Dinner on ME

Package art for the latest Super Friends DVD release © 2009
and characters TM/® DC Comics (swapped in for the title card
since it seemed even more appropriate to the post).

At a New York City comics convention in 1994, when the World-Wide Web was still in its infancy and videocassettes were the primary medium of personal viewing, I was lamenting the lack of access to the Hall of Justice.

I'd been active in the AOL chat rooms devoted to comics, and some acquaintances made there — as well as folks I knew in person from working at Fat Jack's Comicrypt in Philadelphia
and a couple of fellow contributors to CAPA-Alpha, comicdom's longest-running amateur press alliance — were trying to convince me to join the more sophisticated Comics/Animation Forum on CompuServe. So I attended an informal Forum dinner during the convention with them.

The dinner was presided over by
Mark Evanier [ev-uh-neer]. It's tempting to say that Mark has forgotten more about comics and show-biz history than most other people have remembered, but I'm not sure that he actually forgets anything. He's been referenced before on this blog, he'll be referenced again, and if you have any interest in behind-the-scenes stories about Vegas, Broadway, or Hollywood — particularly the Golden Age of TV sitcoms, variety shows, and voiceover work — you should be following his own blog, News from ME.

While there was lots of small talk as well as roundtable discussion among the twenty or so of us, it's fair to say that Mark was holding court. Occasionally he would throw a question down to a quiet fellow in black with dark, tousled hair and glasses at the opposite end of the table who, most of us were surprised and delighted to discover, was Paul Dini, one of the creative vanguard behind
Batman: The Animated Series. I recall Dini apologizing to someone at dinner — the son of one of the CompuServe gang, I think, but I'm not really sure who-all attended (outside of the few folks I knew from elsewhere) because I didn't actually join the Forum until a short while later and never thought to match names to the memories of the night — for not being able to add the Dark Knight to a sketchbook placed in front of him. While he was professionally a writer and not an artist, Dini explained, he did have some drawing ability, but he couldn't do Batman worth beans. You have to think that, in the long run, an original Paul Dini Mickey Mouse is a rarer and more interesting conversation piece anyhow.

Upon the check's arrival, everyone reached for his or her wallet and Evanier waved us off. "You are all," he said with the slightest pause right here, "my
guests." It was neither a smugly stentorian proclamation nor falsely modest. I don't remember as exactly the words that followed, but amidst the protests and thanks that followed, he added, essentially, Look, I can afford to do this and it thrills me... but I'm gonna be writing it off as a business dinner — so you need to throw some more questions my way, and I need to throw some more back at you for market research, before we break up for the evening.

That was when I piped up to ask why none of the various
Super Friends series had ever been released on home video. Maybe it was because there were licensing entanglements between DC Comics and Hanna-Barbera Productions, Mark said — at the time, Hanna-Barbera had been bought by Turner Broadcasting but Turner hadn't yet merged with Time-Warner Entertainment, which owned DC. More likely, however, it was because there was just no demonstrated demand for them or the property would have been exploited, pure and simple.

Fifteen years later the first of two double-disc sets collecting the original
Super Friends run has been announced, which is actually what prompted this post. The release of the second set later next year will mean that not only every Super Friends episode but all animated incarnations of the Justice League, from 1967's lesser-known Filmation adventures to 2008's direct-to-video adaptation of Darwyn Cooke's instant-classic graphic novel The New Frontier, will be available legally, professionally, and sequentially. I'll try to pick things up there tomorrow.

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