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Legacy of “Super Friends”: From the Legion of Doom to the Hall of Justice

by  in Lists, Comic News, Movie News, TV News, Video Game Comment
Legacy of “Super Friends”: From the Legion of Doom to the Hall of Justice

Debuting Saturday, Sept. 8, 1973, on ABC, Hanna-Barbera’s “Super Friends” brought together DC Comics‘ most recognizable heroes – Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman and Aquaman – for the first time on television. The series aired in various incarnations for nine seasons with ever-changing titles and an expanding lineup.

However, after 13 years and 109 episodes, the show came to an end on Sept. 6, 1986, with the final episode of “The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians.”

But even 30 years later, we can still see its impact across comic books, animated television, toys, video games and live-action television – most recently with the announcement that “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” will introduce its own Legion of Doom.

With that in mind, we look back at just some of the ways the influence of “Super Friends” has reached beyond Saturday mornings over the past 40 decades.

9. The Hall of Justice

There are few more recognizable icons in comics-related media than the Hall of Justice. The headquarters of the Justice League Super Friends has popped up again and again in comic books, television and video games.

Designed by Hanna-Barbara background supervisor Al Gmuer and modeled after Union Terminal, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Hall of Justice debuted in the first episode of “Super Friends.” Equipped with its patented “TroubAlert,” the Justice League Computer, a gym, an arsenal, a laboratory and more, the headquarters underwent a significant upgrade in the 1980s. However, the original design remains the most memorable.

The Hall of Justice has turned up in episodes of “Superman: The Animated Series,” “Justice League Unlimited” and “Young Justice,” not to mention video games like “LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham” and “Injustice: Gods Among Us” and such comics as Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ “Kingdom Come.”

Although various incarnations of the Justice League would go on to establish headquarters in satellites, in embassies and even on Earth’s moon, the Hall of Justice will always have a special place in the hearts of fans.

8. Aquaman

Not all legacies are necessarily good ones, as Aquaman would surely testify. Still suffering to this day with the stigma of the “Super Friends,” DC’s Sea King has been the butt of countless superhero jokes throughout the years, with his primary roles on the show reduced to “talking to fish” — that jab even cropped up in the “Justice League” movie footage debuted at Comic-Con International in San Diego – and hitching a ride with Wonder Woman to the nearest body of water.

There have been numerous attempts over the years to repair his tarnished rep, with writer Peter David taking the character down a dark path in the late 1990s, when Aquaman received a harpoon for a hand after losing his real one to piranhas. The jokes persist, however.

With “Game of Thrones” veteran Jason Momoa portraying the undersea hero on the big screen, perhaps the wisecracks will at last be buried in Davy Jones’ Locker.

7. Marvin, Wendy and Wonderdog

Speaking of the good, the bad and the ugly, there’s this trio. Introduced in the first season of “Super Friends,” Marvin, Wendy and, to a lesser extent, Wonderdog were meant to be the characters relatable to kids. With no real powers, the “junior” heroes served as “junior sleuths.”

Of course, it’s redundant to have amateur sleuths hanging around when you already have the world’s greatest detective on the team. Alas, Wendy and Marvin weren’t around to solve the show’s biggest mystery: their own disappearance when “Super Friends” was revived in 1977 for a second season.

Wendy and Marvin eventually transitioned into DC Comics’ universe in 2006 as twin technical geniuses who served as little more than a glorified maintenance crew for the Teen Titans’ headquarters Titans Tower. After a series of mishaps with a stray dog they named “Wonder Dog,” Marvin unfortunately met his maker, and Wendy was horribly mauled by what turned out to be a demonic monster. She later recovered, but lost the use of her legs. Adopting the code name Proxy, Wendy became part of Oracle’s network.

6. Expanding the Roster

Although “Super Friends” ended its original run in 1974, ABC’s success with the live-action “Wonder Woman” and “Six Million Dollar Man” led the network to revive the cartoon, first in reruns and then, in 1977, as the revamped “All-New Super Friends Hour.”

In addition to the original core lineup of Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, the show introduced new teen sidekicks (more on them later) and a whole host of guest stars, including Hawkman and Hawkgirl, The Atom, The Flash, Green Lantern, Rima the Jungle Girl, Apache Chief and Black Vulcan. (While the other guest stars had long comic book histories, Apache Chief and Black Vulcan, like Samurai and El Dorado after them, were created specifically for the show.)

And it wasn’t only heroes added to the show: The second season also saw such villains as Black Manta and Gentleman Ghost. However, it wasn’t until “Challenge of the Super Friends” that the heavy hitters arrived.

5. The Legion of Doom

It may have taken them three seasons and five years, but the baddest of DC’s bad guys finally debuted in 1978 as the show became “Challenge of the Super Friends.” Comprised of 13 villains – among them, Lex Luthor, Sinestro, Gorilla Grodd, Captain Cold, Cheetah and Bizarro – this Legion of Doom created trouble at every turn over the 16-episode season.

Based in the Hall of Doom, which bore an uncanny resemblance to Darth Vader’s helmet, the Legion of Doom struck fear into the population of Earth from Slaughter Swamp (located outside of Gotham City).

But as with all things in life, nothing lasts forever, and as the series morphed into “The World’s Greatest Super Friends,” the Legion of Doom was no more. However, the team has appeared time and again in other media, from Alex Ross’ “Justice” limited series to “Justice League Unlimited” to “DC Universe Online.”

And, as we learned at Comic-Con International in San Diego, the Legion of Doom will be revived again – this time in live-action – on “DC’s Legion of Tomorrow,” where its ranks will be filled by Malcolm Merlyn, Captain Cold, the Reverse-Flash and Damien Dahrk.

4. Diversity

When “Super Friends” returned in 1978, it brought with it a bit of diversity with guest appearances by Apache Chief, Samurai and Black Vulcan, characters created especially for the series. By the third season, all three characters had become full-time members, with El Dorado later added to the mix.

While their names and depictions likely give modern audiences pause (an African-American hero named Black Vulcan, a hero of Japanese descent curiously dubbed Samurai, despite having wind-based powers, etc.), it was pretty remarkable for Saturday morning television at the time to see a culturally diverse cast that featured a mix of Native American, African-American, Japanese and Hispanic characters. (Cyborg, a member of DC’s Teen Titans, was eventually introduced in the 1985 final season, called “The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians.”)

“Super Friends” wasn’t only ethnically diverse, either: While the female characters were initially limited to Wonder Woman and Wendy, the show later featured Jayna (of Wonder Twins fame), Hawkgirl and Rima the Jungle Girl. Not to be left out, the Legion of Doom included Cheetah and Giganta in what was otherwise a villainous boys’ club.

3. Giganta

A nearly forgotten Wonder Woman foe Giganta was promoted to the big leagues as a member of the Legion of Doom in “Challenge of the Super Friends.” She made out on the deal, too.

Created, like Wonder Woman, by William Moulton Marston, Giganta made her comic book debut in 1944 as an ape who was mutated into strongwoman. After a handful early appearances, Giganta dropped off the radar for the better part of two decades.

However, Giganta made it big – quite literally – with her introduction on “Challenge of the Super Friends.” With her origin linked there to Apache Chief, she one-time strongwoman could transform into a 50-foot giantess, with strength that matched her stature. She brought those size-changing abilities with her back to the comic books, and they’ve been with her ever since, even as she’s made her way back to animated television and films, and on to video games.

2. The Wonder Twins

Ah, the Wonder Twins (and their space monkey, Gleek). Replacements for Marvin, Wendy and Wonderdog, Zan and Jayna debuted in the second season of the series. Extraterrestrial siblings from the planet Exxor, they activated their superpowers simply by coming into contact with each other: Zan could change into any type of water, and Jayna into any animal.

While the Wonder Twins were initially a central part of the show, their roles slowly diminished until, in the 1985 final season “The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians,” they followed in the footsteps of Wendy and Marvin by disappearing entirely.

However, that wasn’t the last of the Wonder Twins. Zan and Jayna were introduced into the DC Comics Universe in 1996 with “Extreme Justice” #9, and over the years they’ve popped up again and again – but not only in comics: They’re shown briefly in statue form in an episode of the animated “Justice League,” while in “Justice League Unlimited” their analogs (Downpour and Shifter) are members of the Ultimen. They made an appearance in live-action too, in an episode of “Smallville,” and even had their own animated webseries parody from Adult Swim, called “The New Adventures of the Wonder Twins.”

1. Kenner’s Super Powers

In 1984, Kenner Toys licensed the rights from DC Comics to produce 3.75-inch action figures. To promote this new Super Powers Collection of toys, DC and Kenner worked with Hanna-Barbara to showcase the characters on “Super Friends.”

For that purpose, the series received another makeover, along with a new name to tie in with the toy line: “Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show.”

While it wasn’t the first Saturday morning cartoon tied to a toy line, “Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show” did expand the exposure of such characters as Darkseid, Kalibak, Doctor Fate and Steppenwolf. Over the course of the three years the toy line was in production, some 34 figures were produced, along with eight vehicles and, of course, a Hall of Justice playset.

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