Challenge of the Superfriends Episode 12: The Final Challenge

You’d think that an episode with the title “The Final Challenge” would be the season finale or something, but nope, we still have four more episodes to go after this. Definitely raises my curiosity somewhat!

The story begins with what I suspect may be an homage to Star Wars, although that has to be too clever by half for this show. The camera pans down from space to a planet, only to have the invisible jet fly right overhead while lasers strike at it from behind. Another ship is in hot pursuit and also flies over the camera. Even the music is kinda Star Warsian, if John Williams took a break and his intern Travis took over.

Glossing over the fact that jets do not fly in space, the inside of the cockpit shows Aquaman (!) sitting next to Wonder Woman and clearly thinking that he’s out of his league in more ways than one. Wonder Woman radios for help, saying that Black Manta’s ship is on her tail.

Wait, Manta? The ocean-faring villain? Has a space ship? Since when?

Batman — also flying a jet that shouldn’t be in space but no matter — swoops above the Manta ship. I thought for a moment that we were going to get a really cool dogfight, but no, he lowers an airlock tube so they can board the Legion of Doom’s vessel. Of course, this being Superfriends, they could probably walk right out into space without any protective suits and be chatting merrily to each other the whole way down.

Inside the Manta spaceship, Cheetah crows that while Wonder Woman’s jet may be invisible, their “space sonar” can see it. I know that sonar is all Manta knows, being a very out-of-place seafaring dude, but sonar requires sound. And sound requires anything but a total vacuum, which is — last I checked — what outer space is. Once again, Superfriends shows its anti-science agenda!

And I hate to be that guy, but Black Manta’s helmet from behind totally looks like… how shall I put this? OK, it’s a breast pump. Sorry, I know that’s slightly crude, but it’s what the animators drew.

Maybe he’s lactating.

Sorry, sorry, I’ll show myself out.

Batman appears and manages to tie up all four of the villains with one throw of his rope, but Bizarro literally swoops out of nowhere and scoops him and Apache Chief up to throw them both into the fires of the nuclear engine. This sucker’s nuclear? It’s got to be to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of stupidity that this episode needs!

As usual when it comes to Apache Chief, he does nothing more than just stand there. I mean, he could suddenly grow about 5,000 times his size inside the ship and squash all the bad guys (plus Batman, so, bonus), but he is always content to be a patsy. Superman flies into the engine from the other side — which is a nice move for an indestructible man — and both sides radio for reinforcements. I wouldn’t mind some backstory as to why they’re fighting in space right now, but Superfriends rarely needs a reason to do stuff.

Down at the Hall of Justice, the call comes in, and Hawkman benches The Flash and Black Vulcan to stay behind while he and the others fly up to help. Again, we really need to shove aside the standard nitpick of who can fly and who can’t in this show, because I want to ask a more important question: What’s the command structure in the Justice League? Obviously, Superman is in charge, but after him, how does the chain of command go? I would think it would be a powerocracy, with the most powerful heroes higher up in rank, so that would make it Superman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Black Vulcan for the top five. I have a VERY hard time accepting that Hawkman would be anywhere other than right at the bottom with Robin and Aquaman. Who is he to make this call?

Star Wars? What’s a Star Wars?

Just as everything is getting good — people, we’re about to see Hawkman throw the most ineffective punch in history as he smacks against the Hall of Doom’s window like a bug — a “space warp” appears to suck an equal measure of good and bad guys to an unknown universe. You know, as space warps are wont to do.

It’s a perfect setup for 5v5 combat, but unfortunately, this show never allows for straight-up brawls. A mysterious force keeps them apart, which is a good thing, because Aquaman was going to roid out and savage the bad guys.

Now LUTHOR is calling the shots? And the Superfriends are just like, yeah, let’s team up to search entire parallel universes. Nobody said the missing people are in other universes, but let’s go there anyway with our mortal enemies, because wouldn’t that make for a wacky sitcom premise?

it’s like we’re always stuck in second gear

when it hasn’t been our day or week or month or even our year

This punk is Vartoo, and he’s both the leader of that “peaceful” universe (yes, the whole universe) and an avid watcher of this show. He complains that episode after episode, the two groups have not come any closer to solving their conflict. Which is totally true, but I have to ask: What kind of cable package do you get over there in Universe B to watch all this, Vartoo, and why do you care about it at all?

Vartoo’s great idea for bringing peace to the Superfriends and Legion of Doom is to make them go through reality show challenges, one pair at a time. Because competing always makes both parties love each other in the end. The peaceful leader of the peaceful universe promptly sends Riddler and Batman to…

Vartoo. Labyrinth of Death. You really get the feeling that these show writers put in the bare minimum of effort when it came to naming anything on Superfriends.

Hey, you know who would have done great in a maze? The Flash. Good thing you left him behind, there, Hawkman.

Riddler finds a “bottomless” pit in the maze and then whips out palm fronds to cover it. Considering that there is nary a palm tree to be seen on the planet, nevermind in this featureless maze, the logical conclusion is that Riddler walks around with them stuffed down his tights. But c’mon, Riddler, that has to be one of the most glaringly transparent traps ever! Do you honestly believe that the WORLD’S GREATEST DETECTIVE would EVER fall for…

My mistake. I keep forgetting how inept Superfriends’ version of Batman is.

Bats uses his cape as a parachute and lands at the bottom of this so-called “bottomless” pit unscathed but dumber for the doing. Red eyes lunge out of the darkness at him, giving Batman precious little time to croak out “Great Gotham!” before he is presumably eaten.

Meanwhile, the animators are very proud of the fact that they learned to draw atoms and molecules and would like to share this milestone with you, the viewer.

Hawkman flies about all of this and observes that “there isn’t a sign of life anywhere!” DING DING DING! You know what that bell means, don’t you? It’s the Superfriends Irony Alarm, because in the very next shot, an “atomic monster” appears.

Lex and Cap’n Cold there decide that this would be an ideal time to stab their long-time adventuring companions of two-and-a-half minutes right in the back. But what disturbs me is that both Cold and Luthor are wearing spacesuit helmets. “Why is that disturbing?” you ask? Because this show almost never puts helmets on anyone in space. If the animators do, it’s always a random afterthought, a “Wonder Woman head bubble” once-every-six-episodes kind of thing. Seeing it here makes it all the more glaringly obvious all of the many times they simply forget to do this, especially since everyone in this show spends about 60% of the time in deep space.

What? How does Hawkman know this? He’s just a dude who picked up wings and an anti-gravity belt and deluded himself into thinking that he was a superhero. In the light of this statement, I’m starting to develop a theory that Hawkman is actually a community college science professor who cracked one day and experienced a mid-life crisis of the avian variety.

Also, “Unstable Nuclear Matter” would be a great name for a band or a gaming guild.

I’m sure the entire readership here is very worried about Batman, so let’s check in with him. Oh good, he’s made a friend of the “giant skeleton with glowing red eyes” variety. For the second time in this episode, he uses the Bat-cable like a yo-yo master and flings it everywhere to trip this thing up.

Batman beats Riddler out of the cave, scoring one point for the Justice League! Next up is… sigh… do we have to? Fine. Next up is Black Manta and Aquaman. They’re sent to the “Lake of Terror,” and I’m starting to lose faith that this universe is quite as peaceful as Vartoo advertised. Well, at least Aquaman has an advantage in this arena, what with his natural swimming talent and his empathy with sea creatures.

You’re such a doofus, Aquaman.

Listen, if you’re your supergroup’s sole underwater expert and you find yourself so incompetent that you find yourself in a losing battle with a sea horse, it’s time to hang up those waders and work at an aquarium or something. I’m not a superhero by any stretch of the imagination, but I am fairly confident that I could beat up a sea horse, even if it has Eugene Levy eyebrows going on.

What’s sad is that Black Manta is even more of a dunce than his counterpart, because he gets grabbed by a giant clam and then has to beg for help.

I’m sure this story comes up all the time whenever Black Manta tries to pitch ideas to the League of Doom: “Guys, why don’t we–” “–make out with a giant clam? How much tongue did your girlfriend give you, anyway? Siddown, mollusc boy.”

Aquaman nobly comes to Black Manta’s rescue and then ends up getting snatched by the same clam, and I’m here slamming my head into the back of my chair while biting down hard on a leather belt to keep from going into a full-fledged fit. Manta gets the point for his team, and the score is tied 1-1.

On the verge of exploding like atomic bombs, Green Lantern and Hawkman collide together as this episode’s “one chance!” — and naturally, it blows them out of one universe and into their own. Which is how all atomic explosions work.

What I learned from this episode: In addition to our universe, there’s one that’s a peaceful realm with deadly traps everywhere, one that features giant atoms, and one that is where all the building blocks from my kid’s toy tub vanished to. One episode, four stupid, stupid universes. You really get a bang for your buck with the Superfriends!

When a cone shoots the Batjet and traps them inside a rectangle, a little floating imp appears to befriend the search team. I should remind our readers that, as always, the proper response to the inexplicable happening in this show is to throw up one’s hands and say with tears and a manic grin, “Why not? Why not? Makes as much sense as anything else!”

…I do love his tiny goatee, though. So cute.

The imp tells them that their friends are “not in this universe,” once again confirming that the show writers aren’t really that clear on how big and expansive a universe is. A little bigger than a bathtub, gentlemen. Anyway, the creature pulls out a “crystal cube” to locate the missing heroes and villains. Any one want to bet if Sinestro just steals it and they all disappear (how? To where? They’re in a completely separate universe from the Hall of Doom!)? At least Sinestro left behind a giant yellow bug in the Batjet for them to play with.

“Help, it’s got me!” will be the official title of Robin’s tell-all autobiography of his time with the Superfriends. The imp — who doesn’t have a name nor any actual relationship with these complete strangers — frets that he has to do something to help. So we get this:

To be fair, that’s his solution for EVERYTHING.

I’m sorry there are so many screencaps with this episode (and we’re not even to minute 12 here!), but someone has to document all of this for posterity. Someone has to establish proof that, yes, all of this happened and within the same story.

Contest #3 is between Wonder Woman and Cheetah to climb a 10,000-foot volcano and throw a conveniently-placed rock onto its top to stop the eruption. At least it gave us this crowning moment of awesome, of Wonder Woman surfing down a lava stream with a rock and her lasso.

Apache Chief uses his famed “tracking skills” to literally end up on the top of a two-headed serpent that he’s chasing without realizing that most paths aren’t green with black stripes. He ends up losing the fight to the critter, never once using his power to grow huge and just pick it up with thumb and forefinger.

I know we bag on Hawkman and Aquaman a lot, but after watching a dozen episodes, I can say with full authority that Apache Chief is just as useless and incompetent. I honestly don’t think he remembers that he has a power most of the time.

With the score of this idiotic contest tied at 2-2, Superman and Bizarro are tasked to defeat the most ’70s space robot ever. The big “V” on its chest has to be for Vartoo, and the wheels on its feet for the weekend’s rollerderby challenge.

Superman gets easily nabbed and is shot with green eye rays. “Great Scott, it’s Kryptonite beams!” he cries, sincerely hoping that we will all forget that this is (a) another universe where (b) Krypton doesn’t exist. Even so, he easily destroys the robot from the inside, and the Superfriends have won the day. According to the rules of this “peaceful” universe, that means that the Legion members will be “eliminated.”

Seems kind of judgy and harsh to throw all of them into a vat of boiling acid — which is much worse than room-temperature acid for some reason — but it’s nicely edgy for this normally safe show. However, Batman and Superman finally wise up to the fact that Vartoo is kind of a jerk and decide to take action.

Batman and Wonder Woman mince (that’s the only word I can use here, mince) up behind Vartoo and throw lassos over him. He’s perturbed about this, but you know what, Vartoo? Nobody asked you to butt in to the happenings of a completely different universe, abduct eight people, and then hold the Hunger Games with them. You deserve every dumb thing that’s about to happen to you.

Vartoo then transforms into the same giant skeleton that Batman fought earlier, only to have Superman kind of bash him into nothing but a pile of bones. Then he transforms into the giant robot, but the Hall of Doom throws down a force field over him, and the good guys and bad guys have a moment where they come together to fight a common enemy. A dumb enemy, but a common one even so.

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