Monday, December 10, 2007

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s . . . Ralph Hinkley!

When the staff here at the diner came up with the topic of comic book heroes for this week’s blog, I panicked. It seems I’m the only one in this group who has never bought a comic book. Nope, not a one. Oh, I’ll admit to perusing the magazine stand at the local convenience store a few times when I was a kid while my siblings argued over which flavor of Hubba Bubba gum to buy. But even then, the ones I usually glanced through leaned toward the horror comics, full of evil spirits, zombies, and hideous monsters eviscerating poor unfortunate humans. Nice choice of material for an impressionable tweener to be looking at, let me tell ya. But I honestly can’t say that I ever glanced over at the super hero comic book section, not even once.

So what the heck am I going to talk about today? Well, while I may not have read comic books in my youth, I did watch plenty of super heroes on T.V. Come with me while I take you back in time, to an era when there was no cable television and only 3 channels to choose from -- at least at my house. Boy, did I just date myself or what?

I’m sure just about everyone watched Lynda Carter dash around in her red, white and blue bathing suit saving the day as Wonder Woman. What little girl didn’t spin around in circles wearing patent leather boots, a tinfoil headband, and a jump rope for a golden lasso? And do you remember Isis? She was the archaeologist who found an ancient amulet which turned her into a super heroine goddess. How cool was that? Together with a black raven as her partner, she managed to fight off the bad guys in little more than a white baby doll nightie and lace-up sandals.

As for the super heroes in my past, I’m going to confess to having a huge crush on Billy Batson, Captain Marvel’s alter ego on Shazam! Sure, Marvel had the cool super powers, but since I was only 10 when the show first aired, he was a bit too old for me. I’m almost positive I had a poster or two of young Billy over my bed. (Tell me, did the guy ever wear anything other than that sorry-looking red shirt with the yellow collar?) I’ll also admit to admiring Lou Ferrigno’s fine physique as the Incredible Hulk. Call me weird, but I thought he was kinda hot, bad green paint job and all.

But my favorite T.V. super hero of all had to be Ralph Hinkley, aka The Greatest American Hero. Come on, you all know the song. Sing it with me now . . .

Believe it or not, I’m walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be? Believe it or not it’s just me.

Yep, there was just something about William Katt’s character Ralph. He was the cute guy next door, suddenly having to deal with super powers he didn’t fully understand and couldn’t quite control thanks to losing the instruction manual to his super suit in the very first episode.

Unlike the other super heroes I just mentioned, Ralph was never a comic book super hero. (Isis didn’t start out as one either but she sorta got adopted by DC Comics later on). Interestingly enough, DC Comics sued the show (unsuccessfully) because they thought Ralph was too close to Superman. Huh? Okay, let’s see . . . Superman wore a blue body suit and Ralph wore a red one. Check. Superman came from outerspace and Ralph’s outfit came from outerspace. Check. Both wore a cape, although Ralph’s was black while Superman’s was red. Check. Both had super strength, resistance to injury, super speed, and X-ray vision. Check. Ralph had ESP abilities while Superman did not. Ah ha, take that flyboy! Okay, so both could fly. Check -- well, sort of. Poor Ralph had a bad habit of flying into walls every now and then due to the above mentioned lack of a training manual.

Nope, even though I will admit there were some similarities, my Ralph was not the studly Superman at all. He was more of a bumbling Clark Kent at all times, even in super hero mode. But he was my kind of super hero. There’s just something about a less than confident average Joe, given the power to save the day but not quite sure how to do it. Man, I miss Ralph.


  1. Wow, those bring back some fond memories.

    Do you remember the Saturday morning show "Electrowoman and Dynagirl"?

  2. I remember loving "Greatest American Hero." And though a longtime DC Comics fan, I thought it was a travesty (not a word I used back then, being a kiddo) that they would use the production company -- but didn't they win the suit? I thought they did. And the theme was a best-seller, and let's face it, who doesn't remember it even now?

    And Electrowoman and DynaGirl? YES! Debra Winger as DynaGirl? I remember that most fondly!

  3. I never got to watch that show when it was on. We got all 3 channels but maybe it was on past my bedtime?

  4. Ok that's creepy. I actually remember making a tin foil crown and pretending to be wonder woman.

    The greatest American hero was one of my favorites. I loved that he was imperfect and yet still saved the day :)


  5. Re: Electawoman and Dynagirl

    I didn't remember it right away, but after a quick Google, it brought back some vague memories. Especially Deidre Hall as Electrawoman. Boy, has she come up in the world!

  6. Re: Eilis Flynn

    Yes, DC Comics lost their suit against GAH. I guess they couldn't prove Ralph was similar enough to Superman (duh).

    And I believe Debra Winger played Drusilla aka Wonder Girl on Wonder Woman for a few episodes, not Dynagirl. Ah, but you brought up another super heroine who made good later in her career!

    Here is a You Tube classic for GAH and Q&A from William Katt too!

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  9. I love The Greatest American Hero! I even have the, vinyl, single of the theme song.

    We apparently had a similar upbringing, LOL.

  10. I remember the "Greatest American Hero" now that you mention it. I haven't thought about that show in years, but now I wonder if it ever plays on TV Land. Hmm. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Wow. I had completely forgotten about this show...but then you mentioned the song, and I haven't been able to get it out my head since. Not sure if this is a good thing, exactly, but there it is:-) And my absolute favoritest things when I was little were my Wonder Woman Underoos. There is copious photographic evidence of this. And again, not sure if that's a good thing, exactly...