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Sunday, 14 August 2011

Over at Noblemania, Marc Tyler Nobleman has started to share a long series of interviews with people involved in the Super Friends (spellings vary) Saturday morning cartoons of the 1970s and early 1980s. Here’s the introduction.

I remember watching Challenge of the Super Friends with my brother, but it didn’t make a big impression on me. I saw a few episodes last summer with Godson and family, and realized why. It’s not a good show. The characterizations are flat, the action repetitive. Still, my brother and I watched it every Saturday, and so did the kids last summer.

The interviews help to explain. The writers had to work within rules that strictly limited action. Not just no hitting because of network content guidelines, but no more than one movement per shot—more would break the budget. The scripts showed practically no conflict within the Super Friends, and no glimpses of the heroes’ unmasked lives, leaving no interpersonal drama. It’s pretty impressive they were able to come up with stories at all.
Of all the voice actors cast in Super Friends, the one who became most famous was Casey Kasem, later host of a nationwide Top 40 countdown. He, of course, played Robin. The photo at top shows Kasem at a table read; it comes from Sydney Croskery, daughter of the late Danny Dark (one of the actors who voiced Superman), and was first published at Noblemania.

Kasem was a Hanna-Barbera regular, already playing Shaggy on Scooby Doo—quite a different personality. All the other voice actors interviewed so far remember him as a fun, friendly colleague.

How did Kasem get the job of Boy Wonder? Born in 1932, he was no longer young. Indeed, one of Marc’s recent interviewees, Mark L. Taylor, stated, “I remember always thinking how funny it was that Casey Kasem (Robin) was just as old or older than Adam West (Batman [or one of them]).”

So what made Hanna-Barbera look at their regular troupe and say, “Casey’s our Robin!”

My theory? The sweater vest.
These Super Friends postings are in turn a mere subset of Marc’s stock of upcoming interviews with people involved in other adaptations of DC comic books in popular entertainment [and I use that term loosely] of that decade. For example, Marc’s logged forty-four conversations with people involved in a superhero water-ski show at Sea World.

Marc Tyler Nobleman is the author of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman and a book on comics scripter Bill Finger scheduled for publication in 2012.


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