Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pregunto Miércoles 05-05-10 Edición Super Amigos

"Hola Amigos! Mi nombre es El Dorado y soy un miembro de los Super Amigos! Feliz Cinco De Mayo!"

Ha ha! Bilingual shenanigans! Thanks, iGoogle translator! I still wonder how I got talked into taking four years of French, instead of Spanish. It's not like people are sneaking over the Canadian border to get here. Except that Celine Dion and Canada is welcome to take her back aaaaaanytime they feel like.

Today, I will be spotlighting the only Mexican super hero... possibly ever! Maybe I'm forgetting someone, but I don't think so. In addition, I will highlight his teammates that also made the Justice League a tad less of a honky storm.
When Hanna Barbera signed on to translate the Justice League of America into an animated series, first of all they changed the name to something less jingoistic (it was the Vietnam/Watergate era and people weren't feeling especially patriotic) more... "friendly." Thus the JLA became the Super Friends!The core Super Friends were Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Robin and Batman, but occasionally some of their other Justice League buddies would drop by to lend a hand. The Flash, Green Arrow and Plastic Man popped up in the first season. Then in the second season, they decided to showcase a different guest star each week. Green Lantern, The Atom and Hawkman & Hawkgirl joined in on adventures, and all of them could have easily gotten into a country club at the time, no questions asked. With the Super Friends cartoon reaching millions more people than the comic book ever had, Hanna Barbera felt it was their responsibility to show a more diverse grouping. But since DC Comics didn't HAVE any characters of color, HB had to invent them. The results were a mixed bag.
HB was notorious for ripping themselves off every time they discovered a winning formula. After The Flintstones were a smash, depicting a modern nuclear family in a stone age setting, there came The Jetsons, a modern nuclear family living the future, The Roman Holidays, a modern nuclear family living in the Roman Empire and the dreadful Wait Til Your Father Gets Home, a modern nuclear family living in... the present (at that time being the early 70s). After Scooby Doo hit it big, they crapped out a dozen terrible knock offs featuring teenagers and a mascot of some sort (ghosts, sharks, talking dune buggies), solving mysteries. Unfortunately, the formula spilled over into Super Friends, who, in their first season, were joined (and often upstaged) by Marvin White, Wendy Harris and their anthropomorphic canine Wonder Dog. No one liked them and after that season, they never appeared again.
They were replaced by older teens, The Wonder Twins who, unlike Marvin and Wendy, actually had super powers. Zan, the brother, could turn into anything made of ice or water. His sister Jayna could turn into any creature, from Earth or any planet, real or imaginary.
Hanna Barbera insisted on a sidekick, so the Twins were constantly accompanied by their chattering space monkey Gleek, who had an elastic tail that he could use for various tasks and could also magically produce a bucket anytime Zan turned into water.
I always thought this was just a rumor, but apparently it's not... The Wonder Twins were modeled after Donnie and Marie Osmond, who were superstars at the time! The Twins went through a variety of looks in pre-production. At one point, they were given purple skin! Then regular Caucasian skin and purple hair, before they went with a more Earthly appearance, with the exception of their pointy Mr. Spock ears. They were also given olive skin to "ethnic" them up... which worked, because I totally thought they were Cocktails like me. They could also kinda pass for Hispanic, I suppose.
The Wonder Twins starred in the Super Friends comic book series which ran for 47 issues, from 1976 to 1981. While the book was being published, it was set within the current DC Universe, however after it ended, it was deemed to be an "imaginary" continuity and not part of DC canon.
Over a decade after the Super Friends left the airwaves, the Wonder Twins made their proper debut in the DC Universe, but have only made a few appearances since then.
Last summer, they were given their very first action figures as part of the DC Universe Classics toy line, in an exclusive set available only at San Diego Comic Con and on Mattel's website.

But they weren't the only colorful additions. First of all, let me clarify one thing that people seem to get tripped up on a lot. The character Rima was not created by Hanna Barbera. She was actually a literary character who first appeared in the 1904 novel Green Mansions, which in the 60s was made into a movie starring Audrey Hepburn. In 1974, DC produced a short-lived comic book starring the heroine of the South American rain forests.
I bought the entire series on eBay years ago and while it was a quality book with some gorgeous artwork, it's not really a super hero series at all! Rima is a supernatural creature that locals think is an evil spirit that dwells in the forest. I forget where the series was based, or if it was even specified, but it was some South American country rocked by revolution. The series was very political and also ecological as Rima attempted to defend her forest from developers and guerrilla soldiers.
I'm not really sure why DC even made the comic book, much less why they included her in the Super Friends, but they did. On the show, she could command animals by... speaking to them. No concentric circles and whoop-whoop-whoop-whoop sound effects, like Aquaman's.
Once, she commanded a bear to knock down a tree to create a bridge over a chasm, by pointing and saying, "Push the tree over!" I guess her power was "having a way with animals."

Anyway, on to the characters that were created by Hanna Barbera.
First was Apache Chief. Odd name. I don't think he actually was an Indian chief. Wouldn't he have worn a feather headdress if so? His super power was not being an alcoholic and not speaking like Tonto, although he did have an accent and would occasionally make an exclamation like "By the great spirit!" but then again, ALL of the Super Friends were big on expressions, spouting them out at the beginning of nearly every line of dialogue. It makes for a fun drinking game that will get you fuuuuuucked up in no time. Oh, and he could turn into a giant by shouting "Enyuk-chuk" which I've heard different translations for, "Big man," "Tall tree," "Long Shadow"... so I don't know which is correct. In the episode "Colossus," Apache Chief says "Enyuk-chuk" repeatedly until he is larger than the Earth and battles the title creature. Apache Chief is the only one of the ethnic Super Friends whose origin was revealed on the show. His tribe's shaman anointed him with a magic powder granting him his growth power. Moments later, the pouch of magic powder was stolen by the woman who would become...Giganta. In the comics, Giganta was a gorilla that was transformed into a brutish human, and was an enemy of Wonder Woman's, but none of this is ever mentioned on Super Friends. This makes Apache Chief the only ethnic Super Friend who also had an arch-enemy on the series. For whatever reason, Giganta didn't have to say a magic word to grow.
A character named Manitou Raven recently appeared in the Justice League comic book and was a mystical shaman who... hmmm, could turn into a giant by saying "Enyuk-chuk!" But he died, so oh well.
Samurai is a Japanese super hero, who is described as having "powers of the mind." Like Apache Chief, he shouts magic words to activate his abilities. Most frequently, he cried, "Kaze no Yo ni Hayaku," which transforms or surrounds his lower body with a tornado allowing him to fly. Sometimes, he would actually transform his entire body into a twister. Once he turned everything but his head into a whirlwind, which looked odd. He can also create and project tornadoes.
By shouting "Tomei Ningan" he could turn invisible and by shouting "Higa Moay" he can create the illusion of fire. In addition, occassionally he whipped out a lightsabre-esque energy katana.
(Nice shoes.) Samurai was the only ethnic Super Friend to get an action figure in the 1985 Super Powers line, most likely because they were able to reuse the Red Tornado's twisting waist mechanism cheaply and efficiently for him. It is rumored that Samurai will also appear as part of the DC Universe Classics line.
Recently, Saurai appeared in a crowd scene in the comic book Infinite Crisis, so there is always the possibility that he may pop up again in the comics.

Also like Apache Chief, Samurai was poorly named. Don't samurai wear armor? Was that just, like the only Japanese word they knew? "Samurai" also don't have anything to do with tornadoes or any of his other powers.
The third and last of the original ethnic Friends was Black Vulcan, an African American hero with lightning powers. He could fly by turning his lower half into lightning, but at other times, he turned his entire body into lightning. In these instances, he would bellow "Black Vulcaaaaaaaaaan!" before transforming.
He could command lightning to do a variety of things, from simply shocking foes, to creating a lightning cage to ensnare them and once he even, somehow, used his lightning powers to travel through time.
Black Vulcan was the only Super Friend to rock a couple of different costumes. Sometimes, the area under his chin was filled in with black fabric. Other times it was open. Most often, his legs were bare, but at other times, he wore black tights.
All three appeared on the popular Challenge of the Superfriends season, making them quite well-known to a large number of people who maybe aren't well-versed in comic books. And all three were recently released as part of the Justice League Unlimited toy line, even though they never appeared on that show.
Of the three, Black Vulcan has never, and probably will never, appear in a DC comic, because there already is a black super hero with lightning powers in DC Comics, Black Lightning.
Recently, both Black Vulcan and Apache Chief had recurring roles on the animated spoof Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, where Black Vulcan revealed that he'd originally wanted to call himself "Super Bolt" but that Aquaman stuck him with the label "Black Vulcan," before BV remarked "Why don't we call you White Fish?!"
"But wait, amigo! What about me?" Ah yes. El Dorado, the inspiration for today's blog. As lame as Apache Chief's and Samurai's names are, El Dorado's was worse. El Dorado is the fabled City of Gold that early conquerors sought. How does that work as a super code name? That would be like, if I were a super hero, and calling myself "Mobile Alabama!" Or like Batman calling himself "Gotham City!"And while Apache Chief and Samurai occasionally exclaimed something in their native tongues, El Dorado did it CONSTANTLY! It was always "Si" this or "Amigo" that.
Unlike the others, El Dorado didn't debut until 1981 and while the show was still popular, the peak of its popularity was arguably the Challenge season, 1978. So El Dorado never appeared as consistently as the earlier ethnic heroes had.

His powers, like Samurai's, were a mixed bag and were never consistent or clearly explained. Most frequently, he'd wrap his cloak around himself to teleport, which he did even if he just had to travel like five feet. He could also teleport objects and other people by wrapping them in his cape. His other major power was the ability to create "illusions," but illusions which could also generate sound and at other times could be touched physically. So... wouldn't you really say he could create objects out of thin air?

He also had telepathy... sometimes, and could fly... sometimes, and had super strength... sometimes. Ugh. They were just making this shit up as they went along.
The same year that Samurai was added to the Super Powers toy line, another figure named The Golden Pharaoh who had illusion based powers appeared on pegs in toy departments as well. This character was completely made up by Kenner. It's strange that they opted to create an all-new character with illusion powers instead of making an El Dorado toy. (It was recently discovered that El Dorado, Black Vulcan and The Wonder Twins would have been added in the line's next series, but it was canceled before they could be produced.) An actual El Dorado prototype was crafted and apparently, he would have had some sort of hologram or lenticular design on his chest.
As I said, since El Dorado was a later addition to the Super Friends, he isn't as widely recalled today. Also, his nebulous powers make him fairly unappealing. So when the producers of Justice League Unlimited paid homage to the HB-created Super Friends, there was no El Dorado avatar. The team was led by Wind Dragon, an Asian hero with tornado powers and also included Juice, an African American with electrical powers and the creepily androgynous twins Shift (the female, who could transform into any animal) and Downpour (the male who could turn into any type of water). Rounding out the group was Long Shadow, a Native American who could grow to gigantic proportions. This group of young heroes, known as The Ultimen were revealed to be clones created by the government's secret Project Cadmus. They were devastated to learn that the process of their creation had not been perfected and that, in fact, they weren't the first generation of Ultimen. Eventually these clones would "die" and Cadmus simply replaced them with new clones, with memory implants making them believe they were humans with pasts, and no memory of their prior "deaths." In the finale of the second season of Justice League Unlimited, the government unleashed an entire army of Ultimen whom they sent to battle the Justice League in their satellite Watchtower.

And now, Tequila time! Adios Amigos!