Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Debut of The Super Friends (9-8-73)

On September 8, 1973 The Super Friends, a show that changed my life, made its debut on ABC-TV.
When I first saw The Super Friends, which consisted of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Robin, and Aquaman, I was floored. I think I had seen the Filmation Superman, Batman, and Aquaman cartoons by then. If not, then I knew of them. I had definitely seen the George Reeves Superman and Adam West Batman television shows. However, with this series I came to the eye-opening realization that all of these characters existed in the same universe! If you grew up only watching George Reeves or Adam West, you wouldn't know there were any other super-heroes in their worlds, let a lone a group of them like the Justice League (or Justice Society). They had been totally independent and isolated characters.

After September 8, I knew that this was not the case.
Thanks to The Super Friends I hunted down actual comic books with these characters. I found my first Justice League of America comic-book and promptly subscribed, never ever missing another issue. From there entire universes of imagination were opened up for me. I've been reading comics and watching super-hero cartoons for the forty years since.

Although Wendy and Marvin were nobody's favorites, they were of their time. Scooby-Doo, Funky Phantom, Speed Buggy, Captain Caveman, etc ALL had young adult protagonist, for example. After they left we were given super-hero sidekicks who were, at the very least, more logical than two kids and a dog. The first season of SF begat The Wonder Twins, The Legion of Doom, Global Guardians, and, arguably, The Super Powers action figure collection. Each of those promulgated in-numerous after effects on their own.  If The Super Friends had not been a success, do you really think we would have had all of the super-hero goodness we have now? So in a sense, we can credit The Super Friends with the flame that eventually became our entire Super Hero Pop Cultural Phenomenon. And just like the comic book JLA has been given credit for helping to create the Marvel Universe (Marvel's publisher saw the success of the JLA and told Stan Lee to create something similar; he came up with The Fantastic Four), The Super Friends can be credited with creating the environment where Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, and all the other Marvel projects from the Seventies onward could find success.
Sure, there is a dark side to this story. The idea that Aquaman is useless outside of water can be traced back to millions of kids growing up watching him not do anything important in later Super Friends seasons. However, in the first season he was always ALWAYS portrayed as viable and important. In fact, in several episodes he saves the lives of his fellow members. So unfortunately it was the laziness of later writers that made Aquaman into an "also-ran." Besides, his notoriety is a two-headed sword: is it better to be known as a very specifically powered (possibly useless) character, or not to be known at all? I'm not going to argue this point, but it is something to think about.
In the meantime, I'm off to watch an episode or two of The Super Friends in my Super Friends t-shirt. Have a great day!  Here's the opening sequence, and watching it today still gives me goose bumps. Hell yeah, Super Friends!! :-)

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