Saturday, November 7, 2009

Saturday Morning 1967- Green Lantern



In 1967, Filmation released the new "Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure" which, as you might guess, featured the previous year's Superman cartoons along with a new batch of cartoons featuring Aquaman. It also featured appearances by Hawkman, The Flash, The Atom, The Justice League of America, the Teen Titans and (obviously) Green Lantern.

These Filmation DC Heroes cartoons are all pretty much the same. The heroes fight one or two of their villains and a whole lot of made-up, Filmation aliens. There are two reasons why the Green Lantern segments are significant: One, they're the first animated appearance of Green Lantern and two, they feature a sidekick.

Green Lantern is almost unique amongst Silver Age DC heroes in that he doesn't actually have a sidekick-no Lantern Boy or Lantern Lad or Greenie, the Wonder Flame. The good folks at Filmation saw this obvious deficiency and stepped up to the plate. They gave us a cute, blue kid from Venus named Kairo.

Funny thing is, Green Lantern didn't have a costumed sidekick in the comics, but he did have a helper. A close friend and confidant who knew his secret, leant a hand, dry-cleaned his tights...

His name was Thomas Kalamaku. But, as far as GL was concerned, his name was "Pieface".

This may need some explaining. Tom is a Native Alaskan, or an Eskimo as we (Honkies) used to call them. And, if you've never left the "lower 49", you may not realize this, but "pieface" is an ethnic slur.

So, Filmation felt they needed to do DC one better and not go around having a superhero calling his sidekick by a name that was, frankly, offensive.

So, here's to you, Kairo. You may have been a lame, last-minute replacement, but at least you never let the Man keep you down!

8 comments:

  1. At least according to Wikipedia, the name Pieface is intended as a play on "Eskimo Pie". I don't really get it either.

    But regardless of whether his nickname should be considered an ethnic slur, Thomas Kalmaku was a solid character in the Silver Age Green Lantern series, performing heroically.

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  2. Aaron: thanks for that bit of interesting cartoon history mixed with some sociological education. I have heard Pie Face used as a slur against Native Americans or sometimes Asians, used in referenced to their supposed round-shaped faces.

    At any rate, yes indeed, power to Kairo! -- Mykal

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  3. Honkies?

    The name Pieface in Green Lantern is not an "ethnic slur". It's a nickname used by Hal for his best friend, a term of endearment. Its origin is explained in the comic. There was nothing "offensive" about it then, and there still isn't now, no matter what spin you like to put on it.

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  4. Hi! I'm not personally offended by the term pieface, nor am I pretending to be offended on the part of anyone else. I just think that, as a nickname, it was in kinda poor taste. I'm not overly PC as a rule, but I think that Tom's nickname has a potential to make a modern audience wince. DC has all but stopped using it altogether.

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  5. I am not so sure about the "ethnic slur". Kairo was a sub for Tom Kalmaku probably because Filmation's animators didn't know how to draw an Eskimo without the customary parka, else "Pieface" would've ended up a stereotype instead of the average guy he really was.

    FWIW, I found out a while back that---since he was uncredited---the estimable Paul Frees reportedly voiced Kairo. Gerald Mohr, on the other hand, was GL, and also did Reed Richards on the H-B version of Fantastic Four that debuted that same year. Quite a daily double.

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  6. Even more so, since Paul Frees was the voice of the H-B Thing!

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  7. Frees was everywhere back then.

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