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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Superhero > Action > The New Adventures Of Superman (1966) + The New Adventures Of Batman (1977) [Animated/Filmation/Warner/DC Comics)

The New Adventures Of Superman (1966) + The New Adventures Of Batman (1977) [Animated/Filmation/Warner/DC Comics]


Picture: C+     Sound: C/C+     Extras: C     Episodes: B-



NOTE: The animation in the actual Superman 1966 shows are not best represented by the cover on the side, even though the art is somewhat similar to the show.




There is a new empty myth about Superhero characters that they were always dark and foreboding, just finally now freed (somehow, as if without explanation) to be who and what they “really” and “always” were.  This may sell comics and product, but is so beyond wrong and so denies history and the great success of the genre that it actually hides something more important and impressive.  Warner has finally decided to issue two of the biggest hit Superhero series that have not been seen much but are no less important: The New Adventures Of Superman (1966) and The New Adventures Of Batman (1977), animated shows produced by the great Filmation company.


The New Adventures Of Superman (1966) was from the producer of the 1950s George Reeves live action Superman series, Whitney Ellsworth, after two failed, dreadful pilots that were thankfully never picked up:  Superboy and Superpup.  Superboy was made later a few times of course, but rarely worked even then, though shorts of him in this animated series (not included here) are some of the best versions to date.


After doing nothing but advertisements, Filmation made this their first-ever animated TV series and you can see the ambition in the sped-up theme song, the desire to mix action with humor and the attempt to write short, to-the-point witty teleplays and make it all work.  Considering the limited budgets, this is impressive and yes, it even sometimes aspires to imitate the Fleischer Superman shorts.  Fortunately, it takes its cues from the 1960s comic books and does not try to be that 1930s/1940s show or the 1950s live-action hit before it.  It was a huge hit, gave Superman new life, launched Filmation on their way to being the important production house they became and shows Superman in a smart, science fiction period too easily forgotten and not revisited in later Superman productions.


That is why it is so key, important and despite some of the villains seeming aged or not as potent as later variations, note that they are still smarter, even when some of the plots to get Superman and power are wild.  All 36 shows are here and long overdue for rediscovery.


The New Adventures Of Batman (1977) is the one time any incarnation of the caped crusader dealt with Bat-Mite on a normal basis.  Along with Batgirl, he was a cast regular, with his magic powers to appear and disappear from another dimension.  Originally comic relief in the comic book, this series continued the child-friendly programming Filmation had advocated and made Superfriends into what it was before it became darker.  It also explicitly wanted to continue the live-action TV show from the 1960s and lucked-out in getting Adam West and Burt Ward to reprise their performances as voice actors here.  It would not be until the recent The Batman series that any Bat-material would want to connect itself to the 1960s show.


Though there are only 16 episodes, they are entertaining, expectedly campy, amusing and have more of the 1970s Batman-as-detective (and Detective Comics) look than any other animated incarnation despite that comic book print version being more mature and darker.  Note the classical rendering of the Batcave and the sly updating of the 1960s Batmobile.  Smooth is the best word to describe the look and feel of these shows, some of the smoothest Filmation ever made and marks the last time West and Ward played the characters straight/serious before they began sending up their send-up.


Catwoman shows up in one of her rarer incarnations and Clayface (long before the 1980s trend of steroided monster villains took hold) becomes more prominent as The Riddler was a Hanna Barbera/Superfriends exclusive, despite being in the credits.  For fans of Batman in the 1970s, here was a fourth show and the second of two new ones all playing at the same time.  No single Superhero character has ever been that popular to achieve that commercial and production success and that all included The Dynamic Duo is all the more amazing.


The 1.33 X 1 image on both sets is not bad for their age.  Superman can be grainer than I remembered, especially for such a colorful show.  Technicolor was the company and it is not a stretch to believe dye-transfer prints may have once been struck for broadcast.  The variety of color is one of the ways Filmation overcame their budget and animation limits and even when they had more money to work with and Technicolor abandoned dye-transfer, they still used color in a superior way, as their second Batman show here demonstrates.  Like their Flash Gordon (reviewed elsewhere on this site) they surpassed Hanna Barbera in this respect and makes for some interesting viewing just visually.


Both sets are in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono, which is unfortunate because the sound could have been upgraded to even simple stereo, but Warner is being purist about this.  Superman shows its age from background hiss to the limits of the optical mono mixdown here.  Batman sounds better to the point that we bet an upgrade would be easier.  Both upgrades should be considered when Warner has to upgrade both shows to HD.  The theme songs are genre classics for all kinds of reasons.


Extras on each include a good featurette looking at their respective shows.  The one on Batman may be longer than that of Superman, but it has some inaccuracies that even within the text being corrected is not totally addressed.  The issue is Batman on TV.  In all honesty, once the live-action show was a hit, it did not leave the air until recently for legal reasons too complicated to get into.  When TV standards and practices went after violence on TV ironically in the face of increased and increasingly brutal Vietnam coverage, action shows were hurt the most.


But showing how unstoppable the DC Comics heroes are, Batman became a hit animated show after Superman for Filmation (hopefully hitting DVD soon) in the late 1960s, then Batman showed up on Hanna-Barbera’s The New Scooby Doo Movies and helping the Mystery Machine gang take on The Penguin and The Joker, set insanely high new TV ratings records.  Then in 1973, Hanna-Barbera got the rights to the Justice League comics and launched the child-friendly Superfriends (first season of which is overdue on DVD) with Batman, Robin, Superman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman for starters and became the longest-running hit in animated Superhero and Hanna-Barbera history.


While the show was still on, Batman was so popular that while the live-action 1960s show was all over the place in syndication, toys were selling like crazy and Superfriends still in full swing with Batman, Filmation launched this new series in 1977 and it too was a huge hit.  The featurette claims at one point that there was no new Batman material for 10 years, which is simply not true.  Only after Superfriends ended did new Batman material finally stop, but for the few years before the late 1980s relaunch, there was plenty to repeat.  Ironically, The New Adventures Of Batman has been the least seen since.


I wish there were even more extras, but it is great to have these fun shows back again.  Whether unintentionally funny or surprisingly good, both shows are key in the history of the characters and Superhero genre.  Now you can see for yourself.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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