One of the best parts of growing up in the 1970/1980s was Saturday morning cartoons. For over a decade, the great mainstay of your Saturday morning line-up was Super Friends (in one form or another) and Scooby Doo.
After success with shows centered around Aquaman and Scooby Doo teaming up with Bat\man, a decision was made by Hanna Barbera to have a Justice League of America type series air on Saturday mornings. There were originally 16 full hour episodes produced. These original sixteen episodes were re-run...alot. Superman was a new addition to animation for Hanna Barbera but Wonder Woman had appeared in an episode of the Brady Kids. You see the Brady Kids was an animated show centered around the Brady Kids (from the Brady Bunch) with no parents around but an exotic bird/wizard to look after them and... just don't ask for any more details. The Super Friends apparently suffered from the same disease at their comic book counterparts believing that they could .. raise kids!!! So, they brough along teenage sidekicks with no discernable powers named Wendy Harris and Marvin White. Wendy is actually the niece of Harvey Harris. Harvey Harris was a detective whom a young Bruce Wayne (in the comics) sought out for Detective training. Of course, the young Bruce Wayne was actually dressed up like Robin. Its all Dr. Evil... things got weird ... didn't they. Wendy and Marvin had a dog. The dog's name was Wonderdog. Later on, Wendy and Marvin would be introduced into the actual DC Universe in comics. For the trouble of bringing back innocent childhood memories, Wendy and Marvin looked after Titans Tower in the Teen Titan strip. This was until Wonderdog was turned into a hellhound ... and straight up murdered Marvin... then paralyzed Wendy... and was put down with extreme prejudice. In happier times, Wendy and Marvin were innocent bystanders who hung aroung super powered beings for no adequately explained reason.
Most every episode of the original series started out with a TroubleAlert call from Colonel Wilcox (who was never seen again in later series because you know screw THAT guy) detailing some problem or another. Keep this in mind. The Super Friends had a wall sized computer perfectly capable of internet and video conferencing in 1973. In the original series, most of the 'attempts to take over the world' was either a simple explanation, diplomacy or a brokered solution away. Mostly, telling a bad guy "Hey, despite all your good intentions, screwing with the space time continuum is actually harmful." Then the bad guy would say "oh sorry, well that was silly..." The original series was created by Gil Kane, David Gibbons, and Alan 'friggin' Moore. Yes, the two people that gave you The Watchmen gave you the freakin' Super Friends.
SuperFriends villains in the first season included such luminaries as Dr. Baffles (who wants to destroy money and art because it causes corruption... yes its the Super Friends versus Jerry Fallwell), The Power Pirate (who actually has nothing to do with gay porn), Professor Goodfellow, The Weather Maker (who is so not the Weather Wizard), Dr. Pelegain (they ran a test to have a PhD from somewhere before fighting the original SuperFriends), and Dr. Hiram Gulliver (who shrunk everyone to two inches tall in order to preserve resources but left himself normal height to preserve authority.) They actually tell the origin of Superman (which Marvin of all people knows) to Professor Labond while Labond is attempting to perfect a Dr Evil quotes "laser" to split the planet in half.
The late Ted Knight served as the distinctive all knowing Narrator. Kind of like Fight Club, except with a more booming voice and less of a split personality... maybe.
After the success of 1970's live action shows like Wonder Woman and the Six Million Dollar Man, Hanna Barbera decided that it might be just as easy to draw heroes and make a profit again. In 1977, the serie was revitalized with The All New Super Friends Hour. In addition to an expanded universe of characters and heroes (including Atom, Flash, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl), the series decided that little magical Vulcan teenagers with emotions and super powers might add a good air of ... whimsy. Extra terrestial alien teenagers Zan and Jayna formed The Wonder Twins. This is not to be confused in any way with series The Wonder Years or what some girl in high school promised to show you as part of the 'best night of your life.' When the Wonder Twins touched knuckles, the could magically transform into some other matter. Jayna could usually transform in to something in the mammall range like a tiger or a Yeti. We bet you always wanted a Yeti. Zan was more adept at liquid based concotions. These would include ice and a bucket of water. You could tell that the bucket of water was still Zan because the water still bore Zan's face. To help out Zan and Jayna, there was a purple space alien monkey named Gleek. Years later, it would be revealed that Gleek in their native alien tongue means Gozer the Gozerian.
The New Superfriends Hour was also when the Super Friends team started to answer a couple of basic questions. First of all, why are there no actual DC Supervillains all up in here? The second question was 'Given that there are no ethnic SuperFriends, how can we actually make ethnic SuperFriends so racist in their stereotyping that the ethnicities would wish we never charged them to save the world?' So, over the next few seasons and incarnations, you get Samurai (who might honestly just have been an escaped mental patient with wind powers who really believed he was Japanese), EL Dorado (who was Mexican with a cape and invisibility and forgot simply English almost as much as Dora the Explorer.. but he was really really Mexican!!), Rima the Jungle Girl (yeah lets just skip to the next one), and Apache Chief (who in addition to being native american could grow to be however bigger than a planet you wanted him to be). As a matter of fact, the only redeeming quality about any of these heroes is that any sentence is made instantly funnier by putting "and Apache Chief grew to be sixty feet tall...." at the end. You also have Black Vulcan. Its the seventies so you have to be reminded that he is black even though he has lightning powers and just might as well be called Vulcan. Black Vulcan can fly, shooting lightning out of his ass and fingertips, use lightning as a rope, but most importantly Black Vulcan just excels at being black. Black Vulcan also believes that pants are for hookers and fat people.
The New Super Friends Hour was divided up into four sections. Cartoon Network would later divide up those sections in two sections for a half hour show becoming some sort of fraction that I can't even fathom. In the 1990s, Cartoon Network was still kind of new on original programming as well as getting rights from others. So... they played ... the New Super Friends... Hour.. Alot.
Challenge of the Super Friends was the third incarnation of the Super Friends dynasty. Challenge of the Superfriends introduced the world to the Legion of Doom. Originally composed of Hawk, Animal, and Jake The Snake Roberts...wait... wrong Legion of Doom. The cartoon Legion of Doom was composed of 13 evil doers uniquely qualified to get their buts kicked by our heroes. They included Lex Luthor, The Joker, Gorilla Grodd, Sinestro, Giganta, and what is a party without Bizarro. Manta was originally called Manta in his first appearance in the Super Friends. Then someone looked it up and discovered 'Hey., he's really Black!!!' Manta's name was then instantly changed to Black Manta. This is despite the fact that he never took off his helmet to reveal his true Nubian visiage. At any rate, living in the middle of Darth Vader's helmet in a swamp would lead to some pretty awesome ideas. At one point, the Legion of Doom stopped trying to take over the world or defeat the Super Friends at and tried to settle for just Gorilla City. After even that failed and they could not even defeat Aquaman's power to talk to fish...everyone just went pretty much their seperate ways.
Fun Fact: Ted Cassidy played Lurch on the original Addams Family show. Mostly he just grrred and bellowed "You rang..." However, in the Challenge of the SuperFriends - Cassidy was actually the voice ofr both Brainiac and Black Manta. It is a good education if you ever actually wondered what Cassidy's real voice sounded like.
Superfriends continued through the first half of the 1980s. The name of the show went back to simply being Super Friends and (in additioned to continued 'ethnic diversity') they brought in a new Super Friend at the beginning of each of the later seasons. These tywo new characters were Firestorm ( a bordeline schitzophrenic / god who can manipulate all matter and has a college professor stored in his head) and Cyborg. Cyborg is black but we are no longer in the 1970s so we don't have to call him Black Cyborg (even if we and Jean Claude Van Damme one day will really want too...)
The final revamping of the whole series was into Super Powers. The first season was Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show which was nice enough to pay respect to Jack Kirby as well as the New Gods of Apokolips. Kirby was even brought in to design the memorable Super Powers toy line and for the first time in years received royalties off of his work. Fun Fact: Kirby actually designed evil baddie Darkseid with legendary actor Jack Palance in mind. Palance was much more bad ass as no one ever remembered Darkseid ever doing one armed push ups before accepting an Oscar for World Wide Destruction. The Apokolips villains featured heavily with Darkseid, Desaad (voiced by Benson and Deep Space Nine actor Rene Auberjoinois), Kalibak, and the Parademons. Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers show also marked the return of Adam West to voice the role of Batman. DJ Casey Kasem continued to lend his iconic voice to Robin.
Technically Galactic Gaurdians: The Super Powers Team was the last incarnation of the original Super Friends line. You will notice that no where in the title of the show are the words Super Friends. So, you will have to look that one up somewhere else whilst I think back to how I became the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.