1970s TV Live-Action Superheroes
1970s Live-Action Superheroes on the Small Screen
This article takes readers on a 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 they could be found, Saturday mornings also had their fair share of heroes who showed off their awesome skills and powers, too.
Keep in mind that some had their origins in popular comic books, while others were created specifically for the shows they starred in and they sometimes inspired short-lived comic book tie-ins that have since become highly sought after collectable comics.
Let's get on with the list, shall we?
The Krofft Supershow's Bigfoot and Wildboy
Bigfoot and Wildboy began their TV adventure as a 15-minute segment on the second season of The Krofft Supershow, which aired on ABC television during the 1977-78 season. The plot of the segment had Bigfoot finding a young orphaned boy lost in the Pacific Northwest mountains and raising him. Years later, the two of them work together to protect the forest and animals from anything and anyone who tried to do harm.
This segment was so popular with viewing audiences that it was given its own stand alone series in 1979. There are a total of 28 episodes total.
- Joseph Butcher portrayed Wildboy and Ray Young donned the Bigfoot suit. Ray passed away in 1999 of lung cancer. (If you are curious as to what Ray looked like without his costume on, check out The Bionic Woman episode Iron Ships and Dead Men, he had a significant role there as Bob Richards).
- The series has yet to be released onto DVD, but Embassy Video did release on 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.
Jaime Somers:The Bionic Woman
The Bionic Woman, a two-part episode (March 6, 1975 and March 23, 1975) featured on the popular series The Six Million Dollar Man, introduced viewing audiences to Jaime Somers, the high school sweetheart of Steve Austin.
Jaime became the Bionic Woman after a sky diving accident left her near death. When her parachute failed to open, she plummeted to the ground receiving massive injuries to her legs, right arm, and right ear. Steve asked his good friend and boss, Oscar Goldman, the head of the Office of Strategic Intelligence (OSI), to authorize Dr. Rudy Wells to perform an operation that would not just save her life, but make her bionic as well.
After the operation, all appeared to be going well, and the couple who had resumed their romance was in the process of planning their wedding, when suddenly Jamie's body began to reject the bionics and she died on the operating table as Wells worked diligently to save her life.
Fan outcry against such an unhappy ending prompted producers and the network to rethink things and soon it was revealed in The Six Million Dollar Man episode Welcome Home Jamie that she had been placed in an experimental cryogenic procedure that allowed doctors more time to repair the massive blood clot that had ended her life. When she was revived she had suffered some brain damage and memory loss. While another operation did allow her to recover much of her past memories, those concerning Steve and her love for him did not return.
- Lindsay Wagner portrayed Jaime Somers.
- Jamie's parents, who also worked for the OSI, had died in a car accident in 1966 and Steve's parents became her legal guardians.
- Jamie went to college to get a degree in education. She also became a world class tennis player.
- Her bionic replacement cost were never officially revealed. In the episode Welcome Home Jamie, Oscar stated her bionics cost less than Steve's because they were smaller.
- Office of Scientific Information or Office of Strategic Intelligence, which do you think the OSI stood for? Also interesting to note, in The Six Million Dollar Man television movies (before it was a series) the organization Austin worked for was the OSO (Office of Special Operations).
- The Bionic Woman became a series airing first on ABC from 1976-77 and finishing out its run on NBC from 1977 to 1978.
- A total of 58 episodes filmed. The complete series is available on DVD.
Actor Reb Brown donned the superhero suit and portrayed Captain America (aka Steve Rogers) in two made for television movies that aired on CBS.
The first movie, airing on January 9, 1979, was titled simply Captain America. Rogers father, a former Marine who had worked as a government agent during the 1940s, was given the nickname of Captain America by those who knew him because of his patriotic attitude. He eventually died in the line of duty.
Fast fast forward into1979 and audiences were introduced to his son, Steve, who earned his living as an artist roaming the country side in his conversion van. Life was simple for Steve, until he was involved in an accident (which might not have been an accident adding to the plot of the movie) that almost claimed his life. He was saved from certain death by Dr. Simon Mills (Len Birman), a research scientist who had been a friend of his late father. Mills injected Steve with an experimental chemical formuls which altered his body chemistry giving him enhanced strength and agile reflexes. Steve decided to go after those responsible for his accident using a disguise based on a nick name given to his father by his colleagues, and thus superhero Captain America was born.
- Also starred: Heather Menzies, Steve Forrest, and Lance LeGault.
- Released as a feature film in Columbia in 1981.
- Had mixed reviews from critics.
- Pilot for a potential television series, that of course, never materialized.
Captain America II: Death Too Soon, the second movie aired November 23, 1979. The plot for this movie had General Miguel (Christopher Lee), a freelance terrorist intending to hold the city of Portland, Oregon hostage wanting a multi-million dollar ransom or he would poison its water supply with a chemical that accelerated the aging process.
- Was shown as a two part movie, the first hour on November 23 and the concluding hour on November 24th, 1979. Was the lead in for the conclusion of the Stephen King mini series, Salem's Lot.
- Also stars Len Birman, Connie Selleca and Lana Wood.
- Was released as a feature film in France in 1980.
Captain Marvel from SHAZAM!
Captain Marvel came to Saturday morning television in the form of Shazam, which aired on CBS from September 7, 1974 to October 6, 1976.
Billy Batson (Michael Gray) and his friend Mentor (Les Treymayne) traveled the country in their RV getting mixed up in one scenario after another that always ended up needing the intervention of Captain Marvel who was never far away, as Batson could transform into him by uttering the word SHAZAM!
From 1975 to 1977, super heroine Isis was added to the show and it was then known as The Shazam/Isis Hour.
- Shazam stood for: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury, the Gods who gave Batson the power to transform into the mighty 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 replaced by John Davey.
- The series has been released onto DVD in 2012.
Your Favorite Captain Marvel
Who was your favorite Captain Marvel
Dr. Strange the Sorcerer Supreme
This television movie aired on CBS September 6, 1978 as a pilot for a potential series.
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 went 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.
- Some sources state the movie never aired nationwide only in select cities across the country.
- Based on the comic book character created by Stan Lee in 1963.
- The character in this film lost much of his comic book back story.
- 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 on DVD in 2016.
Do You Remember Seeing This Movie When It Originally Aired?
Did you see this movie when it first aired?
Electra Woman and Dyna Girl
Electra Woman and Dyna Girl was a 15-minute segment on the first season of The Krofft Supershow, which aired on ABC from September 11, 1976 to September 2, 1977.
Lori and Judy (Deidre Hall and Judy Strangis) worked as reporters for Newsmaker Magazine, but each had a secret identity, Lori was Electra Woman and Judy, her trusted sidekick, Dyna Girl. They were aided in their quest for truth and justice by Frank Heflin (Norman Alden) a scientist who manned the ElectraBase operating all of the cool gadgets he had invented for them.
The duo battled super villains with names like Empress of Evil, The Pharaoh, Glitter Rock, and Ali Babb.
- 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.
- Hall went on to have success in daytime television as Marlene Evans on Days of Our Lives.
Dr. David Banner: The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk started out life as a television movie that aired on CBS November 4, 1977. Dr. David Bruce Banner (Bill Bixby) was a scientist who wanted to discover how some people, while in danger, were able to exhibit super human strength that allowed them to save the lives of their loved ones. Banner was driven in his quest because some time earlier he failed to save the life of his beloved wife Laura when the couple had been involved in a car crash.
Banner, becoming increasingly frustrated that his research was getting him no closer to the answer, conducted an experiment on himself accidentally giving himself too much gamma radiation which altered his body chemistry and when he became enraged allowed him to transform into a hulking 7 foot tall green creature that would become known as The Hulk (Lou Ferrigno).
- The series ran from November 4, 1977 – June 2, 1982 on CBS.
- After the series ended, with no satisfactory conclusion. NBC purchased the filming rights and three television movies aired on NBC with Bixby and Ferrigno resuming their original roles.
- The complete series is available on DVD as are the post series three television movies.
Andrea Thomas as Isis
Encouraged by the success of their SHAZAM! series, Filmation created a companion show, Isis, which starred Joanna Cameron as high school science teacher Andrea Thomas. While on an archaeological dig in Egypt, Thomas found an ancient amulet that had been given to Egyptian pharaoh, Queen Hatshepsut, by the Royal Sorcerer, Thuhaupee. The amulet allowed the wearer to posses the powers of the Egyptian goddess, Isis. Thomas decided to use her new found powers to fight evil and simply by saying the words, "Oh Mighty Isis", she would be transformed into 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.
- 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 (although some sources claim this title was used only when the show ran in syndication.)
- Andrea lived at 21306 Baker Place, Apartment 4A.
- She had a pet crow, Tut.
- She drove a red sedan that was stolen in one episode and was painted yellow by the thieves.
- 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 (8 issues) comic book series published between 1976-78.
Mark Harris:The Man From Atlantis
Patrick Duffy starred as Mark Harris, the last surviving member of the Atlantis civilization and who was 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 simply 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 the show getting its own 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!
- Of course, Duffy went on to star as Bobby Ewing on the highly popular show Dallas for CBS.
Steve Austin:The Six Million Dollar Man
The Six Million Dollar Man began his 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). Lee Majors starred as Colonel Steve Austin, an astronaut severely injured in the crash of an experimental aircraft. He lost both legs, his right arm and left eye. He received bionic replacements which gave him super speed, strength and super vision in his left eye.
Steve received the following bionic replacements:
- Bionic Visual Cortex Terminal (catalog number 075/KFB); Ratio: 20.2 to 1.3135 Line, 60 hz. Extended Chromatic Response: Class JC.
- Bionic Neuro Link Forearm (Upper Arm Assembly) catalog number 2921LV.
- Neuro Link Hand, Right (catalog number 2822/PJI).
- Power Supply: Atomic Type AED-4 (catalog number2031 AED-4) 1550 Watt Continuous Double Duty Gain Overload Follower, Class M2.
- Bionic Neuro Link, Bi-Pedal Assembly (catalog number 914 PAM).
- Power Supply Atomic Type AED 9-A, 4920 Continuous Duty Overload Follower, 2100 Watt Reserve, Intermittent Duty, Class CC.
- 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.
- The movies and series was based on the classic science fiction novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin.
- In the November 7, 1976 episode The Bionic Boy, the world was introduced to Andy Sheffield, a teenager given bionic implants to restore the use of his paralyzed legs. 70s teen idol Vince Van Patten starred as Andy and rumor had it that producers were thinking of creating a spin-off for Andy, but nothing ever came of it.
- Jaime, Steve and Andy weren't the only bionic humans. Monte Markham played Barney Miller (later changed to Hiller) in two episodes; The Seven Million Dollar Man (November 1, 1974) and The Bionic Criminal (November 9, 1975). Miller's bionics were implants and not replacements.
- Author Martin Caidin had originally wanted Markham to play the character of Steve Austin, but the part went to, of course, Lee Majors, instead.
- 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. It began its life 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.
- Several different stuntmen were used in the filming; one was an expert climber, another had skills in high wire stunts. No trick photography was used.
- Has yet to be released onto DVD.
- As a bit of trivia: 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.
Three teenage friends, Barry (David Levy), Susan (Carol Anne Seflinger) and C.C (John Anthony Bailey) while exploring a junkyard found an old clapped out dune buggy that looked as though it has been put together using bits from various other vehicles. When Susan added an old horn she found, as a finishing touch, imagine their surprise when Schlep Car transformed 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 mumbling). Frank Welker supplied the voice.
- 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).
- The series gave no back story to the teenagers, such as their age, if they went to school, etc.
- Susan was really the brains of the trio and when she came up with a sensible solution to any of their problems, Barry (whose own ideas were usually silly or much too complicated) would simply repeat it and get the credit.
- Schlep Car ran poorly, it huffed and puffed, sputtered and seemed to struggle to carry the weight of it's passengers and on occasion, bits of it fell off, too.
- The theme song was composed by Jimmie Haskell.
Cathy Lee Crosby as Wonder Woman
"The Amazing Amazon Princess Comes to Television!", or so the tagline read. Cathy Lee Crosby starred in this first pilot for the proposed series.
The plot was rather bland involving spys and had handsome Ricard Montalban as Abner Smith, one of the most uninspired names for a villain, ever, or so I think.
- On March 12, 1974, on ABC, a television movie intended as the pilot for a new series aired.
- 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.
- This pilot movie has been released onto DVD in 2012.
- Technically, Cathy Lee wasn't the first woman to portray Wonder Woman. In 1967, Ellie Wood Walker starred in a TV short (about four to five minutes in length) called Wonder Woman: Who's Afraid of Diana Prince. It was produced by William Dozier (who gave us Adam West's Batman serie the year before) with the hopes that it would be picked up as a series. If you do a search on Youtube you might be able to find a copy of this TV short.
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.
- ABC lost interest in the series as it was a period piece (World War II) and costly to produce with a limited story-line potential.
- 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 as The New Adventures of Wonder Woman on CBS before being pulled from the schedule in 1979.
- The complete series was released on DVD in 2007.
Debra Winger as Wonder Girl
Wonder Girl (Drusilla) was the younger sister to Wonder Woman and she appeared in three episodes of of the first season; the two part episode The Feminum Mystique and in the final episode of the first season titled, Wonder Woman in Hollywood .
- It was a bit of a shock to learn Wonder Woman had a younger sister, as we had been told she was an only child.
- It was hinted that Winger as Wonder Girl would get her own spin off series, but she was unhappy with the role and wanted out of her contract and the spin-off idea was scrapped.
The Challenge of the Superheroes TV Special
While not a weekly series, this two part (two one hour specials) prime-time special was a product of Hanna-Barbera. Feeling inspired by the success of their ABC Saturday morning cartoon venture The Super Friends, viewers were treated to seeing some of their favorite heroes in live action form.
The superheroes have 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.
- Aired on January 19, 1979.
- Cast List: The Heroes: 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 Villains: Frank Gorshin as The Riddler, Mickey Morton as Solomon Grundy, Jeff Altman as Weather Wizard, Charlie Callis as Sinestro, Aleshia Brevard as Giganta, Gabriel Dell as Mordru, Howard Morris as Dr. Sivana
- Gorshin reprised, in the first special only, his role as The Riddler from the popular campy 60s Batman series.
- Aired on January 25, 1979.
- 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 both specials 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 on DVD in 2010 under the title Legends of the Superheroes.
As you can see from the listing, the 70s was the decade of the superhero, or so it seemed. Provided below is a guest book in which you are encouraged to leave a comment if you so desire. Comments are moderated in order to keep this page reader friendly, so please keep them on topic.
© 2014 Glory Miller