As yesterday was my birthday, I thought for this Saturday morning’s blog entry I would focus on one of my own personal all time favorite cartoon characters, Underdog. So please indulge me as we look more into this fantastic show.
Underdog was a super powered anthropomorphic dog. His powers most basically resembled those of Superman. You could easily say the show was a parody of Superman as Underdog’s secret identity was that of the bespectacled meek and mild Shoeshine Boy, not at all unlike Clark Kent. His lady love was Sweet Polly Purebred who like Lois Lane was a reporter, albeit a television reporter rather than a newspaper one. If that isn’t enough to convince you, then the icing on the cake would be the changing of Shoeshine Boy into Underdog in phone booths, which were exploded into pieces as a result. Clark Kent changing into Superman in a phone booth is quite rare in the comics but because it happened on the radio show and the Fleischer cartoons of the 1940s it has stuck with the public, thus inspiring Shoeshine Boy to do the same. Underdog could fly, had great strength and speed, was immune to bullets, and even had some of Superman’s vision powers.
One main difference of course was Underdog’s penchant for growing tired causing him to need a Super Energy Pill which he kept in a ring he always wore. In some of the early 70s reruns the references to Underdog’s Super Energy Pill were censored. Hey, it was the 70s after all, who knew what us kids would do? I would imagine though that most of us that would have pretended to have such a pill would use an actual vitamin or a Tic Tac rather than look for some drug, but what do I know I was only an actual kid then.
Underdog had a great rogues gallery. Okay, so maybe not nearly as large or as colorful as Batman’s, Flash’s, or Spider-Man’s, but they made an impact, most especially Simon Bar Sinister and Riff Raff.
Simon Bar Sinister appeared in 9 episodes, and when I say episodes here I’m referring to complete four part stories as opposed to the individual segments. He would be the Lex Luthor to Underdog’s Superman, his arch nemesis for certain. Simon was a short, bald, evil genius with a catch phrase that went something like “Money and Power, and Money and Power, and Money and Power!” Why be complicated with a character’s motives? He was always trying to take over the world with some evil gadget or plan like his shrinking ray, or freezing ray, or a machine that created natural disasters. Simon had a henchman who towered over him by the name of Cad Lackey. The names on the show told you exactly what you were getting. Simon got really irritated when anything would get in the way of his plans and one time even went back in time to stop Thanksgiving just because the parade interfered with getting across the street at a particular time.
Riff Raff also appeared in 9 episodes which would explain why you see him almost as much as Simon in Underdog merchandise to this day. Riff Raff was an anthropomorphic wolf who dressed in suits and was more or less a stereotypical mobster, but one that was smart enough to come up with all kinds of plans to stymie Underdog.
There was also Overcat who although only appeared in one episode made a big impression as a ruler of a cat world that ran out of milk and began stealing earth cows. There was also a vampire called Batty Man who appeared in a couple of episodes. In between super villains, Underdog fought a lot of creatures such as The Bubbleheads, who live under the sea; The Molemen, who live under ground; Irving and Ralph, a two headed dragon enemy of planet Zot; The Magnet Men, evil robots from another planet; The Marbleheads, marble people from another planet; The Wicked Witch of Pickyoon; Zorm, the ruler of another planet; The Cloud Men from planet Cumulus; The Flying Sorcerers, and Slippery Eel, who was in a couple of episodes.
Underdog always spoke in rhyming couplets. The one he used quite often was “There’s no need to fear! Underdog is here!”. He also frequently said