The Super Friends: Saturday Morning Comics Volume One

The Super Friends: Saturday Morning Comics Volume One
The Super Friends Saturday Morning Comics Volume One review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: DC - 978-1-4012-9542-4
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 2020
  • UPC: 9781401295424
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: All-Ages, Superhero

Once upon a time comics were primarily created with kids in mind and whilst that gradually declined until the 21st century, there were exceptions.

A superb case in point of all-ages comics done right is the massive (and frankly, rather expensive) The Super Friends: Saturday Morning Comics Volume 1. It gathers the comic tales spinning off from a popular TV cartoon show, and thanks to the canny craftsmanship and loving invention of lead scripter E. Nelson Bridwell it became an integral component of the greater DC Universe.

The TV show Super Friends ran (under various iterations) from 1973 to 1986; starring primarily Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and a brace of studio-originated kids as student crimebusters, supplemented by occasional guest stars from the DCU on a case by case basis. The animated series made the transition to print in 1976.

This massive mega-extravaganza collects Super Friends to late 1979, opening with a lovely and moving introduction from illustrator Ramona Fradon. What follows proves why it was one of the most universally thrilling and satisfying superhero titles of the period. It features smart and witty, straightforward adventures from a time when the entire industry was increasingly losing itself in colossal continued storylines and bombastic, convoluted, soap opera melodrama. Sometimes all you really want is a smart plot well illustrated, sinister villains well-smacked, a solid resolution and early bed!

Heroes-in-training Wendy and Marvin and their incredibly astute mutt Wonderdog, all studying at the palatial Hall of Justice, are seamlessly incorporated by Bridwell, not just as observers, but participants with thoughtfully plotted roles. Starting with Ric Estrada art, the incomparable Fradon became penciller with the third outing, in which fifty intergalactic super-villains are murdered by infernal Dr. Ihdrom, who blends their harvested essences to create an apparently unbeatable hyper-horror and utterly overwhelm Earth’s heroic defenders.

Bridwell was famed as DC’s Keeper of Lore and Continuity Cop thanks to an astoundingly encyclopaedic knowledge of its publishing minutiae and ability to instantly recall every damn thing! Super Friends gave him plenty of scope to display it with a host of near-forgotten guest-stars, and when a new TV season aired with Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog inexplicably gone, he just switched to spotlight aliens Zan and Jayna and elastic-tailed space monkey Gleek. However, in consideration for fans he also concocted an explanation for the sudden change, at the same time including the superheroes from other countries introduced on TV.

And all that hasn’t even taken us halfway through!

Consistently inventive use of DC’s vast array of heroic and villainous creations is accompanied by Bridwell gradually developing the non-US based superheroes into their own fascinating team that would come to support decades of future continuity. Denny O’Neil additionally writes a couple of more jocular turns.

Rounding out the frenetic fun is a features section that including lead TV show designer Alex Toth’s comprehensive pictorial essay on creating TV Cartoons, plus his JLA model sheets, and designs of The Hall of Justice by Terry Austin.

This initial compendium offers stories of pure comics gold to delight children and adults in equal proportion. Truly generational in appeal, they are probably the closest thing to an American answer to the magic of Tintin or Asterix. And there’s a Volume Two.