Challenge of the Superfriends Episode 13: Fairy Tale of Doom

I kind of think that the title of this episode stumbles right into the land of incredulity, but we’ll have to live with it, because within the first few seconds here, we have Captain Nemo and the Nautilus sailing through the ocean. A giant squid attacks and Nemo is all like, “Dude, uncool” from his porthole.

Toyman — in SCUBA gear, no less — paddles nearby and chuckles to himself that this is all going so well. I don’t know what’s funnier, the fact that he’s still wearing his weird jester hat underwater, or the fact that the squid hears him talking (?) and rushes after him.

As you might assume, Toyman then swims right out of the pages of a book and into the Hall of Doom, where a projector device is shining on the tome. A tentacle reaches out, but Toyman turns off the projector and the book reverts to normal. Success! I guess it’s this guy’s turn to come up with the League of Doom’s Impossible Invention of the Week, and he’s decided to allow for people to jump into the pages of storybooks as his somewhat benign plan. He does say that if you don’t come out of the book within 12 hours, you’re stuck there forever, which is a heckuva caveat.

Of course, makes me wonder how he knows this or how any of this works, but as with all things on Superfriends, a minimalisticaly drawn ray gun can do anything the writers want it to.

Science! It’s a convenient plot device!

It’s a rule of this show that all of the Legion of Doom members are inventors of amazing contraptions, and this appears to be more true of Toyman than anyone else. Toyman’s only thing is that he creates little gadgets to attack others. However, his level of inventiveness never seems to rise above “wind-up car” or “wind-up rabbit,” so I don’t know what Skillshare class he took to learn how to do all of this.

In any case, Toyman wants to use the device to trap the Superfriends forever. Could just invest in some poison or a bomb, but I guess this will work too in a very roundabout fashion.

At the Hall of Justice, the monitor is throwing us narrative curveballs left and right. Aquaman, Flash, and Apache Chief are at the interplanetary peace conference (where Aquaman is no doubt speaking passionately on behalf of Earth’s fish) and Batman, Robin, Green Lantern, and Black Vulcan are helping to kick off the Galactic Olympics. It took a lot of work for Superman and Wonder Woman to get some alone time together, but naturally, Hawkman is a third wheel and doesn’t even realize it.

Since everything in this show is done by threes, the Legion of Doom set off three trouble alerts to capture the only Superfriends left on the planet. Hawkman heads out to stop an avalanche and gets zapped into Jack and the Beanstalk.

I feel so bad for Wonder Woman in this series. She’s forever paired against Cheetah — can’t have her fighting the boys, now, can we? — and Cheetah’s only talent is that she runs fast. Well, she jogs somewhat average. This means Wonder Woman has to spend so much time jogging after her, thinking about how her college major in Bullet Deflecting and Lasso Wrangling are going to waste. She and Cheetah too get zapped into the book.

Also, and this has nothing to do with anything else, Superfriends’ animators make the worst running scenes. It’s always either overclocked like Scooby Doo or unnaturally stiff, like a toddler trying not to poop while making a mad dash to the bathroom.

Braniac’s trap for Superman is coupled with a robbery of Toho’s electric plant. He’s all giddy that he’s got circuitry to increase his brain power “100 times,” but considering the state of computers in 1978, that’s really not saying much. Like he has 64k of memory now? With that, Brainiac might be able to remember his last name, at least up to seven characters.

If we haven’t officially established this yet, one of the major motifs of this show is Good Guys Getting Grabbed By Big Things. It’s one of the consequences of the whole “no punching” policy, and the Superfriends seem quite content to find themselves in yet another giant mechanical hand or the palm of a towering gorilla or what have you. Nobody’s ever hurt by the grabbing, so my theory is that this is as close to physical intimacy as most of them get. It would explain why none of the Superfriends, not even Superman or Flash, attempt to duck The Grabbing.

I really don’t get Toyman’s plan here. Oh, I understand that this is the strangest way to lock away three superheroes, but why would the bad guys ALSO go into these books with them, especially with that whole “you’ll be trapped in here forever after 12 hours” deadline looming over them?

In any case, Hawkman — despite having run into a book with open eyes — has no idea what’s happening. The Superfriends’ situational awareness is only slightly better than an old beagle with cataracts.

I have to admit that my interest is flagging in this episode, mostly because I’m completely done with TV shows and movies digging into the over-mined realm of public domain fairy tales. Yes, it’s visually stimulating to see Wonder Woman fall into Wonderland, but I don’t have the energy to see her interact with all the elements we’ve seen a million times before. Yeah you drink that juice and say hi to that rabbit and go to that tea party and play croquet with the queen.

hrrrggghhh

“Oh my stars and stripes, I’m Alice in Wonderland!” You don’t say. Pick up the pace, the heat death of the universe is rapidly approaching.

So there are many drinking games you can make out of this show because the writers recycle things way too much, things like characters exclaiming “Great [something]!” or characters acting completely shocked at every development or Aquaman and Robin getting captured. At least once an episode, a Superfriend will do something insane because it’s “the only chance!” And there’s always characters who have “no time” but must do something “immediately” because they have “no choice.”

Here, Wonder Woman sees a tiny Cheetah run off and reflexively says, “I have no choice but to play out the story and try to catch Cheetah.”

Well, I hate to be That Guy, but you have plenty of choices here, Diana. You can go against the story. You can sit on your butt. You can have cooked rabbit for dinner. Nobody’s guaranteeing you that following Cheetah is going to help any, but away she goes anyway.

Of COURSE you did, Brainiac. Where can’t you get Kryptonite in this universe?

Man, Superman is taking a beating in this episode. Bet you wish you drew the straw for the intergalactic peace conference now, eh?

Back at the Hall of Justice, the League of Doom has taken over and noted that the rest of the Superfriends are heading back to Earth. No worries there, etc., etc. Sinestro then notes that Wonder Woman, Superman, and Hawkman have just six hours until they’re trapped for good, even though they’ve been in those books for five minutes, tops.

Ahem, if I may? I’d really like to hear from the Doomers about extraction plans for Cheetah, Toyman, and Brainiac? Unless you’re just sacrificing them for the greater cause, which is dark but I’ll allow it.

Words really can’t express how much I dislike this particular episode. I’m so impatient to get through these fairy tale story beats that I actually long to see what’s going on back on Earth, even if it’s just Gorilla Grodd picking lice out of his fur.

Anyway, it’s time for another Grabbin’. In a somewhat hilarious moment, the giant keeps shaking Hawkman so hard I thought his neck was going to snap. Again, dark, but I’d allow it.

GRAB HER! GRAB HER! At least Wonder Woman’s story has the trippy visuals of Wonderland. Hey… Wonder Woman, Wonderland! That’s a Superfriends Yahtzee right there.

And I’m sorry, but I’m incredibly distracted by the caterpillar’s shirt sleeve there with a human hand sticking out. Is he a person then wearing a costume? A half-man, half-bug? What’s going on with this?

Let’s check in with Superman. Hopefully, he’s faring better in a book where everyone is 1/10th of his size…

Great Scott, get yourself together, Clark!

Batman’s delegation returns to Earth and steadfastly ignores Lex Luthor and company skulking in the corner of the Hall of Justice until it’s time to be surprised. The confrontation goes… about as well as can be expected with this group.

It’s a hole, Batman. And not a very deep one. It’s filled with two guys who can fly, and two other guys who make a living out of climbing everywhere. Also, you clearly know that this room has a very specific trapdoor to this hole, so why would any of you — nevermind ALL of you — stand right on it. This isn’t quite Superman-being-pelted-with-Kryptonite-peas bad, but I won’t lie — it’s not going to look good on your resumĂ©.

Lex Luthor shouts down at them that they only have one hour to rescue their friends in the books. I think the writers realized their mistake that 12 hours was way too much time for a ticking deadline and had to artificially speed up the clock every chance they could get. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next scene, Solomon Grundy would grunt out that there’s just sixteen minutes left.

While I am impressed that a huge giant was able to tie up little Hawkman so nimbly, I am puzzled why he didn’t pluck his meal before he cooked it.

For Hawkman, however, this sort of thing happens every other day. “Oh ho, I’m in the frying pan and heading toward the fire!” he’s clearly thinking. “Boy, this reminds me of last Thursday, when Black Manta tied me up and threw me into a microwave. Well, it’s time to escape!” And with that, Hawkman easily slips an arm out of his ropes, grabs floating ember (!), and burns off the rest of the rope (!!) without making himself into a human torch.

He corners Toyman, but it’s finally then that the Legion of Doom decides it’s best to pull their top agent out of the storybook. This results in an expression that I suspect that Hawkman uses a lot in his professional life:

Yup, that’s the one.

Toyman emerges and does the typical Legion of Doom gloating, but his laugh is perhaps the most shrill and annoying of any of them. It — how do I say this while not coming across like a bully? His laugh makes you want to pin him down and stuff used kitchen sponges into his mouth, one by one, until the giggles stop.

Over in Wonderland, Wonder Woman isn’t making much headway in trying to convince everyone that she isn’t Alice. Does it matter whether or not she is? Everyone here is insane; that’s the whole point of the story. They don’t care for your rationality.

Oh hey, look at that. The 6:45 Red Queen, right on schedule. I’d say that Wonder Woman getting captured by playing cards is pretty pathetic, but considering her coworkers are being undone by trap doors, peas, and skillet vegetables, I’m going to give her a pass this week.

Superman’s solution to his Kryptonite bombardment — his ONE CHANCE — is to use his heat ray to “magnetize” a gate so that it’ll attract the metal. I’m not sure that’s how magnets work there, Clark, but you do you. In this show, if a hero clearly lays out what he or she hopes will accomplish with whatever moon logic plan comes to mind, 100% of the time it will work.

Dude, you don’t even need to be a superhero to deal with this threat. Just… just make some splashes. Kick a bit. You’ll be OK.

Of course, he’s not, because the ships are shooting “Kryptonite cannonballs.” Man, Braniac really got them fully stocked in advance, didn’t they? I don’t remember reading this much about Kryptonite in Gulliver’s Travels, but it might be a different edition.

Trapped in his escape-proof pit, Batman resorts to spouting maxims. I’m not sure that this is actually the FIRST law of the Superfriends, because I’d think that “high horsedness” or “standing still when something is trying to grab you” would come before “there’s always a way.”

His way, by the way, is to yank out some exposed wires to tell the Justice League supercomputer to open back up the trap doors. Which confuses me, because at no point are the doors ever shown as closed.

Never in the history of anything did that tiny little ray gun solve anything. Put it down, Manta, you’re making a super-fool out of yourself.

The tables are soon turned, but Batman says that Toyman’s book device is too complicated to use. Really? The thing has like two buttons. You can literally take a stab at it and you’d probably do just fine. But instead, the Superfriends trick more members of the League of Doom to believe that their team members are in the books. Thus, both sides send even more people into the books, and I am officially done with this whole concept.

Hawkman, fearful of what life is on the outside, quickly flees back to captivity with his best friend, Gary Goose.

“This isn’t justice!” “This is Wonderland, sweetie.” “Hey, my name is Wonder, do you think I could take a turn at being queen?” “…yeah sure, I’m due for a vacation anyway.”

We’re running out of time in this episode! I sure hope the writers have at least one more ridiculous moment up their sleeve!

Whew. Right under the wire. Way to go, fellas!

With everyone rescued — with three seconds to spare, says Robin — we have a rare episode where Superman is completely useless and survives anyway. Gah, I’m glad that’s over.

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