Thursday, February 24, 2011

Superfriends...The Classic Era...

Somewhere along the line there seems to have been an unwritten rule come along in which it's become popular(?) to make fun of the classic era of the Superfriends. I love the classic era. I've got most of the DVD collections of this series...the only collection's that I don't have, as of now, are the first season releases from last year. Like a lot of fans I'm waiting on news to come along that the 1979 episodes, titled World's Greatest Superfriends, are coming to DVD as well as the short episodes from 1980-1982. Commentary on-line suggests that the 1979 episodes won't be released due to the copyright issues of the literary works that were borrowed for the series...it was in the 1979 episodes where the Superfriends were placed in the land of Oz, for example, as well as battling foes in Camelot (referred to as Camelon in the series). There are other episodes from the 1979 series that were conventional episodes such as "Lex Luthor Strikes Back" where Lex and his bumbling assistant disguise themselves as various Superfriends with the help of a projector ray. The assistant, of course, is based on Ned Beatty's Otis character in the Superman movie a year earlier.

However, in spite of the belief that copyright problems may prevent the 1979 episodes from being re-released on DVD it should be noted that the DVD collection of the 1978 episodes features an installment called "Attack of the Vampire" which uses the actual name, Count Dracula, and then there are installments, also from 1978, titled "The Time Trap" and "Fairy Tales of Doom". In each episode the Superfriends come face to face with literary characters. Julius Caesar appears in "The Time Trap" while King Arthur is mentioned in the same episode. In the Fairy Tales episode Toyman sends several of the Superfriends into the books of fairy-tales: Gulliver's Travels, Alice in Wonderland, as well as Jack and the Beanstalk. I think if there's a serious push for the 1979 episodes to get released on DVD there'd be a compromise or deal struck in some fashion or another.

The desire from fans is to have all remaining episodes of the series released on DVD.

Of the 7 DVD collections that I own I find myself watching Challenge of the Superfriends the most and second to that is the 1983 Lost Episodes release from 2009. Lately I've been watching more of 1984's The Legendary Super Powers Show but I've watched each of the collections a lot...so there's not any specific release that I'd consider an absolute favorite. It simply depends on my mood...if I want to see episodes with Darkseid I'll pull out the 1984 episodes. If I want to see the hour long episodes I'll watch one of the two volumes of The All-New Superfriends Hour from 1977.

There have been 9 DVD collections released of the Superfriends over the course of the last several years. I don't have the 2 volume set of the first season episodes but I have all the other collections. It was in the first season where Ted Knight played the role of the narrator and the Hall of Justice was referred to as the Hall of the Justice League. Ted Knight was chosen as narrator, I assume, because of his history with voicing cartoon characters in the 1960's super-hero cartoons. A lot of people forget that Knight was the voice of The Riddler, The Joker, Mr. Freeze, Black Manta, Torpedo Man, Tusky, and Imp during the late '60s in the Filmation produced cartoons. Knight was the narrator of the 1967-1968 Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure as well as the 1968-1969 series, The Superman-Batman Adventures, and he voiced a lot of the villains. Knight's narration in the first season of Superfriends wasn't that out of place at all if you know his history with the franchise. Yes...before anyone can ask...it's the same Ted Knight who appeared on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Too Close for Comfort, and the Caddyshack movies. You can find episodes of these late '60s super-hero cartoons with Ted Knight's involvement on You Tube. Those familiar with William Woodson's narration (1977-1984) and unfamiliar with Ted Knight's, of course, will find it odd to hear someone other than Woodson deliver the narration. I'm including this video of a 1967 Aquaman cartoon because it demonstrates Knight's vocal abilities as Black Manta. In the clip you'll hear Knight as the narrator, too...



For those who stumble onto this and don't own any of the DVD collections available here is a list of the officially released Superfriends collections...

1. Challenge of the Superfriends; 2004 (1978)

2. Superfriends, Volume Two; 2005 (1978)**

3. Superfriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show; 2007 (1984)

4. Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians; 2007 (1985)

5. The All-New Superfriends Hour, Volume One; 2008 (1977)

6. The All-New Superfriends Hour, Volume Two; 2009 (1977)

7. Superfriends: The Lost Episodes; 2009 (1983)

8. Superfriends, Season One, Volume One; 2010 (1973)

9. Superfriends, Season One, Volume Two; 2010 (1973)

(**)- in the 1978 hour-long series, Challenge of the Superfriends, the program was broken into two parts. In the first half hour the episodes revolved around the Superfriends and the Wonder Twins battling an array of small-scale villains, scientists gone mad, alien monsters, and local crooks bent on controlling the world or unleashing mayhem all over the world. In the second half hour the episodes revolved around the Superfriends, minus the Wonder Twins and with an increase of super-heroes, battling super-villains led by Lex Luthor. The villains resided in the Hall of Doom and they collectively went by the name of The Legion of Doom. When the DVD's were being released the company decided to release the 32 half-hour 1978 episodes in two separate DVD's consisting of 16 episodes per collection. Superfriends, Volume Two features the 16 episodes with the Wonder Twins as part of the line-up while the first collection released, Challenge of the Superfriends, features the 16 episodes with a line-up of 11 Superfriends battling the 13 member Legion of Doom.

The super-heroes in the episodes with the Legion of Doom include: Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman, Samurai, Black Vulcan, and Apache Chief. The last three heroes were created for the 1977 series and hadn't appeared in any comic book or other animated series beforehand. They were included in the Challenge series, too, in an effort to offer more story opportunities.

The Legion of Doom members include: Lex Luthor, Black Manta, Grodd, Toyman, Sinestro, Brainiac, Bizarro, Captain Cold, The Riddler, Scarecrow, Solomon Grundy, Cheetah, and Giganta.

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