In 1973, ABC introduced a Saturday
morning cartoon series featuring DC Comic’s Justice League
of America. However, the assemblage was renamed the
Superfriends, which presumably was thought to be more
kid-friendly. The networks at that time—this being back when
there were only three of them—didn’t exactly overestimate
the intelligence of their viewing audience, especially that
of their weekend cartoon shows. Thus, aside from the
degrading name change, the Superfriends were also saddled
with two teenaged ‘identification figures’ for the kiddies.
The template for a successful cartoon
series at that time was the Scooby Doo show, or at least
whatever variant of the program was then currently running.
Thus the Superfriend’s newly minted teen sidekicks consisted
of Wendy, a Daphnie-esque competent young lady who tended to
stand canted to one side with her fists on her hips; and
Marvin, a goofy klutz of the Shaggy mode. Moreover, since
nearly every cartoon program of that era required what then
network honcho Fred Silverman generically termed a ‘monkey,’
i.e., a wacky animal of the Scooby Doo variety or something
of that sort, Marvin was given, inevitably, a Scooby Doo-ish
hound named Wonder Dog. Wonder Dog could (I think) talk in
the traditional ‘ruh-roh’ fashion and wore a cape attached
to his dog collar.
The show left the air, but returned after
some rejiggering as 1978’s All-New Superfriends Hour.
The return was undoubtedly due to the general popularity of
superheroes at the time: The Superman movie was in
production, Wonder Woman had her live-action show, and
Batman headlined an animated series on CBS. This new show
replaced Wendy and Marvin with another pair of teens, Jayna
and Zan, aliens who themselves possessed superpowers, if
dumb ones. The duo was dubbed the Wonder Twins, and they
activated their powers by touching hands and shouting,
"Wonder Twin powers, activate!"
Jayna’s powers allowed her to assume the
form of any animal. The show usually allowed her to cheat a
little, by for instance choosing a comparatively giant
version of something. Zan, meanwhile, could turn into water
or any object made out of ice. So, for instance, if they
were confronted with a fire, Jayna would become a giant
eagle, and Zan would become an oversized ice bucket, which
Jayna would him to carry water up over the fire and
extinguish it. These powers, particularly Zan’s, generally
struck even small children as kind of dumb.
Following further success, the show was
again reformulated for the 1978 season. It was with this
that the Superfriends achieved their pop culture acme with a
sixteen-episode run pitting them against the nefarious
supervillain consortium the Legion of Doom. Finally matched
against adversaries of equal power, as opposed to generic
mad scientists and the like, and sans stultifying sidekick
characters (although Jayna and Zan continued to appear in a
handful of concurrent, non-Challenge episodes), this
short lived but endlessly repeated skein burrowed its way
into the hearts and minds of extremely undiscerning children
Various permutations of the show ran
until 1985 (!). These included two skeins, the "Legendary
Super Powers" run in 1985 (which was formulated to hawk a
toy line!) and the following year’s "Galactic Guardians,"
that pitted our heroes against the omni powerful Darkseid,
and introduced fresher members to the Justice League,
including Firestorm and Cyborg. Even so, it’s "The Challenge
of the Superfriends" version that most fans remember best.
Last year we examined the first four of
those sixteen episodes. Collectively, the quartet was marked
by atrociously threadbare animation and plots so moronic
they no doubt inspired giggles of derision even from the
show’s target audience of seven year-olds. I mean, even
youngsters know you can’t talk in space, right? The show was
so poorly written that they couldn’t even keep track of
their own characters’ superpowers. The Flash, for instance,
was often seen flying around under his own power, despite
the fact that this has never been one of his abilities.
One thing I mentioned throughout the four
pieces was the rigidity of the plotting. To save money, the
episodes all opened the same way. Superman’s arch nemesis
Lex Luthor, the Legion’s leader, would call to order a
meeting inside the group’s Hall of Doom. Several members of
the enclave would be spotlighted, explaining that week’s
plan to conquer the world and get rid of the Superfriends.
These schemes were usually built around some nonchalantly
whipped-up super-gadget and typically consisted of three
discrete stages. The Legion would generally have their way
through the first two of these, only to be foiled by the
Justice League just before their overall goal was achieved.
However, at this juncture they would inevitably manage to
escape capture, allowing the cycle to start all over again.
The first thing we notice about the fifth
episode, therefore, is that it actually manages to break a
few of the plotting rules established in the previous
chapters. Most noticeably, it’s the first entry whose
opening scene features members of the Justice League rather
than those of the Legion. Moreover, the animation at moments
looks slightly less shoddy, indicating a budget that comes
off as merely embarrassingly cheap rather than jaw-droppingly,
unbelievably cheap. This doesn’t make the show any better,
really, but you take what you get with a program like this.
We open with a camera pan over a fairly impressive
background painting. This features a city—Metropolis, we’re
told, although I didn’t know that burg was surrounded by
mountains—as seen from some nearby foothills. This imagery
is rather better executed than that featured in the earlier
four chapters, although it could well be that the background
painting was a leftover from an old Jonny Quest
episode or something.
Eventually we end up looking upon a
Generic Industrial Facility, which the show’s familiar
Omniscient Narrator identifies as "the Astro Chemical
Research Plant." Parked just inside the facility’s wide open
front gate—don’t worry about security, there’s a sign
reading "Danger! No Trespassing"—we see the Batmobile. Is
Metropolis within easy driving distance of Gotham? Anyway.
Moments later we see that there is a more
impressive security wall situated within the outer fence,
and that this one is actually sealed. "Four of the
Superfriends," the ON explains, "cautiously guard the
incredible contents of the fortified complex." This
statement would perhaps be more impressive were not the
first Superfriend we espy Robin, clad per usual in the
emerald gauntlets, underwear and Peter Pan boots that
artfully set off his red tunic and yellow cape. I don’t
know, I personally find superheroes who wear long pants
somewhat more intimidating.
More reassuringly, we next see Wonder
Woman standing at a nearby control panel—built directly into
the security wall, for some reason—while Batman is scrunched
up at what appears to be an old wooden elementary school
desk. "Radar scan is negative," the Caped Crusader avers,
presumably whilst dissecting a frog. Robin, meanwhile, is
scanning the surroundings with an "infrared night scope,"
although when we get a POV of what he’s seeing, the image
pretty obviously isn’t infrared. Wonder Woman reports these
findings over a viewscreen to Green Lantern, who is standing
guard inside the complex’s main lab.
Also present are two Generic Scientists,
seen standing next to a glowing vat. "The project is a
complete success, Professor Nakata," one notes. This is an
indication of how good the show’s writers are, as it denotes
their awareness that many Japanese people are scientists.
"We’ve finally isolated the proton nucleus from the sun’s
rays," Scientist #2 continues, "and condensed it into its
liquid form." Wow! Even aside from the improbability of
creating a bubbling, glowing pool of, er, condensed liquid
sunray proton nuclei, that sounds wrong on quite a few
levels. However, I’m not exactly Mr. Wizard, so I’ll leave
it to more learned souls than myself to explain how and why.
Anyone wishing to share their thoughts on the matter is
encouraged to drop me a line at email@example.com.
By the way, the animation does play in
some small measure with light and shadows in this
scene—needless to say, for standard reasons of atmosphere
the lab is lit solely by the vat’s contents—so I guess the
animators were feeling at least a few oats here.
Professor Nakata dubs the substance
Liquid Light, and notes that "properly utilized, it could be
the answer to the world’s energy problems." Don’t they
create stuff like that on this show every week? How could
the world in this universe possibly even have energy
problems? The Legion of Doom regularly whip up crap like a
handheld hair drier that can make the entire planet Earth
invisible from outer space, not to mention TV remote control
units that open portals through time. Unless they’ve also
created the world’s most diabolically efficient D cell
batteries, presumably power source technologies are a little
more advanced here.
Anyhoo. The two scientists also muse over
the discovery’s downside. "If it ever falls into the wrong
hands," Scientist #2 ominously notes, "it could be
disastrous." Well, duh. To illustrate his contention
(although you’d think his colleague would already be aware
of all this, since he co-created the stuff), Scientist #2
reaches into an opening cut into the vat’s protective
cover—yeah, I’m sure OSHA signed off on that—and removes a
large ladleful of the stuff. This is poured over a steel
girder resting in a nearby transparent bowl, whereupon the
metal beam quickly dissolves into nothingness. "It can
disintegrate all but a few elements on Earth," he notes,
apparently referring to those varied ones the vat, shield,
bowl and ladle appear to be composed of.
Outside, Robin reports that the Air Force
should be arriving soon to take things over. Yeah, the Air
Force. That would keep the Legion of Doom from even
attempting any mischief. (Rolls eyes.) Given this evident
fact, it comes as no surprise that the Legion has decided to
strike in the meantime. "Certain sinister members of the
Legion of Doom," the ON explains, as we pan over to certain
sinister members of the Legion of Doom, "have quite a
different plan for the incredible discovery." No kidding.
Said members include Brainiac, a green
superintelligent android in a long sleeved red shirt and
black swimming trunks; the Scarecrow, a guy dressed like a
scarecrow who throws Fear Bombs (although not, apparently,
on this show); and Cheetah. In the new Cartoon Network
Justice League cartoons, Cheetah is actually a humanoid
feline, like Marvel Comic’s Tigra. Here she’s a chick in a
leopard spotted body suit and cowl who has evidentially
spent entirely too much time watching Eartha Kitt play
Catwoman on the old Adam West Batman show.
This indicates, as usual, that the Legion
operates under a set of rules that require them to provide
work for their impressive roster of loser ‘super’ villains.
In their case, that would be Scarecrow, Cheetah, The Riddler,
Toyman and Black Manta. And just to show you how lame that
bunch is, I didn’t even include Captain Cold or Giganta, who
at least each have one occasionally useful superpower. Of
course, even Brainiac is but one of the Legion’s redundant
collection of super-geniuses. Still, at least he’s good for
something other than coughing up hairballs or acting as an
emergency supply of kindling. (Meanwhile, the Justice League
seemingly works under similar constraints, as indicated by
the regular fielding of Hawkman and Aquaman.)
Since they never win in the long run, the
Legionnaires have wisely adopted the habit of gloating early
on in their plans, and this particular incident proves no
exception. As mentioned in my earlier reviews, insulting
terms prefixed with the word ‘super’ remain their favorite
trope. "Those naïve Super Fools think that their Justice
League gadgetry can protect them and their new, secret
energy source," Brainiac sneers. Since the only ‘gadget’
we’ve seen the Superfriends employ so far was a pair of
non-functioning ‘infrared’ binoculars, this assertion
actually seems a bit suspect.
Oh, wait, perhaps he’s referring to the
radar scope Batman was looking at earlier. (Three
regular-sized villains were going to be picked up on
radar? And is that really a "Justice League" gadget? I
don’t know, it seems kind of prosaic, all things
considered.) In any case, the fiendishly clever alien has
provided for this eventuality. "My radar scrambler," he
rasps, raising a rather clunky looking device, "has made us
virtually invisible." Yes, that, and the fact that you’re
all less than six feet tall.
"Right, Brainiac," the Scary Sultan of
Straw hisses in reply. "And after we take care of those
Super Watchdogs [see?], the liquid light will be ours!"
Cheetah inevitable concurs. "And with it," she adds, "the
world will be at our mercy. Purr-manently." Um, OK.
Brainiac notes their first step will be to split up their
"super foes." OK, that’s three uses of the adjective ‘super’
in one minute. Give it a rest, will ya?
And so Cheetah starts blasting through
the security wall with a ray gun, or light saber, or some
such dealie. Witnessing this on their security screen,
Wonder Woman inevitable volunteers to deal with their feline
foe. (Because, you know, they’re both girls.) "Looks like
you got caught before you even got started, Cheetah," WW
declares once she’s on the scene. Yes, because even if the
Legion sets traps to capture individual members of the
Justice League every friggin’ week, it doesn’t mean
that that would be their intention here.
However, the Cheetah she attempts to grab
proves to be a hologram. Turning, the Princess of Peace
finds herself surrounding by a circle of Cheetahs, one of
whom is *gasp* presumably a real woman in a
cosplay suit. Man, how will she get out of this one? (By the
way, wouldn’t Batman be monitoring her situation on the
security feed, since that was how they spotted Cheetah in
the first place?) Cheetah boasts that are her duplicates
are—three guesses—"purr-fect." "By the time you
figure out which one is the real me," she adds, "I’ll be
inside the chemical plant."
I guess Wonder Woman could just swing her
golden lasso around and see which form it fails to pass
through, or maybe just toss a fistful of gravel around, or
one or two dozen other things. Instead, Cheetah’s
super-scientific gambit proves even more easy to defeat.
"There’s one thing you didn’t figure on," Wonder Woman
declares. "Your phony Cheetahs don’t cast shadows!" Here WW
lassos the figure she believes to be the real Cheetah, only
to then have the actual one emerge from offstage. The latter
pushes a button on a remote, and the mock-Cheetah turns into
a rocket (!!) that blasts off, taking the Golden Lasso and
Wonder Woman aloft with it. Wow. That’s pretty retarded even
for this show.
Wonder Woman eventually loses her grip
and plummets towards the ground. If she thought that was
going to happen, she probably should have just let go of the
Lasso back when she was on the ground. Instead, during those
few seconds she’s falling, she mentally summons her
invisible jet, the craft she employed for travel during the
several decades before her comic book editors decided to
grant her the power of flight. Amusingly, her ability is
described by the ON as "her telepathic mind-control." So…her
jet has a ‘mind’? That’s weird. Anyhoo, it flies up and
intercepts her plunging form. (On a side note, wouldn’t the
invisible jet be a handier stealth ship if Wonder Woman was
also invisible while flying in it? Because that’s not how
they ever drew her.)
Back on the ground, Cheetah hits the
second button on the remote—boy, that’s a pretty simple
interface—which brings the Rocket Cheetah in for a landing.
"Wonder Woman never realized," she smirks, "that I was
actually after her magic lasso all the time." I’m not sure
exactly how Cheetah came to that conclusion, but anyway.
Cheetah radios Brainiac to report on her
success. Noting that it’s time for phase two, Brainiac
tosses open a lidded box contained three levers. He pulls
the middle one, and an alarm goes off near Batman and Robin,
who sure enough have not bothered to watch what happened to
their comrade on the security camera. (Nor, apparently, has
Wonder Woman returned to the scene, or radioed in a report
herself.) "Holy multiple emergencies!" Robin observes. Here
Green Lantern appears over a security viewscreen, noting
that he’ll deal with this problem himself. Tactfully, he
doesn’t add "Because, you know, I’m actually useful."
Flying up for a look, GL soon spots
Brainiac approaching in a rather goofy looking armored
vehicle sporting twin rotating spiked cylinders. "He’s
headed this way," he helpfully observes. Well, I guess that
rules out Brainiac just being in the neighborhood. "I’ve got
to stop him before he reaches the plant!" he avers, although
he fails to act until after his foe has smashed down a
section of security wall.
For those not in the know, GL comes
equipped with an ultra-powerful energy ring that creates
from emerald energy anything he can think of. Sadly, the GL
on Challenge of the Superfriends tended to be
distressingly literal. You know, like if he wanted to catch
something, he’d think up a big green baseball mitt. Here
he’s predictably reactive, and thus produces a green
counterpart to Brainiac’s tank. He then jumps inside the
thing’s cab and sets his machine to grappling with
Action music blares as the poorly
animated tussle ensues, and in short order the
supervillain’s tank is toppled. GL orders his foe to
surrender, whereupon Brainiac brands him a "Green Fool."
(Shouldn’t that be "Green Super Fool," or maybe "Super Green
Fool"?) GL fires a ray blast his way, but Brainiac quickly
produces (from where?) a sort of super-vacuum cleaner, which
manages to ensnare GL’s power ring and pull it off his hand.
Since this leaves Green Lantern demoted to Powerless Dude In
Green Long Underwear, it’s not exactly a good sign.
Meanwhile, back at the security gate,
Robin reports that the radar is picking up an approaching
object. This proves to be a murder of crows (!) controlled
by Scarecrow. I don’t remember that being one of his powers,
but then, I’m not an expert on DC supervillains.
Technically, though, shouldn’t a scarecrow cause crows to
leave, rather than being able to control them? Anyhoo, with
the crows landing all around them, Batman sagely notes, "I
don’t like the looks of this!" Robin, needless to say,
responds with "Holy aviaries, Batman!" Man, I really hate
Batman deduces that a bunch of crows at
night means the Scarecrow is near. (Again, shouldn’t his
presence frighten away the birds rather than cause them to
congregate?) "Right, Batman," the Sinister Specter of Straw
confirms. Seeing him standing outside, Batman has Robin
activate the "defense shield," which blocks the open gate
with an electrical arc, or some damn thing. You’d think
they’d be more concerned that Scarecrow would order his
avian abettors to peck their eyes out, but I guess that’s a
bit too sinister for this show. Also, an energy fence
encircling the plant horizontally seems less than optimal,
considering that a goodly number of Legionnaires can fly.
Since the Dynamic Due are a bit slow on
the uptake, Scarecrow points out that his feathered flunkies
are already inside their perimeter. "Holy dive-bombers,
Batman!" Robin squeals. The crows swoop in and, with a
handful of birds grasping at Our Heroes’ capes, haul them up
into the air. (!!!) Here Scarecrow produces a tractor beam
pistol or some damn thing and, as you might expect from the
way things have gone up to now, uses it to bring the Caped
Crusaders gizmo-laden utility belts his way. "Thanks, Super
Saps!" he chortles. It was about at this juncture that I
began wondering where the hell Wonder Woman had gone off to.
Shouldn’t she have landed by now?
Sure enough, she instantly does appear
after Scarecrow leaves. We never see how she thus gets past
the activated defense shield, but anyway. Batman, apparently
embarrassed at being defeated by a refugee from the Wizard
of Oz, explains that the "sinister Scarecrow" stole his and
Robin’s belts. (Any hopes that their humiliation would be
compounded by having his and the Boy Wonder’s pants fall
down sadly fail to be fulfilled, however.) Meanwhile, WW and
GL report their own lost devices. Actually, they’re a lot
worse off than Batman and Robin, since they presumably have
spare belts. The lasso and power ring, however, are rather
more unique items, one bequested by a goddess, another by
Back up in their original position in the
hills (thus saving the expense of drawing new background
cells), the victorious villains radio Legion leader Lex
Luthor to report their success. Needless to say, Luthor
pauses to wallow in their victory a bit. "Those Super Fools
[sigh] have only seen the tip of the iceberg!" Myself, I’d
be sending in a second wave of heavy hitters—say, Sinestro
along with either Bizarro, Solomon Grundy and/or Gorilla
Grodd—to wipe out their foes while they’re uniquely
vulnerable. Or maybe Brainiac could just shoot them with a
sniper rifle from his hillside vantage point. (Although
Wonder Woman still has her bullet-deflecting bracelets,
you’d think he could take out GL or at one of the Caped
Crusaders.) However, if they did stuff like that, the
Superfriends would have been wiped out long ago.
Instead, the next stage of their plan is
put into effect. This involves engaging the Hall of Doom’s
jet thrusters, which rockets the entire edifice from its
home in the swamp. Oddly, all this is done by throwing one
lever. It’s odd to think that starting and operating a
regular motor car involves all sorts of steps, while jetting
an entire building around needs only one switch thrown. I
guess it’s all done with computers.
Having mulled over their situation while
all this has been going on (and probably wondering how to
fudge the fact that two of their defeats were at the hands
of Cheetah and the Scarecrow), Batman, the tactical ace of
the team, finally formulates a plan of action to suggest.
"We’d better contact the other Superfriends and let them
know what happened!" A masterstroke, O Caped Crusader!
However, as he pulls out his
walkie-talkie, a shadow falls upon them. "Great Gotham!"
Batman alliterates as the Hall of Doom passes overhead, like
an ominous giant stone head in an especially pretentious
Sean Connery movie. Before they can react (which involves
more animation, after all), yellow beams engulf them and
they are teleported into the villain’s horrible
headquarters. I can’t remember the Legion ever employing
teleportation technology before, but then, they tend to have
a short attention span where super-technologies are
Meanwhile, with the plant undefended,
Bizarro and Black Manta (Black Manta!) make their way
inside. It’s a good thing the latter was assigned to come
along, or there wouldn’t be anyone to stand around doing
nothing while Bizarro did all the work.
Inside the Hall of Doom, the Legionnaires
are assembled to watch the captured Superfriends materialize
in their meeting chamber. This involves phasing in the
heroes over a background still of the seated villains, a
shot that was reused in nearly every episode. One regular
hilarity of the show was how it was so cheap that continuity
was regularly tossed out the window. For instance, Bizarro
is clearly seen seated among his peers, despite the fact
that we just have seen him smashing his way into the
"Holy teleportation!" Robin exclaims.
Seriously, somebody, kill him. Then he proves why he’s the
trained assistant of the World’s Greatest Detective. "Where
are we?" he asks. Hmm. You’ve just appeared in a large hall
in which all the members of the Legion of Doom are arrayed
around a large customized meeting table. Gee, I’m flummoxed.
Batman, however, pieces it together. "If my instincts are
correct," he muses, apparently stymied from actual
theorizing by the dearth of factual evidence (other than,
again, the hall, the customized table and the
supervillains), "I’d say we’re right in the middle of the
Hall of Doom!" Yeah, wow, watch out Sherlock Holmes.
As you may have suspected from the
episode’s title, this is one of those deals where the
villains are putting the heroes on trial, a venerable TV
show plot device employed with just slightly less regularity
than ripping off the short story The Most Dangerous Game.
Per tradition, Luthor, standing at his regular podium, is
wearing a judicial robe in his trademark purple and wielding
a gavel. He orders Gorilla Grodd to swear the defendents in.
Since he’s a villain, however, the Sinister Slobbering
Simian delivers an oath a bit different than the one we’re
used to. "[Sluuuurp] Do you swear to tell untruths,
and nothing but untruths [Sluuurp], so held
Needless to say, we waste time with the
usual objections. "You call this mockery of justice a
‘trial’?!" Wonder Woman indignantly inquires. This leads
their foes to admit that she’s got a point, whereupon they
return the Superfriends’ power items and let them go with a
chagrined apology. Oh, wait, no, that’s not what happens at
all. I’ll bet you were fooled there for a moment, though.
Instead, Luthor responds in the affirmative. "Yes, Wonder
Woman," he says. "I call it the ‘Trial of the
Superfriends.’" Wow, he must have spent all week coming up
with that one.
Sinestro takes the role of prosecutor,
and the charges naturally take the form of, "They keep
getting in our way." More specifically, they are accused of
"Heroic action in the name of justice, upholding the law,
and attempting to stop the Legion of Doom." Again, because
it’s standard in these things, Batman again attempts to
point out that these things are entirely legal. "Your laws,
Batman," Luthor responds. "Not ours." Hey, it was a good
enough rationale for Stalin.
The captured "weapons of justice," are
displayed as exhibit one. I’m not sure what they prove by
themselves, but I guess there’s no reason to steal stuff
like that if you’re not going to show them off. Sinestro
notes that the items were obtained while the Superfriends
were attempting to balk "three of the most distinguished
members of the Legion of Doom." Here I thought Batman would
move for a mistrial, as there’s clearly no way Cheetah and
Scarecrow can be considered as ‘distinguished.’ Sadly,
though, this novel legal gambit goes unemployed.
After a lengthy trial process lasting
perhaps a minute and a half, the jury rises to deliver it’s
conclusion. Three guesses. Meanwhile, all I could think of
was how much time these guys must have spent rehearsing all
this, from the ‘prosecution’ to the reading of the
‘verdict.’ Man, these dudes have got a lot of time on their
The sentence, of course, is insanely
stupid and complicated. Brainiac, it seems, has whipped up
four android duplicates of the captured Superfriends. These
have been equipped with the real Superfriend’s devices, and
obviously Our Heroes’ punishment is to engage these robotic
copies in battle. When said ersatz adversaries are revealed,
Luthor naturally indulges in a "Mwahahahahahah!" Ah, good
This all raises some questions. How did
the Legion, who must have prepped all this well in advance,
know when a group consisting solely of Wonder Woman, Green
Lantern and Batman & Robin was to be assigned an away
mission? They are, after all, the only ones who rely on
gadgets.* Or did Brainiac make an entire slate of
Superfriend androids, and the others are still stuffed in a
closet somewhere? By the way, if Brainiac could fashion at
the same time an android as powerful as Superman, and
another as lame as Aquaman, well, my hat’s off to him.
[*Actually, Wonder Woman usually has
inherent superpowers, and during the last few decades of
comic book continuity, as reflected on the more recent
Justice League cartoons, has actually been souped up to be a
physical match for Superman. On these old shows, however,
and certainly during this particular run, she seemed more a
distaff analogue of the comparatively puny Batman, an
normally-human athlete with her own version of the Batrope
and Batplane and such.]
Just in case the prisoners are mentally
retarded—admittedly, a pretty safe bet—Brainiac points out
that the androids are wearing the Superfriends’ captured
power devices. "Great Hera," Wonder Woman exclaims. "My
lasso!" Batman, who is, of course, the World’s Greatest
Detective, is equally observant of the androids standing
several feet away from them. "The utility belts!" he espies.
Finally, Green Lantern joins in. "My power ring!" Yes, the
Legion of Doom can steal their power objects away, but not
their ability to declaim the obvious.
We cut to the Hall of Justice. "I don’t
understand it," Superman admits, looking over the chemical
plant via their giant security monitor. "There seems to be
no one guarding the liquid light." I laughed when Aquaman
noted that their missing comrades’ "vehicles are there."
See, the outline of Wonder Woman’s invisible jet is drawn
with white lines so that the audience can see it, much as
Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four is generally drawn when
employing her powers. That’s just for our benefit, though.
Aquaman shouldn’t be able to see Wonder Woman’s plane
because it’s, you know, supposed to be invisible.
Man, the guys who wrote these shows were such idiots.
Superman proposes taking a team out to
the plant to investigate. Since Aquaman and Hawkman are on
hand, Black Vulcan quickly suggests that he and the Flash go
along. "We’ll [stay and] monitor the communications relay in
case [their missing teammates] should call in," Hawkman
agrees. Other vital tasks he and Aquaman may be able to
perform include refilling the soap dispensers in the Super
Restrooms and changing any burnt out Super Light Bulbs. Hmm,
on second thought, they may want to wait until Apache Chief
shows up before attempting anything like that on their own.
We cut outside, where the three appointed
team members fly off to the plant. Yes, fly, including the
Flash. Who, as I’ve pointed out before, doesn’t fly.
Cripes, I can remember this stuff and I’m not even being
paid to. Further amusement is provided by the Narrator, who
exclaims, "In an heroic moment, Superman, Flash and Black
Vulcan speed off to the Astro Chemical Research Plant!" I’m
not sure what’s especially ‘heroic’ about this particular
moment, since these guys flying is like most of us getting
into our cars. But anyway.
At the plant, Superman examines the steel
security doors Bizarro tore down. "Whoever broke into the
plant used incredible strength," he muses. Wow, nothing gets
past you, Man of Steel. "We’d better check out the liquid
light," the Flash suggests, although he could have done so
and returned to where he was standing about a thousand
times already. In other words, the writers couldn’t
remember that one of the characters, the one named "The
Flash," didn’t have the ability to fly but could do
stuff real fast. And while I’m sure no one got rich writing
for this show, still, man, they actually made a living from
it. There’s no justice.
Luckily for Our Heroes, Bizarro and Black
Manta are still farting around in the plant. OK, now this
timeline has me totally confused. "Now that the
Superfriends and those fool scientists are out of the way,"
Black Manta is—what else?—gloating, "we can use this liquid
light to take over the world." Uh, OK. In any case, his mood
quickly shifts when Superman’s voice rings out.
"Superfriends!" Black Manta gasps. C’mon,
is their appearance really that unexpected? After all, they
pretty much show up whenever the Legion tries to do
something. Plus, you did, just kidnap four of their
teammates. "That’s right," the Flash concurs. "And we’re
here to put an end to your sinister plans." That’s it. I
don’t want to hear the words ‘super’ or ‘sinister’ used as
adjectives for at least as long as this episode lasts. (I
know, fat chance.)
However, since one of actually dangerous
members of the Legion is on hand—I mean Bizarro, not Black
Manta—things aren’t quite that easy. "Now me put end to
Superfriends," he announces, although in Bizarro Talk I
think he should have said "Now me put start to
Superfriends." Because, you know, everything on Bizarro
World is backward. Anyhoo, he tips over the vat of liquid
lights and floods the room with it. "Bizarro’s releasing the
liquid light!" Black Vulcan helpfully explains. "And Black
Manta is using involuntary reflexes to pump air in and out
of his lungs and oxygenate his brain!" Well, OK, he doesn’t
say that last part, but it would be just as useful if he
Superman declares he’ll stop the flood,
and rips loose a massive steel door to dam the substance.
However, as any five year old watching the show might have
predicted, the liquid light eats through the steel and
continues on its way. Good job, Last Son of Krypton. "Great
Scott," he shouts. "It’s dissolving everything in its path!"
(Hmm. Actually, shouldn’t it just be eating through the
floor and down into the earth?) Yeah, maybe you should have
read the memo on that when you guys agree to take the job of
guarding the stuff.
In any case, the liquid light burns
through the wall (which perhaps should have been coated with
one of those elements that it couldn’t eat through—but then,
hindsight is 20/20), and races down the hill towards
Metropolis. At least that’s what we were told earlier,
although now the community is described as a "town," which
is an odd choice of words for one of the country’s largest
Meanwhile, back in the Hall of Doom,
Luthor is still yammering at the captives. Referring to them
as "Super Criminals," he asks if they have any last words.
"Just that the only criminals around here are you and your
Legion of Doom," Pedantic Man, er, Batman replies. Yes, yes,
the irony is very rich. We get it.
Using yet another handheld gadget,
Brainiac teleports the Superfriends and their robot
counterparts to a variety of locales. (Considering that they
were all caught in the same ray blast, that’s some trick.)
Wonder Woman, for instance, is transported to a jungle.
"Great Hera," she exclaims. "I’ve been transported to the
middle of some treacherous jungle." Seriously, did they
realize that they were written scripts for a cartoon series
and not a radio show? Because constantly having the
characters explain verbally exactly what we’re then seeing
them do is sort of dumb.
"And I don’t have my magic lasso!" she
adds. Wow, how do you explain that? Oh, wait, yeah, that’s
right, Cheetah stole it earlier, and then you and your
comrades were teleported to the Hall of Doom, and put on
trial, and then sentenced to fight android copies of
yourselves, including a Wonder Woman analog who they
explained would be equipped with your lasso. Hmm, yes, now
all that stuff that’s happened over the last five minutes is
coming back to me. About here the Android Wonder Woman
materializes nearby. Heroically, the real Wonder Woman
decides to beat feet.
Meanwhile, Batman and Robin appear in a
swamp. "Holy mud holes, Batman!" Robin shouts. "We’re lost
in the middle of a murky swamp!" A snake appears and we are
allowed to briefly hope that he’ll fatally bite the Boy
Wonder, but sadly Batman saves him.
However, their mechanical foes are soon
on the scene. "Those androids are after us!" Explicated the
Obvious Lad exclaims. Seriously, where’s that snake? In any
case, the duo dynamically runs away in a cowardly fashion.
Finally, Green Lantern appears in a
desert canyon, which of course he pauses to remark upon.
Then, when his double appears tens feet away, he notes, "And
there’s my android counterpart!" Are you guys getting all
this? I wouldn’t want you to miss all the plot nuances
happening here. The android fires a blast at Green Lantern,
misses (!), and Our Hero takes off. Since he’s the one most
screwed by this situation, given the immense power of his
ring, I didn’t find his withdrawal to be quite as comical as
that of his comrades.
"Meanwhile," the ON announces, "the small
town of Kendalville [i.e., the exact same place that they
earlier identified as Metropolis] is unaware of the deadly
rive of liquid light that rapidly approaches!" Luckily, the
Superfriends are on the job. "We’ve got to stop it before it
reaches that town," Superman blurts. Ah, right, got you.
Then we see two young lads messing around
in a local pond. "How may frogs you got?" one asks his
friend. Sadly, we never learn the answer to this
provocative, if ungrammatical, query, for just about then
the liquid light makes its appearance. (By the way, that vat
must have had some dimension-warping properties, because the
volume of liquid light approaching the town is much
larger than a normal vat could have possible held.) In any
case, the boys are saved at the last instant by Black
Vulcan. It’s a good thing he showed up, too, since they were
apparently too stupid to just move out of the stuff’s
path. It’s like one of those movies where someone
attempts to outrun a car chasing them down a street rather
than just seeking safety on the sidewalk.
Next, Superman attempts to block the
stream with "this old abandoned dam." (Yes, there sure are a
lot of those around.) Of course, he frees this
gigantic artifact by grabbing a section of its top—which
presumably then must be but a couple feet wide, although in
the establishing shot this clearly wasn’t the case—and
pulling up on it. In the real world, one would think, this
would result in him tearing out or pulverizing a small
section of concrete. This world operates under the laws of
Cartoon Physics, however, and thus he succeeds in pulling
the entire massive structure loose and flying off with it.
Sadly, though, the edifice proves unable
to staunch the deadly flow. (Yeah, big surprise.) You know,
I’m not a super-genius or anything, but here’s a thought:
Hey, Supes, why don’t you try to contain this stuff with
the vat it was originally being held in? Also, wouldn’t
that be a little less cumbersome to move than an entire dam?
Should we require further evidence of the
fact that the Man of Steel is a Super Idiot (hey, there’s
a good slur for the Legion of Doom to use!), the Kryptonian
blocks the stream of liquid light with the dam, and then
flies to the direct other side of the barrier and lands on
the ground. "I think it’s holding!" he exults, even as the
dam glows white hot. (Would concrete do that?) Seconds
later, the liquid light river—which now patently masses
hundreds of times the volume of the containment vat, so
either it converts matter to more liquid light or else the
animators were grossly incompetent—entirely engulfs Our
Overconfident Hero. By the way, have I mentioned before that
Superman is super-fast? Or that he can fly? I guess when
you’re completely invulnerable you get a little sloppy.
Anyway, the Flash speeds over and is
shocked by this development. "Superman!" he cries. "The
liquid light covered him!" Thanks for the update, chief.
Whereupon Superman comes flying out of the stuff. "It’s no
use," the Super Quitter reports. "It’s destroying everything
in its path!" Yes, this is truly a miracle energy source,
The deluge hits the town, although oddly
it only liquefies what’s in the streets, rather than eating
through the buildings. I mean, this stuff just ate through
an entire dam in about ten seconds. I wouldn’t have thought
a brick façade would have deterred it. Meanwhile, if you
watch real close when the town’s populace runs from the now
incredibly humongous volume of liquid light, you can see a
civilian actually getting buried by the stuff! I can only
assume this was an animation error, because this program
didn’t even allow characters to throw a punch, much less
liquefy innocent people.
With the town but moments away from being
consumed, all seems hopeless. The Flash, however, has one
last ace up his sleeve. If you guessed that this entails him
running around really, really fast in a circle, than you’ve
seen this show before, because that maneuver has a million
and one uses. This time it proves a pretty standard one: He
flies (!) to a position over the stuff, beings running in a
circle really, really fast, and creates a vortex that sucks
the flood upward, where, according the Narrator, "it
scatters in the upper atmosphere, and returns to the Earth
in the form of harmless falling stars." Actually, returning
to Earth in the form of a horrifying corrosive rain seems a
more likely result, but hey, what do I know about running
around in a circle really, really fast.
Then it’s back to the captive
Superfriends. Although it seems like every show in
television history has aped The Most Dangerous Game, this
particular series is stymied by the fact that it will allow
no violence to occur. Although the Legionnaires often issue
vague threats regarding how the Superfriends are soon to
meet their "doom," or suchlike, the fact is that not even
the most mild fisticuffs were allowed. At most, one
character would throw his arms around another and try to
pinion him. Therefore, only the most naïve viewer will
believe that the fugitive Superfriends are in any actual
We start with Wonder Woman, who is
unsuccessfully attempting to elude her doppelganger by
swinging around on vines, like Tarzan. "Brainiac must have
figures out a way to electronically control my magic lasso,"
she at one point stops to exposit. Yes, I guess that
explains it. Pondering this conundrum, she concludes, "I’ll
have to figure out another way out of here." Nothing gets
past you, O Princess of Paradise Island. Sadly, however,
she’s then immediately immobilized by a cast of the magic
lasso. "You’re going nowhere, Wonder Woman," her duplicate
warns. For our viewing convenience, the robots have been
given ‘electronic’ sounding voices, so that we can tell who
is who. Considering that the Legion is always creating
flawless robots, this seems an odd oversight. But whatever.
Wonder Woman is then hauled up over a
gigantic anthill, where the android promises she "will be
food for a thousand hungry mouths." I have to admit, that’s
a pretty grim fate to even be threatened with on this show.
As the ants swarm towards her, Wonder Woman decides her only
chance is to try to wrestle back her telepathic control of
the lasso. Needless to say, she manages to accomplish this
right quick, and her "super fake" double is quickly
We then cut to Batman and Robin, who are
still being chased through the swamp. However, things go bad
for them when their foes make expert use of the contents of
the utility belts, whereupon Our Heroes find themselves
snared in a sticky substance. "Those sinister androids have
got us trapped in our own Bat-Webs!" the Caped Crusader
laments. (Paging Spider-Man’s lawyer! ‘Bat-Webs,’ indeed.)
Clearly running out of ideas, the writers elect to menace
the entangled champions with ravenous alligators. Which, I
should point out, is completely different than being
menaced by ravenous ants.
"We’ve got just one slim chance," Batman
avers. "If I can just hit that android’s utility belt with
this stone…" (Being enmeshed in ‘Bat-Webs’ allows one a
surprisingly ample field of motion, apparently.) He manages
this, of course, and a ray bursts from the belts and the
heroes disappear from sight. The robots quickly run over to
their last location to investigate, and find themselves
trapped in the Bat-Webs. "We’re trapped!" Robot Batman
discerns, proving that Brainiac made duplicates of the
Superfriends so accurate that they even make uselessly
At this, Batman, Robin, and the Bat-Web
fade back into sight. "That’s right," the Dark Knight
explains. "The Bat Invisibility Ray only made us appear to
vanish. Then the two of you [when they ran over] knocked us
free and trapped yourselves!" Gad, that’s lamely convoluted
even for this show. And since when did Batman have an
invisibility ray? Yeesh. As they prepare to leave,
Batman notes, "It’s a good thing for you that alligators
don’t like androids." Just in case we were worried they’d
get et, I suppose.
Finally, we return to Green Lantern, who
somehow has so far managed to elude on foot his flying robot
double. "I think I’ve finally ditched that phony Green
Lantern," Our Hero declares, so I think you can guess what
happens two seconds later. Sure enough, his android
antagonist appears, and inevitably calls his model a "Green
Luckily, though, this part of the desert
just happens to sport a convenient yellow road marker
sign—"My power ring doesn’t work on anything yellow," Our
Emerald Hero thinks to himself, much as I often think things
like "My winter coat will protect me from this chilly
weather outside my house!"—which GL uses to deflect an
energy burst. This rebounds (?) and traps the ersatz
guardian in an energy bubble—although since it has the ring,
this really shouldn’t post much of a problem—whereupon the
real GL is able to reach inside of it (??) and retrieve his
Green Lantern returns to the chemical
plant, where the other Superfriends are assembled. (Hey,
Green Lantern call fly, and I guess Wonder Woman could have
mentally summoned her invisible jet. Even so, how did Batman
and Robin get back here?) Inside, we learn, the Legion of
Doom is holed up with, presumably, more liquid
light—although why there’d be more is left to our
imaginations—and demanding "control of all the world’s oil,"
whatever the hell that means.
"If their demands aren’t met," Wonder
Woman explains, "they’ll release the entire supply of liquid
light." In case you haven’t been following things, this
would be bad. "It could destroy the surface of the Earth!"
Flash asserts. (What, all of it?) Luckily, Batman
reveals that he has a plan…
Inside the plant, the assembled
Legionnaires—really, what purpose is there for all of them
to be on the premises?—and addressing the U.N. (who,
admittedly, don’t have a very good track record when it
comes to standing up to tyrants) over a giant viewscreen.
"What’s your answer?" Luthor demands. "The oil? Or the end
of the Earth?" The U.N. requests more time for debate,
perhaps hoping to appease the villains with a scheme wherein
the Legion can skim tens of billions of dollars from an
illicitly managed Food-for-Oil plan…nah, that’s too
However, Batman now calls out, and the
Legionnaires suddenly notice that all the Superfriends (save
Superman) are in the room with them. Vigilant, these guys
aren’t. "But my androids should have taken care of all of
you!" Brainiac blurts, despite the fact that neither the
Flash nor Black Vulcan were ever menaced by them. Despite
the fact that the outnumberd—and quite definitely
out-powered—heroes are standing in the same room, the
villains refuse to surrender. However, rather than just
killing the vastly overmatched Leaguers, Grod orders the
liquid light released.
Bizarro and Solomon Grundy respond by
moving to tip over another vat of the stuff. (Would it
really take both of them? Either is a physical match for
Superman, who earlier lifted up an entire dam.)
However, this is where Batman’s clever plan comes into play.
A rumbling sound is heard, and Superman tunnels up from
underground and drills a hole through the liquid light vat.
(As he bursts up through the top of the vat, they animate a
lot of the stuff spraying around. I think the Man of Steel
just liquefied a goodly number of both is foes and his
Apparently, the substance isn’t dangerous
if it just pours into the ground rather than along the top
of it. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but maybe I’m
just missing something. "I’m afraid I just pulled the plug
on your light," a triumphant Superman quips, as nearby
Bizarro and Solomon Grundy literally hang their heads in
defeat. (??!) Laughably, the background of this particular
shot has the three standing before a forest background,
despite the fact that they are supposedly inside the plant.
Again, this is undoubtedly because they chose to use a stock
shot, even if it violated continuity, rather than animating
a new one.
However, there’s some fight left in their
foes, yet. (Yeah, you’d think.) "Try to stop this laser atom
smasher, Super Fools!" Black Manta shouts, as he fires upon
them. Boy, you know you’re in a lame group when Bizarro and
Solomon Grundy just give up and concede defeat, while
Black Manta takes action. He elects to fire upon the
Flash, however, who begins to rotate at super-speeds, which
deflects the ray back on Black Manta. "Didn’t anyone ever
tell you that heat bends light?" the Flash enquires, a
pretty laughable attempt to introduce a note of scientific
‘accuracy’ to the proceedings. By the way, in case you’re
wondering what happens when a normal human beam is struck by
the beam of a laser atom smasher, he…becomes immobilized.
Wow, the Superfriends are lucky to be alive.
Grodd decides to take action and attacks
the Dynamic Duo. "Quick, Robin!" Batman responds. "The Bat
Resin!" This is a spray that instantly freezes the
super-powerful in place. Damn, what don’t those guys
have in their utility belts? "Which wraps up the entire
Legion of Doom!" Superman boasts. And other than Brainiac,
Lex Luthor, Toyman, Sinestro, Cheetah, Bizarro, Solomon
Grundy, the Riddler, Giganta, the Scarecrow and Captain
Cold, he’s dead on.
However, their plans to haul the villains
to jail (yeah, that would hold them) are quickly thwarted.
Luthor punches a remote control, and the flying Hall of Doom
appears overhead and transports the miscreants to safety.
Admittedly, it’s only ‘safety’ because neither Superman nor
Green Lantern nor anyone else thinks to fly up and attempt
to disable their craft. Hey, don’t knock yourselves out,
guys. "It looks like the Legion of Doom has slipped away
again," the Flash feebly admits.