sounds like “Peepee” when Kairo says it) to the eyebrow-cocking way Kairo rides Green Lantern’s back.

8. And yes, this did help inspire Saturday Night Live’s Ambiguously Gay Duo. Animator J.J. Sedelmaier explains the connection here.

9. But hey, why does GL’s ring work against the yellow bat-creatures? Come to think of it, I don’t believe the yellow weakness comes up at all in any of these.

10. The second-best episode is Evil Is as Evil Does, featuring Evil Star in what my World’s Greatest Super Friends Podcast co-host John S. Drew pointed out was a stripped down adaptation of Green Lantern #44. Most of the “super superhero” shorts dealt with oddly designed but generic alien races and monsters, so it’s refreshing to see an actual comics villain make an appearance. (Click here to check out THE FILMATION FILES podcast entry on this episode.)

11. Still, wouldn’t Sinestro have been a better choice? Yes, he would have, similar to how the Reverse-Flash would have been better than the Filmation invention Blue Bolt. (Even if I like Evil Star and Blue Bolt just fine.) It’s so difficult to know why certain choices were made back then since most of the people involved are long gone and there’s relatively little documentation of the studio’s decision-making. Producer Lou Scheimer’s autobiography from TwoMorrows is a great resource but it doesn’t always get granular because the book covers such a wide range of programming.

12. The Vanishing World is the least memorable of the three GL segments. It’s got a stock storyline involving space thugs kidnapping Kairo and less of the unintentional campiness that makes the Filmation cartoons so great.

13. Ever notice how the Green Lantern of the future in Batman Beyond is named Kai-Ro?

MORE

— THE FILMATION FILES INDEX of Features and Podcast Episodes. Click here.

— The Complete GREEN LANTERN WEEK Index of Features. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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6 Comments

  1. Is it just me or does the Guardian in # 5 look a lot like an angry Henry Gibson of Laugh-In fame?

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  2. Love this article! Just a few points.

    Point 3 – I think the casting of Gerald Mohr as the voice of Green Lantern was impeccable. His voice is commanding and you know he’s all about the business.

    You can write an entire article of theories why Filmation changed the skin, hair color and costumes of the DC characters. What I think people must remember was that DC Comics oversaw this co-production with Filmation and the partnership allowed Filmation to make creative changes to the characters with DC’s approval. For example, my theory is that Kid Flash’s costume and hair color was changed so that in a group shot featuring Aqualad, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash, which all had with black hair and red shirt costumes, the ink and paint crew could do a group shot quick using the same color schemes for the characters hair and costumes. The funny thing is, when Bruce Timm changed Supergirl’s costume for her animated debut, nobody batted an eye (well, it’s Bruce Timm after all). Filmation should be given credit for starting the trend of changing costumes.

    Point 5 – I agree with point number 5 about Kairo. Perhaps a decision was made to color him blue before someone at Filmation realized that the Guardians were also blue? Tom showing up on the series reminds me of when Filmation animated Big Ethel and Ophelia in the same Sabrina series. Ophelia morphed into Big Ethel in the comic book pages and I thought it was weird that both characters were in the same animated series but never appeared together.

    Point 12 – You mentioned that the Vanishing World was not your favorite, but I think The Vanishing World has some of the best animation direction. When the villain’s spaceship fades out of view after the kidnapping, and the screen fades to black, it’s so ominous and seems final. There are also some good Gill Kane flying and posing moments in A Vanishing World as well.

    Point 13 – I missed that Reference to Kai-Ro when I watched Batman Beyond. Simon the Pieman who showed up as a Filmation Batman villian created for that series makes a cameo in Warner Bros. Batman and the Brave and the Bold which I thought was cool as well.

    Love this article. Thanks for posting!

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    • Mohr was also the voice on Mr. Fantastic. Double your pleasure.

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  3. great post – i never saw any GL cartoon as a kid… and i was right around this time. also the art on that #44 cover shows just how much can be achieved with so few lines.

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  4. Gerald Mohr did a nice job playing PHILIP MARLOWE in the ‘Adventures of Philip Marlow” radio series in the late 40’s/early 50’s.
    Plus he did many guest roles on many radio shows. Some of my favorites
    are on the WHISTLER series.

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