I flipping love “Batman: the Brave & the Bold!” I love how it’s so light hearted & fun with its dinosaur-riding gorillas, awesomely hammy king of the seas, and transformer batmobiles. I also love the fact that it uses Batman’s popularity to introduce the mainstream public b-list & c-list characters from the DCU. For some, like Blue Beetle, Kamandi, & the Metal Men, this marks their first animated appearance. Others like Booster Gold, Vixen, & Jonah Hex got to make their debut in the DCAU. Then there are the heroes who actually had their start decades ago and you might be surprised who came first and where. After the jump, join me for THE DEBUT OF THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD!
“The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure” (1967):
This hour long block that was an add-on to Filmation’s “The New Adventures of Superman” series. As you can tell, it was this marked the first animated appearance of Aquaman. And better than then his infamous Superfriends depiction, since you know, this one had more powers than talking to fish. Several other characters from his supporting cast like Aqualad, Mera, & Black Manta also appear in this cartoon. The show is out on DVD and has been the subject of parody in the Mermaid Man & Barnacle Boy episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants.
There were other segments on the show that didn’t involve besides Superman & Aquaman. These gave some focus to other characters of DC. Green Lantern, the Flash (with Kid Flash), Hawkman, the Atom, and the first animated depictions of the Justice League & the Teen Titans were each given three episodes a series. The Justice League was comprised of the six heroes featured on the show while the Teen Titans were comprised of Speedy, Aqualad, Kid Flash, & Wonder Girl. That’s right, Robin was not present in the first animated depiction of the Teen Titans. And for that matter, Speedy & Wonder Girl appeared but not their mentors. Still, more faithful than that anime knock-off from 2003. However, Batman did not appear in this show meaning that most of Silver Age DC predated Batman in animation. However, the Caped Crusader finally made his first appearance in…
“Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder” (1968):
In 1968, Aquaman and the guest heroes were removed from the line-up and were replaced with a Batman cartoon, making it “the Batman/Superman Hour.” This was more or less a cartoon version of the Adam West series, though thanks the power of animation, some gimmicks work better than in live action like Mr. Freeze’s freeze ray and the countless Bat gadgets. It marked the first time Olan Soule & Casey Kasem voiced Batman & Robin respectively. Though this is sometimes mistaken with The New Adventures of Batman & Robin series that featured Adam West & Burt Ward reprised the roles. The show is not on DVD though it has been distributed digitally via iTunes, the PSN Shop, & the Xbox Live Market.
Plastic Man & Green Arrow on “Superfriends” (1973):
The first Superfriends cartoon was a rip-off in my opinion. You had great super heroes teaming up to take on evil and we get is a hour long show telling us all to recycle with three rejects from a Scooby Doo knock-off. For anyone who thought the Justice League animated series was 30 minutes too long, this is an even worse case. Made worse by the fact the villains were just regular misunderstood people and not major threats that could grant the 60 minute runtime like Starro or the Injustice Gang. While the line-up was Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, & Aquaman; it did have three guest heroes that appeared. Only one (The Flash) would went on to appear in later incarnations, the other two were Plastic Man & Green Arrow.
Plastic Man got the raw deal in this, he only made a one minute cameo and only served as a MacGuffin for the climax. You see, the episode was about a scientist who made a super computer called G.E.E.C. (subtle) that controlled every machine to make everything more efficient though everybody got lazy because of it. However, a mouse accidently gets stuck in the computer and everything starts to go haywire. So Plastic Man was summoned to get the mouse out of the hole. So the moral about how we shouldn’t be reliable technology or else mice will sneak in and will ruin everything. Aside from being worried about the mouse’s safety, Plas had no real characterization what so ever. I guess this is why he went to Filmation for his cartoon.
Green Arrow at this point has already become the left wing mouthpiece Dennis O’Neil made him into so it makes sense he would appear in this hippie BS. The episode he appeared involved everyone shrinking thanks to a Peter Lorre sounding scientist named Gulliver (GET IT?) sending something over the radio or something. The core heroes got shrunk and captured Gulliver and Green Arrow, who got shrunk too, saved the day and turned the tables on Gulliver to convince him to return everyone to normal. The moral for this one is that we should reduce or else some mad scientist will try to take the law into his own hands. Personally, I think the only reason that he doesn’t appear after this show is that he sounds too much like Aquaman. Then again the Flash sounded different from when he appeared later on so they probably forgotten him.
“The Kid Super Power Hour Featuring SHAZAM!” (1981):
Nearly a decade after DC got the rights to the original Captain Marvel, they gave the rights to Filmation (Anyone sensing a pattern here?) to make a cartoon starring the Big Red Cheese. The show is actually accurate to the Captain Marvel mythos having the Marvel Family, their allies, and their enemies like Dr. Sivana, Mr. Mind, & Black Adam appearing. The show is not on DVD though the cartoon Hero High which was paired up with it and had the Marvel Family appearing a couple times (and vice versa) is on DVD and you can find some episodes on YouTube as of this article. Fun fact, the voice of Captain Marvel Jr. was done by Barry Gordon, best known as the original voice of Donatello from TMNT. Also, Paul Dini, yes that Paul Dini, was a writer on this show, making this the first DC cartoon he has ever done in his career.
Well, this was a nice history wasn’t it? I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I was writing it.