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They really are. Super, that is. (The Bus 3.17)
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Super Friends was an American animated television series which ran as part of ABC’s Saturday-morning cartoon programming from 1973-1985. Produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions and based on the Justice League of America and other associated characters from DC Comics, the show - which had different names at points throughout its history - produced a total of 93 episodes. Acquired by ABC in 1973, the network made changes to the source material, including changing the name to Super Friends to avoid ‘accusations of extreme patriotism,’ and reducing the violence typical in superhero comics of the time to meet new broadcast standards in children's programming.
When it first aired on 8 September 1973, the premise of the show was that Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman and Aquaman had joined forces to defend the world against various nefarious powers. Known as the ‘Super Friends,’ these five were joined by a ‘trio of sidekicks’ - two teenagers, Wendy and Marvin, and their dog, Wonder Dog - who were depicted as young detectives and/or superheroes in training.Consisting of 16 one-hour episodes, each instalment of the first series began with the Hall of Justice’s TroubAlert computer informing the Super Friends of an emergency requiring their attention.
Ranging from far-fetched schemes hatched by mad scientists or aliens to natural disasters triggered by human activity,a typical plot would involve an emergency caused by a super genius who, though well-intentioned, was pursuing their goals through ‘unlawful or disreputable means.’ Eschewing any actual violence, the end of each story would see a resolution brought about by a peaceful, reasonable discussion between the antagonist and the Super Friends who would convince them to use more better methods to achieve their aims. Though three other DC Comics superheroes - the Flash, Plastic Man and Green Arrow - featured as guests during this season, the focus was on the central five.
Though initially cancelled at the end of the first series, a growing interest in superheroes and special powers in ABC’s primetime shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man and Wonder Woman, led the network to revisit the format and revise the show. Over the next decade, changes led to numerous spin-offs and continuations, including ‘Super Friends: The All-New Super Friends Hour’ (1977-1978), ‘The Challenge of the Super Friends’ (1978-79), ‘The World’s Greatest Super Friends’ (1979-80) and ‘Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show’ (1984-1985). Marvin, Wendy and Wonder Dog would never return, but were replaced by the Wonder Twins - Zan and Jayna - who, along with their pet monkey, Gleek, possessed actual superpowers, and were incorporated into the show by the network to add a ‘dynamic and youthful element to the team.’
Later iterations of the show moved away from the well-intentioned mad scientist trope to the introduction of unreasonable supervillains who required more aggressive solutions to the problems they created.Though the characters and plot lines grew darker over its run, the show still maintained its original focus on promoting teamwork, heroism and generally positive values. The show had a significant impact on pop culture and is largely responsible for introducing a wider audience to DC Comics - and is one reason behind the popularity of superheroes of all stripes in today’s television, film, and comics.
For a taste of Super Friends Season 1, check out this episode: The Mysterious Moles. It’s not the best quality, and you’ll need to disable any adblockers you might have, but hey … it is what it is.
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Today’s Detour is to Can Water Solve a Maze?, a brilliant video (9:08) in which a scientist investigates whether water can work itself through seemingly impossible physical situations. Hint: the answer is ‘yes,’ because of geometry, surface tension, gravity, air pressure and momentum. It’s a great video.
Today’s Recommendation is to another animated Saturday-morning cartoon - Return to the Planet of the Apes. Consisting of 13 episodes, it is a 1975 American series based on both the 1968 Planet of the Apes film and the 1963 novel of the same name by Pierre Boulle. Unlike the agrarian society portrayed in the film, the astronauts in this series encounter a civilisation more akin to the one in the novel - complete with televisions, radios, cars, airplanes and boats. Despite being far more intense than Super Friends, it also was broadcast on Saturday mornings - at the 11:00 Eastern slot from September to November 1975.
Return to the Planet of the Apes is available via streaming and DVD, but standalone episodes are also available on YouTube.
For a taste of the series, here’s the intro/outro trailer: Return to the Planet of the Apes (Intro/Outro).
Today’s playlist is composed of five great tracks from 1973: ‘Radar Love’ (Golden Earring, 1973), ‘La Grange’ (ZZ Top, 1973), ‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)’ (George Harrison, 1973), ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ (Led Zeppelin, 1973) and ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ (The Who, 1973). Enjoy!
Today’s Thought is from the Narrator in an early episode of Super Friends - and one which I’d like to think still rings true:
‘Once again, the Super Friends prove that brainpower can be more effective than brute force.’
If you have a thought on this Thought - or any part of today’s issue - please leave a comment below:
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Until the next Stop …
One of my all-time favourite programmes as a child, watching Super Friends and its spin-offs was a Saturday morning ritual. Sources for today’s Stop include: Super Friends (TV Tropes), Super Friends (Hanna-Barbera), Super Friends (Wikipedia) and Return to the Planet of the Apes (Wikipedia). Apologies for the Wikipedia sources - I try not to use it - but finding decent information on a schedule about this topic was not as easy as I’d expected.
None of these additional characters had any special abilities - except for Wonder Dog’s inexplicable ability to reason and talk.
Environmental concerns - largely the result of human activity - were a major theme throughout the first series of the show.
Many notable actors provided voices for the characters in the first series, including Ted Knight, Frank Welker and Casey Kasem.
Including, of course, the Legion of Doom - a group of 13 of the Super Friends’ worst enemies - whose sole purpose was to destroy all that was good.
This episode was my favourite as a child - the subterranean world was magical - and though I only saw it once or twice, it was one of those things that stuck with me.
Which is precisely when I would have seen it. Seriously, this show haunted me as a child, and even now I clearly remember worrying for a week because the trailer for the following Saturday’s episode revealed the astronauts were going to encounter an enormous spider - and at the time, I really didn’t like spiders.
Though that’s probably because I grew up with these sort of 1970s Saturday-morning cartoon sentiments.