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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show: "The Bride of Darkseid"

Lasting one season, with only eight episodes, this Super Friends run did have some interesting elements to it, most notably the caliber of villains on display. Unlike the first few seasons of Super Friends, where our heroes tackled misguided aliens or scientists with crazy ideas, this series followed in the vein of The Challenge of the Super Friends where actual super villains from the comics were allowed to appear. But instead of various members of Legion of Doom trying to take over the world each week the Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show mostly followed three of DC’s bigger guns when it comes to villains; Lex Luthor, Brainiac, and Darkseid. The last one being the chief antagonist for the show’s short run, but what really distinguished Darkseid from the rest of the rogues gallery was his constantly being sidetracked from conquering the universe so that he could to hit on Wonder Woman.


The series formula at this point was two short stories per half-hour but in the case of “The Bride of Darkseid” it was the whole half-hour but made into a two-parter. The episode begins with the narrator telling us, “Somewhere on a dusty desert road Black Vulcan pursues two bank robbers" and we see Black Vulcan having a hard time catching this car full of crooks for some reason.  I know he’s not the in the same league as The Flash when it comes to speed but you’d think his powers would allow him to fly faster than 60 mph, but then it gets worse as he's thwarted by the bank robbers activating a smoke screen.


“If only I had the ability to fly above this.”

Just as the crooks think they’ve got it made they find their car turned into a bathtub. What wizardry is this you ask? Well the Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show introduces a new hero to the Saturday morning roster in the form of Firestorm, and as super powered heroes go he’s a tough one to beat. Created by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom in the late 70s Firestorm has the ability to rearrange the atomic and subatomic structure of inorganic matter and then to create objects of different atomic characteristics of equal mass. So he can turn a car into a bathtub with basically just a thought and a wave of his hand, kind of like a wizard. That he doesn’t end any conflict or threat in a matter of seconds can be chalked up to him not being all that bright.


He could have turned the cars fuel into water but this seemed more fun.

After helping Black Vulcan, whose embarrassing performance gets him stuck on monitor duty for today’s adventure, Firestorm stops the Daily Planet globe from falling to the streets below by turning it into a hot air balloon (we are going to assume he later turned it back), and he saves a ship from colliding into an iceberg by turning the ice into lead so that it sinks to the bottom of the sea. These two events were witnessed by Superman and Wonder Woman who along with the rest gang think he would make a powerful Superfriend, but they are concerned that they don’t know much about him. Because Standards and Practices at the time still wouldn't let Batman actually hit villains he’s once again relegated to operating the Bat Computer.


World’s Greatest Data Entry Operator.

Batman informs the group that, “According to spectral-genetic analysis of this photograph Firestorm’s genetic code is composed of quadruple DNA helixes. It means Firestorm appears to be two people in one.” Batman got all that from analyzing a photograph? That is one amazing computer and a hell of a camera, but while the Superfriends are pondering the ramifications of this new hero we cut away to the arrival of the series’ chief villain, the all-powerful Darkseid. Along with his son Kalibak Darkseid has come to defeat the Superfriends so as to assure his reign over the planet Earth, but that’s not the only thing on his agenda as he makes it clear to his son that no harm should come to Wonder Woman.


Darkseid brings his kid on an interplanetary booty call.

Using his Omega Beams to trigger a volcanic eruption Darkseid lures the Superfriends into a trap. Superman, Black Vulcan, Batman and Robin are captured in a net made of a kryptonite alloy (whenever Superman is involved the villains kind of need to have some kind of kryptonite around), and Wonder Woman is wrapped up like a Christmas package and seized by Kalibak.


Wonder Woman in bondage managed to survive the transition from comic to cartoon.

Before Darkseid can carry out his kidnapping scheme Firestorm arrives and turns Wonder Woman’s bonds into ribbons that she can easily break out of, and he dissolves the net holding the rest of the Superfriends. You’d think going with “dissolving” would be your go to attack in almost all instances, but what Firestorm lacks in brains he makes up for in creativity. When Batman asks just who is this Darkseid person, Superman informs the group that, “Darkseid comes from the planet Apokolips, and is said to be the most powerful leader of the intergalactic underworld.”  Superman wisely leaves out the fact that Darkseid is also a notorious perv.


“Damnit you fool, this isn’t Wonder Woman’s shower cam.”

Back on Apokolips Darkseid’s chief science officer, the diabolical DeSaad, has developed a machine called the “Mind Probe” and with but a push of a button DeSaad can alter the personality of any living thing. Kalibak wants to try it out on Batman or Superman but Darkseid growls, “Silence, Kalibak. As soon as I can penetrate the Hall of Justice Wonder Woman will be our first victim. I’ve always dreamed of making her my ally but with this device I can make her my queen.” I know this is a Saturday morning cartoon but that all seems a tad rapey to me. So it’s a good thing that the Hall of Justice is protected by a force fields that keeps out all intruders, well that is until hormone raging Firestorm bumps into the off switch while dreaming of a Mrs. Robinson relationship with Wonder Woman, and deactivates the force field which allows Darkseid to kidnap her.


It seems to be a contest here as to who is the lamest Superfriend.

Superman later consoles the newest member by saying, “There’s no time to blame yourself Firestorm.” Which I assume is code for, “Once we rescue Wonder Woman you’re fired.” Batman spots Wonder Woman’s magic lasso on the floor and Robin brilliantly deduces, “This doesn’t look good, Batman.” Thanks Robin, your input is valuable, now go back and help Alfred dust the Batcave.  Black Vulcan is able to use the Hall of Justice computer to locate Apokolips (Wait, isn't that Batman's job?) and so Superman announces who will be a member of the rescue team, “Batman, Robin, Firestorm, I think it’s time we paid a Darkseid a visit.” Yeah, bring the idiot that is responsible for her being captured in the first place and leave the black guy behind to answer the phone.


“Oh, you guys are just terrible!”

The Superfriends arrive on Apokolips via a hollow meteor and immediately infiltrate Darkseid’s headquarters. Unbeknownst to them Darkseid hasn’t been idle and Wonder Woman had spent some time under DeSaad’s evil Mind Probe. The team quickly discover where Wonder Woman is being held, and because Darkseid doesn’t want to make it too easy for them he sends giant kryptonite energy balls at them, which Firestorm is able to easily deactivate, and then a troop of robots that are incapacitated when Firestorm turns the floor into an oils slick.

Note: Once again Standards and Practices for children’s television shows prevented the writers and animators of The Super Friends from using something they deemed to frightening for children. Those familiar with DC comics and Darkseid know that his chief shock troops consist of Parademons.


These are the Parademons from the comics.


This is what we got on the Super Friends.

Eventually the Superfriends find Wonder Woman’s cell and rescue her, but things kind of go south rather quickly when Wonder Woman leads them into a trap. Turns out DeSaad’s machine worked just fine and now Wonder Woman has partnered up with Darkseid (let’s all agree as a group that they didn’t have time to consummate their relationship) and the Superfriends are held fast by the power of the Mind Probe as Darkseid informs them that, “She is mine now, as you all shall be. At the touch of the button you shall become servants of both myself and my future queen, Wonder Woman.”


I wonder where these two will register for wedding gifts.

Things don’t look good for the Superfriends, not even Superman has the mental power to resist DeSaad’s diabolical device, but there is one thing that Darkseid hadn’t planned on and that is Firestorm. Turns out the Firestorm being two minds in one body (High School student Ronnie Raymond and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Martin Stein who become Firestorm when the two merge) allows them to resist the Mind Probe and break free of its evil grip.


And yes Firestorm will make the, “Two heads are better than one” joke.

Once Firestorm is free of the Mind Probe he blasts it into pieces thus freeing the rest of the Superfriends from its evil grip. Superman rolls up Darkseid, DeSadd and Kalibak in the floor, which if you know anything about Darkseid’s power set this is utter bullshit, and Batman whips out Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth stating that, “Only the power of her magic lasso can save her now.” Batman snares Wonder Woman in its golden coils and states, “Stop, Wonder Woman. By the power of Hera, you are now free.” The Amazon is then able to break the hold the Mind Probe had on her, but while everyone was marveling at the returning friend Darkseid and company freed themselves from the rolled up floor. “Nothing can stand my Omega Beams,” Darkseid claims, but which Superman seems to manage with but a little effort, and it does buy them enough time for Wonder Woman to use Darkseid’s Stargate device to open a portal home.

Note: In the comics a “Boom Tube” was used as a dimensional point-to-point travel portal, mostly for traveling between New Genesis and Apokolips, why this show changed it to a Stargate is beyond me. Maybe the “boom” in Boom Tube sounded too violent.

Even though Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show has the our heroes pitted against very dangerous foes the action is still relegated to people being caught in nets and escaping force field beams or some such nonsense. A battle between Superman and Darkseid should be a titanic battle of epic proportions and not the lame ass nonsense we see here.  Sadly even though comics in the 80s had got darker over the years with such works as Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns kids were still not allowed to see such violence on their Saturday morning programs.


As a kid I’d have preferred a super powered smack down over this.

Note: The voice of Batman for this run of Super Friends was provided by Adam West, decades after hanging up the cowl from his successful Batman live action series, and the voice of Darkseid was delivered by the king of cartoon voices Frank Welker and viewers of Inspector Gadget may notice that Darkseid sounds a lot like the gravelly voice Dr. Claw as Welker voiced them both. Watching this show I kept expecting Darkseid to end each episode declaring, “I’ll get you next time, Superfriends!”

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