In 1973 kids everywhere were overjoyed that their favorite superheroes were coming to Saturday morning cartoons, produced by the giants of televised animation Hanna-Barbera, comic fans were finally able to see the likes of Batman and Superman battling the forces of evil…well, to be honest they mainly inconvenienced the forces of evil (and by evil I mean inept villains who should really concentrate on crimes along the lines of taking candy from babies, and it would be best if said babies were asleep.) In the first season of Super Friends, the DC heroes weren’t battling the likes of Lex Luthor or Sinestro, instead mainly villains that had some sort of dangerous goal that the Justice League could somehow talk them down from.
Due to Standards and Practices at the time, violence on television (particularly on kid’s shows) was heavily monitored and things like people punching each other was not allowed. As one must realize this kind of hampers characters like Batman who tend to rely on actually fighting his enemies. To make the show more “kid friendly” three non-superhero characters were added; Marvin, Wendy and Wonder Dog. This was a clear case of trying to bring in fans of the Scooby Gang.
The first episode entitled The Power Pirate begins with an older gentleman skiing while, unknown to him, he is being followed by a UFO, he hits a rock and takes a nasty spill. He asks help from a stranger who approaches him but that the stranger is a pointy-eared alien doesn’t seem to faze him at all. The real mystery here. The alien then proceeds to zap him with a ray from a pendant hanging from his neck.
Cut to Superman arm-wrestling with an opponent who we can’t see. He calls for the rest of the Justice League to come to his aid. Aquaman votes to not get involved because the combined might of the JLA may not be able to handle Superman’s fantastic adversary (Aquaman showing his true colors right out of the gate). Of course, this is just the set-up for the lame reveal; Superman is getting beaten by Marvin the teen-age idiot.
The group finally decide to aid Superman, this causes Marvin to make a break for it and escapes them by hovering in the air. It is never explained how this is possible, because even though Marvin is wearing a cape it is established throughout the season that he and Wendy are just two average teens with no special powers other than having a dog that is smart in the way Scooby-Doo was “smart.”
Suddenly the TroubAlert goes off and the team is informed of the latest danger. The UFO from earlier is draining the power from a locomotive as it tries to climb a hill, it loses power and starts to roll back to where it will collide with another train full of passengers! “I’ll get this one, friends. Stopping trains is my speciality.” Superman responds and flies of to save the day.
Trivia Note: The train is trying to climb Donner Pass when it runs into trouble and must be saved by Superman, a few years later Richard Donner will make the best Superman movie to date.
The TroubAlert goes off again notifying the Super Friends that the ocean liner Queen Victoria is in danger as she has lost all power and is in rough seas. This looks like a job for Aquaman! *snicker* Batman offers to give Aquaman a ride to the coast in his Batmobile but Wonder Woman suggests that her “transparent plane” would be faster. Aquaman may be guardian of the world’s oceans that make up three quarters of the Earth’s surface but he still has to catch a ride to get there. *sigh*
Super Power Note: Wonder Woman’s transparent plane is thought powered. Aquaman comments, “I still marvel at your transparent plane Wonder Woman, a robot plane that you fly by using your brain waves.” That’s just a bit odd and more proof that the creators of this show probably never read the comics.
Aquaman dives out of Wonder Woman’s plane and fails almost immediately. While swimming towards the Queen Victoria, he is seized by a “renegade giant anemone.” So the king of the sea then has to send out an urgent call to all octopi in the area. After they rescue Aquaman, he enlists their help in saving the ship. He also calls on a great whale because there is no problem that Aquaman cannot solve by calling a whale. I’m pretty sure he calls them when he runs out of toilet paper or can’t find the TV remote.
After saving the Queen Victoria the Super Friends are approached by Sir Cedric Cedric, Special Inspector, Scotland Yard. It seems a “Power Pirate” has been victimizing British ships and he’d like the help of the Justice League. Robin brings up that Superman just dealt with a train that lost its power, Sir Cedric Cedric rules that out as probably a coincidence.
Just as Batman begins to wonder if someone is trying to steal power the TroubAlert informs them that a dam has lost power and cannot close its flood gates.
Wonder Woman makes a temporary earthen dam that buys them time to split up and seal the three floodgates. Wonder Woman fails but Superman and Aquaman close the gates while Batman saves Wonder Woman.
Back at the Hall of Justice the gang has come to the conclusion that a “Power Pirate” is responsible and is trying to create an energy shortage. Batman declares, “We must drop our defensive posture and take on a preventive one!” No one bothers to tell Batman that those are one and the same, but going on the offense is something the Super Friends just can’t do…..it could lead to punches.
Upon seeing a UFO hovering over a power plant Wendy observes, “Hmm, that’s pretty far out.” Marvin asks what is “far out” Wendy says “Uh, oh nothing, Marvin. Something puzzled me for a moment but I guess it’s not important.” So while investigating a mysterious force that is somehow draining power Wendy doesn’t think a UFO is important. She needs to go sit in the corner with Aquaman.
Wendy eventually earns some points by figuring out Sir Cedric Cedric might not be on the up and up. Batman confirms this with the help of The Bat Computer. Checking the “Good Guys International File” to see if there is Sir Cedric Cedric of Scotland Yard, it turns out there is. “Holy wipeouts, Batman!” Robin exclaims. But, what’s this, the computer then states that Sir Cedric Cedric is a patient at Central Valley Hospital in Ski Valley and couldn’t possibly be running around investigating power thefts.
Super Power Note: Batman is the world’s greatest detective but in the Super Friends he is relegated to being the guy in charge of turning on the Bat Computer.
So the big twist at the end [Spoilers] is that the aliens impersonated Sir Cedric Cedric to help cover-up their power stealing shenanigans. The ray the aliens used on Sir Cedric Cedric scanned his mind so they could do a proper impersonation. His newly created twin then carried Sir Cedric Cedric to the local hospital where Cedric then chalked the whole thing up to delirium due to the accident, thus never mentioning the UFO incident to anyone.
The gang race to the grand opening of a nuclear reactor knowing that it is too good a target for the fake Sir Cedric Cedric to pass up, they are right and Wonder Woman wraps things up nicely.
The alien reveals himself to be, “Anthro from the planet of Traum in a far distant galaxy.” He was stealing Earth’s energies because his own people failed to heed the warnings of their conservationists and used up the energy resources of their planet. Without the stolen energy his planet is doomed. Superman comes up with the solution, using his super powers, he would polish the surface moon of Traum to be as smooth as glass so that it becomes a reflective solar power plant.
And there in lies the key problem with the first season of Super Friends; most of the villains turn out to be just misguided individuals who just need help. This is of course to make it easier for our heroes to avoid having to get physical with their opponents, and also a nice way to throw in a preachy life lesson for the kiddies. Later Marvin, Wendy and Wonder Dog are replaced by the Wonder Twins who actually have powers, lame powers but powers none the less. Though the comedy stylings of Gleek the space monkey will have you longing for Wonder Dog.
Film grad who spends most his time trying to catch up on his "To Watch" pile of movies.