Super Tuesday: We Hate H.E.R.B.I.E.!

This week’s ad is for Fantastic Four, a 1978 cartoon series that ran one brief season on NBC’s Saturday morning slate.

The series is primarily (in)famous for introducing H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot in place of the Human Torch. Fans has long speculated that the Torch was dropped from the series because nervous TV executives were worried he would encourage kids to set themselves on fire. While this would be entirely in character with television thinking, the truth is more mundane — the Human Torch had been optioned for a separate entertainment opportunity which forbade his appearance in this series.

H.E.R.B.I.E. has been the subject of special ridicule by comics fans entirely out of proportion to his forgettable 13-episode run on television, eventually appearing in Marvel’s Fantastic Four comic, quickly revealing himself as an evil drone bent on the team’s destruction.

Et tu, H.E.R.B.I.E.?

Did anyone get their introduction to comics through this cartoon series? Share your memories in the comments, below!



Posted on September 11, 2012, in Super Tuesday and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I assume I was first introduced to HERBIE in the comic, since I was collecing that at the time, and apparently that came out before the TV show made its debut. I honestly don’t remember. I do vaguely remember being disappointed that the Human Torch wasn’t in the TV show. Anyway, I’m in the process of reading through all my old FF’s and recently read through the HERBIE issues. I expected to hate him, but I actually thought he was well handled. He didn’t seem too terribly forced, and he wasn’t really obnoxious, except to Ben. His death was also well handled, as he went out a hero.


    • I can’t say I saw this show at all — in 1978 I was sixteen and way too cool for kid stuff like Saturday morning cartoons (though of course I somehow reconciled a steady diet of Marvel comic books with my self-image).

      It does seem the FF have been cursed in their film and television ambitions. This one-and-done animated series, the Roger Corman debacle, those two tone-deaf pictures from Fox … no one seems able to get it right.

      I have only the vaguest memories of the 1960s cartoon series, which I doubt has aged well — those series were done on the cheap and the YouTube clips can be painful to watch. I do remember enjoying select episodes of the blink-and-you-missed-it 2006 animated series, which had a non-traditional look but I thought caught a little bit of the right spirit.

      I suppose they will keep rebooting this one until they get it right. In case Hollywood is reading, the formula is really pretty easy — family conflicts, global threats. Got it? Good.


      • Yeah, I was 9 in ’78 so I was very much into cartoons. I’ve also seen clips of the 60’s cartoon and it does look pretty bad. I agree that the 2006 animated series was pretty decent. It seems like a lot of the stories were borrowed from the classic Lee/Kirby run, though I didn’t necessarily love the animation. The two movies weren’t great, but I think the second one was better than the first, though I didn’t like that they had the Surfer’s power entirely in his board of that Galactus was a cloud.


        • I didn’t like Galactus as a cloud, either, though to be fair a giant in purple short pants and a funny helmet probably wasn’t going to work on film (much as I love Kirby’s design). On the other hand, Thanos looked pretty good at the end of Avengers and I wouldn’t have expected that character to translate so well, so what do I know?

          I do weep a little that Doctor Doom, Silver Surfer, and Galactus have all been bungled to varying degrees and will all require some time in the penalty box before being rebooted. Maybe we get Mole Man and Sub-Mariner in the first two post-reboot FF movies and then come back and do Galactus and the Surfer right in the final installment (by which time I’ll be past 60).


  2. As a loyal acolyte of President-for-Life Doom the First, rightful ruler of the Grand Republic of Latveria, that first FF movie from Fox was a disappointment. They turned Doom into a second rate Lex Luthor. As great a character as Luthor can be, merging him into Doom made for a bland, boring character, sadly well-suited for that bland, boring movie.


    • I agree, they did a terrible job with Doom all around, including lumping his origin in with the FF’s. The first FF movie wasn’t very good. The second one was much better even though I didn’t care for Galactus and I didn’t like the way the Surfer’s powers were all in his boards.


      • Clearly Doctor Doom and the Fantastic Four deserve better.

        Fortunately (I think), the statute of limitations for film reboots appears to be down to about twenty-four months (to judge by the new Schwartzenegger Conan film announced last week). That means the FF are long overdue for a reboot, and it also means its perfectly reasonable to see Galactus and the Surfer again — maybe not in a first movie, but possibly in a second.

        I expect we will keep seeing these sames stories over and over again, until we get them right (or even if we’ve already gotten them right, as in the case of this summer’s superfluous Spider-Man reboot).


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