Batman Beyond vs. Challenge of the Superfriends
Now, this is a real fight! Style against a complete lack of style. Kitch taking on glitz. The 70′s punching in out against the 90′s, but the 70′s isn’t allowed to punch, so it just sort of hugs it out!
Jason: Ok so first off this show isn’t that bad. But what I’m talking about is specifically “Challenge of the Super Friend”. There are 9 different versions of “Super Friends” running from 1973-1986! What we’re talking about is Challenge of the Super Friends 1978-1979.
The show is two segments: the first one is with the usual Bat, Superman, Wonder Woman and then the ridiculous Wonder Twins and their monkey. Yah, a monkey so kids can relate to it because cartoon characters aren’t enough by themselves they need a monkey. Ah the 70’s.
‘Cause everything is better with a monkey.
The second half featured Green Lantern and then a Samurai (named Samurai), Black Vulcan, and Apache Chief of the JLA fighting the Legion of Doom, so you’d have to wait (yeah that’s right kids we’d actually have to wait till the shitty part of the show was done till it got to the good stuff).
So this show has a couple of good points. JLA is cool because you get to see the DC team up and fight some pretty badass villains. This was really the first attempt I can think of to explain and expand the DC universe outside of the comic books. Which in case you’re living under a rock, is exactly what Marvel is doing right now with its live action stuff MCU. So it was ahead of its time in a way.
Ok, so that’s the good stuff. Notice it’s short ,right? So it’s the 70’s and the animation isn’t great compared to the 40 + years between then and now. It’s monster of the week with very little over-arching plot. But the show is about the “Characters” right? Yeah right. Batman in this is still essentially Adam-West-campy and literally uses “Bat-Lube” to escape Solomon Grundy at one point. Everyone else is either Freddy, Velma or Daphne while the fucking Monkey makes dumb-dumb noises, and the Wonder Twins turn into stupid things. I don’t know who decided that this show needs comic relief, or that it was more important for us to see Aquaman, Batman and Wonder Woman react to the twins bathing the monkey than to… say battling one of the villains or trying to save the world. Same writer who came up with that compelling “Bat-Lube” line no doubt
This show was very much a product of its time; slightly sexist, slightly racist, a little dumb. But it’s the first step and about as watchable as Fantastic Four ’78. Both these shows are time capsules of the era they were made in. This one just happens to be filled with polyester, mustaches and funky trumpets.
Scott: Challenge of the Superfriends has some real upsides that’ I’d like to touch on.
First off, the show had an amazing cast of villains in the Legion of Doom. If you go back and take a look at those 60′s and 70′s hero cartoons, you’ll see an awful lot of wonky, made for TV villains. Spider-Man versus the giant green cat. Flash fights the yellow aliens. Stuff like that. But here, we get Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, Cheetah, Solomon Grundy, Bizarro, Giganta, Toyman, Sinestro, Scarecrow, Black Manta and the Riddler.
Any piece of superhero entertainment is only as good as it’s villains. That’s why “The Avengers” was good (Loki), and “Age of Ultron” was bad (Sassy Robot).
Black Manta is a great villain for a cartoon. that voice? C’mon!
The Legion of Doom is exceptional as a foil for the Superfriends. They mean business, and they are always out to destroy the heroes and conquer the world. They have the coolest characters and they hang out in the coolest secret base this side of Cobra Commander. Solid gold.
Secondly, can you image how ballsy it must have been to introduce Samurai, Black Vulcan and Apache Chief on a kids cartoon? Stereotypes aside, they created an Asian, a Native-American and an African-American hero and just tossed them out there. That’s so progressive, it happens even before the actual Justice League of America comic book. Heck, even Giant-Size X-Men #1 was only 3 years out at that point (where they introduce the new globally-sourced team with Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Thunderbird, Banshee, and Wolverine on the team).
And yes, Samurai, Black Vulcan, and Apache Chief are far from perfect, but I still want to applaud the intent. They didn’t have to create these guys for a show like this, but they did.
Jason: Out of the 70′s and straight into the 90′s, where we dream of mid-21st century William Gibson cyberpunk style.
If you want to get into character for this one, go read Virtual Light. (Or alternatively, listen to the audio book as read by Perter Weller. Yeah that’s right, ROBOCOP!)
So this show is built on the road paved by Batman TAS, it has the same voices as Batman TAS. Notably Kevin Conroy, and Mark Hamill and really is a continuation of that show. That being said, it’s great. Starts off strong with lots of moral conflicts. Batman is really himself in this show, the kid he picks as his successor is rough around the edges but watching his character develop is great. The writing on this show is tight, and it actually creates more than it draws on the old Batman canon. The animation isn’t as slick as we’ve seen from some of the shows past the 2000 mark but considering this show is now 17 years old it’s pretty solid. The intro sequence is nice, blending cool computer stuff with classic animation. This show is a true successor to Batman TAS. More than just a dystopian ( that’s how they thought the future would be) laugh fest like Space 1999. This show catches the same vibe as Bladerunner, the future setting is just the setting, the story is the real highlight here. I think those of us who remember the 90′s will get a kick out of it and those who don’t won’t get the same nostalgia high but will still be able to enjoy the heart of the story.
As well, this show has a true beginning, middle, and end. After 3 seasons the true series finale had to be done on an episode of The Justice League Unlimited episode “Epilogue”, which neatly ties up all the great loose plot threads from the show.
Great show all around. This is one of the shows I point to when I start making my case that cartoons shifted in the last twenty or so years, to cater and grow with the audience from the 80′s as we age.
You’re really hot for Batman Beyond.
Here’s the major downfall of the show for me: Who is Terry’s nemesis?
Hint: It’s not Joker, because he’s clearly still Bruce Wayne’s, as shown in “Return of the Joker”.
Batman Beyond, in direct opposition to Challenge of the Superfriends, has no great villains. The Jokerz? Derivative. Derek Powers? Electric Lex Luthor rip-off. Inque? Who?
I think it’s very telling that the best episode of Batman Beyond takes place in Justice League Unlimited with “Epilogue”.
Jason: True, no strong villain rises up to challenge the new Batman, while “Challenge” has a whole room full of them, (points for “Challenge”). But as a counterpoint, the protagonist isn’t clear in Super Friends either. If it’s based on screen time then it’s these asshats:
So Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman are playing second fiddle to a female version of Beast Boy and a dude who can turn into water (for which to wash his space monkey). Where does the dirt go Zan, when you’re washing the poop off your monkey? It goes in the water Zan, that means it’s in you!
I just can’t get behind that.
Burn in hell Gleek!
Scott: I will not have you disparage the Wonder Twins, Jay.
Gleek is annoying, I will grant you that. But the Wonder Twins are delightful imps, getting in and out of trouble in a stuffy, tight collared world.
Jason: Ok so take two hits of acid and form of a couch potato.
While I load up on Jolt cola and listen to Rollins band jabber on about a conspiracy theory. Wonder Twins and and weak bad guys aside, Batman Beyond is a clear winner here.
Scott: I’ll give it to BB, but it’s not clear. The edge is the one-two punch of Old Man Bruce Wayne and Ace, the Bat-hound.
The winner, by a silicon filament: Batman Beyond!
Challenge of the Superfriends
Animation quality: 3
Animation quality: 3
Batman Beyond advances, but stay tuned as next we pit “The Savage Dragon” against “WildC.A.T.s” in an all-Image throwdown!