1979 is around the time I start remember actually watching stuff, but I still have to see it to remember it. This is why I call myself an 80s kid despite having been around for the majority of the 1970s. (I missed the first three and a half years on the technicality of not existing.) By this point the Superfriends had become a dominant force in Saturday morning entertainment and was interesting me in the world of the DC superheroes. The Justice League Of America and Batman comics I received in a three pack with a lone Marvel (and not the best introduction to Spider-Man for me outside of syndicated reruns of the 60s cartoon) plus all the reruns of the Filmation shows and Adventures Of Superman only fueled that interest but it was Superfriends that lit the fire for me.
I would watch the older shows in syndication and the new episodes on Saturday morning, and I loved the show. Not as many of DC’s usual villains showed up but the threats Hanna-Barbera came up with on their own were still good. In part two of our look through the intros we check out the changes that happened to this series in the middle stage of the series.
World’s Greatest Superfriends went back to something closer to All-New Super Friends in format. Reruns of previous stories were mixed with brand new ones featuring the core five and the Wonder Twins, and even Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen toss in a cameo. Our heroes now fought more space menaces, public domain fiction enemies most other shows pretend are real, and things got a bit more mythological. This was nothing new for Hanna-Barbera’s original heroes and this was what greeting me every morning after breakfast. (I couldn’t eat in the living room.)
I don’t remember that giant Batman is seen sliding away from on Wonder Woman’s lasso but he always looked so cool and menacing. Yes, they actually did fight a genie, which is why Superman could blow him away into a cloud. It’s nice that we actually got to see some of the villains our heroes were fighting instead of just our heroes heading into action. It was a nice addition to Challenge Of The Superfriends and to a certain five year old these looked like some great ones. My favorite after the guy who apparently shops at the same clothing store as Galactus was that shadow blocky dude that drops down. He just looked so neat and menacing without even needing a face.
The intro starts out with an introduction of our core cast as the music builds up to the epic tunes of the theme song in instrumental form as the various monsters are revealed, at one point Batman appears to be in trouble until Robin and Wonder Woman save him…this was clearly going to be a great action show and for it’s time the show delivered. It didn’t seem goofy or overly serious. Superfriends pulled a lot of DNA from the Silver Age not only because that was closer to Hanna-Barbera’s usual style (obviously stuff like Jonny Quest wasn’t afraid to be a bit darker but that was prime time, not Saturday morning) but the Bronze Age was trying to work in a bit as while the social themes weren’t coming in they were as serious as Saturday morning was allowed to have. Kids didn’t want heavy drama on the only day they didn’t have to fight Mom’s soap operas or homework to watch TV. We agreed to play outside after lunch but right now it was time to see Superman fight a giant slug monster. You couldn’t interrupt that! Plus it was followed by Ruby-Spears more wacky take on Plastic Man so you were getting an extra dose of DC.
Here’s where I’m relying a lot more on the fan wiki, though wikis are a questionable source at times. Our journey arrives in 1980 for the period the wiki is calling “Shorts”. Seasons five and six would have the same intro while season seven is an interesting topic on its own. While 1980’s season was still an hour 1981 dropped to a half hour and had less new episodes thanks to a writer’s strike. The original heroes would return to a prominent role within the Superfriends, especially Samurai and Black Vulcan, who would make it to the end. Of interest to me is the addition of Rima The Jungle Girl, who appeared in like three episodes or something. For years I thought she was just a retake of the title character from Jana Of The Jungle, a series Hanna-Barbera made for NBC that I also enjoyed. Come to find out that she actually came from a short-lived DC adaptation of a novel from the “jungle hero” craze period that also gave her some original adventures. Yet somehow Black Canary and Hawkgirl (I still swear I remember Hawkgirl being in an episode but the internet insists otherwise) never show up at all.
See? There she is in the intro. Hawkgirl had to have shown up in at least one episode! Also, is it just me or are they reusing clips from previous intros? The Batman & Robin announcement and the Apache Chief announcement in particular I know I’ve seen. I don’t they all are but most of them seem to be. That’s kind of a shame. Wonder Woman’s even in slow motion so you don’t see the part where she’s throwing the line to Batman from the previous intro. I also miss the instrumental part with all the threats. It’s just back to “hey, here are the heroes…okay, we’ll show one or two possibly threatening moments. It’s like the intro’s taken a downgrade from the previous season. And this is the one they used for two seasons.
Then comes 1983, the seventh season…unless you’re an American like me. According to the wiki ABC didn’t want to compete with the syndicated reruns…which makes no sense to me considering at least in my area they aired weekdays and all you’re doing is making more episodes to keep the syndication going. These episodes would get syndicated reruns, airings on USA’s Cartoon Express and Cartoon Network’s The Superman/Batman Adventures (repackaged episodes along with the Filmation shorts, so that must have been confusing for kids at the time…by then I was old enough and had seen these shows in original syndication or on Saturday morning), and a few even showed up in the next season. In the US these are referred to as the “Lost Episodes” because they still aired in other countries. They even got their own intro, and a new addition to the diversity originals.
And by new I mean “the same lazy intro as last time only they added El Dorado to the cast”. Odd that the Atom is left up with the diversity originals given that he was neither. This was still white dude Ray Palmer before the 1990s pitiful attempt at diversifying their legacy heroes that were weeded out because DiDio hated legacy heroes (except for Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, who were the second Green Lantern and Flash respectively) and wanted to ruin the iconic versions. El Durado, voiced by Fernando Escadon, who like Buster Jones was actually the race he was portraying, so the people who don’t understand what voice acting is should be thrilled. I just really liked his voice. Also, he didn’t need a shirt…for the moms out there “dusting” while their kids were watching superheroes. He would show up in the group throughout the rest of the series, but didn’t really do anything in the final season outside of be there.
Next time we look at those final two seasons because it’s time to break out your toys…and sadly say goodbye to a standard of my childhood. At least the series went out with a bang!