Challenge of the Super Friends

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Challenge of the Super Friends is an American animated television series about a team of superheroes which ran from September 9, 1978, to September 15, 1979, on ABC. It was produced by Hanna-Barbera and is based on the Justice League and associated comic book characters published by DC Comics. It was the third series of Super Friends cartoons, following the original Super Friends in 1973 and The All-New Super Friends Hour in 1977.

Contents

Format

First segment

The plots for this series were, at the time of its initial airing, arguably the best effort to portray comic book heroes in animated television shorts. As originally aired, this season consisted of two half-hour segments. The first of these was an adventure with Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the Wonder Twins, similar to those that had aired the previous season in The All-New Super Friends Hour, these episodes were shown using the opening credits of the All-New Super Friends Hour; therefore, it is often mistakenly believed that the Wonder Twins did not appear in this season.

Second segment

The second segment of this season featured the Legion of Doom, a team of thirteen recurring foes, the Super Friends' worst enemies. Every episode would feature battles between the thirteen supervillains of the Legion of Doom and the eleven superheroes of the Justice League of America. The Legion of Doom dwelled in a murky swamp and launched their attacks for global conquest from a sinister looking, swamp-based, mechanical, flying headquarters, called the Hall of Doom as a suitable contrast with the Super Friends' gleaming Hall of Justice.

Production background

Narration, music and character designs

Challenge of the Super Friends was narrated by the voice talents of William Woodson. The show's main theme and original music was composed and arranged by musical director Hoyt Curtin. The music supervisors were Paul DeKorte and Fred Werner. Character designs for this particular Super Friends series were done by Andre LeBlanc, while color key was arranged by Nancy Massie.

Team composition experimentation

Hanna-Barbera's writers experimented with team composition as well. Challenge of the Super Friends added The Flash (Barry Allen), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), and Hawkman (Katar Hol) who were members of the Justice League of America, as well as several new characters: Black Vulcan (who appears to have been based on the DC Comics character Black Lightning Black Vulcan was created to take the place of the DC comics original character Black Lightning, DC comics first prominent African-American superhero. Hanna-Barbera had original planned to use the DC comics original character Black Lightning, but learned that in order to use the character a royalty fee would have to be paid to Tony Isabella, the writer who created Black Lightning and at the time wrote the Black Lightning comic book. Hanna-Barbera then created Black Vulcan, whose powers and costume were similar to Black Lightnings', in order to avoid paying any royalty fees. In response Tony Isabella wrote a story in the Black Lightning comic book that featured a con artist named Barbara Hanna and an impostor Black Lightning.]*), Apache Chief, and Samurai. These characters were created to add racial and cultural diversity to the otherwise Caucasian roster of Super Friends, even though the group included a Kryptonian, an animated clay statue, an Atlantean, and a Thanagarian. Critics have come to view Black Vulcan, Apache Chief and Samurai (along with a later Hanna-Barbera creation, El Dorado) as invoking somewhat awkward racial stereotypes, though fans of the characters often point out that in the 1970s very few people of color were represented in Saturday morning television at all.

Challenge of the Super Friends lineups

Super Friends/Justice League of America

Eleven heroes made up the Super Friends/Justice League of America. They were:

 

Legion of Doom

Thirteen villains comprised the Legion of Doom during the Challenge of the Super Friends season. They were:

 
  • Doctor Natas - a one-time member briefly mentioned in "Super Friends, Rest In Peace" as the inventor of the Noxium crystal, which had the power to kill any Super Friend. He never actually appeared on screen.

Ironically, the opening credits would list the villains as "Gathered together from remote galaxies . . ." . Lex Luthor, Black Manta, Cheetah, Giganta, Scarecrow, Toyman, Riddler, and Captain Cold are all from the United States of America. Gorilla Grodd is from Gorilla City in Africa. Solomon Grundy was spawned in a swamp in the USA (which swamp varies by origin). Bizarro was either an imperfect Superman clone created by Luthor, probably on Earth, or from Bizarro World. Brainiac was from Colu and Sinestro from Korugar. Even at that, these planets are still most likely in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Voices

  • Jack Angel .... The Flash, Hawkman, Samurai
  • Marlene Aragon .... The Cheetah
  • Lewis Bailey ....
  • Michael Bell .... Riddler
  • Bill Callaway .... Aquaman, Bizarro
  • Ted Cassidy .... Brainiac, Black Manta
  • Melanie Chartoff ....
  • Henry Corden .... Dr Varga {"Invasion of the Brain Creatures"}, Torahna {in "The World Beneath the Ice"}
  • Danny Dark .... Superman, Superboy
  • Al Fann ....
  • Shannon Farnon .... Wonder Woman
  • Ruth Forman .... Giganta
  • Bob Hastings ....
  • Bob Holt ....
  • Buster Jones .... Black Vulcan
  • Stan Jones .... Lex Luthor
  • Casey Kasem .... Robin, Computer
  • Don Messick .... Scarecrow; Vartoo {in the episode "The Final Challenge"}
  • Vic Perrin .... Sinestro
  • Renny Roker ....
  • Stanley Ross .... Grodd the Gorilla; Nar-Tan {in "Doomsday"}
  • Dick Ryal*Dick Ryal gave Captain Cold a quavering voice in the first episode, evidently to suggest that he was, in fact, cold. He dropped this affectation in subsequent episodes.* .... Captain Cold
  • Michael Rye .... Green Lantern, Apache Chief
  • Olan Soule .... Batman
  • Jimmy Weldon .... Solomon Grundy
  • Frank Welker .... Toyman; Mister Mxyzptlk

Episodes

Episodes

First segment (credited simply as Super Friends)

  • The Demons of Exxor
  • Rokan: Enemy from Space
  • Battle at the Earth's Core
  • Sinbad and the Space Pirates
  • The Pied Piper from Space
  • Attack of the Vampire
  • The Beasts are Coming
  • Terror from the Phantom Zone
  • The Anti-Matter Monster
  • World Beneath the Ice
  • The Invasion of the Brain Creatures
  • The Incredible Space Circus
  • Batman: Dead or Alive
  • Battle of the Gods
  • Journey Through Inner Space
  • The Rise and Fall of the Super Friends

Second segment (credited as Challenge of the Super Friends)

  • Wanted: The Super Friends
  • Invasion of the Fearians
  • The World's Deadliest Game
  • The Time Trap
  • Trial of the Super Friends
  • Monolith of Evil
  • The Giants of Doom
  • Secret Origins of the Super Friends
  • Revenge on Gorilla City
  • Swamp of the Living Dead
  • Conquerors of the Future
  • The Final Challenge
  • Fairy Tale of Doom
  • Doomsday
  • Super Friends: Rest in Peace
  • History of Doom


DVD release

Warner Home Video released this entire season of Super Friends on DVD on two box sets. The first one being Challenge of the Super Friends: The First Season, which obviously featured the "Challenge" episodes, and the second being Super Friends: Volume Two, even though in the trailer it is incorrectly referred to as the second season.

Title Type Ep # Release Date
Challenge Of The Super Friends The First Season 16 August 6, 2004
Superfriends Volume 2 16 May 24, 2005

Spoofs

Cartoon Network produced a couple of commercials spoofing Challenge of the Super Friends.

  • One dealt with the idiosyncratic nature of the Legion of Doom and Brainiac’s odd manner of dress (Brainiac: “Look, I just want some pants...a decent pair of pants!” Solomon Grundy: “Solomon Grundy want pants, too!”).
  • The second, co-starring the Powerpuff Girls, dealt with Aquaman’s powers (Aquaman: “My ability to talk to fish is of no use to us, Wonder Woman!”) as well as the level of violence compared to today’s cartoons, as Wonder Woman and Aquaman look away while the Powerpuff Girls beat up the Legion of Doom, going so far as to set the Scarecrow on fire. Most notabably was Bubbles double-entendre reply to Wonder Woman's compliment on how they were developing as superheroes. "One day we'll be as developed as you are." Lex Luthor, as a villain with a dirty mind began laughing. His underlings understood the joke and laughed as well. When a piece of the Hall of Doom's ceiling fell on Luthor's head, everyone laughed.
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