Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!
As we covered in recent weeks, the DC comic book superheroes came to TV animation in the ’60s, being the project that got Filmation off the ground. In 1973, Hanna-Barbera took over (mostly) and softened the superhero elements to try and satisfy the killjoy TV censorship groups by adding a big dollop of SCOOBY-DOO elements to create the SUPER FRIENDS series.
In 1977, they dropped the meddling Earth kids and their dog (who were surprisingly useful despite lack of superpowers) and replaced them with Vulcan-looking space teenagers and their blue monkey (who managed to be frequently useless despite having formidable superpowers) for the ALL-NEW SUPER FRIENDS HOUR. Covered that one while on the subject of hot Jungle Girls several weeks back. It’s how we got onto this tangent.
The following year, we got CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER FRIENDS. This incarnation brought the show much closer to comics than the earlier HB takes had been, with more action, references to alter-egos, back-stories, and actual bad guys. The first half of each show resembled the previous series’ segments. The second half featured the conflict between a larger Justice League roster and the Legion of Doom; a group of comic book villains organized by Lex Luthor and including Cheetah (with razor-sharp claws), Braniac (whose mind-games are deadly), Scarecrow (who is… uh… made of straw?), and Solomon Grundy (who wants pants too)!
During its network run, the whole program ran under the “Challenge of the Super Friends” title. For a while, the show was expanded to 90 minutes by folding-in material from the previous “All-New Super Friends Hour.” Later, for syndicated reruns, the first-half segments (which didn’t feature the LoD) were run with the 1977 series opening, while the LoD second-half segments retained the “Challenge” opening. From Sept. 1978. More from the OldHorseman.