Welcome to Super Saturday, a new ongoing weekly column that will pay tribute to the animated classics of yesterday, and will be offered on Saturday mornings, a period that many of us remember being the only time animated kids’ programming was offered. Hope you enjoy and feel free to leave any feedback or personal remembrances in the comments!
Last week, I covered ‘The New Adventures of Superman’, the first series ever created by Filmation, who would go on to produce Saturday morning staples for decades. The show was so successful that the following year, Filmation and CBS expanded the show to an hour long.
In this ad, you can see that Filmation originally intended to create animated shorts for Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Plastic Man, and Metamorpho. However, plans changed, with Aquaman becoming the co-headliner of the new show, ‘The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure’. The Flash became one of these guest stars, but for unknown reasons, the other announced characters were dropped and replaced by The Atom, Green Lantern, and Hawkman, as well as the Justice League of America and the Teen Titans. Reportedly, Filmation also had plans to animate the Blackhawks (there is artwork that serves as evidence of this), the Doom Patrol, the Metal Men, and the bizarre B’Wana Beast. (It’s most likely that the characters that did make the cut were chosen because they were more popular and could be brought together as the Justice League.)
The first episode aired on CBS on September 9, 1967. Like the previous season, the show consisted of multiple six-minute shorts, now featuring Superman, Superboy, and Aquaman, plus a bonus guest star. Clues would be presented in each episode, giving hints as to which guest-star would appear that week.
36 episodes of ‘Aquaman’ were created, and featured the Sea King, voiced by Marvin Miller, and his sidekick Aqualad, voiced by Jerry Dexter. The shorts included Mera, voiced by Diana Maddox.
In these episodes, Aquaman was slightly modified from his comic book appearance. His shirt did not have scales on it, to simplify the animation process. He also wore black boots and didn’t have fins on the backs of his legs. He was given Mera’s ability to solidify water in the form of balls, which he hurled at enemies to stun them. Aquaman and Aqualad’s rode around on their seahorse steeds, Storm and Imp, respectively, and were accompanied by their walrus friend, Tusky, who served as comic relief.
‘Aquaman’ pitted the undersea hero against comic book villains including Black Manta, and The Fisherman, as well as original creations like The Brain and Queen Vassa.
As was the case with the ‘Superman’ and ‘Superboy’ shorts, the ‘Aquaman’ segments tended to be a little formulaic, and as was the norm for Filmation shows, a lot of the animation was recycled. The same goes for the guest-star shorts.
There were three episodes a piece created for ‘The Atom’, ‘The Flash’, Green Lantern’, ‘Hawkman’, the ‘Justice League of America’, and the ‘Teen Titans’. Each segment had its own opening title sequence.
In their individual episodes, The Flash was accompanied by his sidekick Kid Flash, while Green Lantern was joined by a blue-skinned alien companion named Kairo. Hawkman had a hawk named Skreal, who flew into battle with him.
The Atom was simplified from his comic book appearance, with a blue leotard over red tights. The Flash did not feature the lightning detailing around his wrists and had yellow gloves instead of red. His belt was also not designed like a lightning bolt. Kid Flash was basically reversed, with a red leotard on top and yellow leggings. He was also colored with black hair instead of brown. The medallion on Hawkman’s chest was missing the hawk silhouette from the comics, but he was given a green glove with talons on it, which could fire energy beams.
In the ‘Green Lantern’ shorts, Kairo would ride around on Green Lantern’s back, which was later imitated on the ‘Saturday Night Live’ animated segment ‘The Ambiguously Gay Duo’. In the cartoon, the Guardians of the Universe were colored Caucasian instead of blue. ‘Green Lantern’ was also the only segment that included a villain from the comics– Evil-Star.
Despite the fact that Aquaman was the co-headliner of this show, he was not included in the three ‘Justice League of America’ shorts, despite his appearance in the opening credits for them. Instead, these episodes featured Superman teamed with The Atom, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman.
Because the rights to Batman were occupied with the live-action series starring Adam West and Burt Ward, Robin was not included in the ‘Teen Titans’ segments. Those featured Aqualad, Kid Flash, Speedy and Wonder Girl. Neither Green Arrow nor Wonder Woman appeared in the other episodes. It’s rather remarkable that Wonder Girl and Speedy were adapted into a cartoon– or any type of media– before Wonder Woman or Green Arrow.
Wonder Girl was simplified somewhat, with the stars omitted from the design of her shorts. (Filmation would do the same when they finally animated Wonder Woman on ‘The Brady Kids’.) She also wore regular boots and not the laced up sandals she wore in the comics.
Pat Harrington, Jr. (best known as Schneider on the late-70s sitcom ‘One Day at a Time’) provided the voices for The Atom and Speedy. Cliff Owens voiced The Flash, as well as Brainiac on the ‘Superman’ shorts. Gerald Moore voiced Green Lantern, while Vic Perrin voiced Hawman. Tommy Cook provided the voice of Kid Flash, while Wonder Girl’s voice was provided by Julie Bennett. Paul Frees lent his voice to the Guardians of the Universe, Kairo, and Evil-Star.
In 1968, after the live-action ‘Batman’ series was canceled, Filmation replaced ‘The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure’ with ‘The Batman/Superman Hour’. ‘Aquaman’ was spun-off into its own show, consisting of reruns. The guest-star segments were thrown into the vault and wouldn’t resurface until the 1990s.
In 1984, four VHS tapes were released under the banner ‘The Super Powers Collection’ (as a tie-in with the toy line), featuring shorts from Aquaman, Batman, Superman, and Superboy. The Superman and Batman episodes were a feature on WGN’s ‘The Bozo Show’.
The ‘Aquaman’, ‘Batman’, ‘Superman’, and guest-star episodes resurfaced on the compilation series ‘The Superman/Batman Adventures’ which began airing on the USA Network in 1995. This show also included episodes of the ‘Super Friends’. After airing on the USA Network, ‘The Superman/Batman Adventures’ aired on the Cartoon Network and Boomerang.
The entire ‘Aquaman’ series was released on DVD in 2007. ‘The New Adventures of Superman’ was also released on DVD in two volumes. In 2008, Warner Brothers released all of the guest-star segments under the name ‘DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures’. These shorts were later re-released as two cheaper DVDs. (I’ve seen them for less than $5 in the bin at Walmart.)
On the menu of the original DVD release, there is an error, with Hawkman replaced by the Hanna Barbera character Birdman.
While ‘The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure’ didn’t really have any merchandise specifically based on it, it did elevate Aquaman’s visibility considerably. He was one of the original Captain Action “disguise” kits, alongside Batman and Superman, and an Aqualad disguise was sold for sidekick Action Boy. In 1972, he was present as part of the original lineup of the World’s Greatest Superheroes line from Mego, alongside Batman, Superman, and Robin. Back in the world of animation, Aquaman was one of the core ‘Super Friends’, beating out the likes of The Flash, Green Lantern, etc.
In 1967, Leo the Lion Records released a vinyl record album, ‘The Official Adventures of Aquaman, The Flash, and Green Lantern’. This album featured the origins of these characters.
In 1968, Triton Records released an album called ‘Songs and Stories of the Justice League of America’. I can’t say that this was directly influenced by the Filmation cartoon, but you will notice that the characters featured– The Flash, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Plastic Man, and Metamorpho– were the same ones touted in the ad above, as upcoming Filmation cartoons.
In 1975, Power Records re-released this album, with edited content, and a different cover, drawn by comic great Neal Adams. This edition omitted the theme songs for The Flash and Aquaman. In addition to re-releasing the entire album, Power Records broke it up and released smaller 45s– Aquaman/The Flash, Metamorpho/Plastic Man, and Wonder Woman’s story, ‘The Return of Brunhilde’ was released by itself.
The full album opens with a Justice League theme song featuring a roll call of the characters on the album, plus Superman and Batman. A man speaks in a high-pitched voice as “Wonder Woman.”
For the… *ahem* record, Batman and Superman are name-checked in the ‘Justice League’ song, but they didn’t have solo songs or stories on this album, because they were so popular that they had their own albums at the time. Wonder Woman was also popular enough that she had multiple albums released.
Speaking of Wonder Woman, even though she didn’t make the cut for ‘The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure’, Filmation would animate her as part of the 1972 Saturday morning series ‘The Brady Kids’, which you can see here. ‘The Brady Kids’ is included in its entirety on the complete ‘Brady Bunch’ DVD boxed set.
As mentioned, the following year, Filmation acquired the rights to Batman, so the Caped Crusader replaced Aquaman on this series.
Have you seen the shorts from ‘The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure’? Leave a comment below!