December 09, 2017


(NBC, September 6, 1967 – January 20, 1968)

Hanna-Barbera Productions

Keith Andes – Birdman/Ray Randall
Don Messick – Falcon 7, Vapor Man, General Stone, Mentok the Mind-Taker, Dr. Shado The Brain Thief, Vulturo, Dr. Shark, various
Dick Beals – Birdboy
John Stephenson – Number One (original), X the Eliminator, Reducto, various
Vic Perrin – Number One, The Ruthless Ringmaster, various
Ted Cassidy – Meteor Man
Virginia Eiler – Gravity Girl

In response to CBS’ successful action-oriented schedule the prior season, NBC decided to move away from the comedy and incorporate more action programs into their line-up for the 1967-68 season. One of them was the original creation of one of Hanna-Barbera’s key designers Alex Toth: Birdman and the Galaxy Trio.

Birdman followed the adventures of Birdman (Keith Andes), an ordinary man named Ray Randall bestowed with powers by the Egyptian sun god Ra. He was given large wings that granted him flight and the ability to shoot solar rays and project solar shields from his hands. As his powers originated from the sun, prolonged time in darkness led to his powers fading away. He was assisted by his pet eagle, Avenger, and Birdboy (Dick Beals), a young boy that Birdman saved with his powers, transferring some of them to him (his wings, however, were mechanical in nature).

Birdman model sheet.

They worked for the government agency Inter-Nation Security under its leader, Falcon 7 (Don Messick). They protected the country and the world from various kinds of threats; particularly from the enemy agency F.E.A.R. led by the sinister Number One (John Stephenson & Vic Perrin). Other threats included the weather-manipulating Cumulus (Henry Corden); the mental manipulator Mentok the Mind-Taker (Messick); The Deadly Duplicator (Frank Gerstle), who could create duplicates of people with his glasses; the knowledge-stealing Dr. Shado (Messick); the time-traveling Dr. Millennium (Hal Smith); and Vulturo (also Messick), who created a vulture-like costume to battle Birdman, amongst others.

The Galaxy Trio: Vapor Man, Gravity Girl and Meteor Man.

As with other Hanna-Barbera originals in the action genre, Birdman was accompanied by a second feature: The Galaxy Trio. The Trio were a team of extraterrestrial superheroes who patrolled the farthest reaches of space for the Galactic Patrol Law Enforcement Agency. Their number included Vapor Man (Messick) from the planet Vaporus, who could transform his body into gas and produce a variety of different vapors from his hands; Meteor Man (Ted Cassidy) from the planet Meteorus, who was able to control the size and strength of his body; and Gravity Girl (Virginia Eiler) from the planet Gravitas, who could bend the laws of gravity to her will. Their supervisor was known simply as “Chief”.

Birdman and Avenger.

Birdman and the Galaxy Trio debuted on NBC on September 6, 1967. The series was written by Art Davis, Jack Hanrahan, Phil Hahn and Neal Barbera, with Paul Sommer serving as story director. Ted Nichols and Andes handled the music and Toth did the character designs. Each episode was broken up into three segments with a Trio story being bookended by two Birdman stories. Despite the characters banding together to combat a threat in the opening sequence, Birdman and the Trio never actually met during the show. The show ran for 20 episodes into 1968 and remained on NBC’s schedule until that fall. Unfortunately, the show came on during a time when Saturday morning television was under by Action for Children’s Television (ACT); a grassroots group designed to improve the quality of children’s programming. A favorite target of theirs: violence in cartoons. In response to the pressure from ACT, the networks and production studios began to revamp their approach to cartoons, which meant a shift away from action shows back towards comedy. As a result, Birdman was never given a second season.

The show lived on in reruns, joining the rotating ensemble of cartoons featured in the syndicated Hanna-Barbera’s World of Super Adventure beginning in 1980. They were also featured in the Cartoon Network programming block Super Adventures in 1992, and the Toonami programming block’s Cartoon Roulette from 1997-2000. In 2001, Cartoon Network gave Birdman a second life in the parody series Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. In it, Birdman (Gary Cole), had retired from superheroing and become a lawyer. Various characters from the show made appearances in various episodes. The show ran for four seasons, ending in 2007.

A meeting of the heroes in Super TV Heroes #2.

Birdman appeared in 5 of the 7-issue Hanna-Barbera Super TV Heroes comic published by Gold Key from 1968-69, with the Galaxy Trio appearing in the first two. Tying into their run on Toonami, Birdman next appeared in DC ComicsCartoon Network Presents #s 5 and 9 in 1997 and 1998, with the Trio appearing in issue #17 in 1999. Birdman and the Galaxy Trio both returned to comics in 2016 as part of DC’s attempt at revitalizing and updating the Hanna-Barbera properties owned by parent company Warner Bros. They appeared in the pages of Future Quest and its spin-off series Future Quest Presents. Birdman’s origins, only hinted at in the show, were explored further in the latter book.

The complete series DVD.

In 2003, Toynami produced a limited edition maquette of Birdman. They also released a double pack of action figures featuring him and Avenger the following year. They and the Galaxy Trio were included in the Hanna-Barbera wave of Toynami’s I-Men blocky figure line. In 1986, Worldvision Home Video released a VHS collection featuring five Birdman segments and two Galaxy Trio segments. In 2007, Warner Home Video released the complete series to DVD as part of their Hanna-Barbera Classics Collection. In 2017 the set was re-released with slightly different packaging. 

“X the Eliminator / Revolt of the Robots / Morto the Marauder” (9/9/67) – FEAR offers a bounty on Birdman’s helmet and X aims to collect by luring Birdman into a trap. / The Galxy Trio are called to stop a robot servant uprising on Orbus 4 at the hands of Computron. / Morto escapes from prison and uses a mechanical knight to lure Birdman into a duel.

“The Ruthless Ringmaster / The Battle of the Aquatrons / Birdman Versus the Mummer” (9/16/67) – The Ringmaster steals the government’s most advanced weapons and plots to use them against Birdman. / Lotar directs heat rays at Earth in order to melt the ice caps and create a new colony. / An imposter sabotages a peace conference and sparks a war between two countries.

“The Quake Threat / The Galaxy Trio Versus the Moltens of Meterous / Avenger for Ransom” (9/23/67) – Birdman tracks down a villain using earthquakes to terrify a populace only to end up trapped underground. / The Moltens, who live beneath the surface of Meteor Man’s home planet, attempt to drive the surface populace away with explosions and lava. / When Zardo kidnaps Avenger, Birdman is forced to do his bidding.

“Birdman Versus Cumulus, the Storm King / The Galaxy Trio and the Sleeping Planet / Serpents of the Deep” (9/30/67) – Cumulus attempts to enslave the country with his weather powers. / The Trio investigate radio silence on Planet K-7 and discover the inhabitants are all asleep while machines steal their valuables. / Dr. Shark steals the government’s gold-extracting bathysphere.

“Nitron the Human Bomb / The Galaxy Trio and the Peril of the Prison Planet / Mentok, the Mind Taker” (10/7/67) – Birdman foils a nuclear scientist’s rise in an underground organization, driving the scientist to try and destroy him. / The Trio are sent to quell a riot on a prison planet. / Mentok takes control of Avenger’s mind in order to bring Birdman to him.

“The Purple Moss / Drackmore the Despot / The Deadly Trio” (10/14/67) – Xadu causes a purple moss to grow over the planet so that he can claim it for his home planet. / The Trio allow themselves to be captured in order to find missing explorers. / Three supervillains decide to combine their efforts in destroying Birdman.

“The Brain Thief / Titan, the Titanium Man / Birdman Versus the Constrictor” (10/21/67) – The Brain Thief steals the knowledge of scientists, but to get it back Birdman and Avenger will have to face giant replicas of themselves. / Titan lures the Trio to his planet and pits them against his army. / Birdman reluctantly trades Avenger to the Constrictor for stolen missile plans.

“Number One / The Duplitrons / Birdman Meets Birdgirl” (10/28/67) – Number One plots to capture Birdman and siphon his energy to power his pirate satellite. / Coming to Earth to prevent a war, the Trio learn three leaders have been replaced with duplicates. / Mentaur hypnotizes a young aerialist and makes her Birdgirl in an attempt to steal a hydrogen bomb.

“Birdman Meets Reducto / Computron Lives / Vulturo, Prince of Darkness” (11/4/67) – Reducto threatens to shrink the country unless he gets ultimate power. / Soldiers reactivate Computron to control him, but he escapes to Planet Z-10 and activates war machines there. / Vulturo challenges Birdman to a duel with his new awesome powers.

“The Chameleon / The Eye of Time / The Incredible Magnatroid” (11/11/67) – A thief uses a formula to change his appearance and steal valuables. / The Trio are caught in a time tornado that sends them back to ancient Scandanavia and pits them against the Roman army. / Birdman searches for a stolen titanium shipment and ends up trapped in a dark scrap warehouse.

“Hannibal the Hunter / The Galaxy Trio and the Cavemen of Primevia / The Empress of Evil” (11/18/67) – Hannibal captures a friend of Birdman in order to lure him to his secret island and make Birdman his next prey. / The Trio have to free the enslaved planet Primevia from invaders from Vapor Man’s home planet. / Medusa and her Amazons capture a young prince and demand a ransom for his return.

“The Wings of F.E.A.R. / The Demon Raiders / Birdman Meets Birdboy” (11/25/67) – Birdman attempts to learn who’s kidnapping ambassadors from the UN by replacing one with a robot double. / Attempting to stop Zakor from robbing a treasury planet, the Trio end up trapped in their pods to orbit forever. / Rescuing a young boy with his powers ends up turning him into Birdboy.

“The Menace of Dr. Millennium / The Rock Men / Birdman Versus Dr. Freezoid” (12/2/67) – Dr. Millennium uses dinosaurs to cover his escape with high-security missile plans. / A geologist is captured by Rock Men controlled by escaped convict Braton. / Birdman follows Dr. Freezoid to the North Pole after the villain stole some inter-nation security files.

“The Deadly Duplicator / Space Fugitives / Professor Nightshade” (12/9/67) – Attempting to stop the replacement of people with evil duplicates pits Birdman and Avenger against duplicates of their own. / Survivors of the planet Magnetron disguise themselves as the Trio and rob planets of elements needed to build their army of androids. / Nightshade steals a device that allows him to trap the capitol in a vortex of time and space in order to ransom it for power.

“Train Trek / Space Slaves / Birdman Meets Moray of the Deep” (12/16/67) – A gang of foreign agents plot to replace astronauts on an American solar capsule. / Elraf captures Gravity Girl in order to force her to help him efficiently get an element he needs to make enslavement bands. / Birdman disguises himself as a scientist in a plot to rescue a group of them being held in an underground lab.

“Birdman and the Monster of the Mountains / The Galaxy Trio Versus Growliath / The Return of Vulturo” (12/23/67) – While the heroes deal with a giant monster in Tibet, Birdboy is captured by the real villain. / Evil scientist Growliath turns all the insects of planet Nova into giants. / Vulturo captures Birdboy in order to lure Birdman into a trap for revenge.

“The Revenge of Dr. Millennium / Return to Aqueous / The Ant Ape” (12/30/67) – Dr. Millennium transports Birdman to ancient China while he prepares an army of barbarians to attack the present. / The Trio head to Aqueous in order to defeat a monster on the rampage, which turns out to be part of a political plot. / A foe of Birdman’s creates a giant creature to loot museums and cause general havoc.

“Birdman Versus the Speed Demon / Invasion of the Sporoids / The Wild Weird West” (1/6/68) – The chemicals a prisoner uses to escape jail also gives him super speed. / The Trio try to rescue Outpost A-15 from a nearly indestructible spore monster. / Superhumans attack a western town to rob it and get revenge in the name of their ancestors.

“The Pirate Plot / Gralik of Gravitas / Skon of Space” (1/13/68) – Attempting to stop high-tech pirates leads Birdman to get captured as he protects Avenger. / The Trio protect Gravitas from Gralik and his ultra-gravitizer ray. /

“The Molten Monsters of Moltar / Two Faces of Doom / The Final Encounter” (9/16/67) – Space Ghost and the twins are captured by Moltar. / Brak and Spider Woman take turns against Space Ghost. / The heroes confront the Council of Doom.

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