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October 5, 2015

Before or After: The Super Friends and the Wonder Twins

by Richard Keller, posted Jun 19th 2008 10:58AM

Were the Super Freinds better before or after the Wonder TwinsDo not adjust your web browser. You are now entering the Retro Squad, where we are reviewing past episodes of classic TV shows.

In the annals of humankind there have been many debates that have crossed generations without one clear winner on one side or the other. Some of the more famous debates have been: what came first, the chicken or the egg; creationism vs. evolution; Cubs vs. White Sox; and what was the better Pauly Shore movie -- Encino Man or Bio-Dome. Yet, no other debate has shown such passionate division, such anger, such incomprehensible argument than one about a certain 70s Saturday morning cartoon featuring a scantily clad woman with a lasso and a man who lurked the alleyways at night to purposely scare people.

I speak about the Hanna-Barbera series Super Friends and the on-going debate about if the show was better before or after the Wonder Twins appeared.

First, a bit of history. Super Friends premiered on ABC Saturday mornings during the 1973-74 season at a time where teenage animated fare dominated the airwaves. On ABC alone there was Lassie's Rescue Rangers, Goober and the Ghost Chasers, The Brady Kids, and the animated Rick Springfield series Mission:Magic!. All of these featured heavy does of teenage and talking-animal antics. That's the most likely reason that two nosy kids and their stupid dog joined Batman, Robin, Aquaman, Superman and Wonder Woman in their adventures.

The nosy kids were Wendy Harris and Marvin White, while the stupid dog was known simply as Wonderdog. They had no special powers (although Marvin attempted to practice flying in one episode), yet they hung out with the Super Friends as comic relief and as the non-superhuman connection for the teenage viewers. Fact is, the trio bore an uncanny similarity to characters in the now veteran Scooby-Doo. Wendy was a combination of Velma and Daphne, Marvin was definitely a slightly doofier version of Shaggy, and Wonderdog had a similar intelligence level to Scooby-Doo.

The trio joined the Super Friends for one season of 16 episodes, then disappeared after the show was cancelled. When the Super Friends returned in 1977 for The All-New Superfriends Hour Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog were nowhere to be found. Instead, they were replaced by Zan and Jayna, otherwise known as the Wonder Twins, and their pet monkey Gleek. Like Wendy and Marvin, the Wonder Twins were both teenagers. However, Zan and Jayna had something the previous duo did not: super powers. Zan had the ability to become any form of water and Jayna had the ability to transform into any type of animal.

This made the dynamics of the Super Friends different than in its previous incarnation. Rather than being used for comic relief (other than Gleek and his handy-dandy tail) the Wonder Twins were actually a set of teenagers to contend with. They would be active participants in the adventures of the Super Friends, and even be somewhat on par with them when it came to power levels, despite their young stature. They were even given their own segment during the All-New Super Friends Hour -- something that Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog never received.

So, the question comes down to this: was Super Friends better before or after the Wonder Twins? In the era that it aired, having Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog tag along with the likes of Superman and Wonder Woman actually made sense. However, in today's harder, more cynical world, these episodes of Super Friends seem quaint and, to some, a bit embarrassing. With the Wonder Twins Super Friends started to gain a sense of respectability which continued to grow with shows like Challenge of the Superfriends.

So, what say you? Let us know in the comments and in the poll below.

Was Super Friends better before or after the Wonder Twins
Before the Wonder Twins53 (26.1%)
After the Wonder Twins117 (57.6%)
The show was the same33 (16.3%)

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Even as a kid I hated Marvin, Wendy and WonderDog because they were so obviously comic relief a la JarJar Binks - Although I did view the activated powers of the WonderTwins as slightly dorky from time to time, 'form of an ice sculpture!' I did like them for the reasons you listed: they had powers, they were useful to the plot (not just add-ons or detractors) and were actual members of the team -

June 20 2008 at 6:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wonder twin Powers activate!! I love the wonder twins!

June 19 2008 at 11:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So turning into water and praying there was a bucket nearby for Gleek carry you was more respectable?
I hated both incarnations but I honestly liked Wendy and Marvin better than the twins. That said, the show was better after the Twins appeared. The show seemed to be a little more action oriented.

June 19 2008 at 1:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark McKay

I grew up on this and I definitely liked the Wonder Twins more then the Scooby-Doo clones. They just made the show goofy and dumbed it down.

June 19 2008 at 12:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Margaret Calvert

Marvin, Wendy, Wonderdog and the Wonder Twins all drive me nuts. I haven't and don't enjoy having them as part of the Super Friends group. I watch the Justice League, Super Friends, Batman, Superman, etc etc. I enjoy all of the old and all of the new updated versions but Marvin, Wendy, Wonderdog and the Wonder Twins always make me groan. And, I still watch Scooby Doo, the originals and the updated versions. There is a great debate about whether or not Scooby jumped the shark when Scrappy Doo was added. These programs, in one form or another, have been around for a very long time, so older viewers may have differing opinions than younger viewers.

June 19 2008 at 12:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why? Less Brendan Fraser, more Tenacious D!

June 19 2008 at 11:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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