Saturday mornings in the 1970s weren’t just focused on one superhero – kids wanted to see all of them and did in the animated series Super Friends.
Produced by Hanna Barbera, Super Friends debuted on ABC in 1973, based on the Justice League series by DC Comics.
The first series featured Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman and Aquaman.
The series added sidekick characters for the superheroes, none of whom had been included in the original comics: Wendy, Marvin and SuperDog.
The friends gathered at the beginning of each episode at their headquarters, the Hall of Justice, where the TroubAlert computer would have detected an emergency.
The Super Friends worked in conjunction with the US military and had their own liasion, Colonel Wilcox, as well as brought in other pals to help out – Green Arrow, The Flash and Plastic Man. Nine actors were hired to do the voices, including Casey Kasem and Ted Knight.
After one season of 16 one hour episodes, ABC cancelled the series in 1974. But, the public was fixated on Six Million Dollar Man and Wonder Woman, so the network decided to revive the Super Friends in 1976, editing the original episodes into 30 minutes episodes and rebroadcasting the series again.
In 1977 The All New Super Friends Hour debuted, with the hour divided into four segments. The first segment would feature two superheroes, the second segment featured the Wonder Twins, the third segment used all the Super Friends to save the day and the final segment featured one superhero and a guest star, showing off their unique super ability.
Guest stars included Hawk Girl, Hawkman, Rima the Jungle Girl, Apache Chief, Black Vulcan and Super Boy.
Between segments, different Super Friends would have 30 second spots, showing first aid, safety tips, magic tricks and the weekly riddle. For kids, it was a jam-packed hour of all kinds of superhero fun. I used to watch this every week, liking the mash up of rescue efforts, super skills and magic.
As the Super Friends continued, each year the production company slightly changed the format to make the series seem new every year, but it was a smart use of animation so not to completely reinvent the wheel.
The series continued into the 1980s, but with the advent of new styles of animation, the Super Friends faded from Saturday mornings to go after prime time and the big screen.