15 April 2009

Retrospective 1977

Although 1977 was not the origin of superhero shows, it was the year I was born. So basically, no one should care about anything that happened before then, right? I could have gone all the way back to 1941 and the debut of The Adventures of Captain Marvel film serials, but there were some sparse years between then and now. So I just skipped over the early years of superhero shows including such highlights as the Adventures of Superman, Batman 1966, the Batman television series and the 1968 film Danger: Diabolik. I am also skipping The Marvel Superheroes, Spider-Man, The Superman/Aquaman Hour, and the original Super Friends animated series. Perhaps when I have caught up to the present, I will revisit some of the more prolific years. But for now, lets get on with 1977.


The Amazing Spider-Man



The Amazing Spider-Man was old Web-Head's 15 episode live-action TV series made between 1977-1979. Although the series had reasonable ratings, fans critical of the series for the changes made to the comic book and because there were not any real "supervillains". The only characters adapted from the comic book were Peter Parker / Spider-Man, J. Jonah Jameson, Aunt May and one appearance by Robbie Robertson. Stan Lee, creator of Spidey and more, was vocal about his disliked for the show.



I don't remember seeing this as a kid, but it sure doesn't look too slick. Having said that, how awesome would it be to have a Spider-Man weekly TV show? Instead, we have Heroes.


The Electric Company



Spidey was busy in the 70s. In addition to his own series, he was also a guest on The Electric Company from 1974 until 1977. Strangely, DC comics Blue Beetle (or more likely a knock off of him) also appeared.



Spidey would drop in from 3 minute segments featuring word fun, though he himself only spoke with speech balloons. Maybe not the best use of the iconic hero, but kids loved it.




The Incredible Hulk



A two-part pilot movie kicked off the popular Incredible Hulk series. To "ground" the series in reality, the main character's name was changed from Bruce to David to avoid a double "B." The comic book supporting characters were also replaced with more realistic regular folk. One of the biggest changes affected the origin. Rather than getting gamma ray exposure after making a rescue on an atom bomb test field, "David" got zapped in a lab mishap. Also, TV Hulk no speak, just growl.





This show made a huge impact on me, giving me years worth of Hulk Smash nightmares as a child. Thanks Hulk.

Secrets of Isis




I am don't think she was a comic book heroine at the time, Isis was basically an Egyptian version of Mary Marvel. Since then, Isis has joined the Captain Marvel comics as Black Adam's wife.

The live action Secrets of Isis, running from 1975-1977, centered on Andrea Thomas, a high school science teacher who found an ancient mystical amulet on an archaeological dig in Egypt. The amulet belonged to Hatshepsut, an ancient Egyptian Queen and it gave the wearer the powers of Isis. Andrea, by virtue of being able to open the casing in which the amulet rested, was recognized as an heir to Isis's secrets. Whenever Isis was needed, Andrea would reveal the amulet and incite an incantation ("Oh, mighty Isis!") and she would be transformed into the goddess Isis. Isis had super strength, the ability to move inanimate objects, the ability to fly, and super speed. To invoke her powers, she intoned rhythmic rhyming chants, such as



Three episodes of the series featured crossover appearances by Captain Marvel of the show's companion series, Shazam!


Shazam!



Shazam! made by the same folks as Isis ran from 1974 to 1977. It featured Captain Marvel, who is actually not named Shazam, and is not owned by Marvel, but Marvel owns the trademark for the name Captain Marvel who is one of their characters, but is unrelated to the "Shazam!" guy. I know, its confusing. From what I understand, the show was pretty campy. Who would have guessed?






The All New Superfriends Hour




Wonder Twin powers, activate! The original Super Friends, with non-powered sidekicks Wendy and Marvin, was canceled in 1974. The show, in constant reruns over the next few years, gained enough of a following to earn a greenlight for a new Superfriends show.




This time around, the hour-long show featured four mini-stories that spotlighted different characters. The first story featured a team up between two of the Super Friends. The second story featured the now infamous Wonder Twins and their space monkey Gleek. The third story featured the whole team. The fourth featured a guest star such as Green Lantern, Black Vulcan, or the Atom. The popularity of this show led to 1978's classic Challenge of the Superfriends series, a personal childhood favorite.




Wonder Woman



Running from 1975-1979, Wonder Woman's got her biggest exposure to mass audiences through this live-action television series. The first season was set during World War II, but season 2 took place 35 years later in the "modern" 1970s. Steve Trevor was replaced by his lookalike son Steve Trevor Jr. (ah, clever) as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman spun her way against evil.



Speaking of her patented spin move, enjoy:



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1977 was actually a really amazing year for superhero shows on television. Spider-Man, Hulk, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel all having their own live-action series, is some serious saturation. Not only where there a lot of shows, but these were big guns too and they did it with small budgets and 1970s effects. Wow. I don't expect to see anything like that on the small screen again. And without the DVR yet in place, my superhero show addiction would have been a real challenge to manage. It turns out 1977 was a pretty good year to be born.

Update:

The New Adventures of Batman

Along with the titular Batman, The New Adventures of Batman featured Robin the Boy Wonder, Batgirl and Bat-Mite, a a well meaning imp from another dimension called Ergo, who considers himself Batman's biggest fan. Hmm. Sure why not, though some will consider this one of the Dark Knight's darkest hours. It was the Joker's inclusion in this series which kept him from appearing in the Challenge of the Super Friends series that ran during the same time frame. Likewise, Riddler and Scarecrow's membership in the Legion of Doom precluded them from appearing here.


The series was paired up with a Tarzan animated series in 1977 which expanded into a series titled either Tarzan and the Super 7 or Batman and the Super 7 in subsequent years. Stay tuned for the rest of the Super 7 to debut in 1978.






Space Sentinels

Also arriving in 1977 was the series The Young Sentinels which although it only lasted one 13 episode season was renamed midway through its run to Space Sentinels. The racially diverse cast has earned the series a footnote in the annals of history.



In this series, the Roman mythological figures Hercules and Mercury are joined by Astrea, a character created specifically for the series, to form a superhero team to protect mankind. As the series intro described:

Many centuries ago, three carefully selected young Earthlings were transported from their native lands to my faraway world. Here they were granted astounding powers, and eternal youth, then returned to Earth. Their mission: to watch over the human race, helping the good in it to survive and flourish. In the course of history, their names have become legend: Hercules, empowered with the strength of a hundred men. Astrea, able to assume any living form. Mercury, the amazing athlete who can match the speed of light. Working together with me, Sentinel One, and my maintenance robot, Mo, these teenage guardians form the greatest team the world has ever known: The Space Sentinels.



The heroes would continue in 1978s The Freedom Force.

4 comments:

  1. I remember Spider-Man on the Electric Company. No love for Super Grover?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love yes, but he just didnt make the cut. Maybe I will toss him a bone in the 1978 edition just for you.

    ReplyDelete