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!
The third and final incarnation of Filmation’s DC Comics-based Saturday morning cartoons arrived on CBS TV on September 14, 1968. Following the end of the live-action, primetime ‘Batman’ series, Filmation snatched up the rights to make a cartoon starring the Caped Crusaders.
Aquaman, who had co-headlined the previous year’s ‘The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure’ was given his own 30-minute spin-off (comprised of repeats), allowing Batman to co-star with Superman. The show became ‘The Batman/Superman Hour’ and the format was changed. Perhaps inspired by the live-action ‘Batman’ series, the ‘Batman’ and ‘Superman’ segments were expanded to two-parters with a cliffhanger in between. The ‘Superboy’ shorts remained at six minutes and were sandwiched between the two halves of each ‘Superman’ story. Each episode included one two-part ‘Batman’ episode, plus one six and a half minute stand-alone ‘Batman’ story. A total of 34 ‘Batman’ stories were produced.
This series brought together Olan Soule and Casey Kasem as the voices of Batman and Robin for the first time. This Dynamic Duo remained in those roles on Hanna-Barbera’s ‘The New Scooby-Doo Movies’ for two episodes, and then on Hanna Barbera’s ‘Super Friends’ for close to a decade. Soule was replaced on 1984’s ‘Superfriends: The Legendary Super Power Show’ by Adam West, but Soule remained on the series, as Martin Stein, one-half of Firestorm. Kasem voiced Robin until the series ended with ‘The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians’ in 1985-86.
On ‘The Batman/Superman Hour’, Soule also provided the voice for Alfred, and Kasem voiced Chief O’Hara, the mayor of Gotham City, and more. Jane Webb voiced Batgirl/Barbara Gordon and Catwoman. Ted Knight continued narrating the ‘Superman’ segments and also narrated the ‘Batman’ shorts, and provided the voice for several characters– Commissioner Gordon, The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, Mr. Freeze, The Scarecrow, the Mad Hatter, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Simon the Pieman, and Dollman. Batgirl was a guest-star and didn’t appear in every episode.
The Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, and Mr. Freeze were used almost constantly, sometimes appearing in both the two-parters and the shorts in the same episode. They also found themselves teaming up in various configurations. Two new villains were introduced, the portly Simon the Pieman, and Dollman, a little person who masqueraded a plaything.
Like on the live-action series, the bad guys were usually flanked by a group of henchmen, who were often quite colorful themselves. The Penguin’s wore gold outfits with “eagle head” cowls. The Joker’s dressed as jesters.
Catwoman appears dressed in a nondescript green suit with a white mask, gloves, and boots. This is actually a variation on what she was wearing in the comics at the time, which was adapted from the suit Julie Newmar (and later Eartha Kitt) wore on the live-action TV series. That costume was black and had a sequin-like texture, but perhaps to make it more vibrant in the comics, it was colored green. The Filmation version adapted that look, but due to the limited animation budget, the texture was eliminated.
The cast of the ‘Superman’ segments remained the same with Bud Collyer as Superman/Clark Kent, Bob Hastings as Superboy / Young Clark Kent, Jackson Beck as Lex Luthor, Jack Grimes as Jimmy Olsen, and Joan Alexander, and Julie Bennett as Lois Lane. (Alexander was the primary voice of Lois, but Bennett subbed in for a few episodes.)
On its own, the ‘Batman’ cartoons from this series are referred to as ‘The Adventures of Batman’. In reruns, the shows were broken up, and the Superboy and Superman segments aired as ‘The New Adventures of Superman’, while Batman aired as ‘Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder’.
Like all Filmation shows, ‘Batman’ had somewhat limited animation and a lot of it was reused over and over. But compared to all of the other DC shows that the studio made, ‘Batman’ is the most entertaining. The creators were clearly fans of the heroes and their colorful villains. The longer format also allowed for less formulaic stories.
By the late ’60s however, a group called ACT (Action for Children’s Television) pushed for heavier restrictions on kid’s programming and all superhero shows vanished due to their inherent violence.
But Batman and Robin would not stay gone for long. In 1972, Hanna Barbera included the Caped Crusaders as guest-stars on ‘The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries’. These episodes proved so popular, that Hanna Barbera went on to create ‘Super Friends’ the next year.
In 1977, Filmation produced a new series, ‘The New Adventures of Batman’ which aired on CBS. A total of 16 half-hour episodes of that series were produced.
The original ’68 episodes of ‘Batman’ and the ‘Superman’ and ‘Superboy’ segments from all three years were aired on WGN’s ‘The Bozo Show’ in the ’80s. Both the ’60s and ’70s ‘Batman’ episodes have been released on DVD, along with ‘Superman’ which was presented in two volumes. They are also available to stream on DC Universe.
Due to some legal issues, the ‘Superboy’ episodes have never been released on DVD and aren’t on DC Universe. A few episodes were released on VHS in 1984, as part of the ‘Super Powers Collection’. Volumes devoted to ‘Batman’, ‘Superman’, and ‘Aquaman’ were also released as part of this set.
Hope you enjoyed this look at the Filmation era of DC cartoons. As previously mentioned, ‘The New Adventures of Superman‘ was the first cartoon ever created by Filmation studios, and one of the very first cartoons ever made specifically for Saturday mornings. These shows paved the way for ‘Super Friends’, which was the superhero cartoon standard for nearly a decade, which eventually led to more sophisticated fare like ‘Batman: The Animated Series‘ and beyond.
Feel free to leave any memories you have in the comments section!