Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Animated World of DC Comics: Challenge of the Super Friends (1978)

After 5 years (counting repeats of the original series), Hanna-Barbera finally got the go-ahead to pit the Super Friends against their traditional foes from the comics in 1978's Challenge of the Super Friends. Fonjil uploaded the open, narrated by Bob Lloyd, who also was the announcer for the syndicated Hanna-Barbera's World of Super Adventure, which hit the air that same season, repackaging the studio's own superhero series from the 60's, including their adaptation of the Fantastic Four, which we covered last time.

If you need a scorecard, well, you don't really need one. The made-for-TV heroes, Black Vulcan, Samurai, & Apache Chief, didn't really have any arch-enemies. Here's the Legion of Doom's roster, with their heroic counterparts in parenthesis:

Lex Luthor, Bizarro, Toyman, Brainiac (Superman)
Sinestro (Green Lantern)
Capt. Cold, Gorilla Grodd (Flash)
Cheetah, Giganta (Wonder Woman)
Scarecrow, Riddler (Batman & Robin)
Black Manta (Aquaman)

Solomon Grundy was originally created as a foe of the Golden Age Green Lantern, but by the Silver Age had also fought Superman & Batman, among others. Meanwhile, the Wonder Twins were left out of the loop, but would tangle with some of the Legion's members in later seasons. The idea had been planted in the viewers' heads a year earlier that Zan & Jayna were meant to be comedy relief (which they really weren't in the comics), and thus, in order to emphasize the more serious drama of these stories, the Twins were MIA. In fact, the Challenge series is regarded as one of the most popular incarnations of the Super Friends franchise over the course of its 13 seasons on ABC.

As most fans know, Challenge was actually a 1 hour show, with the Legion of Doom episodes airing in the 2nd half of the show. As memory serves, the program expanded to 90 minutes to add episodes from the previous season's All New Super Friends Hour when ratings issues forced ABC to shuffle its lineup in mid-stream. However, when the series went into syndication just a couple of years later, it was sliced in half, as back in those days, a 1 hour show just couldn't be sold to local stations in that format. Challenge, like most of the franchise, is on DVD, which is part of why it no longer airs on Boomerang.

Rating: A-.

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