It’s only been a (checks calendar) full decade since my previous mutant viewing of the hilariously bad Challenge of the Superfriends series. My life goal? To make it through all 16 episodes by the time I die. I really need to get on this. Anyway, today we’re going to drag ourselves through the sixth episode, Monolith of Evil.
Our episode opens with the Legion of Doom sitting around and having a philasophical discussion, as all villain groups tend to do between heists. The topic of the day: Is there a single source of all evil power?
Yes: polka music. We all know this.
I love that Solomon Grundy is adamant that there is, in fact, a single evil power source in the universe. To prove it, he turns on a video that begins with — what else? — his lifeless corpse floating in a swamp. I am totally not making that up; he says as much. This is already a dark episode and I’m loving it. Grundy says that some sort of energy thingy brought him back to life, just eviler. Me? I want to know how Grundy ended up dying in that swamp in the first place, because you know it was either a mob hit or an ill-fated scuba diving expedition.
Grundy also shares the esoteric information that the energy comes from a monolith at the center of the earth, which sets the Legion drooling at the thought of harnessing this power for their nefarious purposes.
“Hey Grundy, how do you know all of thi–”
“GRUNDY KNOWS THE WAY WE GO NOW!”
And without a pause for a group vote or any pertinent follow-up questions, Grundy yanks on a lever and takes the Hall of Doom down to the bottom of the swamp and then into the earth’s crust itself. Really, I don’t see the hurry, but at least this show doesn’t drag its feet before getting to the insane plot. And if you ever wanted to know what the center of the world looked like, basically it’s a classic version of Hell with fires and molten pits and a bunch of angry cosplayers. Also, there’s a really grumpy fire-breathing dragon.
I knew you wouldn’t believe me on that, so here is actual proof. We’re just four minutes into this episode and there’s an subterranean dragon fighting a zombie and a gorilla. Only on Challenge of the Superfriends does the universe align for such splendor.
They go on and actually find the monolith, but seeing as how it’s protected by a “lava monster,” the Legion is at a loss as to how to get it. Instead of perhaps digging into their collective bag of powers and talents, The Riddler decides that the only way to get the monolith is to trick the Superfriends into getting it for them. With riddles!
MEANWHILE AT THE HALL OF JUSTICE… everyone is deeply wishing for actual pants while the Justice computer gets a bad Windows 10 error and requires a system update.
The United Nations is sending out a call for help because the Legion is holding all of them for ransom. “So what?” says Flash. “It’s just the U.N. They’re just as useless as the Legion of Doom.”
As the rest of them stand around looking impotent, the three flight-capable Superfriends take off to go help.
Challenge of the Superfriends is one of those old fashioned cartoons that you don’t technically need eyes to understand what’s going on, as every character will narrate every action they see, perform, or presume. It’s like that friend you have that has to say every piddly thought that goes through their head, except that’s ALL OF THE CHARACTERS.
Anyway, Brainiac shrinks the UN building, which makes me wonder if that shrink ray works on lava monsters. Because if so… you see where I’m going with this? No need to get the Superfriends involved is all I’m saying.
The bad guys take off with the United Nations and Riddler calls with some cryptic clue about where to go to get them back. I seriously would make a generous donation to the Superfriends if Hawkman would have muttered, “No thanks, you guys can keep them.”
Apparently Riddler’s riddle is so complex that it takes Batman’s computer to figure out that they need to go to a swamp and burrow down. Cue extremely bad drilling animation as Superman makes like a mole.
For the life of me, the dragon here seems downright giddy to see the Superfriends. Poor guy, he’s never had any friends in his life other than the lava monster, and now twice in one week there’s been people visiting his neighborhood. Tell me he isn’t smiling in that picture there. Just tell me.
So Superman grabs the UN building from the middle of the lava lake — can’t imagine what the general assembly inside is thinking right about now — and uses his super-breath to cool the monster down into a stone statue. But it turns out that (gasp) it was all a ruse! The real building was never stolen, it was just a hologram! And the fake building was actually the monolith of evil. More holograms! I think the 1970s had an overly optimistic view of what holograms would be able to accomplish in the daily life of the supervillain.
Because Black Vulcan and Hawkman are next to useless, the villains only worry about stopping Superman. Gorilla Grodd throws a kryptonite ball and chain on Supes while his friends stand around looking mildly concerned. Superman claims that only a “nuclear laser” can cut through this, so now I’m going to have to spend the next half-hour of my life researching this claim. [half hour later] The answer? No idea. I’ll take Superman at his word here.
Up above, the Legion of Doom starts using the monolith to display their supreme mastery of evil. This takes place in the form of shooting random death rays all over New York, including one blast right into the Twin Towers that topples one of the buildings. And no, I am not screenshotting that, but my jaw is on the floor. They also — why not? — shoot the sun and trigger enormous solar flares roast the earth before making it go out forever. Unless the Legion is planning on relocating to another planet, this seems like poor forward thinking.
“It’s the Legion of Doom’s Day! AHAHA” Gorilla Grodd jokes. I’m going to give him this one. That’s pretty good.
Back at the Hall of Justice, the B-team is standing around feeling even more useless than ever. They finally decide to split up into two teams: the first to tackle the New York situation and the second to find the one actual superhero with all of the powers in the world. Apache Chief gets some mild lip service about using this “tracking abilities” to go to the same center of the earth spot that should now have so many drilled holes leading there that tour groups would have started making pilgrimages down there.
I’m really starting to think that the show’s writers didn’t do enough homework about what actually may exist at the earth’s core. Dragons? Lava monsters? I’ll allow for the possibility. But giant crabs? That’s going too far.
See, that’s what I love about this show: It keeps on piling more and more ridiculous elements while keeping an absolute straight face about them, as if all of this is as natural as waking up, going to Starbucks, and complaining about the weather to the barista. Holograms, sun turning off, giant crabs, single source of evil, an honorable United Nations… you can’t say that Superfriends isn’t packed to the gills with the absurd.
What actually DOES upset me, though, is that the Legion of Doom’s radar is somehow able to spot Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet approaching them in NYC. I am no comics expert, but even I know that this is a major mistake on the part of the writers. I mean, what’s its use in being invisible otherwise?
This screencap genuinely makes me laugh every time I look at it. Robin is likely going to die in about two seconds, but he’s so deeply thrilled that there’s a 100-story water monster popping out of nowhere that he doesn’t care about his own life. I can only speculate that Batman uses those remaining two seconds to reach back in the cockpit and throttle Robin for this.
YOU DON’T SAY.
Poor Flash, who’s had nothing to do all episode, finally gets his union-mandated moment in the sun to wield his highly ambiguous powers. Er, I mean, he uses “high speed molecular action” to free Hawkman, Superman, and Black Vulcan from turning into rock (a threat which is not explained whatsoever in the context of the show). Also, I think Flash looks incredibly creepy here, like he’s about ready to yank your soul out of your body and claim it as his own.
Green Lantern just looks annoyed at this field trip and then summons a nuclear laser out of nowhere to free Superman. Man, this episode is really making me want a nuclear laser of my own. Maybe I’ll ask for one for Christmas.
Hey, you know who would have been helpful in the battle against the water monster in New York harbor? Certainly not Aquaman, who was needed to man the computer back at the Hall of Justice. How would the Superfriends know what to do if this computer didn’t do their thinking for them?
The computer says that the monolith isn’t evil, just misunderstood, and… OK, we need to pause the episode here, because this just broke itself. So far in the episode, we have learned two incontrovertible facts:
- That the monolith of evil — on its own — reanimated a very evil Solomon Grundy
- That Superman could not grab it because it was pure evil and repelled goodness.
So this new revelation makes no sense, because we’ve seen that this is an independently evil source, even when it’s not being controlled by the Legion of Doom.
Anyway, Wonder Woman figures she can use her telepathy to control it. I… wait, Wonder Woman is telepathic? [googles it] Huh, I guess she is.
Armed with computer knowledge, the Superfriends return to New York and start setting things right by telling the magic monolith ray to undo all the stuff the Legion made it do.
Wait, who had “giant yellow toy robot” on their episode bingo card? Because if you did, you’ve probably won by now.
“Yeah, like spatulas!” “Shut up, Robin.”