Monday, July 17, 2023

Power Rankings: Comic characters who should have had a TV show/TV movie in 1977

The 1977 Exo-Man TV movie may or may not have been an attempt to do Iron Man without Iron Man. It was a time of superheroes on TV. In 1977-1979, viewers got Doctor Strange, Captain America, and of course Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk in addition to The Amazing Spider-Man and the NBC DC/Warner Brothers shows. Saturday mornings in 1977 still hosted The Shazam/Isis Hour.

What besides Iron Man was missing from live action? Here is a list of comic book and comic strip characters I wish were on the air in 1977.

1) Luke Cage: The obvious number one is Luke Cage, AKA Power Man. Combine the "hip" Afrocentric aesthetic of the Marvel comic (Well, it was trying) with 1970s sensibilities, and you might get a cool street-based comic show.

2) Iron Fist: And we should go ahead and include Cage's comic book partner, Danny Rand. Given the martial arts craze of the Seventies, it seems combining some TV-friendly action with some decade-friendly mysticism would make a good fit.

3) Green Lantern/Green Arrow: The totally unsubtle but well-meaning "social relevance" era of the book had been in the early part of the decade, but at this time the two were traveling in outer space. That's not as budget friendly as two heroes roaming the country "to find America," and media is often several years behind a trend, so why not make a series of that run?

4) Mary Worth: The criminally underused, perpetually nosy senior could have had her own soapy melodrama. Maybe she's too tame for primetime TV, but a daily soap opera, maybe?

5) Rip Kirby: I don't really have a good idea for this. I just like saying 'Rip Kirby," a character maybe forgotten now but quite popular in 1977.

6) Sad Sack: Beetle Bailey got some TV cartoons earlier, but Sad Sack hasn't received his due in other media. There have been many military comedies, and some of them actually worked. Maybe the Sackster could have been a hit.

7) The Daily Planet: The live-action Spidey show gave us The Daily Bugle, and Lou Grant premiered in Fall 1977, but I would enjoy a 1970s-"Metropolis"-set newspaper comedy/drama featuring the cast of Superman comics. To save money, they could have had minimal cameos by Supes and even by Clark Kent while focusing on others like Perry and Lois and Jimmy.

Of course, this thing would probably have been seen as a cheat back then, whereas today I think we can count on more than one hand the number of, say, Batman shows without Batman that appeared in recent years. Plus there is the big problem of Superman: The Movie, which would premiere in 1978. Hey, I just think it could have been a cool TV show, is all.

8) The Haunted Tank: Forget the Confederate/Union thing, which would have been much more palatble in 1977, but let's think of this as a way to combine two types of comics DC published that didn't get much multimedia love: Supernatural and War. This is a long shot, but a series about the ghost of Jeb Stuart guiding soldiers in WWII would stand out.

9) The Spirit: There are two reasons Will Eisner's all-time classic feature isn't higher on my list: 1) The 1987 attempt to bring it to TV and 2) My fear it would be screwed up. I wonder, though, if the Seventies would have been a better time. The Spirit was in reprints then, so it was still around, and maybe the b&w magazine era and 1970s crime TV would have found some compatibility.

10) Richie Rich: Several years later, a cartoon version would appear on Saturday mornings, but I am thinking of a live-action series. ABC tried a couple of Little Lulu specials around this time. Maybe the Richie Rich character could be an appealing presence in a similar format back before the days when an embarrassment of riches might actually be considered embarrassing.

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