Challenge of the Superfriends Episode 9: Revenge on Gorilla City

When you look at both factions in this show, you’ll notice that there’s a pretty clear divide in how their voice talent is portrayed. Over on the Superfriends side, pretty much every character is bleedingly earnest and sincere, with a touch of mild surprise at any and all developments that arise. However, the Legion of Doom’s cast is much more diverse in their voicework, which can make them more endearing — and more annoying. I mention this because the one character’s voice I hate the most on this show is easily Gorilla Grodd, mostly because it sounds like the actor is saying his lines while slurping soup. It’s very off-putting, and I’m not looking forward to an episode centered on his character.

Then again, I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised. For instance, this episode doesn’t begin with the same stock footage of the Hall of Doom rising out of the swamp and everyone in the Legion squabbling about plans. I think it’s a first for the season! Instead, it begins in Africa, where Grodd is marching on Gorilla City — which, as all school children know, is an advanced metropolis of intelligent apes hidden behind an “invisible force field” near the Congo River.

Grodd’s a little put out that he was banished from Gorilla City, which offers some insight on his personal backstory, and he vows revenge. But there’s no drawn-out plan here; Grodd just walks right up to the force field, cuts a hole in it, and straight-up gasses the entire city with hallucinogenic drugs.

What follows is perhaps the most brilliant 15 seconds of animation that ever came out of the 1970s, as talking gorillas freak the heck out as they trip on Grodd’s acid.

And now you know what the gorilla monster is called. He’s Lotor, and he’s delightful.

Why was this episode not nominated for an Emmy? That screencap right there never ceases to make me laugh out loud.

Grodd storms into the city and tries for a palace coup, but he’s thwarted by the good gorillas that sealed off the palace’s atmosphere. They use what looks a lot like the electric chair to teleport Grodd back to the Legion of Doom’s swamp (which is considerate of them), and Grodd once again vows revenge. Man, lots of revengin’ in this episode!

I love that when Grodd arrives in the Hall of Doom, everyone else gives him so much crap about failing time and again to conquer Gorilla City. I mean, who are any of these repeated rejects to talk? But it’s still pretty funny to watch Grodd seethe in the corner.

Meanwhile, Brainiac’s made another impossible invention, this one to control anyone “within a 1,000 mile radius.” Just a thousand miles? I thought they already had a device to control people in their sleep — which was used in Trial of the Superfriends — but I guess this is a different thing entirely. I think it’d be an easy choice, too: Just mind-control Superman and have him quickly dice up everyone else in the Hall of Justice using his eye lasers.

Grodd wants to take it and use it for his personal vendetta, but everyone else is like, “Um, no, not going to happen Monkey Man. You fail on your own time.” He gets seriously unhinged here, which probably makes everyone wonder about the wisdom of recruiting a bad-tempered super-gorilla into their mist.

To calm Grodd down, Luthor vouches for his idea to conquer Gorilla City and use the mind-controlled apes to take over the world.

From the actual shooting script of “Revenge on Gorilla City:” THE LEGION TAKES OFF FROM THE HALL OF DOOM TO BEGIN THEIR ASSAULT USING THE MOST TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED GROUND VEHICLES KNOWN TO MAN. ALSO, YOU HAVE THIRTY SECONDS TO DRAW THEM.

It was a very sad little kid who got one of these cars under the Christmas tree in 1978, let me tell you.

In addition to keeping track of all the gadgets the Legion creates on this show, I’m tallying up what the Hall of Doom contains. So far, it has a computer lab, a dungeon, a full squadron of attack jets, and these pathetic ground cars.

The longer I stare at this screenshot, the more my eyes cross at the uneven body proportions drawn.

You know what, forget what I said. Every shot in this episode is a bonafide piece of art and should be framed in the Smithsonian.

Maybe I’m overthinking it, but if all of the other gorillas are good and this entire civilization lives behind a force field, why do they need police or an army? I think there’s something this episode isn’t telling me. Ah well, the Legion accomplishes its goal and gets all of the apes under its control — all but one, as “telepathy” warns the lead gorilla to teleport out of there and get help.

Meanwhile, we’re nearly seven minutes into this episode and haven’t seen a single Superfriend! We haven’t missed much, as the B-Team is watching Superman punch popcorn in outer space to save “Galaxy 13.”

Naming… naming was never the Superfriends writers’ strong suit. But at least they had the foresight to bring cameras to another galaxy so Robin could provide color commentary on this at home.

The gorilla chief shows up and asks for the B-Team’s help to save Gorilla City. On one hand, he’s directly asking Robin and Apache Chief to step up and deliver. On the other hand, the Legion’s tasked Toyman with training the gorilla troops, so it’s probably going to be a wash. Why Toyman? What made Luthor think that the stick-thin guy who plays with toys all day is the best equipped to train an army? Why not Grodd? He kind of understands gorillas more than a guy with a size 1 waist.

Apache Chief is really getting on my nerves in this episode, by the way. He’s never a great conversationalist at the best of time, but this episode is giving him far more than his normal share of lines to deliver, and he does so with William Shatner-level of pauses. One example that I painstakingly transcribed: “The rest of us [pause] will attempt [pause] to stop [pause] Toyman [pause] and the other [pause] villains.” Does growing and shrinking his brain cause irreversible damage?

The Superfriends B-Team attacks Toyman and the gorilla army, forgetting that they had a note back at the Hall of Justice that reminded them about what happens when they take Robin out in the field.

So Robin got his butt bit by a Gorilla, but that’s his own fault for getting captured for the six hundredth time. To rescue him, Batman throws a “balloon batarang” that wraps around the gorilla, inflates, and then carries him off as the ape sports a mildly quizzical expression.

Other than that gaffe, the fight surprisingly goes well for the Superfriends. That means they have to lose by cheating, so Black Manta shows up to shoot out glass boxes that trap everyone. Favorite moment: Manta aims at Flash, Flash boasts about being too fast to be hit by the box beam, and then Flash runs right into a box anyway. The show makes this stuff up so I don’t have to.

A good rule of thumb for this show is that whenever the Superfriends capture a member of the Legion of Doom before the last four minutes, they’ll find out that they’ve grabbed a decoy instead. Don’t know why the Legion carries around this many decoys, but it’s pretty effective, so I guess I answered my own question.

Speaking of things lying around, we better add a “power neutralizer” to the list of Legion inventions. I mean, can we pause here and take this in? Luthor happens to have created a device that can easily strip away the powers of any super (and, in a weird moment, render Batman and Robin’s utility belts inert, because I guess wearing a belt is a “power”). Why did he not lead with this? Why not charge into the Hall of Justice and make Superman a normal dude, turn Green Lantern’s relationship with the color yellow into something far more normal, and take away Aquaman’s disturbing fish fetish? WHY WAS THIS NOT THE EPISODE’S PLOT?

Gorilla Grodd declares that he’s giving the four Superfriends a five-minute running start before the gorillas hunt them down and presumably rip them limb from limb. That’s going to make for an awkward homecoming when Superman and Wonder Woman return from [checks] Galaxy 13.

“Well great, Apache Chief. That’s going to come in real handy when a 500-pound ape is wrenching my arm out of its socket. As long as you can shout directions to the nearest 7-11 over the sounds of my blood-curdling screams, we’ll be OK.”

Africa comes under assault by a guy in a wetsuit on horseback, his best platonic man-friend, and about 20 mind-controlled gorillas. I mean, horseback? To conquer modern Africa? You could at least load all the ‘rillas up in those dorky box cars from earlier. Horses. C’mon.

To their credit, Toyman and Black Manta actually take over a single city. And the above is what the animators figured that non-specific African countrypeople looked like in 1978. Cowboy, kid from Fat Albert, hippie, lady running late to a church service. It all checks out.

Hilariously, Apache Chief’s famed “tracking ability” comes to naught in this episode. Seriously, it doesn’t do a single thing to help the good guys, who are easily captured. That right there is the face of a guy who’s just been called on all of the lies he’s told his entire life.

The Legion can never simply kill the Superfriends any time they get them defenseless. This is the second time in this episode that they’ve done so, and instead of ordering the gorillas to bite their heads off, Giganta organizes the beasts to make a cart and roll the Superfriends down into a ravine. It’s about this time that the animators completely forget how to draw Apache Chief.

They’re saved by the gorilla chief, who suggests that they use a vein of gold running outside of the dome as an antenna to contact the Superfriends A-Team. Beaten and weary from repeated failure, the foursome agree.

I’m all for getting artistic and creative with shots and viewpoints, but I feel this one is unnecessarily distracting. Anyway, Superman, Black Vulcan, and Wonder Woman come back to Earth to help out. Black Vulcan throws a bolt of lightning, which is caught and thrown back at him by a gorilla. Eeesh. That’s got to be embarrassing. Also impossible. Toyman chucks a Kryptonite airplane at Superman, so he flees like he’s my son who spots a bee in the general vicinity.

I love this picture so much. It’s hard to hate the Legion when you see Bizarro, Cold, and Riddler playing cards and Scarecrow napping on the floor. They’re just regular people!

Superman’s probably thinking, “Should’ve stayed in Galaxy 13. Wouldn’t be dying with a toy plane on my chest as a gorilla pushes me into a waterfall. Oh well, live and learn!”

The Superfriends quickly turn the tables as they turn off the mind control device, reverse the power-stealing device, and lead the freed gorillas back to reclaim Gorilla City. But when will they free Human City?

Oh well, Gorilla Grodd, it was fun while it lasted. Enjoy returning to be the butt of the joke among the Legion.

In closing, I noticed that the DVD calls this episode “Revenge of Gorilla City” while the title card says “Revenge on Gorilla City.” Eh, that’s the sort of attention to detail that makes this show shine.

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