This article is about the character Young Samson. For the TV series, see Young Samson.
Young Samson is a boy who was transformed by magic into a superhero. Designed by Alex Toth, Samson - voiced by Hanna-Barbera veteran Tim Matheson - tours the United States of America, and occasionally foreign countries, on his trusty red scooter with his faithful dog, Goliath, for company.
However, when he is in danger, or when innocents need protecting, Samson bangs his two bronze wristbands together and is transformed into the muscle-bound hero Young Samson (or Mighty Samson in some versions): a modern version of the biblical hero equipped with actual superpowers.
While Hanna-Barbera superheroes have always, with the exception of Space Ghost and Birdman, avoided most of the basic superhero troupes; Young Samson takes this to an extreme and has since become infamous for not having any secret identity or even an origin story.
Despite being retired shortly after his series ended; Young Samson can still be seen occasionally in re-runs on "Cartoon Network" and "Boomerang (TV channel)", and even retains a small but dedicated fan base (especially on YouTube or Deviant Art), particularly in Latin America.
Background and Personal Life
Young Samson's life is shrouded in mystery. Unlike other superhero's, Young Samson has no origin story; although this was common enough amongst Hanna-Barbera superheroes at the time. Indeed, the origin of his powers was never revealed, nor do we know anything about his past life before he began traveling the world fighting crime (although it was stated in one episode that he once played American football).
It's since become a running joke amongst fan's how its never explained how a "boy and his dog are riding around the country with no visible means of support". Indeed its was later stated that far as "Young Samson's actual origin, I don't know if there is one... At its core, this is just a story about a boy and his dog, out on the open road".
But Young Samson is unique amongst Hanna-Barbera superheroes, and superheroes in general, in that Samson is his real name; meaning that he has no secret identity at all! Indeed he would often transform in front of his enemies, with no regard to the fact that they would see who he really was.
Concerning the lack of an alias like other superheroes, this was due to problems in development (see Development & Naming Convention below). Concept artwork for the show produced by Alex Toth shows that, originally, Samson was to be the sole name of the boy's heroic alter-ego, with the his real name being Junior. Another source suggest that the boy's name was meant to be David, although it's unclear whether this is canon or not.
The two-part comic series expanded Young Samson's background; showing Young Samson's hometown, his relationship with the local police, and proving that he lives in an apartment when not traveling. However, it still provided no origin story, details about his personal life outside of his work, or any answers as to how Samson supports himself.
In his true form Samson is a clean-cut young boy, somewhere between the ages of 14 and 18, Caucasian with blue eyes and close-cropped black hair. He's rather slim, but still physically fit.
When transformed into Young Samson, he ages several years and becomes an adult. He also becomes physically huge; his body becomes much more muscular, with broad shoulders and chest atop a narrow waist, and his voice deepens. He also gets taller, growing from 5′10″ to 6′5″ in height.
As one would expect for a superhero based on a biblical character famous for his hairstyle, Young Samson's hair also grows longer, becoming a thick mop that reaches down to the nape of his neck.
Samson's transformation was never seen onscreen due to animation costs. Instead Samson would be swept up in a binding cloud of smoke, lighting and magic dust, and simply emerge as Young Samson.
One fan site theorizes that there was a deliberate attempt to design the character's adult form to be as handsome and attractive as possible; but notes that the distinctive late-'60s haircut (known as the Prince Valiant look) has dated the character and prevents Samson from "looking cool".
Unlike other similar characters, such as Captain Marvel ("Shazam") and He-Man, where it's sometimes uncertain whether the hero remains the same person or if he vanishes upon transforming and a second distinct personality takes over, it is clear that Samson remains the same person, albeit in an altered body.
Samson - in both forms - is a brave young man with a strong sense of justice. Yet unlike other superheroes he rarely hunts down criminals or goes looking for trouble, but only uses his powers in defence of himself, or others he meets on his travels who need help.
His sense of justice also leads him to seek a peaceful solution to problems, such as the episode "Thing from the Black Mountains", where he sends the titular creature back to its native habitat when it was disturbed by outside intervention. He also tries to reason with many of the alien invaders who are trying to colonise the planet.
Samson is also highly educated, associating with professors and other scientists. He's also highly curious, and his travels often involve going to see some famous landmark or investigating some new discovery or invention.
Young Samson has all the traditional superpowers: he can fly, leap tall building with a single bound, possesses enhanced agility and reflexes, can generate shock waves from his hands, and has super strength. He has also proven to be a skilled detective in the comics.
He is also capable of unlocking other, more specific, powers from the wristbands; but these need to be activated individually and can only be used one at a time.
It must be noted that Samson - in his true form - is just as capable as his adult alter ego. While he lack the superpowers of his adult form, he is still capable of some impressive physical feats, and often capable of saving lives without having to transform into Young Samson.
In his true form, Samson wears a white baseball shirt with black stripes, trainers, and blue jeans. His shirt has a distinctive letter S on the left hand side.
When transformed, Samson wears a tight white shirt - open to his waist - with red stripes on the sleeves, white trunks, brown power belt, and brown boots. In both forms he retains his bronze or golden wristbands.
The Wristbands. Arguably the most iconic items in the series are the magical bronze, or gold, wristbands. Exactly who made them, why they were made, how they work, and how they came into Samson's possession has never been revelled. In order to use them, Samson raises his arms over his head and smacks the wristbands together while saying "I Need Samson Power", in order to turn into Young Samson.
Samson can also transform other people and creature as well if he smacks the wristbands together while pointing them at someone. This was used to turn his dog Goliath into a giant Super powered Lion who Young Samson could ride into battle. Whither or not it would work on other animals or people was never explored in the series.
The wristbands can also grant other powers, beyond the basic set that Samson gains when just transforming. Samson needs to activate them by twisting hidden buttons on the wristbands, and he can only use one at a time.
Motor-scooter. Samson travels the world on a red and black scooter with the initial S painted on the front. The scooter was designed by Alex Toth to be contemparory to the 1960s, yet have a futuristic look to it, much like the technology seen in "Jonny Quest".
One fan once wryly observed that there was no motorcycle for him - He's not a hoodlum.
Development & Naming Convention
The show's original title was Samson & Goliath, an amalgamation of two Bible stories, but it was changed to Young Samson early in development to avoid confusion with a rival show, Davey & Goliath, which was airing at the same time.
This, however, has created problems with the naming convention. Many fans have, over the years, pointed out that calling the boy's super heroic alter ego Young Samson made little sense as he actually becomes a grown man when transforming! "young usually refers to minors, not... adults''.
This confussion was apparently rectified in the Portugese dubbed version of the show that aired in Brazil, where the name Young Samson refered only to the boy and his superhero alter-ego was called Mighty Samson. The Gold Key comics would also go on to use the name Might Samson to differentiate between the boy and his heroic alter-ego.
Young Samson was written and animated in a style similar to other Hanna-Barbera adventure shows such as Space Ghost, "Mighty Mightor", and "Shazzan". Young Samson is most similar to the character "Sinbad Jr." Both are boy's who become superhero's via a magic item of clothing, who's origin was never explained. They even share the same voice actor. However, the similarities end there, as Sinbad Jr. only becomes stronger, whereas Samson completely transforms.
He also resembles Butch Cassidy in hairstyle and general facial appearance; although Young Samson is clearly older with broader features and a much thicker neck.
Young Samson (along with Mighty Mightor) has also drawn comparisons with the character He-Man. Like Samson, teenage Prince Adam turns into the adult, muscular superhero He-Man by way of a magical artefact; and both have a pet that becomes a fearsome lion when their powers are activated.
However, it must be noted that Young Samson predates He-Man by at least a decade (He-man began in the 1970s to '80s), so He-Man is actually the imitator; although it's still unclear what influence, if any, Young Samson had on the writers of He-Man.
Young Samson also bears similarities to an earlier character, the Fawcett Comics (later DC Comics) superhero Captain Marvel. Samson hitting bracelets on his wrists to transform himself is identical to how Rick Jones summons the Marvel Comics version of Captain Marvel in the late 1960s and the early 1970s.
Unlike other Hanna-Barbera characters, Young Samson was never developed into his own Gold Key comic series, which was once the custom. Some have suggested that this was due to market saturation, as Hanna-Barbera had produced too many superheroes by this point.
However, he did manage to appear in two short stories in Hanna-Barbera Super TV Heroes #1 & #3 (Gold Key 1968).
In The Magnetic Menace (Hanna-Barbera Super TV Heroes #1), Samson is visiting a friend, Dr. Raytron, who has developed a new magnetic ray which could benefit all of mankind. However it can also be used for crime, as Samson soon discovers when the good doctor is kidnaped by the evil Black Scorpion.
Promptly transforming into Young Samson, he must now rescue Dr. Raytron and prevent the Black Scorpion from using the stolen magnetic ray to harm innocent people in his mad quest for world domination.
In The Cosmic Werewolf (Hanna-Barbera Super TV Heroes #3), Young Samson finds himself framed for a series of bank robberies that were really carried out by what appears to be a werewolf.
Unable to transform back into Young Samson, as his alter ego is now wanted by the police, Samson must find out the truth behind the werewolf sightings and clear his name for good.
Unlike other Hanna–Barbera superheroes such as Birdman, Space Ghost and Johnny Quest, who were all brought back at various points in brand new series there has never been an attempt to bring back Young Samson, and the character has not been seen outside reruns since the original TV/comic series ended.
There was a chance for a potential revival for the character, as Young Samson featured prominently in a proposal for a new comic book series based on the Hanna-Barbera superhero cartoons. But nothing appears to have come from this.
On March 8, 2011, Warner Archive released all surviving episodes of Young Samson (20 episodes in total, with six having been lost over the preceding decades)on region 1 DVD, alongside the Space Kidettes as part of their Hanna–Barbera Classics Collection.
Sadly, the revised syndication versions of these shows are the only ones available for distribution in North America and Europe, as the original network versions were cut and reformatted for the current configuration. These are the versions used for the DVD release.
The series has proved more popular in Latin America, were it original aired on the Brazilian channel, and the series has since had local two DVD releases.
- "I Need SAMSON POWWWEEERRR!"
- "I am dedicated to upholding law and justice."
- "This means the end of your evil career."