12 May 2009

Retrospective 1978


The biggest event of the year, and one of the biggest milestones ever for superhero shows was the 1978 debut of Superman: The Movie. Promising audiences that they would believe a man could fly, Richard Donner delivered an epic telling of the Man of Steel's origins and first clash with the diabolical Lex Luthor. While it was not the first live-action Superhero film, or even the first live-action Superman film, its success, technological accomplishments, score, and influence mark this movie as the beginning of an era for the superhero film genre. For more, check out the SuperheroShows film capsule.

Challenge of the the Super Friends

Another high point of the year was the animated debut of the Challenge of the Super Friends featuring the Legion of Doom. Under the leadership of Lex Luthor, the core members Bizarro, Black Manta, Brainiac, Captain Cold, Cheetah, Giganta, Gorilla Grodd, Riddler, Scarecrow, Sinestro, Solomon Grundy, and Toyman united to take on the Justice League.

Although the Super Friends series was revived in 1977, the "Friends" mostly only fought weather, beasts, and aliens. Having actual villains took the show to a new level.

So DC had a good year. What about Marvel...

The Fantastic Four

Its hard to pick a high point in 1978 for team Marvel, but I guess I will give that award to the animated The Fantastic Four. Ironically, there are really only 3 of the team here: Mr Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, and the Thing. The Human Torch's rights were elsewhere tied up. You would think not having the whole team would prevent the show from being made. Ah, its called the Fantastic Four, but it doesnt specifically identify who the Four are. Besides, in the comics, the lineup has had some variation over the years including temporary members Luke Cage, Nova, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Ant-Man, Namorita, Storm, Black Panther, Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Ghost Rider. So which of them was in the show? None. Instead they opted to introduce the robot H.E.R.B.I.E. (Humanoid Experimental Robot, B-type, Integrated Electronics). The series lasted just 13 episodes.

Dr. Strange

The Strange one also experienced what was asdly one of his carreer highs in 1978 in the form of a made for TV movie. The movie failed to inspire investment in a hoped for ongoing series. In the show, a young woman named Clea Lake becomes a pawn of the Sorceress Morgan Le Fay. The current Sorcerer Supreme, Thomas Linmer (aka Merlin) and his man-servant Wong recruit psychiatrist Stephen Strange, to become Linmer's disciple and the next Sorcerer Supreme. Strange must thwart Margan and save Clea. Youtube never ceases to amaze:

Spider-Man Strikes Back

Spider-Man Strikes back is nothing more than episodes 2 and 3 of the 1977 Amazing Spider-Man series packaged together for Eurpean and home theater release. Fool me once, shame on you... This Spider-Man is still lame.

スパイダーマン - Supaidāman

Japanese Spider-Man on the other hand is a whole other topic. Marvel gave a Japanese company unrestricted license to some of its characters. Spider-Man's likeness was used in this Power Rangeres-esque series. Probably a better use than Spider-Man Strikes Back. 41 episodes were produced. Come to think of it, this was probably Marvel's high point for the year. At least it enjoyed some longevity.

There you have it. 1978 was an uneven year for the big two.


In 1978, existing shows Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle and The New Adventures of Batman were repackaged with 5 new shows to create Tarzan and the Super 7. These included a live action segment, Jason of Star Command and four Superhero themed shows: The Freedom Force, Manta and Moray, Superstretch and Microwoman, and Web Woman. I don't remember watching these as a kid, but honestly, I am amazed these things even got made. They look pretty terrible.

* The Freedom Force

The Freedom Force showcased Isis from the live-action The Secrets of Isis series of the time and added Merlin, Sinbad, Super Samurai, and Hercules from 1977's Space Sentinels

* Superstretch and Microwoman

Superstretch and Microwoman can kind of be described a Plastic Man and the Atom get married. The show featured Chris and Christy Cross, your average suburban African-American couple. Chris could take virtually any shape (such as a plane, a robot, a rubber ball, a perfect double of a villain, etc.) whileChristy could shrink to microscopic size. A match made in heaven. Frequently tagging along on their adventures was their little dog, Trouble with whom they battled Granny Candy, the Toymaker, and evil counterparts from another dimension,Superstarch and Magnawoman.

* Manta and Moray

You know what hero is cool? Aquaman. Manta and Moray, a pair of amphibious superheroes hoped to win over some of that rabid Aquaman fanbase. Manta (Monarch of the Deep) was the last survivor of the ancient civilization of Mu, which was destroyed by a terrible explosion, but Manta was engulfed by a wave of unknown radiation, and placed into a form of suspended animation deep beneath the waves. He was discovered and awoken by Moray, a human woman, whom he subsequently married. He was amphibious, but could not be away from water for too long or he would weaken and die. LikeAquaman he could communicate with sealife, but he could talk to land animals as well. Moray was raised by dolphins after the plane her parents had been flying in crashed into the sea; she learned to live in the ocean. Together with Whiskers the sea lion and Guppy the whale they protected the sea.

* Web Woman

Web Woman was the alias of Kelly Webster. She was originally going to be called Spider-Woman but Marvel getting wind of the plan invented their own Spider-Woman to assure the copyright which would debut in her own series in 1979.

Kelly saved the life of an alien insectoid who was swept into a raging river during a thunderstorm. In gratitude, the alien gave her with a mysterious ring, which gave her the powers of the entire insect kingdom. Her transformation into Web Woman was brought on by a vocal command combined with the power of the ring that spoken like this:

"Insects of the world...small creatures of the cosmos...lend me your powers...NOW!"

She has a variety of weapons, such as a webline from her utility belt, and the ring could produce sleeping gas and an energy beam that solidified into webbing. She was aided in her missions by a furry littleinsectoid-like alien named Spinner. She traveled in a spider-shaped, 8-legged flying saucer called Webtrac. Sounds pretty cool.


  1. Having been born in 1978, I have strong memories of watching Superman on TV. It seems like they used to break it up across two nights, with the first night ending with Lois hanging from the helicopter. Or maybe that was just a commercial break that was especially suspenseful for me.

    Also, I remember watching lots of the Super Friends (vs the Legion of Doom).

    Also: Some of the black-on-black elements of this blog make it tricky to read. For example: "Post a comment" or "0 comments".

  2. Thanks for the layout tip J. I hadnt noticed that black on black effect. Hope its is more to your liking now. :)

  3. Looks great! Glad to be of service.

  4. This is simply great