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An Earnest Defense Of The Original Superfriends

I was a child of the 70s. Like other children from that era, my weekly rituals included my Saturday morning cartoon staples, in which the SuperFriends were a prominent fixture. These shows were all mindless fluff, to say the least, but today, they're also sources of fond memories and reminders of simpler times.

People often compare the first season � the "Wendy, Marvin, Wonderdog" era � to the later episodes with the abysmal Wonder Twins. I know that in the minority here, but... I kinda liked the "Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog" episodes. Sure, the stories were fairly juvenile, but no more so than the Wonder Twin episodes. In fact, there are several things that I liked about the original series.

First, there's characterization. Wendy and Marvin had distinctive personalities that were not entirely comical. Wendy was acerbic, bright and full of initiative. Marvin was not as bright, but often was insightful nonetheless. He had a typical teenaged ego problem, and entertained fantasies of being a full-fledged superhero. The Wonder Twins, on the other hand, were nothing if not comical. Zan was a one-note character -- an egotistic, bumbling boob. Jayna, on the other hand, had no character to speak of, and was blander than tap water. As for Gleek... ugh. Don't even get me started on monkeyshining, banana-craving, consistently-played-up-for-sight-gags-and-forced-laughter Gleek.

Even the supervillains were portrayed in a manner atypical for Saturday morning cartoons. They weren't your typical power-crazed lunatic who thirsted for revenge or sought to conquer the world. Rather, they had more substantial reasons for the crimes they committed -- misguided reasons, of course, but certainly better than the standard "Must kill/steal/conquer because I'm evil" that characterized many of the later SuperFriends episodes.

Because they did not have any powers, the Junior SuperFriends actually had to use initiative and their wits to solve the crises. This was quiet different from the Wonder Twins' approach, which was to simply use their powers -- ineffectively, at that.

We got to see more of the SuperFriends than just their powers. We saw Marv relate the story of Superman's origin, and his early years on Earth. Wonder Woman was shown to have brains and scientific knowhow, instead of merely being the resident swimsuit-wearing lasso-bearer. Aquaman was more than just a dude who talked to fish; instead, he was often shown to be an expert on ocean geography and marine life, and on some occasions, was depicted as having superhuman strength, in keeping with his comic book portrayal. Batman used his analytical skills as often as he used his bat-gizmos. And Robin... the Teen Wonder got to reminisce about his aborted circus career, and was shown to be a vital member of the team -- not just some kid who took orders from the man in black.

Okay, so the show was hokey. Okay, so it was flawed. Still, I think there's a lot to appreciate about it, when contrasted with the years of boring, one-dimensional SuperFriends stories that came in its wake.

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The author likes to write on a wide variety of topics, both profound and mundane. Some of his other musings can be found at http://cytokines.1hwy.com, http://www.freewebs.com/fangallery/ and http://immunology.8m.net.


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