Saturday, August 23, 2008

DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures

Written by Hombre Divertido

When Superman came busting through the rock wall in Filmation’s 1966 animated series The New Adventures of Superman, baby boomers went crazy at the sight of the Man of Steel jumping off the comic book pages and on to the small screen. The half-hour series, which contained two Superman shorts with one Superboy story sandwiched in between, was a huge hit.
The following year the show was expanded to an hour under the title of The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure and featured not only Superman, Aquaman, and Superboy stories, but also stories with other characters from the DC library. Watching the show was always exciting because you never knew which superhero would be featured that week. During the 1967 –1968 season The Atom, Hawkman, The Green Lantern, The Flash, The Teen Titans, and The Justice League of America appeared in three seven-minute cartoons each. Warner Home Video has released all eighteen of the classic shorts on a two-DVD set.

What was so exciting back in 1967, and still holds true today, was that for comic-book fans, this was the first time that heroes other than Superman and Batman had been brought to animated life on the screen. Getting to see The Atom, Hawkman, The Green Lantern, and The Flash in cartoons was a huge treat. This series was fun long before any of the Super Friends incarnations and was superior simply because the stories were closer to those being depicted in the comic books.

Though the animation is outdated and repetitive, the stories similar (most written by George Kashdan), and the look of the heroes more bland than the comics and cartoons of today, these classics are still well worth watching for young and old. Lou Scheimer, who along with Hal Sutherland started Filmation Studios, stayed true to the comic books of the era, and produced quality stories. Though the openings for each cartoon don’t seem to have weathered the years too well, the actual individual segments are remarkably sharp and vibrant.

The sound quality is also excellent, and you can’t get too much of the legendary Ted Knight as the narrator.

The packaging is above average as it is quite vibrant and displays the superheroes embossed on the cover as well as boldly on each disc.

For those that want to look deep, there are flaws to be found here: Aquaman is featured prominently on the packaging, yet does not appear in any of the cartoons. There are continuity errors to be found in many of the cartoons where items appear that were not previously seen, and liberties are taken with the abilities of the some of the superheroes. Probably most disturbing are the episodes in which The Green Lantern is seen flying with his pal Kyro on his back ala Ace and Gary from Robert Smigel’s “The Ambiguously Gay Duo” animated segments.

Only one extra here, but it’s good. “Animation Maverick: The Lou Scheimer Story,” follows the career of the driving force behind Filmation Studios, and of a man who cared about his art, the industry as a whole, and his country. It is a well-made documentary that is both entertaining and educational.

Some more extras would have been nice, and including the individual closing credits for each segment certainly would have allowed us to appreciate the vocal and artistic talent utilized.

Recommendation: Not to be watched without a huge bowl of cereal. Baby Boomers will appreciate this wonderful walk down memory lane, and fans of DC and classic animation will appreciate the history lesson. Also a great way to introduce young children to not only the DC world, but that of Filmation as well.