TV URBAN LEGEND: A Wonder Woman episode set at a sci-fi convention was allowed the use of Logan’s Run characters but not Superman!
Nowadays, in popular fiction, it is common for TV shows and comic books to have episodes or issues set during science fiction and/or comic book conventions. Heck, my pal Fred Van Lente even has a murder mystery coming out in July set at a comic book convention. However, while it is a common trope nowadays, it was not always such a common thing.
Even in comic books, there were not that many stories set at comic book conventions (there was a classic issue of Iron Man set there during Iron Man’s period when his armor had a nose on it and fans made fun of Iron Man for being “off model” with his costume, assuming him to be fake because of the nose), but especially not in the world of television.
A notable exception, though, was an episode of Wonder Woman that came out in the final season of the show, in January of 1979, called “Spaced Out.”
Starlog Magazine’s David Houston wrote about the episode, “When J. Blake Mitchell and her partner James Fergusun won the Galacticon “Fan’s Choice” award for their cat and lizard costumes last fall in Los Angeles, they won a bonus no sane convention goer could hope for.
“As Jim and I were joyfully thanking everyone for the award,” Blake says, “I looked up into the face of a kindly, gray-haired gentleman with a stopwatch hanging around his neck and a camera crew peering over his shoulder. At first I thought it was just the 11 o’clock news folks.” But one of that group introduced himself as Ivan Dixon, director of CBS’ Wonder Woman. “Somewhere in the conversation I vaguely recall him saying how much they like our costumes and would we mind if they borrowed them.”
Blake was speechless, but Fergusun chimed in, “Sure, they’re yours.”
It seems that Bill Taylor, a grad student at UCLA, avid SF fan and frequent convention goer, had submitted and sold a script to Wonder Woman. lt was a story in which powerful gems are stolen and smuggled out during the inanities of an SF con. The gems are stashed in a cane which is the grand prize at the costume competition. Ergo, the need for way-out getups.
Director Dixon and his crew had been at Galacticon shooting background footage for use in the episode — in the halls, the dealers’ room and so forth — but they had to stage their own costume competition under studio conditions. Blake and Fergusun were invited to the day of shooting, to watch their costumes in action.
“When we stepped onto the sound stage (Stage 24A at the Burbank Studios), we were in Wonderland,” says Blake. Fergusun concurs, nodding and smiling. “The crew had decorated the set with enough flashing lights, complicated-looking panels and tricky wiz-bangs to delight any con goer.”
It’s funny how Mitchell and Ferguson were not allowed to wear their own costumes in the scenes filmed on the set, because there are union rules about extras.
Still, the scenes shot at Galacticon are fascinating because they show a lot of characters you wouldn’t normally expect to see on an episode of Wonder Woman, namely lots of Star Wars costumes…
However, for the scenes within the studio, they needed to get permission to use the costumes for the characters, so there were no Star Wars characters in the studio scenes.
They did, though, get permission to use Robby the Robot, who is here with the name of the fictional science fiction convention they’re at…
Here, though, is the part that fascinated me the most.
Logan’s Run, the film, had led to a short-lived Logan’s Run TV series. One of the Wonder Woman producers was friends with a producer from the Logan’s Run TV series and so they worked out a deal where the episode got permission to use Logan’s Run characters for costumes…
All well and good, but then they tried to get permission to use a character dressed as Superman, and as the show’s writer, Bill Taylor, later explained, “Warner Bros legal dept okayed our use of Logan references which was great (especially since they wouldn’t allow us to costume our lead as or refer to Superman yet Warner Bros OWNED DC Comics).”
Isn’t that hilarious? A Warner Bros. produced TV series starring a Warner Bros. owned character wasn’t allowed to use a different Warner Bros. owned character in an episode!
This likely had to do with the fact that Superman was then currently a big deal, movie-wise, and they didn’t want to “confuse” things by having him appear on a TV show.
The legend is…
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