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Friday, August 07, 2009

Undersea Heroes: Postscript

Last Friday, we wrapped up our Undersea Heroes Week with Harvey Comics' anemic underwater hero Pirana. At the end of the post, I mentioned a half-dozen other water-based heroes I hadn't gotten to, like Amphibian, Abe Sapien, Marina, and some others.

In the comments, F.O.A.M. member Brian Heiler added "
Don't forget Filmation's Manta."

When I read that, I thought, "What the heck is Brian talking about? Who's 'Filmation's Manta'?"

So I did some research, and found that Manta--and his female partner Moray--was part of the Filmation Saturday Morning show Tarzan and the Super 7:
...now, I remember watching that show, but I have absolutely no memory of Manta, Moray, or the show. Maybe my opinion of the show at the time mirrored most of America's--apathy. Manta and Moray only lasted seven episodes, before disappearing forever.

While I love having (re?)learned of this character, since he definitely should've been added to last week's Undersea Heroes Addendum list, he really doesn't rate a whole special post all to himself like this, so what makes him so special?

Well, I learned in my research that Manta was a wee-bit too similar to Aquaman for DC's tastes, causing DC to actually sue Filmation for trademark infringement!

The suit was
DC Comics, Inc. v. Filmation Assoc., 486 F. Supp 1273 (S.D.N.Y. 1980), and here's what the jury found:

"Protectable 'ingredients' recognized in this circuit include
the names and nicknames of entertainment characters, as well as their physical appearances and costumes, but not their physical abilities or personality traits. The failure of any court so far to grant Lanham Act protection for character traits or abilities makes sense since it is difficult to see how such intangible qualities, having an infinite number of possible visible and audible manifestations, can achieve that fixture or consistency of representation that would seem necessary to constitute a symbol in the public mind."

Which basically meant Filmation did infringe on DC's trademark of Aquaman. According to a quote from Andy Mangels on the show's
Wiki page, "Due to lawsuits from Marvel Comics and DC Comics, Superstretch and MicroWoman, Manta & Moray and Web Woman have been withdrawn from distribution, and probably do not exist in the ER library at all. I don't think Hallmark ever transferred them. Very sad."

Indeed, when episodes of the series were released it on DVD, only the Freedom Force, Batman, and Jason of Star Command segments were included.

But fear not, Manta and Moray fans! Thanks (again!) to Brian and his blog Plaid Stallions, here's a few minutes of Manta and Moray:

Hmm...Manta can only be out the water a short time, has a walrus sidekick, and spends a lot of the adventure captured by the bad guy? Seems like Aquaman to me!

The reason I'm spending so much time on this very obscure character is the lawsuit was probably the most energy and care DC put towards Aquaman, ever--I mean, think about it: they cared about Aquaman* enough to file a lawsuit to stop the production of a pretty silly knockoff. I thought only Superman and Batman got that kind of respect!

Thanks, Manta and Moray--we hardly knew ye.

(*oh, okay, and Plastic Man, since he was part of the suit, too)


Wings1295 said...

Only have the very vaguest of memories of this character or show.

And Rob, please don't feel like you have to apologize to us for some posts that are about super-obscure characters or mere footnotes in Aqua-history. You are doing a 365-day-a-year blog about Aquaman! I think you need to use some days on the smaller aspects! :)

Plaidstallions said...

I never DC actually sued before, wowsers.

The original drawing of Manta in a comic ad, had him as a blonde man with a beard. Filmation seemed to have a change of heart with his design.

As for "Super Stretch", it was more of an elongated man scenario, seeing as he and his wife solved mysteries...

Siskoid said...

I remember the walrus for sure. And the girl I think.

rob! said...


yeah, Super Stretch seems more like EM, but in the lawsuit DC alleges its more like Plastic Man, who was a bigger star, I guess.

Poor Manta and Moray, locked away in a vault somewhere, probably never to be seen again!

Rick L. Phillips said...

I never saw this series so this is the first I heard of it. Thanks for the you tube link it was fun to watch and really showed how they did rip off Aquaman. Did Filmation think that they had forgotten about Aquaman and Plas or Elongated Man?
They may have been ripping off Elongated Man but in a round about way it may have been doing it to Plas too. I don't know if this is true but I read that Julie Schwartz wanted to use Plas in a story but didn't know that DC owned his rights. So he had the writer create Elongated Man. When he found out they did have the rights Julie said if he had known Elongated Man would never have been created.
Loved the undersea heroes segments. Maybe I will do the samething one day on Plastic Man Platitudes or Let's Rap With Cap!

Vincent Paul Bartilucci said...

I definitely remember Tarzan and the Super 7! And, a point of clarification, Manta and Moray's pet was a seal.

Okay, not VERY different but y'know ...

Sphinx Magoo said...

I remember Manta and Moray... I thought Manta looked more like Marvel's Triton even though there was a real Filmation Aquaman vibe to the setup. I remember having a crush on that very 70's Moray!

Thanks for the memories!

Chris Faccone said...

I think she looks like Marvel comics Namora redesign. It is more of a rip of Namora then Aquaman. People forget, Namor and Namora were one of.. if not the first underwater heroes. Way before Aquaman. Manta looks like Namor in a costume too. Same eyes and ears. Just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't elongated man superstretch was like. Like plastic man he could sssume other shapes and forms. Em can only stretch.

Anonymous said...

i'm originally from israel,which in the 70' and 80' had one channel...so not near the american abundance of cartoon shows,but tarzan and super 7 was HUGE, together with popeye they were my favorite cartoons ever...freedom force and manta & moray were my favorite segments.. in that time the popular kids show,(live action) were 6 mil$ man and secrets of isis,who was in the cartoon Space Sentinels, and she (apparently) assembled the Freedom Force in the super 7.. took me years to find that show again..i remembered isis in a cartoon so i found space sentinels,but something was missing...i remembered a heroes team up but also a number in the intro like fantastic 4(which arrived later to our lonely channel)took a bit more digging till ive found the super 7:)
you forgot to mention that prior to this show DC & Filmation were supposed to produce a cartoon series staring Aquaman,Plastic man and few DC heroes team up like Isis,but the deal collapsed... Filmation decided to go on with it,they came to a conclusion (legal?) that if they change the faces and costumes they couldn't be suied..this legal case is still studied today,worth googling...so DC didnt protect aquaman,they protected their "assets" for the future,dealing with other production companies,and proved that the rights are for the character of the characters,their treats, not the costumes or the skin color,as Filmation did here...sorry if it was a long one,but i have aquestion,also.. someone here maybe knows if there was a comics with manta and moray?? i'm still looking for it..cheers