My love of Pop-Culture and my affinity for Superheroes began at a very early age in the 1970s. The Hanna & Barbara Super Friends cartoon, a series of live-action Spider-man skits on a children’s educational show called The Electric Company, and an “Americanized” Japanese cartoon called “Battle of the Planets” were among my first introductions to the world of costumed champions. An assortment of other cartoons and live action shows fed my growing appetite for the caped crusaders, and a line of “Action Figures” by a company called Mego kept my imagination burning with my own heroic playtime adventures. Strangely enough it was these toys and television that first hooked me on superheroes, and not the comic books they originated from.
My very first super hero comic book, Spidey Super Stories #32, was rewarded to me after being particularly well behaved on a trip to the grocery store in 1978. Spidey Super Stories was a tie-in title to the Electric Company television show aimed at younger readers. In fact an Electric Company character called Easy Reader, played by the now famous Morgan Freeman, appeared on each cover proclaiming “This comic book is easy to read.” On the last page of the issue there was a coupon for a by mail subscription. After a fair amount of begging and promises of continued good behavior, my mother relented, and subscribed.
Beginning with issue #35, until the end of the series in 1982 with issue #57, I eagerly read each new installment the day it was dropped off in our mailbox. Marvel, being the clever marketers that they are, featured a guest hero in each issue that was complete with a one page summary of the guest hero’s origin. Looking back upon it now I can see that Spidey Super Stories was the comic book equivalent of a gate-way drug. It worked, I was happily addicted.
However, Spider-man as presented in the Spidey Super Stories comic book was very different from the one seen live on The Electric Company, even tough it was a companion piece. They were also both different from the Spider-man cartoon series which I had come to love. A cartoon series that switched its stylistic approach during its run, which essentially made it two distinct interpretations linked by the catchy “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man” theme song. I enjoyed both, just as I enjoyed the different interpretations of some other heroes.
Batman on The Super Friends cartoon was not the same Batman that was on the Batman and Robin cartoon by Filmation; Then there was also the live action Batman starring Adam West. Superman was on The Super Friends as well as his own Filmation cartoon series, and neither were like the live action Adventures of Superman series starring George Reeves. At the same time I was watching all of these shows, Superman: The Movie debuted yet another different portrayal of the Man of Steel. My superhero addiction, and the way in which was cultivated, had a side effect that I didn’t realize or fully understand until adulthood. It fostered an appreciation for different ways to tell a story, along with the creative and artistic differences that artists bring to their craft.