Super Friends Season One Volume One (WB)
Super Friends Season One Volume Two (WB)
If you ever wanted to see how far the 70s sunk action-adventure animation, one needn’t look any farther than here. The year is 1973. It’s been five years since Peggy Charen’s Action for Children’s Television started its campaign to take the likes of Space Ghost, Jonny Quest, the Filmation Superman/Aquaman Hour and Romper Room off the air as not good for children. Instead of the original Scooby Doo Where Are You? and The Herculoids, kids got The Groovy Ghoulies and Here Comes The Grump.
As for superheroes? They sort of existed in a half-life, censored to the point of near castration, not even allowed to punch a villain.
For the record, Super Friends consisted of the five top heroes in the DC Comics Universe of that time, Superman, Batman & Robin, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. The Dynamic Duo of this series owed a lot more to the Adam West/Burt Ward action series that was still pretty popular in reruns. Superman and Aquaman were more like giant and extra strong goofs instead of their more iconic characterizations of just a few years previously. As for Wonder Woman, she was as dull as faded paint, no where near the character Linda Carter would fix considerably in a few short years.
And then there were the original Wonder Twins, Wendy and Marv. Don’t forget their Scooby rip-off, Wonder Dog. These one-hour episodes would spend just as much time on these three than the main cast, and quite frankly they couldn’t hold a candle to Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Fred.
Not that the series was without its redemptive values. True, there were no villains to measure up to the likes of Darkseid, the Joker or Lex Luthor. Standard fare was fanatical scientists or misguided aliens. The usual themes were pro-environmental issues or science gone to far.
On the other hand, what also killed the episodes was their length. These first 16 episodes were hour-length and heavily padded with some of the worst comedy routines in the history of Hanna-Barbera’s generally illustrious track record. The animation was also exceedingly crude compared to what they were doing even a few years previously, both from the point of character design and action choreography. Some of this would be rectified when a sequel, The All-New Super Friends, would be introduced a few years later by turning the hour into four tighter episodes per show.
Yet there’s some interesting history to be found in this series. For instance, 30 years later, when Dwayne McDuffie took on the story editor’s job for the JLU series, he would slip through the occasional homage to this show. McDuffie wasn’t the only animator of the current era who cited Super Friends as having an effect on their young minds. The list includes the like of James Tucker (Batman: The Brave & The Bold) and Brandon Vietti (Batman: Under The Red Hood).
Also, one has to remember, when it came to superheroes, this was as good as it got in 1973. Charen’s action committee may had done it’s best to gut this show senseless, but it would go on to air produce new and much better episodes up to the 1986-7 season.
So while the original Super Friends may not have been much to write home about, it was the start of something, something that would eventually evolve into the likes of the upcoming Young Justice and much, much more.