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"The Switch" by Mike Smith
Will's 2009 South Florida Adventure: Part One by William Moriaty
Series Retrospective: Legends of the Superheroes by ED Tucker
|THE ASIAN APERTURE|
Woking by Jason Fetters
Movie Notes .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith
Before we begin this week’s retrospective, please take a moment to review the advertisement to the right of this article. Done? Good, now imagine for a moment that you are twelve year old boy in January of 1979 when this ad was run in TV guides across the country. Like most twelve year old boys of the day, you are infatuated with superheroes, especially the ones you look forward to reading about in comic books each month. It’s a safe bet that upon seeing an advertisement like this one you will be on pins and needles for the days leading up to this broadcast that will surely represent a life changing event for you. It’s a shame that when that eagerly awaited day finally arrives and you stare in breathless anticipation as the program begins, all you have ahead of you is an hour long let down.
Hanna-Barbera had a massive hit on their hands when they introduced The Superfriends to the ABC Saturday morning line up in 1973. Sugar fueled children across the country tuned in every week to watch the animated adventures of some of their favorite heroes from the pages of DC comic books. The show was so popular it would be revamped and rerun in various permutations on Saturday mornings for the next thirteen years and in syndication for long afterwards.
In 1978, the show underwent one of its most ambitious and entertaining reworkings. The name was changed to Challenge of the Superfriends, the roster was expanded to include most of the key players from the Justice League of America (plus a few racially beneficial additions created specifically for the series), and the heroes were finally given villains worthy of their attention. The latter were actually an organized group who called themselves the Legion of Doom and operated out of a mobile headquarters that was shaped like the helmet of Darth Vader’s cousin Murray.
The dynamic duo of Burt Ward and Adam West return!
To the credit of Hanna-Barbera, their casting was top notch. Their major accomplishment was getting Adam West and Burt Ward to return in the Batman and Robin roles they had made famous on television in the 60’s. The remainder of the heroes were played by unknowns but most of their characters were very familiar to comic book and Saturday morning television fans. Flash, Green lantern, and Hawkman were already regulars on the Challenge of the Superfriends cartoon and Captain Marvel had recently wrapped up a three year run in the Filmation television series Shazam! (surprisingly neither of the two actors who played the role on that show were asked to reprise it here). To keep this from being a boys club, Hanna-Barbera tossed in the obvious choice of female Justice League member Black Canary. In a strange move that must have baffled more than one comic book fan like me, the final female member chosen was The Huntress, a member of the Justice Society of America and resident of Earth-2 where she was the daughter of that world’s Batman! Apparently DC must have taken Superman and Wonder Woman off the table since the former had just embarked on a successful film career the year before and the latter still had her own prime time televisions series.
The live action Legion of Doom.
Is this a super battle or a fetish party?
Due to the almost nonexistent special effects, we never see Hawkman fly, instead of running at super speed, Flash teleports, and Green Lantern is limited to only firing a green beam from his ring. One of the villains’ schemes involves Dr. Sivana, dressed as a lemonade vendor, tricking the superheroes into drinking a potion that strips them of their super powers. This fails to take into consideration that only two of the heroes have abilities this should affect, Flash and Black Canary. Captain Marvel’s powers are magic based and the other five, like Batman and Robin, either have no extraordinary abilities or rely on technological enhancements. Apparently it was more important to have groan inducing jokes than an accurate story.
Ghetto Man, a positive urban role model?
While Hanna-Barbara was smart enough to cancel the show only two episodes in, they still insisted on airing both of them. In January of 1979, the episodes were broadcast a week apart and then disappeared into the obscurity they so richly deserved. A few die hard comic book fans insisted on recording these episodes on the brand new medium of video cassette tape, presumably to remind future generations of just how badly a good idea can go wrong. Hanna-Barbera went back to the cartoons they did best and young superhero fans like myself went to school the next day feeling let down and betrayed!