Robert Lamb ~ Filmation Studios ~ The Kid Super Power Hour

1981 -  Hero High and Shazam!

Shazam storyboard
Shazam storyboard

Star Master responds to Captain Marvel's breach of the hull with an ice wall. Okay, that might serve to keep the air from escaping only that wasn't in the script at all.

Shazam storyboard

What was in the script which sent me into Karl Geur's office to complain was that the mighty Captain Marvel who just ripped open the metal hull of a spaceship can't break through a wall of ice??!!! Karl acknowledged the weakness in the script but said we just had to go with it.

Shazam storyboard

Here is where I started banging my head on my desk. The writer's solution was for Captain Marvel to rip another hole in the ship's hole to allow for the sun to melt the ice! I kid you not!

Shazam storyboard

Bright sunlight fills the scene and melts the ice crystal cage in which Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel, Jr. are held captive.

It was experiences like this that prompted me to write scripts for He-Man and She-Ra later.

Robert Lamb caricature


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Kids Super Power Hour band

The Kid Super Power Hour live-action music segment –

Punk Rock, Captain California, Dirty Trixie and

Rex Ruthless on drums.

Glorious Gal, Dirty Trixie telling jokes

Glorious Gal & Dirty Trixie

(Becky Perle & Maylo McCashin)

tell each other lame jokes.

The Kids Super Power Hour was an odd effort by Filmation. There were live-action segments that were part Laugh-In joke wall and part Archies in superhero costumes. This is probably due to Coslough Johnson's role as writer and story editor. Coslough, brother of Arte Johnson (Verrrry interesting!) was a contributor to Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. He also was the yellow rain-slickered tricyclist who contstantly fell over in that show.

Not only did the heroes tell lame jokes they also played as a band. Mercifully, there are only a few samples of these scenes on the Hero High dvd set released by BCI-Eclipse, but more than enough to satisfy curiousity. Arthur Nadel produced and directed the live-action segments, called "non-animation" in the titles.

There were also two animated series: Hero High with the cartoon counterparts to the live-action characters (who did the voices), and Shazam! featuring Captain Marvel and the gang from the classic comic book.

Hero High characters

Hero High

Originally, the series was pitched as The Super-Archies based on characters that Archie (Pureheart the Powerful) and the others became in the Archie Comics. Terms could not be worked out with the comics people but NBC bought the show with the Super-Archies retooled as Hero High. It's not hard to figure who became who in the redo. Some of the secondary characters hardly changed at all except for name changes.

I haven't seen the show since I worked on it but I remember it wasn't my favorite series by a long shot. Still, I had only been working a couple of months at my first storyboard gig, so I couldn't complain too much.

As I said on the Zorro page, a single storyboard artist didn't board an entire script back then. Each script was divided into acts and each act assigned to a different board artist. This practice changed with He-Man.

I boarded two Hero High shows: "Do The Computer Stomp" and "A Clone of His Own." I have kept copies of most of the boards I have done but apparently not these two. I don't remember anything about "Stomp" but there is an amusing story behind "Clone."

Charlie Howell storyboard caricature

"A Clone of His Own"

The script was divided between my office mate, Charlie Howell and me. It was a routine story about a evil scientist substituting a fake police Chief Hardy for the real one who was Misty Magic's father. The bad guy then goes on a crime spree with the protection of the fake chief. It was typical Filmation economizing in that the fake chief is the same design as the real one. Charlie and I hit on the idea that the script would be funnier if the clone looked really fake but no one notices. So we boarded all the clone scenes with drawings of big rag doll with button eyes and stitched mitten hands in a police uniform. We even had the evil scientist drink water while the clone puppet speaks like the old ventriloquist trick.

The results were hilarious! Storyboard supervisor Karl Geurs roared with laughter at every scene. He loved it and campaigned to keep our interpretation but was eventually overruled. Arthur Nadel, the story editor, did not appreciate our altering the intent of the script. He said it made our characters appear stupid. Charlie and I privately mused: "And how is that different?" With much regret Karl was forced to have us replace all the sock puppet clone drawings with the real police chief. And no, it wasn't nearly as funny as our first draft.

There were a couple of things Charlie and I put in the board that did stay. One was a plastic statue of Big Al (Capone) on the dashboard of the thugs' car. I was quite surprised to see it in the final cartoon. The other thing was in the kidnappers' hideout. While keeping the real police chief under wraps the thugs were supposed to be passing the time playing cards. I changed it to "Jacks" with the spikey metal toys on the table and a thug tossing a ball (a la George Raft gangster) flipping a silver dollar. I set it up as a cheap animation cycle. Not only did it go through but the animator that got that scene took it a step further. He had the thug bounce the ball, scoop up the jacks and catch the ball.

Shazam storyboard - airport scene


Filmation had created a live-action version of Shazam! in the 1970s for the Shazam!/Isis Hour. It was very popular but dealt more with troubled teens than the villains of the comic books. In my opinion the animated version of Shazam! was the best thing in the Kids Super Power Hour. The stories ran 18 minutes with a cliffhanger commercial break in the middle. I worked on two shows: "The Airport Caper!" and "Star Master and the Solar Mirror."

My airport sketch for SH-9 storyboard.

Shazam storyboard

"The Airport Caper!"

After pushing my way through the Hero High scripts I was thrilled to work on Shazam!. I boarded the first third of "The Airport Caper!" and helped Charlie Howell with parts of the rest.

The story revolves around a gift of rare white tiger cubs from India to the local zoo. Billy Batson covers the story at the airport where the ambassador is flying in to make the presentation.

NightOwl is the bad guy du jour. He is interested in a gold shipment in the same hangar as the tiger cubs and might as well help himself to a pair of priceless pussycats while he's at it. His scheme relies on his newest invention, the DarkFlash, a device that emits a dark blob obscuring all light.

To make matters worse (and more expensive), a nasty thunderstorm threatens air traffic. NightOwl creates a diversion by cutting the power to the control tower. This sends the Marvels into action to save the ambassador's plane.

Shazam storyboard

The second half of the story deals with the Marvels finding and defeating NightOwl and recovering the gold and tiger cubs.

This was a fun script to board and most of my stuff made it through to the screen. Little did I know, however, my inexperience would create problems for other departments in production.

Two years later, during the first season of He-Man while boarding "The Dragon's Gift," I visited one of the guys in the camera department for some technical advice on a panning shot I wanted to try. He appreciated my efforts and wished the guy who had boarded "The Airport Caper" of Shazam! had done the same. I gulped and asked which part, hoping it wasn't my section.

"That *@#$%!!! storm sequence at the airport!"

"Really?" I nervously asked. "What was the problem?"

He explained that rain is photographed as a second pass, high contrast exposure to burn it in over a scene. After a scene is filmed the camera is rewound and the rain efx are burned in via back-lighting. It is also how we did various energy and portal effects.

"Sounds like a lot of work." I said.

Shazam storyboard

"Yeah, but that's not the half of it! Some idiot called for rain outside a window with animation on top. We had to create custom masks for every setup and change of pose or head turn! It was a nightmare!"

With a deep breath I fessed up. That was me. I apologized and pled ignorance due to my first season on the job. The camera guy softened a little and said though I was green, the director and layout team weren't. They should have known better.

Then he smiled. "On the other hand, that was some of the best looking stuff we've done in a while ... Just don't do it again!"

That was a lesson for me. If I called for anything out of the ordinary in a script or a board, I sought out whoever would have to make it work to see if it could be done or if there was a better way to do it.


"Star Master and the Solar Mirror"

This was my last board of the 1981 season. Though the script was full of holes I gave it my best effort, as did Charlie Howell on his part of the board. This episode was a crossover with Hero High (and I thought I had graduated from dealing with these guys). Filmation's stock animation system posed some problems for crossovers as the following warning that had to be pasted into the storyboard will explain.

Star Master didn't use a Solar Mirror. That device turned out to be an observatory mirror that the Marvels use to defeat the villain at the end of the show. Star Master used a sun shield to cause a global eclipse to freeze the Earth. Then when the Marvels fly up to his spaceship the villain engages his ice-ray.

Shazam storyboard

I don't remember whether the Model Dept. came up with this Norelco electric razor design or if it was one our jokes.

Either way I loved it.

One of the many holes in the script dealt with the vacuum in space. Or rather, the script ignored the vacuum in space. I didn't have a problem with the Marvels flying in space. They are superheroes like Superman, after all. But when Captain Marvel rips open the side of Star Master's spaceship to gain entrance, no air escapes!

But wait! It doesn't stop there.

Shazam storyboard
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