Back in 1985 one of my favorite animated series was Defenders of the Earth. Numerous times on The Retroist I’ve mentioned my fondness for pulp characters. Of heroes of the Golden Age – like The Shadow, The Phantom and others.
Thanks in fact to the 1980 Flash Gordon film. I came across an old collection of comic strips from King Features Syndicate at my local library. Which is of course how I was introduced to the likes of Mandrake the Magician and Lothar. Which like The Phantom was a creation of Lee Falk as well. They even had old Popeye collections from the E.C. Segar strip days!
So you can easily imagine my joy when the Defenders of the Earth series debuted one morning. Bear in mind that if you didn’t have access to a TV Guide you were generally caught unawares about a new animated weekday show.
Until last night however I wasn’t aware that the Defenders of the Earth had grouped together before 1985. Back in 1972 in fact for Popeye Meets The Man Who Hated Laughter – which was part of ABC’s Saturday Superstar Movie!
[Via] Muttley 16
When I stumbled on this I felt for a moment like I was reading an issue of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Moreover these early Defenders were joined by another King Features Syndicate hero – Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon.
That is not even the most interesting part of it. The group that we would come to know as the Defenders of the Earth were brought together for a very special mission.
In Popeye Meets The Man Who Hated Laughter, the US government asked the team to locate missing comic strip characters. Such as Blondie and Dagwood.
Beetle Bailey and Sarge.
As well as Popeye and Olive Oyl of course!
To say nothing of characters from Henry, Hi and Lois, Tiger and Prince Valiant. In addition to Bringing Up Father, Little Iodine, Snuffy Smith, and more.
Popeye Meets the Man Who Hated Laughter concerns itself with the villainous Professor Morbid Grimsby. A wretch who plans on banishing all laughter in the world – aided by a super computer as well as Popeye’s nemesis, Brutus. Inviting the cast of comic strip superstars aboard a yacht – the S.S. Hilarious. Taking them to the island hideaway of Professor Grimsby, where they will be his prisoners.
It’s up to the proto-Defenders of the Earth to locate the missing characters. Now in view of just how awesome this TV special really is, I should warn you about something. The sound isn’t that good. But in all honesty we are all incredibly lucky that Stupid Dim Bulb was able to upload this rare 1972 movie.
While it would take the Defenders of the Earth 13 years in fact to return to animation. Popeye was back in action in 1978 with The All New Popeye Hour!
[Via] Cartoons Intro