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DVD Review: Super Friends: The Lost Episodes

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Written by Caballero Oscuro

There were lost Super Friends episodes? The Warner Brothers marketing team has outdone themselves with the intriguing title of this new two-disc DVD collection. As most children of the ‘70s can recall, the Super Friends were an integral component of ABC’s Saturday morning cartoon lineup for many years. With a roster sporting the cream of the DC comics crop including the holy trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, the cartoon was a stellar platform for exposing the tots (like me) to the entire DC universe.

Back in those simpler non-Wikipedia times, news didn’t really get publicized to the suburbs that there were missing Super Friends episodes that were produced but never aired during the Saturday morning run. We got whatever they decided to show on TV that Saturday (and only Saturday!) and hoped we could remember them because dammit, there was no way we were ever going to be able to see them again when the show finally went off the air.

However, as the Friends moved into the ‘80s and weekday afternoon syndication deals, an odd confluence of events led to the production and mothballing of the 24 shorts contained in this DVD set. The shorts were intended to be broadcast during the ’83-’84 Saturday morning lineup, but ABC dropped the show rather than compete with the previous series in weekday syndication. Three of these episodes were aired when Super Friends returned to Saturday morning ABC television the following year, while the rest finally appeared in syndication as part of the Superman/Batman Adventures show a year later. So in effect, none of these episodes were really lost, the majority just never appeared during Saturday morning broadcasts.

In addition to the three core superheroes, the main team as described in the show’s opening credits included Robin, Aquaman, the Wonder Twins and Gleek, and D-list losers Samurai, Apache Chief, Black Vulcan, and El Dorado. Interesting assortment of players from a United Nations perspective, not so much for the actual characters. Luckily, the writers felt free to borrow liberally from all corners of the DC universe, so the Morts really weren’t featured very prominently in this collection. Unfortunately, the Legion of Doom is a minor presence as well, appearing in only one short. You may notice the intentionally misleading inclusion of Green Lantern on the front DVD cover (trying to ride the coattails of the new Green Lantern: First Flight direct-to-DVD movie, Warners?), but he was not part of the core team and only pops up twice in minor supporting roles throughout these episodes.

The 24 shorts contained here are around seven minutes each and are grouped into three shorts per episode, so it’s probably more correct to say that the set is eight “half hour” episodes rather than 24 individual episodes. Regardless, it’s a decent helping of Super Friends fun at a fair price. The writing ranges from pretty great to so bad it’s good. Among the best are the return of the Legion of Doom and a time-travel plot to destroy Superboy by three Kryptonian criminals escaped from the Phantom Zone. The worst? Probably Bizarro’s entrapment of the three stars in a videogame (shades of Tron) where they have to battle asteroids and escape from a Pac Man clone. No, the worst one may be where they battle ridiculous-looking animal baddies with even more comical monikers such as Hippohulk and Superfrog. I think that might be the same one where Superman and Batman get transformed into a giant eagle and bat. Really. But good or bad, the shorts are all fun in their own way and well worth watching.

Super Friends: The Lost Episodes is now available on two-disc DVD. There are no special features.

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