Challenge of the Superfriends Episode 12: The Final Challenge, Part 1


[Since there were only four further chapters of the show left after this one, you might think they’d save the title “The Final Challenge” for, you know, the final episode.  As fans are well aware, however, such mundane thinking was never one of the program’s hallmarks.]

We open in space, then pan down to look upon planet Earth.  Above the placid sphere, Wonder Woman’s invisible plane enters shot.  Oddly, something at least nominally exciting is going on, as it’s being fired up upon by some sort of manta ray-shaped craft.  From this I deduce that Black Manta has somehow procured a space fighter, although that seems well about his pay grade.

We cut to Wonder Woman, currently sharing the cockpit with a typically useful Aquaman.  She is radioing in an SOS and indeed identifies the enemy craft as “the Manta Ship.”  Previously Black Manta just had an advanced submergible water ship, which right there made him overqualified to be Aquaman’s archenemy.  But then, so too would be a retired chiropractor in a rowboat armed with a hooked string tied to a stick.  In any case, giving Black Manta a laser-firing space cruiser puts him entirely out of Aquaman’s league.

The SOS receives an immediate reply, as the Batplane is luckily right in the area.  (Why not?)  The stratosphere is pretty small, after all.)  “Hang on, Wonder Woman,” Batman radios in response.  “We’re right behind him.”  Seated next to Batman is Apache Chief.  I’m not sure who the hell drew up that day’s Justice League duty roster, but clearly they were drunk off their ass:

Wednesday, noon to 2:00

Subterranean Patrol:
Hawkman and Robin.

Mall of America Patrol:
Green Lantern, The Flash and Superman.

Orbital patrol:
Invisible Jet: Wonder Woman and The Wonder Twins Aquaman.
Batplane:  Batman and, uh, Apache Chief, I guess.

Of course, Batman would never be so gauche as to actually fire upon the enemy.  In lieu of such provocative action, he instead matches speed above the Manta Ship and lowers a tube onto it.  Meanwhile, we cut inside the Legion craft to find that the person who formulated their more sinister duty roster was rather more on the ball.

Despite the fact that he’s the only one piloting the craft or handling any of the other controls (which means that Black Manta—Black Manta!—is currently tying up the attention of three of the world’s most powerful superheroes, and Aquaman), Black Manta is joined by Cheetah, Scarecrow and the Riddler.  In other words, the League has managed to pack nearly their entire roster of complete losers up here, barring only Toyman.  And who knows, he may be in the aft section of the Manta Ship working on a highly sinister Parcheesi set.

“Wonder Woman’s jet may be invisible,” Cheetah observes, apparently for our benefit, “but your space sonar is picking it up purr-fectly.*”  Well, that explains that.  Also, there’s the fact that you can actually see Wonder Woman and Aquaman, who themselves aren’t invisible.  Maybe they’re supposed to be, but if so, they never bothered to establish this.  With such being the case, we can only go with the evidence before us.

[*As noted previously, Cheetah on this show is basically just a stand-in for Catwoman, and in particular the Eartha Kitt Catwoman.  In service of fairness, they needed a Wonder Woman villain on the League Roster, along with another girl for Wonder Woman to ‘fight.”  (The Legion’s other distaff member, Giganta, is on this program Apache Chief’s foe, since they both grow to giant size.)

Given the paucity of WW’s rogues’ gallery, Cheetah was given the nod.  Even so, few people really knew who Cheetah was, so basically they turned her into a second-string Catwoman.  A revamped Cheetah appeared in a few episodes of the Cartoon Network’s recent Justice League / Justice League Unlimited cartoon.  Here she was no longer a Catwoman knock-off.  Instead, she was a knock-off of Marvel’s slinky character Tigra, just as that program’s vastly improved Aquaman was a knock-off of Marvel’s Namor the Submariner.]

Manta turns to Catwoman, and observes “Any second now and we’ll blast it [Wonder Woman’s jet] into oblivion.”  Yes, pausing in order to make a remark like that is certainly a better use of time then actually, you know, commencing said blasting.  Indeed, in a completely unforeseeable twist of fate, this bragging proves fatal to his sinister plan.  And I mean, who could have possibly foreseen that?  Well, I guess I could have, since I haven’t restarted the DVD yet, but let me stipulate that until I do these musing remain a complete stab in the dark.

Anyway, back to our story.  Manta turns his attention back to Wonder Woman’s jet, but in a completely unforeseeable twist of fate, his bragging has proved fatal to his sinister plan.  For behind them now stand Batman and Apache Chief.  You know, considering how often these characters are caught with their metaphorical pants down by their foes suddenly appearing directly behind them, you’d think they’d install security mirrors or something.  I mean, they have those in gas station mini-marts, you know what I mean?

“I’m afraid your space chase is over!” the suddenly manifest Batman avers.  So saying, the Caped Crusader tosses a Batrope around Scarecrow….  Really?  Scarecrow? He’s the first one you take out of action?  Out of four supervillains, he’s the most dangerous guy aboard?  I mean, what about, er…Black Manta…Cheetah…the Riddler….

OK, objection withdrawn.

But actually, Batman’s way ahead of me.  For his Batrope magically entwines each ‘super’villain in turn.  Wow, the drama.  Quite a one-second almost-tussle that was, as four ‘super’villains are neutralized in the blink of an eye by a guy with a rope.  (To be fair, Apache Chief was standing there too, arguably looking imposing or something.  Admittedly, he couldn’t actually employ his superpower, given that he’s standing in the fairly tight confines of a spaceship.  Still, he’s a buff dude, which right there is enough of a superpower to take these four out.)

Good thing for Batman that these four were the guys on the ship, though.  What would he have done had Solomon Grundy or Bizarro or Grodd been on board?

And hey, they surprise me for once, for no sooner do I restart the DVD after writing this than Scarecrow smirks, “I wouldn’t be too sure of that, Bat-Fool!”  And sure enough, emerging from the aft section appears none other than Bizarro.  Oops.  “Me take care of you two for good,” Bizarro says, grabbing up the startled heroes.  Indeed, it’s hard to see this turning out any other way, given the power disparity here.  I mean, Apache Chief can’t even really grow, given the size of the Manta Ship, and even if he did he’s no match for Bizarro.

In fact, proving to be the best Superfriends episode ever (barring the one in the swamp with Solomon Grundy and the witch and Satan), Bizarro doesn’t just capture the two.  No, he intends to actually kill them by stuffing the two into the “Manta Ship nuclear engine.”*  Luckily for his sinister purpose, this has an irising, superhero-sized wall aperture leading into it, although I think I detect some potential radiation spillage issues with that set-up.

Sadly, and with outrageous convenience, Superman just happens to pick this exact moment to fly into the area.  “Great Scott!” he inevitably blurts after surveying said events with his x-ray vision.  “Batman and Apache Chief are in danger!”  The Man of Steel alleviates said peril by flying into the Manta Ship’s rocket ports, which somehow leads directly to the other side of the aforementioned wall aperture. 

Now, if I were Bizarro I’d just muscle my way in past him, because although he and Superman are invulnerable, even a split-second in there would kack Batman and Apache Chief.  Or, you know, he could just flex his muscles slightly and pulverize them to death.  That would work too.

Needless to say, this doesn’t happen.  On the other hand, it almost doesn’t matter.  Black Manta was about to blow Wonder Woman’s plane out of the sky, and Bizarro intended to melt two Superfriends into slag.  If the Legion of Doom starts playing by these rules the Superfriends would all be dead in a few weeks in any case.

And indeed, and I almost can’t believe what I’m seeing here, but even the secured Black Manta is actually trying to inch his hand toward (presumably) the firing button and take out the Wonder Jet.  No wonder this episode is called The Final Challenge.  It’s because all the Superfriends are going to end up dead by the end of it.  I guess the remaining shows are celebratory flashbacks, as the joyous, drunken members of the Legion of Doom regale each other with tales beginning, “Hey, remember the time…”

Sadly, this all indeed too good to be true.  Instead of the weapons control, Manta proves to be reaching for the radio switch.  He does send for reinforcements, though.  Wonder Woman catches the transmission, and Aquaman helpfully suggests, “We’d better call the other Superfriends before the entire Legion of Doom arrives!”  Yes, good thing you’re there, Aquaman.  Wonder Woman never would have thought of that on her own.

Still, this is all pretty impressive, especially given that we’re only a few minutes into things.  Given the evidence at hand, it’s entirely possible that the show might have become generally less moronic had it run longer.  I mean, we opened with actual stuff happening.  Superfriends were actually in danger of losing their lives, and now rather than the usual one or two guys against another one or two guys, it looks like the entire teams are going to get into a huge melee.  I mean, OK, ABC at that time wouldn’t let anyone on the show throw a punch or anything, but this is still far closer to genuine excitement than the program normally gets.

Anyway.  Wonder Woman calls the Hall of Justice and speaks to remaining Superfriends (Green Lantern, Samurai, Hawkman, Flash, Robin [yeah, he’ll help] and Black Vulcan).  Hawkman—good gravy, who put him in charge?!—assigns Black Vulcan and the Flash (!!!) to stay behind on Trouble Alert duty.  I’m sure when help arrives Wonder Woman will be glad to see that two of the more powerful Superfriends remained behind to watch TV while they dragged Robin’s ass up here.

In an admittedly nifty shot (what’s going on here?), the jet-powered Hall of Doom appears, looming menacingly over the three smaller space vessels already assembled.  This means the entire Legion is on hand, including Lex Luthor, Solomon Grundy and Sinestro.  Frankly, the Superfriends are going to be seriously outmatched here, especially given the absence of the Flash and (to a lesser extent) Black Vulcan.

Then the Superfriends arrive, and I see I made a mistake.  It wasn’t just the Flash and BV that stayed behind, it was everyone except Hawkman (!!) and Green Lantern.  I guess Hawkman came along by dint of the fact that for no reason whatsoever he could, on this show anyway, fly and breathe (and talk) in space.  However, Green Lantern could have easily transported everyone up in an energy bubble, so I’m not sure what’s going on.  In any case, the Superfriends are going to be even more seriously outclassed than I thought.

Luckily—ah, that’s more like it—this episode’s entire set-up is instantly swept aside when, as the show’s Omniscient Narrator helpfully explains, “an incredible space warp sucks [everybody on hand] away from their own world into a strange, unknown universe!”  Ah, that’s more like it.  There’s the trademark Challenge of the Superfriends stupidity I’ve been waiting for.

The various characters materialize on an alien world, and entirely by random chance are arranged in their appropriate teams, each facing the other.  And now the tables are rather more equal, since the only ones (I guess) who ended up here are the ones from the Invisible Jet and the Manta Ship:  Bizarro, Scarecrow, Cheetah, Black Manta and the Riddler on one side, and Superman, Batman, Apache Chief, Wonder Woman and Aquaman on the other.  As such, I now have to give the Superfriends the edge.  Superman and Bizarro basically neutralize each other.  Meanwhile, now that they’re on the ground Apache Chief can attain giant stature.  As such, he alone severely overmatches the remaining Legionnaires.

For his part, Aquaman gazes upon the red sky and huge crystalline formations dotting the alien landscape.  Having done so, he enquires “Where on Earth are we?”  Sharp as ever, Aquaman.  Meanwhile, Manta assumes this is all a trick on the heroes’ part (?), but vows that “we’re going to destroy you!”  That’s the spirit, old chap.  Have at it.  Before the groups can, er, grapple (if not actually fight) with one another, however, they find themselves surrounded by yellow force bubbles.  “You will destroy no one!” a querulous voice rings out.  Didn’t I see this on a Star Trek episode once?  Or like, two dozen times?

Meanwhile, we return to the others.  “Holy Vanishing Act!” Robin says to Samurai—man, I hate that guy—somehow looking upon the interior of the Manta Ship via a monitor in the League craft.  “The Legion of Doom must be at the bottom of this!” Green Lantern opines, although he’s floating around in space and would have no way to tell that anything had happened.  (Him, I’ll allow to sidestep the ‘talk in space’ thing, since his power ring basically allows him to do anything he wants.)

This comment is witnessed by Lex Luthor on the Hall of Doom monitor.  Luthor exclaims in response that they know it was the League who made everyone disappear.   Because, you know, completely random and retarded stuff doesn’t just occur on this show on a weekly basis.  Like the fact that everyone knows that people inside a spaceship have disappeared, and that they can all communicate with each other, whether standing in the Hall of Doom or floating around in the void.

Luthor calls for détente until they solve the mystery.  “I suggest we pair up in two groups and search the universes parallel to our,” he says.  I mean, what can you say to that?  How does he know they haven’t been flung to some distant part of this universe?  How does he know they have been whisked into the ancient past, or far into the future?  That kind of stuff happens all the time on this show, after all.  Hell, how does he know they haven’t been just been disintegrated?

Then there’s the fact that he suggests a couple of teams “search” at least two “universes.” Well, if everyone has the entire afternoon free, sure, why not?

“It could be a trap,” Hawkman replies to Green Lantern.  “We’ve got to be careful.”  Gee, nothing gets past you, Winged Warrior.  Despite this, Lantern accedes to Luthor’s plan, noting “we’ve got no choice.”  Really?  No choice?  At all?  And, I don’t know, shouldn’t you maybe consult with your teammates before you agree on their behalf?  I mean, Luthor is leader of the Legion, and speaks for them as a matter of course.  The League doesn’t work that way.  I don’t know how it works, actually.  Perhaps Green Lantern is currently occupying some sort of rotating chairmanship position.

And what happened to the momentary bloodthirsty ruthlessness that saw Bizarro about to cram two Superfriends into an atom chamber?  I mean, the entire useful membership of the Legion—and Toyman—is on hand.  Admittedly, with Bizarro gone, the Legion can only field one “flies in space” member right now.  But that’s Sinestro, who can at least keep Green Lantern busy whilst Luthor blasts Hawkman and/or the League Rocket Ship with one of the Hall’s laser cannons, or whatever they have.  I mean, the Hall of Doom would be bristling with armaments, wouldn’t you think?

But then, they wouldn’t have Superfriends’ help to “search” the various “universes.”  That would potentially add hours to the job.  I mean, imagine performing such a task without Robin’s participation.  So I guess Plan A wins.

Sinestro asserts that “The four of us will go with the Bat Rocket,” and teleports himself, Giganta (her superpowers thus neutralized as Apache Chief’s were earlier), Solomon Grundy and Toyman (!!!) over to the compartment holding Samurai and Robin.  See what I mean about the various characters constantly appearing behind each other?

Still, if Sinestro can pull this off so easily, why are any of the Superfriends still alive?  Zap him and Grundy (you can skip Giganta and Toyman) aboard a ship holding nearly any combination of two Superfriends and—admittedly, Superman and The Flash would be a problem—but otherwise, well, the results would be obvious.  Hell, paint Grundy yellow and in a confined space he could take Green Lantern out in about two seconds.

Oh, and how are all of these characters now assembled in the “Bat Rocket”?  That’s what Batman and Apache Chief arrived in earlier.  Does Batman have two or more space-worthy Bat Rockets?  Enough so that he keeps a minimum of two of them at the Hall of Justice, despite the fact that his home base is in Gotham?  I know Bruce Wayne’s got a lot of dough, but damn.  (On the other hand, if Black Freakin’ Manta can afford a spaceship, maybe Wayne has a fleet of them.)

Then it’s back to the Hall of Doom, where Green Lantern and Hawkman are suddenly on board.  With them having arrived, Luthor declares “The Hall of Doom will take us into another universe.”  Sure, why not?  Then you can “search” it.  You know, the other universe you’re going to travel to.  Meanwhile, as he turns to the controls, Luthor stage whispers to Captain Cold, “Where we’ll have the perfect opportunity to finish off the Superfriends!”  At least he’s keeping his eye on the prize,* although I’m not sure why they have to wait until they enter another universe.

[*Which is more than you can say for the Superfriends.  Even aside from the dubious notion that they’ve “no choice” but to team-up with the Legion to conduct these searches—because, and you can’t really argue this, six guys are mathematically three times better for ‘searching’ a universe than two guys—Green Lantern expresses no qualms that these aggregate teams feature four Legionnaires to two Leaguers. 

I mean, maybe he’s not worried about watching his back against Luthor, Brainiac, Captain Cold and Grodd (unless Luthor is carrying a yellow-colored blackjack up his sleeve).  Well, bully for him.  If I were Robin, though, I’d be a tad nervous about sharing close quarters with Sinestro and Grundy, even if Giganta and Toyman wouldn’t be much to write home about.]

“Instantly,” the Narrator expounds, “the Superfriends and Legion of Doom vanish into unknown worlds [sic!] in search of their missing comrades.”  OK, I tried to parse that sentence, especially the ‘worlds’ = ‘universes’ things, but it gave me a headache.  And vanish “into” unknown worlds?  Whatever.

Anyone, we can tell that action has shifted to another universe because space and everything in it is red.  I’m not sure how that works, either, but then I’m not an astronomer.  On the alien world spied earlier, Superman is questioner their captor.  “I am Vartoo,” this presumably august individual explains, “leader of this universe.”  Again, did anyone associated with this show know what a universe is?

Vartoo, who basically looks like a balding Old Testament version of God only with red eyes, gives with the lowdown.  “I have been monitoring old episode of Star Trek the Original Series your battles for years,” he blathers in an echo-y voice.  “Yet you have gotten no closer to solving your differences.”  Well, he’s got them there.

“This is a peaceful universe,” Vartoo preens.  “And so, I shall put a stop to your endless battling.”  What?  This would almost, sorta make sense if the assembled Superfriend and Legionnaires were drawn into his universe by accident.  However, I have to assume the idea is that he brought them there.  In which case, his definition of ‘peaceful’ is different from mine.  Mind your own bee’s wax, baldie.  (On the other hand, on this show, maybe their traveling to another universe is entirely coincidental.  It’s not like they’re bothering to establish it one way or the other.)

Meanwhile, the earthlings (mostly) are annoyed at having their autonomy impinged.  “You have no right to interfere with our differences,” Black Manta (!) asserts.  Actually, that’s kind of a strange argument from a member of a group dedicated to forcefully taking over their own universe, but there you go.  Also, again, this is entirely like Kirk and Kor the Klingon similarly bitching to the Organians when they imposed peace on the two races.

In the end, though, Vartoo is like the much more robust roster of Star Trek aliens who chooses to decide the matter via a “series of contests.”  On the other hand, I’d pay a dollar to see Superman standing over the body of Scarecrow and screaming to their unseen controller “Is this…whatyouwanted?”  In fact, screw it, let’s just see Superman fighting a Gorn.  That would be awesome.  And then Aquaman could take on some Daleks.  Less awesome, perhaps, but a whole lot funnier.

There will be five contests, Vartoo decrees.  Unsurprisingly, the group that wins three of these will be the victor.  Almost a violation of the show’s traditional Rule of Three, but not quite.  Even so, the contests must be pretty lame if they plan to squeeze five of them into the next sixteen minutes, why also servicing the two teams searching the various universes for their missing associates.  In any case, Vartoo plans to “eliminate” the losing team, which is standard protocol under the Kibitzing Godlike Alien Accords signed at Rigel 7.

Vartoo sweeps his hand, producing a rather lame trailing sparkle effect, and Riddler (!!) and Batman disappear.  OK, that makes sense, given that Riddler is one of Batman’s adversaries.  On the other hand, this program’s version of the Riddler is mighty lame.   Admittedly, so is it’s Batman, but not lame enough to suggest this is likely to be an even draw.

Vartoo apparently foresaw such protests, however, as their contest involves them striving to be the first to escape from a big maze none too imaginatively called “The Labyrinth of Death.”  (Still, kudos on the show actually getting the ‘D’ word past their Saturday morning overseers.)  “The first one through the maze is the winner,” Vartoo explains.  Oh, now I get it.  Gee, good thing he explained the rules, huh?  Anyway, since a maze is a puzzle of sorts, I guess the Riddler at least nominally even has an edge over Batman in this particular instance.

On the other hand, this all seems like awfully lame stuff for a God-Like Being™.  Heaven knows what the remainder of the contests will be like.  A Sudoku-Off?  Wonder Woman and Catwoman playing Twister?  (Actually…)  And all overseen by one of the least impressive Cosmic Busybodies ever:  “Let he who fails to first yell ‘Yahtzee!’ fear my wrath!”

So the two enter the Maze and split off.  Batman is seen using an unexplained doohickey, which seems like cheating.  But hey, if Vartoo’s happy, who am I to complain.  Riddler boasts that he’ll finish this “simple puzzle” in nothing flat, when he nearly falls into a simple gigantic bottomless pit.*  There’s no sign that this was covered in any way, so apparently the guy just didn’t notice the approaching yawning crevasse until he was hanging off the side of it.

[*In a typical example of the show’s notable lack of animating continuity, the pit goes from having jagged edge to smooth ones and changes size radically from shot to shot.]

Having (barely) survived this mind-blowingly ingenious trap—again, a thirty square-foot hole in the floor—Riddler decides to use it to his advantage.  “I’ll see that it gets Batman for sure!” he sneers, and stepping off-camera into another section of the entirely sterile maze, returns seconds later with a large armful of plant fronds (!!!!).  These he lays over the, er, trap, although why he thinks Batman will come down this exact passageway of the maze in any case is left entirely to our imaginations.

The Riddler surveys his diabolically clever trap, which lacks nothing except perhaps a large sign with an arrow pointing at the fronds and a legend reading, “OK TO STEP ON—COMPLETELY SAFE!”  He then boasts “I’ll win this contest and get rid of Batman at the same time.”  Uhm, dude, the whole point of this thing is that you’ll get rid of Batman should you win anyway! Remember?  “Labyrinth of Death?”  Yeesh!  Dick Dastardly had more focus than this.*

[*Well, OK, no he didn’t.  Muttley did, though.]

Batman sure enough comes along, strolling so slowly (so as to explain why his nemesis has time to set up this, er, elaborate trap) that even he suddenly notes, “I’d better move faster if I’m going to beat the Riddler.”  Needless to say, his newfound emphasis on impetus means that he’s that much more likely to literally fall for the Riddler’s sinister, if completely dimwitted, ruse.
And so he does.  Batman, the World’s Greatest Detective, indeed steps on the insanely out of place mat of fronds and falls into the pit.  So how does he escape certain death?  First, as he notes while plunging to his apparent demise, “My Batcape should slow me down!”

And sure enough, gathering up the cloak’s bottom corners somehow transforms it into a serviceable parachute.  This allows Batman to land safely on the floor below, a fact which suggests the Riddler doesn’t fully understand exactly what qualities define a “bottomless pit.”   However, his travails are not over, for he no sooner lands than he spies the glowing red eyes of a presumed cave monster.

Meanwhile, the Hall of Doom appears in the midst of a bunch of giant atoms, which sure enough denotes that they’ve entered “a strange subatomic universe.”  As opposed, I guess, to a completely run of the mill subatomic universe, of the kind you might receive by the trillions in a box of Cracker Jack.  You’d get those entirely by chance, of course; not actually packaged like one of those little lick-on tattoos.

So a hatchway in the Hall of Doom opens, and Green Lantern, Hawkman, Luthor and Captain Cold (!) come flying out.  The latter two are wearing what I presume to be space helmets, although they aren’t attached to anything.  For his part, Green Lantern is provided air and otherwise protected by his power ring.  However, Hawkman flies around bare-chested and sans any helmet.  As I’ve noted in earlier Superfriends reviews, this apparently under the notion that if he comes from another planet (as he does), then he is therefore a ‘space man,’ and ipso facto must be able to breathe in space.  Q.E.D., right?  Superman is treated the same way.

After having flown several entire yards (or whatever would be the analogue for a yard in a subatomic universe) over a period of quite literally two seconds, Hawkman asserts “There seems to be nothing here except huge atoms and molecules.  And not a sign of life anywhere.”  Again, you can see why the two teams decided to put aside their differences and work together:  With just two people searching it would have taken four seconds to come to reach this conclusion.

However, veterans of the show are put on their guard by remarks like this.  The last time a character on this show said something like “There’s not a sign of life anywhere,” one second later he and his teammates were surrounded by thirty-foot tall spider monsters.  Sure enough, we now immediately hear, “What in the world is that?  Some kind of atomic monster!”  This basically is a (comparatively) gigantic man-shape made up of white dots, where predictably is indeed stationed directly in front of them.

Stage whispering, Luthor opines to Cap’n Cold that “This looks like a perfect opportunity to rid ourselves of two Superfriends!”  Man, I really like this new, results-oriented attitude on the part of the Legion.  Screw capturing some Superfriends and using them as bait.  Just kill them off as expediently as possible.  Glad to see you guys coming around, Luthor.

In answer, Cold fires his freeze pistol and encases the being (how do they know it’s a ‘monster’?) in a nicely formed rectangular block of ice.  I’m not sure how you’d do that with a ray pistol, but then I’m not a supervillain.  The monster quickly breaks free—which presumably was Cold’s plan, although he’s apparently formulated with a distinct lack of data—and naturally decides to go after Green Lantern and Hawkman.

Proving a bit naïve even for this program, Lantern reacts to be grabbed up in the monster’s clutches by yelling for Luthor and Captain Cold to help them.  “Not a chance, green fool!” Luthor responds.  Gee, there’s a shocker.  What an amazing twist, huh?  Who could have foreseen that the heroes’ evil archenemies, the ones who create elaborate deathtraps for them on a weekly basis, would just float there and let their antagonists be destroyed?

Instead of yelling “ARRRGH IT’S CRUSHING MY RIBS!!” or “AIEEEEEE!”, Hawkman assumes a more professional tact and instead describes the exact nature of the peril he and his associate are facing.  “That atomic creature has contaminated us,” he avers.  “We’re turning to unstable nuclear material!”  I hate when that happens!  I will say that Hawkman utters this with admirable sangfroid, although on the other hand stuff like this happens to them on a pretty regular basis.

In any case, Green Lantern has also taken Microscopic Universe Atomic Monsters 101.  “If we don’t stop the reaction,” he concurs, “we’ll explode like an atomic bomb.”  First of all…OK, if you say so.  Second of all, this isn’t making Luthor and Cold look particularly bright.  They’re floating and gloating about ten (comparative) feet away, which would seem to be well within the blast radius of an atomic explosion, much less a pair of them.

Meanwhile, we cut back to the maze.  Batman’s foe has stepped into the light, and turns out to be—what else—a giant articulated walking skeleton with glowing red eyes. 

As I believe I have documented, this show was uniformly as stupid as all get out, but you can see why kids loved it.  In six minutes we’ve had a space battle, an attempt to stuff superheroes into an atom chamber, Leaguers and Legionnaires whisked into another universe by a pompous alien, two characters almost falling to their deaths, a universe composed of monstrous atoms, an atomic beast and a growling giant skeleton monster.  Now imagine you’re six years old and watching all this while consuming six bowls of cereal that’s 90% pure cane sugar.

The monster scoops up Batman—sans any real violence, the program was very big on grappling and being grabbed up in giant fists—and raises the Caped Crusader aloft. “I can’t get free of the creature’s grasp,” Batman helpfully explains.  However, he frees his Bat cable, and tosses it around a nearby rock, with the weighted end coming back around and wrapping around the huge skeletal legs.  One good tug and he manages to dislodge the creature, with to hell with matters of leverage and comparative mass.  Anyway, the skeleton has a glass jaw and lands unconscious.

Of course, there’s still the matter of getting out of the maze ahead of the Riddler, who at this point would presumably have a pretty big lead.  Fortuitously, the designers of the Labyrinth of Death cunningly decided to reward anyone moronic enough to plummet through a gigantic hole in the floor, and thus provided a stairway leading up to the maze’s exit point.  And so does Batman emerge but a bare second before Riddler does.  This, if I’m following things, means Vartoo will be murdering the Riddler post haste.  I can’t imagine the Legion will be all that broken up about it.

Click here to read Part Two of this review