The Lost Episodes
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Will Harris
hose who pride themselves on their love of the animated adventures of the DC Comics universe during the 1970s and 1980s will be unashamed to admit that they own all of the “Super Friends” DVDs that have been released by Warner Brothers. Similarly, they’ll probably rush out and buy “Super Friends: The Lost Episodes,” which collects 24 adventures which had never before found their way into the rotation of the Saturday morning series in the United States. (A nutshell clarification of that statement: they aired in Australia, but in the U.S., “Super Friends” was canceled before they aired, so these stories only ended up making an appearance on our shores when they were utilized as extra segments within “The Superman / Batman Adventures.”) You should, however, be aware that there’s little chance you’ll make it through the entire set without thinking, “I think I understand why these episodes were lost.”
“The Lost Episodes” are an interesting – and I use the adjective very loosely – blend of the ridiculous standalone stories which featured heavily on the “All New Super Friends Hour” DVDs, but with occasional attempts to bring in elements from the comics. We get occasional appearances from underused heroes like the Flash, Green Lantern, and the Atom, and in “An Unexpected Treasure,” we even get the first “Super Friends” appearance of Hawkgirl, though she is inexplicably given a costume which is completely different in design from the one worn by her husband, Hawkman. The writers also dared to dip into Superman’s mythology a bit, sending us to Krypton before its explosion, offering a visit from three previously unknown Phantom Zone criminals, and sending a couple of the Super Friends on a trip to the 5th Dimension, courtesy of Mr. Mxyzptlk.
Several members of the Legion of Doom turn up to battle the Super Friends independently, including Brainiac and Bizarro. The latter sends Superman, Wonder Woman, and Samurai into various video games, including “Asteroids” and “Pac-Man,” so you can imagine how dated that feels, but it’s nothing compared to Brainiac’s outing, “Superclones,” which scales new heights of ridiculousness. The premise involves Brainiac cloning Aquaman and El Dorado, kidnapping the originals, and having the clones commit crimes, admit to their guilt and agree to be put on trial, and then announce to the judge, “Hey, the other Super Friends were in on it, too, so you should arrest the whole lot of us!” Seriously? Brainiac’s literally a walking computer, and this is the best world-conquering plan he can come up with? For sheer Doom-related bliss, you can’t top “Revenge of Doom,” where we get to see the entire Legion back together, with Lex Luthor spewing his patented brand of trash-talking. Good times, to be sure, and far less ridiculous than the painful “Two Gleeks are Deadlier Than One,” where Gorilla Grodd and Giganta attempt to take down the entire JLA with an android duplicate of the Wonder Twins’ space monkey. Yeah, because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that plan.
As for those aforementioned “ridiculous standalone stories,” there are certainly quite a few classics of the craptacular variety, but none come anywhere close to matching “Terror on the Titanic,” where the husk of history’s most famous oceanliner is possessed by some super-evolved algae, becomes sentient – yes, the entire ship – and begins to attack the coast of Newfoundland. It really must be seen to be believed. Also be on the lookout for the overuse of the series-created minority characters: Apache Chief, Samurai, and El Dorado. They may have been created for the ostensible purpose of giving minorities their very own heroes to groove on, but they’re so horribly clichéd that they more likely set them back a decade or two. Special props of awfulness go to El Dorado, who only seems to rescue people who speak Spanish. (“Gracias, El Dorado, gracias!”) Some sort of limitation of his abilities, perhaps?
But, really, I’m not telling you anything about “Super Friends” that you don’t already know. It’s less about the adventures of heroism and far more about the laughs the stories inspire. If you know and understand that, you’ll continue to have a ball, but it can’t possibly be recommended to anyone who isn’t in on the joke already.
Special Features: Easily the most disappointing volume of “Super Friends” to date, the producers of the set have opted out of obtaining any audio commentaries from the creators or compiling any featurettes about the episodes’ creation. It would’ve been nice to have an animation historian fill in the blanks and explain the story behind the so-called “lost episodes” (although, to be fair, the back of the box does a decent job of offering a streamlined explanation). Instead, the only bonus material is what’s described as “two downloadable ‘Super Friends’ comic book adventures from the DC Comics Vault,” and as a comic geek, I feel obliged to bash this feature for its sub-par delivery.
First, the PDF file opens with the cover for the first issue of the “Super Friends” comic, but we don’t actually get the first issue. We instead get one story from the 13th issue (“The Mindless Immortal”), followed by a second story (“Wendy and Marvin Meet the JLA”) which originally appeared in a giant-sized “Super Friends” book released during the show’s first season. With all of the issues to choose from, why would they opt for a story which features Wendy and Marvin, the Super Friends’ sidekicks from the only episodes of the series which still haven’t been released on DVD? It’s one of those TV-DVD situations where it feels like someone started with a decent idea, then apparently delegated it to someone who neither knew nor cared about the show. Curses, foiled again!