The Legion of Doom
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The Legion of Doom(pop culture)
While its title—Challenge of the Super Friends (1978–1979)—might lead a viewer to believe that this Hanna-Barbera animated series, the second incarnation of the long-running, frequently reinvented Super Friends cartoon, starred the Justice League of America (JLA), it was the villains who stole the show (as well as various riches and evil weapons). “Banded together from remote galaxies are thirteen of the most sinister supervillains of all time!” intoned the voiceover that launched the series each week, flashing frightening clips of a baker's dozen of DC Comics' baddest bad guys—the Legion of Doom—assembled for “a single objective: the conquest of the universe.” A lofty goal, granted, but through the show's single season the Legion nearly accomplished its malevolent mission. Almost every one of the sixteen episodes produced began with a pan across a dismal swamp, with the Legion's dark, domed headquarters, the Hall of Doom, ominously rising from the murky bog. Inside was a meeting table, around which this unholy alliance conspired not only to take over the world, but to destroy the Super Friends in the process. Four of Superman's arch-nemeses were counted among the Legion's roster. Scientist Lex Luthor (voiced by Stan Jones), in the purple-andgreen uniform he donned in the 1970s comics, served as the chairman of this nefarious council, often brainstorming that episode's wicked plan. Green-skinned android Brainiac (Ted Cassidy, best known as Lurch from TV's Addams Family) contributed his computerized intellect and shrinking ray to the machinations. Toyman (veteran voice talent Frank Welker), the jester-dressed 1970s reinterpretation of the long-time Super-foe, provided comic relief (although his pernicious playthings like laser-firing toy soldiers were no laughing matter), and show-stealer Bizarro, Superman's backwards duplicate, threateningly pounded the table, his Bizarro-speak uttered by Bill Callaway. Joining Bizarro in the dunce seats was the pasty-faced swamp monster Solomon Grundy, whose limited vocabulary was perfectly delivered by Jimmy Weldon. Aquaman's enemy Black Manta's metallically hollow voice was, like Brainiac's, courtesy of Ted Cassidy. Vic Perrin, the mouthpiece of numerous animation heavies including Dr. Zin from Jonny Quest, added a dash of pomposity to the dialogue of renegade Green Lantern Sinestro. Batman's puzzling clue-master the Riddler (Michael Bell) was, like Toyman, on hand for levity, although the series' other Bat-foe, the fear-mongering Scarecrow, was among the creepiest of the cast, from his horrific mask to Don Messick's bloodcurdling vocalizations. Messick—one of the vocal superstars behind countless Hanna-Barbera characters including Boo- Boo Bear, Bamm-Bamm, Astro, and Dr. Quest and Bandit—also voiced Captain Cold, the Flash's freeze-gun-toting terror (animated here with an iceblue complexion). Challenge's other Flash felon was the super-intelligent primate Gorilla Grodd, played by Stanley Ralph Ross, the multi-talented actor/producer/writer who, among his myriad credits, penned thirty-two episodes of ABC's Batman (1966–1968). Two Wonder Woman supervillainesses rounded out the cast: the full-figured Giganta (Ruth Forman) and perhaps the weakest of the thirteen villains, Cheetah, whose “purr”-laden dialogue (by Marlene Aragon) suggested that the producers had envisioned this role for Catwoman. With its lethal array of weapons (most of which were created by Luthor), including the Time Conveyor, the Mental-Matter Ray, the Dream Machine, and the Hypnotic Anger-Ray, the Legion of Doom was always up to no good. Among their nefarious deeds: erasing Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern from existence by disrupting their origins; obtaining the Monolith of Evil from Earth's core; exiling the Super Friends into the pages of fairy tales; siccing a zombie army on the heroes; and transforming themselves into 100- foot giants. The episode “Super Friends: Rest in Peace” revealed the existence of a former member of the Legion of Doom: Dr. Natas, inventor of the lethal element Noxion. Comic-book artist Alex Toth, along with Andre Le Blanc, designed the Legion, cleverly softening their diabolical appearances just enough to pass network censors. In the 2000s, Challenge of the Super Friends was the first of the Super Friends franchise to be collected as a DVD set, and several of the Legion of Doom were released as Super Friends action figures, accompanying their superhero enemies in two-packs. The Legion of Doom was reintroduced to a new generation of viewers in the 2005 season premiere of the Cartoon Network's Justice League Unlimited (2004–present, a continuation of the 2001–2004 series Justice League). This new Legion operates under the leadership of Grodd, but boasts an expanding and varying roster much larger than the original's thirteen. “We kind of took a page with what we did with Justice League Unlimited,” producer Bruce Timm announced at the 2005 San Diego Comic-Con, “where we opened the ranks of the Justice League to include basically everybody.” Some of those “everybodies” include Death Ray (a renamed Black Manta), Killer Frost, Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Giganta, and Silver Banshee. The classic Super Friends Legion of Doom also inspired the supervillain assemblage appearing in the Justice League miniseries Justice (2005–2006), by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, and Doug Braithwaite.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.