Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Hal Seeger Productions
First appeared: 1967
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Batfink owed a lot to what had come before him. As a funny animal superhero, he was heir to a cross-genre phenomenon had been around since Supermouse in comic books beat out Supermouse in cartoons (later called Mighty Mouse) for the title of first of them, a quarter of a century earlier. More recently, the Batman fad was sweeping the country, so a character with "Bat" in his name was …

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… almost guaranteed a ready-made, if not necessarily long-lasting, audience — and Batman also popularized the idea of a strictly-for-laughs superhero. Also, the word "ratfink" had been growing in popularity among young people even before cartoonist Ed "Big Daddy" Roth began promoting a character with that name. Not that rhyming with it ensured instant success, but that did give Batfink a leg up in building name recognition.

And so, Batfink was made in the form of five-minute episodes to be broadcast, like Col. Bleep and Clutch Cargo, as segments on locally-produced kid shows, alongside an earlier generation's Porky Pig and Droopy cartoons, now syndicated in that venue. 100 episodes were made, for broadcast starting in the early part of 1967 — a remarkably short lead time, considering the Batman show was first aired in '66.

Like the typical member of his species, Batfink lived in a cave. But his was a modern, split-level one, equipped with a video receiver that could be used by the Police Chief to call him to action. When thus called, he'd join his human sidekick, Karate (as implied by the name, an expert in the martial arts) and battle whatever villains stood in the way (they included Queenie Bee, Hugo A-go-go and Judy Jitsu) until all wrongs had been righted. His super powers included bullet-proof wings and super sonar.

Batfink's voice was provided by Frank Buxton, mostly a face actor but with scattered voice credits, for example in the U.S. Acres segment of Garfield's TV show. Karate and the Chief were both done by Len Maxwell, also a face actor, whose voice was heard in Family Guy and Celebrity Deathmatch. The production was done by Hal Seeger's studio, which was also responsible for Milton the Monster and Batfink's fellow funny animal superhero, Fearless Fly.

Batfink has turned out surprisingly long-lived, for something created as a response to a fad. It was syndicated as long as those local kid shows remained a viable market. It aired on Nickelodeon (Ren & Stimpy, Jimmy Neutron) during the mid-1990s, and on Boomerang (Captain Planet, Ruff & Reddy) in the early 21st century. It's currently available on DVD.


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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hal Seeger Productions