Challenge of the Superfriends Episode 16: The History of Doom

You guys! I’m genuinely a bit sad right now. For months now, I’ve been working on extensive viewings of each and every episode from Challenge of the Superfriends, and now we’re at the very last one of this run. Maybe some day I’ll look at some of the other Superfriends series, but I can’t imagine any topping the sheer stupid imagination of this one.

Oh well. We must proceed. Let’s do this.

If there’s any actual development that happens in this season, I think that it’s with how the writers tell these stories. For the first 10 or so episodes, each one would open with the same stock Hall of Doom swamp shot and a discussion of the latest villain invention. But in these last handful of episodes, there’s actually an attempt to make gripping openings — the Legion doing good things! Batman’s funeral! And here, an unexplained post-apocalyptic vision of the world. Everything — Mount Rushmore, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramids — is all in shambles. Even the Hall of Justice is cracked and crumbling.

Everything looks like it’s Day Two of a zombie invasion, and you can’t tell me that’s not intriguing. What’s happened to make the world this terrible?

A blowing newspaper holds a hint at the backstory: “END OF WORLD NEAR!” it says. “SUPERFRIENDS NO HELP!!” Superfriends no help? Me yes interested.

Naturally, an alien spaceship lands and an away team clad in soft-looking Snuggies comes out to survey the damage. Now at this point of the season, it’s been pretty well established that Earth (or at least the Superfriends) is part of an intergalactic community. There is a galactic police force, peace conferences, Venusian neighbors, the works. Earth is not alone here, so I have to wonder that if some sort of disaster happened that was too great for the Superfriends that an SOS wouldn’t be broadcast to other planets for help.

And in fact, the aliens do recognize the Hall of Justice (it’s in their “galactic records,” because aliens refer to everything they are, do, or have as “galactic”).

They hack their way into the Justice League’s computer to watch a message from Superman, who’s showing a shocking amount of shoulder skin. He tells the dorkiest mic ever that he’s the last survivor of the disaster unleashed by the Legion of Doom.

For the full account of this flashback, the Snuggie tribe is going to have to binge-watch some YouTube videos of the origins of the Legion of Doom members. So in this final episode, we’re not only getting a flashback framework but also origin stories. I guess it pairs well with the “Secret Origins of the Superfriends” several episodes back.

I confess, I’m not really sure why we have to go all the way back to the Legion’s origin stories to tell why the earth is in ruins, but I’m also not complaining. Our first story is of Lex Luthor, who we discover (a) used to wear normal clothes, (b) was a farmer, and (c) had hair.

Flying by, Superboy recognizes from the top of this guy’s head that he’s new in town and deserves a “welcome visit.” I guess it’s a slow day for murders, disasters, and intergalactic threats for the Man of Steel.

The very second Superboy touches down, a Kryptonite meteor lands right in front of both of them. It doesn’t make a crater or anything, it just “ploops” right down. Instantly, Superboy assumes the submissive posture that he will forever be showing to green rocks, but Lex saves him by bulldozing it into a creek.

They become fast friends and live happily ever after. Part of that friendship is Lex taking Superboy back to his stalker lair.

Oh, I’m quite serious. This “new kid” in town has an obscene amount of Superboy statues, pictures, and assorted “trophies.” He’s two seconds from going full Misery on Clark Kent here. There’s also a science lab in the corner, probably for making bombs and anthrax and whatever other recipes Lex got off the internet.

I’m just saying, if anyone lures you into their secret barn and you see tons of pictures of yourself and a lot of your junk, you back out while keeping eye contact until you’re at a safe distance. Then you nuke it from orbit.

But instead Superboy wants to show his gratitude. And by “gratitude,” I mean “cheerfully blowing up Lex Luthor’s shack.”

Granted, he builds Lex an even better one, but at no point did Superboy ask for permission to do this or give Lex an inkling what was going to happen. And just because you’re inhumanly fast and strong doesn’t mean you have any idea how to build a laboratory. What we’re missing is a six-hour cutscene where Clark is pouring over IKEA cabinet instructions while sitting with parts spread all around him.

Now that the two of them are even — Lex saved Superboy, Superboy builds Lex a new lab — Lex somehow thinks he needs to further repay Superboy, like this is a gift exchange that’ll never stop. In the space of a minute, he creates a “Kryptonite antidote” but then knocks over another flask and fills the lab with fumes.

Superboy comes back and, realizing that he failed to install a sprinkler system in his state-of-the-art laboratory, blows out the fumes. Lex Luthor is, understandably, grateful that Superboy just saved his life:

Oh wait, now he’s bald and hates Superboy for making a mild mess. It really doesn’t look that bad there, Lex. Just get some Windex and maybe turn that chair right-side-up. Whip up some Rogaine while you’re at it.

But no, Lex accuses Superboy of being “jealous of my genius,” which I’m sure Superboy gets from every farmer with aspirations of super-science. He even blames Superboy for the hair loss by blowing the fumes back at him, but that doesn’t make sense — the fumes were clearly everywhere before Superboy arrived. Anyway, now Lex Luthor is messed up for life, and Superboy probably vows never to say hi to new kids ever again.

Next in our Legion of Doom origin anthology, we get, er, Giganta. Giganta? That’s a really odd pick, because she’s the Samurai of the Legion of Doom — technically a part of the team but hardly ever does anything or says anything this season. Her story begins with Apache Chief, who’s learning how to track animals that want to kill him.

Apache Chief is already such a wince-inducing Native American stereotype, we really didn’t need to see the show go into how he became a “great” tracker by identifying a single footprint. When I paused on the above screenshot, I was quietly hoping that the very next scene would include said bear swiping off Apache’s head. Lo and behold…

Once again, the Superfriends show themselves to be extremely myopic to any danger that’s more than a foot away from them. Go bear go!

With the camera pointed crotch-level at the fanny pack of the village elder, Apache Chief is told “the time’s come to test your manhood.” Listen, folks, if an older guy takes you out to the woods and says those words… yeah. Maybe just back away as quickly as possible and take your chances with the bear.

Instead, the old guy takes out a tiny pouch of magic Indian powder — please don’t shoot me, I’m just reporting what the episode says — and sprinkles it on his head telling Apache Chief that whatever is in his head, it’ll make that “100 times greater.” Somehow that becomes a permanent ability to grow 100 times physically larger, so I guess he was… full of himself? So why weren’t there herds of giant Native Americans fighting back against the Europeans if they had this powder at their disposal? I don’t get any of this.

At least we get to see a now-giant Apache Chief pick up the grizzly like it was a gerbil and toss it behind a mountain.

But this doesn’t go unnoticed — nor should it, all things considered. Some rando girl is riding by and somehow overhears *everything* and decides that she needs that magic powder to become famous. Yeah, that’s Giganta’s backstory: she’s a thief of opportunity.

As we wrap up this series today, I have to say that if there’s one overriding theme of Challenge of the Superfriends, it’s “lassoing.” So, so much lassoing goes on in this show, and nobody ever misses with any throws. Batman lassos, Wonder Woman lassos, the Flash lassoed a skyscraper at one point… anyone on both team lassos if the situation calls for a quick grab. Guess this was before the era of grappling hooks when the country was really banking on lassos being the next big thing with kids.

The episode, clearly bored with doing individual origin stories after those two tales, then starts talking about how the Legion of Doom got founded. Are you ready for this? It was a meeting in a warehouse of grumpy villains to make a group in response to the formation of the Superfriends. They bicker a lot about where to establish a base — the bottom of the ocean, polar ice cap, jungles — and Lex Luthor compromises this stupidity by picking “swamp.” They build the Hall of Doom off-screen, and there you go: instant evil supergroup.

Then this season finale actually transitions into being a clip show — I kid you not — while showing bits of previous episodes of the series and how dastardly the Legion was. We get parts of the Legion becoming giants, the Legion attacking Gorilla City, and so on. If I wanted to watch those episodes, I would, you know, watch those. I’m wondering if the show simply ran out of money and wasn’t able to make good on showing other origin stories. This may actually be the first time I was *bored* doing these viewings.

After this weird five-minute clip show digression ends, we’re at the 15-minute mark and the episode still hasn’t explained why the Earth is in ruins. The aliens up and leave to go find the Hall of Doom, why not. It’s also totally in shambles and empty inside, further propelling this gripping mystery that the show doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to answer.

Hey, it’s more “memory tapes!” No doubt, they’ll have the crucial information that we need to deduce

…nevermind. It’s just Toyman goofing around and Lex saying he had another foolproof plan to destroy the Superfriends. You keep saying that word “foolproof.” I do not think it means what you think it means.

Lex says he’s going to shoot a rocket into the sun to create a solar flare that will specifically target the Hall of Justice. This is so dumb and pointless that, yeah, this is exactly the kind of show it needs to be a part of. And literally the second he’s done outlining this cockamamey plan, he fires the rocket from inside the meeting room.

For their part, the Superfriends are like, “Oh hey, solar flare. Welp, guess we’re all dead.” Even for a team that only reacts to events, this is especially lazy. Let’s remember that Green Lantern once moved the Earth and Superman moved the moon, so it’s not like they’re out of options. And, oh yeah, the planet has a defense shield that’s been shown on numerous occasions.

Superman at least tries to go deflect the solar flare with his bare hands, but Lex has a surprise for him.

I. I have no words. Honestly, he just presses a button on that little gizmo, turns the sun to red as to strip Superman of his powers, and Supes limps back home.  Speaking of themes in this show, I think “Superman develops a weakness and gets all woozy” would get a sizable slice of the total time on a pie chart.

Hey Superman! Bet you really regret messing up that kid’s clubhouse, huh?

In an amazing moment of continuity and clarity in the writer’s room, the global defense field is remembered and activated. This, naturally, is what causes all of us to die.

I’d be more upset, but the animators decided that now is the time to give Green Lantern’s rear some extra attention, and I can’t help but giggle.

In the precious remaining minutes on the planet, Gorilla Grodd gives Lex Luthor some well-deserved ribbing. A quick montage shows that this radioactive belt triggers winds and earthquakes to ruin everything and kill everyone. Kill them off-screen, mind you. This show’s not going to go that dark.

And that’s the end of the series, with the total destruction of Earth and the death of all of the Legion and Superfriends. The end.

aha of course not. Time to slam down on that reset switch!

YEAH GET ON THAT SOOBA

Beardy McAlien there says that the whole universe is in agreement to turn back the timestream to give Earth another chance, and the implications of this make my head spin. Also, couldn’t pretty much everyone in both the Legion and Justice League travel back in time too?

Everyone returns back to the moment of the solar flare, and Beardy uses his amazing whatever powers to move the entire moon between the Earth and the sun to absorb that blast. But what about the folks at Moon Base One? Are they OK?

With that bizarre bit of deus ex machina, everything is turned back to normal and the episode ends with two somewhat confused super-factions.

And that’s it! We’re finally at the end of this rather lengthy project to watch and fully review all 16 episodes of Challenge of the Superfriends. Thanks for reading along with this — I hope you got some chuckles at how bizarre and weirdly entertaining this show was.

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