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Challenge of the Super Friends: The First Season (DVD)

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Genre: Action & Adventure / Theatrical Release: 1978 / Director: Ray Patterson, Carl Urbano / Actors: Lewis Bailey (III), Melanie Chartoff, Henry Corden, Al Fann, Bob Hastings ... / DVD released 2004-07-06 at Warner Home Video / Features of the DVD: Box set, Closed-captioned, Colour, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Subtitled, NTSC

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      20.02.2009 19:49
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      This review is about Challenge of the Super Friends: The First Season (DVD)

      ***SPOILER ALERT***

      -The Show-

      Challenge of the Superfriends was a show created by Hanna Barbera in collaboration with DC Comics. It originally ran in ABC from September 9, 1978 to September 15, 1979.This particular Superfriends version lasted sixteen episodes.

      Challenge of the Superfriends had a main premise of the Superfriends versus The Legion of Doom. The Legion of Doom was comprised of thirteen of the most dangerous criminals in the universe. The Superfriends stood for truth and justice. The Legion of Doom wanted to take over the world. The Superfriends has a Hall of Justice. The Legion of Doom had a Hall of Doom which looked like Darth Vader's helmet.

      -The Superfriends-

      Superman - Superman is one of the most powerful beings in the DC Universe. He is blessed with godlike abilities such as super speed, super hearing, flight and invulnerability. He is further endowed with abilities such as ice breath, x-ray vision and heat vision. His only known weakness is Kryptonite.

      What sets Superman apart from most heroes is his sense of truth, justice and the American way. Despite being nearly a god in terms of powers (Superman could even time travel via circling the Earth at the opposite direction of its rotation) Superman doesn't abuse his powers. There have been several instances that he has saved even his most bitter enemies.

      Wonderwoman - Diana from Paradise Island was given the powers of the gods. She was beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, stronger than Hercules, and swifter than Mercury

      Hippolyta sculped Diana from clay and she was given life by the Aphrodite. Surprisingly, Wonderwoman is overly dependent on her magic lasso despite her powers of superhuman agility, speed and strength. She also has an invisible jet.

      Batman - Billionaire Bruce Wayne was orphaned at a young age when his parents were murdered after watching a movie with him. This inspired the young Bruce to don cape and cowl and become Batman, one of the greatest detective minds ever.

      While Batman does not have any super powers, he is a very formidable combatant. He also possesses a variety of gadgets in his utility belt. He frequently uses batarangs and grappling hooks. He also has a variety of bat vehicles such as a plane, a boat and a car.

      Robin - Bruce's young ward Dick Grayson is Robin the boy wonder. Despite being very young, Robin is a dangerous adversary and is very nimble. He also possesses a utility belt and frequently assists Batman in his adventures. He always has nice catchphrases such as "Holy stone carvers Batman they are stealing the head of George Washington."

      The Flash - Scientist Barry Allen was working in his lab and was prepared to leave when a bolt of lightning shatters a case full of chemicals and this endows him with superhuman speed. Among the Flash's powers are superhuman speed, time travel and the ability to phase through objects via vibrating.

      Aquaman - Aquaman is from the legendary city of Atlantis. He is very powerful under the ocean as he could swim very fast and could telepathically communicate with sea creatures to gang up on enemies. He is however very vulnerable on land.

      Green Lantern - Hal Jordan was a test pilot who was chosen by a dying Abin Sur to wield the power ring forged by the guardians of Oa. The power ring could be used to make objects and move objects. It however has a weakness against yellow things.

      Hawkman - Carter Hall is the reincarnation of ancient Egyptian prince Khufu. He is an archeologist by trade and uses his archeological finds to combat evil. He has the power of flight and uses Nth metal weapons.

      Black Vulcan - Black Vulcan was created for the series. He is patterned after Black Lightning. He has electrical powers and has the power of flight and superhuman speed.

      Samurai - Samurai is Toshio Eto, a history professor. He was given powers by the New Gods to help them combat Darkseid and his minions. Samurai is basically a Japanese Red Tornado. He has the power to fly, to manipulate wind, to turn invisible and to engulf himself in flames.

      Apache Chief - Apache Chief is a native American Indian bestowed a special magic dust by the chief of their tribe which amplified the thoughts of its bearer. Apache Chief chose to be brave and face the bear that was attacking them. He was rewarded with the ability to amplify his size. All he needs to do is shout Inuk Chuk.

      -The Legion of Doom-

      Lex Luthor - Lex was a boy genius who admired Superboy. He saved Superboy's life and in gratitude, Superboy built a laboratory for him. Lex invented a Kryptonite antidote. A lab accident however left Luthor bald and with a hatred for his revered Superboy.

      Braniac - Braniac is an alien android from Colu. He is a bald and green skinned humanoid who possesses extreme intelligence. He shrunk the city of Kandor and its inhabitants.

      Solomon Grundy - Cyrus Gold is a wealthy merchant. He was murdered and his remains were thrown in a swamp. His corpse reanimated and he christened himself Solomon Grundy after a children's rhyme since he was born on a Monday. Solomon is extremely strong and durable. He is almost as strong as Superman as well.

      Sinestro - Sinestro was Green Lanterns mentor and friend. However, Sinestro's dictatorial tendencies had him kicked out of the Green Lantern Corps. He struck a deal with the inhabitants of Qward and he was forged a yellow power ring similar to those issued by the Guardians of Oa. The catch though is unlike the green power rings which are weak to yellow, the yellow ring doesn't have any known weakness.

      Gorilla Grodd - Grodd is an extremely intellectual simian who wants to conquer Gorilla City. He is extremely intelligent and loves to use mind control in his schemes.

      Black Manta - Black Manta is an ordinary human being but has an extremely powerful suit. This suit enables him to fire laser beams, mini torpedoes and mini tridents. The suit enables Black Manta to also breathe underwater. The Black Manta also has his own submarine which is armed and dangerous.

      Cheetah - Priscilla Rich is a very quick, agile and ferocious supervillain. The cheetah suit is merely a suit here unlike the Justice League Cheetah which was a cheetah due to an experiment.

      Giganta - Giganta is merely an ordinary woman who has the same powers as apache Chief. It is noted that Giganta stole some of the magic dust that made Apache Chief grow larger.

      The Scarecrow - The scarecrow is a psychiatrist who uses chemicals to induce fear amongst his enemies. He preys upon phobias and has dedicated his life to research on them. He has no special powers though.

      Toyman - Toyman has a jester like appearance and uses weapons such as wind up soldiers and toy tanks.

      The Riddler - Edward Nigma is a criminal who loves to leave riddles and intellectual challenges for opponents to solve. While he does not have powers, he utilizes traps , puzzles and devices.

      Bizarro - Bizzaro comes from Bizzaro world where everything is backwards. He has the same powers as Superman. He however draws his power from a blue sun and is weak to blue kryptonite.

      Captain Cold - Captain Cold is Leonard Snart. He has a freeze gun and wears a parka and visors. He is very similar to Mr. Freeze is some aspect.

      -Episode Summaries-

      Wanted: The Superfriends - Lex Luthor invents a dream machine that takes over the minds of the champions of justice through their dreams. The Superfriends then commit all sorts of heinous acts and end up surrendering to the police which are actually Bizarro and Cheetah and disguise. They then turn all humans into Bizzaros and Cheetahs using the league's own satellite. How will the league stop world full of criminals?

      Invasion of the Fearians - Captain Cold has struck a deal with the Venusian race called the Fearians to change the Earth's climate into that of Venus to help facilitate the alien invasion. In exchange for this the Fearians would get rid of the Superfriends for them. The Legion of Doom succeeds in tricking the Superfriends into assisting them with changing Earth's climate and the Fearians encase our heroes in an impenetrable forcefield. Will the league escape from this diabolical deathtrap?

      The World's Deadliest Game - Hawkman, Wonderwoman and Black Vulcan are lured into Toyman's artificial planet. There they face his ingenious creations. Meanwhile the rest of the league is lured into a planet of women who want to petrify our champions of justice. They succeed in lulling the league with their sleeping pollen. The league is then undergoing the petrification process. Will our heroes somehow get out or will they end up as part of a gallery?

      The Time Trap - The Legion of Doom's own Gorilla Grodd has invented a time traveling device and they leave most of the league stuck in 70 million BC, Arthurian England and Ancient Rome. While the league has enough firepower to beat their ancient adversaries, they do not have any means to get back. Aquaman finds the site of the Hall of Justice before it was even built and plants his communicator there. Will this plan work or will our heroes be lost in time?

      Trial of the Superfriends - Batman, Robin, Wonderwoman and Green Lantern are captured by The Legion of doom and are placed on a mock trial. They are found guilty and are detained. Meanwhile the Legion of Doom uses liquid light to try to vaporize an entire city. Will they be successful?

      Monolith of Evil - Solomon Grundy recalls the monolith that gave him life. He says that it has great powers. The Legion of Doom tricks the Superfriends into recovering the monolith. They then steal the monolith. Superman is left in a precarious situation with a kryptonite ball and chain and is miles from a laser that could cut the kryptonite. With the power of the monolith controlled by the Legion of doom, could they be stopped? Is the monolith as evil as it seems? What about the fate of our favorite Kryptonian?

      The Giants of Doom - Bizarro has an idea. He concocts a plan to combine three elements into a ray that would transform the Legion of Doom into giants. He however needs the league's computer to accomplish this so he lets himself and his comrades get captured. Luthor and Braniac distract the league while Sinestro's power ring controls Green Lantern and let them free. This allows Bizarro and company to turn into giants and easily vanquish the league. They are frozen by Captain Cold and Toyman hurls them into space. Lex Luthor then activates the global forcefield just to make sure. Will the league stay in their icy tomb? If they do get out could they return to Earth?

      Secret Origins of the Superfriends - Lex Luthor comes up with an ingenious plan. Now how many times have we heard that? He decides to take out the three most powerful members of the Superfriends by preventing them from being heroes in the first place. They prevent Diana from winning the tournament and becoming Wonderwoman. Lex Luthor hijacks the flight simulator and tricks a dying Abin Sur into making him The Green Lantern. They also prevent Kal-El from landing on Earth and redirect the ship into a planet with a red sun. Without the big guns, the league is easy prey to the full force of the Legion of Doom. What will the league do now?

      Revenge on Gorilla City - Gorilla Grodd together with the Legion of Doom take over Gorilla City. They use Braniac's invention to mind control the gorillas. They capture Batman, Robin, Flash, and Apache Chief and King Solovar, strip them of their powers and hunt them like wild animals. Without their powers how will our heroes fare? Will the world be overrun by talking gorillas?

      Swamp of the Living Dead - The Legion of Doom spot an old hag wandering in the swamp and suspect her as a spy of the Superfriends to find their hidden base. They confront her and she tells them about a swamp demon that could give them powers. The Legion of doom strike a bargain with the swamp demon. He tells them to bring them an equivalent amount of good. The Legion delivers the Superfriends one by one and the demon grants them control over indestructible zombies. The league is in glass tombs now. Who will stop the march of the undead?

      Conquerors of the Future - The Legion of Doom become the Legion of Good and succeed in duping our heroes into believing that they have reformed. Our heroes then discover this treachery. This however comes at a cost, Wonderwoman, Black Vulcan and Hawkman get caught in a trap set up by the Riddler. They slowly disintegrate. Meanwhile in 3984 the Legion of Doom succeed in overthrowing the world government. Has the Legion of Doom finally won?

      The Final Challenge - The war between the Superfriends and The Legion of Doom has been going on for a while. A being called Vartu has decided to take matters into his own hands and pit the Superfriends versus the Legion in contests. The losers are vanquished. Batman handily beats the Riddler in a maze. Black Manta wins over Aquaman in crossing the Lake of Terror. Wonderwoman trumps Cheetah in climbing a volcano. Scarecrow bests Apache Chief in handling a two-headed serpent. It is now down to Superman and Bizarro versus a space robot that emits kryptonite beams. Who will win? What will become of the losers?

      Fairy Tale of Doom - Toyman comes up with the idea of trapping the Superfriends inside fairy tales. The books have a certain period of time before they permanently trap their visitors. Superman is led by Braniac to the story of Gulliver's Travels. Wonderwoman is led by Cheetah to Alice in Wonderland. Hawkman meanwhile is trapped by Toyman in Jack and the Beanstalk. How will our heroes escape this and have a happy ending?

      Doomsday - The Legion of Doom attack an aircraft. In the battle, Black Manta, Cheetah and Sinestro are captured by the Superfriends and are left for dead by the rest of the Legion for Doom. Sinestro leads the others to an escape route via the anti-matterworld of Qward. They place anti-matter robots as a trap and Superman falls for it. The three villains plan revenge on the rest of their comrades for abandoning them. How will Superman get back? What do these three villains have in store for their fellow fiends?

      Superfriends Rest in Peace - The episode begins on a tragic note. Batman is dead! The Legion of doom have in their possession the Noxium crystal which could kill any Superfriend. They then lure Superman and Wonderwoman to traps and succeed in killing them? The rest of the league tries to make a last ditch effort but are all killed. Has evil finally won?

      History of Doom - In case you are wondering who won in this final episode of the series, the answer is no one. Not even the humans sadly. The battle between the Superfriends and Legion of Doom has led into an apocalypse which extinguished all human life. Three aliens descended upon the Earth and try to find out what caused this catastrophe. They retrieve data from both the Hall of Justice and the Hall of Doom. Then they find out what really happened. What did they find out?

      -The Verdict-

      First of all I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Hanna Barbera and DC comics for getting rid of Wendy, Marvin White, Wonderdog, Zan, Jayna and Gleek. Although they were humorous at times, they didn't do much to add to the show and simply bungled their way through episodes. Many comic book purists hated these characters because they were the weak links to this formidable band of superheroes. Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog were Scooby Doo rip-offs and the Wonder Twins and Gleek were a parody of what superheroes should be.

      The upgrade in supervillains is a good sign here. From battling intergalactic monsters and mad scientists, the league now goes on to face formidable and known villains such as Lex Luthor, Gorilla Grodd, The Riddler, Braniac, Scarecrow and Sinestro. I also like the fact that they have decided to form The Legion of Doom as a foil to the Superfriends. I didn't like the Superfriends ganging up on single villains all the time.

      I also liked the original Flash and Green Lantern as compared to the new guys in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. The original Flash was brilliant. He was a scientist after all. The new flash Wally West is cocky and is a dimwit. In as far as the green lantern is concerned Hal Jordan is the greatest Green Lantern of all time and hothead John Stewart doesn't hold a candle to him. I am glad that the lanterns' weakness to the color yellow is no longer emphasized in the new series. It's a lame weakness.

      The addition of multicultural races such as Apache Chief, Black Vulcan and Samurai has good intentions. However, the implementation leaves much to be desired. These characters ended up very stereotypical.

      While the show was very good during its heyday and is still revered up to today, I have noticed some animation errors. I have also noticed that the show lacks realism at times. In the Giants of Doom, the Superfriends end up in Saturn and yet it seems that they are able to breathe there. That planet does not have a breathable atmosphere. Only Superman and Green Lantern should survive that. I also see that the Superfriends could easily travel back in time. The same goes with The Legion of Doom.

      The personalities of the characters were also very different as from those in the Justice League Series. Bizarro and Solomon Grundy were quite smart in the Superfriends while in Justice League they had the IQ of a retard. Also Batman was much friendlier and was not yet the dark knight who spawned fear on his adversaries. Wonderwoman was also much smarter here as compared to The Justice League version which was naïve to mans world.

      The animation is very much dated and does not hold a candle to The Justice League. The same goes for the sound effects. I guess computers and technology changes things.

      My favorite episodes were The Giants of Doom and The History of Doom. The Giants of Doom featured the villains get larger and stomp all over everything including the Superfriends. The History of doom is cool because it is a bit apocalyptic in nature. It shows a lifeless doomed Earth given a second chance by alien beings.

      Overall, this is a pretty good package. Sixteen episodes of this classic cartoon is worth the slightly more than $20 you would spend at Amazon to get it. That comes to slightly more than a dollar per episode. Not bad.

      Previously published in Ciao

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