Saturday, June 6, 2009

Those Groovy Saturday Mornings: America's Best TV Comics

Li'l Groove loved cartoons. Loved 'em to death. When I was just a little shaver, we didn't just get cartoons on Saturday mornings, but on Sunday mornings, as well. T'was a good time to be a kid! Now, I'd dabbled in comics since I can remember, due in no small part to ABC TV's Batman, but in the late summer of 1967, the cartoon and comicbook worlds collided for me in a way that just blew my pre-school mind, baby! My parents, bless 'em, I don't remember how they did it, but they got wind of a mail-in offer from Marvel Comics and ABC TV called, you guessed it, America's Best TV Comics, sent in a quarter and waited. I can vaguely remember (I was barely four years old after all) the mail coming in and Mom handing me a package, smiling, telling me to open it. Need I say I flipped when I got that wrapper open? The Fantastic Four. Spider-Man. Casper, the Friendly Ghost. George of the Jungle. King Kong. Journey to the Center of the Earth. 68 pages of heaven! I held Saturday morning in my hands! I don't remember much after that, I must have passed out from the ecstacy of it all...

Yep, the Spidey, FF, and Casper stories are reprints (from Amazing Spider-Man #42, Fantastic Four #19, and an issue of Casper I can't pin down). But they were all new to Li'l Groove!

The reasons why I love the Internet: eBay, downloads, and blogging (okay, there's SingSnap, too, but I ain't goin' there here...). Memories can be reclaimed and made tangible once more! As I dug back into my long-lost friend (America's Best TV Comics--you sure have a short memory today!), I started noticing the ads for other ABC shows. Some I remember either well or at least vaguely, others are so unfamiliar as to seem like they came from an alternate world. How many of these shows do you remember, Groove-ophile?

Somebody please fill me in on the following: Cowboy In Africa (I really dig Chuck Connors, but I absolutely can't remember that show), The Second Hundred Years, and Custer (who starred in that one?). I'm counting on ya! Don't let Ol' Groove down!


  1. the Flying Nun?!!!! bwahahahahahahaha!!!!!

  2. Custer! starred Wayne Maunder who is probably best remembered for being on another western series "Lancer. Can't remember ever watching the show, Cowboy in Africa i think i saw. I remember the great days of 60's saturday morning cartoon shows (i think i made my Dad watch the ABC promo special they had for their saturday morning lineup that year).

  3. This one brings back a lot of memories for me as well! I'm not one hundred percent sure this comic was the first time I read the FF and Spider-Man in printed form, but it may well have been.

    As far as the tv series go, Cowboy in Africa is a new one on me -- the title has a certain "Snakes on a Plane, what more do you need to know?" quality -- but I remember The Second Hundred Years, which remarkably enough even has its own page on Wikipedia.

    The Batman pic (below the Custer ad) appears to be the work of George Tuska, perhaps?

  4. Okay, just off the top of my head...COWBOY IN AFRICA ran at least two seasons but I never watched it in spite of being a big RIFLEMAN fan. Must have been something my parents wanted to see opposite it. I assume the title says it all.

    CUSTER I know they watched sometimes. Starred Wayne Maunder. Don't really remember it myself.

    THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS was an early favorite,though! Arthur O'Connell was a 70ish conservative man whose father had vanished back at the turn of the century while exploring Alaska or something. He is found frozen in ice and still alive! Thus was have thirtyish Monte Markham as the FATHER to the old man. Rather than try to explain it, he pretends to be O'Connell's long lost SON (he shaves the beard off)! Add the fact of trying to get used to 20th century tech and hilarity ensues...or did for about 13 weeks anyway. Markham turned up later as THE NEW PERRY MASON.

    I've actually been watching a lot of THE FLYING NUN lately! Stupid premise but really cute series!

    And what about that BATMAN plug (with George Tuska art!) in what was essentially a Marvel book!!??

  5. Conners ran an animal preserve type of game ranch in Africa, which when you think about it was pretty ahead of it's time for the late 60's. Gold Key did a one shot comic adaption drawn by the great Alberto Gioletti.

  6. Thanks for jumping in and lending Ol' Groove a hand, fellas! My Groove-ophiles are the best!! Now I've gotta see if there are any copies of Cowboy In Africa floating around. I've gotta see that!! The Second Hundred Years sounds pretty awesome, as well.

    Y'know what struck me more about the Batman ad (after all, while yeah, it's mainly a Marvel comic, Batman was an ABC show) in ABCTV Comics, Booksteve? The fact that it only rated a half page ad. Batmania sure was a short-lived phenomenon!

  7. I remember buying that off the newstand! It actually made it to the shops over here in the UK - specifically, Cardiff, Wales (as Tom Jones put it in Mars Attacks!)
    I still have it in my miscelaneous shelf. I loved it - read it to death.
    And it was one of the first times I'd seen a DC hero appear in a Marvel mag - apart of course from the famous two-page spread announcing the upcoming ABC lineup for either 66 or 67.

    To me the comic served as a gateway to an exotic place; the USA where they had cartoons all Saturday and Sunday mornings! With Superheroes yet!
    Y'see, in 1960's Britain, we didn't have Saturday morning cartoons. We didn't even have Saturday or Sunday morning TV! The tv schedule didn't start till about 12pm on those days, and there was only a short thirty minute kids show (usually featuring ancient cartoons linked by a presenter. And after that was nothing but spoort - on all two channels! That's right; there were only two channels over here at the time - BBC2 didn't kick off in Wales until about 67, and then it was only in the evenings, and it didn't have any kids programming at all.

    Matter of fact, our local station, TWW idn't even show the Batman TV show like the rest of the UK, so we didn't get to see it until about 69, well after it had aleady beem cancelled!


    As to the rest of the shows in the comics line-up, they've never shown most of those shows over here, even nearly forty years later!)

    By the way, the Cowboy In Africa series was a spin-off of the John Wayne original film, which wasn't that much of a success anyway!

    Great site, mate. one of my faves.Keep it up!

  8. Journey to the Center of the Earth was one of the many Filmation series of the period.
    The art on the comic was by Paul Reinman.

  9. Cowboy in Africa was a spin off from the movie Africa-Texas Style, which starred Hugh O' Brian. IIRC, Tom Nardini played the sidekick in both the movie and TV series. As noted above, the hero was a cowboy who went to Africa as foreman of a wildlife preserve. I think it was produced by Ivan Tors (Flipper, Sea Hunt, Gentle Ben, Daktari).

  10. In The Second Hundred Years, Arthur O' Connell had a son who looked like O' Connell's father; Monte Markham played both. "Off to See the Wizard" was an anthology hosted by a cartoon Wizard of Oz. He would introduce the movies, which included "Captain Sinbad" with Guy Williams, "Tarzan the Ape Man" (the 1959 remake with Denny Miller), and the failed TV pilot "Alexander the Great," with William Shatner.

  11. Dell published one issue of a Custer comic with a photo cover of Wayne Maunder. I don't know what the ratings were like, but I do remember there was some controversy over the show. By the late 1960's, portraying Custer as a hero had become politically incorrect.

  12. Yes, the Batman fad was starting to pass in the 1967-68 season. It was the show's last season, and it had been cut back from twice a week to once a week. I think the show's budget was cut, too.

  13. The mail order offer for the comic was advertised fairly heavily on TV, which is probably how your parents heard of it. It later showed up on newsstands.



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