Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ralph Bakshi and Wally Wood by J. David Spurlock

Vanguard Productions' J. David Spurlock has long since become the g0-to guy for information on many of my personal favorite comic book artists including Wallace Wood, Gray Morrow and Jim Steranko. Here's a piece, reprinted by the author's permission, that Mr. Spurlock posted today on Facebook. It sheds some light on the unexpected and little known connections between all three of the above-mentioned artists and animator Ralph Bakshi.

The animated Canadian science fiction series Rocket Robin Hood was produced by Steve Krantz with Shamus Culhane (formerly of Paramount Pictures animation in New York) as supervising director. The theme is an early example of Filksong.

Ralph Bakshi left TerryToons for Paramount Pictures animation in New York where he soon replaced Culhane. Culhane had optioned Steranko's Secret Agent X for a Saturday morning cartoon. Steranko and Bakshi got to know each other working on Super Agent X shortly before Steranko started at Marvel. Wally Wood, Jim Steranko, and Gray Morrow were favorites of Bakshi's and helped occasionally on projects from Paramount Pictures animation to the founding of Bakshi Productions (all circa '66-'68).

By late-67, Paramount unexpectedly closed the New York animation office dropping all projects including the Steranko Agent X. Bakshi found out Krantz fired Culhane in Canada at the end of the first season of Rocket Robin Hood. Bakshi and background artist Johnnie Vita headed to Toronto where Bakshi took over as Rocket Robin Hood primary writer and director. They commuted between Canada and New York, where artists such as Morrow, Steranko and Wood helped with ideas, storyboards, etc. from the United States.

By the late second and third seasons, of Rocket Robin Hood, Bakshi was involved with the Saturday morning Spider-Man cartoon show. Rocket Robin Hood started to share a lot of animation and background music with Spider-Man. Two episodes of the series ("From Menace to Menace" and "Dementia Five") had almost all their animation recycled for episodes "Phantom from the Depths of Time" and "Revolt in the Fifth Dimension" of "Spider-Man" (1967) by simply substituting Rocket Robin Hood with Spider-Man on the animated cels. The dialogue from these episodes was reused too with Spider-Man saying the same lines and Rocket Robin Hood and his supporters.

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1 comment:

  1. Ronn Sutton writes: I own about 40 or 50 original pencil storyboard frames from ROCKET ROBIN HOOD and they are unmistakenly the work of Steranko.
    ---Ronn S