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Many Faces Of... The Justice League
by Russ Dimino
some of Russ's other columns! Many Faces Of...: Lana
Lang - Lucy Lane
- The Kents - Lex
Luthor - Lois Lane
- The Flash - Jor-El
and Lara - Mxyzptlk
- The Other Women Of Clark
Kent - Batman
- Aquaman - Superman
- Jimmy Olsen
of steel. The world's greatest detective. An Amazonian warrior
princess. The fastest man alive. The king of Atlantis. A man
who wears the most powerful weapon in the universe on his ring
finger. The last Martian. These are but a few of the members
of a group whose ranks define the elite of the world's superhero
community. Separately, they have saved the world countless times
over. Occasionally, however, a threat emerges that is so huge
that they have no choice but to band together and combine their
forces. Together, they are the Justice League.
In this edition of "The Many Faces of...", we will
examine several incarnations of the Justice League that made
it (or almost made it!) to the television screen!
The League first appeared in the comics in The Brave and The
Bold #28, which hit stands in 1960. The initial line-up was
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern,
and J'onn J'onzz, a.k.a. The Martian Manhunter. This issue also
introduced the team's teen sidekick/mascot, Snapper Carr. The
League got their own series in 1961, with members constantly
being added or replaced throughout its long history. Over the
years, other chapters of the League popped up, such as Justice
League Europe, Justice League International, and Justice League
Task Force. The current Justice League of America comic book
series was recently relaunched, and is being written by New
York Times best-selling author Brad Meltzer.
League flew into the Saturday morning line-up in 1973 with "The
Super Friends." The series was produced by Hanna-Barbera,
the company behind "Scooby Doo," "The Flintstones,"
"The Jetsons," and many other classic cartoons. The
title "Super Friends" was seen as a more kid-friendly
than "Justice League," though the team was still sometimes
referred to as such on the show. "Super Friends" was
a hit, and would stick around until 1986, going through many
changes and revamps as it went along.
The roster for the first season of "Super Friends"
consisted of Danny Dark as Superman, Olan Soule as Batman, radio
legend Casey Kasem as Robin, Shannon Farnon as Wonder Woman,
and Norman Alden as Aquaman. To increase the kid-appeal, the
team also included two teenagers, Wendy and Marvin, and their
talking dog, Wonder Dog. They had no powers, except, of course,
Wonder Dog's ability to talk, which was never really addressed
or explained. Wendy was voiced by Sherry Alberoni, and Frank
Welker voiced both Marvin and Wonder Dog. The series was narrated
by Ted Knight, best known as Ted Baxter of "Mary Tyler
of the first season repeated until 1977, when "The All
New Super Friends Hour" debuted. This season saw the addition
of Jack Angel as Flash and Hawkman, and Michael Rye as Apache
Chief and Green Lantern. Gone were Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder
Dog. In were the Wonder Twins, Jayna and Zan, who had the power
to shapeshift into animal and water forms, respectively. Liberty
Williams voiced Jayna, and Michael Bell voiced Zan. William
Woodson replaced Ted Knight as the narrator (ironically, Woodson
was in the "Mary Tyler Moore" episode "And Now,
Sitting in for Ted Baxter"!).
The most popular season among the fans came in 1978 with "Challenge
of the Super Friends." Not only had the quality of the
animation improved by this point, but the Friends now faced
The Legion of Doom, a group of villains who had formed a league
of their own, so to speak. The Legion of Doom was made up of
13 villains whose ranks included Lex Luthor, Solomon Grundy,
Toyman, Riddler, Bizarro, the Scarecrow, and Brainiac (played
by Ted Cassidy, "Lurch" of "Addams Family"
fame), to name a few. Also this season, Bill Calloway took over
the role of Aquaman from Norman Alden.
1979, the League made a live-action appearance of sorts. In
"Legends of the Superheroes," a TV special that can
currently only be found in bootleg format at some comic book
stores and/or conventions, the heroes take part in both a superhero
adventure and a celebrity roast. The stars of this campy, tongue-in-cheek
show were Adam West and Burt Ward, who reprised their roles
as Batman and Robin from the hit 1960's "Batman" TV
series. Rounding out the rest of the group were Garrett Craig
as Captain Marvel, Howard Murphy as Green Lantern, Danuta Rylko
Soderman as Black Canary, Bill Nuckols as Hawkman, Rod Haase
as Flash, Barbara Joyce as Huntress and Alfie Wise as The Atom.
They went up against villains such as Charlie Callas as Sinestro,
Gabe Dell as Mordru, Howard Morris as Dr. Sivana, Mickey Morton
as Solomon Grundy, A'leisha Brevard as Giganta, Ruth Buzzie
as Auntie Minerva, and, also reprising his "Batman"
role, Frank Gorshin as the Riddler. Gary Owens provided narration,
and none other than Ed McMahon was the Master of Ceremonies
at the roast. Appearances by Hawkman's mom and a geriatric hero
called Retired Man added to the silliness of this strange program.
In 1984, "Super Friends" was back with another new
incarnation, this time called "Super Friends: The Legendary
Super Powers Show." This time out, the team had help from
Firestorm the Nuclear Man, voiced by Mark L. Taylor. Adam West
now provided the voice of Batman, taking over for Olan Soule.
Despite this, the show started to take on a more serious tone,
with the Friends now fighting darker villains like Darkseid
and his warriors from the planet Apokolips. Some other cast
changes: Constance Cawfield now voiced Wonder Woman, and B.J.
Ward voiced Jayna.
final season of "Super Friends" came in 1985 with
"Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians." This season
saw the addition of Ernie Hudson of "Ghost Busters"
fame as Victor Stone, a.k.a. Cyborg. B.J. Ward now stepped up
the ranks, voicing Wonder Woman. This version continued the
darker trend that the series had been taking, marking the first
time that Batman's grim origin (namely having his parents gunned
down in front of him as a young boy) was ever depicted outside
of the comics.
1997, the League tried and failed to make a jump to a live-action
TV series. A pilot that never aired in the US was produced and,
much like "Legends of the Superheroes," is now pretty
much exclusive to the comic convention bargain bins (and possibly
YouTube). This version starred Matthew Settle as Green Lantern,
Kimberly Oja as Ice, John Kassir as The Atom, Michelle Hurd
as Fire, Kenny Johnston as The Flash, and David Ogden Stiers
as Martian Manhunter J'onn J'onzz. The villain in this tale?
Miguel Ferrer as Dr. Eno, The Weather Wizard, who holds the
city for ransom with the threat of a tidal wave. Ferrer voiced
another version of this same character in an episode of the
animated "Superman" series, "Speed Demons,"
in which Superman teamed up with The Flash.
2001, the gang got animated again. The new "Justice League"
series was produced by the award-winning team behind the "Batman"
and "Superman" animated shows of the 1990s, and was
in fact spun-off from the continuity of those shows. Kevin Conroy,
who had voiced Batman since 1992, continued to voice the Dark
Knight. George Newbern stepped up to the role of Superman, since
Tim Daly, who had previously voiced Supes, was busy with the
new "Fugitive" TV series. The rest of the League was
comprised of Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman, Carl Lumbly (Dixon
on "Alias") as J'onn J'onzz, Maria Canals as Hawkgirl,
"MAD TV" alum Phil LaMarr as Green Lantern, and "Smallville"
star Michael Rosenbaum as The Flash. The League's original sidekick
from their comic book debut, Snapper Carr, even made scattered
appearances throughout the series, this time as a TV reporter.
He was voiced by Jason Marsden.