Challenge of the Superfriends Episode 8: Secret Origins of the Superfriends

What never ceases to be amusing about this show is how it always starts with the Legion of Doom so incredibly demoralized that their latest six hundred evil schemes didn’t work, and then after some light mutiny, they come up with another plan and give it their best shot. Say what you will about this bunch, but they are the most persevering group of weirdos you’ll ever meet.

This week’s plan is from Lex “Mr. Clean” Luthor himself, who tantalizes his audience with this vision: “What if Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern simply never existed?” Well, in that case, the Superfriends would be plumb out of luck, because those are the only three effective members they have. Maybe Flash too.

You have my full attention, Luthor. Let’s hear it.

Luthor claims to have recently discovered the “secret origins” of these three Superfriends, although he doesn’t ever explain how. I would very much like to hear that explanation. Anyway, for proof, he shows three very brief TV clips of Diana as a little girl ripping a tree out of the ground, Hal Jordan in a airplane test cockpit, and Kal-El hanging out with his parents at what looks like a Chuck E. Cheese that’s on fire.

To change history, Luthor proposes that the Legion uses their time conveyor to go back and make it so these three never turned into superheroes or something. Frankly, I’m flat-out flabbergasted that this show actually REMEMBERED a previous invention (in this case, from Episode 4: The Time Trap) and pulled it out to use again. That really never happens in Challenge of the Superfriends. But c’mon, if you’re an evil society with time travel technology, why aren’t you using that nonstop?

And I have to admit that this is actually a really solid premise and an interesting way to delve into origin stories in a sort of natural way. So bravo, show. Bravo for actually making sense. For once. I’m sure it’ll be short-lived.

First stop is Paradise Island, 1941. I have said in the past that I’m not that familiar with Wonder Woman, so this is all pretty new to me, but apparently Superfriends is somewhat accurate in recreating her origin here.

The island queen Hippolyta here apparently got sick of the nicknames and fashioned a girl out of clay. Hippolyta then claims that “I love this little girl as if she was my own,” which is a totally normal thing any sculptor might say about a piece of art that they made in workshop. The goddess Aphrodite shows up and grants Hippolyta her wish to make the girl real, and that’s when Challenge of the Superfriends shows us a completely nude four-year-old girl. Yes, I’m being serious, and no, I am not providing screenshot proof.

This show won’t do punching, but child nudity? It’s 1978, nobody’s paying attention.

After Diana grows up, Aphrodite appears out of nowhere and up and orders Hippolyta to hold a tournament to find a champion to go help the USA win World War II. Hippolyta forbids Diana from participating, to which Diana hatches a clever scheme:

Yes, because no parent would know what their kid looks like with a small mask on. And she totally won’t stand out being the only masked person on an island with a very small population.

The Legion of Doom then unmasks Cheetah and gets her to compete against Diana in the tournament. Curse you, episode, for continuing to be smart and logical!

I actually had to stop the DVD and rewind it at this point because I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. But no, the Amazons are riding half-horse, half-kangaroos. Ahh. There’s the weirdness I expect from this show. I wonder if the horsearoos have little pouches on their bellies for their offspring.

One thing you’ll notice in this show is that the women are very rarely drawn well (admittedly, almost no one is drawn consistently, but the women seem to get the brunt of it). Cheetah here looks like she is the result of an animator working from a recent photo of his cantankerous mother-in-law.

So Cheetah cheat-ahs her way to victory and takes on the role of Wonder Woman, forever changing history. In the present, Wonder Woman vanishes on a mission with Batman and Robin and no one bats an eye.

Next up is Hal Jordan, a test pilot who is chosen by a dying alien to become a space cop. The alien uses the ring to search the whole planet until it finds one who is worthy, but on this day, the Legion intervenes…

Lex takes Hal’s place in the test pilot cockpit, and thus he gets a change of clothes as he transforms into a member of the Green Lantern Corp. Call me crazy, but it actually works for him. Way better than that purple get-up. He does call himself “The Green Luthor,” which makes me want to slap him a little, but I’m too weak from watching a Superfriends episode that’s actually not sucking.

In the present, Green Lantern disappears as he, Hawkman, and Black Vulcan are doing repairs on a satellite. They do a lot of satellite repairs in this show, I’m realizing. And I do want to call out the fact that without G.L.’s shield, the other two should be gasping their last in space. I don’t think Hawkman’s wings make oxygen, and as far as I know, Black Vulcan hasn’t been able to turn a lightning bolt into a respirator.

And not to nitpick too much, but if all of the Superfriends in the present don’t remember Hal or Diana because they never became superheroes, shouldn’t that change the Legion of Doom’s memories as well?

Superman is last in this plan, and in a short minute or so, we are treated to a fairly well-done recap of Krypton’s downfall and Kal-El’s parents’ plan to save their child by sending him into outer space without supervision. So the next time you feel an earthquake coming on, stuff your toddler into your Town & Country and then set cruise control without getting in yourself. Wave a fond farewell as the van drives down the street, hopefully to find some other, more responsible family to adopt its cargo.

To stop him from becoming Superman, the Legion blast the ship — not to destroy it, but to divert it to a planet near a red sun. I guess child killing is a little beyond the pale for even this bunch.

“Yes, and tell me again why you’re standing here on my float? Did you get that satellite fixed yet, or are you on a lunch break?”

In a hilarious moment, when history alters, the Superman Day Parade becomes the Hawkman Day Parade. That’s how desperate the world has become.

And now that there are no effective Superfriends left, the Legion of Doom easily tractor-beams the survivors up into the Hall of Doom. I have to imagine this is a morale blow to these characters from here on out in the series. They’re all second tier (or worse), and they know it. It’s been proven.

In a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment when the Hall of Doom is flying through the sky, you can actually see the animation cel for the ship slide over the cel for the sky. See that line? It very clearly travels from left to right. Whoops.

I’m glad to see that this episode is officially done with being reasonable and is now returning to the unhinged lunacy that is a trademark of this series. Anger hypno ray, away!

God bless you, Superfriends, for not being afraid to show us a little hawk-on-fish violence when the situation calls for it. I want it on the record that Aquaman pretty much passes out the second Hawkman puts him in a Hawk-nelson.

Flash does his “my vibrating molecules can do anything” trick and walks through a dungeon wall to free the rest of the crew. There in the computer room, they discover that the Legion of Doom never deletes its browsing history — and they spy these now-unfamiliar Superfriends who still exist in this recording even though this is now a different timeline. The Superfriends decide on a mission to set history right by going back to prevent the Legion from messing with the three heroes.

Now in “The Time Trap,” only Superman and Green Lantern claimed to have power to travel through time (and only Superman actually did it). But now, Flash and Black Vulcan can special effects themselves into the past, and the Batjet can fly right into the “time barrier.” Does anyone in this universe NOT have the ability to casually hop around in time?

Forget everything you know about paradoxes and causality, because the Superfriends restore their missing members in the span of a minute. Then they all go after the four Superfriends still trapped up in the Hall of Doom.

Of course, what they don’t know is that the League of Doom requires that each of its members clock 15 hours a week in jet fighter training simulators so that it can launch a quick dozen attack ships if necessary. And boy is it necessary now.

There are always so many continuity errors on this show because the creators have such a hard time keeping track of 25 characters. For example, in the Hall of Doom’s dungeon, Green Lantern is shown as one of those trapped (despite being outside and on the ground at the same time), while Aquaman, who should be there, is missing.

With the tide turning against the Legion, Luthor uses the time conveyor to vanish all of them (when?) and end the episode. Good stuff. Easily the best entry so far.

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