SDCC '08 - 'Greatest American Hero Returns' Panel

William Katt

The three original cast members from the '80s superhero show Greatest American Hero had fans cheering at a panel celebrating the show and the upcoming comic book on Thursday at San Diego Comic-Con.

William Katt, Connie Sellecca, and Robert Culp were on the panel, with Culp drawing a standing ovation when he was introduced. Several fans in the audience were wearing T-shirts and costumes honoring Katt's role as Ralph Hinkley, a teacher who is given a supersuit to save the world but loses the instruction manual.

"I remember the first time I put that red suit on... I was mortified. However, I get it now. I had no idea at the time that this show would strike such a chord in the hearts of fans out there," Katt said. "We really have a lot more to say, and we didn't get a chance to say it. Now we're going to say it with the release of the comic books for The Greatest American Hero."

As reported on Newsarama earlier this week , a six-issue volume of Greatest American Hero comic books will be released later this year, as well as a series of animated shorts for the internet and cell phones. The revival of the series is a precursor of what series creators are hoping will be a live-action film, which already has a director attached, a script written, and funding secured.

Katt is now the founder of Catastrophic Comics, a new comics publisher that that launched with the comic Sparks in June and is co-publishing the Greatest American Hero comic with Arcana Studios. Also on the panel were his co-writers on Greatest American Hero, Christopher Folino (Sparks) and Sean O'Reilly.

Culp compared Greatest American Hero to the legend of King Arthur. "To be frank with you, I got it in the pilot reading it. This is a retelling in modern terms of the Merlin/Arthur legend," he explained, comparing his character to the idea of a Merlin mentor. "Merlin taught Arthur how to pull a sword out of the stone, and bossed him around thereafter.

"In modern terms, it just made sense. This was a schoolteacher. He hated the suit. And the dummy lost the instruction book... So the conflict was automatic," Culp said. "I was just wanting to kill rotten Reds and that kind of stuff, when that was fashionable. We had above and beyond everything else, a lot of fun."

Sellecca said it was "unusual" to play opposite this type of superhero because it was also a humorous story, something that led to the cast having a lot of fun. "For me, this role was a joy. It was a joy to work with these guys. And I was reminding Robert that he used to call me 'The skirt,'" Selleca laughed. "Of course, I was the voice of reason, the character they would come to when they tried to figure out what was going on."

Dennis McCaw, director of marketing for Catastrophic Comics, was also on the panel, as well as Dennis "Danger" Madalone, who was the stunt man on the show. "Every time there was a fall in the script, I had the choice of getting knocked into a tree or a car or a truck," Madalone said.

A video statement was played from series creator Stephen J. Cannell, whose Emmy was visible on his desk. Cannell was the creator of television series like Hunter, Quincy M.E., and The A-Team, which is being made into a live action movie.

"Over the years, the people have continued to love this series. I put it out recently on DVD, and it flew out of the stores," Cannell said. "I've done over 40 TV series. The Greatest American Hero outsold all of them."

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