Remember that one day when you could wake up without an alarm? When you would get your favorite bowl of cereal and sit between the hours of 8 and 12? This is a blog dedicated to the greatest time of our childhood: Saturday mornings. The television programs you watched, the memories attached to them, and maybe introducing you to something you didn't realize existed. Updated every weekend.
Team-ups in comics
are not an uncommon thing. In fact, Marvel
Comics had two ongoing books dedicated exclusively to the concept. However,
decided to team-up a Marvel character with some of their characters, it was a
The ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing.
In 1979, DePatie-Freleng
was trying to maintain its hold on the Fantastic Four license after the abject
failure of their series The New Fantastic
Four. They pitched an idea to NBC’s Fred Silverman about a
spin-off show where Ben Grimm would travel from town to town, transforming into
the Thing to help people (similar to the hit CBS
series The Incredible Hulk).
At the same time, Hanna-Barbera was pitching a show featuring Archie Comics-styled teenagers where
one of them could change into a monster leading to hilarious results. Silverman
liked the Hanna-Barbera proposal, but felt it would be more successful with a
recognizable monster instead of an original creation. A deal was struck,
allowing Hanna-Barbera the use of the Thing in their series, which ultimately
ended up being an amalgamation of both studio’s pitches.
Thing Rings doing their thing.
The Thing centered around the titular character (Joe Baker, with
some inspiration from Jimmy
Durante) going to scientist Dr. Harkness (John Stephenson) for a way to
transform back to human form permanently. Although the cure worked, he was now the
teenaged pipsqueak Benjy Grimm (Wayne Morton) instead of an adult test pilot
(or the football player he was in the comics pre-transformation). Benjy could
still access his previous persona thanks to a pair of rings which, when put
together with the phrase “Thing ring, do your thing!”, caused Benjy’s rocky
visage to gather around him. Benjy stayed with Harkness as he worked to find a
permanent cure for his condition that wouldn’t also diminish his age any
further. While the Thing still sported his blue trunks and still declared
himself “The idol o’ millions” (amongst other signature phrases), no mention
was ever made of his time with the Fantastic Four.
Spike and Turkey causing some trouble.
Centerville High School with Harkness’ daughters Betty (Marilyn Schreffer) and
Kelly (Noelle North), the latter of which knew Benjy’s secret identity. Betty’s
personality was very inconsistent, ranging from one of Benjy’s friends to a spoiled
and shallow girl that could barely tolerate him (ironically, she was a big fan
of the Thing) and used his crush on her to get her way. Benjy often clashed
with Betty’s snobby boyfriend, Ronald (John Erwin), who would play
mean-spirited pranks on him. The kids were often in the company of their
scatterbrained teacher/principal, Miss Twilly (also Schreffer). Thing would
often be called upon to solve general problems, such as Miss Twilly stepping
onto a runaway push cart or a gas truck stalled on railroad tracks, or to deal
with the shenanigans of the Yancy Street
Gang. The Gang, often depicted in the comics as a group of often-unseen
juveniles that tortured Thing whenever he visited his old neighborhood were
reimagined as a biker gang comprised of the Napoleonic Spike (Art Metrano), the
bulky Turkey (Michael Sheehan) and the scrawny Stretch (Stephenson).
TV Guide ad for the show.
Now, as for the
misleading team-up mentioned earlier, The
Thing wasn’t broadcast as its own show. Instead, it was in the hour-long
package show Fred and Barney Meet the
Thing along with The New Fred and
Barney Show, a spin-off of The
Flintstones. Despite the title, Fred and Barney never interacted with
the Thing outside of the opening title sequence and commercial bumpers. Fred and Barney Meet the Thing debuted
on NBC on September 22, 1979. Two Thing segments
aired during the second half hour of the program for a total of 13 episodes. On
December 8, the show was expanded to 90-minutes to included the
recently-cancelled show The New Shmoo and
was renamed Fred and Barney Meet the
Shmoo. Once again, all of the featured characters only interacted in the
opening and the commercial bumpers.
Thing Rings do their thing...in comics!
Fred and Barney Meet the Shmoo continued on in reruns through November of 1980
when it was replaced by The Flintstone
Comedy Show. DePatie-Freleng would go on to become Marvel Productions
in 1981, working on the next decade’s worth of Marvel-based properties. While reruns
would air on Cartoon Network, The
Thing wouldn’t return to television until 1994’s Fantastic Fourby Marvel
Films and was part of Roger
Corman’s unreleased low-budget Fantastic Fourfilm.
In 2013, the Fantastic Four were temporarily replaced by the Future
Foundation comprised of Ant-Man,
and new character Darla Deering,
a purple-haired rock star that once dated the Human
Torch. Deering became the reluctant superhero Miss Thing when she was given
the ability to summon an exosuit that resembled Thing’s body in the same manner
as the cartoon in FF vol. 2 #8 by Matt Fraction and Michael Allred.
“The Picnic Panic / Bigfoot Meets the Thing” (9/22/79) – The Yancy
Street Gang cause a distraction so that they can steal the food from the
picnic. / The Yancy Street gang use a Bigfoot costume to terrorize the local
ski resort, not knowing the actual Bigfoot is nearby.
“Junkyard Hijinks / Gone Away Gulch” (9/29/79) – Benjy and Kelly
decide to clean up an abandoned lot for a playground, but the Yancy Street Gang
likes it as is. / The kids end up stuck in a ghost town where an obsessive
prospector dangerously searches for treasure.
“Circus Stampede / The Thing and the Queen” (10/6/79) – The Yancy
Street Gang causes trouble when the circus comes to town, resulting in the
animals breaking free. / Betty plans to run for homecoming queen, but the Yancy
Street Gang plans to make sure their girls win.
“Carnival Caper / The Thing Blanks Out” (10/13/79) – A crooked
carnival owner wants to sign the Thing as an attraction. / When a drawbridge
conks Thing on the head, he loses his memory just as his friends are stranded
on a boat in front of a breaking dam.
“The Thing Meets the Clunk / Beach Party Crashers” (10/20/79) – A
scientist’s well-meaning robot causes chaos around the city. / The Yancy Street
Gang decides to play tricks on the kids at the beach.
“Decepto the Great / The Thing’s the Play” (10/27/79) – The magician
hired for the school bazaar ends up being a thief who steals during his act. / The
kids go to a delusional acting coach who believes Betty is his favorite actress
and the key to his big comeback.
“Double Trouble for the Thing / To Thing or Not to Thing” (11/3/79) – A
robot double frames Thing for its crimes. / A new attempt at a cure leads to
the Thing transforming in uncontrollable and strange ways.
“The Big Bike Race / The Thing and the Treasure Hunt” (11/10/79) – Benjy
enters a bike race where Betty serves as the race queen. / A day of boating
leads the kids to discover a treasure map.
“Out to Launch / The Day the Ring Didn’t do a Thing” (11/17/79) – A
jilted city employee threatens the launch of a ship from the new shipyards. /
While on a fossil hunt, Benjy removes one of his rings and it ends up in the
hands of Spike.
“A Hot Air Affair at the Fair / The Thing Goes to the Dogs” (11/24/79)
– Benjy, Ronald and Spike compete in a hot air balloon race. / The Yancy Street
Gang plans to scare Ronald by stealing his father’s prized dog from the dog
“The Thing Goes Camping / Dude Ranch Rodeo” (12/1/79) – Miss Twilly
takes the kids on a camping trip. / The Yancy Street gang causes trouble at a
“Photo Finish / Lights, Action, Thing!” (12/8/79) – Ronald, Spike and
Benjy compete in the zoo’s photo contest. / The kids get jobs working on the
movie that a jilted stuntman would do anything to disrupt.
“The Thing and the Captain’s Ghost / The Thing and the Absent-Minded
Inventor” (12/15/79) – The Yancy Street Gang challenges the kids to confront a
ghost story in order to scare them. / The kids help Miss Twilly’s absent-minded
uncle get to the annual inventor’s convention.