Sunday, January 11, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: The Many Faces of Super Friends, Part 2 -- The Super Powers Collection

As detailed last time, by 1982 Super Friends had enjoyed a very long, healthy run before ABC carted it off to rerun heaven. That was supposed to be that, but the calculus changed somewhat the following year when toymaker Kenner scored the master license to the entire catalogue of DC Universe heroes, and by 1984 they were hard at it cranking out the Super Powers line of action figures and accessories. With each figure including an "action feature" that aligned with the character's power set, this assortment was notable for not only the attention to detail that went into it, but also for how expansive it ended up being. Here are some of the many TV spots hyping the series:

Here's a fun one featuring Marc McClure (a.k.a. Jimmy Olsen from the '70-'80s Superman movie series) to promote a bonus mail-in figure:

Hey, as long as the check clears, right? Anyway, Super Powers was an unquestionable success right out the gate (I still have fond memories of excitedly buying the Superman figure as a wee one -- a figure I happily reacquired recently after a fevered eBay hunt). This in turn prompted a full-court merchandising and marketing press on the part of both DC and Kenner. As part of this push, Hanna-Barbara decided to dust off the venerable Super Friends show once more, explicitly tying it in for the first time in its history with a toy initiative. The result was Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show. Here's the intro for the '84-'85 season, which once again aired on ABC:

As you can see, the character designs are the same Alex Toth ones they'd been using for the past ten years on Super Friends, but they did mix things up a bit by bringing in new hero Firestorm and new baddie Darkseid (coincidentally both recent recipients of action figures). Also of note, the star of the 1960's Batman TV series, Adam West, stepped in to voice his TV alter ego, replacing Olan Soule. The Legendary Super Powers Show lasted for eight episodes, but it wasn't the end of the road quite yet, as Super Friends had one more life left in it. The following season, the show went through its final metamorphosis, becoming The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians:

As you can see, the biggest change was the character designs, which were redesigned by artist José Luis García-López to more consistently reflect his style guides being used for the various bits of Super Powers marketing art. Also of note is the addition new hero Cyborg to the lineup. Created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez for the 1980s New Teen Titans comic book, Cyborg represented another instance of trying to get some diversity into the mix, but this time using an actual, pre-existing character. (It wasn't until 2011, following the line-wide "New 52" comic reboot that Cyborg joined the comic book Justice League.)

The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians managed eight episodes, running through September of '86, and then it really was the end, with both the show and the toyline folding right around the same time. I'm not sure what the reasons were for the toys going away, but it was a shame all the same. They were ahead of their time, and they went before their time. The Super Powers Collection understandably remains a cultural touchstone for a great many people who came of age with it. Superman would return to animation in 1988, and Batman in 1992, but the next time the entire Justice League reunited on TV wouldn't be until 2001. Maybe I'll talk about that one of these days.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Crow Flies to TV

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Oh Boy, Quantum Leap!`

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: CHiPs

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