Classic TV’s greatest superheroes

Greatest American Hero

TV’s superheroes are armed with unique abilities, usually cloaked in a variety of off-the-wall crime-fighting ensembles and share a common goal: Putting the bite on crime. From Superman to The Flash, television has played host to a plethora of powerful heroes. They’ve each used their special abilities to foil the nefarious plots hatched by numerous con men, thieves, spies and the like in their respective locales. We’ve compiled our picks for 10 of the best crimefighters ever seen on the small screen. Check out the list and see how many of these heroic ladies and gents you remember.

ABC, 1966-68
This series followed the adventures of the Dynamic Duo — Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) — as they waged war against a gaggle of campy criminals including the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), the Joker (Cesar Romero) and the Riddler (Frank Gorshin). By day, the caped crusaders went about their philanthropic duties as millionaire Bruce Wayne and his young ward, Dick Grayson. By night, the crimefighters tried to rid their beloved Gotham City of assorted villains from their high-tech crime lab, located in a cave under stately Wayne Manor.

The Bionic Woman
ABC, 1976-77; NBC, 1977-78
Former tennis pro Jaime Sommers was first introduced as The Six Million Dollar Man’s (Lee Majors) one-time fiancée. However, a skydiving accident, partial memory loss, a coma and life-saving bionic surgery all contributed to her getting spun off into her own series. Jaime’s bionics equipped her with two superhuman legs, a right arm with amazing strength and an ear with acute, long-distance hearing. She combined her special abilities with disguises ranging from a nun’s habit to a Vegas showgirl’s costume in order to solve dangerous cases for the Office of Scientific Information (OSI). In her spare time, Jaime taught elementary school and hung out with her bionic dog, Max.

The Flash
CBS, 1990-91
A freak accident caused police chemist Barry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) to be soaked with a powerful mixture of electrically charged chemicals, enabling him to move with superhuman speed. As The Flash, his speed made him virtually invisible to the naked eye and thus made thwarting criminals a breeze. Donning fire-engine-red tights, he kept the streets of his native Central City safe for at least one season before the show was canceled, and definitely no teen angst in this one.

The Greatest American Hero
ABC, 1981-83
This series was actually more of a superhero spoof about a high-school teacher (William Katt) named Ralph Hinkley (changed to Hanley following John Hinckley’s real-life attempted murder of President Ronald Reagan) who received an incredible red flying suit from aliens he met in the desert. Unfortunately, Ralph misplaced the instruction book that accompanied the extraterrestrials’ gift. He tried to wing it, but was never fully able to master the full powers of the suit, which included the ability to become invisible and see through walls.

The Green Hornet
ABC, 1966-67
Communications magnate Britt Reid (Van Williams) edited and published “The Daily Sentinel,” owned a TV station and fought crime in his spare time under the guise of The Green Hornet. Armed with a special gas gun to immobilize crooks and a sting gun that penetrated steel walls, Reid chased down villains in his state-of-the-art car, the Black Beauty. The Green Hornet’s true identity was actually known by a handful of people including his faithful manservant, Kato (Bruce Lee), and his smitten secretary, Casey (Wende Wagner).

The Incredible Hulk
CBS, 1978-82
Poor David Banner (Bill Bixby). As a research scientist, he exposed himself to a massive dosage of radiation, which resulted in a big change in his biological makeup — especially when he got angry. As soon as his feathers got ruffled, Banner transformed into the Incredible Hulk (Lou Ferrigno), a tremendous, green, very muscular half-man/half-monster who wasn’t easy to reason with. Banner traveled the country in hopes of finding a cure for what ailed him, taking odd jobs along the way, and always with nosy reporter Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) hot on his trail.

The Six Million Dollar Man
ABC, 1974-78
Astronaut Steve Austin’s (Lee Majors) life was saved via bionic surgery after a moon-landing craft he was testing crashed in the desert. The space-age bionics replaced several of Steve’s human parts with electromechanical devices. After the surgery, his legs, right arm and left eye were each changed for the better and allowed him to set out on dangerous missions for the Office of Scientific Information (OSI). He battled Bigfoot on several occasions, as well as aliens and a seven-million-dollar man (Monte Markham), who ran amok after undergoing his own bionic surgery.

The Amazing Spider-Man
CBS, 1978
Peter Parker’s (Nicholas Hammond) story is yet another example of what can happen when lab experiments go awry. The young college science major was bitten by a radioactive spider, and as a result became endowed with tremendous strength and the ability to sense danger and scale walls. He combined those powers with a neat little wristband that shot webs to subdue criminals. Following in the footsteps of Superman and The Green Hornet, Parker’s chosen profession was reporting news for the “Daily Bugle,” which tipped him off to the latest troubles as they occurred around town.

The Adventures of Superman
Syndicated, 1952-57
The granddaddy of them all, this show set the standard for comic-book superheroes on the small screen. Superman (George Reeves) hailed from the planet Krypton and masqueraded as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent to conceal his identity from the general public. His strength, X-ray vision and ability to fly enabled him to patrol the city of Metropolis in search of criminal activity. However, his efforts were usually focused on bailing “Daily Planet” colleague Lois Lane (first Phyllis Coates, then Noel Neill) out of perilous situations with crooks, con men and other unsavory types.

Wonder Woman
ABC, 1976-77; CBS, 1977-79
Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter) drew her strength and power from a compound known as Feminum, a magical metal that her Amazonian ancestors molded into belts and bulletproof bracelets. The first incarnation of this series was set in the 1940s, during World War II, when the princess left her native Paradise Island (where Amazon women had lived for centuries) to help the U.S. foil the Nazis. When the show moved to CBS, it was revamped and set in the present with Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Diana Prince, working as an agent for the Inter-Agency Defense Command (IADC).

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