When the Super Friends debuted on television in 1973, few fans could expected that it would remain on the air (in one form or another) until 1986, thereby being the first exposure to DC's most popular superheroes for multiple generations of young fans. It is remarkable, though, to look back upon the show and see how much of it was based on storytelling approaches that are so much different than modern day cartoons. Back in those days, the goal was to humanize the bigger-than-life superheroes and give them "relatable" adventures, while nowadays superhero action series have embraced the larger-than-life aspects of superheroes.
Thus, through the lens of a modern day viewer, the Super Friends can seem awfully goofy at times. For instance, his early appearances on the series are almost entirely responsible for Aquaman being perceived as a joke character by mainstream audiences. Presumably, Jason Momoa and Justin Lin will soon change that perception, but in the much-repeated first season, he was definitely a joke. But he wasn't the only one! Here, we'll take a look at some hilarious memes based on the Super Friends, looking back on a simpler age protected by much, much simpler heroes.
15 POOR, POOR AQUAMAN
The main butt of jokes when it comes to the Super Friends is, by far, Aquaman. As a result, he is also the subject of the most memes related to the Super Friends. The gist of the mockery is that Aquaman is a dork and doesn't fit in with the rest of the team. A lot of that had to do with how his powers were depicted.
In this popular meme, Aquaman notes that at least he has his dignity, but then speeds off into the water, where it looks like he is, in effect, skipping across the surface of the water. Let's be honest, he looks like a total goofball. It was often difficult to take Aquaman seriously when that was how they chose to depict him on the series.
Generally speaking, the design quality of the characters on the Super Friends were stellar. Especially in the fist season, the animators used designs by the legendary comic book and animation artist Alex Toth for the characters and it was excellent. However, when the series came back in 1977 after being "canceled" following the first season (quotes because the series continued on the air, just airing reruns of the first season), the designs were a bit worse. This was fixed with the Challenge of the Super Friends the following year.
A funny meme showing the "off book" Superman was taken from an episode where a villain exposed Superman to fear gas and then shoved a cat in the Man Of Steel's face, leading to Superman freaking out while looking like he's doing a prat fall in some kind of madcap comedy.
13 HOW THINGS CHANGE
One of the most popular superhero-related memes is the "Freshman Year/Senior Year" meme. The concept of this meme is that it is basically a Before/After approach, as if you look at teenagers when they are Freshman in high school, they look more like kids than adults, but by the time they're seniors, they pretty much look like adults.
The meme approach, then, is to take an older version of a character and compare them to the modern day version of that character. Typically speaking, pop culture designs make it so that the more recent version of any given character will typically look "tougher" than previous incarnations. Case in point, showing Batman, Superman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman from the Super Friends and contrasting them with their depictions in the recent Justice League film.
12 WANNA HEAR THE MOST ANNOYING SOUND IN THE WORLD?
As you saw from the meme involving Superman being scared of a cat, you could often get an amusing meme just by freezing a frame from a Super Friends episode, as their facial expressions were so vivid and, at times, so odd looking. Therefore, a popular approach for some memes is to use their exaggerated facial expressions to form new narratives that are based on the idea that the Super Friends secretly hate each other.
One of the popular memes along this lines is this one, where Batman keeps shouting "Hello" to his friends and his voice just irritates the heck out of Superman and Wonder Woman, using a snippet from an episode where Wonder Woman and Superman had to dramatically cover their ears.
11 THE SUPER FRIENDS LIVE ON
Despite being the Justice League of America (they're even frequently referred to as such in the cartoon), their TV series had the embarrassingly childish name "Super Friends," which has also led to a lot of jokes about the series over the years. The term "Super Friends" has been reserved as a sort of mocking usage for when superheroes team up.
It was used as such in the recent Marvel Netflix series, the Defenders, where the four Marvel heroes who had their own Netflix series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist) teamed up with each other to form the Defenders. Early on in their team-up, Luke Cage mocks the idea of being part of a "super team" by mocking the idea and saying that he isn't looking for "super friends." In this hilarious meme, though, the Super Friends find him instead.
10 DON'T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME
When you start taking the approach that the Super Friends are jerks to each other, then the member that they are going to be the biggest jerk to is definitely going to be Aquaman. It's just a given. People still wonder today why Aquaman was even part of the Super Friends. It likely had to do with him having his own cartoon series in the late 1960s, giving him more of a name recognition than the others.
However, he got his own show in the 1960s because he was more down to Earth, power-wise, and thus more along the lines of what they were looking for, animation-wise. But the end result was a guy who was always out of place and slowly got phased out of the show over the years. So a lot of memes show the rest of the Super Friends just creeped out by Aquaman.
9 THE SUPER FRIENDS REALLY WAS LIKE AN ANIMATED SITCOM
As noted before, the entire approach that Hanna Barbera took to the Super Friends was so different from what you would expect from such a show today. They went out of their way to make the show less action-packed and less fantastical. The whole purpose of Marvin and Wendy was to make the show relatable to young viewers, despite the fact that young viewers really don't need to see teens hanging out with the Justice League.
Getting rid of those extra factors was something that Hanna Barbera figured out by the Challenge of the Super Friends. In any event, the plots were often so mundane that it was almost like the Super Friends was just an animated sitcom. They even had the freeze frame moment in old 1970s shows where everyone laughs together right at the end of the show, which of course has been turned into a "sarcastic laughing" meme. So goofy, yet now, so great!
8 GLEEK IS A MEAN DRUNK
Not only did Hanna Barbera think that it needed teenagers to humanize the show, the studio also felt that it had to go one step further and give both Marvin and Wendy and the Wonder Twins an anthropomorphized animal sidekick. With Marvin and Wendy, it was Wonder Dog. With Zan and Jayna, it was Gleek, their pet space monkey.
Suffice it to say that neither Wendy and Marvin nor the Wonder Twins became beloved characters, but a popular meme has come about where it shows Gleek with a beaker and the assumption is that he's just drunk. It is then used when someone wants to note that something sucks, they just use angry drunk Gleek to say it. So at least the Wonder Twins were good for something!
7 POOR SPIDER-MAN
When it comes to memes, the Super Friends are certainly well-represented, but they pale in comparison to the king of old superhero show-based memes: the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon series. This is mostly because of the poor quality of the Spider-Man show. Of course, that still makes it better than any other superhero cartoon of the era, so don't get us wrong, the Spider-Man cartoon was still awesome).
It results in these bizarre scenes when you get screen grabs from the show that are just perfect templates for memes. One of the most popular ones shows Spider-Man sitting glumly behind a desk. Then people come up with different regrets Spider-Man has that he is thinking of while stuck there. A popular one has him sadly reflecting on the fact that he was not a member of the Super Friends.
6 EVEN TEENAGERS TALK DOWN TO AQUAMAN
Besides just how goofy he often looks on the show, the other way that people make fun of Aquaman on Super Friends was to make fun of his superpowers. In effect, on the series, if the storyline did not directly involve water, Aquaman was shown as being pretty much useless. That's not fair to Aquaman's actual utility as a superhero, but that's how it appeared on the show.
Therefore, the show would often have Aquaman try to get involved with the ocean in some way or another. Memes, then, show the rest of the Super Friends aggravated at how much he talks about the ocean. Even Robin gets in on the action in this one, when Aquaman asks Robin if he wants him to check out the ocean and Robin quickly retorts that no, that won't be necessary.
5 BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUST ANNOYING EACH OTHER
Being the two most famous characters on the Super Friends (although, heck, for a moment there in the mid-1960s, Robin might have been the second-most famous member of the team), Batman and Superman were frequently involved in missions together. As such, they had plenty of fodder for meme makers to create some amusing memes pitting the two against each other.
In one meme, Superman is golfing while Batman is using a megaphone to shout "Batta batta batta batta...soo-weeng, batta," while Superman gets his revenge in another meme as he literally pets Batman on the head after a mission. You really have to wonder what the animators were thinking when they had Superman express his appreciation for his friend with a pat on the head.
4 NO WONDER SHE'S SHOCKED
As noted earlier, one of the most delightful things about screen grabs from the Super Friends is the overly dramatic expressions on the faces of the members of the team. It makes for really easy-to-make memes, since they stand out so much.
In one popular meme, the animated gif zooms in on Wonder Woman as she throws her hands to her head in stunned astonishment. This meme is used frequently on message boards when someone wants to express amazement at something, as there are few better ways to say "Wow, that's amazing!" than an animated gif of a stunned Wonder Woman. Next to the Gleek meme, it is probably the meme that gets most used for practical purposes, besides, you know, just laughing at how lame Aquaman is.
3 SURFING THE NET
A convention of older superhero programs is the gigantic computers that everyone used, going back to the Bat-Computer on the Batman live action TV series. The Hall of Justice was seemingly one giant computer. This was what super-computers once looked like, of course, so it makes sense that the Justice League's super-duper-computer would also be pretty darn big in the 1970s (although probably not that big, but still).
In any event, this screen grab has become a popular meme to use when you want to note that you "like" something. You know how you click a "like" button on Facebook? Well, here, the idea is that Aquaman is using the gigantic super-computer merely to like a post on Facebook. Ironically, nobody on Facebook "likes" Aquaman. (Except us, we love that guy!)
2 BATMAN IS A WILD AND CRAZY GUY
For whatever reason, one of the most common things that people do in animated gifs is to take a character's head and then make the head move back and forth, to make them look like Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan's "Roxbury Guys" from Saturday Night Live, bopping their heads back and forth to dance music while they pick up women.
We can't explain why that is so popular in memes, but it was used to great effect in this meme where a screen grab with Batman along side Green Arrow and Robin now makes it look like Batman is a wild and crazy guy, getting ready to party. In such a situation, though, you would think he'd tell Robin to just leave him and Green Arrow alone, as SNL teaches us that it is most effective when you're two wild and crazy guys and not three.
1 LEAVE AQUAMAN ALONE!
Naturally, with so many jokes at the expense of Aquaman, there is a backlash to to backlash against Aquaman, with people pointing out that Aquaman is actually pretty darn cool. This meme ties it in "Defense of Aquaman" memes with another popular meme. As you all know, the internet is filled with arguments.
Therefore, people often try to criticize each other's argument. One way to do so was to say that because the other person believes X, then that rules their entire argument invalid ("You liked Batman v Superman, therefore your argument is invalid"). The meme takes it to bizarre extremes (the most famous one is "Nicolas Cage has a bird for hair, so your argument is invalid"). Here, Aquaman's swinging a lasso while riding a manta ray makes any "Aquaman is lame" argument invalid.