This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Apache Chief, of the long-running Saturday morning series “Super Friends.”
Chief (no real name was ever given) joined the Super Friends during the now famed 1978-1979 “Challenge of the Super Friends” season. He was created as part of a push to add a more ethnically diverse range of characters to the World’s Greatest Superheroes. Among other such characters included fellow newcomer Black Vulcan.
Unlike his pal Black Vulcan, Apache Chief actually got an origin story! Apache Chief’s backstory (as revealed in the episode “History of Doom”) states he grew up in an Apache village alongside his grandfather. While encountering a grizzly bear one day, Chief’s grandfather gave him magic powder to sprinkle over his head. His grandfather also gave him the magic word that’d invoke his powers, “inuk-chuk!” Said word grants Apache Chief the ability to grow to over 50 feet (15 meters) in height, while also amplifying his strength. Chief quickly took care of the bear, and eventually went on to join the Super Friends.
Also present at Chief’s origin was the woman who’d become his arch-foe, Giganta. Thanks to stealing some of the magic powder, Giganta also gained size-changing powers. In the comics, Giganta’s a long-time foe of Wonder Woman. However, Giganta did also face off against the Amazing Amazon during “Super Friends”‘s run.
Post-“Super Friends,” Apache Chief appeared in various satires of his original series. The highest profile one was Adult Swim’s “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.” There, Apache Chief hires Harvey’s services when spilling hot coffee on his lap at a coffeeshop prevents him from “growing bigger.” Yes, that was part of a series of double entendres and jokes throughout the episode.
There’s also been a few analogues of Apache Chief created for series such as “Young Justice,” “Justice League,” and the actual JLA comic.
In the “Super Friends,” Apache Chief had several voice actors. The longest lasting one was Michael Rye, who also voiced Green Lantern. Rye had a long radio and television voice acting career, including portraying the Lone Ranger in one animated version. He also was Wilma’s father on “The Flintstone Kids.”
In “Harvey Birdman,” Maurice LaMarche voiced Apache Chief.