Captain Fathom aboard the Argonaut, in what passes for 'action'.


Original medium: Television animation
Produced by: Cambria Productions
First Appeared: 1965
Creator: Alex Toth (designer)
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Captain Fathom was either the last or second-last production of Cambria Studios Productions, depending on whether it came out before or after the studio's other 1965 production. But since that other production was simply a partially animated re-packaging of The Three Stooges, it was certainly the last gasp …

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… of any creative spark the studio may once have displayed. For all its faults (which were largely endemic to early television animation) this series was all new, an original product of creators working directly for the studio — and its final such all-new series.

Its most egregious faults were shared by Cambria's two earlier animated series, Clutch Cargo and Space Angel, stemming mostly from budgets so threadbare they made Jay Ward and even Terrytoons productions look lavish. Animation was so limited, even jiggling the camera to simulate an earthquake or explosion seemed like manic action. But what distinguished them from the rest of the low-production-values crowd was the use of Synchro-Vox, a patented technique whereby actual human lips, speaking the necessary lines, were superimposed on animated faces, making characters standing absolutely still look like they were talking.

But Captain Fathom also had a valuable asset in common with Space Angel — both were designed by comic book impressario Alex Toth, whose credits just at DC Comics include Eclipso and Green Lantern. After Cambria, Toth accepted design work at Hanna-Barbera, where his credits include Shazzan, Herculoids and The Mighty Mightor.

Captain Fathom (first name Bill) commanded The Argonaut, a submarine. His crew consisted of Cookie (no relation), Ronnie, Scotty and Miss Perkins — plus, a porpoise named Flip tagged along on their adventures. Not all of Cambria's credits are available today, but Captain Fathom's voice seems to have been by Warren Tufts, better known as a comics artist with such diverse credits as Casey Ruggles and The Pink Panther (and less well known for The Lone Spaceman). The director was Clark Haas, who worked on all of Cambria's cartoons, and whose comics credits include ghosting Tim Tyler's Luck.

The show was formatted as 30-minute stories that could be either broadcast as such or broken up into cliffhanger form and syndicated to local TV shows with a live host showing old theatrical cartoons like Popeye alongside TV productions like Col. Bleep. 17 half-hours were made, and broadcast mostly in the form of 4-5 minute serial episodes.

The serials were shown over and over again, for years. Gradually, they were supplanted by more high-end cartoons. They're scarcely even remembered today.


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Text ©2007-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Cambria Productions.