Superfriends Trouble Alert! (Whatever Happened to Wendy and Marvin?)
So, nobody liked Wendy and Marvin. They were the viewpoint characters for kids on the first season of the Superfriends, and they weren’t very good at anything. Basically Shaggy and Velma, except Marvin got a cape, and Wonder Dog was at times legitimately useful. Not like Shaggy and Scooby, running around like nutty hippies with the munchies.
That isn’t to elevate the usefulness of Wendy and Marvin a whole lot here. Wendy and Marvin are outranked by Robin, Batman’s sidekick teen partner. Let’s make this clear…Wendy and Marvin are PRE-sidekick in status. They are community sidekicks. Unlike Robin, they don’t come with cool gadgets and acrobatic training. Wendy was a preppy, and plucky. Marvin was kind of a dunce, and occasionally misogynistic. They brought a dog to the table as their qualifications.
Don’t get me wrong. On Saturday Mornings, Superfriends was the most excellent of cartoons. Like…incredible. You don’t believe me? Click here, and be uplifted.
If you clicked it, though, you didn’t see Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog. Nope. After season one and two, Wendy and Marvin were replaced. Just GONE, no explanation, and swapped with way more effective sidekicks. The Superfriends comic that I have been reading the phone book sized reprint of tells the tale that the show did not:
“Wendy and Marvin had been replaced by two other teenagers, Zan and Jayna, the Wonder Twins, along with their pet, the alien monkey Gleek. Marvin and Wendy would not appear on TV again for another 35 years, and they were likewise replaced by the Wonder Twins in the Super Friends comic after “graduating” from the Super Friends as full-fledged superheroes.
According to the comic book, Marvin went on to study at Ivy University, the fictional university where fellow superhero the Atom worked as a professor. Wendy moved to Paradise Island to attend an Amazon university and continue her training. Wendy and Marvin appeared again in a later issue of the Super Friends comic to aid the Wonder Twins, posing as Zan’s and Jayna’s human disguises, “John” and “Joanna”, to fool a criminal who had deduced the Wonder Twins’ and Batman’s secret identities.”
Hmmm. That seems like a kinder fate than I would have given them. Marvin in particular was always presented as bumbling, with no particular powers of any kind. Once he was practicing flying, but it was unclear if he could in fact do it. A good amount of the time, he seems to be freeloading to some degree, hence the art. I imagine that in the late 70’s, our hero would have only had sidekick status herself, hence why she is wearing…well, clothes I actually used to wear. I still have that sweater, in fact.
I have sort of a…touch and go relationship with dogs. More of a cat person, myself. Hence, the depressed look on the protagonist’s face, as she has walked Wonder Dog, while Marvin ignores supertrouble.
Zan and Jayna, on the other hand, were way effective, and BELOVED. Let’s check this awesomeness:
“Zan and Jayna are Exorian metas, genetic throwbacks to an ancient race of Exorian shapeshifters. Their parents died when they were still babies during a plague, and, because of their origin, no Exorians want to adopt them. They are adopted by the owner of a Space Circus who only wanted to use them as sideshow freaks. Fortunately, the circus’ clown (or “laugh-maker”) was a kind man and raised them. He also gives them Gleek as a pet. Eventually, as teens, the pair escape the circus and hide on a planet where a space villain called Grax (an enemy of Superman) had established his headquarters. Spying on him, they learn that Grax was planning to destroy the Earth using hidden superbombs. The twins decide to travel to Earth and warn the Justice League, which is how they come to replace Wendy and Marvin (who were planning on retiring as heroes anyway) as their sidekicks.”
Don’t stop there…Wendy and Marvin have no powers. They don’t even have a monkey. Zan and Jayna? Zan can transform into water at any state (solid, liquid, gas) and add to his mass by incorporating water in his immediate area. In the case of becoming solid ice, he can also become any form he chooses, from a 5,000 foot humanoid ice giant to a cage for a criminal to complex machinery . He changes into a gelatinous form at one point. On another occasion, he transformed into liquid nitrogen. In addition, he can transform himself into atmospheric disturbances (usually very localized) involving water, such as a blizzard, a monsoon, waterspout or a typhoon. Jayna can transform into any animal, whether real, mythological, indigenous to Earth or to some other planet…and she grew up in a SPACE CIRCUS! Since she must vocalize her choice of form to assume, she must know the common name. Naming the wrong animal will cause her to assume the wrong animal’s form. She has been known to take the form of anything from an ant to a whale. By transforming into an animal of Kryptonian origin, for instance, Jayna could gain both the creature’s natural abilities and the super-powers that all Kryptonians possess under Earth-like conditions, totally bringing the hurt. Similarly, Zan was able to transform into anything tangentially related to water or ice, including a frost giant.
Um…right? they just had to fist bump…which they invented…and shout about how awesome they would be!
Also, check out this. Locked out of your invisible plane? Not with Zan around…
However…I have a continuity error with the cartoon. If we look at the black and white artwork, we will see that the screen on the big 70’s computer shows exactly the villain crisis happening…
…and Medulla doesn’t arrive until Zan and Jayna do.
Still, it is one of the episodes of the show I remember most, because it is so completely off the chain, and crazy. Also, let’s be incredibly fair here…I like to rag on Aquaman, and also today…take shots at Wendy and Marvin. In this episode, entitled “the Mind Maidens,” all the FAIL is in Wonder Woman and Jayna’s hands. Zan, partially…since he knows his powers are dependent upon fist bumping his sister, but just kind of lets her wander off into danger…
I’m ahead of myself.
In her hidden lair in the Rockies, the “most brilliant, most dangerous woman on Earth,” Medulla, is informed by her two lieutenants that the computerized Will Booster is ready to be tested. Elevating a parabolic dish through an opening in the mountain, they fire a beam at Elmwood City. Women throughout the town are possessed by Medulla’s will, with their eyes developing a white glow as they repeat their mantra, “We are with you, Medulla…” in a monotone. Turning their gaze on the men, they make them disappear.
I imagine that this is a lot like what people thought feminism was in the late 70’s. Just saying.
So…to recap… She’s using a “computerized will booster” to “control the mind of every woman on earth.”
“Soon, women everywhere will enable me to rule the world,” growls Medulla. Then, she puts on a beautifully coordinated headset and begins taking over the minds of women. The women’s eyes turn bright, too, and then they start zapping away the men…because that’s a logical superpower that you get from the first part? Not so sure. The zapping actually stores you as a digital file of some kind, so that men can conveniently be stored on data tapes.
Once she goes global with her signal, pretty much everyone is in on it.
The episode moves on, and as women all over the world start working for Medulla, more and more men are disintegrated. A parade of world leaders is taken over, and Superman has a press conference about that. Got it. Eventually, they find Medulla’s mountain headquarters and she opens up the gates right away for them. Batman, ever the genius, says, “Careful, it may be a trap!” You know I thought she was inviting everyone up for tea, but now that you mention it, Batman…regular Admiral Ackbar, that guy.
The entrance has an invisible shield. All hope is lost until Wonder Woman and Jayna notice some ladies wandering in and decide now’s their chance to enter the lair of the villain who can control the will of women. Makes complete sense, can’t see a thing that may go wrong with that plan. Click here to see what goes wrong with that plan.
Eventually, the Superfriends figure things out, with a byzantine use of an old statue of Superman, mirrors, and the idea of double negatives, superman gets all of the Superfriends back together and on the same team.
Wonder Woman states “I know just how to stop her,” and departs in her Invisible Plane. Her jet arrives back in the Rockies long before Medulla’s helicopter….y’know since jets are faster. Making her way to the computer console, Wonder Woman dons the headset and directs a Will Booster beam at Medulla’s craft. Falling victim to her own Will Booster, Medulla flatly replies, “Yes, Wonder Woman, I am headed for Metropolis police station…” Very convenient!
Back at the Hall of Justice, Wonder Woman summarizes the situation, “Medulla’s method of controlling women and putting them in power was wrong. Only gradually, a step at a time, can social customs change – no matter what they may be.” “Perhaps now she realizes her method of controlling women for her own personal power was wrong?” adds Superman. Thanks for the Public Service announcement of misguided feminism guy. Very Politically Correct.
What’s the point? Just this. I criticize Aquaman, and I will be the first to say that Wendy and Marvin are borderline useless. In this episode though, Wonder woman and Jayna being recklessly irresponsible almost allows a nutcase political extremist in a mountain to both radically segregate genders and CONQUER THE WORLD. Not your best day, Wonder Woman and Jayna.
Let us also note, that knowing this, I still prefer to have Marvin in that chair, being useless. Perhaps that’s why Wendy and Marvin got the boot. During the expansion of sidekicks for the team, they fumbled the trouble alert. Certainly seems the case in today’s art.
More than that, as this Saturday Morning Post goes out, it was epic to research and relive cartoons that used to air, and be cool, and stand up to scrutiny on Saturday Mornings of the Past. I hope you enjoyed the Superfrieeds retro post as well as I did, True Believers.
Next Issue: DC Comics Presents…The Writing Assignment!