Challenge of the Superfriends Episode 15: Superfriends Rest in Peace

As much as we mock Superfriends — and rightly so — I can at least give mild praise to how this season gradually took baby steps away from its “swamp-n-Hall of Doom” opening that it used for the first half of these episodes. Now shows are starting on actual gripping plot points, such as having a weeping Robin and oddly angled superheroes holding a funeral for Batman. No explanation, no backstory, just BAM. Batman’s DEAD. Your childhood is OVER, viewing audience!

I don’t know what I like better: the ostentatious Batman-shaped headstone… or the frilly pink wreath laid below it.

In the very next scene, the Superfriends are watching, er, the Superfriends on TV. They’re rewatching the funeral they just went to… for some reason. Maybe to judge who looks the most appropriately sad. It’s got to be Robin, who gets shoved to the back even though he was Batman’s sidekick. Poor Robin, he’s probably thinking that he’s going to have to audition to become Aqualad or something.

Nobody’s explaining the situation to the audience, other than the fact that Superman says that what happened to Batman could happen to “all of us,” and Green Lantern says he’s ashamed of slumming in the Batcave. Superman, to cheer them all up, uses the Batcomputer to tap into the Hall of Doom’s omniscient cameras to watch “the biggest blunder the Superfriends ever made.”

He’s not a good cheerleader, our Clark Kent.

This is a very awkward way to send us all into a flashback to “days earlier,” when a giant drilling operation got set up literally next door to the Hall of Justice. In the middle of a city. Without striking any suspicions. Clearly, it’s the Legion of Doom, up to no good.

A badly disguised Lex Luthor and Solomon Grundy are drilling down to a secret chamber “one mile below” the Hall of Justice. No biggie, just a whole mile down there. So what are they after? Some horribly deadly stuff that Superman buried there. Luthor does go on to explain that Superman captured it from a former member of the Legion of Doom who found this radioactive crystal that could kill all the Superfriends. So Superman — a guy who could fly to pretty much anywhere in the galaxy in no time flat — decided that it was best to bury this ticking time bomb right below where they slept at night.

Must be nice to snuggle up in bed at night in the Hall of Justice, praying to the Green Lantern Corps that Superman’s toxic gas doesn’t leak and kill you in your sleep. Who wants to bet that Superman never even told anyone what he did? Of course, then how did the Legion of Doom find out where the stuff was hidden?

It amuses me to no end to see Sinestro in a hard hat, like he’s going to his day job or something. It BETTER amuse me, because otherwise I might start picking on the fact that the animators totally forgot how to draw Lex Luthor. Maybe it’s his non-skintight pants that’s throwing everyone off.

They discover that the box containing the super-deadly-to-everyone element is housed in “Krypton steel,” which, according to Sinestro, is a “harmless form of Kryptonite that only Superman can open.” OK, I’m totally calling “bull” on that. There’s nothing about that sentence that makes any sense whatsoever.

To get the box open, they need Superman to do that. And you know what that means: A full-frontal assault on the Hall of Justice by the Hall of Doom, which apparently has been upgraded to include giant robotic crab arms.

Say what you will about the League of Doom — at least they have ambition and cut to the chase when they have to. The Superfriends are only starting to register their shock that the Hall of Doom has penetrated their (unseen) defenses by the time the thing is literally ripping the roof off above their heads.

It may just be my favorite moment in this season so far.

Green Lantern, scrounging for a good battle cry, croaks out, “The best way to defend is to attack!” and flies up to do combat. The best he’s able to muster with his power ring is one green mousetrap, which I can’t imagine does much when it’s not nailed down and when it’s employed against metal that feels no pain.

This is my beef with Green Lantern in this series: He’s got this immensely powerful ring that can do whatever his imagination conjures up, and apparently the dude’s mind is a vast wasteland of original thought. It’s like when it’s time for him to display his stuff, he’s wildly casting his eyes around his office to think of something, anything, to make. Lamp? No. W-1099 form? Nah. Mousetrap? YES! That’ll do the trick!

Superman is much more practical, simply punching a hole right into the Hall of Doom and announcing his visit to everyone in general. But Lex Luthor has dressed up the mystery box like one of his inventions-of-the-week, and Supes is tricked into using his heat vision to open it. So when you were saying “the biggest blunder the Superfriends ever made” earlier, what you really meant was “the worst whoopsie I, Superman, ever made.” Isn’t that right? Own up to it, man.

Back in the Batcave, Superman elaborates that the Noxium crystal is actually kind of a receptacle that holds everything that will kill the Superfriends: kryptonite for Superman, yellow radiation for Green Lantern, and… other. Seriously, he just stops naming stuff after two things.

I am so disappointed in the Superfriends writers here, because I wanted to hear the list continue. What would kill Aquaman? A big fishhook? Hawkman would be a “no shirts no shoes no service” sign, Batman would be dead batteries for his bat gadget, Black Vulcan would be a pool of water, Wonder Woman would be a copy of the much superior Gal Gadot movie version, Apache Chief would be a speed-talking competition, for the Flash it would be a DMV line, Robin’s would be shame, and Samurai… honestly, I keep forgetting he’s IN this show. He’s done like one thing in 15 episodes. Maybe just send him back in time to Feudal Japan.

Anyway, Superman fails to answer the key question, which is WHY DID YOU BURY THIS DEATH BOX BELOW YOUR BASE OF OPERATIONS?

Silly me, Superman can’t hear me through a computer monitor and back into 1978.

I continue to find it really weird how Batman is the only Superfriend who’s shown to continue his job of patrolling one city while spending roughly 100% of his time in a completely different city. Cornered by the Legion in his office, a Colonel Sanders-sounding Commissioner Gordon throws up the bat signal and calls Batman to come rescue him. “Hurry, Bats, I’m already missing out on key finger-lickin’ hours in the cafeteria!”

Poor Batman, having to make the commute all the way back to Gotham… only to be challenged to a street race (!) by Riddler. Who’s driving a lime green Riddlermobile. That thing does not look like it gets good gas mileage, even for 1978.

Since the Superfriends never met a trap they didn’t immediately careen into at 85 mph, Batman takes off after him into an alley. A garbage truck backs up and Batman shouts, “Great Gotham! I only have a fraction of a second to react!” And then he used a rocket jump to clear the thing.

If this was reality, he’d say, “Gr-” and then he’d be a bat-shaped splatter on the concrete.

Pointless car chase scene over, Riddler shoots (how? with what trigger?) the Noxium crystal at Batman, who clutches his chest and slumps over. Guess this is his one time that there was nothing useful in his belt, like nitro or aspirin, that could help him.

Now that the show has resorted into flat-out murdering our heroes, Lex Luthor gets into the spirit of it with an elimination chart. The plan is simple: Lure the Superfriends to their doom, one by one, by attacking something they care about.

The Hall of Doom speeds off to start slagging Paradise Island, while the Superfriends boldly — and with all courage — find more hidey-holes to cower in.

That’s right: The Superfriends have hit rock bottom and have resorted to slumming in Aquaman’s “sea cave.” Which isn’t even in the sea, but is just some random island cave with a flat screen TV. You have to imagine that the doofus was so delighted at finally getting some company that he talked up this sad lair to everyone else.

Wonder Woman receives a “telepathic distress call” from Paradise Island and starts to head off to help. “Don’t go, it’s a trap!” Aquaman says desperately. “We were just about to play jenga and order Chinese!” She then spins around really fast and teleports, which is totally not any of her powers, but the writers don’t care. The writers hate you and hope that their lax attention to continuity will drive you insane.

Depending on the shot, Paradise Island is either in total shambles or completely fine. Cheetah parachutes in, and I love her devotion to her ugly color scheme that she gives her parachute the same half-hearted spots that are on her outfit.

And then Wonder Woman dies.

As much as I do like this no-nonsense method of dealing with the world’s most gullible team of superheroes, it does make me miss the days of luring the Superfriends to alternate dimensions or black holes or other time periods. That was stupidity I could get behind.

Like the kid in any horror movie who loses his or her cool and starts freaking out, Robin shows us that he’s no doubt going to be the next one offed in a dramatic fashion. That might be preferable to getting shoulder rubs from Apache Chief, who clearly does not respect physical boundaries between coworkers.

Superman then gets a call from Perry White of the Daily Planet, saying that Lois Lane has been captured. At this point, even HAWKMAN is yelling that it’s a trap, but this is the essence of what it is to be a Superfriend — your rigid, inflexible code of honor makes it impossible not to barrel headlong into certain death. You’d think they’d send backup or do some recon or something, but no, Superman heads out by himself. Let’s see how that plays out:

Even after using his X-Ray vision to see through the wall to the trap beyond, Superman still charges in there. It goes a little better for him than for the others — he ducks the first shot, unties Perry and Lois, and uses his cape as a shield (?) to absorb some, but not all, of the beam.

Superman surprises Solomon Grundy with a patented bear hug, eliciting a rather silly facial expression from the hulking zombie. I spat out my Tang when I saw this bit because it’s so unlike the animation of the show to be, well, so cartoonish. And then Supes throws Grundy into a printing press to get wrapped up by newspaper.

Newspaper: The only thing capable of securely binding a seven-foot-tall Cajun zombie.

But in the end, Superman doesn’t really fare much better than Batman and Wonder Woman:

He died as he lived, on the front page of the paper.

The rest of the Superfriends can’t seem to stay put in any particular hidey hole, so now they’ve relocated to — why not? — a Marine base.

I don’t think “perfectly safe” is the term you want to use here. The military never acquits itself well in this series, nor does it pose any threat for any of the Legion of Doom. It’s just all kinds of sad for the Superfriends to be hiding behind the military’s skirt like this, when… when…

Wait a minute.

ZOOM. ENHANCE.

Hey kids, Batman’s alive again! Why? Because the animators can never keep track of who’s doing what in this show, obviously! It’s not like the death of Batman was driving the entire first half of this episode or anything.

A helicopter brings in Superman’s casket to parade in front of them, while Hawkman’s pants suddenly go missing. It’s like he isn’t even trying any more. “Well, Superman’s dead. Guess I’m gonna get naked and drown my sorrows in bourbon!”

Lex Luthor sends them an ultimatum to leave the earth forever or they’ll be killed too. Without waiting for any reply, the Legion then radios the White House and tells them that the Earth is theirs now, and to have “all the military and police forces throughout the world report to them directly.” I love the sheer hubris and lack of foresight with this demand. First of all, you can imagine just so many countries going, “nuts to THAT” when some bald guy and his pet gorilla want full control of their military.

Second, I think the world should call the Legion of Doom’s bluff. Just reroute ALL communication and requests right to the Hall of Doom from every single military unit and police station worldwide. I just want to see Toyman and Black Manta spending the rest of the episode frantically answering phones like they’re at a telethon and have to handle the barrage of incoming calls.

Oh, and they demand that Earth gets renamed:

Ye gads, it’s like you’re all children playing at crime.

With the fate of the world in the balance, do the remaining members of the Justice League finally discover their manhood and bring the fight to the Legion of Doom? Do they strike a blow for freedom and democracy everywhere they go? Do they finally… THROW A PUNCH?

ahahaha of course not. They all leave the world as fast as they can. Our heroes and role models, ladies and gentlemen.

With those pesky do-gooders out of the way, the Legion of Doom’s so-called “crime spree” begins. This is just as sad as you’d expect it to be by now, with the cops bringing them boxes of diamonds and Brainiac and Riddler (Riddler?) rewiring the Munich credit exchange computers to gain control of the world’s finances. Once again, the show never explains what the Legion plans to do with this money, especially since they’re the de facto rulers of PLANET DOOM, but maybe it makes them feel secure.

There are a couple of brave security guards who try to stand up to the villains, but Riddler’s “computerized watchdog” waves them in the air like it just don’t care.

The Legion then heads over to a microwave relay center in Colorado, which apparently controls all of the communications on the planet. Who knew? This show is so educational in all the wrong ways!

They’d totally have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for these meddling kids just hanging out inside of a garage for no clear reason:

That’s a heckuva thing, to gamble that the Legion was going to attack this one specific place. Otherwise you’d all be standing in that room for a long time while Samurai kept letting out silent-but-deadly farts.

Sinestro whips out his power ring in response — a ring which allows the user to tap limitless potential for destruction and creation — and prepares to unleash death on the Superfriends with

Really, man? That’s what you’re going with? A yellow bagpipe? Well… I guess I have to stick around and see how this plays out. But you really need to stop looking so smug. This isn’t something smug-worthy in the least.

It’s not as if the Superfriends are making legends of themselves over there, however. Robin, the guy who just saw his best friend, mentor, and patron die horribly yesterday, freezes on the spot and is grabbed by Solomon Grundy. Robin’s only hope here is that Grundy throws his back out with this maneuver, otherwise Robin’s going to get snapped in two.

He actually is rescued… only to be shot dead by the Noxium crystal in the very next moment. Robin is not having a good week, but then again, when is he ever?

Luthor then easily kills all of the rest of the Superfriends and — I swear, this is what happens — goes, “Eh, guess we don’t need this crystal any more” and throws it down a storm drain.

A mysterious figure in a radiation suit then retrieves the crystal, puts it into a bazooka, and shoots it into deep outer space. You know, like any bazooka can do.

“It’s done,” he says into a walkie-talkie.

All the leaders of the nations of the world are tromped into the Hall of Doom to be informed that the Legion is going to take half their GDP from now on, probably to fund Toyman’s excursions to planets in the middle of black holes. But as we all know well, the Superfriends — who are of course alive — can’t resist wearing disguises and then ripping them off to the consternation of the Legion.

Wonder Woman turns her lasso into a cage for Cheetah, while Batman and Riddler have a magic-off:

I’ll admit it, I laughed. It’s a genuinely funny moment (that makes no sense, unless Riddler has “magic bunny grow” solution in his pajamas).

This part gets REALLY weird, even for this show, as Batman uses a normal boomerang to get Riddler’s magic wand, which I guess is actually genuinely magic, because Batman then makes the bunny disappear and turns the Riddler small before trapping him in a top hat. Which has bars.

Then Green Lantern turns Lex Luthor into a giant $1,000 bill, and my brain has officially left the premises. It just couldn’t handle this much nonsense.

So Thousand Dollar Lex wonders why they’re, you know, not dead, to which Superman explains that the Legion just so happened to kill robot duplicates. Robots. Who all had the same superpowers as the real versions. This has got to be the biggest cop-out that this show has ever done, even a show that loves to toss in duplicates left and right. It was all a plan to get the Legion to throw out the crystal, which Apache Chief retrieved.

That’s it. I’m out of here.

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