Hanna-Barbera (1983), Warner Home Video (August 11, 2009), 2 discs, 172 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio, Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono, Not Rated, Retail: $26.98
A kid-friendly Justice League battles against an array of supervillains, alien invaders, and bad writing.
The Sweatbox Review:
Super Friends not only had several incarnations, it also went through a few ups and downs with ABC, the network that aired the program. The show was originally cancelled after one season before being rescued by high ratings for its reruns, and it was cancelled again after the 1982-83 season (which had only been featuring reruns anyhow, as The Best Of The Super Friends). The reported reason for the cancellation was that Hanna-Barbera had created a syndicated package of the series’ old shows, and ABC chose to not complete with the older programs. They likely had also felt that the show had run its course, having already been aired for a number of years In fact, it was already among the longest-lasting cartoon shows, which usually only seemed to get a single season or two. However, Hanna-Barbera had continued to produce new episodes anyhow, perhaps anticipating another renewal, or maybe thinking that new episodes could sweeten a future syndication deal. In any event, the 1983 episodes were not aired at all until just a few appeared alongside the line-up of episodes in the revamping of the show as Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show in 1984. The entirety of the 1983 shows would not see American broadcast until the USA Network showed a conglomeration of DC Comics cartoons (including Filmation ones) in a series called The Superman/Batman Adventures in 1995.
The 1983 “Lost Episodes” are generally consistent in writing and tone with previous seasons, but like Challenge Of The Superfriends, they incorporate more aspects of the DC Comics Universe than other previous incarnations. This is a definite transition from the Wonder Twins/”ethnic heroes” kiddie era and the slightly more mature and “comic booky” seasons that ended the show’s run. Within the Lost Episodes, one will find plays on Superman’s mythology and clashes with a number of comic book villains, not to mention an all-out appearance by the Legion Of Doom. Unfortunately, one also has to contend with illogical scripts, weak animation, and barely one-dimensional characters. A number of the episodes, however, are actually fairly entertaining, in a cheesy kind of way. There are eight episodes here, each with three stories.
Episode 1 – Superman and Batman are brought to the fifth dimension by the magical imp who normally picks on Superman while in Metropolis, in Mxyzptlk’s Revenge. The Wonder Twins help three teens who ride on a condemned Roller Coaster, as we learn a lesson on peer pressure and initiation stunts. Batman and Apache Chief go to the Wayne Building in Gotham City to fend off an angry Native American ghost in Once Upon A Poltergeist.
Episode 2 – The Krypton Syndrome has got to be the most horrific Super Friends story in history. Superman travels back in time to save Krypton from destruction, then changes his mind and goes back again to blow it up! Stare in disbelief as you see Superman kill billions to help him ensure that he becomes Superman. Next, malevolent aliens package themselves as toys in Invasion Of The Space Dolls . Aquaman and Black Vulcan encounter Terror On The Titanic when the famed sunken ship comes to life due to mutated algae. Who makes this stuff up?!?
Episode 3 – The Revenge Of Doom is the Challenge Of The Superfriends sequel, which has all of the Legion Of Doom, but only four Super Friends. Still, Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin manage to defeat all the villains, showing just what they’re capable of when they’re not weighed down by the lamer hereos. Speaking of, the Wonder Twins then call in Aquaman to help them acquire A Pint Of Life, as they look for a potential blood donor in the Amazon. Day Of The Dinosaurs has very few dinosaurs, but it does feature Wonder Woman and Samurai inexplicably sinking with the Hall Of Justice into the ground, where they teach a lesson in getting along to two tribes of subterranean humanoids.
Episode 4 – Giant preschoolers threaten Earth in Playground Of Doom. You don’t see The Flash operate in space often, but he does in Space Racers in order to help Zan and Jayna deal with alien teens causing trouble. The Recruiter has Superman and Wonder Woman being abducted for a football game in space. Yes, you read that right.
Episode 5 – Superman and Batman encounter “Super Zoons” in the another dimension, in Warpland. Two Gleeks Are Deadlier Than One sees Grodd and Giganta kidnapping the Wonder Twins’ space monkey in order to replace him with an android. Then, Superman and Apache Chief face Bulgor The Behemoth, the realization of a writer’s imagination.
Episode 6 – Batman and Superman become Prisoners Of Sleep when they encounter a sleep demon, but Wonder Woman is able to enter their dreams to help out. The Wonder Twins try to help teens on a runaway spaceship in An Unexpected Treasure, but the neatest treasure is finding Hawkman and Hawkgirl guest starring. The Malusian Blob has a … blob from Malusia. It also has Batman and Robin, and Black Vulcan.
Episode 7 – Return Of The Phantoms is certainly one of the cooler episodes on the set. A time traveller accidentally sets free three Phantom Zone criminals, and they force him to take them back in time, where they face off against Superboy, who in turn is aided by his future self and his Super Friends. A teenager uses Batman’s utility belt to stand up to some bullies in Bully For You. As this is a teen morality play, you have already guessed that the wonder twins are in this one too. Lastly, Brainiac makes Superclones out of Aquaman and El Dorado.
Episode 8 – The cats in Attack Of The Cats are two scientists, plus Robin; it’s up to Batman and El Dorado to get everyone changed back to humans. Batman and Superman then try to find a cure for a boy who lost his ability to walk following an encounter with a bear and the death of is dog, in One Small Step For Superman. And finally… I hate nonsensical stories where people are zapped into video games. That includes Video Victims, the concluding story on this set.
Super Friends fans almost certainly know that the original incarnation of the program, which included Wendy and Marvin alongside the heroes in hour-long stories, has yet to be released, but there is one more version of the show left to come out, and there are still other numerous segments that remain “lost” to DVD collectors. The 1979 season of World’s Greatest Super Friends had eight half-hour shows, and there were other shorts produced for the 1980 and 1981 seasons that aired alongside older segments, with no word on their DVD release yet. You’d think that, for all my criticisms of the stories, that I might not want to see any more episodes released on DVD. On the contrary, I welcome more opportunities to be so entertained and to share these silly but earnest shows with my kids.
Is This Thing Loaded?
With several sets out already, Warner seems to be putting less into the extras on the Super Friends DVDs these days.
All that is on this one is two comic stories, either viewable onscreen or as a .pdf file on your computer. 24 pages in total are available, including the cover to the first issue of the Super Friends comic from the 1970s. Only one of the two stories is from that issue, as far as I can tell. The first story is from the Wonder Twins era, and introduces Doctor Mist of the Global Guardians. The second story appears to be from the first issue on the comic, though, as it introduces Wendy and Marvin, the show’s original teen characters, to the Super Friends. Aside from being notable for the continuity of the show, the story also features artwork from the show’s character designer, Alex Toth. So that’s nice, anyhow.
Here’s yet another configuration for Super Friends on DVD. Warner seems to have abandoned the ultra-slim two-disc digipacks recently in favor of a standard keepcase that has a tray for one of the discs, and all inside of a slipcase. Incredibly, they actually have different artwork on the back cover of the slipcase compared to the back cover of the keepcase. The keepcases’s back cover has several different characters, all beside a listing of the stories on the discs. No attempt is made here to place them in the context of episodes, but the episode menus on the discs do rightly group the stories together in bundles of three, while still allowing you to select an individual story.
Ink And Paint:
Par for the course for this series, these video transfers are true to the source material, with the standard dust and scratches, while exhibiting mild compression artifacting. The overall impression is that the picture is a bit on the soft side, but quite decent overall.
Ah, yes. Mono sound. Narrow range, no bass, and just a teeny tiny bit tinny. It just wouldn’t be Super Friends with anything else, would it? English and Portuguese are the audio options, while these languages have subtitles, in addition to there being a French subtitle track.
Should these episodes have stayed “lost?” No, saying that would be just too easy. Not only are these up to the same standards as any other season of Super Friends, there are actually a number of meatier stories here for fans to enjoy, even if they are all short. You’ve got guest stars galore, a number of supervillains, Superman destroying Krypton, Phantom Zoners going after Superboy, and a Malusian blob, all in addition to the regular nuttiness one expects from the show. As the final episodes before the Super Powers revamp, the Wonder Twins era went out with— well, maybe not a bang, but at least a darn nice little crash.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?