He will drink his super sauce
And throw the bad guys for a loss
And he will bring them in alive and kickin' (buk, buk, buk)
There is one thing you should learn
When there is no one else to turn to
Call for Super Chicken! (buk, buk, buk)
Call for Super Chicken! (buk, awk!)
– Super Chicken Theme Song
The Super Sauce is served in a glass of some sort1 by faithful companion Fred the Lion whenever millionaire chicken Henry Cabot Henhouse III jumps in his Super Coop and flies away from his penthouse apartment2 to do battle with evil. Gotham City may have Batman, but Pittsburgh has Super Chicken. This is thanks to Jay Ward and Bill Scott, the endlessly inventive minds behind Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Dooright, and Tom Slick.
Like all of the Ward/Scott collaborations, Super Chicken satirised genre expectations and modern stereotypes. It also featured, no surprise, the vocal talents of Paul Frees, here doing his Ed Wynn imitations as Fred. Animator/co-writer Bill Scott (otherwise known for 'Bullwinkle the Moose') played the masked superfowl himself, also his alter ego Henry Cabot Henhouse III3. Voice actor Daws (Yogi Bear) Butler4 played all of the supervillains with an astounding variety of accents and impressions. Three voice actors and the loopy animation of Ward/Scott productions doesn't sound like much, but it added up to a lot of laughs for children and adults alike in 1967.
You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.
Super Chicken was part of the George of the Jungle ('Watch out for that tree!') Saturday lineup along with Tom Slick (driver of the Thunderbolt Grease-Slapper and its incarnations as airplane, racing balloon, and even skateboard). Each of the episodes is about six minutes long, which is about as much as anybody can stand of this sort of thing, even kids. After all, narration like this...
Tension filled the air like peanut brittle.
...can only go on for so long. There are 18 episodes, if you count the pilot. Here is a brief rundown of villains and a few spoilers.
Pilot. The pilot is experimental. Super Chicken's alter ego is given as 'Hunt Strongbird', and he has a quite different (and annoying) accent and is rather conceited. He does manage to foil the villain, a rogue chicken farmer by the name of Eggs Benedict. There are more chickens (and dogs) in this episode, and fewer cartoon humans. Pittsburgh is never mentioned. Obviously rewrites were needed. Things got better immediately.
The Zipper. The villain is the fastest human in the world. He is annoyed at finding himself on television. He has a very big bomb.
One of Our States Is Missing. Villain Appian Way steals Rhode Island. Miraculously, someone misses it.
Wild Ralph Hiccup. A Wild West-style holdup man who sounds a lot like John Wayne holds up airplanes, then jumps out to land on his waiting horse. At least, that is his plan. The horse tends to sidestep. This caper requires Super Chicken and Fred to buy a lot of round-trip plane tickets to Miami5.
The Oyster. The world's largest pearl is stolen. Guess what the villain's name is? The dastardly criminal disguises himself as the pearl's mother.
The Easter Bunny. Criminal mastermind Louis Lapin disguises himself as the beloved spring icon in order to rob Pittsburgh's banks and dye all the US money any colour but green.
The Elephant Spreader. The villain is Prince Blackhole of Calcutta. He wants it to snow in India, so he's tipping the planet with strategically placed elephants. It goes downhill from there.
The Geezer. The Geezer has stolen a geyser. Don't ask how or why.
Rotten Hood. Rotten Hood and Fried Tucker are tired of stealing peanuts from the squirrels in Sherwood Park. They decide to rob from the rich...and keep it. This looks like a job for Super Chicken.
The Laundry Man. This is either politically incorrect or a brilliant subversion of a stereotype (the villain is pretty witty), take your pick. Shrimp Chop Phooey is laundering money. Rather literally. [SPOILER ALERT] Super Chicken returns the stolen laundered money to its rightful owners: the crooks who brought it in for laundering. (We never said this show was edifying.)
The Noodle. The Noodle has elaborate plans. Super Chicken has amnesia. Fred has an idea.
The Fat Man. We can see this one coming when we realise that the Maltese Duck has been stolen.
Salvador Rag Dolly. Yes, of course: evil talking dolls that commit robberies. And yes, the villain has that moustache. That doll's voice sounds awfully familiar. Can it be? Yes, it is June Foray, the lady who made all the dolls talk in the 1960s, including Rod Serling's.
Briggs Bad Wolf. A terrible actor, Briggs Bad Wolf now thinks he's a real villain and has kidnapped actress Red Ridinghood. Will Super Chicken stop him before she gets concussion from being used (repeatedly) as a blunt instrument by the demented thespian?
The Muscle. The world's strongest criminal has stolen a diamond-studded dumbbell. Why not? Getting whacked by The Muscle is painful, but 'you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.'
Dr Gizmo. The mad scientist has more gadgets in his hat than Inspector Gadget. Super Chicken is up to the task.
The Wild Hair. A living toupee runs amok, high on stolen hair tonic. It is a fittingly hair-raising end to the series.
How Is This Stuff Relevant to the 21st Century?
Possibly not at all. However, the cartoons are good for a laugh. The dialogue is witty. It's SFW7. It's safe for kids. You can learn a lot about mid-20th-Century cultural baggage from it. Best of all, it's all available free on Youtube. Just search by Super Chicken + the name of the episode on the list. This entry has been a public service of the Edited Guide Earth Edition.