Klaws has few flaws.
Posted: June 03, 2005
Mike Jones, Jr.
This episode is one of only two 10 minute episodes in the series and was paired with "The Red Ghost" for broadcast (bcdb episode info notwithstanding). The title "Klaws" is obviously a typo which was never corrected, as the villain's name is "Klaw", and he only has one weapon on one hand, therefore making the plural illogical in any circumstance.
It seems as if "Klaws" was produced very early on in the run of the show, perhaps even first. I say this because the script follows the comic book source material (Fantastic Four issue #56) more closely than almost any other episode, and seems to be almost a short "tryout" or pilot episode. In addition, several scenes are very directly copied from actual comic book panels in that issue (Klaw confronting Sue Richards as she lays on the floor, Reed and Ben looking into the Negative Zone, Reed and Ben recovering from an explosion, Ben charging Klaw).
While I lament the Black Panther's absence in the story, the Human Torch was cleverly worked into the episode to replace him and delete the "Johnny at college" subplot of the comic book. The characterization of the personalities is right on target, and they avoid the stiffness and silliness of other superhero cartoons. You care about these four people and are amused and interested in how they interact.
Interestingly, there seems to have been some editing of this adventure. In the "Stay tuned for scenes from next week's show" spots that advertise "Klaws", there is a scene of Reed confronting Klaw and a line or two of dialogue that do not appear in the episode. Perhaps this was originally meant to be a 20 minute episode and was cut back later?
The one negative about the episode, the absence of the Black Panther and any of the subplots of FF #56, are explained below. I thoroughly enjoy this episode and recommend it as one of the best efforts to capture the Lee/Kirby feel of mid-sixties FF comics.
The series as a whole;
This show more completely captures the "Marvel Comics" feel of the mid-sixties than anything else ever done. The stories were taken directly from actual comic book issues of Fantastic Four and were followed faithfully in large part. Sub-plots and supporting characters such as Alicia Masters were completely ignored by this show, however, perhaps written out so that the four main characters could be focused on. There may also have been a lack of faith in children's interest in the personal lives of this quartet and their ability to follow continuing storylines in sub-plots. While Marvel Comics purists may be offended by these changes, they are not at all surprising when you look at what else was on the air at the time. In fact, when I watch the characterization (or lack of same) in Hanna Barbera's other series, I am amazed that so much of what made the FF what they were was actually kept in.
Guest stars and villains frequently had to be changed due to the fact that GrantRay Lawrence still had the rights to nearly all other Marvel Comics characters for the Marvel Super-Heroes series (even though that show was not producing new episodes in 1967). Therefore, we get no Sub-Mariner, which, along with Alicia Masters and the Inhumans, is the greatest loss for this series.
I love the voices for Reed and Ben used in this series (Gerald Mohr of Angry Red Planet, and Paul Frees of just about everything, including 1953 War of the Worlds narration). I would have preferred Tim Mathieson and Ginny Tyler for Johnny and Sue, but they were already a brother/sister pair on Space Ghost, which was still airing in 1967. Tim was also Jonny Quest, and maybe the producers didn't want him playing another cartoon character named Johnny. Equally good were the voices of of the 1978 show, with Mike Road (Race Bannon) as Reed, and Ted Cassidy (Galactus, Metallus, the Gorn) as the Thing, and yes, finally Ginny Tyler as Sue.
The character designs and layouts of this series don't seem as strong as in other Hanna Barbera series. The figure drawing is inferior to that of Space Ghost and even Shazzan, and the Thing is particularly disappointing, not nearly as Kirby-like as he should be.
Strangely, the backgrounds of this show are more like colored line drawings than the beautiful painted backgrounds you see in other Hanna Barbera series (Herculoids, Shazzan). This may have been simply a human resources problem, as Hanna Barbera ramped up production that year in 1967 to produce an amazing number of shows. At first glance, the colored drawings approach seems cheap, yet it tends to preserve the "comic book" feel of the Fantastic Four. The later episodes (Rama-Tut, Micro-World of Dr. Doom, Blastaar, Galactus) have fully painted backgrounds and seem to have had more attention lavished on them.
Because of the aforementioned layout artists and backgrounds, it doesn't seem that Hanna Barbera put their best people on this show, yet somehow the strength of the source material caused it to rise in popularity to be considered one of their best.
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