Making the Grade: The Mighty Hercules

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not referring to any wimpy Disney version or pretty-boy live-action stud here, I’m talking about the real thing, the animated Hercules that ruled my Saturday afternoons when I was a kid. It was classic animation. Every episode had the same plot: some beastie or bad guy trashes the tiny Greek kingdom of Caledon (renters must have had a hell of a security deposit) and the big guy is forced to come down from whatever Olympian orgy he’s attending to exercise a little deus ex machina on someone’s sorry ass. Not much going on in the personality department, but you had to respect the guy for always being there to lend a hand. Never could figure out the whole ring thing, though. Why would a god need a ring to get stronger? Why would he keep it in his belt instead of, you know, on his finger? Why would the villains and monsters politely stand by while he charged up? And why wait until the heat of battle to tap into its power? Why not charge up the ring as part of his morning ritual, like flossing? So many questions. B

The lovable centaur who acts as Herc’s sidekick. We know he’s lovable because he has a really high-pitched voice, and everything he says is repeated twice (“Herc! Herc! Over here! Over here!”). Personally, given the historically raunchy reputations of the Classical centaurs, I’m aghast that generations of children raised on this show were denied the basic truths of Graeco-Roman mythology. But then my displeasure is tempered by another deeper, more disturbing question: How the hell did that little quadruped do it? No matter where they were, all Herc had to say was, “Newton! My bow and arrow! Newton! My shield! Newton! My annotated copy of Atlas Shrugged!” and off Newton went to fetch the item from the nearest tree trunk. Were all the villains and beasts kind enough to pick the same field for their little rumbles, or did this four-footed freak of nature have weapons of mass destruction stockpiled in every tree trunk in the kingdom? C-

Herc’s girlfriend. Um… and that’s about it. Really, character development isn’t exactly a priority when you’ve only got five minutes to defeat the Molten Man-Monsters of Mykonos, or whoever was causing trouble that week. She was blonde, she wore short togas, and she got kidnapped once a week. End of story. C

The Young King of Caledon
I’m sure he had a name in the series, but I can’t remember it right now, which is all you need to know about his importance to the plot. Every five minutes, he’s being invaded by conquering armies, legendary beasts, and power-mad sorcerers, and his entire defence plan seems to consist of having Hercules on the ancient Grecian equivalent of speed dial. Corrupt politics and intern-related scandals are a small price to pay for the security of knowing we’ll never again have to put up with spineless dorks like this winning the leadership lottery. D

The unofficial leader of the only three villains in Caledon… which is about as prestigious as being elected treasurer of your bowling team. Straightforward, by-the-book villainy here, usually with a ferocious beast or magic spell providing him with the necessary tools to gain his prize — the throne of Caledon, which from what I could tell consisted of literally just that. Still, you had to give him some credit — no matter how many times Herc dragged his sorry butt back to an Olympian prison cell, the Daedster just kept coming back to scheme anew. Never could figure out the mask, though — you wouldn’t think that cackling, power-mad sorcerers would have an issue with people getting to know the real person inside. C-

The Mask
Speaking of masks that make no sense, here’s a candidate for the Darwin Awards if there ever was one. His shtick is that he wears the “Mask of Vulcan,” a giant soup can with eyeholes that makes him invincible. Which is just super-duper, except it kinda doesn’t work when you go around telling everyone this little fact!!! It never fails; every time the Mask shows up, Herc bruises his knuckles trying to beat up the guy, and the Mask laughs heartily. “Nothing can harm me,” he cackles, “so long as I wear the Mask of Vulcan!” Scene cuts to Herc with a giant stick/magnet/can opener and yoinking it off his head. I mean, really. I know criminals aren’t Mensa candidates to begin with, but even pro wrestling fans can see the problem here. D-

Our third entry in the Only-Three-Bad-Guys-in-The-Kingdom Club is, in fact, a woman, created apparently for the sole purpose of giving Helena bigger roles than “Screaming Hostage #1.” While the other two baddies content themselves with power and riches, this one chases after Herc’s girlfriend and feeds her the Potion of Aging, or some such thing. Frankly, I’m surprised Camille Paglia hasn’t weighed in on this topic, but I’m sure she will eventually, so I’ll remain mute. The only other thing I couldn’t figure out is her repetitive choice of wardrobe. Come to think of it, all three bad guys wore the same full-length purple toga in every episode, even when they were in disguise. Beats me why — though I’m sure an audit of the animation lab’s supply closet would have shown someone with a serious overstock of Indigo #9. Just a thought. C+

The Theme Song
Catchy. Simple, yet it gets the message across about our big guy — people are safe when near him, and only the evil fear him. I’m just wondering who came up with the line “with the strength of ten ordinary men” and thought it made Hercules sound impressive. Maybe ordinary men were tougher back in ancient times, but I’d want more than my uncle’s baseball team backing me up if the Bolias Beast ever got loose in the backyard. B

No such thing. Anyone who insists Newton once had a green-haired sidekick satyr who communicated only through his pan flute is clearly delusional and should be medicated by the appropriate authorities immediately. He did not exist, do you understand? He… did… not… existNOT APPLICABLE


One response to “Making the Grade: The Mighty Hercules

  1. Great article, but were there not 4 villains rolling around in Caledon back in the day? What about Otis, the Chameleon Man?

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