An Elemental Tale
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden gives us his latest in his series of features on comic stories or series that never happened. This week it’s the turn of Tom Mcweeney’s The Herculoids …
Tom McWeeney’s The Herculoids
Known for his stellar work on Battle Chasers and Gen13, comic book creator Tom McWeeney is no stranger to fans everywhere. But in the last part of the 1990s, McWeeney was going to bring an all-out action cartoon series to the forefront of the comics medium with his four-colour interpretation of The Herculoids.
“I was working on a pitch for a Herculoids book after DC bought WildStorm,” said McWeeney. “I pitched the idea verbally to one of the editors and they said they would run it by DC. It was going to be an origin story of why the Herculoids existed. I never wrote a full outline, but I remember quite a bit about the basic idea. Anyway, I drew a wraparound cover/promo image just as I got word they were not interested – with really no real explanation as to why.”
Not to get too far ahead, McWeeney begins at the beginning.
“We had a creative meeting at WildStorm a few months after the company was sold to DC Comics,” McWeeney recalled, “and in that meeting were told that DC was looking to exploit the Hanna Barbera properties. For me it was a no-brainer: The Herculoids was my favorite action cartoon as a kid and the one that I’ve always thought would make a great comic.”
“The basic idea was to do an origin story,” McWeeney remembered. “It would open with an old man on his deathbed. he wears the same headpiece as Zandor so without coming out and saying it, the implication is that this man is his father. Tara and Zandor comfort him and just before he dies he passes to Zandor an aged staff.
“The story jumps a few years into the future and we see a very pregnant Tara carrying Dorno. Zandor would is in a field with a flock of grazing animals carrying the staff, not unlike a shepard. The planet they live on is, of course a lush biodiverse utopia. The grazing animals suddenly scatter shortly followed by a thunderous boom and tremors emanating from the horizon. Zandor goes to investigate and finds that their planet has been invaded by a race intent on stripping it of all its resources. He needs to call forth the protectors of their planet, The Herculoids.”
McWeeney delves further into the story itself, “Each of the Herculoids are elementals: Zok (air) Iggo (Earth) Tundro (fire) Gloop and Gleep (water) and would have to be ‘freed’ using the staff, which is actually a giant key, and each Herculoid, once freed would aid in the freeing of the next. So, for example, Zandor climbs to the top of a mountain to a Stonehenge-like setting. There, he uses the key to summon Zok who manifests out of thin air. Zok then flies the two deep into the vast Stone Desert; an endless sea of massive black stones. Zok lands on one; and Zandor, using the key, frees Iggo from inside. Zok then carries Iggo to the planet’s biggest active volcano. Iggo slams his fists into the side of the volcano creating a fissure which releases a molten hot Tundro. Tundro charges down the volcano, runs for miles and miles charging headlong into a massive lake. He sinks to the bottom and finds a huge seaweed covered egg. He blasts the egg with a power stone and frees Gloop who carries Tundro up to the surface. Gleep was going to show up later in the story when Gloop divides in order to save Tara and the unborn Dorno from a group of foot soldiers.”
“The rest of the story would be the Herculoids in battle with the massive harvesting machine the aliens are using to ‘pull a Galactus’ on their planet,” McWeeney added. “The harvesting machine would have been like something out of Mortal Engines, a rolling city. The story was going to end with the birth of Dorno.”
McWeeney had big plans for the much-beloved property, but in his own words, it was “killed rather quickly.” Although no one immediately informed McWeeney of why DC passed on his pitch, he did later get a hint from a friend in another part of the Warner Bros. family.
“A few months later,” said the artist, “a friend I knew who worked in animation said Cartoon Network was developing a revamped Herculoids and that was probably why. He said he’d seen a snippet of an unfinished trailer and it looked very anime influenced. He hated it and I’m guessing others did too – as it doesn’t seem to have gone past that trailer.”
Although his Herculoids story would end up a “Lost Tale,” McWeeney has taken on other notable work since – including just finishing the second book in Insight’s Atomic Frenchie series, Atomic Frenche II: The Cow with the Nuclear Heart.
Lost Tales©2019 Scott Braden. All Rights Reserved