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DVD Review: Super Friends: The Lost Episodes

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A Saturday morning television staple for Gen X-ers growing up during the ‘70s and ‘80s was ABC’s Super Friends, Hanna Barbera’s take on DC Comics’ Justice League of America. When they had enough shows for a syndication package, Hanna Barbera shopped it around, bringing the heroes to weekday afternoons; however, ABC decided they didn’t want the competition, so they dropped the series from the 1983-84 lineup.

Super Friends aficionados are aware Hanna Barbera went right on creating new adventures, eight episodes or 24 cartoons depending on how you count them. They have been dubbed “The Lost Episodes,” but “rare” is a better term because the trio of “Mxyzptlk’s Revenge”/ “Roller Coaster”/“Once Upon A Poltergeist” was shown the following year when Super Friends returned to ABC, and the remainder aired a decade later on USA Network’s The Superman/Batman Adventures in 1995.

The “lost” adventures feature a wide roster of heroes teaming up in various combinations. Naturally, there are the Super Friends regulars, Aquaman, Batman, Robin, Superman (who also appears as Superboy) and Wonder Woman, as well as Wonder Twins Zan and Jayna and their monkey Gleek. Many JLA members also make return appearances to the series: Atom, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkgirl, and Hawkman. In an attempt to provide ethnic diversity, characters created for the show augmented the Super Friends ranks. They are Native American Apache Chief, African American Black Vulcan, Japanese Samurai, and Hispanic El Dorado.

The cartoons present familiar villains and storylines. The bad guys the Super Friends tangle with in the set include Mr. Mxyzptlk, Grodd and Giganta, Brainiac, Bizarro and The Legion of Doom altogether in the best one of the bunch, “The Revenge of Doom,” a throwback to Challenge of the Super Friends, an earlier and fan-favorite version of the series. Sci-fi fans should recognize “Playground of Doom,” where giant alien children mess around on the planet, and “The Recruiter,” which finds Superman and Wonder Woman kidnapped and forced to play in some form of intergalactic football where the losing team dies.

The producers must not have thought much about the audience as the set-ups are rather silly and everything gets wrapped up nice and neat within about seven minutes or so. It was rather odd to see Zan turn into an ice rocket and blast off for the Amazon in “A Pint of Life.” Apparently it never occurred to the writers that the heat of the engines would cause him to melt himself. But those logical blind spots lead to funny moments like the Hall of Justice falling through Earth’s crust yet remaining intact into a prehistoric land within the planet in “Day of the Dinosaurs.” They even have some “message” shows. “Roller Coaster” deals with peer pressure; “Space Racers” deals with speed limits.

The only extras are two Super Friends comics: “The Mindless Immortal" and "Wendy and Marvin Meet the JLA"

The Lost Episodes are definitely geared towards kids and not for adults as most comic book related material was at the time. If they are young and don’t think too much about the story, they will likely enjoy the show. However, it will be rough going for adults as every adventure with an interesting idea, like “The Krypton Syndrome” where Superman goes back in time and stops his home world from blowing up and sees the results of his never coming to Earth, is outnumbered by bad ones like “The Malusian Blob,” one of the worst episodes, where Batman defeats an alien organism by using sugar.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
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