Monday, April 12, 2010

Superfriends: The Lost Episodes...

As most people are aware that frequent this animation blog, I am a fan of the Superfriends series. For those who aren't frequent visitors here, I am referring to the 1970's and early 1980's animated versions of the DC comics superheroes. Today the Superfriends are referred to by their technical name, The Justice League. Once upon a time they were called the Superfriends. As you can see on the DVD cover there is Batman, Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Wonder Twins and Gleek. Green Lantern fans beware, though, there isn't a lot of him in this series. His biggest impact during the classic era is in the series Challenge of the Superfriends. These lost episodes are considered to be the more obscure episodes in the series because of the lack of repeated play on television. In fact, these 1983 episodes never aired in America until 1995. They aired on a USA Network show called The Superman-Batman Adventures. The series consisted of reruns of the 1960's and 1970's superhero cartoons and on some episodes they'd sprinkle in an early '80s short episode of Superfriends. All of these episodes aired on that USA Network series but even still they're not as familiar to most. This DVD consists of 24 short episodes...8 half hour episodes in all. Each episode contains 3 separate adventures that run roughly seven and a half minutes each.

Here are just some of the stand-out episodes in my opinion from this collection...

Warpland: Superman and Batman are pulled into another dimension where they meet up with an alien race headed up by Super-Frog. The voice of the frog is provided by Frank Welker, giving the super amphibian the same voice he'd provide for Darkseid. The alien's have their headquarters...none other than The Hall of Zoom. Superman is turned into an Eagle while Batman is turned into an actual bat. They battle Super-Frog's forces and once they leave the warp they revert back to their natural selves.

Mxyzptlk's Revenge: This episode features Batman and Superman matching wits with the 5th Dimension prankster, Mr. Mxyzptlk. In one memorable scene Superman almost passes out from green bean exposure...Mxyzptlk had placed Superman on a farm where green beans become a substitute for kryptonite. They eventually trick their way out of the 5th Dimension.

Revenge of Doom: This episode begins with a couple of inquisitive workers asking Batman and Robin a lot of questions about the Hall of Doom. The two workers turn out to be Lex Luthor and Solomon Grundy in disguise. Suddenly all members of the Legion of Doom have appeared and we're told that the Legion is back in session. Given this is a 7 and a half minute episode not a lot of the members of the Legion have speaking roles even though they're visibly present. Unlike in the Challenge of the Superfriends series, in this episode the Legion of Doom is captured.

Two Gleeks Are Deadlier Than One: Grodd and Giganta make an appearance in this episode where they kidnap Gleek and replace him with an android duplicate. The android was sent there under the notion that all of the Superfriends would be meeting at the Hall of Justice. One by one evil Gleek zaps the Superfriends into oblivion...but who really ends up with the upper hand? You'll have to watch for yourselves.

Bulgor the Behemoth: Apache Chief gets the most action in this episode where a writer's creation comes to life after a lightning storm...well, I should say, the writer turns into his own creation. It's up to Apache Chief and Superman to put a stop to the destruction and get the creature transformed back into the writer.

The Krypton Syndrome: In this fantasy adventure, Superman is zapped into a time warp where he finds himself near his home planet of Krypton before it exploded. He prevents the explosion of Krypton and saves the lives of millions in the process...but once he returns to his own time he discovers how Earth looks extremely different. He realizes when he saved Krypton from exploding that nobody on Earth knows of a Superman...and therefore his life on Earth never happened. Seeing that the Earth needs a person like 'Superman' to protect it from villains he decides to go back into time again but this time to make sure Krypton explodes.

Prisoners of Sleep: In this adventure, a mysterious floating figure known as Sleep starts a nightmarish reign of terror which soon finds Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman enmeshed in the nightmare world with the possibility of never waking up. Thanks to some mortals, the three Superfriends "wake up" just in time.

Return of the Phantoms: This episode is something of a sequel to an episode entitled Terror from the Phantom Zone that aired in 1978. In this 1983 cartoon, the three Phantom Zone villains named Hull, Romlock, and Logar, escape once again to cause trouble for Superman and the other people on Earth. In the end they're zapped back into the Phantom Zone.

Video Victims: In this quirky episode, Bizarro plays an arcade game which features arcade versions of several Superfriends. The episode starts out on Bizarro World, the square shaped planet where everyone looks like imperfect zombie duplicates of Superman and Lois Lane. Bizarro returns to Earth and immediately creates trouble. The episode also doubled as a mock of video games in general...including a Pac-Man style character.

Those are just the episodes that stand out the most among the others. Brainiac makes an appearance in the Superclones episode. El Dorado and Aquaman are the two victims who are cloned. The two create a world of problems for the Superfriends by telling a court of law that the entire Justice League has turned evil. The real El Dorado and Aquaman free themselves from Brainiac's trap and make their way to the courthouse.

There's also an episode where Superman and Wonder Woman are captured by aliens and forced to play spaceball...this episode is called The Recruiter. It's anyone's guess why the short episodes from 1983 were released first instead of the ones from 1980...but there's no complaints from me...this is a step in the right direction at getting all of the short episodes released on DVD.

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