Stand back folks, it’s The Wonder Twins! The year is 1977 and Star Wars mania was sweeping the globe so good-bye Marvin, Wendy and Wonder Dog and say hello to Zan, Jayna and their space monkey Gleek! With this iteration of The Super Friends Hanna-Barbera decided to break the hour long show into four different segments/adventures; with one of them being a Wonder Twins solo outing, which usually had them trying to save some idiot kids from danger, while two segments would team-up two of the Super Friends to handle the “adventure of the week” problem – with a guest star in one of them – and the fourth segment would deal with a threat that required the full roster of heroes.
In “The Brain Machine” we have the team-up consisting of Batman & Robin and Wonder Woman – a dynamic trio if you will – as they take on mad scientist (Is there any other kind?) named Dr. Cranum, who has developed a brain machine that would, “Advance man’s mental evolution a million years.” So once again the Super Friends find themselves up against some noble goals but due to either hubris or a mistake bring forth calamity instead. In this case Dr. Cranum tests this unproven device on himself, even though his assistant Dr. Scat (most unfortunate name ever) tries to warn him about tampering with the great unknown, and sure enough the machine turns Dr. Cranum into a giant-lobed super villain.
Now unlike most villains Dr. Cranum decides that everyone should be just as awesome as he is, and thus wants to attach his machine to a large satellite dish so that he can make the rest of humanity as brilliant as he is. When Dr. Scat tries to warn the authorities Cranum freezes him with a mind blast, for nothing can stand in the way of altruism. Cranum uses telekinesis to place a police car on top of a skyscraper, thus alerting authorities to the problem, and in this universe that means the police immediately call the Hall of Justice. Way to fail right out of the gate Dr. Cranum.
Cranum announces to Wonder Woman and the Caped Crusaders that he plans to make everyone as smart as he is, and when the Superfriends attempt to stop him he ties Wonder Woman up with her own magic rope, then traps Batman inside a column of bricks, and sticks Robin…in a tree?
Batman figures that Cranum will need a commanding view of the city to best utilize the satellite dish, and that means the “Metro-World Amusement Park” is the only place it could be as it’s located atop a local mountain. You know when it comes to building amusement parks it’s all about location, location, location. When the Super Friends arrive things take a turn for the worse as Cranum uses his machine to turn Wonder Woman into a giant-lobed ally.
Batman & Robin are able to defeat Evil Wonder Woman with the old multiple Robins in a fleet of bumper cars trick.
The Super Friends chase Cranum into The Hall of Mirrors, “Holy multiple images. Which one is the real Dr. Cranum?” Robin asks. “You’re outwitted again, Batman,” Crows the evil Cranum. Now this is just sad, as a quick batarang toss would solve this problem in a heartbeat, but no, Batman just stands there like a lump while Wonder Woman races up with the brain machine and fires it at the mirrors.
This works and Cranum is turned back to his normal mad scientist self, this of course makes no sense as I’m pretty sure firing a beam weapon at a bunch of mirrors would most likely have resulted in three big-lobed Super Friends, but let’s not have our science get in the way of wrapping up a bad guy. So the machine is dismantled and Dr. Cranum is then handed over to the authorities.
“No man has the right to force his will on others. No matter how good his intentions may be,” states Wonder Woman, which is odd coming from someone who has a magic lasso that does exactly that.
In “Joy Ride” two teens, Corky and Jeff, steal a small plane from a local airport for a joy ride, not realizing that the plane needs an overall and could fail at any moment. As a kid I did many stupid things but none involved me saying, “Wow, look at that plane Jeff. Hey, let’s you and I take it for a spin.” Maybe it’s only because I never had a friend named Jeff. I guess I really dodged a bullet there.
Corky and Jeff buzz the local beach, sending everyone scurrying for cover, and the Teen TroubAlert notifies the Wonder Twins that the plane that just sent them flying could crash at any moment. For those of you unfamiliar with the Wonder Twins they are two Exorian shape shifters that when they touch either other and utter the phrase, “Wonder Twins powers activate!” They then transform with Jayna turning into any creature she can think of while Zan into something made of water or ice. Someone certainly got the short end of the stick on this one. And I call bullshit anytime a problem arises and Jayna doesn’t simply call out “Shape of a T-Rex,” because that would certainly be my default form. Sadly in this instance she goes for “Shape of an eagle” while her brother calls out “Form of water.” Note: No one bothers to tell Zan that water isn’t a form. This also results in the standard shot of Zan being carried around in a bucket by their space monkey Gleek.
Jayna picks up Gleek, who carries the bucket with Zan, and they chase after the plane and order it to land. Corky refuses and tries to lose the Wonder Twins by going into a power dive, and this causes the plane to finally fail. The twins decide they’ll need to change into something larger so Jayna transforms herself into a pterodactyl and once again I’m forced to wonder why wouldn’t a dinosaur be your default form? Meanwhile Zan takes the form of a lake, and where this extra mass comes from, that allows him to go from water in a bucket to a fucking lake, is beyond me, but I guess will file that one under magic. So Jayna and Gleek then glide the plane over some power lines and safely deposit it in the Zan-lake.
Jayna explains to Corky that, “When you take a plane or a car, you may think you’re just borrowing it, but in the eyes of the law, it’s still stealing.” As punishment Corky has to wait two more years to get his pilot’s license. Justice is served.
In “Invasion of the Earthors” the Super Friends must battle rock men who have run out of the bedrock that powers their underground world and seek to destabilize the surface world to get all of the Earth’s resources. The segment begins with an extinct volcano erupting and before Tommy Lee Jones can ask “What’s magma?” A group of rock men with laser mining machines march on the surface, melting all that stands in their way.
Meanwhile at the Hall of Justice Zan and Jayna are instructed by Superman to practice with their powers in a teamwork exercise that will also clean up the place. Zan forms into a giant wave and Jayna a mop wielding octopus. It seems that Superman is the only one who understands the best way to utilize the Wonder Twins.
Training is ended when the Justice League Emergency Alarm alerts all the Super Friends of the erupting volcano. All team members rally to the island of Bahia. The Super Friends split up to take care of the damaged caused by the eruption, which in the case of Aquaman means calling for whales to help.
When the liquefied bedrock endangers a high-rise building Superman flies to the rescue, lifts the building from it’s now molten foundation sets it safely down and then with his super-breath freezes the molten earth back to its solid state. This re-hardened bedrock angers the Earthors and they pop up to see who is responsible, seeing it’s a surface dweller they retreat back underground but with Superman and the Wonder Twins in hot pursuit. But what’s this? It was a trap and the Earthors where waiting for them!
Being its Superman vs rocks the trap fails and the Earthor’s retreat again causing a cave in to help their escape. Superman sends the Wonder Twins back to the Hall of Justice while he uses his X-ray vision to track the Earthors. This makes sense because Superman really doesn’t need much help and certainly nothing the Wonder Twits could offer. The biggest problem writers of when doing a Justice League story is coming up with a threat that couldn’t be handled by Superman alone. Mostly they fail at this.
Of course the Wonder Twins spot some Earthor machines and decide to investigate which leads to their inevitable capture. “Wonder Sucking Powers activate!”
Zan turns into a puddle and Jayna into a caterpillar. *sigh* Jayna almost drowns in Zan until she is saved by one of the Earthors as they are re-captured and placed in separate bottles.
The Earthor’s fight off Superman at every turn so Superman comes up with a plan that will need all of the Super Friends. I’m almost positive Superman throws certain fights just so he can make his teammates feel better.
The Super Friends realize that the Wonder Twins have been captured and race into action to find them, but unbeknownst to them the Earthors are building mechanical giant to take care of any super threats.
Meanwhile the Wonder Twins manage to escape their bottle prison because Jayna is able cocoon her caterpillar self and transform into a butterfly.
The Super Friends discover several air vents to the underworld and with some Batcomputer triangulation they figure out that the Earthor’s world is located below the previously extinct volcano. “How do we get through all that lava and flames?” Robin asks because he forgot Superman was standing next to him.
Superman flies down to extinguish the source of this artificial eruption but is then set upon by a giant Superman robot, it is easily dispatched by good ole Supes because you know, he’s Superman.
Not ready to give up the Earthor’s attack with their laser mining machines. They try to melt the cavern roof above the Super Friends to entomb them forever, but Superman blocks their rays and deflects the beams to the rock floor around the Earthors capturing them instead. The rest of the Super Friends pitch in and the Earthor threat is ended.
Defeated the Earthors bemoan that their society is doomed without more bedrock, “Why didn’t you just ask us!” Superman shouts. “I could have gotten you all the bedrock you needed.” He then flies off, chops an asteroid in half and returns with a thousand years supply of bedrock. Another crisis solved by working together, or should I say a crisis solved by Superman. Go Super Friends!
“The Whirlpool” teams up Aquaman with guest superhero Black Vulcan as a reckless sea captain orders his ship into dangerous waters. It seems he wants to set a new speed record to Norway. Is that a thing? Captain Croner locks the crew out of the bridge as he pilots the boat toward its doom. The crew decide “This is a job for the Super Friends!” and call for help. Because this is happening at sea Aquaman obviously calls dibs but the decision to bring along an electricity based hero on a water mission seems to be bit of an odd choice.
Black Vulcan travels in a flash of lighting while Aquaman must make it to the scene in his Aqua-scooter. And yes they actually call it an Aqua-Scooter.
“This ship will hold up under any storm, and no scare-crazy crew is going stop me from getting to Norway in record time!” Proclaims the obsessed Captain Croner just as the boat springs a leak. Meanwhile the rain is so heavy Black Vulcan can’t locate the ship so Aquaman calls some lantern fish to light the way.
Black Vulcan arrives at the ship. (Note: Every time Black Vulcan leaps into action he yells, “BLACK VULCAN!” One must assume he has a worse self-image problem than Aquaman.) He uses his electricity powers to seal the leak. Not sure that could work without frying the entire crew but will let him have this one.
Aquaman demands that the Captain should turn this ship around but is answered with, “You may be king of the sea, Aquaman…but I am king of my vessel.” Black Vulcan points out that they are sailing straight for a maelstrom that will destroy the ship. The captain activates a cargo net and snags our two heroes because…well because they kind of suck.
A large wave hits the ship causing the captain to accidently dump Aquaman and Black Vulcan into the oil hold. Black Vulcan uses his power to activate the switch to operate the pumps to empty the hold without causing the oil to burst into flames. Once again Black Vulcan succeeds out of sheer luck. They get free but it’s almost too late as the ship is now heading straight into a giant whirlpool.
Aquaman dives overboard and uses all his strength to turn the ships rudder. This is a nice change of pace for Aquaman as it didn’t involve him calling a whale or other fishy friend. Black Vulcan uses his energy to add more power to the ships engines. The ship is saved.
Aquaman: “Well Captain Croner, you certainly came close to establishing a speed record.”
Black Vulcan: “Right to the bottom of the ocean.”
The addition of the Wonder Twins to the series was certainly an improvement over Marvin, Wendy and Wonder Dog but the lack of understanding of the characters by the shows writers is still something to behold.