Four stars for this one, with the proviso that much of my rating is based on biased perspective. Man, I grew up on Filmation shows! More objectivity would probably garner this dvd set a three star rating from me. But, fellas, nostalgia's a powerful thing...
Way back in the stone age (that would be 1967), the Filmation group produced the Superman/Aquaman Hour, a CBS Saturday morning cartoon show and one of my tried-and-true favorites when I was a kid. But with so many menaces constantly itching to take over the Earth or just act all nefarious, it takes more than Superman or Aquaman to get the job done. Guest star stints in the form of 7-minute shorts were integrated into the hourly series, as Hawkman, Flash, Atom, and Green Lantern engaged in their own solo exploits. As the Justice League, these guys (with Superman) banded together to fend off cheesy alien attacks. And with assists from the Teen Titans and Superboy, the world got saved but plenty.
The way it worked with the Superman/Aquaman Hour, the first half hour belonged to the Man of Steel, with Aquaman dishing out his own two segments in the second half hour. Sandwiched in between would be the "guest" superhero cartoons, which were on rotation with the Superboy shorts. Anyway, with Aquaman's animated adventures already compiled in his own box set (The Adventures of Aquaman - The Complete Collection (DC Comics Classic Collection)), it didn't take long before a collection of the guest spots was released. DC SUPER HEROES: THE FILMATION ADVENTURES offers all 18 shorts starring these guest super-heroes, along with "Animation Maverick: The Lou Scheimer Story," the outstanding and surprisingly emotional 40-minute documentary spotlighting Filmation founder Lou Scheimer and the formation and fall of the Filmation group. This is honestly a must-see bonus feature.
Now, if they'd only release the Superboy cartoons...
The brevity of these cartoons doesn't allow for much depth or development, in the plot or in the characters. The episodes are briskly paced and action-packed, but the stories are simplistic and campy, and certainly galaxies away from the polish and intricacy marked in today's animated shows. Also, back then, these cartoons were strictly targeted towards the younger kids, so nary a dark or controversial tone was found.
A lot of strange and silly foes here, from alien beetles to giant ants to dinosaur-like creatures. And plenty of mangy space aliens. So, yeah, the quality of villains is downright laughable. I did enjoy the Flash matching his speed against the otherworldly Blue Bolt (the Flash in blurry motion looks pretty cool), while the tiny Atom gets a thumbs up for being more hands-on with pummeling the heavies. Green Lantern's intergalactic adventures are okay. Wanna see a bird knock Green Lantern unconscious? That's in "Sirena, Empress of Evil." Sorry, but the Hawkman segments are as boring as I remember. Meanwhile, the main reason I got this dvd set was for the Justice League and especially the Teen Titans shorts. I'm a sucker for team-ups and, lest folks forget, this Justice League debuted on the small screen before the Super Friends. As far as the Titans are concerned, well, I've always been a fan of them. Besides, the pony-tailed Wonder Girl is smoking hot. Be aware, though, that Robin is absent from the Teen Titans and Aquaman, from the League, never mind that he's featured in the Justice League intro.
Naturally, the stiff animation suffers in comparison to today's sleeker, more dynamic standards. And the incessant use of stock footage doesn't help any. So why get this dvd set? Well, like I've said about these Filmation shows, the major draws are the nostalgia (for old fogies like me) and whatever curiosity or sense of history is felt by the younger generation(s). In a very real way, these animated shorts paved the way for Bruce Timm and the like.
What's that now? The Guardians of the Universe aren't really Caucasian? Green Lantern's ring is supposed to be ineffective against the color yellow? Hawkman's civilian identity Carter Hall is a museum curator, not a scientist? The colors of Kid Flash's outfit are reversed? Yes, there's a bunch of goofs that made its way into these cartoons. But what do you expect on a shoestring budget? The way I see it, all these goofs just add to the charm and quaintness. But, then again, nostalgia is a powerful thing.
Speaking of goofs, how cool would it be if Birdman really were a JLA member? I mean, seeing as he's already hogging a spot on the DVD title page and all.