The time around my father’s death in 1967 was a hard one for the three of us. He was in the hospital from after Thanksgiving and passed away a month after Christmas. Mom spent a lot of time at the hospital with him, so we spent a lot of time with relatives, either at their houses or at ours. We got our homework done, of course, but after we finished we would watch TV. WGN in Chicago had a lot of after-school programming for kids, starting at 3:00 and ending at 7:00, after a new cartoon show that started a month or two before, The Marvel Superheroes. At 6:30, we’d be in front of the TV as the theme started.
We were not real big comic book guys at the time. We read the comic strips in the Chicago Daily News and Chicago Tribune, watched the cartoons on TV, and occasionally bought a comic book, but Dad really had a problem with them, so we didn’t make a habit of it. When we would all get sick and be stuck at home, Mom would buy us comic books, generally from Harvey Comics (Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, Hot Stuff) or the Archie comics. When we did buy comics, they were generally from DC Comics, the publisher of Superman, Batman, The Flash, Aqua Man, etc. We were not as familiar with the characters from Marvel, so the show was a learning experience for us.
The show featured six of Marvel’s characters (Spiderman, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Sub-Mariner), five of whom would be featured on one day each week. (I think Sub-Mariner and Iron Man shared one day.) Regardless of how much of a downer the story was, the show would end with a song called “The Merry Marvel Marching Society.” The MMMS was a Marvel Comics fan club, which you could join at a nominal cost and receive a membership card, a recording of the song, and other goodies. Here’s a full version of the song.
To me, the Marvel comics had a much different vibe than the DC ones. The Marvel charcters were a little more obviously flawed, and many of them came upon their powers due to accidents (Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, David Banner was bombarded by gamma rays, Tony Stark suffered a chest wound he got from kidnappers, etc.). In comparison to the motley crew that Marvel produced, the DC heroes seemed just a little too clean-cut. But, that’s just me.
Whatever the case, The Marvel Superheroes got us through a pretty tough time in our lives.