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Friday, June 13, 2014

Challenge of the Super Friends, Episode 8

Episode 8: "Secret Origins of the Super Friends"

One of the reasons I think Challenge of the Super Friends is so beloved, even above the other iterations of the show, is because it mostly resembled the original comics. Not limited by budget or special effects, Challenge could show kids virtually anything that the comics could. And no episode feels as ripped from the pages of DC Comics than "Secret Origins of the Super Friends."
Lex Luthor has yet another plan to defeat the Super Friends, but this time it's a real humdinger: having learned the origins of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern, he proposes the Legion of Doom go back in time. There they will insert themselves into history, thereby preventing those three heroes from ever being created!

Soon enough, The Cheetah is on Paradise Island, and makes like Rosie Ruiz, inserting herself into the contest that will result in Diana going off and becoming Wonder Woman. She beats her lifelong foe, winning the honor of the uniform, bracelets, and Magic Lasso:
...Suffering Sapho!
Next up, Lex Luthor distracts test pilot Hal Jordan at just the right moment, so he isn't there when the dying Abin Sur's Power Ring reaches out for a new Green Lantern. Luthor goes in his place:
Almost instantly, we see the effect all this time-meddling is having: Wonder Woman and Green Lantern disappear from our reality, with their fellow Super Friends having no memory of them ever existing!

The final part of this nefarious plan has the Legion of Doom hitting baby Kal-El's rocket with a beam, sending it to another planet, not Earth, thereby insuring there will never be a Superman. Again, we see the effects in Metropolis, where they are having a Superman Day Parade:

...presto-chango, now it's Hawkman Day! At least someone in the Super Friends gets something out of this!
The Legion returns to the present, and attacks the Hall of Justice. Without three of their most powerful members, the Super Friends find themselves easy prey. Luthor zaps some of them all with a Hypnotic Anger Ray [patent pending], which causes the heroes to fight one another. Hawkman immediately grabs Aquaman:
Hawkman then dumps Aquaman onto a rafter, which for some reasons renders him unconscious. After that embarrassing display, Samurai and Apache Chief square off. Down below, Batman, Robin, Black Vulcan, and The Flash--who are being kept for the second round--discover the Legion of Doom's computer and the plan to eliminate the three heroes, none of whom the Super Friends have ever heard of!

The four heroes escape and make it back to the Hall of Justice, and review the Legion's plan in detail. Batman and Robin use the Bat-Plane to go back in time(!) and make sure young Kal-El arrives on Earth, Flash helps out Wonder Woman, and Black Vulcan does the same for Green Lantern.

With the time stream now fixed, the Super Friends attack the Legion of Doom, rescue the other members, and defeat the bad guys. Of course, Luthor manages to spirit his comrades away, to fight another day. Once again, the Super Friends promise that wherever the Legion might show up next, they'll be ready:
The End...for now!

For comic book fans, this episode is like manna from heaven, thanks to all the details it features: the classic origins of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern, complete with appearances by Jor-El, the Kents, Queen Hippolyta, and Abin Sur. I've always wondered why Luthor steps in for Lantern, instead of Sinestro; maybe that was another nod (albeit unexplained) to GL history?

I love the idea that, without their being a Superman, people would be celebrating Hawkman day. I bet Carter was at least mildly annoyed that all the heroes were brought back from non-existence ("Couldn't we have just done the job with Diana and Hal?").

Unfortunately, on the Aquaman front, this episode is a nightmare: he has nothing to do or say here, except to be put into a hammerlock by Hawkman, who then dumps him a few seconds later. And then the final indignity can be seen in that last group shot, as Arthur strains to see over the shoulders of Superman and Apache Chief, like a little kid at a Christmas parade. Oh well.

This episode's Aqua-Content: Low



Craig said...

I recall that series as being leagues above the earlier interations, for this Silver Age kid. But, MAN!
That shot of Kal and Katar looks like it was traced by a Second-Grader!

Craig said...

I recall that series as being leagues above the earlier interations, for this Silver Age kid. But, MAN!
That shot of Kal and Katar looks like it was traced by a Second-Grader!

aqua buckeye said...

I believe the reason Luthor went instead of Sinestro had to due to 2 factors=1,he could pass as an earthling easier than Sinestro & 2=he could say the memorable phase "no fools it's the Green Luthor" to his fellow Legion of Doom members upon his return.

Anthony said...

I'd also throw in Abin would've probably recognized Sinestro (pre- or post-turn-to-complete-evil depending on when that happened), so there'd also be that.

I wonder how Flash stepped foot on Paradise Island without violating the rule that no man can step foot on it without the Amazons losing their powers/immortality... :-p

Meanwhile, the Legion of Doom members know at least Green Lantern's secret identity, which I'd figure would still be dangerous...

Earth 2 Chris said...

Mark Waid was right about Lex. He'll build a multi-million dollar giant robot to rob a bank. And here he'll go back in time and get the most powerful weapon in the universe (GL's ring) and then just dump it.

This is one of the best SF episodes, and was no doubt my intro to GL's origin, having seen Superman's and Wonder Woman's back story on TV. They are incredibly faithful to boot.

That recent JLA: Trapped in Time DVD is acknowledged as a reworking of this.