An earlier version of this piece originally was posted at BOOKSTEVE'S LIBRARY in 2006.
In August of 1968 we got our very first color television set just in time for that month’s debut of Cincinnati’s first commercial UHF station, WXIX-TV Channel 19. XIX quickly became a kids’ paradise in the late afternoon starting with Larry Smith’s puppets and soon adding CAPTAIN FATHOM, JOHNNY CYPHER, THE MARVEL SUPERHEROES, PRINCE PLANET and my favorite, ULTRAMAN.
ULTRAMAN was an early Japanese import. In the Americanized version it told the story of Hayata, a member of the THUNDERBIRDS-like Science Patrol who was involved in an accident with a giant spacecraft. The ship’s occupant saves Hayata’s life by merging with him. He then gives the Earthman a "Beta Capsule" which, when held to the sky enabled Hayata to actually become the giant hero in a time of need.
And need there was! As anyone who ever saw a GODZILLA film knows, giant monsters somehow gravitate toward Japan on a regular basis and there were many! Hayata and the other members of the Science Patrol (who, in the classic tradition were not privy to his secret identity) would try to take them on but inevitably Ultraman would be called on to save the day.