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Wonder Twins: The Lesser Known Heroes Of Saturday Morning Cartoons

Entertainment | August 13, 2021

Source: (Nostalgia Central).

The popularity of Wonder Woman and The Six-Billion Dollar Man helped to bring about the advent of The All-New Super Friends Hour in September 1977 on ABC. Earlier, from 1973-1974, ABC had aired the original Super Friends, featuring Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman. The network decided to revamp the show, adding the Wonder Twins and their pet monkey, Gleek. This trio replaced characters from the earlier show, Wendy Harris, Marvin White, and their dog, Wonder Dog. Unlike their replacements, Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog all lacked superhero powers, although Wonder Dog was quite buff, wore a cape, and could talk. After the Wonder Twins had their television premiere, they were introduced to the world of comic books, appearing in issue #7 of the Super Friends comic book. In the comic book, more of their background was introduced, and it was changed a bit. The Twins were orphans after a plague devastated their planet and the two were held against their will. They eventually fought back and escaped.

Source: (Film Junk).

Yes, They Were In A Circus

The twins were created by Norman Maurer and were originally named Dick and Jane, and their pet monkey was Mighty Monkey. For the show, they became Zan, Jayna, and Gleek. Zan and Jayna, whose names were derived from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ characters, Tarzan and Jane, and other components of their characters were derived elsewhere: their personalities were based on Donny and Marie Osmond, their pointed ears were inspired by Spock, and Jayna’s hairdo was based on the hairstyle of an animation checker at Hanna-Barbera. According to their backstory, they haled from the planet Exxor, which was also spelled Exor, where they were anomalies because of their superpowers. They worked in a circus in their early days, which helps to explain some of their behavior, as well as where they picked up Gleek.

Source: (Screen Rant).

The Format Of The Show

The show itself followed the same format each week, with four segments. The second segment was focused on the Wonder Twins. They also appeared in the third segment, which was a longer adventure that included the entire group of characters. The fourth segment each week included a special “guest star” who solved a problem using their unique abilities. The Wonder Twins also appeared in between the segments, when they gave safety lessons and first aid advice. They also performed magic tricks and demonstrated crafts, and they presented a riddle related to the primary plotline of the week. 

Doing the fist bump to transform. Source: (superfriends.fandom.com),

The Power Of The Fist Bump

The Wonder Twins had to transform into superheroes whenever their powers were needed. Essentially, they fist-bumped, saying “Wonder Twin powers, activate,” and then announced what they would become, starting with either “form of” or “shape of.” Their transformation powers were slightly limited, however, as if they could transform into anything, there would have been no need for any of the other Super Friends. Their powers originally were a bit different as well: Zan could stretch and be like Plastic Man, while Jayna could become anything. Once they appeared on television, Zan could become any form of water, and Jayna, who pronounced her transformation by saying “shape of,” could become an animal suitable to solving the problem. In the comic book, she was able to become an animal that was mythological or indigenous to another planet. Meanwhile, Gleek, the monkey sidekick, helped them out in their pursuits, as he could become a bucket, which was quite useful for transporting water of course! Gleek played a secondary role though, providing comic relief. They had a limitation to their powers, however, as they needed to be able to fist bump to activate the powers, and they had to stay in close proximity for their powers to continue to work. If they were too far away from each other, their powers would simply stop. The animators found a way around this though. For example, if Jayna became an eagle, and Zan became water, Gleek, as a bucket, could be a container for Zan, and Jayna could carry him.

David Gallagher and Allison Scagliotti as the Wonder Twins in Smallville. Source: (IMDb).

Their Later Appearances

The Wonder Twins appeared in the subsequent seasons of the Super Friends, although they were most prominently featured in the first season. After that, their role had diminished and by the final season, they were eliminated and Cyborg took their place. While the Wonder Twins disappeared from the Super Friends’ shows, they did not disappear from the comic book hero universe, appearing on Teen Titans Go! and as live-action characters in season 11 of Smallville. They were also briefly in the Lego Batman Movie.

Tags: Saturday morning cartoons | Wonder Twins

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!