First Published: May 2014
Contents: Super Friends #1 (November 1976) to #24 (September 1979)
Key Creator Credits: E. Nelson Bridwell, Ric Estrada, Ramona Fradon, Kurt Schaffenberger, Denny O’Neil (as Sergius O’Shaughnessy), and others
Key First Appearances: Wendy Harris, Wonderdog, Jayna, Zan, Gleek, Bushmaster, Jack O’Lantern, Rising Sun, Thunderlord, Icemaiden, Little Mermaid, Olympian, Tasmanian Devil, Doctor Mist
Overview: In the Great Hall of the Justice League, there are assembled the world’s four greatest heroes created from the cosmic legends of the universe! Superman! Wonder Woman! Batman! Aquaman! And the three Junior Super Friends, Wendy, Marvin, and Wonderdog! Their mission: To fight injustice, to right that which is wrong, and to serve all mankind!
Super Friends! was launched to capitalize on the growing popularity of the Saturday morning cartoon on ABC. We get the core members of the Justice League training the next generation of heroes. The first group, featuring Wendy, Marvin, and Wonderdog, quickly graduated in order to make room for the next class, featuring the Wonder Twins and their space monkey Gleek.
White there are a few multi-part stories, most of these are self-contained stories that provide a fun adventure in 17 pages. Plenty of cameos abounds in these stories, where it was a guest appearance by other characters or even references to other companies. In issue #5, the Super Friends host a telethon to raise funds for United Charities. At one point, Anthony Stark calls in from New York City to pledge $75,000. Not to be outdone by a marvelous contribution, Batman slips away so that Bruce Wayne can call in and pledge $100,000.
Why should these stories be Showcased?: Absolutely, this series should be featured in a Showcase Presents. I hope that DC gets a Volume 2 onto their schedule soon to wrap up the second half of the series. This is a fun all-ages book that serves as a good introduction to the DC Universe, without having to know all of the backstories of the various characters. With Ramona Fradon doing most of the art, we are reminded of how diverse her skills were, to adapt the animated style of the show two decades before the “animated style” became trendy with the Batman: The Animated Series books. This is one Showcase volume that I am already looking forward to re-reading sometime soon.
Footnotes: So the big question remains: are these stories in continuity on Earth-1. If you asked E. Nelson Bridwell, he most definitely said yes. Throughout the series, references were made to other events going on in the DC Universe, such as Batman’s break-up with Silver St. Cloud. While the Hall of Justice was used as a training center for the Junior Super Friends, they often had to go to the Justice League satellite orbiting 22,300 miles above Earth. Many other JLA members (Flash, Hawkgirl, Green Arrow, Elongated Man, etc.) make appearances in the book, wearing their costumes of that era. Many of the world-wide characters introduced were later be united in the Global Guardians. Bridwell wrote the series to be a part of the DC Universe but aimed at a younger audience than most DC books of the time.
If you like this volume, try: tracking down issues of the Justice League Adventures (2002-2004) and Justice League Unlimited (2004-2008). Following the success of the animated Batman and Superman series of the 1990s, Cartoon Network launched an animated Justice League series in 2001. To support that project, DC launched a “Johnny DC” book, using the animated style used in the cartoon. Admittedly, many people do not give the Johnny DC books the time of day, viewing them only as the “kids” books. But there are some very good issues in these runs, featuring stories by Dan Slott, Adam Beechen, Mike W. Barr, and many other veteran creators. As innovative as the CN show was, consider these an extension of the show, telling the stories that they didn’t have time to tell.