Welcome to DJ Clawson's Underdog Home Page!
Welcome to my Underdog page. It's been 8 years, but I seem to remain the only reliable site for Underdog information, so I'm going to update this page soon. Now you can contact me at my corrected email: dj_clawson[at]yahoo[dot]com
What This Is
"The Underdog Show" is a cartoon program that ran in the late 60's and early 70's for 9 years! on NBC, and later CBS (I think). It debuted in 1964 as -- not a bird, nor plane, nor even frog -- but little old Underdog. The character completely personifies the unlikely superhero as a small beaglesque dog with flesh-colored fur, a big, black nose, and big, floppy ears. The name itself paints an unlikely image for a superhero, the word being defined quite simply as, "a contestant or team not expected to win." Add to this an innocent, weak demeanor -- magnified by a milquetoast voice provided by Wally Cox, who made a career out of playing such fragile characters -- and you get the final picture : a scrawwny dog in a baggy, ill-fitting costume, certainly a dubious crime-fighter.
Underdog's alter ego is the humble, lovable Shoeshine Boy. The change from mild-mannered boot-black to superhero always transpires in a token phone booth, and the cry for help invariably comes from the sweet Polly Purebred -- a reporter at a local TV station. Underdog gets his strength from popping pills (notice the decade -- try getting that on TV today), in this case a "Super Vitamin Pill" that he keeps in a compartment on his ring.
His stories were (as with Bullwinkle's adventures) air in short segments, with four or more chapters making up a complete adventure. The style and look of the animation has the same general quality to it as did "The Bullwinkle Show" -- but it is painfully obvious that a different batch of writers worked on Underdog. While Underdog is arguably the quintessential unlikely superhero to ever make it to TV, the stories are rather pedestrian and written especially for kids. (Much of this was taken from "Wild Cartoon Kingdom Magazine Issue # 5)
"The Underdog Show" formally ran on Nickelodeon some five years ago, and had another run on Cartoon Network. It airs currently on Boomerang, Cartoon Network's channel for older cartoons.
Before we begin, let’s establish something: All of these characters are dumb as bricks. They’re all equally dumb, which is what makes the show work (and makes the show funny). Occasionally they have flashes of insight, usually when the plot’s getting thin, that should have occurred hours before.
Underdog – our fearless superhero. Originally created as a cereal box character, somehow he wound up as a character on a TV show staffed by some very bored writers. In the first episode, Underdog is essentially a comic superhero. He tries to rescue a missing child and destroys several buildings in the process. First the mother says the kid is at the bank, so he goes to the bank. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong bank (how should he know? All of the banks are named “BANK” in a plaque outside the door) and he destroys the safe before the manager tells him he should be destroying the safe on the other side of town. When he gets to the right bank, he totals himself into the wall, then the floor, then uses his X-Ray vision to try to find the child in the wall. Unfortunately he forgets that his X-Ray vision sets things on fire (why, I don’t know) and he tries to blow it out with his super-breath, and ends up blowing away the remaining wall. Eventually the kid is found, because there’s no remaining bank left to obscure his hiding place, and the manager couldn’t be more excited/pissed.
That was a pilot. Then there was a series of shorts, and the show moved into it’s regular four-part story format. Underdog became a bit more intelligent, but still was not a guy you would want to call if you were in trouble and happened to be in your house at the time, because he would show up and land badly, breaking all of your stuff. Underdog only speaks in rhyme for some unknown reason, except on a few occasions were he doesn’t get that far in a sentence before something whacks him.
Boy is this guy lucky to exist in a world of clueless idiots, because he has a tendency to do things like blurt out the secret to his powers (a ring containing a strength pill). In one episode he actually gives to the ring to Polly to get it repaired and doesn’t ask for it back before she goes on a long trip, and he has to wander around various crime scenes looking for her, because she’s got his ring. Hey, dork, stop telling everyone how powerless you are. Now is not the time. In fact, you’re a superhero, so there’s never a time. It’s like Superman sending out a press release about kryptonite – its effects on him, how to get it, and how to effectively use it on him.
That was his deal. Underdog got tired, and occasionally, he would get so tired he would forget to take his pill, and Polly would have to remind him. Other times, he would have to remind her, and she would treat this like new information that hasn’t come up in every single episode, which is evidence that she shouldn’t be checking the mail for any Rhode scholarship.
Underdog still is formidable foe – his powers are basically unlimited for as long as they last. He even cheats death somehow in one episode where the villain clearly kills him and even dumps his body somewhere. Villains manage to slow him down, but eventually he comes around, and then beats them up. Fortunately for them, he usually forgets to then drop them off at the police station, so the only thing stopping their next attempt to rob the same bank is stopping by the chemist for Neosporin for their wounds from his beat down. “Damnit, he broke all the bones in my body and scratched my knee. You know what? Let’s put off building that gun that fires snow until I can move again without taking Vicodin.”
Underdog’s a thug more than anything else – he’s not that intelligent, and his solution to almost everything is beating something up, and if it’s not the solution, he’s gonna at least try it before finding the real one. Still, he’s a lovable thug, and he’s oblivious to the physical damage he does to buildings/people/planets/the balance of nature, so we’ll give him a mulligan on this one.
Shoeshine Boy – Underdog’s alter-ego wears glasses and shines shoes. Next to him, Clark Kent is a professional of his industry. Shoeshine Boy doesn’t even have pants or shoes, and makes his living shining shoes for a nickel, which was still not a lot of money in 1967 for the house they show him having in a few episodes. Maybe the source of his income is his rather aggressive sales techniques, as he often enters people’s offices, parties, and houses to ask if they want their shoes shined, usually because they’re discussing plot and it’s important for him/Underdog to be around to hear it. Then he breaks the fourth wall and comments on how he’d better stick around to help out as Underdog. Brilliant. Shoeshine Boy doesn’t speak in rhyme, except when he forgets he’s not Underdog and does. His voice is a little softer and higher, which may be his actual voice. Also, Underdog is a kid? Is he pretending to be a kid or is a kid acting as Underdog? I prefer the latter explanation; it’s less creepy and it might explain why he seems to have the brainpower and over-enthusiasm for breaking things of … well, a twelve-year-old.
Shoeshine Boy, like his alter-ego, has hit jackpot by living in a world where everyone has some kind of short-term memory problem. In various episodes, the writers get Underdog into the storyline earlier than he would have appeared (and sometimes he doesn’t appear until late in act 2 of 4 acts) if they waited for danger by coming up with a flimsy excuse for Shoeshine Boy to accompany Sweet Polly on some dangerous mission. Then the villain rears his head, Shoeshine boy slips behind a rock and becomes Underdog, and proceeds to kick ass. In at least one episode, Sweet Polly scrambles together the collective brain cells to say, “Underdog, what happened to Shoeshine Boy, the other person in our tiny party of adventurers and the only other dog? Last I saw him, he was wandering behind the rock that you flew out of. Huh.” Yup, no investigative skills there. They hired her for her hair. Underdog does what he always does, which is hesitate obviously for a minute and then explain that he carried Shoeshine Boy out of danger before appearing. Then Polly’s short-term memory disorder kicks in, and everything’s fine. She could have stood in for Guy Pierce in Memento.
Shoeshine Boy does not have a real name. Even when they show his house, the name above the bell reads “Shoeshine.” I read on some website that his real name is Jonathan, which I think is hilarious, because I made that up around 1993 and someone thinks it’s a fact. Also, Pluto is no longer a planet. Can we just declare things? OK, I won the lottery. No really, I did. Give me my winnings.
Sweet Polly Purebread – Polly is Lois Lane, if Lois Lane was a dog and more of an anchorwoman than a reporter. And I don’t mean Barbara Walters, I mean the anchorwoman they get to smile for the 5:30 news and say “Good Morning!” even though it’s still dark out. She’s about that talented. She’s also a magnet for trouble. It's sort of a catch-22. If you're embarking on some important mission/journey/scientific experiment and Polly covers it, someone's going to show up to sabotage the whole thing and use it for evil or a monster's going to start smashing things about 100% of the time. On the other hand, she's going to call for Underdog, who'll then show up and defeat the evil scientist/gangster/monster, so you get to meet Underdog. If you lived in this universe, that would probably be pretty cool. It would be great party conversation. "Yeah, so, I was building a rocket that was supposed to go to Mars, but Dr. Bar Sinister stole my fuel cells, Polly Purebread screamed, and Underdog showed up and beat up a crippled hunchback and his retarded sidekick. Right in front of me. Do you believe that? Here, I have a picture stored on my cell phone. It's mainly a blur, but you can see the cape."
Polly and Underdog have a deeply inconsistent, platonically romantic relationship. In one episode, he saves the day and she offers him a kiss as a reward, and he backs away like she has a flesh-eating virus. In other, he happily a kiss on his cheek, but for the most part their relationship is more platonic. Did I say platonic? I meant parasitic. Polly takes on all kinds of dangerous reporting missions (including going to an undiscovered island full of monsters, or being the first woman with no flight training to go to Mars) knowing full well that should anything happen, Underdog has his ear tuned to the frequency of her cry for help. Either she figured that out long ago or she truly is impossibly dumb, because she gets herself into some real whammies. Aliens kidnap her and hold her for ransom. Giant King Kong-like monsters pick her up and wave her around while they destroy cities. Not only does she go to Mars with no training, but the other two astronauts end up being an mad scientist and his sidekick. Really, if 95% of your assignments mean you end up tied up and quite possibly even tied to train tracks or some kind of looming killing machine, you should consider another line of work. She's not going to win a Peabody; she's going to win a Darwin Award.
Riff Raff - Riff Raff is a gangster from the 20's. II say he's from the 20's because he dresses like it and he robs banks. Today gangsters don't rob banks. Even in 1963, when the show went on the air, gangsters already had moved into suspicious financing, drug smuggling, and occasional gambling operations. Now they seem to mainly be in real estate and things that fall of trucks. No, Riff Raff's not about that. He's about taking lots of money or gold bars out of bank vaults. Then he's about getting away with the crime for a short period of time until Underdog figures out what his current scheme is and beats him up. Rinse, repeat. I guess he doesn't have much of a choice, because Riff Raff is a wolf with the voice of a 20's gangster with a minor speech impediment that causes him to talk slowly and put weird emphases on words. There's not a lot of jobs open to a person like that.
Riff Raff doesn't have superpowers, except perhaps his ability to come with a kajillion plans (often several per episode) on how to steal something or how to get away with the stolen goods (which is often harder than stealing it). Apparently once he gets the gold bars, "putting them in the safe downstairs and waiting 6 months" is not an option. No, he's got to get them out in some elaborate set-up where he paints them red and makes a house out of them and puts the house on one of those house-moving flat bed trucks. Then someone sees it and says, "Why is Riff Raff, the guy who steals gold, driving a truck with a house on it?" and it's all downhill from there. Some of his ideas are pretty brilliant, because they take into account the stupidity of every other character on the show. Like the one where he's got to get these swords to a buyer out of the country but he can't mail them (because apparently you can't mail swords - oh wait, you CAN) so he buys a candle-making factory and makes giant candles with swords in them. It would have worked, too, if Polly hadn't decided to walk in the door looking for birthday cake candles. That one was just bad luck on his part. You gotta feel a little bad for him.
Riff Raff lives in a secret complex accessible through a fake door in a tree that's really an elevator. They show it several times. I don't know why he does - maybe it's a "big bad wolf" allusion - but I thought I'd mention it.
Mooch - Mooch is Riff Raff's sidekick, and the only consistent member of his gang. Mooch's sole purpose in life is to listen to Riff Raff's plan and then say, "But Boss - what about Underdog?" And he has a dog name and he isn't even a dog. No wonder he isn't smiling.
Dr. Simon Bar Sinister - Simon holds a special place in my heart for being the only character they got right when doing the movie. I saw the trailer and said, "Wow, this is terrible - oh thank G-d, Simon's in it and it actually looks a little like him." They gave him a back story and everything, but he deserves it. He puts the "mad" in mad science. Simon Bar Sinister is totally, completely, utterly insane. He can't even keep straight what he wants to do - sometimes he wants to take over the world, sometimes he wants all of the money in whatever bank isn't currently being looted by Riff Raff, sometimes he wants Polly to dress up and do some kind of bad dance with Maracas. And the truly wacko ways he goes about doing it are the result of a very bored/inebriated/high writer. Stealing all of the world's water by sucking it up into a single drop? Turning people into snowmen? (Did they just get covered in snowman-type snow or were their bodies actually destroyed and reshaped into snowmen? I was never clear on that) Or the episode where he turns people into Valentine's Day cards. Why? ... I'm not sure, but he did it to Underdog. Slowed that guy down, if only while he tried to comprehend what just happened. ("What did you do to me? I'm in a card now? Are you serious?") Simon also starred in a Cheerios commercial where he planned to ruin cheerios by using a ray gun that would shoot the cheerios and turn them into ... discs that were exactly like cheerios but did not have a hole in the center. So, you get more cereal because the things aren't missing their centers. It's less exciting of a food-shape but it's more product for your money. All I'm saying is, I wouldn't pull out all the stops to capture him and stop that particular maniacal plan.
Simon's catchphrase is "Simon Says ... [do the thing my gun makes you do]!" He also has a sense of humor. One time he rather accidentally hypnotizes Underdog, and is so thrilled at the concept that he orders him to dance like a chicken and make funny faces while Simon and Cad are rolling on the ground with laughter. Then he orders him to steal a whole bank. Then the Empire State Building. Why? Just for the hell of it. Then he gets bored and has Underdog drop the Empire State Building and leer at Sweet Polly. This is his master plan.
Cad - Unlike Mooch, Cad is a great sidekick, because he's alternately
incredibly stupid or incredibly smart, so Simon and Cad can hold up a good
single segment and most of the second segment of a four-part episode on their
own. If it's a Simon episode, Underdog might not get involved until segment 3.
Cad takes about as much joy as tormenting Underdog during a bought of good luck
as Simon does. When they (again, accidentally) cause Underdog to lose his
memory, Cad puts him in a dress and plays tic-tac-toe with Underdog and a set of
bottlecaps. He loses, but who else gets to say they got to play tic-tac-toe with
Underdog while he was wearing a pink dress? There's one for the eventual prison
memoir. The movie also gave Cad a nice treatment, even if they dramatically
changed his voice. He has most of the good lines in the movie, as if the writers
through, "We're bored. Let's make Cad say something that's stupid but hilarious
to move things along."
The Electric Eel - I never really got this guy. He didn't belong. He was in two episodes, but one of them was the one where all of the bad guys teamed up (to no greater success than if they hadn't), so it only sort-of counts. He had the ability to conjure electricity in ways that are understood by writers who don't understand how electricity actually works. He also tried to kill Underdog. Now the other bad guys do some pretty dramatic stuff, but it's all very comical, like turning Underdog into a snowman or framing him for bank robbery and confusing him into thinking he did it. The Eel guy actually kills him and tosses the body in the lake, disobeying Underdog's last wish NOT to be tossed in the lake. Underdog cheats death somehow, but man, what a jerk.
(more to come soon)
Questions I Get Asked About Underdog
Because I have this website, people think I'm some sort of Underdog guru. I'm really not, but the emails keep coming, and many of them are the same questions. So I am going to archive them all on this page. I have sorted them into categories. If your'e thinking of emailing me a question that is already answered in some form on this page, don't do it. I will not have a new answer for you, and I will be annoyed and not respond. If I get any more "Do you know where I can find underdog videos" questions I am taking down this page!
The TV Show
What city does the show take place in?
There's no official word on that, but you'll notice in the comics that the Washington memorial is in the background a lot when Underdog is Shoe Shine Boy, so I would venture a guess of Washington, DC.
How many episodes were there? How can I get them?
According to Joe Harris (the creator of Underdog), there were some 120 episodes. Unfortunately, only about 20 are actually in sydnication on cartoon network for reasons beyond my understanding, and the other 100 are sort of "lost" (as in they're not available anywhere). Most of the 20 are available in some form on video and I heard they're out with a DVD version. Be warned when buying cheap videos that the animation reels have not been restored since the 60s and a lot of the animation/color quality is VERY poor.
What are the lyrics of the Underdog theme song?
Here are the lyrics for Underdog:
There's no need to fear! Underdog is here!
When criminals in this world appear
And break the laws that they should fear
And frighten all who see or hear
The cry goes up both far and near
For Underdog! Underdog! Underdog! Underdog!
Speed of lightning, roar of thunder
Fighting all who rob or plunder
When in this world the headlines read
Of those whose hearts are filled with greed
Who rob and steal from those who need
To right this wrong with blinding speed
Goes Underdog! Underdog! Underdog! Underdog!
Speed of lightning, roar of thunder
Fighting all who rob or plunder
Why isn't there any information on the other cartoons that aired
Because they were lame. Honestly, they were. I don't really care much about them. I'd pay more money for an Underdog tape without them than with them.
Underdog and Underdog's Powers
How does Underdog get his powers?
Underdog has a ring that contains a "vitamin" (not "steroid") pill. When he eats one, he becomes super powerful. When he uses up his powers, he becomes weak and has to take another one to get his strength back. Unfortunately, Underdog's IQ seems to be the same number as the number of letters in his name, so he forgets to take the pill and has to have Polly feed it to him.
Did anyone in the show ever realize Shoe Shine Boy was Underdog?
If anyone ever did, they conveniently forgot or something, because there was never any character development.
How come no one realized Shoe Shine Boy was Underdog?
For the same reason no one ever figured out Superman was Clark Kent. See "glasses."
Did Underdog/Shoe Shine Boy have a real name?
Whenever Shoeshine boy hears a cry for help, he rushes into a phone booth. Now, how does he transform into Underdog when he gets into a phone booth?
Please, it's a friggin' cartoon. Next question.
Why is Underdog scared of being kissed by Sweet Polly? In Monsters From Space ( The big mechanical monsters that have only a glass tube for a brain) She tried to reward him with a BIG kiss BUT he backs away.
My general understanding is that Underdog/Shoe Shine Boy is actually a very shy little kid who is embarrassed easily. But that's just my impression from the show.
For all the heroism he does, he sure does a lot of damage to buildings & all.
Most superheros do destroy things whilst stopping baddies. They even made a joke about this in the episode of The Powerpuff Girls where they moved to a new city and the mayor points out that they destroyed a 2 million dollar bridge while stopping a burglar who stole $300 from a bank. So there.
When Underdog goes into a phone booth, he destroys it whenever he becomes Underdog. Wouldn't the city run out of phone booths if he's always destroying them when he becomes Underdog?
Depends how often he comes Underdog, and how often the city replaces booths. It's probably Washington, DC (see above) so I imagine there's a lot of booths around.
Whenever he becomes Underdog, where does he put his Shoeshine boy clothes or his kit?
Uhm, it's a cartoon. Next question.
In all the shows I have seen, I have never seen him transform back to Shoeshine boy.
I remember an episode or two where he does. Usually the pacing is at the very beginning of the episode, where he's doing some random superhero stuff while the narrator introduces the story, and he changes back and is ShoeShine until the plot comes up again. I could be wrong about this.
Why does Underdog rhyme BUT Shoeshine doesn't? They are both one & the same.
There was a recent Saturday Night Live sketch where host Conan O'Brien was playing Moleculo: The Molecular Man! - a quasi-Superman character (like Underdog). His basic deal (aside from his superpowers) was that whenever someone said his name, he would turn to the camera, which would do a close-up on his face, and he would shout "The Molecular Man!" really dramatically. And I mean every time someone said his name. So when he changed back into his reporter form named Brent Barker, he went to work and his coworkers were of course talking about the bank robbery. The problem was he was so in the habit of shouting "The Molecular Man!" every time the name Moleculo was mentioned, he would do it even as Brent Barker, and people quickly figured out who he was and he had to move to Mexico, where he did the same thing in Spanish by shouting, "El hombre de Moleculo!"
Point of this little story: Shoeshine would have blown his cover or something.
Who did Polly Purebred work for?
Polly worked for a TV station called TTV, a spoof of the real production company that produced the animation. Her boss was named O.J. Squeeze.
I'm trying to find a quote from one of the Underdog episodes where
there is a two headed dragon that something to the effect of "Teamwork,
teamwork, that's what counts...Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha". I know this
is a longshot
but do you know 1) what the orignial quote was and 2) what the name of the dragon was?
I don't really remember. I know what episode you're talking about, and I think your quote is probably pretty right on the money. I don't think the dragon had a name.
What was the name of Simon Bar Sinister's sidekick?
His name was Cad.
What was the name of Riff Raff's sidekick?
I seem to recall something about Simon Bar Sinister haveing a HUGE ROBOT MONSTER that he used to fight Underdog with (& also tried to destroy much of underdog's hometown using, not to mention capturing Polly Purebred with it), & I seem to recall that the same aforementioned monster was featured in the opening title sequence. Any clues about the episode in question?
I have not seen this episode. I have seen the stock footage used in the opening sequence.
The Creator (Joe Harris)
Is there any way I could contact the creator of Underdog so I can tell him I am one of his LONG TIME Underdog fans?
I did meet Joe Harris a few years ago when he made an appearance at a gallery in New York. I have not had any contact with him since and do not have his contact information.
Is there any chance that Joe Harris might decide to resurrect Underdog? (like in Superman when he came back from the dead) Make him better, wiser, less destructive whenever he does his duty? Less destruction of buildings ... etc etc?
A lot of people have emailed me saying things like, "Oh, I work for a company that's making a new Underdog show." But none of these people have been connected with Joe Harris or anyone credible, and obviously nothing has materialized.
Merchandise and Other Paraphanelia
Do you have any images that are not currently featured on this page?
No. No I don't. Stop emailing me! I am no longer answering emails that request pictures of Underdog or anyone else on the show.
Was there an Underdog float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?
Yes there was. It was a big balloon. I don't really know how you missed it.
How can I get Underdog stuff? Like videos?
I don't know. I am not a retailer. Please stop emailing
me this question! Try ebay.
There is also a new site called WickedCoolStuff. They offered me their link.
As mentioned before, Underdog
didn't get a lot of character development in his 9 years of fighting crime,
saving Sweet Polly, and generally kicking all around butt. So I wrote an
story about him for all the fans who've watched in disappointment for so
many years :
I wrote a lot of this stuff while I was on some very heavy medication for my bowel disease. Some of it is very heavy. Please be warned.
Tale of An Underdog
- 97 Kb -
A tale of how a young, homeless dawg (there's a purpose to that spelling) gets himself mixed up in goverment consparies, aliens, and a highly addictive syrum that does some wierd things to him.
The Struggle Within
- 56 Kb -
Co-written by Kage
This one is based off of the events of a SWAT Kat Role Playing Game. It might not be so understandable. Jonathan is sick again, and turns to his friend Mike McKatson for her.
- 9 Kb -
A snapshot of the darkest period of Jonathan's life. Contains extreme profanity
Dark Shadows of the Future
- 38 Kb -
Years after ending his superhero "career," Jonathan Weissman isn't doing
that well -- mentally. But a government project forces him to face is fears
of the past and present.
by Jonathan Cole
- 18 KB -
A small story in a format similar to the show.
by Christopher Teo
- 12 Kb -
A selection from a story called "The Tale of Four Heros." Much of it is based in the world of a SWAT Kat RPG. Sequel to my "Tale of an Underdog."
Not So Sweet Polly Purebread
by Lindsay Moore
- 37 Kb -
This is a darker fanfic about a group of hoodlums who work for Riff
There are very few Underdog pages.
If you have any other Underdog information, images, tapes, a site you would like me to link to, or fanfiction, please e-mail me at dj_clawson at yahoo dot com.
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