The only thing scarier than the world believing that the Legion of Doom is a terrifying threat is that the world also believes the SuperFriends are their best line of defense.
Case in point: this episode.
We open at nighttime in the foothills of Metropolis, near a heavily fortified "astrochemical research plant," whose contents are being dutifully guarded by Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Batman & Robin. Obviously, it must contain something so amazingly valuable and dangerous that it needs super heroes to guard it — but equally amazingly, no conventional military or even plain old security guards are on hand to assist them. Batman scans the skies with a "radar" set whose dish doesn't move, while Robin looks around with infrared night vision binoculars (you can tell they're infrared because the objective lenses are red tinted) and Wonder Woman . . . um . . . fiddles with a viewscreen.
Green Lantern is safely ensconsed within the complex, presumably as a last line of defense. Standing next to him are two smug, ethnically-diverse scientists, patting each other on the back while they regale each other with tales of Back Story for the benefit of the audience:
BLACK SCIENTIST: "The project is a complete success, Professor Nakata. We've finally isolated the proton nucleus from the sun's rays and condensed it into its liquid form."Now, presumably, both of them have known all this for months, maybe even years. They're the guys who've invented the stuff, after all. Their dialog makes about as much sense as one plumber telling another plumber, "If we connect two pipes together, they can carry water from one place to another." But that's not what got my attention the most. No, what really bugged me was their description of what this Liquid Light stuff was actually supposed to be. They isolated the proton nucleus from the sun's rays?! Light rays don't have protons. They don't have a nucleus. They're electromagnetic radiation, electric and magnetic fields wiggling in empty space. Their description sounds like the explanation for Solarmanite in Plan Nine from Outer Space, where the aliens claimed that "particles of sunlight are many molecules across."
ORIENTAL SCIENTIST: "Liquid light. If properly utilized, it could be the answer to the world's energy problems."
BLACK SCIENTIST: "But if it ever falls into the wrong hands, it could be disastrous. Its strength is so great it can disintegrate all but a few elements on Earth."
You know a pair of scientists are up for the Nobel Prize in Physics when they base their theories on Plan Nine from Outer Space.
Anywho, to demonstrate just how disastrous this Liquid Light can be, the Black Scientist scoops out a cupful of the bubbling, offwhite-glowing stuff with a long-handled ladle, and pours it onto a steel girder in a giant glass Petri dish. The steel girder promptly dissolves. The glass dish, the ladle, and the cauldron that the Liquid Light is being stored in are all unaffected, however. (Presumably the glass Petri dish is made of some of those "few elements on Earth" that Liquid Light can't disintegrate. Considering that real glass is made of silicon and oxygen, the two most abundant elements on the face of the Earth, I'd think the scientists' fears of worldwide disintegration are somewhat alarmist, to say the least.)
I'd also make a comment here about handling a gooey white liquid, but that would be just wrong.
Outside, Robin confirms that "The air force should be here within the hour." (So that's why the military isn't helping to guard the Liquid Light. They're late.) But, unbeknownst to our four Justice Leaguers, three members of the Legion of Doom are lurking behind some rocks less than three hundred feet away. Braniac has made himself, the Scarecrow, and Cheetah invisible to radar with his hand-held Radar Scrambler device. Of course, the three of them aren't invisible to, you know, eyeballs, so you have to wonder just how it was the three of them managed to evade detection at such close quarters. Or how they managed to sneak up that close to the chemical research plant without being seen in the first place. Lookout duty doesn't seem to be one of the SuperFriends' strong suits.
We in the audience, however, get to eavesdrop on their sinister plans:
SCARECROW: "After we take care of those Super Watchdogs, the liquid light will be ours."Okay, everybody got that? They're going after the Liquid Light. That's the purpose of their mission. The whole purpose. Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern are merely obstacles to be overcome here, and their dispositions are not important when compared with the goal of nabbing the Liquid Light.
CHEETAH: "And with it, the world will be at our mercy. Purrrrmanently."
BRAINIAC: "But first, we'll have to split up our Super Foes with a little diversion."
CHEETAH: "Then we can pick them off, one at a time."
Remember that, because it'll be important later.
At Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman's (ahem) "lookout station" at the front gate, a buzzer sounds and a red light blinks on and off. Well, we assume it's a red light, because there's a red glow around it, but the light itself stays the same dark-gray color it had when it was turned off. Yet another instance of the extreme attention to detail and double-checking the animators take such pains with for a SuperFriends cartoon. "Holy intruders, Batman!" exclaims Robin because he's, you know, Robin. Sure enough, Cheetah has managed to sneak down to the west wall of the complex and cut through it with what looks like a yellow light saber. (Perhaps she borrowed the Bat Lightsaber that Robin used back in "Wanted: The Superfriends.")
Since Cheetah is a Wonder Woman villain, Wonder Woman of course has to go after her. Why they don't just send a powerhouse like Green Lantern after Cheetah is anybody's guess. I mean, this is the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Green Lantern we're talking about here — the one who moved the entire Earth out of the way of some comets in the earlier "Invasion of the Fearians" episode. He could pulverize the likes of Cheetah before she knew what hit her. Oh yeah! That's right. How stupid of me to forget. Cheetah's costume is yellow. Of course. She'd tear Green Lantern to shreds if they ever met. So, I guess if your only other choices are the Amazonian princess and the millionaire private detective, Wonder Woman does make more sense to send after a hot chick in a cat costume.
So, Wonder Woman swings down from her magic lasso (the other end of which appears to be tied to an empty sky) and announces to Cheetah that she's caught before she ever got started. (I guess having carved a hole in a wall big enough to walk through doesn't count as getting started.) But lo! Wonder Woman doesn't count on Cheetah making several perfect 3-D holographic duplicates of herself. Presumably, Brainiac threw together a holographic projector for her in exchange for certain, um, favors. Not that many ladies could resist those sexy pantyhose Braniac always wears. But double lo! Wonder Woman is not so easily fooled — the holographic Cheetahs don't cast shadows! Never mind that it's nighttime, and not much of anything casts a shadow when it's dark out. Wonder Woman proclaims "I've already spotted the real you," and throws her magic lasso around one of the Cheetahs. Who, if you look closely enough, isn't casting a shadow either.
But triple lo! The solid Cheetah she lassoed wasn't really Cheetah at all, but a Cheetah-shaped rocket controlled by the real Cheetah in a nearby tree. The evil schemes concocted by the Legion of Doom always seem to involve excessive amounts of hard-to-make hardware like this. Cheetah presses the "Launch" button on her hand-held thingy, and the Cheetah-shaped rocket takes off, pulling Wonder Woman behind it on her own magic lasso. Wonder Woman can barely hold on. Then, the Cheetah-rocket kicks in its go-up-faster booster stage or something, and Wonder Woman loses her grip and falls Earthward.
"Great Hera!" Wonder Woman exclaims, because she's an Amazon princess. "I've only got seconds! If I could only get the invisible jet in time!"
You know, the Cheetah-rocket didn't haul her that high in the air before she lost her grip. In the time it takes her to say this, she should have already reached the ground and been splattered into a little Amazonian pancake. But this is a comic book universe we're talking about, where long-winded monologues never seem to take any time. So saying, she telepathically summons that see-thru F-80 of hers and manages to land right smack-dab in the cockpit seat just as the jet flies below her.
(Hmmm . . . even with the plane being at altitude and the padding in that invisible seat, she was still falling long enough to reach terminal velocity. I can't imagine that hitting an airplane seat at 120 miles an hour is any more survivable than hitting the ground at 120 miles an hour.)
But quadruple lo! As Cheetah brings her Cheetah-rocket back to Earth, we discover that Cheetah wasn't trying to get rid of Wonder Woman at all — she was only after her magic lasso all along! She radioes Brainiac and tells him "Phase One complete." As Ken Begg has noted from previous episode reviews of Challenge of the SuperFriends, all the Legion of Doom's plots are required by law to be carried out in 3 phases, so we're already a third of the way there.
"Now, to commence with Phase Two," Brainiac announces, and pulls a lever inside a control box that wasn't there a minute ago. Back at the front gate, the same light that had blinked red-and-gray when Cheetah was breaking in now blinks yellow. There's now an intruder at the east wall. "Holy multiple emergencies!" Robin exclaims, making you want to holy throttle his holy throat. Since Green Lantern is holed up inside the astrochemical research plant next to the Liquid Light, as the last line of defense should all the other Justice Leaguers fail, he of course elects to abandon his post and take care of the disturbance.
Green Lantern arrives to see Brainiac piloting this oddball tank-looking contraption with giant spinning clawed-thingies that look like they belong on a Combine harvester. "Great Galaxies!" Green Lantern exclaims because he's, you know, a Galactic kind of guy, "I've got to stop him before he reaches the plant!"
The instant he says this, Brainiac reaches the plant.
But have no fear. Green Lantern uses his power ring to create a giant
green oddball tank-looking contraption of his own, except with giant lobster
pincers instead of giant spinning grain harvesting wheels. Oh, and it's
more yellow-looking than green, because the animators ran out of green paint or
something. Anyway, G.L.'s giant
yellowgreen grabber tank quickly
overpowers Brainiac's real tank and overturns it onto its side. Brainiac
calls G.L. a "Green fool" — a stinging barb if ever there was one —
so in turn, G.L. uses his power ring to create a giant green surfboard and a
giant green wave and forces Brainiac to re-enact a scene from Ride the Wild
Just kidding. (But I bet you bought it for a second. Such is the usual silliness with which Green Lantern's powers are treated on The SuperFriends.) Green Lantern instead fires a plain old ordinary green energy beam at Brainiac. But lo again! Brainiac whips out a gizmo that looks like an oversized air horn from a Packer's game and sucks Green Lantern's energy beam into it. His gizmo then sucks Green Lantern's power ring itself right off of his finger and into Brainiac's waiting grasp.
Now, here we see again why the Legion of Doom has trouble with this whole World Domination thing. This energy-sucking air horn is an amazingly useful device. Brainiac can use it to rob Green Lantern of his powers every time they meet. So, naturally, he uses this device this one time and never uses it again for the rest of eternity. The Legion of Doom has absolutely no concept of technology re-use. Never has any of the myriad world-altering devices they've concocted made more than one appearance. They make the inventors of the disposable cell phone look like card-carrying Earth First eco-alarmists by comparison. I'll bet there are no less than a hundred unclaimed patents in the Legion of Doom's trash dumpster every week. And that's after the dumpster is filled up with Grodd's discarded banana peels and Solomon Grundy's disposable diapers.
Anyway, now that Brainiac has left Green Lantern with nothing more than his tan and his moronic SuperFriends-trained wits, Batman and Robin are suddenly set upon by a swarm of crows. "Holy aviaries, Batman!" Robin exclaims, and by now you just want to rip off his head and take a holy shit down his throat. "This many crows at night," Batman explains, "Can only mean one thing, Robin. Somewhere in the vicinity is the Scarecrow."
Huh. So the Scarecrow can attract and control crows? Then why's he called the "Scarecrow"? A scarecrow is something that scares crows away. There shouldn't be any crows in his vicinity, let alone a holy aviary of them. Shouldn't he instead be named the Summoncrow or the Controlcrow or something? Morons.
Nevertheless, Batman and Robin respond by activating the "Defense Shield," which causes some lightning bolts to arc across the open front gate. You'd think that just closing and locking the gate in the first place would've been a little easier. But it doesn't matter, because the Scarecrow's crows are already inside the perimeter, and proceed to swoop down on the Dynamic Duo. "Holy dive bombers, Batman!" Robin exclaims, and at this point you just basically give up protesting his holy utterances and go with the flow. The crows grab Robin and Batman by their capes and haul them skyward, without Batman pulling out so much as a canister of Bat Crow Repellant from his utility belt.
"Well, Batman," the Scarecrow gloats, and decides this is as good a time as any to meet his weekly pun quota: "Looks like now you'll have to eat crow!" But before you can find an empty beer can to throw at the TV, the Scarecrow fires a two-barrelled yellow ray gun which magically unbuckles the Caped Crusaders' utility belts and tractor-beams them into the Scarecrow's hands. (Yet another Legion of Doom device which, because it's eminently useful, we can be sure we'll never see again.) "Thanks, Super Saps!" the Man of Straw quips, mercifully forgetting the Legion rule to call their enemies "Super Fools" at all times.
The magic-lasso-less Wonder Woman and the power-ring-less Green Lantern now rendezvous with the utility-belt-less Batman and Robin, and trade stories. "Great Hera!" Wonder Woman again exclaims, perhaps because she doesn't have any other exclamations in her vocabulary. "And somehow Cheetah now controls my magic lasso!"
Somehow Cheetah now controls your magic lasso? What do you mean, somehow? You were right there when it happened, Princess Diana! She duped you out of your lasso, that's how she now controls it. Moron.
And then, Robin says something which makes all the pieces fall into, or at least out of, place: "But they never even touched the liquid light!"
That's right. The villains never even touched the thing you were guarding. They were after your super devices all along, and that was the only thing they cared about. Cheetah even says as much when she reports into Lex Luthor in the next shot. Stealing the Liquid Light was never even part of their plan.
So then why did the three of them say that they were after the Liquid Light in the first scene where they appeared, not three minutes earlier?! Huh?!? It's not like Cheetah, Brainiac, and Scarecrow thought they were being overheard and were trying to throw their adversaries off the trail, or anything like that. Their whole plan was supposed to be to abscond with the Liquid Light. Period! Did they hire new scriptwriters between scenes 2 and 3? Were the reefers the writers were smoking the night before stronger than they expected, so that their short-term memory was impaired?
Anyway, Lex Luthor, now aware that his infallable plan is going swimmingly, quips, "Those Super Fools have only seen the tip of the iceberg! Jet thrusters, full power!", and proceeds to fly the infamous hundred-foot-high Darth-Vader's-helmet of the Legion of Doom's headquarters out of the swamp. Apparently, the swamp where the Legion of Doom's headquarters is hidden is right next door to the foothills of Metropolis, because it arrives over the front gate of the chemical research plant and transporter-beams our four super-hero-device-less heroes away before they have a chance to raise the antennas on their walkie-talkies and contact the rest of the Justice League. (It's amazing that the Legion of Doom has been right next to Superman's main stomping ground all this time. You'd think ol' Kal El of Krypton would occasionally train that X-ray vision of his on the Metropolis Swamp, just, you know, in case there was a Hall of Doom hidden in it or something.) Now, with the astrochemical research plant totally unguarded, Black Manta and Bizarro walk right in unopposed.
Meanwhile, inside the flying Hall of Doom, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Robin all materialize in front of the familiar U-shaped table that the Legion holds all its meetings from. Around the table are seated every member of the Legion of Doom, including Black Manta and Bizarro who are supposed to be down in the chemical research plant. "Holy teleportation, Batman!" Robin exclaims, and . . . ah, skip it.
"If my instincts are correct," Batman replies, "I'd say we're right in the middle of the Hall of Doom." Ya gotta hand it to the Dark Knight Detective — he doesn't miss a thing.
"Order in the court!" Lex Luthor orders, and we can now see that he's wearing a purple Judge's robe. "The trial will now begin." Gorilla Grodd swears them in by asking, "Do you swear to tell untruths and nothing but untruths, so help you Grodd?" (Ah, that inimitable Gorilla humor.)
Wonder Woman is, of course, aghast. The Legion of Doom might have attempted to destroy the Justice League and take over the world 4 times already this season, they might have taken away her magic lasso and placed her and three of her companions-in-arms at their mercy, but by golly, how dare they make fun of our fair country's judicial system! "You call this mockery of justice a trial, Luthor?" she challenges. "Yes, Wonder Woman," the bald arch-villain retorts, "I call it the 'Trial of the Super Friends.'" (Hence the title of this episode, you see.)
The Scarecrow, now wet with excitement over his chance to play Court Clerk, reads the charges against the four hapless heroes. "Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern are hereby charged with the following crimes: Heroic action in the name of justice, upholding the law, and attempting to stop the Legion of Doom."
But Batman just can't keep his pie-hole shut, and complains that these aren't crimes. I have no idea what he planned to accomplish by this. They've just been kidnapped by their sworn enemies, who are obviously play-acting some childish fantasy they've been harboring for years, and he thinks that by saying "You're not playing fair!" the Legion is just going to turn around and release them?! Moron.
Anyway, Sinestro then presents the court with "Exhibit A, Green Lantern's power ring; Exhibit B, Batman and Robin's utility belts; and Exhibit C, Wonder Woman's magic lasso."
And here, I have to object. Wonder Woman's magic lasso just sits there, doing nothing. Come on, Amazonian princess! You can control that lasso of yours telepathically! You've done it before, on earlier episodes of this same show. Why doesn't she command it to jump up and lasso the entire Legion of Doom? You remember from all those never-throw-a-punch battle scenes in Challenge of the SuperFriends how the Legion of Doom just sits there without budging whenever one of the Justice League throws a bola around them or materializes a green energy skateboard under their feet or anything like that. They're easy prey right now! And, you know, even without your lasso, you've still got that Amazonian strength and those bullet-deflecting bracelets — to say nothing of your telepathically controlled supersonic jet.
But, no, I guess Wonder Woman is too distracted by Grodd's bulging crotch to think straight. No rope tricks ensue, and the trial continues unabated. Cheetah accuses the four Justice Leaguers of trying to thwart their plans, whereupon Green Lantern opens his big mouth in much the same manner as Batman did some seconds earlier. This, however, gives Luthor his opportunity to bang the gavel and bark "Silence!", which after all is his trademark in this TV series.
After a few more mock-trial moments, Gorilla Grodd picks up a piece of paper from which he reads the verdict to our eagerly-awaiting ears, and, in a twist that surprises absolutely no one except the dumbfounded Super Fools™, finds the defendants guilty as charged.
"Holy mistrials!" Robin exclaims. Sigh.
Now, though, is where the script takes its turn for Wonkyville. You'd think the Legion would just sentence the four of them to summary execution. It's what I'd do. Especially if Hawkman and Aquaman were among them. It's not like anybody's going to miss those two. But, this being a league of villains, they are obliged to "toy" with their captives by putting them in deathtraps and leaving them alone to die.
And what kind of deathtrap do they choose? "I sentence the four of you," Judge Luthor proclaims, "to fight Brainiac's super-powerful Super Friends androids." Androids which look like Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Batman, and Robin, and which are wearing their power devices.
Now, correct me if I'm missing something here, but . . . if you've just gotten hold of the Dark Knight's legendary super-secret utility belt, a lasso that can still be brought under telepathic control by one of your enemies, and one of the rare and powerful rings produced by the Guardians of the Universe, aren't there a few more interesting things you can do with them than give them to a couple of androids? Wouldn't you be better off if you, maybe, opened Batman and Robins' utility belts to find out what-all was in them? Wouldn't one of your flesh-and-blood teammates want to wear that power ring for himself, maybe to fly over to the Hall of Justice and blast it into rubble? Wouldn't you want to coil that magic lasso around one of your less trustworthy teammates, to force them to tell the truth? Surely, you must have wondered if those rumors about Toyman's late night trysts with Bizarro are true. But no . . . the only thing Lex Luthor and Brainiac, supposedly the two smartest people in the galaxy, can think of to do with these amazing gadgets is give them to android duplicates of their enemies and hold a BattleBots match. Morons.
Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice, Superman has finally become aware that the four compatriots he left on guard duty at the astrochemical research plant are AWOL. This time, he wisely decides to leave Hawkman and Aquaman behind to, er, "monitor the communications," and takes off to investigate with the Flash and Black Vulcan in tow. In fact, the three of them all fly there under their own power. Including the Flash. Who's not supposed to be able to fly. Maybe he's vibrating his molecules really fast to make it look like he's flying. Or maybe the animators just screwed up again. In any event, they arrive to find the steel door that used to be in front of the entrance crumpled on the ground. Then, in the slowest voice you can imagine, the Flash drones, "We'd better check out the Liquid Light."
For someone who can move fast enough to go back in time, his new slow, droning mode of speech is, dare I say, not exactly in-character. Maybe the guy who did the voice direction for Apache Chief was on duty in the recording studio that day. Nor, for that matter, is the Flash's brilliant conclusion to investigate the only thing in that plant that everybody was guarding indicative of how fast somebody with his reflexes ought to be able to think.
In any event, the three of them barge in on Black Manta and Bizarro just as they reach the cauldron containing the Liquid Light. (The top of the cauldron is capped off by a glass dome because, as you no doubt remember from the beginning of the episode, Liquid Light disintegrated a steel girder but not the glass container it was in.) Bizarro decides to get the three Justice Leaguers off his tail by knocking the glass lid off the cauldron and upending the cauldron onto the floor. Now, all the Liquid Light in the cauldron — from the looks of it, a couple hundred gallons' worth — is burning its way across the floor out of control like a super duper white-hot mass of molten lava.
"I'll stop it!" Superman declares, and proceeds to totally fail to stop it by placing a steel door in front of it. Evidently, Supes missed the earlier scene where some Liquid Light ate its way through a steel girder. The oozing river of glow-in-the-dark doom dissolves its way through the lab wall, through the outer concrete wall of the chemical plant, and down the slopes of the foothills toward Metropolis.
And while this disaster is happening, the narrator helpfully informs us, "The Legion of Doom prepares an even more sinister act." More sinister than sending an unstoppable, dissolve-everything-in-its path nightmare of Technology Gone Wrong into one of the most densely-populated cities in America? Yes. Even more sinister than that. The Legion of Doom is preparing to teleport the four captured Justice Leaguers to different corners of the globe, and teleport their android duplicates there right after them! That's certainly far, far more sinister than carving a swath of death and destruction through Metropolis, all right. Brainiac takes out a gun that looks similar to his suck-Green-Lantern's-energy horn from earlier in the episode, only with a handle and a trigger on it. He shoots our four intrepid heroes with it, making them disappear, and then shoots their robotic doubles with it, making them disappear. Wonder Woman reappears "in the middle of some treacherous jungle"; you can tell it's treacherous by the black panther growling in the tree next to her. Her android impostor appears a couple of seconds later, magic lasso in tow, and as Wonder Woman runs away from it, we are treated to a bizzare worm's-eye-view of this short, forked treelike plant that Wonder Woman's and Wonder Woman's Android's feet scamper past. I'm not sure why this shot was in there. The tree-looking plant thing was low enough and branchy enough that I thought for sure they were going to show Wonder Woman dramatically tripping over it, but nothing of the sort happened. The two just kept on running past it.
Next, Batman and Robin reappear in a swamp. Presumably not the same swamp the Legion of Doom hides their headquarters in, but considering the average intelligence of the Legion's members on this show, they might just be stupid enough to give their enemies that kind of a hint as to where they hide out. Especially if the Riddler had any say in the matter. In any event, the Boy Wonder has more immediate concerns, namely his overpowering need to blurt out something with "holy" in it. "Holy mudholes, Batman!" Robin exclaims. This apparently annoys the denizens of the swamp just as much as it does the viewers, because a snake droops down and would have bitten Robin if the ol' Dark Knight hadn't grabbed it and thrown it to the ground. Soon enough, their android duplicates also appear and start pursuing their flesh-and-blood counterparts by swinging from the swamp trees with their Bat ropes.
Finally, Green Lantern reappears in a desert canyon, with his android double hot on his tail. The android G.L. fires a blast from his power ring at the real G.L., which should have fried him instantly or turned him inside out or something except that the blast mysteriously stopped two feet short of its target. Not because the ring was programmed not to harm the real G.L., or because G.L. accidentally spilled some yellow curry powder onto his costume, or anything meaningful like that. No, the energy beam stopped because . . . well . . . I guess because if it hadn't, Green Lantern would be dead, and they're saving that for episode 15.
Meanwhile, the narrator informs us that despite having previously told us that the astro chemical research plant was in the foothills around Metropolis, the city at the base of the foothills (which the river of Liquid Light is flowing inexorably toward) is not, in fact, Metropolis, but "the small town of Kendalville." The denizens of this small town, apparently, haven't been informed that death and destruction are headed their way. I guess it's just too hard to spot a gigantic, brightly glowing torrent of goop steamrollering its way toward your town at night. The first innocent bystanders in its path are a pair of young boys out catching frogs. I expected one of these kids to say "gosh" or "golly," considering the genre, but 'twas not to be. When Black Vulcan spots them from the air, he immediately gives up any ideas of, oh, say, digging a trench to divert the Liquid Light somewhere else, and swoops down to rescue the two little boys. Dozens of people might die in the town farther downstream, but darn it, those two little boys will be safe. Fortunately, Superman hasn't abandoned the Big Picture, and is still trying to stop the entire stream of Liquid Light. Unfortunately, he forgot how the Liquid Light ate its way through the concrete walls of the chemical plant not 20 seconds ago, because his big plan is to pick up an old abandoned dam and lay it across the Liquid Light's path This works about as well as you'd expect it to. Moron.
When the molten light breaks through the base of the dam, Superman gets swept up in the stream. Were he any mere mortal man, he'd be out of luck, but this is pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman we're talking about here. This is a man who routinely flies through the core of the sun just to clean and deodorize his suit. No mere river of disintegrate-everything-in-its-path chemicals are going to hurt him! He and his super suit are probably both made out of one of those few elements that Liquid Light can't affect. (Speaking of which, why doesn't one of them just put a piece of sheet glass in front of the Liquid Light? Again, I guess they missed the demo at the start of the show.)
Now, however, the Liquid Light has made its way into the town and is covering several streets to a depth of five or six feet. This is pretty remarkable, considering the original cauldron that Bizarro tipped over was only big enough to hold a few hundred gallons of the stuff, tops. But what's even more remarkable is that, on its way into the town, people got run over by the encroaching stream of Liquid Light. I had to go back and slow-mo through this scene just to make sure I wasn't imagining it:
Yes, it really happened. Plain as day, two people are running away from the Liquid Light in one frame, and in the next the Liquid Light has caught up with them and the two people are gone. We're talking death here. On a SuperFriends episode. That one must've squeaked by the network censors by the skin of its teeth. But fortunately for the other denizens of the town, the Flash is on hand doing what he does best: running around in a circle really really fast. He's doing this in the middle of the Liquid Light, mind you, so he must be doing that Jesus walking-on-water trick to keep from getting dissolved. Of course, Flash physics then takes over, and the Liquid Light turns into a tall-but-skinny tornado and gets sucked all the way up to the upper atmosphere, "and returns to Earth in the form of harmless falling stars."
(Falling stars? Those are another name for meteors. What the heck do flecks of dust slamming into Earth's atmosphere from interplanetary space have to do with "condensed proton nuclei from the sun's rays"? And for that matter, why the heck didn't the Flash just do the suck-it-up-into-the-sky tornado bit in the first place, and spare the city? Morons.)
Meanwhile, in the jungle, Wonder Woman is swinging on some vines to get away from her android. The lasso-armed android hot on her trail, the battle-hardened Amazonian naturally stands in one place without looking around and delivers a soliloquy about Brainiac electronically controlling her magic lasso and her need to find another way out. She is so engrossed in her reverie, in fact, that she fails to hear her own magic lasso whooshing around her body until she's in its grip. "You're going nowhere!" her android double tells her in a tinny Wonder-Woman-ish voice. The android loops the middle of the lasso around a tree branch and hauls Wonder Woman up, whereupon Princess Di sees the fate that awaits her. "Great Hera!" she exclaims, which seems to be her only exclamation, "A giant anthill!"
And she's not kidding. It is an impressively large anthill, crawling with a myriad of poorly animated ants which more closely resemble refried beans. Wonder Woman's only chance is to try and telepathically overcome the android's control of her lasso. She crinkles her eyebrows and concentrates. Refried beans crawl down her lasso toward her. Oh, the drama! Oh, the suspense! But at last, she successfully commands her lasso to swoosh back-and-forth and throw the refried beans off of itself. Thus in command of her lasso once again, she coils it around the android and quips, "Looks like the tables have turned, you mechanical super-fake!"
Mechanical super-fake. Well, she sure showed that android. That was almost as witty a jab as the "Super Saps" and "Super Fools" jibes we heard earlier. Legion of Doom comedy club, watch out, you've got some competition in the hizzouse!
In the swamp, however, things look grim for the Caped Crusaders. The android Batman hauls out what looks like a penlight and shoots a net right into the path of its prey. Naturally, Batman and Robin, super-perceptive detectives that they are, completely fail to notice and run right into it. "Those sinister androids have got us trapped in our own Bat webs!" the Dark Knight laments. We've never seen Bat webs before — webs don't really go with the whole "bat" theme after all — but I guess they must be standard utility belt equipment for the android to know about them and use them. And now that the Dynamic Duo are trapped in a Bat web, two alligators crawl out of the swamp and close in on them. The Bat android folds his arms and gloats, waiting for the end to come to our heroes.
But Batman isn't going to go down without a fight, no no no no. He picks up a small rock, pulls back on the web as though it were a slingshot, and fires it right at the first vertical utility-belt tube on the android's right side. This is the same utility-belt gizmo you may remember from the earlier "Wanted: The Superfriends" episode, which then served as the remote control for the Batmobile. This time, however, it shoots some kind of hissing thing at Batman and Robin, making them and the web they're trapped in disappear. "They're gone!" the android Bats exclaims. "Quick, after them!"
So saying, the androids run right into the space that Batman and Robin had just been occupying, and whump, the androids are trapped themselves! A reappearing Batman explains, "The Bat invisibilty ray only made us appear to vanish. Then the two of your knocked us free and trapped yourselves."
A Bat invisibility ray. Let me say that again. A Bat. Invisibility. Ray. Batman has, and has apparently for several years had, an invisibility ray on his utility belt. How come we've never seen this before? How come we never see it again after this, even when it would be useful? Does Batman subscribe to the same throwaway technology doctrine that the Legion of Doom does? Moron.
In any event, Batman and Robin retrieve their utility belts from the ensnared androids, and a Batman accidentally drawn with the colors backwards on his chest logo quips, "It's a good thing for you two that alligators don't like androids." Because in the SuperFriends universe, even robots aren't allowed to die.
Green Lantern, on the other hand, may not be so lucky. The android Green Lantern has cornered him and, with the same wit earlier exhibited by Brainiac, calls him a "Green fool." He raises his power ring to permanently encase Green Lantern in a green energy bubble. But lo! Green Lantern is standing next to a yellow reflective road sign! Pulling the sign between himself and the android's green energy beam, Green Lantern reflects the beam back to the android and encases it in a green energy bubble.
The next instant, however, both he and the scriptwriters forget how impenetrable these green energy bubbles are supposed to be. Because Green Lantern reaches through the energy bubble, grabs the android's hand, pulls its hand out of the bubble, and takes the power ring! Even if this were a "one-way" bubble that kept the android in but didn't keep anyone else out, how in heck does G.L. pull the android's hand out through the bubble?
Now armed (against all logic) with his own power ring again, Green Lantern flies back to the chemical research plant. When he arrives, we see that Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman are already there ahead of him. No explanation is given as to how those three got there, considering they were just in a distant swamp and a treacherous jungle, respectively, and that neither of them can fly without a vehicle. But we're not supposed to worry about that. Supes, Vulcan, and Flash are also there, and the Man of Steel tells us that the entire Legion of Doom is holed up in the research plant, and if they aren't given control of all the world's oil, they'll release the "entire supply" of Liquid Light. (Apparently, the scientists had extra cauldrons of the stuff lying around, you know, just in case some supervillains wanted to take over the place and hold the Earth for ransom.) Flash informs us, in that jarringly slow voice of his, that it could destroy the entire surface of the Earth. Batman, however, tells us he has "a plan."
Inside the research plant, the Legion of Doom seems to have set up one of their big screen TVs, and is talking with the United Nations. Luthor tells them that if they aren't given control of all the world's oil, they'll destroy the Earth with Liquid Light. (In case you missed it the first time.) The nations' diplomats are still locked in debate, however, because, sure, eradicating the surface of the Earth would be quite a tragedy, but this is oil we're talking about here.
Suddenly, almost the entire Justice League appears right behind the Legion of Doom and Batman announces their presence. That was Batman's plan, apparently: "Everybody walk in real quiet-like so that we can sneak up on them, but I'll be sure we give ourselves away at the end to give the Legion a chance to attack us." Grodd is unimpressed, and orders Bizarro and Grundy to release the Liquid Light. Before they can do so, however, Superman tunnels in from under the floor and breaks through the bottom of the Liquid Light cauldron, sending all the Liquid Light flowing straight downward, where it will probably eat its way to the center of the Earth in a few weeks and cause the planet to implode or something. Ho ho, those wacky myopic disaster-causing SuperFriends!
Oh — I almost forgot to mention that Superman gets to take a turn at punmaking here: "I'm afraid I just pulled the plug on your light!" Ha ha, get it? Incidentally, when he's speaking that line to Bizarro and Grundy, the three of them are inexplicably standing in front of some palm trees, which strongly resemble the jungle Wonder Woman had been trapped in earlier. Guess the background artist forgot to take his caffeine pills that morning.
But Black Manta is not so easily cowed. And besides, it's time for the weekly "big battle" scene at the end where nobody ever throws a punch. "Try to stop this laser atom smasher, Super Fools!" Not only does Black Manta meet the show's necessary quota of "Super Fools" comments with this line, he also introduces the absurd notion of a laser atom smasher. I've never thought of a laser as being much good at subatomic particle acceleration, but hey, in a universe where the Flash can run at faster-than-light speeds because of a freak accident with a lightning bolt and a few chemicals, I can almost buy it.
And speaking of the Flash, the Fastest Man Alive is the one who's on the receiving end of this "laser atom smasher." Since he's already run around in circles earlier in the episode, he can't do that trick again, so this time he simply spins like a top in one place. "Some super-friction should handle it," the crimson speedster helpfully explains as the laser beam bends back on itself 180 degrees just in front of the rapidly-spinning Flash and hits Black Manta instead. (It doesn't actually hurt Black Manta, of course; apparently, a laser atom smasher only causes its victim to freeze in place.) The Flash finishes his explanation: "Didn't anybody ever tell you that heat bends light?"
Well . . . you know, actually, that's true. Sort of. Hot air is less dense, and therefore has a slightly lower index of refraction, than cold air. When a light beam passes into an area with a lower index of refraction, it bends at an angle. This is how lenses work. Of course, the difference between the indices of refraction of hot and cold air is much less than the difference between the indices of refraction of air and glass, so on passing into a hot air mass, a light beam will only bend a little bit. It will certainly not make a 180-degree U turn, like we see in this episode. Maybe the Flash spun really really close to the speed of light, so that the laser beam would be severely doppler shifted or something.
Grodd, upset that he didn't get to ravage the surface of the Earth and thus render it useless for conquest, proclaims, "I'll stop you, you Super Weaklings!" But he's thwarted when Batman and Robin pull out their Bat resin spray, which instantly freezes Grodd in mid-lunge. I swear I'm not making this up.
"Well, that takes care of the Legion of Doom!" Superman declares, forgetting that only Black Manta and Grodd are immobilized and that Luthor, Toyman, Riddler, Giganta, Bizarro, Grundy, Scarecrow, Cheetah, Brainiac, Sinestro, and Captain Cold are still up-and-about. Perhaps their animation budget ran out and they elected not to show us the rest of the battle. But a downed Lex Luthor isn't willing to acquiesce so easily. He presses a button on another one of those dag-blasted remote controls he always seems to have with him at the end of an episode, and the Hall of Doom flies overhead and uses its teleporter to beam them out of the research plant. "You'll never catch us!" Luthor proclaims, as the Hall of Doom flies away at a stately 50 miles per hour or so.
But since we're at the end of the episode, Superman or Green Lantern or Black Vulcan can't just fly after the Hall of Doom and catch them. Instead, it's time for the last little speech where the SuperFriends tell us that the enemies of justice will never win against the SuperFriends. The end.
On the whole, this episode wasn't as bad as it could have been. Hawkman and Aquaman, the two most useless members, were mercifully left out of the action. Also, the river of Liquid Light seemed to offer a genuine threat that the heroes had to put down, and there are no three-headed aliens from Venus bent on world conquest. Two people even died in this episode, if you watched closely enough. But it still suffered from the same level of incompetent decision-making on both the heroes' and the villains' sides of the fence that seems to grace each and every Challenge of the SuperFriends episode. You still just sit there, shaking your head in disbelief and saying, "Morons!"
Back to Main Challenge of the SuperFriends episode review Page | Roger M. Wilcox's Homepage