Package shows: “The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure” (plus Batman)

This week’s package show look is at “The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure,” which ran from 1967 to 1968 on CBS. I’ll also look at “The Batman/Superman Hour,” which aired in the 1968-1969 season.

Both shows mark the animation debut of most of the classic DC Comics stable of characters. The only exception is Superman himself. He’d previously appeared in the classic 1940s Fleischer/Famous theatrical shorts.

Much of “Hour of Adventure” was overseen by DC Comics’ then-staff, such as longtime Silver Age “Superman” editor Mort Weisinger. “Teen Titans” comic writer Bob Haney wrote some segments.

I’ll discuss each major segment of “The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure” below.

Superman

"The New Adventures of Superman" title card

The Man of Steel debuted in 1966’s “The New Adventures of Superman”; the show proved popular enough to be expanded to an hour-long format in the 1967 season.

This series took some influence from both the Silver Age comics, as well as the classic 1940s Superman radio show. The voice actors are largely veterans of the radio show: Bud Collyer reprised his voice as Superman/Clark Kent, while Joan Alexander once again voiced Lois Lane. Jackson Beck (the voice of Bluto in the Famous Studios “Popeye” shorts) served as the narrator; Beck was also the radio show’s announcer.

Some of Superman’s dialogue here was influenced by the radio show. Besides Superman’s famous “up, up and away!,” his lesser known radio line “down!” also was used on this series, whenever Superman made landings.

A few episodes were remakes of comic storylines, particularly an episode based on Titano’s first appearance.

After this show was cancelled, Superman’s portion was repackaged back into its original stand-alone half-hours for syndication, alongside the Superboy shorts.

Opening credits

Here’s the opening for “The New Adventures of Superman.”

Aquaman

Aquaman logo

The Sea King made his animation debut with “The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure.”

The show featured the adventures of Aquaman, alongside sidekick Aqualad, occasional cohort Mera (who isn’t married to Aquaman here, plus lacks her comic self’s hard-water powers), and their pet walrus, Tusky. Tusky could somehow breathe underwater indefinitely, and added some comic relief to the action. Also in the series were Storm and Imp, the giant seahorse mounts of Aquaman and Aqualad.

Aquaman defended the Earth’s oceans against all sorts of threats, including alien invasions, lava creatures, and several of his foes from the comics such as Black Manta and the Fisherman. Also making his animation debut in this series is Starro, the giant alien starfish conqueror, though here he was just a non-sentient giant starfish controlled by another villain.

The show is also the first time Aquaman’s trademark telepathy sound effect/concentric circles are seen in animation. Apparently this show set in stone how Aquaman’s telepathy should be conveyed in animation, as it’s been the model for conveying his telepathy even in darker modern adaptions.

Post-“Hour of Adventure,” Aquaman’s own half-hour reran for awhile on CBS Sunday mornings, before heading off into syndication. The Sea King would later reappear on “Super Friends” for an even longer stretch on Saturday mornings.

As for why an Aquaman series? My guess is because there was a large interest in the oceans (and the outdoors in general) in the 60s. Various TV shows in the 1950s and 60s featured an ocean setting, such as “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” “Sea Hunt,” and “Flipper.” Then-recent developments in diving equipment, including Scuba gear, also probably helped stir interest in the oceans, plus the fame of underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau. By the decade’s end, the modern ecology movement also started to gain some steam.

The blog “The Aquaman Shrine” covered each episode of this series in detail.

Opening credits

Here’s the opening credits of Aquaman’s half-hour series. If it looks familiar, that’s because it was parodied in the first “Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy” episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” That parody was pretty accurate, right down to the swimming sharks, the water ball thrown at the end, and the wording of the dialogue.

Superboy

Airing alongside the Superman shorts above was “The Adventures of Superboy,” the adventures of Clark Kent as the teenaged hero Superboy. Similar to the comics of the time, Superboy defended the small town of Smallville from various threats. Accompanying Superboy in his duties was his super-dog, Krypto. Seen in a few episodes were Ma and Pa Kent, as well as Lana Lang.

Bob Hastings was Superboy’s voice actor. Hastings later became the voice of Commissioner Gordon in the 1990s’ “Batman: The Animated Series” and its spinoffs/related shows.

One episode sees Superboy and Krypto travel 1,000 years into the future to find a rare element. However, the Legion of Super-Heroes never appeared in the series. Though I suppose the episode’s plot might’ve been cut even shorter if it just consisted of “Clark asks Brainiac 5 or Element Lad for help.”

Post-“Hour of Adventure,” Superboy appeared in a few flashbacks in “Super Friends.” A live-action “Superboy” series also aired in the late 80s and early 90s. There was also the decade-long run of “Smallville” in the 2000s, though Clark didn’t use the Superboy name/costume. Superboy, under the name/description “young Superman,” also appeared in the 2000s “Legion of Super-Heroes” animated series. The TV series “Young Justice” featured the Kon-El Superboy (a combined clone of Superman and Lex Luthor).

On a personal note, the Superboy shorts here, as well as the above Superman shorts, were some of my first exposure to the Superman mythos as a kid, besides “Super Friends” and the Christopher Reeve films. They’re all probably part of why I became a Superman/Superboy/Krypto fan, even though it’s been years since the original Superboy’s been an ongoing character.

Opening credits

Here’s the opening for Superboy’s segments.

Batman

Cashing in on the “Bat-mania” of the live-action 60s TV series, 1968 saw a Batman-related cartoon take to the air. The show featured most of the classic Batman villains, as well as several unique to the TV series, such as “Simon the Pieman.” Olan Soule made his debut as the long-running pre-90s voice of Batman with this series, as did Casey Kasem as Robin.

Jane Webb, a mainstay of Filmation’s 60s/70s shows, voiced Batgirl.

Since “Hour,” Batman’s series entered syndication. Batman would return to TV pretty often in the 1970s, between a cameo in “The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries,” joining the long-running “Super Friends,” and a new stand-alone show in the late 70s.

The DC Universe

The expanded DC Universe made its animation debut with this series, airing as backup shorts to Superman and Aquaman’s adventures. Post-“Hour of Adventure,” most of the characters below made returns in the long-running “Super Friends” series, while the Titans didn’t appear as a stand-alone team until the 2000s “Teen Titans” series.

The JLA

The Justice League of America had several shorts. Oddly, the “super-superheroes” of the JLA, as “Hour of Adventure”‘s theme song described the team, was noticeably short on a few members—Batman and Wonder Woman in particular. Despite appearing in JLA related bumpers, even Aquaman didn’t appear on the team in the shorts. The team here consisted of: Superman; Green Lantern; the Flash; Hawkman; and the Atom.

The Flash

The Flash here had a few shorts, featuring the adventures of Barry Allen as the Fastest Man Alive. Accompanying Flash in his episodes was his sidekick Wally West, as Kid Flash.

Green Lantern

Hal Jordan was Green Lantern. However, instead of Thomas Kalmaku as Hal’s pal like in the comics, Hal hung out with a Venusian named Kyro. I’m not sure why—a lack of willingness to show minorities on 1960s kids’ TV, maybe? Or an alien sidekick sounded more impressive?

Hawkman

Hawkman here is Katar Hol, an alien from the planet Thanagar who came to Earth to fight crime.

The Atom

The Atom in his few shorts was Ray Palmer, a scientist at fictional Ivy University in Ivy Town.

The Teen Titans

The Teen Titans in their shorts consisted of: Kid Flash; Aqualad; Speedy; and Wonder Girl, presumably Donna Troy.

On DVD/digital video

As of this writing, there’s DVD box sets for almost all of the above shows.

The only exception so far is Superboy. The Superman DVD set left off his younger self’s shorts. This is because of rights disputes between Siegel and Shuster’s estates (the creators of Superboy as a concept) and DC Comics, the presumed copyright holder of Superboy. The dispute’s also why Superboy became “young Superman” on the 2000s “Legion of Super-Heroes” cartoon.

Fortunately, Superboy’s copyright disputes have been resolved. Thus, I’d expect the Boy of Steel to see a DVD release sometime soon. Bob Hastings’ later work on “Batman: The Animated Series” should be an incentive to release this series.

(Updated 12/14/16)

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