It’s no secret that I have a thing for Isis.
For those of you who missed the 1970s, The Secrets of Isis was a live-action TV program that ran on CBS Saturday mornings from 1975 to 1977. Isis ran as half of a package with Shazam!, which featured the adventures of comics’ original Captain Marvel. (I say “original” because there have been several comic book heroes and heroines named Captain Marvel, spanning 70 years of comics history. But that’s a tale for another time.)
The basic premise of Isis was reiterated in the melodramatic narration that began every episode:
“O my Queen,” said the Royal Sorcerer to Hatshepsut, “with this amulet, you and your descendants are endowed by the goddess Isis with the powers of the animals and the elements. You will soar as the falcon soars… run with the speed of gazelles… and command the elements of sky and earth.”
Three thousand years later, a young science teacher dug up this lost treasure, and found she was heir to… the secrets of Isis!
And so, unknown to even her closest friends, Rick Mason and Cindy Lee, she became a dual person: Andrea Thomas, teacher… and Isis — dedicated foe of evil, defender of the weak, champion of truth and justice!
As highfalutin as all that sounds, the real attraction of The Secrets of Isis was its star, JoAnna Cameron, a charming actress who cut quite a fetching figure wearing Isis’s quasi-Egyptian miniskirt.
Cameron, who appeared in tons of commercials and guest-starred on several TV series and in telefilms throughout the ’70s, never had another role as prominent as Isis. By the end of the decade, she had left show business and moved on to other careers.
I’ve contributed in my own small way to keeping the legacy of Isis alive by commissioning several artworks featuring my favorite Saturday morning heroine. The drawing shown above, created by the talented and affable Gene Gonzales, is the most recent addition to my Isis gallery.
Ironically, Isis came into existence only because Filmation, the studio that produced both Shazam! and The Secrets of Isis, refused to pay DC Comics for the licensing rights to Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel’s sister and the character originally planned for the distaff half of the Shazam! TV hour.
Instead of shelling out the dough, Filmation created a new character based on the same general outline — a young woman who speaks a magical phrase (instead of “Shazam!” Andrea Thomas intoned, “O mighty Isis!”) and transforms into a superhero with powers derived from ancient mythology. DC ended up using Isis themselves, as the star of a short-lived comic series based on the TV show.
Isis, by the way, was the first female superhero to star in her own live-action program on American network television. All of the powered heroines who followed her to the small screen — from Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman to Dark Angel and Witchblade — owe the Mighty Miniskirted One a debt of gratitude for kicking down the door.
And that’s your Comic Art Friday.