Super Friends

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Super Friends is an animated series about a team of superheroes which ran from 1973 to 1985. It was produced by Hanna-Barbera and is based on the Justice League and associated comic book characters published by DC Comics.

Contents

History

When animation company Hanna-Barbera obtained the licensing rights to the DC Comics characters and adapted the Justice League comic to television, it made several changes in the transition, not the least of which was the change of name to the "Super Friends." In part, it was feared that the name "Justice League of America" would have been too jingoistic sounding in the era of the Vietnam War. Nevertheless, team members referred to themselves as the "Justice League" on the show. The violence common in superhero comics was toned down for a younger audience, as well as to fit with the more restrictive standards of violence in 1970s-era children's television.

The primary characters featured in the series were Superman, Batman with Robin, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman. These have long been DC Comics most popular and iconic heroes, with the exception of Aquaman who was included by virtue of having recently had a cartoon of his own. Their first sidekicks were Wendy and Marvin and their dog Wonderdog, none of whom had any special abilities (unless one counts the dog's unexplained ability to reason and "talk"). Later these were replaced by pointy-eared shape-shifting aliens Zan and Jayna, the "Wonder Twins," and their "space monkey" Gleek. Earlier seasons occasionally introduced other members of the Justice League as guest stars, such as the Flash, Plastic Man, and Green Arrow.

Initially, each episode was a single hour-long story, and the villians (mostly original creations not in the comics) were often misguided, rather than evil. In later episodes, there were two or more short stories in each hour, and made use of more standard villains from the comics. The "Challenge of the Superfriends" era introduced the Legion of Doom, a team of recurring foes made up of the Super Friends' worst enemies. They used a swamp-based, vaguely mechanical headquarters which suspiciously resembled the head of Darth Vader, as a suitable contrast with the Super Friends's gleaming "Hall of Justice."

Hanna-Barbera's writers experimented with team composition as well. "Challenge of the Superfriends" eliminated the teen sidekicks, but added Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Green Lantern, and The Atom as well as several characters without previous comic-book antecedents. Black Vulcan, Apache Chief, Samurai, El Dorado and Rima, intended to be international heroes, were created for the show as well in order to encourage racial and cultural diversity. Critics felt that these attempts were awkward at best and very stereotypical and somewhat offensive at worst.

"Super Powers Team" made further refinements to the roster, adding teen members Cyborg, and Firestorm, both with a comics history. Darkseid and his entourage became established as the team's main enemies.

Recently, Cartoon Network's series Justice League Unlimited, a modernized take on the Justice League concept, made a nod to characters created specifically for the Superfriends, introducing the Ultimen with members Longshadow (Apache Chief), Wind Dragon (Samurai), Juice (Black Vulcan), Downpour (Zan of the Wonder Twins), and Shifter (Jayna of the Wonder Twins). The headquarters of the Ultimen, while on top of a skyscraper, resembled the Hall of Justice of the Superfriends.

Trivia

  • The Wonder Twins were supposedly inspired by Donny and Marie Osmond.
  • Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog were inspired by the Scooby-Doo gang.
  • Black Vulcan was created to avoid having to pay Black Lightning creator Tony Isabella royalties.
  • In one episode where a giant Kryptonian rodan is rampaging on Earth, when the team must choose whether they should acquire a massive supply of kryptonite to drive it off and risk Superman's life in the process. Superman asserts that the team has a long-standing principle of seeking "the greatest good for the greatest number." and insists that the kryptonite be used. Thus was the ethical principle of Utilitarianism introduced to a doubtlessly rapt audience. Its more controversial aspects, however, were not explored.
  • The current Cartoon Network series Justice League Unlimited has a first season show ("Ultimatum") that features the The Ultimen, a group of superheroes that are a pastiche of heroes unique to the Super Friends.
  • DC Comics published a comic book version of the Super Friends in the 1970s. In the 2000s DC satirized the Super Friends in two seperate miniseries, "Formerly Known As the Justice League" and "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League!," as the "Super Buddies," a team of various ex-Justice League members.

Series

The show was featured under several titles, though only about 60 episodes were produced altogether.

  • Super Friends (1973)
  • All-New Super Friends Hour (1977)
  • Challenge of the Super Friends (1978)
  • World's Greatest Super Friends (1979)
  • Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show (1984)
  • The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians (1985)

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