Updated on December 10, 2021
Continuing from last week’s Super Friends theme, this week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Samurai, another Super Friend.
Samurai is a Japanese hero who was created in the late 70s, in a push for diversity. Similar heroes created alongside Samurai were Apache Chief, Black Vulcan, and El Dorado.
Samurai’s powers are similar to those of DC Comics superhero the Red Tornado. He has the ability to make his body generate high-velocity winds, and use such to move at super-speed. Saying a particular Japanese word would activate his powers. Similar to Red Tornado, episodes would often show Samurai’s entire body, or just his lower half, as a swirling tornado-like wind.
Samurai also had the ability to become invisible. Wikipedia claims he also had the ability to cast illusions, as well as set his entire body on fire. I suspect given his show’s time-era, that last ability was rarely seen for good reason.
To my surprise, Samurai does have an origin story, as well as a real name! Both come from a “Super Powers” tie-in comic published during the mid-80s. Samurai’s backstory: in his civilian identity as history professor Toshio Eto, Toshio was struck by a beam of light sent from New Genesis, home of the New Gods. The New Gods were attempting to create more super-powered individuals on Earth as a means of defending it against Darkseid’s machinations. Toshio gained superpowers as a result, and decided to become a superhero, joining the Super Friends.
Samurai’s been infrequently seen since the series ended, aside from parodies such as “Harvey Birdman” on Adult Swim.
Pastiches of Samurai have appeared in a few spin-offs. The character “Wind Dragon” in “Justice League Unlimited” is one example.
Toshio himself eventually appeared in the actual DC Universe, as seen in a few 2000s “Justice League” comics (the “Brightest Day” storyline).
Jack Angel voiced Samurai, as well as Hawkman and the Flash on “Super Friends.” Angel’s done some recent voice work, including in “Ice Age” and “Toy Story.”