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1970's TV Live-Action Superheroes
1970s Live-Action Superheroes on the Small Screen
Let's take a fond look back at the live action superheroes who were brought to life in popular (and not so popular) 70s superhero television series, movies and specials.
Prime time wasn't the only place that had heroes who saved the day, it wasn't uncommon to find superheroes on Saturday mornings who were also showing off their awesome skills and powers, too.
Some had their origins in popular comic books, while others were created specifically for the shows they starred in (and even a few of those inspired a short-lived comic book tie-ins).
Let's get on with the list, shall we?
The Krofft Supershow's Bigfoot and Wildboy
- Bigfoot found a young boy who had been lost in the Pacific Northwest mountains and raised him as his own. Eight years later, the two of them worked together to protect the forest and its creatures from anything or anyone who tried to do it harm.
- The show started as a 15 minute segment on the second season of The Krofft Supershow that aired on ABC in the 1977-78 season.
- The segment proved so popular that it was given its own stand alone series in 1979.
- A total of 28 episodes were produced (sixteen 15 minute segments always shown in two part story line and twelve 30 minute shows for the stand alone series).
- Joseph Butcher portrayed Wildboy and Ray Young donned the Bigfoot suit. Ray passed away in 1999 of lung cancer.
- The series has yet to be released onto DVD, but Embassy Video did release onto VHS Bigfoot and Wildboy Volume One and Bigfoot and Wildboy Volume Two in the 1980s.
- The episode Return of the Vampire can be found on a The World Of Sid and Marty Krofft a compilation DVD released in 2002 by Rhino Video.
- There is also at least one episode on the Sid & Marty Krofft’s Saturday Morning Hits compilation disc released in 2010.
The Bionic Woman
- Introduced to viewers of The Six Million Dollar Man in the two part episode The Bionic Woman airing on March 6, 1975 with part two airing on March 23, 1975.
- Suffered serious life threatening injuries in a skydiving accident, but was saved from death by having bionic replacements (right arm, right ear, and both legs).
- Sadly her body rejected her bionic replacements and she "died", but public outcry over this sad ending made ABC have a change of heart and Jamie returned to life (never really having died, she merely went into a coma) in the two part episode The Return of the Bionic Woman airing on September 14, 1975 (with the second part airing on September 21, 1975) on The Six Million Dollar Man.
- Began working for the OSI with Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) as her boss. Used in areas and situations that "regular" agents would have a difficult time handling. Capable of running at speeds up to 60 mph (some episodes have her running faster). Super strength in her right arm and super hearing in her ear.
- Received her own spin-off series that aired for three seasons, two on ABC from January 1976 to May 1977. Then moved to NBC for one final season airing from September 1977 to May 1978.
- The complete series was released onto DVD in 2012 (individual seasons) a complete series release happened in 2015
- Reb Brown starred in two television movies as Steve Rogers aka Captain America.
- The first television movie aired on CBS January 9, 1979 and was simply titled Captain America. The movie was popular enough in the ratings to inspire a second film Captain American:Death too Soon airing November 23, 1979.
- As a side note: If you collect photos, please be aware that actor Matt Salinger starred as Captain America in a 1999 feature film that bombed at the box office. It isn't uncommon to see photos of Matt as CA being confused with photos of Reb. An easy way to tell them apart is that Matt's head piece has little white wings attached to each side. His shirt is solid blue, whereas Reb's has vertical stripes.
- Both television movies have been released onto DVD.
Captain Marvel from SHAZAM!
- Brought to Saturday morning television thanks to Filmation. Aired on CBS from September 7, 1974 to October 6, 1976.
- Billy Batson (Michael Gray) endowed with super powers by the "elders",Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury) has to uttler but one word, "SHAZAM! and he is transformed into superhero Captain Marvel.
- Billy and his Mentor (Les Treymayne) traveled the countryside in an RV getting mixed up in one scenario after another that always ends up needing help from Captain Marvel.
- Jackson Bostwick portrayed Captain Marvel for season one airing from September 7, 1974 to December 14, 1974. He also was in the first three episodes of season two before being fired for "holding out for more money" or so claimed Filmation when he failed to show up for a episode's filming.
- John Davey was hired to take Bostwick's place and remained with the series until its end in 1976.
- The series has been released onto DVD in 2012.
Dr. Strange the Sorcerer Supreme
- Based on the comic book character created by Stan Lee in 1963. This television movie aired on CBS (as a potential pilot for a series) on September 6, 1978.
- Some sources state the movie never aired nationwide only in select cities across the country.
- The character in this film lost much of his comic book back story.
- Basic Plot: Clea Lake (Eddie Benton) was possessed by the centuries old spirit of Morgan LeFay (Jessica Walter), and began to have strange visions and dreams. She goes to see Dr. Stephen Strange (Peter Hooten), a psychiatrist. Strange is no ordinary person, thanks to a ring that belonged to his father, he is the next in line to become the Sorcerer Supreme, a superhero who protects Earth from all attacks using magical and mystical powers. The current Sorcerer Supreme is an old wizard who feels it is time to transfer the Guardianship of the Light to Strange, but of course, Le Fay wants to stop this process because she has this crazy desire to allow demons loose to take over the earth.
- Just a side note: Eddie Benton would change her name to Anne-Marie Martin and you might remember her as Dori Doreau on the series Sledgehammer. She was also married to writer, director and producer Michael Crichton. Most all roles the Anne worked on prior to 1981 she would use the name Eddie Benton and all roles after she was Anne Marie.
- Released onto DVD in 2016.
Electra Woman and Dyna Girl of The Krofft Supershow
- Electra Woman and Dyna Girl aired as a 12 minute segment on the first season of The Krofft Supershow which aired on ABC from September 11, 1976 – September 2, 1977.
- When not donning their superhero suits, Lori (Electra Woman) and Judy (Dyna Girl) worked as reporters for Newsmaker Magazine.
- They battled memorable villains like s as the Empress of Evil, Ali Baba, The Pharaoh, The Spider Lady and more.
- The series has never been released onto DVD, but a few episodes have shown up on various compilation discs of Sid and Marty Krofft shows.
Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk
- Two successful television movies in 1977 inspired CBS to make a series out of The Incredible Hulk, starring Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner and bodybuilder turned actor, Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk.
- The series ran on CBS from November 4, 1977 – June 2, 1982 for a total of five seasons.
- Banner, who accidentally overdosed on gamma radiation (which is what gave him his ability to transform into the Hulk) during an experiment, led a nomadic existence going from one town to another getting involved in the lives and problems of those he met on his travels, all the while hoping that he would be able to find a way to cure himself of the raging beast that dwelled within him.
- The complete series was released onto DVD in 2008.
Joanna Cameron as Isis
- Encouraged by the success of their SHAZAM! series, Filmation created a companion show in the form of Isis.
- Joanna Cameron starred as science teacher Andrea Thomas who found an ancient amulet while on an archeological dig in Egypt,
- The amulet allowed her to access the super powers of the goddess Isis when she uttered the words "Oh Mighty Isis". Her super powers were varied, she could fly, control the elements, had super strength, could stop time, reverse time, control the weather and more. Hey, she was a goddess, remember?
- The first season of the show aired as part of The Shazam/Isis Hour, but with the show's increasing popularity, it was given it's own slot and the name changed to The Secrets of Isis.
- It aired on CBS from September 6, 1975 – September 3, 1977 and is available on DVD in case you missed it the first time around!
- Filmation created the character of Isis so they could maintain the rights to the show and any and all of its merchandising.
- The series inspired a short-lived comic book series.
Mark Harris The Man From Atlantis
- Patrick Duffy starred as Mark Harris, the last surviving member of the Atlantis civilization.
- Saved by Dr. Elizabeth Merrill (Belinda Montgomery) after he washed ashore onto a California beach.
- Sporting webbed hands and feet, having gills instead of lungs and having super strength, Merrill realized he was not just different, but special. With no memory of his name, he was given one, Mark Harris and he went to work with Merrill at the Foundation for Oceanic Research.
- All superheroes need an arch villain to be a thorn in their side, and Harris got his in the form of Mr. Schubert (Victor Buono).
- Comic book fans were a little disappointed because producers simply "borrowed" some ideas from the well established Sub-Mariner comic book series from Marvel. This allowed them to give their creation similar characteristics, all the while avoiding any licensing fees.
- The first season of the show was a series of two-hour movies and they competed with ratings winners Hawaii Five-O on CBS and Barney Miller on ABC. The second season found Harris setting into a regular time slot (Tuesday nights) and competing with ABC's Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley. The show was unable to find its audience and was soon cancelled.
- Original air date: September 22, 1977 to June 6, 1978
- The complete series (13 episodes) as well as the television movies are finally available on DVD!
Steve Austin The Six Million Dollar Man
- The Six Million Dollar Man began its TV life as several popular made for TV movies on ABC; The Six Million Dollar Man (March 1973), The Six Million Dollar Man: Wine, Women and War (October 1973) and The Six Million Dollar Man; The Solid Gold Kidnapping (November 1973).
- The movies and series was based on the classic sci fi novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin.
- Lee Majors starred as Colonel Steve Austin, an astronaut severely injured in the crash of an experimental aircraft who received bionic limb replacements which gave him super speed, strength and vision in his left eye.
- Austin worked for the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence) as a secret agent going on dangerous missions that were best suited for a bionic man.
- The series officially began on ABC in January of 1974 and lasted until 1978 with a total of 99 episodes.
- Released onto DVD in 2012.
- Spun off the successful series The Bionic Woman starring Lindsay Wagner.
The Amazing Spider-Man
- Spider-Man came to the small screen on CBS in 1977 with Nicholas Hammond in the title role.
- Began as a TV movie in 1977 and then in 1978, five episodes were shown as a summer replacement series. It performed well in the ratings but CBS didn't take it too seriously and only showed episodes sporadically. The series was officially canceled in 1979 after just 13 episodes filmed
- A live action version of Spider-Man debuted as a segment (74-77) on The Electric Company in Spidey Super Stories, Danny Seagren wore the spidey suit.
Wonderbug From The Krofft Supershow
- Wonderbug, a Ruby-Spears creation, was a 15 minute live action segment on Sid and Marty Krofft's The Krofft Supershow.
- It appeared on the first season's lineup (1976-77).
- Schlepcar was an old beat up rusted out dune buggy that had been pieced together by three friends, Barry (David Levy), Susan (Carol Anne Seflinger) and C.C (John Anthony Bailey). Imagine their surprise when they added an old horn that gave Schlepcar the ability to turn into Wonderbug, a souped up dune buggy who had the ability to fly, drive himself and talk (although it was really just a bunch of nonsensical mumblings). Frank Welker supplied the voice.
Cathy Lee Crosby as Wonder Woman
- On March 12, 1974, on ABC, a television movie intended as the pilot for a new series aired.
- It starred Cathy Lee Crosby as Wonder Woman
- This Wonder Woman wasn't really all that wondrous, as gone were most of her superhero abilities (which did happen in the comic book series for a few years.)
- ABC rejected this version of Wonder Woman and together with Warner Brothers, came up with the version that would later star Lynda Carter in the title role.
- This pilot movie has been released onto DVD in 2012.
Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman!
- The New Original Wonder Woman, set during World War II starred lovely Lynda Carter in the title role aired in November 1975.
- ABC liked how it performed in the ratings and ordered two more one hour episodes for April 1976.
- It then became a series with 11 more episodes shown in 1977.
- Since it was a period piece in its setting (World War II) the storyline was limited and the each episode was costly to produce. ABC lost interest in the series.
- Warner Brothers then took it to CBS with the concept of bringing the show into present day (why ABC didn't think of this, is beyond me) and the series ran for two more seasons on CBS before being pulled from the schedule in 1979.
Debra Winger as Wonder Girl
- Drusilla, aka Wonder Girl, the younger sister to Wonder Woman appeared in three episodes of the series, all during the first season; the two part episode The Feminum Mystique and in the final episode of the first season titled, Wonder Woman in Hollywood .
- Although, we were told that Wonder Woman herself was an only child, it was a bit of a shock to learn she has a younger sister.
- It was rumored that Winger was unhappy with the role and broke her contract.
- At the time, it was also hinted that there was to be a Wonder Girl spin off starring Winger, but after she left, the plan was scrapped.
The Challenge of the Superheroes TV Special
- Not a weekly series but still has some very popular superheroes in live action form.
- Hanna-Barbara had the popular Super Friends cartoon series that aired on ABC on Saturday mornings and they also produced The Challenge of the Superheroes, a two part live action special airing on NBC that utilized some of those same characters from the series.
- The first part of the special aired on January 19, 1979 and the final part on January 25, 1979.
- The Challenge, the first segment of the special, brought together Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, Garret Craig as Captain Marvel, Howard Murphy as Green Lantern, Danuta Rylko Soderman as Black Canary, Bill Nuckols as Hawkman, Rod Haase as The Flash and Barbara Joyce as Huntress.
- The plot of this part of the special was that the heroes gathered to celebrate the Scarlet Cyclone's (William Schallert) birthday when it is interrupted by members of the Legion of Doom (Riddler, Weather Wizard, Sinestro, Mordru, Doctor Sivana, Giganta and Solomon Grundy) who announce they have hidden a bomb and it's up to the Super Friends to find it and prevent it from exploding.
- The Roast, the second installment, was hosted by Ed McMahon. All of those from part one return with a few new characters; Ghetto Man (Brad Sanders) a superhero, who does stand up comedy, Atom (Alfie Wise), and Aunt Minerva, (Ruth Buzzi) one of Captain Marvel's arch enemies.
- Superman and Wonder Woman are missing from this as they were enjoying a revival in popularity. Superman with Christopher Reeve in the title role was a hit at the box office and Wonder Woman starring Lynda Carter was a popular TV series.
- Released onto DVD in 2010 under the title Legends of the Superheroes.
© 2014 Glory Miller