“Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan”. There are many variations on this quote, and there is truth to it; for a successful project, many people will wish to claim some part of the responsibility. On the other hand, on rare occasions the reverse is true, and defeat can have a number of fathers, too.
Case in point, the sixth episode in the second and final season of the NightMan television show. Night Man was a character created for the Malibu comic book company, as part of their “Ultraverse”. The Ultraverse was a launch of a variety of interrelated superhero comics, all created by seasoned and respected professionals. It launched in 1993, after having the setting designed by science fiction legend Larry Niven (creator of Ringworld and the Known Space stories, among others.)
There are some great stories about the superhero boom of the early 1990s, where companies like Image, Valiant, Defiant, Continuity and others stepped up to challenge both Marvel and DC, but the important thing here is that it happened, and there was a glut of superhero comics. The Ultraverse was lost in the shuffle, and many of the characters disappeared after their titles were cancelled, only to reappear in the pages of Marvel after Malibu Comics was purchased by them.
But… NightMan. Glen A. Larson, writer/producer of hits like Battlestar Galactica, Magnum P.I., Knight Rider, Quincy M.E., and even B.J. and the Bear (yes, it was a hit show about a trucker and his chimp, and even had a spin-off… it was the 70s and drugs flowed freely in Hollywood) stepped up to the plate again in the late 1990s and turned the Ultraverse comic into a television show. The title character was a saxophonist who was struck by lightning and gained the ability to hear evil thoughts, and to fly (a second power gained solely for television.)
This may sound a little silly, but no more so than many other superhero shows. A special kevlar vest and the partially-telepathic hero was on his way to two seasons of late-night syndication. Unfortunately for him, along the way he had episode six.
NightMan had a rotating style of villain… sometimes it would be mundane but clever criminals, sometimes it would be other super-powered people, sometimes it would be a supernatural being… but in this episode he gets to combat a combination that had previously been the domain of legends like Captain Kirk and Malcolm McDowell. Specifically, he fights a time-travelling Jack the Ripper.
That’s not nearly enough, though. You see, Glen A. Larson didn’t only create hit shows. Some of his efforts were less than successful, and in this episode, Larson decided to bring back one of his prior creations… Dr. Jonathan Chase, a.k.a. Manimal.
Manimal was one of those so-bad-it’s-good television shows which failed due to a combination of complete ridiculousness and poor time slot (it challenged Dallas, a runaway hit at the time.) The show featured a man who, due to his time in Africa, has learned to transform himself into nearly any animal, although with a particular affinity for hawks and black panthers. He used this ability as anyone would, to assist the police in fighting crime.
Due to the fifteen year gap between the shows, few of the Manimal fans knew to watch for his crossover with NightMan, and few of the NightMan fans knew that Manimal had a prior television show. I can only assume that Jack the Ripper story fans simply want to pretend this show didn’t exist. It’s not on Youtube, but it is on Amazon Prime for free, if you’ve got that service. If you wish to slake your curiosity, that’s your easiest venue.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite television superhero show?