Challenge of the Superfriends Episode 14: Doom’s Day

While serialized storytelling wasn’t a thing in Saturday morning cartoons in the 1970s, I can’t help but think about the possibilities of a 16-episode continuous story about a struggle between the Justice League and the Legion of Doom. Say what you will about Challenge of the Superfriends, there’s a lot of potential with the premise of two huge supergroups facing off against each other in a multi-episode format. There could have been so much in the way of character development, twists, and a drive toward a huge final confrontation.

But instead we got this, a series where every episode ends with a reset button and nothing really carries over. So while seeing “Doom’s Day” (or “Doomsday” depending on what the episode feels like calling itself) conjures images of an epic showdown, I’m not holding my breath here.

Our story begins in the Pacific, where “the world’s largest aircraft carrier” — the USS Dauntless — is heading back to Pearl Harbor. Clearly, the animators weren’t much up to the task of drawing a detailed carrier, because it kind of ends up looking like an ironing board.

I mean, when *I* can point to the screen and boast that I can draw better airplanes than these, that’s just sad. And I don’t even think these needed to be drawn, considering that aircraft would certainly be taken below if the ship was in such a huge storm that gigantic waves are crashing over the flight deck.

I did look into the Dauntless as a Navy ship. There were only three ships ever named so: a side-wheel steamer during the Civil War, a WWI motor patrol boat, and a yacht that was converted for Navy use in WWII. Also there was a spaceship on Star Trek Voyager, but now we’re getting lost in the weeds.

The Dauntless reads something coming up from “800 fathoms” below it, and so standard Navy protocol for an unidentified floating object is to go to battlestations and rouse Aquaman from his nap. Man, the existence of superheroes must make every military in the world feel so impotent.

Meanwhile… at the Hall of Justice, the Superfriends are having a completely different kind of day altogether. Out of the blue, Superman swoops into the building casually carrying this giant furry creature that you see above. Robin asks in his typical dumb “holy abominable spaceman, what kind of creature is that?” way what it is, and Batman — as if this was common knowledge — casually says, “It’s a moleman from the planet Theta.”

Yes, but what is it DOING here. Is Superman going to punk Hawkman by stuffing this in his bathroom? Or is this the dinner meal? No matter what, it’s not going to be a fun day for Mr. Moleman.

Supes explains that this moleman was a naughty boy as the Man of Steel wanders into a never-before-seen room in the Hall of Justice where giant alien critters are penned up in tiny holding cells. Is this Justice League Jail? Who feeds all of them? Do they serve sentences with the possibility of parole, or is this a zoo that Superman is in the process of creating as a tourist attraction for Metropolis?

It’s not explained, of course. Nothing you really want to know on this show ever is.

The Superfriends get the trouble alert call from the Navy and head out to respond. Aquaman is practically peeing his pants with excitement over this happening in his domain, and I don’t blame the guy. For all the reputation he’s garnered from the Superfriends series as a whole, he’s seldom used in the Challenge season. In fact, I think this is the second time we even see him speak or do anything significant other than just stand around and hang out with Wonder Woman in her space jet.

It is completely idiotic, however, that as Green Lantern and Wonder Woman start to fly from the east coast to “thousands of miles out in the Pacific,” Aquaman jumps on his tooty sea horse and begins what will no doubt be a twenty-day journey down the Panama Canal and then out into the Pacific Ocean.

The Dauntless is getting really freaked out about the mystery ship and tries to outmaneuver it. Last I checked, aircraft carriers were not known as nimble ships ‘o the sea, but they usually also operate in full battle groups. Maybe this Dauntless went rogue? That would be a cool episode!

The “mystery ship” is, of course, the Hall of Doom, which is preparing to torpedo (!) the aircraft carrier to ransom it and its crew. You know, the League of Doom has a weird mission statement. Ostensibly, it’s about conquering the universe, but any time there’s a possibility of money or riches on the table, everyone there drops the conquest mandate and becomes common robbers. Guess it’s kind of expensive to fund all of their weird inventions and interstellar missions.

The Navy ship is fine, of course. This show isn’t actually going to blow one up and kill hundreds of people. Instead, the torpedo jumps out of the water, rams through (!) the hull, and then spits Cheetah out on the inside. I would have liked to see the scene where everyone in the League of Doom drew straws for that mission.

She uses a “radiation neutralizer” (R&D cost: $27 million) to shut down the Dauntless’ engines. Black Manta then lands his ship on the flight deck, and despite my screams at the TV for this to happen, the Navy doesn’t send sailors out with assault rifles to repel the invaders.

No, it’s all up to Aquaman, who appears by leaping up over the railing. I did a bit of research on the height between the waterline and a carrier’s flight deck, and the general answer there is “about 60 feet.” That’s impressive, Aquaman!

Less impressive is how Sinestro immediately captures Aquaman and then uses the catapult to send him zooming out into the ocean.

“Oh, is it Tuesday already?”

I’m not sure why Green Lantern is concerned here. Aquaman is going to land in the water, which isn’t a terrible fate for a man with a certain set of oceanic skills. At the very least, you guys are free of Aquaman’s mishaps for a few minutes so that you can get real work done.

Just in case you think that I only pick on the Superfriends’ incompentence, here’s Cheetah running full-speed into a landing net that’s activated by Wonder Woman.

The Hall of Doom surfaces and starts firing on the aircraft carrier with ray beams, which prompts Green Lantern to abruptly grow massively huge so that he can pick the Hall up like a toy. Can Green Lanter’s power ring make him grow huge? I wouldn’t think so, but the show’s writers have this “any character can have any power we want them to have in the moment” approach, so it’s futile to argue that. What I do want to know is, what is Green Lantern standing on? If he’s still on the Dauntless, he’s become so tall and heavy that he just sank that ship. Maybe he’s bobbing in the water off-screen.

Meanwhile, Apache Chief and Giganta are waving fists at their screens yelling about union superpower laws and copyright infringement.

Hilariously, the Legion of Doom is freaking OUT inside. Lex Luthor looks like he’s passed out from an all-night bender, and Scarecrow is hanging on for dear life and wishing that he had gotten into one of the B-list supergroups more appropriate to his talents. The Hall of Doom scoots out of there, leaving behind Sinestro, Cheetah, and Black Manta. Who would have thought that a group of rogue egomaniac sociopaths would lack loyalty?

Well, that was a filed heist. Those three are taken to the same brand-new detention cells at the Hall of Justice until “the galactic police” arrive to take them to “the maximum-security prison planet.”

A few thoughts at this juncture:

  • Has any detention cell or force field at the Hall of Justice ever been successful in holding bad guys for more than two minutes?
  • Who are these “intergalactic police” and why haven’t we seen or heard from them before now?
  • Since the Superfriends have always been beating on the drum of “there needs to be a fair trial” of the Legion of Doom, why are they getting slammed in prison without due process?
  • Who has Sinestro’s power ring?

One day my children will ask me what the world looked like before smartphones and Facetime tied together the planet, and I’ll tell them in all honesty, “Batman. Batman and his wonderful toys.”

So Batman gets a call from the Army asking for added protection for a new defense weapon that they’re installing next to — or perhaps inside of — a volcano. Flash and Apache Chief head out because Aquaman is still pouting for his poor showing during the aircraft carrier caper. Sinestro, smarting that the Legion of Doom abandoned them, suggests taking the Army installation as their new headquarters so that they can launch a revenge scheme against Luthor and company. I like this development!

But how will the trio escape these brand-new, state-of-the-art detention cells? The answer to that is obvious:

Sinestro briefly showed himself blinking out of the Universe of Quard once before in Invasion of the Fearians, and imagine my shock when I discovered that this was an actual realm in a 1960 Green Lantern comic book. I’ll allow it, your honor.

“Ze goggles! Zey do nothing!”

The pace of the zany developments of this episode is moving quicker, as we’ve gone from digesting an alternate universe to watching a super-weapons test with Flash and Apache Chief looking like they were trying to find a costume party and ended up at a lab. So what is this amazing weapon that we’ve been hearing about for the past 0.4 seconds?

It’s a “mental matter ray,” and the scientist blithely shoots a ray up into outer space and creates a full-blown sun in Earth orbit. That only seems to brighten things up outside instead of, you know, scouring the earth clean with thermonuclear radiation and extreme heat. Then the scientist unthinks the sun from existence. So I guess he’s created an expensive version of Green Lantern’s ring? I mean, don’t get me wrong, that’s impressive, a device that’ll make anything you think of. Knowing scientists, it’s going to be raining attractive dates all over the place very shortly.

The rogue trio show up, and Apache Chief demonstrates how much cats love to be picked up by their tails. He can’t resist making a “little kitten” remark, and the law of cartoon retribution says that he has to immediately pay for his arrogance. Cheetah shoots some sort of knockout gas from her glove — sure, why not, we’ve seen her do that none times before — and Apache Chief falls down like a lightweight in the first round against Mike Tyson.

…he says over the course of four completely wasted seconds. I always wonder who the Superfriends are talking to when they stop to clearly explain the situation — Mr. Rogers style — to the room in general. Maybe he’s giving a warning to Manta? In any case, if you stopped this whole narration thing, you’d get so much more done in your life, Flash.

Flash uses that thousandth of a second to grab a fire extinguisher and shoot Manta, but that’s foiled when he’s shot by Sinestro. Sinestro, who now has his power ring, despite it clearly being absent during his incarceration. Maybe he had backups in the Universe of Quard? Quart-Mart might’ve had a sale on them this weekend, I dunno.

Who needs continuity in this show, seriously.

First of all, how could you still be narrating if this actually happened?

Second, wouldn’t that kill both of them instantly? We’re not talking “trapped in amber with about three minutes until suffocation” here. We’re talking the molecules that make both of them up have been diamondized. That’s insta-death.

Third, back in another episode when everyone else on the team was getting turned into stone, Flash had a haughty moment when he inwardly bragged about the fact that his molecules moved too fast to be transformed. So how is this situation different?

The US Army tries its hand at containing this situation by driving tanks inside of this lab, but who are they kidding here? The military never fares well in Superfriends. They don’t have guns, almost never fire anything, and have a uniform code so lax that I’m not entirely sure that these aren’t North Korean troops. Sinestro could sneeze and his power ring would wipe all of them out, but Black Manta has another idea.

He uses the mental matter ray to turn all of the soldiers into adorable toddlers.

You think I’m joking, but (a) my imagination isn’t THAT good, and (b) there’s the screenshot proof right there. You have to think that the writer’s room for Challenge of the Superfriends never once turned down an idea that was pitched.

The evil trio are delighted to have a weapon to use against the Legion of Doom and use the “Army tracking system” to instantly find out the location of the flying Hall of Doom. Now we know that the Army has a camera on the Legion at all times, yet it never does anything with that information. Way to be proactive, boys.

The intergalactic police (!) finally show up, and it’s only now that the Superfriends discover that the bad guys are gone and replaced themselves with androids. “Great Gotham, they’re robots!” Batman said. “It looks like they pulled one of the oldest tricks in the book on us,” Superman adds. What, disappearing into an alternate universe and swapping themselves with elaborate exploding robots? That’s the “oldest trick in the book?”

We’ve been reading very different books, you and I.

The robots explode, taking Superman with them. Batman theorizes that Superman was “blown right out of the universe.” Yes, because that’s the only logical explanation here.

And of course, Superman IS in another universe, which he instantly recognizes as Quard:

Wait, he could be in Washington D.C. too. Hard to tell.

Literally in the next shot, this happens:

No preamble, no time to adjust to the situation, just BAM. Superman’s evil foe from his old homeworld comes riding up on a unicorn. Apparently Nartan was banished to Quard for his crimes and now he’s living quite happily here.

Nartan summons a giant green dinosaur to threaten Superman, and if I keep screenshotting every ludicrous thing in this episode, I’ll never actually finish it. Just trust me, it’s a big green dino, but with antennae because it’s alien. Superman says that this is a “Kryptonite energy form” that is overpowering him. He gets free and then taunts Nartan to use his energy lance at full blast — which naturally sends Superman right back into our universe. I never used to believe in the multiverse until I watched this show, and now I don’t want to believe because it’s all so stupid.

Over in Hawaii, the evil trio uses the matter ray to summon a new Hall of Doom for themselves. Then they blast off from the volcano without their awesome new toy, which seems like an oversight. They head to Alaska, where the real Hall of Doom is draining the Alaska oil pipeline to hold America’s oil hostage, and I’m not going to even begin to explain why none of that makes sense.

The fake Hall of Doom swoops in, cannons blazing, and it obliterates much of the real Hall of Doom in the first few seconds. “Not only are we going to attack,” Sinestro crows over the com, “we’re going to win.” BAM. The evil trio is NOT messing around. Hell hath no fury like a few guys left behind that one time.

AHAHAHAHAHA… you nincompoop. They’re not taking your calls.

“Well, there’s something you don’t see every day. OK, let’s turn it off. What do you think, Chik-Fil-A for lunch? Sound good? Let’s roll.”

Of course that’s not what happened. Superman says that they may not deserve it, but the Superfriends have got to help them. Wait, why? What moral code anywhere says that if one terrorist evil organization is trying to kill another evil terrorist organization, good guys have to intervene to save one side over the other? Just go get lunch, Superman. This will sort itself out.

As the evil trio transports everyone back to the volcano, Superman, Green Lantern, and Black Vulcan arrive to see the damaged parts left behind. We get another one of those handy-wavy lines:

40 years later, and Black Vulcan is still conducting house-to-house searches in Chile.

Here’s a thought: Why don’t you use the “Army tracker” to find them? Or all of your omnipresent cameras which can spot anything anywhere at any time in the universe?

The evil trio start torturing their former comrades by turning them all into bowling pins and smashing them with a giant ball. It’s a strike, too!

Flash, who isn’t dead for some reason, decides that now he’s able to vibrate his (diamond) molecules to send out a signal that Superman can hear. I’m not really sure why he’s got to send a signal out in the first place — The Superfriends knew where Flash and Apache Chief were going and knew that they hadn’t been back yet. Nobody ever checks up on anyone in this world.

After playing a game of pool with the Legion as the balls, the evil trio turns them back into normal and suggests that they “resume their partnership.” Really? That was quick. Thought you didn’t want to have anything to do with them ever again.

The reunited Legion use the ray against the incoming Superfriends to cause their “doomsday.” Doomsday in this context is “a pair of giant water hands that offer no danger whatsoever.” It’s just another exhibition of this show’s grabbing fetish, and Green Lantern doesn’t help any when he summons a green water hand to arm wrestle (!) one of the other hands.

Flash finally spins and vibrates himself free of the diamond — which makes him look like he was being very lazy these past 10 minutes — and Apache Chief says that they need a diversion to grab the matter ray. So — and I am not making this up, I swear — Apache runs over to a console and presses a button to cause the Hawaiian volcano to erupt. Like, it’s not a small eruption, either, but one of those “shooting ash all over the Pacific theater” dealies. That… may have been too much of a diversion, my friend.

Superman shows up and actually punches a tank that Black Manta is driving. It’s a real punch and everything! I didn’t know that was possible on this show, but look at that! Punch!

Apache Chief uses the ray to put the Legion into a giant egg crate, giving Superman the opportunity to end the episode with a dumb “hard boiled” pun. Interestingly enough, the bickering between the Legion members suggests that the rift that divided them in this episode is still present, which would’ve been an interesting facet to explore in the remaining two episodes.

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