Running Time: 86 minutes
MPAA Rating: G
Format: Standard 4:3
Audio: Dolby Digital 1.0
Languages: English, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Region: 1
MSRP: $19.98

Own It!
Challenge of the Super Friends - Attack of the Legion of Doom (1978)

Hanna-Barbera premiered the Super Friends show in 1973, an overly kid-friendly series featuring the Justice League of America: all of DC Comics’ heavy-hitters (Superman, Batman & Robin, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman), and a few invented for the sake of racial equality, like Black Vulcan, Apache Chief and Samurai. The villains were especially non-threatening the first season, when the sidekicks were flares-and-cape wearing teens Wendy and Marvin, and some sub-Mumbly thing called Wonder Dog. The second season – all the way in 1977 - was a little more in tune with the comics and introduced the super-powered aliens Zan and Jayna, the Wonder Twins. In 1978, the third season gave the fans what they wanted: the cutesy teen sidekicks were gone, and the JLA went head-to-head with a coalition of their greatest enemies, The Legion of Doom.

The formula for episodes of Challenge of the Super Friends is simple:

  1. Some villain threatens to quit The Legion of Doom;
  2. Lex Luthor, still in his purple-and-green super villain duds, tells them to sit down and shut up, because the Villain of the Week has a Brilliant Plan;
  3. The Brilliant Plan, which usually involves tricking the Justice League into doing the Legion’s dirty work for them. Though they can travel hundreds of light years in an instant, the Super Friends aren’t very smart.
  4. The Super Friends wise up, foil the Brilliant Plan, and capture the Legion of Doom;
  5. The Legion of Doom escapes (I told you the Super Friends weren’t very smart!).

This first volume of the series presents four of these episodes:

  • Wanted: The Super Friends – Luthor's "dream machine" causes the heroes to commit crimes in their sleep – but that's only part of a far more convoluted plan which involves shooting the Super Friends into space and turning everyone on Earth into clones of The Cheetah and Bizarro;
  • Attack of the Fearians – Quisling Captain Cold makes a deal with an invading army of three-headed "Fearians" from Venus. The Brilliant Plan calls for the Super Friends to accidentally make Earth hotter and more humid for the invaders. The doofuses;
  • The World's Deadliest Game – The Toyman traps several Super Friends in a deadly robotic funhouse at the center of a black hole in space; and
  • The Time Trap – Gorilla Grodd invents a time machine, enabling the Legion of Doom to, for instance, steal all the gold from Sutter's Mill long before the California gold rush, and trap some Super Friends in the distant past.

So there's your four doses of Super Friends for this disc. Which seems a little sparse, considering the Artisan release of Speed Racer contains 11 episodes. But it bears mentioning that the four episodes included seem to give the villains somewhat equal exposure. (What? You thought we were here to watch the heroes?)

Warner owns the original film for this series, and that shows with a very clear transfer from almost immaculate elements. I say almost because the digital clarity of the image allows you to see every little imperfection in the animation cels. Dust is especially a problem. None of the episodes contain chapter stops.

It's possible to see each episode with an introduction by Story Editor Jeffrey Scott. Don't expect exciting insights into specific stories, however. The intros are all very general and are obviously taken from a larger interview.

Hall of Doom takes you to profiles of each of the villains in the Legion. The profiles include text entries on Powers, First Appearance, and whose archenemy they are; the announcer reading a rather purple piece on each; and a "Villain Video" that edits together villainous goings-on from the series in the style of a music video. After that there is simply Super Friend or Super Foe, a tiresome and useless "game" in which you are supposed to guess which villains in a static tableau are actually Super Friends in disguise.

It's most likely, however, that anyone buying this disc is not doing so on the strength of its extras (fortunately for Warner). But those visiting the cartoons for the first time since their youth may be shocked to discover exactly how limited is the animation. If they can get past that, there is some fun to be had with this trip back to the 70s.

Dr. Freex, 6/9/2003