Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!
Filmation studios got its start making TV cartoons featuring DC comic book superheroes, as covered here last week. But it was the ’60s, and the damned hippies were winning the Culture War, so the face-punching, hero vs villain cartoons were being pushed off TV. Filmation would continue to thrive with ARCHIE, SABRINA, FAT ALBERT, STAR TREK and other licensed characters. (Previously featured on this channel.) But it was Hanna-Barbera who would pick-up the JUSTICE LEAGUE license and run with it.
Their secret? Cut the superhero element to roughly half-strength by pouring in a big dose of SCOOBY-DOO, including Meddling Kids and semi-anthropomorphic dog.
Many call Shaggy, Velma, and Scoo… er… I mean Marvin, Wendy, and Wonder Dog “useless”, since they lack superpowers, tech, or special skills. But they’re the ones who tended to solve the cases, while the spandex grownups were running around reacting to events. Often, they stop the (not particularly villainous) antagonists by explaining the error of their ways.
A common complaint about superhero teams is that top heroes have to be “nerfed”… When you have a godlike being like Superman, who routinely saves the world in solo adventures, why would he need a team? They hadn’t quite figured out how to nerf the characters effectively in this first episode, though. We’re repeatedly reminded that the Batmobile is about the slowest means of transport on the show. And with ersatz Mystery Inc. solving the cases, Bats comes off even more useless than Aquaman… Who, for his part, gets caught by giant sea anemone as soon as he tries to swim in the ocean. (Dammit, Arthur! You had one job!!!)
From September 1973. The first episode of the first iteration of SUPER FRIENDS. More from the OldHorseman.