In 1977, ABC executive Fred Silverman felt that Hanna-Barbera Productions’ quality was starting to slip due to their overextending themselves on a multitude of projects. Feeling they needed a little competition to not only lighten the load but keep their quality high, Silverman set up former Hanna-Barbera employees Joe Ruby and Ken Spears with their own studio: Ruby-Spears Productions. Silverman had recruited Ruby and Spears to oversee the development of Saturday mornings over at CBS, and then took them with him to ABC to continue that job.
For their very first production, they revisited the formula for their greatest creation, Scooby-Doo, with a dash of inspiration from I Was a Teenage Werewolf, and created Fangface. The series focused on a group of teenagers who, traveling around in a dune buggy dubbed “The Wolf-Buggy”, solved mysteries and foiled crimes perpetrated by monsters and evil masterminds. Comprising this group was the handsome Biff (Jerry Dexter); his smart girlfriend, Kim (Susan Blu); the stocky Puggsy (Bart Braverman), who tended to make up words constantly; and tall, lanky simpleton Sherman “Fangs” Fangsworth (Frank Welker, patterned after Joe E. Ross). Puggsy and Sherman were heavily based on Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall from The Bowery Boys series.
This group had a bit of a twist: one of them was a werewolf. Indeed, the Fangsworth family had a curse placed upon it where once every 400 years a member of that family would be born a werewolf, as explained in the opening narration by John Stephenson. Whenever Sherman was exposed to the full moon—be it real or merely an image when the kids needed to call upon their “secret weapon”—he transformed into Fangface: a furry werewolf with a single giant fang. Conversely, whenever Fangface saw the sun or its image, he’d revert back (usually at the most inopportune times).
Upon transformation, Fangface would always ingest Puggsy whole, holding him in his mouth until Biff or Kim rubbed his foot to calm him down (this also happened whenever Fangface saw or heard anything remotely related to food). This was a subconscious reaction to Puggsy’s constant taunting and teasing of Sherman’s cowardice while in his human form. You see, they were essentially two separate people with contrasting personalities, as Fangface was much braver than Sherman, and neither knew of the other’s existence. Despite always being almost eaten, Puggsy was constantly teamed up with Fangface whenever the kids would split up. Fangface also somehow retained his trademarked baseball cap despite losing the rest of his clothing (which reappeared whenever he changed back to human form. Hey, this IS a kid’s show!) from which he could pull a variety of items out of in various situations.
Sherman’s sole role was comic relief, but whenever he became supremely scared, he came up with a brilliant idea to save himself. Fangface didn’t take away from that role. He had the propensity to howl whenever he saw his own reflection and enter into a feral state whereby he ran only on instinct, often leading him to attack Puggsy. The kids did manage to turn this state to their advantage in a case most of the time by letting him loose on the bad guys. Despite being a werewolf, the public at large didn’t seem to acknowledge that fact, treating meeting Fangface as an everyday normal occurrence.
|Sherman, Baby Fangs, and their alter-egos.|
Fangface ran on ABC beginning on September 9, 1978. The series was written by Mark Jones, Elana Lesser, Norman Maurer and Cliff Ruby, with music composed by Dean Elliott. The show failed to gain the ratings or notability of the Scooby franchise and was cancelled after a single season. For the following season, Ruby-Spears tried to give their creation a second life by including Fangface as a segment of The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show. The segment retained the mystery solving format, however episodes were shortened to 11 minutes rather than a full 22. It was also renamed Fangface and Fangpuss to include the new character Baby Fangs (also Welker), Sherman’s infant cousin who, despite the original opening narration’s declaration, also inherited the ability to transform into a werewolf. Sherman was unaware that Baby Fangs was Fangpuss, becoming scared whenever encountering him in wolf form. However, unlike Sherman, Baby Fangs remembered his time as a wolf. Fangpuss also seemed to share his cousin’s affinity for inflicting pain on Puggsy. Unlike the previous season, the werewolves’ sun weakness was never exploited.
In 1981, Fangface and Fangpuss was broken off into its own series of reruns, lasting only a single season like its parent program. Despite the short run of the overall show, it did spawn the typical gamut of tie-in merchandise including a board game, jigsaw puzzles, books, a vinyl album and even a Viewfinder set. The entire series has yet to see a physical home media release, but Worldvision Enterprises released three episodes on VHS in 1983, with two more episodes following in 1986. It became available to purchase for streaming on Prime Video, Vudu, and iTunes.
Originally posted in 2014. Updated in 2023.
Loved this cartoon as a child!!
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