DC Comics are one of the oldest and most successful comic-book publishers of all time. They have also made some incredibly lucrative films with superheroes such as Batman and Superman. While I have always enjoyed those types of movies, I really like the animated shorts as well. With the new DC Comics Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures Volume 1 DVD we have the opportunity to view some of them again.
The 63-minute set contains of total of nine adventures, with three each from The Atom, The Flash, and Green Lantern. They originally aired in 1967 as part of the Saturday morning Aquaman half-hour show. All but one are by George Kashdan, with The Flash‘s “To Catch a Blue Bolt” credited to Bob Haney.
The set opens with the three episodes starring The Atom. The narration is classic, in his best Edward R. Murrow-style voice the narrator intones, “Activating a secret switch, Professor Ray Palmer is…The Atom!” The three action-packed stories are “Invasion of the Beetle-Men,” “The Plant Master,” and “The House of Doom.” Befitting his name, The Atom is able to shrink himself as small as an atom to get things done, and the underlying theme is science run amok. He fights alien beetles, mutant plants, and a crazed doctor bent on destroying Earth with atomic power.
Next up are three from The Flash, whose introduction is long, but great too, “A scarlet costume ejects from his ring, and in a blur of motion police scientist Barry Allen becomes The Flash, world’s fastest human!” The Flash even has a sidekick named Wally West, alias Kid Flash. The episodes are “The Chemo-Creature,” “Take a Giant Step,” and “To Catch a Blue Bolt.” The Flash is on his own fighting the Chemo-Creature, but Kid Flash is along for the second two. The dark side of science is again explored in “The Chemo-Creature,” who is actually an ant that is zapped with radiation. It becomes big and nasty, and it is up to The Flash to save us.
Kid Flash teams up with our hero to defeat an army of robots in “Take a Giant Step.” Then we come to the one non-Kashdan story, and it definitely stands out. The evil alien Blue Bolt has come to Earth to wreak havoc, and actually travels outside of America to do it. He first heads to Holland to break the dikes and flood The Netherlands. Then he is off to Paris, where he directs a bolt of energy at the Eiffel Tower to destroy it, and then he shoots over to the great pyramids. Thankfully, The Flash and Kid Flash are fast enough to stop the damage. Oops, spoiler alert!
“Test pilot Al Jordan is The Green Lantern, a cosmic crusader whose magical power ring at his bidding accomplishes the impossible!” There is just no better way to describe these characters, although you really need to actually hear the voice to get the full effect. Green Lantern’s three stories are “Evil is as Evil Does,” “The Vanishing World,” and “Sirena, Empress of Evil.” Our hero is accompanied by the suspiciously Asian-looking young boy Kairo in all three episodes.
If you ever wondered where Robert Smigel got the inspiration for his “Ambiguously Gay Duo” Ace and Gary cartoons on Saturday Night Live‘s “Saturday TV Funhouse,” this is it. Kairo even rides on The Green Lantern’s back when he flies. The funniest thing I have seen in a long time is the final “Sirena, Empress of Evil.”
First of all, this is the first time a woman has appeared on the entire DVD, every single episode is all-male. And the only woman in nine stories is evil. But get this, there is are “weird emanations that swirl out and snare the passing aircraft.” Could it be? Well, when you see those emanations, they are like a gas, the way a bad odor is depicted. Draw your own conclusions as to what they are, and remember that her stated goal is “To lure Green Lantern into my trap.”
I gotta say, these Filmation Adventures are a lot of fun. I probably watched them as a little kid way back when, but would never have guessed at any subversive meanings. It is difficult not to now however. For aficionados of the genre, the DC Comics Super Heroes set cannot be beat.