Friday, August 18, 2006

High Praise for Cruel Words

I've posted a brief review of another one of 2006's must-hear new records-- Johnny Dowd's Cruel Words.

Next up: My long-delayed-- not to mention just plain long-- review of Jolie Holland's Springtime Can Kill You. Stay tuned!

33 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's no time to lose! I've only got seconds to open this link before the building falls on me!

The SmarK DVD Rant for SuperFriends: Attack of the Legion of Doom!

Childhood is a funny thing, as shows you loved back then you sometimes watch again from a modern slant and realize how well-written they really were and how much you were missing by watching from a child’s point of view instead of an adult’s. For instance, as a big Mr. Show fan, I tend to watch Spongebob Squarepants and can enjoy it on both levels.

SuperFriends is not that kind of show.

Created in the 70s by cheapo animation experts Hanna Barbara to cash in on the resurgent Batman and Superman comics, SuperFriends is a bizarre, badly animated and written cartoon filled with politically correct nonsense and a strange universal verbal diarrhea where characters are compelled to state EVERY OBVIOUS THING that comes to mind. More on that later.

Before there was the infinitely superior Justice League cartoon, there was this. Written for 6-year olds by 5-year olds, the initial version of the show featured the bare minimum of superheroic characters, and threw retarded “kid-friendly” Wendy & Marvin into the mix, I guess so the kids watching could have someone to relate to. Which kind of defeats the purpose of escapist entertainment, you might say, but then that’s about 18 notches on the IQ chart above this show anyway. Next revamp in the mid-70s saw Wendy & Marvin riding the short bus back to pop culture hell and being replaced with the spectacularly stupid and pandering Wonder Twins and their monkey Gleek. As a general note, pet monkeys are never funny or entertaining. By the 80s, the show took a HUGE leap forwards when it was reworked under the “Super Powers” brand, whereby all the dead weight was dropped and Firestorm was added for a teen edge. You have to keep in mind the audience this is written for, however, and when I was that age I ate this stuff up with a spoon so any shots I may take at the show are purely in fun. Just wanted to get that out in the beginning before I get hate mail.

Now Warner, which owns to the rights to the whole shebang, has released 4 of the 1978 run of the show on DVD as part of it’s continuing superhero line whereby they rip off the paying customer by dribbling this stuff out 90 minutes at a time when everyone else is doing 3 hours a disc and season sets.

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The specific season of the SuperFriends being used here is the 1978 one, subtitled “The Challenge of the SuperFriends”. The concept is simple: You have the SuperFriends, and you have the evil Legion of Doom (no relation to either the hockey line or the Road Warriors), comprised of 13 of the most evil people in the universe. Those people:

- Lex Luthor (Superman’s arch-enemy, very evil),
- Brainiac (#2 heel for Superman, also very evil),
- Sinestro (the yellow-wielding nemesis for Green Lantern, and his NAME is sinister, so he must be evil),
- Bizarro (getting pretty far down the depth chart for Superman’s villains now, as he’s really more of a tragic figure than a villain, but as an evil anti-Superman, he works I guess).
- The Riddler (In the words of Luthor, “humorous but SINISTER” – what, was the Joker having his makeup retouched?)
- Captain Cold (Flash’s arch-enemy and about as scary as Crash Holly)
- Black Manta (Aquaman’s arch-enemy, although he doesn’t really demonstrate any POWERS in the show, but then neither does Aquaman)
- Solomon Grundy (We’re kinda reaching now with an obscure Batman villain)
- Gorilla Grodd (Flash villain, he’s a big talking gorilla and that’s about it – maybe Gleek got into the juice and went nuts)
- Cheetah (Wonder Woman’s nemesis, she dresses like…you guessed it…a Cheetah. No appreciable powers, except maybe PMS)
- Scarecrow (A D-level Batman villain whose power is to induce fear, thus making him basically useless for group attacks)
- Toyman (Are you KIDDING me? Luthor wouldn’t even invite this idiot to his parties)
- Giganta (A made-up 50-foot woman who doesn’t exist in the comics except briefly as a Wonder Woman villain in the 40s, and is only there as a counterpoint to Apache Chief)

Keep in mind, these are supposed to be the most evil people available at the time. Granted, Joker was something of a comedy figure in the 70s thanks to the Batman TV show, but even Flash had better villains to choose from if they needed warm bodies. More disturbing, however, is the ludicrously huge technology advantage that the Legion had over the heroes – they had mind-control devices, time machines, matter transporters…EVERYTHING. They could make TRILLIONS of dollars selling this crap to the highest bidder and just BUY the world.

And on the side of good, the SuperFriends!

- Superman (Man of Steel, alternates in the show between being able to move planets with a shrug and being unable to escape a force field)
- Batman (Total pansy reduced to letting computers do his detective work in these shows who basically serves no purpose in a field of super-powers)
- Wonder Woman (Token chick, presumably there to clean the kitchen and turn tricks to support the cost of the Hall of Justice. Sometimes uses her magic lasso to do rodeo tricks for the guys)
- Flash (Fastest man on earth. Ouch. Bet Wonder Woman gave him that nickname)
- Green Lantern (Much like Superman, alternates between moving the Earth with a thought and shrieking “Oh no, it’s YELLOW” like a little girl. Bed-wetting issues, perhaps?)
- Aquaman (King of the seas. Talks to fish. Must be lonely down there or something. Peter David saved his career in the 90s)
- Hawkman (He can fly. Big whoop, so can Superman)
- Robin (Batman’s gay lover, as voiced by Casey Kasem. Sidekicks should never be in the main team)
- Apache Chief (An invention of the show’s writers, he’s a native American who grows really big on command. I hear he left to do porn)
- Samurai (A Japanese dude who creates tornadoes with his body. Damn Japanese, stealing work from the Red Tornado)
- Black Vulcan (Based loosely on Black Lightning from the comics, he’s black and he shoots lightning. Not to be confused to Tuvok, a black Vulcan)

Armed with the knowledge of the protagonists, it’s time for the Challenge of the SuperFriends!

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- “Wanted: The SuperFriends”. The debut for the 16-episode run sees Luthor calling a meeting of the Legion of Doom and introducing everyone. Everyone gets to demonstrate their powers, except for Brainiac, who presumably does 1500 crossword puzzles in his 2-second allotted time using his super-brain. Before they can even get to the super-villain kegger or a gang-bang of Giganta, they have to complete Luthor’s first super-scheme. He has a dream machine, with which he can hypnotize the SuperFriends into doing his bidding while they dream. We have to take it on faith that this thing can not only control their minds, but can locate the specific people anywhere in the world, even in their unshakeable disguises, like Clark Kent. They all dutifully steal the world’s loot and wake up to find it stashed in the Hall of Justice, and when the police come calling, they decide to turn themselves in. Good enough so far. However, when the scene changes, we clearly see a sign marked “POLICE HEADQUARTERS”, so of course we need the narrator to add “Meanwhile, at police headquarters”. Anyway, our heroes get locked in a ceremonial cell by the cops, even though they can break out whenever they want, but it’s a SWERVE! Turns out that the “police” are Bizarro and Cheetah under masks (although how someone could still wear Cheetah-ears under a rubber mask and not be discovered as a fake is beyond me) and they’ve got a mind-control device that freezes the SuperFriends in place! You know they’re frozen in place because someone stops to say “I can’t move! They must be using some kind of mind-control device!” Apparently it freezes everything but the mouth. You’d think a device like that, whereby the poor saps would bore each other to death with years of mindless exposition, would be evil enough, but it gets worse, as Bizarro launches the cage into space, on a collision course with the sun. Now I know what you’re thinking here –

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn’t sending it into space be enough, what with the total vacuum instantly killing them and all? NO! You obviously don’t understand the devious mind of the super-villain. Using only solid fuel rockets, the cage is sent from Earth to the sun in a little under 2 minutes, making me think that the Legion of Doom should just sell the formula for whatever they’re using to power this thing and they could make billions on the stock market. Once into space, Wonder Woman uses the power of telepathy to command her lasso to move the rockets and send them into a collision course with a comet, which shatters the mind-control device. Superman warns her of the pinpoint precision needed to avoid being destroyed by the comet. They’re flying through space in a cage without suffocating to death and he’s worried about the COMET killing them? Further, if pinpoint precision is the order of the day, I’d say that using a telepathically-controlled magic lasso wouldn’t be my first choice of precision instruments. But naturally they make it back to Earth, where the Legion of Doom has hatched an even MORE insidious scheme – using a mind-control ray to transform everyone on Earth into Bizarro and Cheetah. Complete with little cheetah ears, that’s the really impressive bit. An evil Bizarro street cleaner tries to run Superman over with what appears to be a giant car-buffing machine, as I wonder what exactly the threat here is supposed to be. I mean, sure Kryptonite got pretty clichй after a while, but aside from a slightly cleaner uniform, I don’t really see the need to even stop this guy. Maybe after being transformed into a Bizarro, he went on a street-cleaning rampage that we missed due to time constraints, where he wantonly removed debris from the streets without consideration for the bums who might have living in the garbage piles. These are the questions I’m left thinking about. The heroes return to the Hall of Justice, all dressed as Bizarro or Cheetah depending on gender (I guess there’s a costume-rental place around the corner), and get into the climactic battle with the Legion, which they win handily. The highlight is Batman trapping Bizarro inside a big inflatable plastic bubble, from which he can’t escape. A GIANT PLASTIC BUBBLE. See kids, Saran Wrap CAN be dangerous. The Legion of Doom escapes and the SuperFriends face no repercussions from all the countries they looted, because the UN are just a bunch of understanding guys, even the Middle Eastern ones. Gets you right there.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- “Attack of the Fearians”. Even the title of this one is stupid. It seems that Luthor has contacted the Fearians, who have three heads and live on Venus, about a plan for conquering the Earth. All the LOD has to do is raise the temperate of the Earth, increase the humidity, and overrun it with vegetation, and then it’ll be just like Venus. I don’t even know where to start dissecting that sentence, so I’ll leave you to think it over yourself. Anyway, they discuss all this on an Earth-Venus conference call, which is pretty neat for 1978. Maybe they had like beta-version 1600 Gigahertz cordless phones or something. The Fearians promise to deal with the SuperFriends, assuming they keep their end of the bargain. So Captain Cold brings his giant freezing ray and starts traveling the globe, encasing entire cities in ice. Pretty soon the entire North American continent is like Edmonton in January. The Flash is there to foil him, however, so Cold drops a building on him. To show you the quality of dialogue we’re dealing with here, with a building about to fall on him Flash stops to say “I have to stop that building before it falls on me! I’ve only got a few seconds.” So he uses the wires supporting the Brooklyn Bridge to hold the building up. This of course would probably collapse the bridge and kill everyone stuck on it, but Flash IS all about the instant gratification. Flash runs really fast to melt all the ice, sending steam into the atmosphere. Next up, Black Manta is setting the ocean on fire. The writers, god bless them, don’t actually stop to ask how the fuck you set a giant mass of water ON FIRE, but just take it on faith that it’s happening and by god Aquaman is the guy to stop it. The implication is that it’s happening in the Pacific, which is weird because the Hall of Justice is on the East Coast and Aquaman (whose only power in the show is the ability to TALK TO FISH) gets there in about 20 seconds. Holy logic gaps Batman. His solution to the problem of course involves talking to fish, in this case telling them to cause a giant tidal wave to put out the flames. You’d think that the water that the fire was burning on to begin with might have done, but no. Sadly, Aquaman doesn’t think ahead and consider that causing tidal waves near populated areas might be bad, and soon the West Coast is being flooded. Finally, Sinestro creates six yellow comets and sends them towards the Earth, so Green Lantern heads out into space to foil him. At this point Robin suspects that there might be something going on. I guess Batman just keeps him around for his looks. One comet on a collision course with Earth would be enough to kill all life on the planet, so naturally six is just the right number for their purposes. Green Lantern averts this disaster by MOVING THE PLANET, which is pretty much impossible in both the real world and the comic-book world, and the comets fly by harmlessly. However, now the damage is done, and the steam from Flash has increased the humidity (although in reality the whole Flash-Cold exchange breaks all the laws of thermodynamics), while the floods have caused vegetation to spontaneously grow all over the planet. And now Earth is just like Venus. Where, presumably, there’s lots of plant life. Yup. So the Fearians “invade” (although it’s only actually one Fearian) and to deal with the SuperFriends, they encase them in a big bubble. Well, geez, BATMAN could have done THAT. The SuperFriends quickly trick the Fearians into letting them out again, repel their attack, and then clean up on the Legion of Doom to save the day. Damn Venutians, I never liked that planet anyway.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- “The World’s Deadliest Game”. No, not Australian Rules Football. The Legion of Doom have a new scheme so devious that it would make a snake envious, and the writers were obviously on some REALLY good shit when they wrote this one. The plan is threefold: First of all, Brainiac will use a cloaking device to make the entire planet appear invisible from space. Oh, wait, it gets better. The victims of this scam are Black Vulcan, Hawkman and Wonder Woman, all of whom are hanging around in space fixing a ship for NASA (You know it’s space because Wonder Woman has a bubble over her head to protect her) and suddenly realize that the Earth has disappeared. Toyman sends them a fake distress call from “Sector 751”, which is apparently trillions of light-years away, and so they go there. Just like that. The narrator helpfully compresses the necessary millennia that it would take to fly there by noting that “Later, trillions of miles away…” and we’re there. Neat trick. Once there, they discover that there’s nothing there. Presumably they can arrive at an endlessly vast region of space, take a look around, and deduce that there’s nothing there. Ah, well, except for the black hole, which sucks them in (Racism! Racism!) and where they find a planet constructed by Toyman within. Now, sometimes you just have to go on faith and assume that Toyman, a C-level Superman villain at best, would be able to not only construct an entire planet, but somehow situate it in the middle of a black hole. Really, if you can accept the planet, you can accept the black hole without much more of a leap of faith. Back on Earth, the Riddler jerks around the others by giving clues that lead them into traps, from which they narrowly escape. One classic moment has them trapped in a mine in the Grand Canyon, with Superman barely holding up the ceiling while everyone else stands around going “Just hang on a bit longer, Superman!” With friends like that, who needs arch-enemies? The next clue has Riddler telling them to tighten their belt, from which Batman makes the logical assumption that he wants them to go to the constellation of Orion’s Belt, which is a mere hop skip and a jump away from Earth. Back on the deadly planet of toys, our heroes get stuck in a giant game of space pinball and then fight a 50-foot tall mechanical baby. I’ve gotta try whatever they were drinking when they thought this one up. The last clue for the others is “Follow your noses or get left in the dark”, from which Batman deduces that they have to fly into a black hole to find them. He is truly the World’s Greatest Detective. So they do, and Superman and Green Lantern combine forces to extricate the helpless Wonder Woman and her group from the collapsing black hole, just in time to stop the Legion of Doom from blackmailing the entire world out of billions of dollars. Brainiac does get one witty line, when he tells an incoming jet that it’s cleared to land as long as it’s carrying $10 million in cash. But then androids do have a dry wit.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- The Time Trap. The DVD wraps up with the first time-travel story of many in the series, as Grodd builds a time machine that can take you pretty much anywhere. Their plan: Steal the world’s treasures before they become treasures. So first up, Black Manta & Giganta lure Aquaman & Apache Chief out to the middle of the ocean and then take them back to 70,000,000 BC when water dinosaurs ruled the earth. Then, Sinestro & Captain Cold lure Green Lantern & Samurai back to 500 AD, when Arthur was King of Camelot (although Arthur didn’t exist and there was no Camelot, but bear with me here) and finally Batman & Robin chase Grodd & Grundy back to ancient Rome, where everyone speaks English. All the heroes get stuck there while the villains escape and plot a looting of the gold rush. Luckily, Aquaman’s radio has a battery with a life of 100 million years (wouldn’t keeping nuclear material with that kind of half-life in your POCKET sterilize you pretty quick? At the very least, he should have cancer) and he buries it under the future site of the Hall of Justice with a timed alarm that will go off in exactly 70,000,000 years (plus 1978 and 252 days). Good thing they went back EXACTLY to 70,000,000 BC, otherwise the math alone would take them another 10 years to figure out. Superman finds the radio, realizes the dilemma with the help of carbon dating (apparently carbon-14 dating can tell you the exact year dirt was left on a radio – you learn something new every day) and just kinda flies back in time to save everyone using the most bizarre leaps of logic I’ve ever heard. This is course leads more observant viewers to wonder “Well, if Bizarro has all of Superman’s powers, why doesn’t he just do that same thing?” but then that’s ruining all the fun. The SuperFriends regroup at Sutter’s Mill in the 1800s, foil the Legion of Doom, and once again the villains escape in the nick of time.

Overall, my cynical nature aside, this is perfectly fun campy entertainment that pre-teens and comic book geeks will LOVE, packed with nostalgia value for Gen-Xers. I kid because I love, remember that. It doesn’t hold up as a story these days, but it was always intended to be mass-produced advertising for the comics, more or less, and that’s all it aspires to be.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel like this should be "The Review of DOOM!" in keeping with the spirit of the show's titles.

The Smark DVD Rant for Challenge of the Superfriends Volume 2: United They Stand!

- Yes, to quote Richard Marx, I don’t know why I keep coming back. In fact, it’s probably due to a masochistic streak, the same kind that allows me to quote Richard Marx in a cartoon review WITHOUT A HINT OF IRONY.

So yeah, I was browsing Future Shop today, and caught completely unawares, I discovered that Warner had released another wave of their ever-so-slowly proceeding run of classic superhero animation. So I picked up Batman volume 3, and this one. Honestly, I’d do the Batman reviews instead, but they’re actually good and I’m apparently at my best when I’m tormented by unstoppable waves of crap. It’s a curse and a blessing.

You young whippersnappers don’t how good you have it with quality cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League these days. Back in MY day, we had mass-produced crap shoveled onto our plates every Saturday morning and we LIKED IT THAT WAY, consarnit! Continuity in the animation and well-thought out storylines? BALDERDASH! Give me cheaply-produced Korean animation with Superman’s “S” drawn 16 different ways in the same show any day!

But seriously…

This disc covers episodes 5-8 of the 1978 SuperFriends series (with 16 in total, Warner can again go to hell and die for not just doing a two-disc set of the whole series and being done with it), and things actually improve a bit story-wise over the first four eps. For those who are new to the game or not part of Generation X in general, Challenge of the SuperFriends featured 8 of the big DC heroes teamed with 3 ethnic creations of the writers, opposing 13 of the supposed baddest villains in the DC universe. For the silly roll call of members, you can check out my review of volume 1. For now, let’s jump right into the action…

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Trial of the SuperFriends!” Scientists have discovered the most powerful source of energy on Earth, “liquid light”, which is harnessed from the sun’s photons and turns into something resembling bright yellow lava. It’s apparently so destructive that it can eat through anything on the planet. Except of course for the container that’s holding it. Anyway, this is apparently something that the Legion of Doom might wish to use for evil purposes, so Batman & Robin, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern are all assigned to guard it. Good enough, but what if it gets loose? It’s liquid sunlight. Sunlight is YELLOW. What is Green Lantern going to do, cheerlead? Well, as you might expect, the LOD sends the best and the brightest (well, maybe the best) in the form of Cheetah, Sinestro and Scarecrow (okay, maybe not the BEST per se, either) to do their dirty work. Ah, but they don’t just want to steal the liquid light, they have zanier schemes up their sleeves. Specifically, through cunning and guile, the villains manage to steal the “power weapons” of the foursome. Cheetah tricks Wonder Woman into roping a dummy robot, which puts the magic lasso in Cheetah’s hands. Sinestro uses what looks like a vacuum cleaner to suck the ring off Green Lantern’s hand. And Scarecrow uses birds to steal the utility belts from Batman & Robin. Immediate internal logic problem here – Green Lantern doesn’t need to be in contact with his ring to use it. Or at least Hal Jordan didn’t, I don’t know if they’ve changed the rules since Captain Dumbshit took over the job in the 90s. Not only that, but it would become useless to whoever stole it after 24 hours anyway. But I digress. So anyway, as far as the viewer is concerned, our heroes are now powerless. Well, okay, really it comes down to Wonder Woman missing a piece of rope and Batman being under-accessorized, but Green Lantern is pretty fucked, yo. And then it’s just like Law & Order (without the good acting, plot, characterization, ripped from the headlines stories, Lenny Briscoe and Dick Wolf) as Lex Luthor (complete with purple and green judge’s robes, just in case such an occasion arose) charges the powerless heroes with aggravated do-gooding and condemns them to death. Again, I should stress that Wonder Woman still has all her powers – you know, super-strength, speed, flight, etc – and Batman could probably take half these losers with his bare hands. But the sake of plot advancement, they submit to the trial and get transported to remove parts of the Earth to fight androids who look like them and are equipped with their weapons.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now again, not to be a huge comic geek here, but the Green Lantern rings are dependent on the willpower of the wearer, and androids don’t have will. They actually do think of this by suggesting that Toyman has somehow used computers to simulate telepathy and willpower, but really if that was the case, what kind of android would then want to spend his life dressed like Green Lantern on the off-chance that they capture him? I mean, just think about what you’re doing to the psyche of that android – you build the thing, give him simulated willpower, dress him like Hal Jordan, and then leave him in storage for what could be years while you wait for a plan to capture him, and then when you release him it’s solely for the purpose of destroying the one person who you’ve been programmed to emulate. I’d rebel and kill all the bastards, personally. Anyway, unfortunately the androids are also total idiots, as they use completely ineffective methods to hunt down the “powerless” Superfriends. The Evil Green Lantern, for instance, armed with the most powerful weapon in the universe, is unable to catch Hal Jordan, on foot mind you, and then stupidly announces his strategy, giving Hal a chance to hide behind a yellow sign and thus watch the energy beam bounce back and hit the android. And don’t even get me started on Batman carrying an invisibility projector around on his utility belt, just in case it ever gets stolen and they’re trapped in a giant spider web. Meanwhile, while our heroes get their trinkets back, the Legion attacks the research facility and unleashes liquid light on a nearby town, and the remaining SuperFriends spring into action to save the people. Amazingly, everyone in the town manages to get away from the deadly liquid with no advance notice, allowing Flash to run in circles (why does every solution for Flash come down to him running in circles?) and suck the stuff into the atmosphere where it falls as “harmless shooting stars”. Well, that’s a pretty iffy theory, there, Flash. Shouldn’t you maybe test the idea before you launch 20 tons of the most awful substance in the universe into the air we’re breathing? And what’s the guarantee that it’s all gonna be “harmless shooting stars”? What if a big glob of the stuff lands on someone’s HOUSE and kills their dog, pal? You know what, I’m GLAD you’re dead, you heartless jerk. I’m getting too worked up here, let’s move onto the next episode…

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Monolith of EVIL!” I love those titles. You know this one’s doomed from the start, because the brilliant plan comes from Solomon Grundy. You know, the big albino zombie who talks like Forrest Gump? Anyway, we get a quick retelling of his secret origin (he was lying dead in the swamp and something woke him up – hey, I said it was quick) and from this he concludes that there’s an evil monolith at the center of the earth, which powers all the lesser evils in the world. So that explains HHH. So of course they set the controls on the Hall of Doom for “down” and tunnel right into the center of the earth. Now, since I’m the kind of guy to believe what Hollywood tells me, I’m gonna have to defer to “The Core” as far as scientific theory on going to the center of the earth goes and assume that the Hall of Doom probably couldn’t make the trip itself. So anyway, they drill down to the center of the earth in record time (but then this is the same show where people travel “trillions of miles” via a segue from the narrator), and amazingly it’s not only cool enough to survive, but there’s even breathable oxygen down there! In fact, the atmosphere is hospitable enough to not only prevent instant death, but it actually supports a huge dragon, which lives in the lava. Forget the monolith, they should capture that thing and have Steve Irwin fight it on PPV. They’d make billions. So anyway, they venture into a cave and find the monolith, which is guarded by the requisite giant lava monster. Grundy can’t get past it, and so concludes that they’re gonna need Superman to beat the monster. Um, hello, you’ve got BIZARRO, with all the same powers as Superman, right back on the ship, dude. Not to mention Sinestro, equally powerful. Or Giganta, who can grow as big as the giant lava monster. No wonder these guys get beaten every time – they not only give up on the first try, but don’t even stop to think about the easy way to do things. No fear, though, Riddler already has the perfect set of devious riddles to lure Superman to the center of the earth and get the monolith for them. He must shop at Hallmark in the “Lure Superman to the Center of the Earth” section. The devious plan involves Luthor & Brainiac shrinking the entire United Nations building and taking it hostage, and truly the loss of that institution would be a crushing blow to world peace. Heck, without the UN around, someone like George W. would be able to just go invade whoever he wanted, without sanction! Oh, wait. Anyway, don’t worry, it turns out to be a clever trick (although they’re clever enough to disguise the monolith as a shrunken UN building to trick Superman into getting it for them, but not enough to figure out that Bizarro could have handled it in the first place), as Superman, Hawkman and Black Vulcan fly to the center of the earth (based on a Riddler clue about going down in the swamp…sounds more like a kinky evening with Dr. Alec Holland) and inadvertently deliver the monolith into the hands of Grodd and the Legion of Doom. To make sure they don’t escape, they attach a kryptonite ball-and-chain to Superman’s foot. Just to get off on a quick rant here, one of the main problems with comics in the 70s in general was that there was kryptonite EVERYWHERE. I mean, it’s bad enough that you could find chunks big enough to form a ball-and-chain out of the stuff, but besides regular green you had red (unpredictable effects), gold (permanent loss of powers), blue (only works on Bizarro), white (only works on plants) and the lamest of them all, jewel (releases criminals from the Phantom Zone).

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It became such a running joke within the medium that at one point, a writer had all the stuff floating around the earth collected in a story, and there was enough to reform the entire planet of Krypton for the millions of survivors of the total destruction of the planet. So basically the planet blew up, all the fragments went in the direction of Earth at the same rate, and pretty much everyone on the entire planet survived except for Jor-El and Lara. As planetary disasters go, I’ve seen worse. Anyway, back to our thrilling story, as the only thing that can break the chain is a nuclear laser, which they of course don’t have. You’d think that, being in the hottest point in the entire planet, they might just try dipping the thing in the molten lava, but that would kill the drama somewhat. Now, another group of you might be thinking to yourself “Wait a second, if you need a nuclear laser to cut kryptonite, how did they make that ball-and-chain?” The obvious answer is, of course, with a nuclear laser, and then you’d ask “What the hell kind of accountant do they have if they’re wasting millions on lasers and kryptonite balls-and-chains?” and really I can’t answer that one. I’m just the reviewer. Now where was I? Oh yeah, the monolith wreaks havoc in the hands of the Legion, including extinguishing the sun. Yes, THE SUN. Now certainly sending a beam of energy from the Earth to the Sun in a little under 2 seconds and having it be powerful enough to snuff out an entire star is bad enough so we’ll let it lie without getting into the permanent ecological damage that would result from the sun being out for even 10 minutes. Not to mention that the Earth would go spinning off into the void. We’ll get back to that in a minute. Meanwhile, Flash and Green Lantern mount a rescue effort into the center of the earth, as GL just happens to know how to make a nuclear laser with his ring (I know, it’s creative license, but he would NEVER be able to make something that specific without detailed knowledge of the mechanisms) and cut Superman free, while Flash vibrates to prevent them from turning to stone from being down there so long. Don’t ask. So with everyone free and ready to kick ass again, once again the Hall of Justice’s computers do the thinking for them, playing deus ex machina (rather apropos, being that it’s a machine and all) and informing them that the monolith isn’t evil, it’s just a source of power like any other. Great, a nature v. nurture argument written into a superhero cartoon, just what I needed. So anyway, Wonder Woman suddenly decides that she can telepathically control the monolith, and she restores the sun. Now, let’s stop and think about this – the earth is spinning at about 1000 miles an hour, so being generous and estimating that the sun was out for an hour and not even getting into the rotation rates and orbits of the other celestial bodies in the solar system, that means that the monolith not only has to have the power to recreate an entire star, but bend the energy beam in space and locate the exact spot would the sun would be had it continued burning an hour before. And what if the thing’s calculations were off by a few degrees? You could kill everyone on the planet! Although actually, a few episodes down the line that DOES happen, sort of. Anyway, the Legion gets away, and the SuperFriends vow to catch them again. Hey, here’s an idea – CHASE AFTER THEM.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- “The Giants of DOOM!” Have I mentioned how much I love these titles? This one is like the Citizen Kane of idiotic superhero cartoon plots. Okay, first flaw – Bizarro has a plan and the others LISTEN TO HIM. This is the guy who’s so stupid that he can’t grasp the proper use of first-person pronouns, and they’re gonna put the fate of the Legion of Doom in his hands? So here’s his plan – he knows the secret formula to make people into 100-foot tall giants, and thus they can conquer the world! I know, I know, there’s a logic gap there. Giganta is the first one to point it out, as she rightly states that she can already make herself 50 feet tall. Ah, but Bizarro counters, they’ll be a HUNDRED feet tall. You can’t argue with logic like that. But hey, stupidity aside, the rest of the gang is always up for the looting, pillaging and irritating the SuperFriends required to get the rest of the formula, so off they go. First up, the moon, as one half of the needed ingredients is located at the center of it. Now, you might be asking, if it’s located at the center of the moon, how does he know that it’s there, since it’s in the center of the moon and not easily accessible by chemical surveyors and all? Again, I’m just the reviewer. So not being part of the school of thought that does things the easy way, Sinestro decides to slice the entire moon in half. 10 points for style, minus several million for common sense. Just to add pointless dramatic tension, it turns out that there’s a moonbase, and it just happens to be located exactly where Sinestro is sawing through the moon like a giant apple. So the SuperFriends are called, and when you think “Mission in space”, you of course think “Batman & Superman”. Sure, Superman is a given, but BATMAN? Not only that, but Batman just happens to have a “Bat-Rocket” that is capable of making the trip from the Earth to the moon in what appears to be 1.5 minutes. The villains get the first element, and Superman is left to weld the moon back together with his heat vision while Batman fools around with Robin. And how does THAT work? The welding, I mean, not the unstated gay relationship. I mean at the least Superman should use a planetary vise grip to make sure the pieces don’t slip around. Maybe Batman, too, but really I don’t wanna know. I bet Galactus has one laying around the garage. Sinestro & Bizarro are captured, but presumably hide the element in their jockstrap or something. Next up, Captain Cold & Toyman head to Greece and freeze the Parthenon to get the second element, but they too are captured, and soon all four evildoers are left inside the Hall of Justice in a flimsy energy cell. The Hall of Doom makes a daring raid on the Hall of Justice (it can fly, you see), and in a burst of tactical brilliance that would probably make the entire French army stand up and applaud, Superman decides that the ENTIRE JUSTICE LEAGUE should go deal with the flying Hall of Doom, leaving Green Lantern alone to guard the four villains, one of whom is the only person in the universe with the ring that can counteract Green Lantern’s sole means of protecting himself. Amazingly, the villains escape. And hijack the computer to create their growth ray, leaving us with 100-foot tall Bizarro, Sinestro, Captain Cold and Toyman. Cold freezes the entire team into a giant ice-bullet, and Toyman launches it with a slingshot into space, where it lands on Saturn.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That’s a pretty accurate slingshot. I won’t even bore you with talking about how the block of ice would burn up upon leaving the atmosphere and then again when it lands on Saturn, because something even stupider occurs later. So the villains go on a rampage – Bizarro attacks Washington and claims it for himself, Sinestro takes China (and if you thought the French were pathetic, the Chinese government surrenders on behalf of the billions of people in the country just because Sinestro creates a giant tiger with his ring), Toyman takes Britain and Captain Cold takes Egypt. Now, here’s where I got taken out of the story a little bit. In order to hold up the country for ransom, he uses his giant ice-gun to freeze the entire desert, which then prompts the leaders to pay him millions to unfreeze it. So let me get this straight – he dumps, say, 3 million liters of water onto an arid desert area covering a huge chunk of the earth, thus enabling food and water for those who have never had it before, and he’s a BAD GUY? And they’re gonna pay him billions of dollars to CHANGE IT BACK? And then, as we’re on Saturn with the frozen Justice League, Batman’s utility belt activates a heater that melts the ice and releases them all. That’s not the dumb part. Well, it is, but there’s a dumber part. Which is this – he notes that it was lucky he had that device, “for just such an occasion”. Just such an occasion? Getting frozen in a giant ice-suppository and deposited on Saturn? So you mean to tell me that if they had landed on, say, Jupiter, they would have been fucked? So then Flash justifies his pay by creating a giant tornado to propel them back to Earth (see, running in circles, that’s his whole job with the group), but I say “what the fuck?” to that, too. And not because of the totally retarded notion of riding a tornado through space, that’s just par for the course with this show. No, I say, what about Samurai? It’s not bad enough that he’s there on the Equal Opportunity Superhero program, but what’s basically his ONLY SUPERPOWER? That’s right – creating tornadoes! He should sue the fuckers for stealing his job! So anyway, back on Earth, they discover the Hall of Justice in a shambles and the giant Doomers running amok on the Earth, but aha, they’ve left small portions behind and thus they can create their OWN growth ray. So Superman, Batman, Flash and Green Lantern all grow to 100 feet tall…wait a minute. Again, I must stand up for the rights of minority superheroes, as Apache Chief, hired under the Minority Superhero Act of 1977, is RIGHT THERE with powers perfectly suited to fighting this menace, and do any of the white SuperFriends stop and say “Hey, Chief, there’s some 100-foot dudes terrorizing the earth, you up for growing that big?” No way, man. They probably just assume he’s drunk in an alley or doing his rain dance ceremony somewhere. What’s next, sending Black Vulcan off to sweep the back room and fix the Batmobile? So the climactic battles last about 10 seconds, good triumphs again, but AT WHAT COST? Remember, their mission is to fight injustice, but apparently not RACISM.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- “Secret Origins of the SuperFriends” Time travel stories give me a headache. And here’s another one. This is also more of an excuse to see the origins of the three big members of the group, but that’s okay. The ingenious scheme this time around: In order to stop the heroics of the SuperFriends in the present, Luthor decides to travel back in time and prevent them from being created in the first place. Luckily, the Hall of Doom has a “Time Travel” pedal right next to the gas and brake, and off they zoom back in time to change things around. First stop – Paradise Island in the 1940s, as Cheetah takes the place of Diana in the contest of the gods and becomes Wonder Woman by CHEATING TO WIN. Next, they head to California in the 60s and Luthor coaxes Hal Jordan out of the flight simulator before Abin Sur can summon him to be the next Green Lantern, and Luthor ends up getting the ring. Finally, off to Krypton, as they deflect little Kal-El’s rocket away from Earth and send him towards a red sun instead of ours. So back in the present, suddenly no one remembers Wonder Woman, Green Lantern or Superman. This effectively leaves the SuperFriends crippled, and the Legion of Doom attacks and captures them. This, I should note, was actually a pretty smartly-executed idea and story, which is why I’m sparing it the same treatment as the others. Anyway, the sole bit of silliness is when the narrator notes that the remaining SuperFriends travel back in time “in their own ways”, never really specified (like, I’m sure Black Vulcan can just wrap himself in lightning and go back in time), and of course reverse the damage done by using the records in the Hall of Doom’s computers. The time travel stuff is, while incredibly stupid, at least internally logical, so I can overlook it because this was otherwise a good episode.

Overall, more extremely campy superhero silliness aimed at young’uns, who will eat it up with a spoon, I guarantee. For us Gen-Xer’s, though, it sure doesn’t age well. Oh well, no one ever said nostalgia is pretty.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The SmarK DVD Rant for SuperFriends: Volume 2

- OK, this is kind of messed up on Warner’s part, because the ”original” volume was called ”Challenge of the SuperFriends – The Complete First Season”. This is an entirely DIFFERENT series, with a different cast of characters, that ran concurrently to COTS in 1977, and thus isn’t the second volume of anything. What is the difference, you’re probably asking? Well, whereas the Challenge series featured a much larger cast of characters, as well as a full compliment of licensed DC villains to boot, SuperFriends featured only 5 (count'em, five) heroes, plus uber-useless Zan and Jayna, plus only one DC villain.

Now, the really dorky (sorry, did I say dorky, I meant nostalgic) amongst you are already wondering what happened to the ORIGINAL original SuperFriends series, featuring Wendy and Marvin. And Warner would rather ignore those episodes, I’m thinking, because I’d be shocked if they’re ever released. Plus then their numbering system would go right out of the window.

This is actually not the best-remembered (and reviewed) SuperFriends series, to say the least, as the far superior ”World’s Greatest SuperFriends” series followed this one a few years later, and featured the more ”classic” lineup seen in ”Challenge of the SuperFriends” previously.

OK, enough of that, on with the review.

Gathered from the cosmic reaches of the universe…

As mentioned, the lineup for this series is a lot more stripped-down than the Challenge lineup, and in fact two of the members are pretty much superfluous. This time around we’ve got…

- Superman. A must for any DC super-team, he could probably handle all emergencies alone, but sometimes circumstances dictate someone with a bit more savoir faire…

- Batman. Although in his lame 60s incarnation in these cartoons, by the 70s in the comics he was well on is way to being all dark and grumpy again, and thus is the coolest member by far.

- Wonder Woman. She has a jet, so she’s good for transportation if the guys go out and get drunk, plus she can color-coordinate the Hall of Justice.

- Aquaman. He’s the Greg Louganis of the superhero world, except that he’s not gay. Talks to fish, perhaps because he’s so dull that no other team members will talk to him. No other powers demonstrated in the show, although he can fly in the intro. These days he’s a lot grumpier and cooler, and is lacking a hand. In fact, to this day I don’t get why Aquaman was even included as a ”major” hero, when he never was in the comics. He’s the only one of the bunch with no Golden Age predecessor, unless you count how blatantly they ripped off Sub-Mariner when they created him.

- Robin. Serves no purpose in the show except to make the occasional ”witty” one-liner. Seriously, he’s written to be totally useless and does nothing to advance the narrative in any of the episodes. The show would be 150% better if they ditched Aquaman and Robin and brought in the Big Two of the superhero midcard: Flash and Green Lantern.

- The Wonder Twins. OK, so the thinking here was that the kiddies needed someone to ”identify” with while watching the show, which is patently ridiculous because everyone with half a brain knows that kids watch these shows to pretend that they’re Superman, not Zan the Cocksmoker. Created only for the show and then thankfully forgotten about soon after, the idea is that they’re a pair of fraternal twins from the planet Exxor who can transform themselves into any combination of animal and liquid when they touch hands. This leads one to wonder if it works with any body part, because they’re obviously well past puberty and still sleep in the same bedroom in matching pajamas, so one can easily envision hearing ”WONDER TWIN POWERS ACTIVATE!” in a breathless scream late at night. And don’t even get me started on the fucking monkey.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- Rokan: Enemy from Space. The series kicks off with an invading space pterodactyl (and yet they didn’t want to bring in Luthor for this show), and Wonder Woman leaves the Twins in charge of the Hall of Justice. Turns out that the big bird is, in fact, a survivor of Krypton, like 15% of the population of DC’s comics during the 70s. In fact, the bird isn’t even the ONLY survivor of Krypton to show up in this series! Thus, the bird has the powers of Superman. So the League retreats like cowards and ask for the Justice League computer’s help. Uh, gee, survivor of Krypton, I wonder how we can defeat him? Duuuuuuuuuuh. If you haven’t already made the mental leap and figured out the obvious weakness of the bird, then you’re not only the wrong audience for this disc, but you’re exactly the IQ demographic that they were aiming for in the first place. And shockingly, the computer can’t figure it out either, because otherwise the episode would only be 5 minutes long. Meanwhile, in the ”mountains of Canada”, eggs start hatching, leading me to wonder who knocked up the bird? Superman? Galactus? The useless Aquaman finds a huge underwater nest and calls the Wonder Twins for help, and that’s the blind leading the blind if there ever was a case of it, and instead of forwarding his call onto someone useful, they even manage to screw that up and go to help by themselves. The first forms of the series: A seagull and an ”ice gondola”. A SEAGULL?! So of course they get kidnapped (#1) for the first time in the series, and everyone should take a drink every time that happens. Take another drink, by the way, every time someone says ”I’ve only got one chance…” and then concocts some ridiculous split-second plan to save themselves from certain doom. Anyway, Superman bails the Twins out, and the SuperFriends FINALLY figure out, without help from the computer, that indeed Kryptonite can kill the beast. This is like 18 minutes into the show, by the way, about 17.5 minutes after the entire audience has likely reached the same conclusion. The computer does however earn its pay by pointing out that the 3 million tons of the stuff needed to get rid of the birds will probably kill Superman. But the needs of the many, etc etc. This leads to the saddest part of the show, as Wonder Woman flies into space to find Kryptonite, and Aquaman tags along with her, perhaps because the invisible 8-track player was broken and she needed someone to talk to. So the giant chunks of Green K chase the Rokan family away, Superman is okay, and Zan is still gay.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- The Demons of Exxor. The very evil Lord Darkon invades the planet of Exxor, home of Zan and Jayna and oil. Oh, no, that’s Exxon. Indeed, a whole planet of purple-suited wankers is a prime target for genocide, so I can’t blame him for trying what we’re all thinking. With all the SuperFriends off doing moderately important stuff, like playing World of Warcraft or rescuing cats from trees, Exxor is thus left with no choice but to scrape the bottom of the superhero barrel and let the Twins help them. So it’s a serpent and an ice giant to the rescue. They fight a one-eyed monster and Zen is helpless against it, but you knew that. Lord Darkon, sounding like Dr. Evil, kidnaps them (#2) because that’s their only purpose on the show. The SuperFriends, having probably stopped at the bar for a drink first, swoop in to save them. Darkon and clone troopers are a VERY thinly veiled copy of a certain other helmeted evil lord and his army of troopers, featured in a movie that came out around the same time. Except that Darkon probably didn’t scream ”NOOOOOOOOOOO!” like a little girl at any point. Darkon threatens to blow up Exxor unless the SuperFriends take off (sound familiar?), so they do. Meanwhile, he marches more Exxorians to the death camps. Very subtle imagery here. Batman tries a commando attack on Darkon’s ship (he’s wearing a bubble on his head, so you know he’s well protected against the vacuum of space), but fails, while the others clean the inept troopers off Exxor. Batman uses a corny trick to break himself and the Twins free (these guys conquered a GALAXY and they’re falling for ”Help, he’s sick!”?) and our heroes finish mopping up the oh-so-fearsome invaders without breaking a sweat.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- Battle at the Earth’s Core. The WonderTwins get into trouble again, those scamps, getting sucked into a giant whirlpool while at sea. So they need to be rescued again (#3). So the whirlpool takes them, and the SuperFriends, into the Earth’s core. I loooooove when the writers move the action to the Earth’s core, as they often do, because they can’t even get their own continuity straight and it’s a new adventure each time. It seems that this time around, tar creatures live down there, and dinosaurs. I love dinosaurs. What would a SuperFriends episode be without someone fighting a dinosaur? The Twins choose ”ice sled and polar bear” to escape from the tar creatures, but don’t get far, because, you know, they’re fucking idiots. I pity any child so stupid that he watches this show and relates to the Wonder Twins. Stick with Batman, kids. Superman & Wonder Woman find the lost city of Atlantis, and keep in mind what I was saying about the writers being morons who don’t even keep track of their own continuity within the series, because I’ll bring it up again later. Meanwhile, Batman fights a giant jellyfish, and boy if it stings him he’ll need a LOT of pee to counteract that. In the end, Superman breaks stuff and everyone gets out safely, and I have no clue what the point of the episode was even supposed to be. But it’s an ending, and that’s enough sometimes.

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- Sinbad and the Space Pirates. Again I say, they didn’t want Lex Luthor, but SPACE PIRATES are supposed to give them a challenge? We begin with the ”space captain” Sinbad ordering his crew to ”drop space anchor” in a ship which is obviously not shielded against the vacuum of space. And I have no idea how a weightless anchor is supposed to slow you down in space, but it’s a SPACE anchor, so I’m sure the writers planned it out carefully. It seems that previous ”space pirates” have left various amounts of treasure buried on Earth and Sinbad wants it! Funny moment, as the ships lift Mexico City into the air to find the (shallowly buried) treasure, so a pair of Mexcian cops stop and declare in dramatic fahsion that they have to do something! So they get out of the car and one goes ”You there, stop” half-heartedly while shining his flashlight at the giant ship, and that’s the extent of their efforts. No wonder everyone has to call the SuperFriends. Superman and Wonder Woman charge in and get outsmarted, so they decide to split up. Oh, add another drink every time the SuperFriends split up and use it as a game plan. Two drinks if a previously-split subgroup further splits up. So they pursue the pirates to Easter Island, The Bermuda Triangle, and Stonehenge. Technical note: The pirates find thousands of tons of silver in the Triangle, because it’s ”highly magnetized”. Silver, however, cannot be magnetized, and thus it’s not attracted to magnets, and neither is gold. Try it yourself, kids! Anyway, I’ll let them slide on that one, because it allows me to stop thinking about how stupid ”hypnotic cannons” are. Another deep moment sees Sinbad launching the stones of Stonehenge at London, and Superman catches them in a dramatic moment. However, given the speed they were shown to be falling at, and the deserted street that Superman caught them in, I don’t see how they were supposed to cause damage. Wonder Woman mixes things up and gets kidnapped this time, and gets made into Wonder Wench, so the Wonder Twins get to rescue her for once…as a pelican and water. But they get kidnapped, of course (#4). Another funny moment sees Zan declaring that no one can possibly penetrate their disguise…while they’re carrying a purple SPACE MONKEY with them. So speaking of impenetrable disguises, Superman changes to Clark Kent and gets ”hypnotized”, snaps Wonder Woman out of it, and they clean house again. This was actually surprisingly entertaining if you can overlook how embarrassingly stupid it was.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- The Pied Piper from Space. Yes, it’s Children of the Corn meets Close Encounters. The narrator describes UFOs descending from space for an ”evil, yet unknown purpose”. Talk about judgmental. So the flying saucers use their crazy devil music to hypnotize the youth of the world, kind of like Constantine Maroulis, without the pouting. Boy, is THAT reference gonna be dated for people reading this later than 2007. So of course the Wonder Twins fall prey to it, because that’s what they do. We’ll call that #5 in the kidnapping count. It does, however, bring up the question of why teenaged Robin would be immune when clearly adult Wonder Twins fell victim. Chalk it up to Exxor physiology, I guess. So Superman and Wonder Woman are all ”Screw this” and go after the UFOs themselves, but get trapped in one that’s lined with ”Krypton steel”, whatever that’s supposed to mean. And you know it’s ”Krypton steel” because Superman says it about 100 times in a really grating voice. The physics of what and who became ”super” when leaving Krypton always struck me as weird, because you wouldn’t think that a piece of metal would somehow gain super-powers under the yellow sun, but there you have it. Anyway, the hypnotized Twins set the Hall of Justice on self-destruct, while Superman hurtles to his doom. However, despite only having a ”fraction of a second” to act, he not only has time to act, but to tell us that he only has a fraction of a second to do so. See, this is where a narrator can be USEFUL, instead of just saying stupid shit like ”Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice”. So everyone snaps out of it, as the kids of the world are taken to a slave mine planet. Zan and Jayna turn into a gorilla and an ice crowbar, but get kidnapped….again. (#6) And the SuperFriends chase after them and split up. This of course leads to the writers devising a deadly trap which can only be foiled by Aquaman talking to fish. So the SuperFriends invade the cosmic Reebok factory and discover that it was just a kid the whole time. Oh, the irony.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- Attack of the Vampire. Again, no Luthor, but Dracula is apparently fair game. It seems that he’s turning people into vampires, resulting in a jet landing with ”no passengers and no crew”. That’s quite the miraculous landing. And because this is a kid’s show, people are vampirized by eye-beams and magic dust, rather than the more traditional method. Batman and Robin head to Castle Dracula to investigate, and get kidnapped. Dracula continues a surprisingly effective plan of conquest, turning most of Europe into vampires, although sometimes it’s hard to tell, and even gets Superman! That results in a cool black-and-white variant on the costume. The Wonder Dorks decide to save him, and that goes about as well as you’d expect, despite being a woolly mammoth and water. So of course they too become vampires, and we’ll call it kidnapping #7. Things look REALLY bad for the remaining heroes, as they head to Switzerland to find a cure, which turns out to be a gas found in caves in South America. It’s ”just a theory”, but of course it works perfectly the instant Batman sprays it. Now immune, Superman kicks some Drac ass and banishes him to a dark room somewhere in the Hall of Justice. This was a pretty cool episode, actually, and even spawned a sequel in later years: The SuperFriends meet Frankenstein.

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- The Beasts are Coming. God, the Challenge titles were even better than this series. Anyway, it’s the old ”radioactive bugs” chestnut, as seemingly someone watched the movie ”Them” and wrote this episode as an homage. So yeah, a satellite crashes in the desert and releases deadly radioactive radioactivity of some sort, which instead of killing everything around it slowly, instead mutates it into giant creatures bent on havoc. So of course the solution is to split up. Superman gets giant earthworms, Aquaman gets a giant lobster (and can you guess what his plan of action is?) and Batman faces the terror of a giant snail. But luckily he has the … uh … Bat-Moisture-Absorber. I can’t believe I used to watch this show. Wonder Woman find the satellite, but it turns her into a giant killing machine. Well, that joke is just too easy. She does, however, look like Chyna after a bad bender. The Wonder Twits go after her, as a falcon and an ice swing, then try to attack as an ”ice blizzard” and a pterodactyl, but as usual prove worthless and get mutated themselves (#8). Man, even Wendy and Marvin had better luck then these two. So the SuperFriends decide to split up yet again. Superman keeps battling his new nemesis, the earthworms, while Batman gets the mutant monsters. I think they should have rethought that job assignment. So Superman bombards the satellite with x-ray vision, thus reversing the effects of the mutating radiation (I mean, duh, who wasn’t saying that from the beginning?) and everyone turns back to normal. This one made my brain hurt.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- Terror from the Phantom Zone. It’s the SuperFriends version of Superman II, as 3 Krypton baddies escape from the Phantom Zone and decide to exact some revenge on Superman. So they lure Big Blue to Italy by erupting a volcano, and then hit him with Red Kryptonite! The unpredictable effects this time prove to be super-aging, as he becomes older than Ric Flair. The super-crooks banish Aquaman and Wonder Woman into the Zone, as they wreak havoc on the world. Batman and Robin go next, as the bad guys continue whipping super-ass, and a laying a super-guilt trip on Superman, basically browbeating him and telling him that it’s all his fault. Man, this guys are Super-Assholes. The WonderTwins spring into action as a winged horse and an ice saddle, trap the baddies for about 2 seconds, and then screw up and head off to the Zone (#9). ”No, not them!” Superman protests. ”Yes, ESPECIALLY them!” retorts the villain. EVIL! Superman vows to fight them to the death, which is approaching quickly for him, but then runs away to the Hall of Justice. The computer figures out that Blue K can reverse Red K, and Superman is all ”Nigga, please”, but decides to give it a try anyway. Well, the theory IS sound — it’s Bizarro Kryptonite, so it should work the opposite. Sadly, it’s behind a giant asteroid field of deadly Green K, so Superman busts out the SUPERMOBILE. This is so awesome, showing the kind of attention to the comics that the series was lacking. Restored and all badass, Superman breaks the others out of the Zone, then uses the Red K on the villains, coldly watches them change into bizarre forms, and banishes them back to the Zone again. That’s the Superman we know and love. Best of the season, because it introduced a villain who was actually a CHALLENGE for Superman, put him into a truly impossible situation, and then played by the rules of its own continuity to allow him to believably escape.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- The Anti-Matter Monster. Bad things are afoot at a research plant, as a mysterious figure creates a monster out of a new energy source, and it naturally draws the SuperFriends into things. As they investigate the plant, the Twins find an important-looking computer tape on the floor, so rather than, say, TELL SOMEONE, they decide to steal it and try to figure it out themselves. Boy, that sends a great message to the kiddies out there. At the Alaskan pipeline, the energy creature channels oil into his crotch to steal the power. Uh….OK. Naturally, Aquaman shows up and talks to the fish to resolve the situation. Superman has to bail him out, of course. The Twins, meanwhile, escape near-death at the hands of the creature by turning into a kangaroo and ice cubes, which causes mental giant Jayna to suspect that maybe the creature wasn’t accidentally created after all. Brilliant. So Supes and Wonder Woman infiltrate the plant in their impenetrable disguises as Clark Kent and Diana Prince, hoping to draw out the traitor, but WW gets lured to a spooky pier and ambushed by the creature. So they head to a power plant for a showdown with the creature, and we SHOCKINGLY learn that the suspicious-looking scientist with the evil moustache and bad attitude was behind it all. No actual motivation is provided, of course, because that would make sense and make people have to think. In fact, they didn’t even have anyone stop and ask exactly what an anti-matter monster was supposed to accomplish. Really, really bad Scooby-Doo reject episode.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- The World Beneath the Ice. Turns out there’s an advanced civilization living under the arctic ice. How advanced? They’re already playing Grand Theft Auto 17! Anyway, they’re really pissed off at oil drillers, and they’re led by Marvin the Martian’s older brother, Toranno. So they decide to create a new ice age and terrorize surface-dwellers. Soon it’s Titanic all over again, but without all the nudity. So of course, the SuperFriends find out about it and decide to split up. And search the oceans for missing ships. Sure, four people searching 75% of the surface of the earth, piece of cake. Superman & Aquaman find the first and get frozen into giant ice cubes as a result. Man, finally a situation where Zan is in his element. Pretty soon everyone is frozen and they have to depend on the WonderTwins to save the day. Poor bastards. They try a clever disguise involving a penguin and an…ahem…ice computer, but the GIANT FACE on the front of the computer gives them away and they’re kidnapped again (#10). At this point the writers go a little bit nuts and have the villains freeze the entire world. Luckily, Aquaman talks to fish and escapes from his ice prison, returning to Atlantis to regroup. But wait, you’re probably saying, wasn’t Atlantis previously established to be lost and abandoned in the center of the earth a few episodes ago? Why, yes it was. And yet here it is, complete with hot mermaids running it. Stuff like that bugs me. Anyway, Aquaman and his fish friends get together and release the others, and that’s what saves the world. Yes, Aquman, the guy who talks to fish, gets to save the world. That’s it, I’m outta here for this episode.

- Invasion of the Brain Creatures. The dreaded…

OK, no wait, back to the last episode for a minute. Even after the dumb conceit of having Aquaman being the only one to save the others from the ice, the bad guys freeze the moon, which Superman describes as being exactly according to plan. This brings up the question of how one ”freezes” an airless chunk of rock that’s already floating around in the freezing vacuum of space. And somehow a giant ”ice mirror” broken off the moon thaws out the world. And what the FUCK was with Zan turning into ice cubes to cool Gleek’s iced tea? That’s an awfully intimate gesture between a boy and his monkey, isn’t it? Is Gleek gonna crap him out later or something? What kind of sick stuff is this show teaching kids? OK, I’m done with that one.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- Invasion of the Brain Creatures. The dreaded charged magnetic particles from Mars hit Earth, causing pain and suffering all over. So the SuperFriends split up, with Batman casually mentioning that he and Robin will head to Mars and investigate, as though it was just a trip to the corner store or something. And once there, they further split up (again, amply protected by the bubble on their heads) and find themselves the victims of KILLER BRAIN CREATURES. Yes, actual brains who fly around and talk telepathically. Was someone coming down from a bad acid trip or something? So, now possessed by brain creatures, Batman lures Superman and the rest to Mars, where the brain slugs take their minds hostage. That leaves the Twins to save the Earth. They try to save it as a hawk and an ice jet, and actually manage to hold off Superman & Batman’s attack on Earth, while Wonder Woman steers the brain creatures towards a ”magnetic cloud” in space, whatever THAT is supposed to be, trapping them. I think I have that embroidered on a sampler, actually: ”If you’re ever possessed by brain creatures, a magnetic cloud will dislodge and trap them”. Seriously, that’s like one of those bad Tim Schaeffer rip-off adventure games from the 90s, where the puzzle solutions would be so completely obscure that no one in their right mind would be able to reason that ”Use bird on street light”, for instance, would be the proper choice. Sadly, the Twins get kidnapped yet again (#11) despite showing glimmers of usefulness this time, and it’s Superman doing the kidnapping. However, another trip through the deus ex magnetic cloud frees their minds (and the rest follows, just like the song said) just as creatures launch a full-scale attack. The solution is obvious — focus all of the world’s energy at the poles and thus create a giant magnetic field to trap the creatures. I can’t even begin to start listing all the things wrong with that plan, so I’ll just say ”my brain hurts” and move on.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- The Incredible Space Circus. Wonder Woman goes to a jungle planet to stop space poachers, but gets turned into a rhino and made into a circus attraction. The Twins figure it out quickly and investigate as a space turtle in an ice cage, and get kidnapped (#12). As does Aquaman, who is then also turned into a circus attraction. The twins escape and get the mutation gun away from the poachers, but Zan is so stupid that he fires the gun backwards and turns himself into a tree. Meanwhile, the remaining SuperFriends use a scientist who reads the ”psychic energy” off a map to narrow the villains’ location down to two different galaxies. You know, I just have to stop and appreciate these shows, because I just don’t normally get a chance to ever write sentences like that one. Anyway, Superman thinks that ”only” searching two galaxies should be a snap, so I think someone isn’t quite aware of how big a galaxy is. Meanwhile, it’s a REALLY lame circus, ”featuring” a battle between Aquaman and Wonder Woman, but Superman saves the day. Evil carnies are not my idea of an interesting episode.

12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- Batman: Dead or Alive. Planet Texicana is a weird mix of robots and the old west, and when the evil Capricorn Kid runs roughshod with his robot gang, Batman is called in. It’s like Adam Westworld. This again leads me to ponder why all these people have access to the Justice League’s phone number. Can’t anyone in the universe handle their own emergencies? Batman wraps that one up pretty easily, and it’s looking like a short episode until the Kid vows revenge and breaks out of jail. The Kid and his gang of robots invade the Hall of Justice, kicking the Twins’ ass and kidnapping them (#13), which draws the rest to Texicana. And they split up. And of course, get into trouble, leaving Batman to handle the whole gig by himself and save everyone from overly-complex deathtraps. This leads me to wonder: If the Twins are tied together and facing certain death, shouldn’t they be able to just activate their powers and escape? Anyway, since shooting the heroes would have been too easy, poor Wonder Woman gets to be saved by ROBIN. I think the shooting would have been more merciful. I mean, geez, you might as well be saved by Gleek. So we get the big showdown between Batman and the Kid, and you know how that goes. Neat idea, but it should have been all tongue-in-cheek and ironic instead of the deadly serious tone they were trying for. If, say, the writers of Justice League Unlimited had done this idea, it would be a goof about someone like Bat Lash or Jonah Hex finally being in his element and having to save embarrassed B-level Leaguers.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- Battle of the Gods. Wonder Woman goes to a planet with Aphrodite’s temple on it (?!?) and saves it from disaster, but Hera gets all jealous and bitchy, and sics a centaur on the SuperFriends. What a bitch. So Zeus decides to settle the petty argument by having the SuperFriends do impossible tasks. So Aquaman has to find the Golden Fleece, Wonder Woman has to find Medusa, Batman & Robin get to figure out the Riddle of the Sphinx, and Superman has to fight the Minotaur. The Wonder Twins cheat and help Wonder Woman, although how they got there so fast is another question entirely, but they’re stupid enough to look at Medusa and get turned to stone (#14). Although in all fairness, Clash of the Titans wasn’t gonna be out for another decade, so it’s not like they could have known. Meanwhile, Batman has to figure out what tears down mountains and builds up castles, makes some men blind and helps other to see. (Answer at the end of the review) Aquaman gets the Fleece without breaking a sweat, while Batman (veteran of many stupid riddles from the Riddler) guesses the correct answer and wins. Wonder Woman reflects Medusa’s face in her bracelets, turning her to stone. Superman KO’s the Minotaur to wrap things up, the gods are pleased, etc. Not a bad episode at all.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- Journey Through Inner Space. A plane carrying the world’s deadliest radioactive isotope crashes into the ocean, and Aquaman gets a good dose of it while attempting a rescue, thus de-evolving him into a giant shark creature. Alrighty then. Meanwhile, Superman is helping to test a shrink ray and goes to grab the prehistoric Aquaman, so you just know that they’ll have to use that shrink ray. In this case, use it to journey to the center of Aquaman’s brain (that’s a short trip) in the Supermobile, and then dose him with more radiation. How does THAT work? Anyway, Aquaman escapes to keep things from being totally static (while the others stand around and talk about it) and Batman gets into a time-filling adventure in the real world, while Superman and Wonder Woman battle killer viruses and save Aquaman. Total filler, and the Wonder Twins didn’t even get kidnapped.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- The Rise and Fall of the SuperFriends. The series wraps up here, as scientists build a giant robot, and Mr. Mxyzptlk (the only ”real” DC villain used in the series) steals it using his ”robot gangsters”. However, it seems that Mxyzptlk wants to be a director now, and is just setting up the SuperFriends as his actors. So he lures Superman into an abandoned department store (is someone breaking into an abandoned department store REALLY something that needs to be on the Trouble Alert?), and it’s time for the KILLER MANNEQUINS. Just as they’re about to finish him, Mxyzptlk stops the action and sucks Superman away to god knows where. Next victims are Batman and Robin, who answer a payphone that appears out of nowhere in the Hall, and get transported to the library. Where books come to life…for EVIL! And off they go. Next up, Aquaman and Wonder Woman get sent to the junkyard, and it too is a trap. Soon they’re all in a haunted mansion and facing more traps. It all leads to one final battle scene with them against each other, but Superman tricks Mxyzptlk into saying ”kltpzyxm” and back to the fifth dimension he goes. A fun and whacked out episode, where they established very early that there was no real danger and he was just there to honk Superman off and make him look stupid.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Overall, most people like ”Batman: Dead or Alive” the best, although I thought the ”Terror from the Phantom Zone” episode kicked the most ass, but ”Attack of the Vampire” was pretty good too. The rest, however, was exactly the kind of slipshod animation and writing that shows like Harvey Birdman mock, and for good reason. With a very small cast and a total lack of quality opposition, this was by far the weakest of the SuperFriends series, which is probably why not many have seen them. On the other hand, because they’re not as common as some of the later ones, they might be worth seeing for fans.

The Video

This is actually a little better than the quality of the video on the Challenge of the SuperFriends set, as they’re punched up the color a little bit, but the rest is still as dirty and noisy as the original broadcasts.

The Audio

Presented in the original mono 1.0 sound, it does the job just fine.

The Extras

On the first disc you get ”The Ballad of Zan and Jayna”, which is a goofy music video about the Wonder Twins that seems like something you’d find on the internet. On the second disc you get a 15 minute retrospective with a few comedians and comic book gurus that’s pretty interesting, but nothing exciting. Paul Dini defending Aquaman (”Superman can’t talk to fish”) is funny stuff, though. There’s also a gaggle of trailers for other DC properties out on DVD.

The Ratings

The Film: **
The Video: **
The Audio: **
The Extras: *

1:03 PM  

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