On a Saturday morning not so long ago the ol’ Space Chief got up way too early and just couldn’t get back to sleep. I decided to click on the TV and see what was happening in the way of some cartoons! I was horrified by what I saw! Everything on network TV was educational drivel! Where were the heroes? The barbarians? The anthropomorphic animals getting blown to smithereens? I decided right then and there that something must be done about this atrocity! Prepare yourselves for a trip down memory lane with …Space Chief’s Saturday Morning Cartoon Memories!
If there is one show that immediately comes to mind when I think Saturday Morning Cartoons it’s The Superfriends.
For many kids growing up through the 1970’s and 80’s this was the first exposure to the JLA. The title of the show changed throughout the seasons and new characters were added through the years but I personally think of it as the grandaddy of all Saturday morning shows.
The original lineup if I remember was Superman, Batman & Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and two kids named Wendy and Marvin along with their dog, Wonder Dog?
Oh well, it wasn’t perfect, but when I was a kid this was literally the only game in town for DC heroes.
As the show progressed through its incredible thirteen year run on ABC, Wendy, Marvin and the dog were dropped in favor of the Legion of Doom, the antithesis of the Justice League. Composed of Lex Luthor, Grodd, Sinestro, Toyman (instead of The Joker because of issues I know little about) Solomon Grundy and a handful of other fairly well known DC villains, The Legion tried to take over the world and were a constant thorn in the side of The Justice League. The plots to some of these shows were absolutely ludicrous. For instance, why would an alien race bent on world domination contact Captain Cold and the Toyman before getting in touch with Luthor or Brainiac or even Grodd? That didn’t matter to me though, I was thrilled every time I heard that theme song crank up! Dun Dun Dun! Da dun dun Da dun dun dun dunnnn! It was magic, the siren song of all nerdy kids of my generation and the generation before.
After The Legion the show changed it up again and gave us the teenage twins Zan and Jayna with their purple space monkey Gleek. Admittedly, even when I was a kid I didn’t like these three. They always screwed everything up and many plotlines seemed to revolve around their incompetence but there were some upsides to the Zan and Jayna era. We got new heroes created for the show.
In an effort to show diversity, characters like Apache Chief, Black Vulcan and Samurai were brought on board the JLA. I personally thought Black Vulcan was the coolest of the three because he controlled electricity, but looking back on it, the outfit could have used some pants. I am not aware of Samurai showing up anywhere lately but Apache Chief was recently reintroduced on Young Justice and the Black Vulcan outfit is seen in the background of the DC Nation shorts starring the character Black Lightning and his two daughters Thunder and Lightning.
In 1984 the show got another reboot and in my opinion the 84-86 seasons were by far the best of the series. It took a bit of a dark turn, well as dark as a Saturday morning kids show can get, by introducing the Jack “King” Kirby created Apokolips characters, Darkseid, Desaad and Kalibak. We also got characters like Firestorm and Cyborg for the first time on screen. This version was accompanied by an awesome toyline that I wish more than anything I still had mint in package, but hey I was a kid, what can I say?
Finally the heroes were back, kicking ass on some pretty heavy villains.
Through all its incarnations and rotating cast of characters The Superfriends, like no other show, takes me back to being a kid again. Sitting on the shag carpet in our living room in front of our giant, ugly, tube TV, thrilling to the adventures of my favorite heroes every Saturday morning…and to me those memories are priceless.