Here we go again, fellow Float Fans! It’s that day of the week, and time for the greatest bucket wearing hero of the twentieth century (and 2nd greatest bucket wearing hero of all time!) HOVERBOY! This week: Hoverboy goes DIGITAL!
We start with the Hoverboy: FLOATING FIGHTER video game of 1982, manufactured in the EXCITE-O-VISION format from Softie Games. This unique format promised to be the first home-system 3-d graphics on the market, with an effect that was described by the designers as “graphics floating in front of your very eyes”. Naturally with a slogan like that, they set their sites on the leading floating character in the super-hero market to launch their fledgling game company.
When Superman turned down Softie Games, they tried to get the license for Captain Marvel, and then Hawkman, followed by Dr. Fate, Ghost Woman, Sky-Man: The Helium Filled Detective, Thor, Casper the Friendly Ghost, The Blimp (from the Inferior Five), The Specter, Dr. Strange, Dr. Druid, Flight Boy, and a character I’ve never heard of elsewhere called “FLOATY: Clown Chimp of the Stratosphere”.
Eventually Softie settled on Hoverboy, and the rest is long forgotten history.
The first impediment to success was the design of the basic game. Though the three-dimensional graphics of the EXCITE-O-VISION format were quite spectacular, the simple geometric figures and low-pixel backgrounds made the game seem dreadfully old fashioned for the sophisticated gamers of the eighties. To top it all off, HOVERBOY: FLOATING FIGHTER was originally test marketed only in the poorer counties of Louisiana and Georgia, a population made up mostly of low income African-American families, who had little or no awareness of Hoverboy, or indeed computer games for the home at that time.
The test-market scores for the game were exceedingly low, and the two phrases most often spontaneously given in written reviews were “Can I get my money now?” and “What the hell? Who would do this for FUN?”
HOVERBOY: FLOATING FIGHTER was never released, and the money spent in developing it was lost. Softie Games president, Lionel Jackson, was devastated by the adventure and swore off the game industry forever to his family and friends, mere moments before he was hit by a bus.
Another tragic loss, blamed on the HOVERBOY curse, by those too uneducated to know better. Blamed on a drunken bus driver named Clement McManus, by the coroner for the city of San Fransisco, where the accident happened.
Above is one of the more public tributes given to Hoverboy in recent years. For fans of the movie “THE INCREDIBLES” there’s a moment near the beginning of the film, when Mr. Incredible heads up to his attic retreat, to wax nostalgic for his heroic past. Eagle eyed Hoverboy fans like myself instantly noticed the clear nod to the Battlin’ Bucket on the top shelf to the right of the door. Is that a HOVERBOY helmet up there? It looks like the late sixties version, though it’s hard to say, considering how often the design changed from show to show, or even comic to comic. At any rate, Incredibles Director, Brad Bird, is a well known Hoverboy fan, and has mentioned him in many interviews, so the familiar helmet isn’t all that unexpected. Hoverboy references abound in Bird’s work, including The Simpsons, Iron Giant and Ratatouille (look for ‘em yourself, once you know they’re there, they’re easy to spot!)
As always, head on over to the nearly abandoned HOVERBOY MUSEUM for more about the history and future of this amazing and popular character from the world of Superheroes.
Coming up: More Marvel March Madness as soon as I scan the Spidey Stuff.
Ty the Guy