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The Superfriends

The Superfriends

Superfriends Overview

Superheroes had disappeared from the network airwaves due to their perceived violent content in the late 1960’s. Noting their high ratings during the time they aired, however, the networks still had some interest in t e genre… provided they could be done non-violently.

To further solidify the possibility of their return, two networks experimented with the genre in 1972: CBS aired two hour-length episodes of the number-one rated New Scooby-Doo Movies with Batman and Robin as guest-stars; ABC aired two episodes of Filmation’s Brady Kids series with Superman and Wonder Woman. All four scored high ratings for their respective networks.

ABC saw the potential in commissioning nonviolent, moralistic adventures utilizing Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman, (the aquatic hero having already been established as a television star in his own Filmation-produced series.) Underlining the show’s moralistic approach, the group’s comic book name, The Justice League of America, was downplayed in favor of the more friendly group name Super Friends.

Added to the team to aid audience identification with the series’ leads were the Junior Super Friends: Wendy, Marvin, and a Scooby-Doo surrogate, Wonder Dog. With Hanna-Barbera stylistic master Alex Toth, the designer of the vast majority of Hanna-Barbera’s other superheroes in the 1960’s, supervising a team of Australian animators the series premiered on ABC in the fall of 1973 and was one of the few Saturday morning series to receive regular primetime promotion. Battling well-meaning, but misguided, environmental critics, the series ran for two seasons before cancellation in the fall of 1975. It was brought back by ABC as a midseason replacement in January, 1976. When a half-hour version of the original hour length stories scored surprisingly high ratings, the show was revived first as a half-hour, then as The All New Super Friends’ Hour.

This was a surprise mostly due to its airing at the previously unheard of time of 6:30 A.M. – when kids weren’t even thought to watch television.

Junior Superfriends Wendy and Marvin were later replaced in the latter 70’s with Zan and Jayna, two shape shifting twins from the planet Exxor.

THE ALL-NEW SUPER-FRIENDS HOUR

ABC, 1977-1978 Super Friends got a revamp in 1977, with new episodes, amid kid-friendly shorts including Safety Tips, Crafts. Magic Tricks and Super Friends Decoder Plots.

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS

ABC, 1978-1979 In September 1978, the Super Friends changed concept again becoming Challenge of the Super Friends on ABC. Superman and his Justice League colleagues found themselves battling the 13 member Legion of Doom composed of DC Comics supervillains like Superman foes Lex Luthor, Braniac, Toyman, and Bizarro, and Batman foes like the Riddler and Scarecrow. This incarnation was by far the most popular of the series run.

Challenge of the Superfriends was a weekly battle of wits between the Superfriends and the Legion of Doom. Featuring: Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Black Vulcan, Apache Chief, and Samurai. The members of The Legion of Doom were: Lex Luthor, Cheetah, the Riddler, Captain Cold, Bizarro, Brainiac, Toyman, the Scarecrow, Grodd the Super-Gorilla, Black Manta, Solomon Grundy, Sinestro, and Giganta.

Challenge of the Superfriends was a groundbreaking series in a sense, as it was the first series since the late 1960’s to feature supervillains whose sole purpose in life was to destroy the heroes and conquer the world. Each week, the Legion managed to escape capture at the end of every story. Standards and Practices objected to their always getting away, so in the last few episodes they were occasionally captured at the end of the story. The last episode of the series was heavily objected to by the Standards and Practices and ABC: “History of Doom” basically showed the Legion of Doom, while trying to destroy the Superfriends, destroying the world, along with themselves, in the process. When it was pointed out that “destroying the world” was not an imitable act that a child could do, the episode stood. So successful was Challenge of the Superfriends that the hour series was expanded to 90-minutes in mid-season of that year, 1978.

THE WORLD’S GREATEST SUPERFRIENDS

ABC, 1979-1980 The fourth incarnation of the Super Friends faced occasional comic book villains mined in with literary characters and settings such an Frankenstein and the Land of Oz.

THE SUPERFRIENDS HOUR/The Super Friends

ABC, 1980-1984 The fifth version of this series featured a whopping 24 new episodes, which would have been exciting, except they were only seven minute shorts. From 1980-1984 episodes ran as The Super Friends.

SUPER FRIENDS: THE LEGENDARY SUPER POWERS SHOW

ABC, 1984-1985 To tie in with the Kenner toy line, the entire series was revamped in 1984, adding Firestorm to the team, and focusing on Darkseid and his minions as villains. Adam West once again returned to voice Batman.

THE SUPER POWERS TEAM: GALACTIC GUARDIANS

ABC, 1985-1986 As the Super Friends were overhauled to match the Kenner toys, Cyborg joined the team, and stories became slightly more adult. In fact, the episode, “The Fear.” found the Scarecrow causing Batman horrifying flashbacks of his parents’ murder.

Wendy & Marvin

Wendy & Marvin in “Superfriends”

Junior Superfriends Wendy & Marvin made their debut in 1973 in the first season of Superfriends. Wendy was practical and intelligent while Marvin was well-meaning, but prone to falling into trouble. Accompanied by Wonder Dog, the super-heroes-in-training worked with the Superfriends in an effort to become heroes in their own right.

Junior Superfriends Wendy and Marvin were later replaced in the latter 70’s with Zan and Jayna, two shape shifting twins from the planet Exxor. It took over 30 years for Wendy & Marvin to cross over into DC comic book continuity; In 2006, Wendy and Marvin became caretakers of Titans Tower in Teen Titans (third series) #34.

Robin in “Superfriends”

ABC, 1973-1977 – Having tried out Superman and Wonder Woman in “The Brady Kids” and Batman and Robin in “The New Scooby-Doo Movies,” Hanna-Barbera felt the time was right for a new superhero teams cartoon. “Super Friends” lasted a whopping 13 seasons, in different incarnations. Each included Batman & Robin.

The idea of recycling cartoons for an ever-changing audience of young viewers reached its apogee when Hanna-Barbera introduced the Super Friends show on ABC in 1973. Loosely based on the Justice League, the show featured Superman (Danny Dark), Batman (Olan Soule), Robin (Casey Kasem), Aquaman (Norman Alden) and Wonder Woman (Shannon Farnon), along with Wonder Dog and a couple of kids named Marvin and Wendy. After running for years, Super Friends was followed on ABC by The All-New Super Friends Hour (1977), Challenge of the Super Friends (1978), The World’s Greatest Super Friends (1979) and Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show (1984). Actors came and went, but Casey Kasem stayed on forever.

Batman and Robin reflected the live-action 60s versions of the characters. Absurd bat-devices and pun-riddled dialogue were in full force. Robin was Batman’s trusted sidekick, and was never at a loss for an exclaimation that started with “Holy…”

Animated Gallery (click to enlarge):

 


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End of titanstower.com transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind titanstower.com. He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author