Super Friends is a cartoon show produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions and aired on ABC from 1973 to 1985. The main characters that appear on the show are the popular comic book superheroes that teamed up to for the Justice League of America in the DC Comics universe. To emphasize the power of friendship that they want children to learn on the show, the producers have decided to call the superhero group “Super Friends” rather than the original name “Justice League.” To know more about the show’s heroic characters and sinister villains, here is an introduction to Super Friends.
Conceptualization and Production
The show was conceptualized when Hanna-Barbera acquired rights to several intellectual properties owned by DC Comics, including the superheroes that appeared in the Justice League of America comic book. The title of the show was debated among producers, but they have ultimately decided to name it “Super Friends” to differentiate the show with the comic book. However, there were characters in Super Friends that refer to their group as the Justice League in several episodes.
Despite having the same premise as the comic book, wherein the group of superheroes is fighting villains and stop their nefarious plans, the violence was toned down for the show in order to appeal to a younger audience. In addition, it was also toned down in order to follow the standards of broadcasting for Saturday-morning cartoons in the 1970s.
For the first season of Super Friends, there were five main superheroes that appear in almost all episodes of the show, and these are Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Batman and Robin. Aquaman, Batman, and Superman have been the protagonists of their own respective shows in the past, but they were produced by Filmation. For Super Friends, Hanna-Barber hired most of the voice cast that was present in the Filmation shows to reprise their roles.
Super Friends feature five of the most popular DC Comics superheroes in the 1970s, and as mentioned previously, they are Superman, Batman and Robin, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman. Superman has a variety of superpowers, including super strength, heat vision, and the ability to fly. Batman and Robin don’t have innate superpowers, but they both have a high intellect, amazing detective skills, mastery of the martial arts, and different sets of tools that are stored in their utility belts. Aquaman has super strength, superhuman endurance, and a telepathic ability to control all forms of aquatic life, although it is in Super Friends where the joke that his only superpower is the ability to talk to animals came to be. Wonder Woman has almost all of the superpowers that Superman has, but her unique powers are her indestructible bracelets that can deflect any attacks and her Lasso of Truth that allows her to get the truth out of someone entangled in it.
Other DC Comics heroes also appear as guest characters in the show, with the most prominent ones being Plastic Man, Green Arrow, and The Flash.
Besides the DC Comics superheroes, Super Friends also introduced new characters that join the Justice League in their adventures. These characters are Wendy Harris, Marvin White, and Wonder Dog. Both Wendy and Marvin have co-ownership to Wonder Dog, an interesting canine companion who has the ability to talk. Wendy and Marvin don’t have any superpowers, but Hanna-Barbera incorporated them in the show for children to have someone they can relate to. In addition, the characters also give children a lesson that they don’t need superpowers to be a hero.
In each episode of Super Friends, the superheroes would respond to an emergency call by the TroubAlert computer, an intelligent AI that is installed in the Hall of Justice (the Justice League’s hub) and finds emergency situations where the heroes can help. The episodes would end with the villain’s plan being foiled by the group of superheroes, and sometimes, they would even turn good with the help of the Justice League.
The first season of Super Friends premiered at ABC on September 8, 1973, and ended on December 22, 1973. ABC continued airing reruns of the show until August 24, 1974. The second season aired from 1977 to 1978, and it was title “The All-New Super Friends Hour.” In the said season, Marvin, Wendy, and Wonder Dog were replaced by the Wonder Twins Jayna and Zayn, as well as monkey pet Gleek. Hanna-Barbera explained that the change in the lineup of characters was due to the fact that the show’s episodes have gotten more serious, so incorporating new characters with actual superpower seems to be more fitting, since they will be able to actually help the Justice League fight villains and not be just spectators in the battle.
The successful second season was then followed up in 1978 with “Super Friends / Challenge of the Super Friends,” which featured two segments. The first segment features the regular Super Friends adventures, while the second segment follows a group of supervillains called the Legion of Doom as they devise plans to take down the Justice League. The subsequent seasons of Super Friends from 1980 to 1985 mostly featured reruns, although there were new shorts that were added to keep fans from watching the show.