When people talk about awesomely powerful heroes and villains, they always turn to the Big Two of comic books. Maybe a few invoke anime figures like Goku or One Punch Man, or indie darlings like Spawn or TV titans like Buffy Summers. Then there's that one friend will wax his mustache while ruminating on how “No hero has ever surpassed the classic Japanese kamishibai hero Ogon Bat, who actually predates Superman by several years.”
But even Hipster McGee up there would neglect to mention some of the most formidable, and formative, heroes in the minds of anyone raised by TV: the heroes of Hanna-Barbera. From Quick Draw McGraw and Johnny Quest to SWAT Kats and the Powerpuff Girls, these colorful cartoons had casts of capable characters who could square off with any caped crusader, so we surveyed all the fare Hanna-Barbara had to offer. Of course, “strength” is subjective, and with so many meanings (brute force, speed, quick wit), any attempt at ranking will be rife with uncertainty. However, after this epic binge-session, we know two things for sure: 1) It’s really creepy that everyone is white in the Jetsons’ future world, and 2) these are the most impressive and powerful fighters in all of Hanna-Barbera.
16 GLEEP & GLOOP (THE HERCULOIDS)
Right out of the gate, we’re gonna make a controversial call. The tweets are already firing off: “How you gonna look at a team that’s got Zok the flying space dragon, Tundro the rhino/triceratops with a horn cannon, and Igoo the rock ape, and pick out the Homestar Runner-looking creampuffs?”
Well, just hear us out: Gleep and Gloop, the pair of protoplasms with the garbled voices, were seemingly impervious to damage. They could absorb energy blasts and physical blows, contorting their gelatinous bodies to act as shields or soften impacts. they could even stretch to ensnare a foe, and straight up choke a dude out while Tundro was just blasting off his little potato gun horn.
15 THE SUPER GLOBETROTTERS
The Harlem Globetrotters have a rich history of contributions to animation, from their appearances with Scooby-Doo to forcing Krusty the Clown into near-bankruptcy. However, you may not remember that the Globetrotters also hit the small screen as superheroes in a failed 1979 cartoon, The Super Globetrotters.
The super-team was made up of real Harlem Globetrotters (none of whom were voiced by their namesake player), including Nate Branch as “Liquid Man,” who could turn into water; Freddie “Curly” Neal, who could retract his limbs into his basketball-shaped head and bounce; and Louis “Sweet Lou” Dunbar, whose magical afro contained various helpful items. Sure, every conflict was solved with basketball, but it worked for the Toon Squad, right?
14 ACE (THE POWERPUFF GIRLS)
Far be it from us to suggest that any member of the Gangreen Gang is inherently imposing in any physical sense. Rather, the most impressive element of these fearsome foes is their ability to take endless lickings and keep on ticking. Indeed, Ace and the boys have been squaring off against the Powerpuff Girls since their original short film.
As evidenced by the episode “Power Lunch,” wherein the gang inherits destructive super powers, their propensity for pure evil is their greatest strength. Additionally, Ace is all the more threatening for his ability to escape the confines of the cartoon itself, as he's currently sporting a switchblade and rocking the bass in the virtual band Gorillaz.
13 RACE BANNON (JONNY QUEST)
Your memories of Jonny Quest may range from “That show was awesome!” to “That was some racist a** bull****” (for the record, both would be correct). However, what’s undeniable is that Race Bannon might be the ultimate action hero.
Inspiring everything from South African hero Jet Jungle to Venture Bros. standout Brock Samson, Roger T. “Race” Bannon is the definitive action hero of '60s animation, throwing haymakers and protecting his young ward Jonny. Interestingly, while many just assume Bannon is a family friend of the Quests (or a “special friend” as implied in an episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law), Race was actually a special agent for the US Government, assigned to protect Jonny from falling into “the wrong hands.”
12 EL KABONG (QUICK DRAW MCGRAW)
Imagine a character who shows up in every scene strapped with a six-shooter, whose most deadly weapon is a six-string guitar. A spoof of Zorro, El Kabong is Quick Draw McGraw’s masked alter-ego, a mix of Batman and Cornholio, swinging onto the scene and leaving destruction in his wake.
Sure, some of the other heroes on this list are more traditionally “tough,” but few can strike as much fear into the hearts of fierce foes, or people in the wrong place at the wrong time, as when Kabong lets loose a mighty “Ole!” and swings onto the scene. Considering how often he’s pulled a Pete Townshend on people, El Kabong might be responsible for more brain-damage than the NFL.
11 BLUE FALCON (DYNOMUTT, DOG WONDER)
Chances are, modern audiences know Blue Falcon more from Scooby-Doo, Dexter’s Laboratory or the demented and dead-on Spielberg parody “Laff-a-Munich” from Robot Chicken than from his original TV roots. Yet, for a Batman stand-in playing second fiddle on his own show, Blue Falcon was a cut above many of the DC knock-offs filling the Saturday morning void.
Having access to an array of gadgets, not the least of which was a sentient robot dog due to make an appearance on this list, art dealer Radley Crown would answer the call to arms known as the Falcon Flash. More straight-laced in his early appearances, Blue Falcon would receive a Frank Miller-ized reboot on the show Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated.
10 MOJO JOJO (THE POWERPUFF GIRLS)
Easily the most recognizable villain in Powerpuff Girls history, Mojo Jojo is also the foe with an origin closest to his enemies'. The genesis of Mojo Jojo is Miltonian in nature, a “first draft” given sentience by Professor Utonium, cast aside in pursuit of his more perfect creation, the Powerpuff Girls.
Jojo is inarguably the smartest and most determined foe the girls have ever faced, both due to his personal vendetta and his oversized brain, masked by his helmet. Though possessing no super powers, Jojo uses his massive intellect to craft technological weapons akin to Lex Luthor; and much like that infamous billionaire, his ego is often his undoing.
9 THE IMPOSSIBLES
This may surprise you, but in the late ‘60s, mop-haired British rock bands were remarkably popular. Wanting to blend that with the ongoing superhero craze, Hanna-Barbera decided to pair their towering Frankenstein Jr with “The Impossibles.”
The Impossibles were a trio of crime-fighters masquerading as a mod-rock band, though somehow all their songs featured percussion while all three only played guitar. Their powers included an elongated, coiling body, being able to turn into water and being able to multiply. Now, some of you may have noticed those same powers belonged to three of the Super Globetrotters that came roughly a decade later. In fact, Hanna-Barbera even straight up redrew animation from The Impossibles to fit that new series.
8 GALTAR (GALTAR AND THE GOLDEN LANCE)
No one is going to judge you for not remembering Galtar. Produced in the lost years of 1980s Hanna-Barbera, Galtar and the Golden Lance was a rushed and desperate attempt to keep up with the popularity of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
Yet, in spite of its cynical roots, Galtar had gorgeous animation, even if every frame seemingly contained the muttering of a frustrated animator saying “This is what you little S.O.B.s want.” With the help of his magical Golden Lance, the fierce Galtar fended off the conquering ways of the evil Tormack right up until his unceremonious cancellation.
Essentially the sidekick of the aforementioned Blue Falcon, Dynomutt was not only the title character of their show, Dynomutt Dog Wonder, but easily more powerful than his partner/owner. Like a blend of Inspector Gadget and Scooby Doo, Dynomutt was equipped with every gizmo imaginable, ready to help his master at a moment’s notice.
Sure, he was very much a screw-up, often times creating more problems than he solved, but the raw potential of Dynomutt is undeniable. His remarkable power was made more evident when, in an episode of Dexter’s Laboratory, the damaged Dynomutt was copied into a more “efficient” form that was virtually unstoppable in his extreme quest for justice.
6 MOLTAR (SPACE GHOST)
One of Space Ghost’s greatest foes in the context of his original series, and one of the most memorable villains outside of it, Moltar has endured with an air of menace his fellow villains haven’t. In the original show, the mad genius Moltar commanded the Magma Men, and even successfully banished Space Ghost to a seemingly inescapable planet.
In the ‘90s, when Moltar teamed up with fellow foes Brak and Zorak on Space Ghost Coast to Coast, he was the only one who was permitted to keep an air of “cool” while his cohorts were converted to buffoons. In fact, the diligent producer Moltar even served as the original host of the anime block Toonami before the robot TOM took over.
5 HIM (THE POWERPUFF GIRLS)
While Mojo Jojo may be more recognizable, HIM is by far the most memorable PPG villain for any kid who grew up with the show. Creator Craig McCracken dubbed the androgynous devil his favorite, Huffington Post writer Lauren Duca declared him “the most disturbing villain in cartoon history,” and we’re gonna say it right now: HIM is the most powerful and imposing villain in Hanna-Barbera’s catalogue.
What makes HIM a cut above the rest? For starters, he’s the literal devil, at least according to McCracken’s original shorts. His very name strikes fear into the hearts of men, a fear he feeds on. He’s the only villain the PPG are afraid of, as his evil is one without selfishness or greed, one motivated purely by a hunger for the apocalyptic.
Who is the man in the suit? Who is the cat with the beak? Before he inspired Rick & Morty’s beloved Birdperson, before he conquered Adult Swim with the perfect Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law (set to return with a new special in the fall of 2018), before he infamously tousled with Wesley Willis: Birdman was actually a pretty solid superhero.
A lot of the shows lampooned on Adult Swim were relics of a bygone era, but the early Birdman cartoons actually somewhat hold up thanks to the compelling powers of the titular hero. Gathering energy from the sun for his powerful wrist-rays, Birdman is as intense fighting crime as he would later be in court.
3 SPACE GHOST
Undeniably the most versatile and storied superhero in Hanna-Barbera canon, the Alex Toth designed, space-dwelling superhuman known as Space Ghost has endured for decades. Beginning in earnest in 1966, voiced by Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In announcer Gary Owens, Space Ghost was the typical stoic hero, traveling around with child companions and fighting crime.
After a return in the ‘80s with Space Stars, the character was revamped for Cartoon Network’s late-night TV block as a talk show host with Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and later the family friendly Cartoon Planet, imbued with an absurdist spin and voiced by George Lowe. However, recently DC Comics reminded us of the remarkable power and dramatic potential of the titular hero in books like Future Quest and Green Lantern/Space Ghost.
Hey, we get the confusion. How on earth is some obscure, forgotten Hanna-Barbera character from a culturally insensitive show getting ranked over Space Ghost and Birdman? Is it all just an excuse to get around content guidelines to say Kaboobie? Well, of course not. We would never find an cheap excuse to mention Shazzan’s flying camel friend Kaboobie.
No, Shazzan, the genie summoned by two Maine teenagers via a magic ring, is so highly ranked because he’s quite possibly the most powerful character ever created. Just short of a god, Shazzan is indestructible, all-knowing and able to manipulate the very fabric of reality itself. Indeed, the only limitation the character has is being at the beck and call of two dorky kids.
1 THE POWERPUFF GIRLS
The minute you say that name, it gets stuck in your head. “Fighting crime, trying to save the world. Here they come, just in time. The Powerpuff Girls!” There were Hanna-Barbera superheroes before, but these colorful triplets took it to a whole other level.
With the PPG, nothing ever felt trite or derivative. Their adventures never felt repetitive, their foes and the means to defeat them always varied. The Powerpuff Girls are Hanna-Barbera’s mightiest fighters because of their mix of brains, brawn and heart, each exemplified by one of the girls. Like groundbreaking heroes before them, the PPG redefined what a hero could be and look like for a generation without ever sacrificing the raw and formidable power of our finest superheroes.