Challenge of the Superfriends Episode 11: Conquerors of the Future

Here’s a very atypical start to a Superfriends episode: We open on location somewhere other than a swamp! In this case, it’s Paris, where Hal Jordan is taking a vacation. “NO ONE WOULD EVER GUESS THAT I’M GREEN LANTERN,” he says quite audibly to a subway car full of French stereotypes and surrounded by the color yellow. Bet they’d guess it now, you dork.

Honestly, this is the happiest I’ve ever seen Hal. I don’t think he’s ever smiled in this series before now.

Because superheroes are the worst luck for anyone around them, Hal’s subway car goes out of control. He teleports out and prepares to stop it as Green Lantern — but lo and behold, Sinestro is on top of it. Sinestro shoots a green beam (whoops) and produces a yellow spring to stop the cars full of people speaking English with very bad French accents. Then Sinestro takes off to help others.

Yeah, I can’t stop laughing at their expressions here. It’s so perfect for the show up to this point. Hal’s brain is stuttering to a complete standstill over this development.

So even though the Superfriends are shown hanging out at the Hall of Justice in Metropolis 24/7, Batman and Robin still have time to moonlight over in Gotham City and stop petty bank robberies. Or try to, at the very least. They show up to tell the robbers that the gig is up, but instead of doing something about it, the Dynamic Duo just stand there to give the robbers enough time to escape — twice. Once through a wall, and once into a car. But before they can theoretically head out in pursuit, the Toyman shows up and sends a small wind-up motorcyle to pierce the wheel of the robbers’ car.

I am starting to suspect that the show writers only had wind-up toys as kids. It seems to be all they know in that field.

Over in Metropolis, a blimp snags on the top of the Chrysler Building and Hawkman and Wonder Woman swoop in to help. WW assigns Hawkman to all of the passengers, which gave me pause. He’s just a normal guy who can fly, so his carrying load is one, perhaps two humans. There’s at least 50 or so in there, so how many trips is he going to take? And where’s he going to drop them off?

And sometimes Superfriends simply gives you the gift of a perfect screencap for which there are a million possible remarks. I think I’ll just let this be as it is, however. A monument to this show’s legacy. Enjoy.

I do want to note that the animation is wildly inconsistent to where the blimp is punctured. Sometimes it’s all the way through the top (as shown above), sometimes it’s just snagged underneath. Sometimes the blimp is nearly collapsed, and other times it’s shown as mostly full. Anyway, the “leaking gas” farts Wonder Woman all the way to the ground, where Gorilla Grodd catches her like the wanna-be King Kong that he is.

I have vowed in these Mutant Viewings to give honest compliments to this show when it’s deserved (which it rarely is), so here goes today’s anomaly: This is a fantastic way to start an episode. I’m totally serious. There’s no lumbering explanation as to the villain’s plan; just this weird twist of the bad guys doing good things without a clear reason. That’s a great hook for the audience, because we know it’s not that simple — nor should the world forgive a villain group that’s tried to dominate it dozens of times — but we don’t quite know where the story is going with this. Play on, episode. Play on.

And if I thought that Green Lantern’s expression was funny before, I can’t stop giggling at how the animators drew Hawkman’s utter befuddlement here. He stared into the abyss… and the abyss winked back.

Remember what I said an episode or two back about how this show never gives you time to really process all of the crazy twists and turns that it throws at you? As we’re trying to come to grips with a good Legion of Doom — as are the dim-witted Superfriends — the script goes, “And then an alien calls them on the trouble alert asking for help from a solar flare from their double sun.” Lex Luthor says that there’s no need for Superman to intercede on this planet “trillions of miles away,” they’ve got it covered.

Finally, we see behind the scenes at the Hall of Doom. Obviously, it’s all a charade, and Riddler says something about traveling “far into the future” where the Superfriends won’t be there. Of course, there might be other superheroes, but that’s a risk they’re willing to take! Riddler heads out to the planet to leave false clues behind. I thought he could never lie?

This show has well established that time travel for both sides is as easy as dialing up to AOL, so let’s just gloss over the fact that the entire Hall of Doom just jumped ahead to the year 3984. Hey, it’s the ’80s again! Can’t wait to see Ghostbusters 43!

So what does this time travel plot have anything to do with the Legion being “good” in the present? I’m very worried we won’t find out because there is no actual reason. It’s just something that happened and now this is happening and go with the flow already.

What does our future hold? Obviously, the planet will become a blasted hellscape where Morlocks attack the few remaining cities on the globe. Actually, they’re called “Barlocks,” and I am totally not kidding you. The writers’ imagination wasn’t necessary when they had a copy of H.G Wells’ The Time Machine lying around.

The Barlocks capture the Legion of Doom’s party and try to zap them, but Black Manta holds up a playing card (?) and deflects the beam back to them. The Barlocks agree to help the Legion take over the capital of Earth.

In the present, the planet of Santar is straight-up melted from the twin solar flares, as the Legion didn’t actually go help and the Superfriends didn’t think to follow up on Lex Luthor’s promise to do so. Great oversight there, Superman. But at least we get a shot of Hawkman flying faster than the speed of light “trillions of miles” in about two seconds, so nothing in this world makes sense any more.

A dismal future earth? A melted planet? I’m calling it: This is the darkest episode of Superfriends yet.

The Superfriends follow an inflatable version of the Hall of Doom into outer space, where it explodes and leaks gas all over them that breaks down their molecules. “There’s nothing we can do,” laments Wonder Woman from the hermetically sealed cockpit of her invisible plane. Hawkman starts fading out a la Marty McFly.

“There’s nothing we can do” is one of the Superfriends’ great battle cries, along with, “No time to think about it!”

This was the day that Charles “Chuck” Porter, friend to many and Security Guard Grade 4, discovered that none of his six hours of vid-training was enough to prepare him for the terrors of a shirtless man-hug from a KISS groupie.

In any event, the Legion finally conquers the earth… or what’s left of it. They get gold, jewels, and giant statues made of them. The statues I can see, but what’s the point of the gold and jewels when you own the entire planet? Where are you going to spend that, Space Maceys?

With their molecules on the line, Black Vulcan has an idea — to fly in circles around them to help their molecules hold together or somesuch. It’s kind of a standard tactic for the good guys to fix status ailments by running or flying in circles, and it always, always works. It’s why whenever I’m being insulted by a coworker or coming down with the flu, the first thing I always do is frantically run in tight circles with a determined look on my face.

Even though the Riddler tried to murder these three with the atom-smashing gas, the Justice League seriously can’t wait to try to solve his riddle. They do love a scavenger hunt so. This one sends them to the pyramids of Egypt, because that’s the only place on earth that has both sand and a tomb.

Not Sector 13! NOT SECTOR 13! You madmen!

Back to the future, Lex isn’t satisfied with conquering the earth — he wants the GALAXY. Gorilla Grodd says why stop with the galaxy — when you could conquer the UNIVERSE! Guys… guys… have you considered that you may be overreaching a tad? You have 13 weirdos and an army of out-of-work WWE stand-ins. You’re going to be spread somewhat thin if you’re going for the entire universe.

Wait a minute… if the rest of the Legion of Doom is in the 40th century, why is Riddler still hanging out in the 20th? Are there plans to retrieve him, or is he committing suicide by Batman? Eh well, he tries to trap Batman, Robin, and Samurai in the pyramid, but Batman uses a “mini-Batjack” (like a car jack) to open the door ridiculously high.

We’re going to need to pause here to talk about what happens next, because it’s such a Superfriendsian thing to happen that it bears close examination. So despite entombing the heroes, the Riddler’s also left them a riddle right outside the door. It must be said that the Riddler’s express purpose for staying back in this era was to lead the Superfriends on a “wild goose chase” so as to not pursue the Legion of Doom.

But he can’t help himself. He never can. The Riddler is the only villain who constantly tells the heroes the full details of the bad guys’ plan. That’s his whole thing. He’s got nothing else. And so he writes, “You’ve escaped with your lives, but to us you’re long dead. If you bet you can find us, we’ll be a dollar ahead!”

The leaps of logic that Batman makes to solve these riddles are always astounding, and here he goes, “Where would the Legion of Doom have to go for the Superfriends to be long dead? The future! And a dollar equals a hundred cents, short for a hundred centuries!”

Uh, no. They’re in the year 3984. I have the screencap right up there. If the Superfriends jump ahead 10,000 years, they’ll be overshooting the mark by a whole lot. But of course they completely trust the Riddler’s clue here because the Riddler never lies. Ever.

Green Lantern, Superman, and the Flash decide that they should use their time traveling powers to go there right away. But let me ask you one little question: Why? Really, why? The Legion of Doom is actually gone from the present and aren’t around to do their dumb plans for world domination any more. Why not simply leave them in the future and live in peace?

Of course they don’t do that. When they arrive “10,000 years in the future,” Superman scans the dead earth with his telescopic vision. He sees no life signs. Nothing.

Literally a fraction of a second later:

Well, it was just a bug. Very easy to miss with your super-powered eyesight. This “futuristic spider,” as Superman calls it, easily captures the world’s three most powerful superheroes and puts them in a web. Also, I don’t think the animators have ever seen a real spider.

Back in 3984, the fun is raging across the universe. The Legion is easily defeating everyone, because this entire show operates under the principle that if a party is attacked, that party surrenders immediately instead of trying to fight back. Superheroes included. I’m not sure why Black Manta warrants a space armada, but he does seem to have it out for this planet with a solitary igloo.

And with that, the Legion of Doom has conquered the galaxy. Or two planets, which speaks for an entire galaxy. They should’ve done this ages ago.

With three time periods and huge spiders and galactic invasions, I don’t quite trust the show writers to sort all this out in the remaining few minutes. Well, not without some pretty massive cheats, which is why Superman just so happens to stumble upon an intact library with a history book covering 5,000 years. He speed-reads it, finds out that they’re actually in 3984, and Green, Red, and Blue zoom off to save the day.

A goofy end-of-episode fight breaks out, the kind where Green Lantern inevitably wields a huge bat to knock a neutron torpedo out of space and Lex Luthor retreats because he’s being attacked. That’s the rule!

Superman then flies the Hall of Doom and all the bad guys to 1978 and locks them up in the Hall of Justice. For once, there’s no last-minute escape. Instead, Superman takes some time to gloat and also confirm that in this universe, there’s no changing the timestream, according to the future history book:

We have here an episode that started out very promising and then flew off the rails as it tried to do way too much without connecting its pieces with logic or sense. The whole “Legion of Good” plot could have been its own full episode, but that got dropped like a hot nonsense potato midway through and never mentioned again. Typical. And I also want to point out that as the Superfriends are gloating here, the planet Santar is still destroyed and most of its population presumably roasted by the suns. There’s no happy ending for those people.

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