Birdman uses his Solar Shield.


Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Hanna-Barbera
First Appeared: 1967
Creator: Alex Toth
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When Hanna-Barbera's first experiment with the superhero genre, Space Ghost proved a success in 1966, their natural response was to …

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… pump out more of the same. That meant going back to Space Ghost's creator, designer Alex Toth (Herculoids, Mighty Mightor and a host of comic books). Birdman, the company's second "straight" superhero (i.e., not hoked up like Atom Ant or The Impossibles), debuted as the main star of a half-hour show on NBC, on Saturday, September 9, 1967.

Birdman (no relation) had a secret identity (Ray Randall), but was seldom seen using it. Mostly, he hung around The Bird Lair, located in an extinct volcano, and waited for a call from Falcon-7 (no relation), his pipe-smoking, patch-eyed contact in Inter-Nation Security. When the call came, he and Avenger (no relation), his pet eagle, would sally forth and, in the space of about six and a half minutes, do what needed to be done. Usually, this involved putting down a villain associated with an international bad guy organization called F.E.A.R., the full name of which was never mentioned. He was occasionally assisted by sidekick named Birdboy, but mostly did it alone. Even Avenger usually sat on the sidelines, unless Birdman needed to be rescued.

Birdman's super powers came from Ra, the Egyptian sun god; and therefore he could be de-powered by keeping him away from sunlight. When charged, he had the usual super strength and power of flight, plus the ability to shoot solar beams from his hands and create solar shields to ward off his enemies' energy blasts. Another thing warded off by this power was protest from parent groups, which were starting to object to all the hitting that went on in shows of this type. When they gave a hero a super power that didn't involve hitting, critics didn't fuss too much, figuring the kids weren't likely to imitate their heroes by bombarding one another with deadly radiation.

Birdman's show ran two seasons, a total of 20 half-hours — that is, 40 adventures, since he occupied two of the show's three segments. (The show's title was Birdman & the Galaxy Trio, and its third segment concerned a completely unrelated bunch of heroes.) The star's voice was provided by Keith Andes, who, aside from this role, was strictly a face actor (tho he did have another very minor toon connection — he appeared on an episode or two of the 1979 Buck Rogers TV show). Don Messick (Boo-Boo Bear, Ricochet Rabbit) did the voice of Falcon 7; and when Birdboy appeared, his voice was done by Dick Beals (Ralph Phillips, Gumby).

Birdman was merchandised in the usual array of gewgaws, such as toys and lunch boxes. He didn't have a comic book, but appeared in most issues of Gold Key's Hanna-Barbera's Super TV Heroes, where Shazzan, Young Samson and other Hanna-Barbera super TV heroes hung out. Unlike many of his contemporaries, such as Super President and Dino Boy, Birdman retained enough of a fan base to appear as recently as the 1990s, in a couple of issues of DC Comics' Cartoon Network Presents.

In fact, Birdman reruns have appeared pretty steadily since the show originally aired. What's more, the character has been revived, in a way, in Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, where several of those old Hanna-Barbera characters have found new life as travesties of their former selves. As "Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law", he now foils evildoers in an entirely different way.

But for those who prefer his old self, reruns of Birdman & the Galaxy Trio are still frequently seen.


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Text ©2003-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hanna-Barbera.