The Secret Origin of the SUPER FRIENDS Comic Book Series

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: From page to screen and back again…

Over the last few months, we’ve been excerpting Andy Mangels’ ongoing Super Friends history from the pages of RetroFan magazine. Well Issue #28 is out now, and so we continue with this slice of yesteryear — the Secret Origin of the Super Friends Comics Series.

But why are we running this EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT today? One, because it’s Saturday! Two, because a new episode of The World’s Greatest Super Friends Podcast goes live. I join John S. Drew and bring along a guest — my son, Sam! — to discuss the Season 2 episode The Collector/Handicap/The Mind Maidens/Alaska Peril. Click here to listen if ya like!

Anyway, RetroFan #28 has tons of other great material, including more from Andy’s article, so dig the table of contents — and then on to the cosmic reaches of the universe!


We would be remiss not to mention the other major incarnation of Super Friends: the comic- book series! Under an imprint called “DC TV”—which also featured Shazam!, Isis, and Welcome Back, Kotter—DC Comics published Super Friends beginning in August 1976 (pub-date November).

Super-fan-turned pro writer/editor E. Nelson Bridwell wrote the series, which followed both the animated continuity (loosely) and DC comic-book continuity (more firmly). Bridwell was a natural choice; he had functioned as DC’s story advisor to Hanna-Barbera for the animated series. Longtime DC artist Ramona Fradon was tapped as the series regular artist (although Ric Estrada penciled the first two issues).

Though it was supposedly aimed at younger readers, throughout its four-year run Super Friends led readers throughout the DC Universe, and introduced its own set of multicultural heroes. A one-shot treasury edition of Super Friends was produced by DC in late 1975 (published as Limited Collectors’ Edition #C-41). A framing story by E. Nelson Bridwell featured art by Alex Toth (who had, of course, designed the animated series), and it showed the introduction of Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog to the Super Friends… known more specifically as the Justice League here.

The regular comics series itself was more cleanly drawn than other DC books at the time. Ramona Fradon said that, “I think they figured it was aimed at a younger audience and my style is pretty open and simple and I think they felt it was good for a younger audience. They wanted something that would vaguely approximate TV, you know, the simplicity of animated drawing so I think that’s why they picked me.”

The series had a key element from Bridwell: a letters page, here titled “Super Fans.” In it, he obsessively detailed how he made sense of Wendy and Marvin’s historical relevance to the DC Universe, and recapped the origins of the heroes and villains of the series for new readers.

Cover by Ernie Chan and Vince Colletta

Super Friends #7 (pub-date Oct. 1977) was a continuity-shaking issue, as it introduced the Exorrian Wonder Twins Zan and Jayna and their space monkey, Gleek. Although some sources claim that Bridwell created the Wonder Twins, he credits Norm Maurer and his team at Hanna-Barbera for the duo in the text page in Super Friends #9. However, Bridwell was excited to have costumed, super-powered teenagers to use in his series.

“Here was just what the mag needed,” he wrote. “A change of direction to bring it into line with the other DC books. I saw many possibilities. The kids would be new to Earth; they’d have to learn about it gradually—as the TV show could never depict.”

Issue #7 also debuted four new multicultural heroes: the Seraph (of Israel), Godiva (England), Impala (South Africa), and Owlwoman (a Cherokee from Oklahoma). As if that wasn’t enough, it also guest-starred JLA members Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Elongated Man, and Flash! The following issue introduced more foreign heroes: Rising Sun (Japan), Jack O’Lantern (Ireland), Tuatara (New Zealand), Bushmaster (Venezuela), and Thunderlord (Taiwan).

Cover by Ramona Fradon and Bob Smith

Issue #9 concluded the three-part story, and introduced Tasmanian Devil (Australia), Little Mermaid (Denmark), the Olympian (Greece), and Ice Maiden (Norway). This story also saw the exit from the series of Wendy and Marvin as they went off to college, while Zan and Jayna became super-hero trainees.

Bridwell refused to write in the Hanna-Barbera-created multicultural heroes from the TV realm. In #20’s letters column, he wrote, “Black Vulcan seems little more than a hyped-up version of our own Black Lightning, Apache Chief an Indian version of Colossal Boy, and Samurai? His power seems rather vague, though last season he was turning into anything he said in Japanese. Must make it hard to carry on a conversation in his native language—or to order in a Japanese restaurant.”

It was one of the many jabs he took at the animated series; if fans watched his comments carefully, they could tell that he didn’t actually like working with Hanna-Barbera very much, and preferred to write his own ideas.

Cover by Kurt Schaffenberger and Smith

The Super Friends series continued through Issue #47 (pub-dated Aug. 1981), during which time the stars had met heroes from many other countries. Many of those characters were later brought into a group at DC called the “Global Guardians,” and a few of them are in use today. The Wonder Twins also were used throughout the next decades at DC, and recently appeared in their own excellent maxi-series.

(For much more about the Super Friends comic, check out the TwoMorrows magazine Back Issue #30, where I take a deep dive into that series.)

RetroFan #28 is out now. It’s available at your local comics shop and directly through publisher TwoMorrows. Click here to order.


— Pour Yourself Some Cereal and Dig This Groovy SUPER FRIENDS Art. Click here.


Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. The Super Friends was my favorite cartoon as a kid, and I have the complete comic series as well. While I loved the cartoon, I felt the comic series handled the characters much better, specifically Wendy, Marvin and the Wonder Twins.

    If anyone is interested in getting this series, it was recently released in a two volume hard cover series. Volume 1 contains issues 1-26. Volume 2 has issues 27-47, and each book has extras in them as well.

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    • I got Vol 1 of that specifically for that Aquqbats promo comic that was included. Otherwise I have the complete run so thankfully Vol 2 wasn’t needed

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