These days, the word Isis conjures up images of religious extremism, state-sponsored terrorism, and human rights violations. But back in the mid-1970s, it was associated with something much more benign. The superhero Isis, played by Joanna Cameron, paved the way for super-powered TV heroines. Isis, which was later renamed The Secrets of Isis, debuted in September of 1975 months before Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman did.
Isis was a half-hour Saturday morning children’s show as opposed to being an hour-long primetime drama, but that just meant that was able to present an empowering ‘girl-power’ message to a younger crowd of viewers.
Isis was the sister show to Shazam, which featured the DC Comics superhero Captain Marvel. The character of isis, however, did not come from a comic book as Captain Marvel had, but her ensuing popularity eventually changed that. A year after Isis’ premiere, she entered the DC universe with an appearance in the September/October 1976 issue of Shazam! Although the show is long off the airwaves seeing as it only lasted for two seasons consisting of just 22 short episodes, Isis is still a DC Comics character.
In this video, we’re not only going to take a closer look at the Secrets of Isis series, but we’ll also give you an overview of the life and career of Joanna Cameron.
Joanna Cameron’s Introduction to Show Business
Joanna Cameron was born on September 20, 1951, in Vail, Colorado. Her father was a truck driver, and her mother taught English at a local Elementary school. Cameron grew up watching a lot of TV with her mother, but she didn’t start to dream about becoming an actress until she was in High School when she started appearing in school plays. After graduating from High School she enrolled at the University of California.
While she was attending college, Cameron befriended Linda Hope, the daughter of Bob Hope. When she got the chance to meet the famed comic, he cast her in the film How to Commit Marriage in 1969. This eventually led her to land roles in a series of films and television shows throughout the 70s. Cameron was at one time even considered for the Love Story role that eventually went to Ali MacGraw. Cameron next appeared in the 70s films BS I Love You and the black comedy Pretty Maids All in a Row.
Her television credits included roles in The Bold Ones: The New Doctors, Columbo, and a few episodes of Marcus Welby, M.D. Cameron also enjoyed a prolific career doing commercials, and for a while, she claimed to hold the record for having done the most commercials in The Guinness Book of World Records.
According to Merv Griffin, if all of her 60-second commercials were pieced together, it would amount to 150 hours of programming.
A Science Teacher With An Alter-Ego
In 1975, Cameron was cast in the role of Isis on The Secrets of Isis, partly because the show’s producers were looking for a fit athletic all-American type, and Cameron fit the bill.
The secrets of Isis was a live-action superhero series that ran on CBS during their Saturday morning lineup. Since, as we already mentioned, The Secrets of Isis predated both Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman, Cameron was the first female TV superhero to appear in a leading role.
Isis was the alter-ego of Andrea Thomas, a high school science teacher who uncovered the Thutmose amulet while she was taking part in an archaeological dig in Egypt.
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And don’t go anywhere just yet. Stay tuned to find out what Joanna Cameron went on to do after Secrets of Isis was canceled in 1977.
Secret’s Of Isis’s Cast Had Impeccable Chemistry
Isis benefited from having a well-chosen supporting cast. Brian Cutler was excellent as the handsome yet goofing husband of Cameron’s Isis. Joanna Pang played the cute and spunky Cindy Lee. She was a great addition to the cast for the show’s first season, but unfortunately, she wasn’t invited back for the show’s second season.
Season two did, however, feature an endearing character named Renee Carroll played by Ronalda Douglas that filled the void that Pang’s absence left. Chances are if you grew up during that period of time when Isis ran, then you probably loved the array of supporting players that the series featured and if you go back and watch the show now, you can have fun by looking them all up on IMDB to see what other short-lived series they were a part of.
Magic Jewelry Gave Her Superpowers
That amulet that Ms. Thomas found in Egypt originally belonged to Queen Hatshepsut whose headdress bore a striking resemblance to Hathor, an Egyptian goddess. Since our science teacher, Andrea Thomas, bore a direct descendant of Hatshepsut, she had some kind of predestined connection to the amulet. If the amulet was exposed to the sun and Ms. Thomas invoked the name of Isis, then she was granted the powers of the animals and all of the elements.
Thomas wore the amulet around her neck as a necklace and would present it while uttering the words ‘my mighty Isis’ whenever she needed to use her powers, Whenever she transformed into Isis, she kind of looked like a hodgepodge of a tennis pro and an ancient Egyptian deity.
To use her superhero powers as Isis, Thomas would utter a rhyming couplet.
Let’s say she wanted to fly. Then she would say something like ‘Oh zephyr winds which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly!’.
Isis’ powers were pretty varied. They could be rather run-of-the-mill superhero powers like summoning super-strength or the power of flight or they could be a bit more exotic like gaining the power to walk through walls, making objects disappear and reappear again, or turning back the sands of time.
Teaching A Lesson While Saving The Day
The science teacher had the uncanny ability to save the world whenever she invoked the spirit of Isis to become the mini-skirt-clad hero. And she did her best to save teenagers from certain doom so that they could learn a lesson. Differing from other superheroes, when Thomas was not in her Isis form, she still possessed one power – that is, she had this telepathic connection with her pet crow, Tut.
Speaking of which, they actually used a live crow on the show, and Cameron reportedly didn’t care for that animal all that much. Whenever she wasn’t Isis, her amulet still had some power as well – or at least it still did the time that it reflected light and restored the memory of a person who was experiencing amnesia. At the conclusion of every episode, to ensure that the audience learned a lesson, Isis would reiterate it. Every now and then, Isis would join forces with Captain Marvel. And as Isis, Joanna Cameron appeared in three episodes of Shazam!
The character of Isis later appeared in a cartoon called Tarzan and the Super 7, but Isis’s voice was provided by voice actress Diane Pershing.
Not Every Hero Wears A Cape
After two seasons and 22 episodes of playing Isis, Cameron eventually had to hang up her amulet. After Secrets of Isis was canceled, she did very little acting. Doing a kitschy Saturday morning kids show didn’t exactly make producers interested in casting her in their projects. Seeing as she got her start in big-screen efforts like Pretty Maids All in a Row and B.S. I Love You, playing a children’s television character must have been a bit of a letdown. Considering that, an enormous amount of credit should be given to Cameron for infusing the show with a sense of seriousness and just the right amount of laughter to pull it off as gloriously as she did.
For a time, she took a stab at being a director. She directed films for the Navy and briefly hosted the Navy Network. Notably, she also hosted the documentary Razor Sharp which was about the Blue Angels.
In 1978, Joanna Cameron was a guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Cameron’s final acting role before she retired from the entertainment industry was in the TV film, Swan Song in 1980.
After saying goodbye to Hollywood, Cameron worked in home health care for about a decade which is fitting considering the fact that some of the most heroic work that people can do is providing in-home healthcare for people that need it the most like the informed and elderly. After working in that field Cameron then worked for two hotels doing marketing while living in Hawaii.
While she hasn’t worked in the entertainment industry in decades, Cameron says that she would consider making a comeback at some point if the right opportunity came her way.
Joanna Cameron’s Hobbies and Interests
Cameron’s primary hobby is traveling. When she was an actor, her career took her all around the country. She has also been to several European nations such as Italy and France.
Cameron is also a huge animal lover and big cats are her favorites. She has two pet cats and she volunteered at an animal shelter many times when she was a teenager.
She also really enjoys reading historical books. Her favorites are those that describe World War II and the Romanov family which ruled Russia from 1613 to 1917. As far as music goes, Cameron is a fan of jazz and blues music. Her favorite artists are Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, and Charlie Parker.
In her free time, Joanna enjoys watching movies. Her favorite actors are Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts and some of her favorite films are ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, ‘You’ve Got Mail’, and ‘Notting Hill’.
Well, that’s pretty much all the time we’ve got left for this video. But it’s been fun reminiscing about the good old days of Saturday morning television. Sure the production values on Secret of Isis were nil but the show had heart and if you grew up during that time watching shows like that, they really felt like they were made just for you.
Anyway, we’ve got a serious question for you. Who do you think would win in a knock-down-drag-out brawl between Isis, Wonder Woman, and The Bionic Woman? Let us know in the comments section below.
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