The Wonder Twins — who first arrived on the scene in the late ’70s — are perhaps the most peculiar and humiliating cultural signpost for Generation Y. Don’t believe it? Try this geek test: Walk into a random group of twentysomethings weaned on the USA Network’s Cartoon Express, utter the magic phrase ”Wonder Twin powers, activate!” and you’ll see the embarrassed grins.
Often overshadowed on the Superfriends show by luminaries like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, the duo were junior staff members — sort of Justice League interns — endowed with perky can-do, a helpful bucket-toting space monkey named Gleek, and bizarre superpowers. They were telepathic, but their signature ability to shape-shift (Jayna into animals, Zan into water-based things) upon touching rings and shouting the aforementioned magic phrase is what really made them special.
Besides being the perfect embodiment of the Hanna-Barbera ’80s oeuvre — kitschy, crudely drawn, and endowed with an (I suspected) acid-induced aesthetic and sense of humor — the Twins were ”dedicated to truth, justice, and peace for all time.” They were also into teen power: The Twins — not any of those hoity-toity marquee superheroes — would respond to pubescent trouble alerts, lecturing nasty authority figures like zoo superintendents on the pitfalls of not trusting adolescents. (They still bail out reckless pranksters while teaching them a gentle lesson or two, six days a week on the Cartoon Network.) At any age, what more could you want from your superhero?