Super Friends: The Last Great Superhero Franchise

September 8, 1973 marked the debut of Super Friends, Hanna-Barbera’s kid-friendly adaptation of DC’s Justice League of America comic for the Saturday morning cartoon set. Going on eight when it premiered, I was a fierce devotee of the program and most of its later incarnations until I outgrew it around the end of the decade. Basically it mashed up the JLA concept with Hanna-Barbera’s ever-popular Scooby Doo motif. The core heroes Superman, Batman, Robin, Aquaman and Wonder Woman had a trio of trouble-prone apprentices: teens Wendy and Marvin, and their mascot Wonder Dog. (When Super Friends had a crossover episode with the actual Scooby Doo characters, it was taking excess to a whole new level. Two semi-articulate sentient dog characters? Two goofy, scruffy beatnik teen boys with long hair?) Later, Wendy and Marvin and the Wonder Twins were replaced with the extraterrestrial “Wonder Twins” and their blue monkey Gleek, which had echoes of The Great Gazoo and Bat Mite.

In addition to the core quintet of Superheroes, there were guest appearances by such other DC characters as the Green Lantern, the Green Hornet, the Flash, Hawkman, and Plastic Man. Based out of the Hall of Justice, the group would receive an alarm called a “Troub-alert” and split up to attack the crisis (usually an encroaching supervillain) from their respective spheres of specialty. Almost invariably, whatever Aquaman was doing was always a stretch. Riding a giant seahorse and psychically commandeering schools of fish only has so many practical applications.

Yo, what’s up with this new Aquaman? Everyone knows Aquaman has blonde, matinee idol hair. This new Jason Momoa incarnation clearly intends to be the Sub-Mariner! At any rate, I wonder: will today’s young fans of the Justice League reboots and other similar franchises like The Avengers and The X Men, feel the way I feel about Super Friends 40 years down the pike? I doubt it! Because they’re grim and humorless and dark and no FUN, man! Check it: the narrator for the original 1973-74 season was none other than Ted Knight, using a pompous, stentorian voice that sounds just like Ted Baxter! This was back when people remembered that the word “comic” is somewhat (how about completely) connected to the word “comics”. It’s a comic book! It ain’t no tragic book! I used to read my comic books in the barber chair. Today’s kids don’t need to go to the barber — their hair just falls out from stress, anxiety, misery and terror. If the comics do that, what’s in the gum, crystal meth? Bah!

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