Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Challenge of the Super Friends, Episode 15

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Episode 15: "Superfriends: Rest In Peace"

In this episode, the Legion of Doom manages to do something other super-villains can only dream of: kill some of the Super Friends!
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This episode of Challenge of the Super Friends opens, ominously, in a cemetery. As the camera pans across the fields of headstones, we see that the Super Friends have gathered to bury a friend. Unbelievably, that friend is...Batman!
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How did the Dark Knight Detective come to such an end? We flash back to see how it went down: Luthor and some of the other Legion of Doom members, pretending to be regular citizens drilling for oil, have uncovered a long-buried element called Noxium. Noxium is deadly source of power that was discovered by, as Luthor explains it, "Dr. Natas, a one time member of the Legion of Doom" (get it?). Superman then took possession of the Noxium and buried it under the Hall of Justice.

A short time later, Batman heads out to stop The Riddler on yet another crime spree, except this time it ends with Batman getting blasted by the Noxium, leaving him...dead!
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Before the Super Friends--and the world--can recover from this shocking news, The Legion of Doom uses the Noxium twice more, killing Wonder Woman and then Superman!
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With three of the biggest guns in the Super Friends now gone, the Legion of Doom aggressively moves to take over the world. They threaten the Super Friends and remind them that as long as they have the Noxium, the heroes are powerless to stop them.

The Super Friends take this news grimly but realistically, and decide to leave Earth(!) and regroup. We see the sad, sad sight of Flash, Green Lantern, Robin, Aquaman, Samurai, Hawkman, Black Vulcan, and Apache Chief abandon the Hall of Justice, then Earth itself. The bad guys have won!
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With no one to stop them, the Legion of Doom take full control of the world's economies. Brainiac and The Riddler take control of the central credit database, transferring billions of money directly to them. As you can see it, this kind of computer hacking is delicate, careful work:
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While on another attempt at plundering, a small band from the Legion of Doom are shocked to find the Super Friends waiting for them! Turns out they didn't leave Earth, it was all a ruse. The three bad guys don't have the Noxium on them, so find themselves quickly outmatched by the heroes.
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Unfortunately, Lex Luthor gets wind of all this and shows up, Noxium in hand. He starts blasting indiscriminately, killing every last one of the Super Friends, and laughing maniacally the entire time:
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All of the Super Friends are now dead, which means the Legion of Doom have, irrevocably, won. Luthor, in an attempt to win the crown for World's Stupidest Person, decides that with all the heroes dead, they don't need the Noxium anymore. He carelessly tosses it away, where it lands into the nearest sewer:
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While the Legion of Doom continue their rampage, a mysterious figure in lead-lined suit crawls the sewer, looking for the Noxium. They find it, pack it into some sort of cannon, and shoot it into space. They then speak into a radio device and say "It's done."

Days later, a group of international delegates arrive at the Hall of Doom to offer their country's riches to the Legion. After being shuffled out, a second group is brought in. However, this group is more defiant, revealing themselves to be...the Super Friends!
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Luthor and the rest are flabbergasted. The Super Friends explain that upon learning the Legion of Doom had the Noxium, they created "perfect robot duplicates" of themselves that were designed to fail, so that Luthor would do exactly what he did--grow overconfident and get rid of the Noxium. Now without it, they are defeated by the Super Friends once more:
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Superman quips that with the Legion of Doom apprehended, the Super Friends can truly "rest in peace." The End!


I remember watching this episode as it aired in 1978. Not understanding that no superhero would ever be truly killed off (in comics in general, but especially not in a cartoon), I remember being completely shocked when Batman gets it. I don't think any Super Friends show to this point had ever even mentioned the concept of Death, let alone allowing one of the heroes to succumb. It was shocking, exciting, and a little scary. The whole episode is so wonderfully staged that it's easy to forgive the complete cop-out ending ("perfect robot duplicates", uh huh). It's like one DC's "Imaginary Story" comics come to life.

I am also intrigued at the idea of Dr. Natas, a former member of the Legion of Doom. I had no idea there was such a thing! Where is this guy now? Why did he leave? Did he have his fill of spending time with idiots like Bizarro and Solomon Grundy and decide to strike out on his own? Considering he found something that actually can kill the Super Friends, it sounds like he was head and shoulders more competent than the rest of the Legion of Doom.

On the Aquaman front, he doesn't get much to do--like the rest, he tucks his tail between his legs and leaves Earth, and then when he does reappear he's "killed" almost immediately, like the other Super Friends. Strangely enough, Black Manta gets the lion's share of the dialogue this time around.

I think "Rest in Peace" is the finest episode of Challenge of the Super Friends, and would have made a great final show of this iteration of the series. But we still have one more to go!

This episode's Aqua-Content: Medium

 

1 comment:

Earth 2 Chris said...

LOVE this episode. I can't really add much, as my experience with it is essentially the same as yours, Rob. I think I even went to my Mom when I saw Batman's tombstone, horrified that they had really killed him! Every time this one reaired in reruns, I'd sit up straighter and watch more intently. I agree it's probably the best of the Challenge episodes!

Chris

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