I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know very much about superheroes. The only comic books I owned as a kid were Star Wars and Eerie. I don’t know which characters belong to Marvel and which are part of the DC universe. The majority of my Superman knowledge came from Richard Donner’s 1978 film, and everything I knew about Batman and Wonder Woman came from watching their respective television shows. I don’t think I knew any other superheroes.
That was, until I discovered the Superfriends. Not only was the Superfriends one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons, it was also one of the longest running that essentially spanned my entire childhood. It seemed like each season the Superfriends returned, adding new heroes and enemie each year. During the first season (1973), five Superfriends (Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, and Aqua Man) worked with Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog to protect the earth from evildoers. Four years later in 1977 when the show returned, Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog had been replaced by Zan and Jayna (the Wonder Twins) and Gleek the monkey. The show’s name changed slightly year after year as new superheroes and more villains (like the Legion of Doom) arrived. I was a big fan of the Legion of Doom; they were constantly attempting to either destroy or take over the earth, depending on that week’s scheme. The show continued to morph, running all the way through 1985’s “The Super Powers Team Galactic Guardians.”
One of the earliest episodes of the show I remember watching was from the 1978 series, “Challenge of the Superfriends,” titled “History of Doom.” In this episode, three human-looking aliens named Manatu, Suba, and Rano arrive on earth only to discover it in ruins!
Shortly after arriving, the trio of space travelers visit the Hall of Justice (which they recognize from their “galactic records”). Once inside, they discover a “primitive computer” capable of playing “memory tapes” of what happened to the planet. Through the tapes, they discover that the destruction was caused by the Legion of Doom.
On a second set of tapes, the visitors discover the recorded history of the Legion of Doom. The first tape contains the story of Lex Luthor, which they (and we) get to watch.
On the tape, we see a young Superman (as Superboy) flying over Smallville and seeing “a new curly-headed kid” driving a tractor. At the exact same time Superboy drops out of the sky to pay this newcomer to his town a visit, so does a glowing green meteor made of Kryptonite. Lex uses his tractor to push the meteor into a nearby river, saving Superboy’s life. Moments later, Lex reveals that Superboy is a hero of his, and leads him into his makeshift backyard laboratory which is filled with Superboy memorabilia.
Superboy repays Lex by building a brand new chemistry lab, filled with state of the art equipment. A few weeks later, Lex is working in his lab to create an antidote for Kryptonite when he accidentally knocks over a beaker and starts a fire. Superboy quickly arrives and extinguishes the fire using his super breath, but unfortunately blows the toxic fumes into Lex Luthor’s face in the process which causes his hair to fall out!
Lex Luthor accuses Superboy of intentionally wrecking his lab out of jealousy and destroys the antidote he had created, vowing to use his knowledge to someday destroy Superboy.
Back in the Hall of Justice, the three aliens continue watching tapes. On one, the historic formation of the Legion of Doom is shown. On two other tapes we get to see further conflict between the Superfriends and the Legion of Doom (which just turn out to be clips from other episodes).
When they discover all the remaining memory tapes are blank, the aliens use their superior technology to visit the Legion of Doom’s headquarters, and watch THEIR memory tapes! On those, they finally discover what happened to the earth.
In yet another plan to destroy the Superfriends, the Legion of Doom built an ion-powered rocket and fired it into the sun. This, in turn, was supposed to release a gigantic solar flare that would specifically target the Hall of Justice. (Just go with it.) When the flare was released, the Superfriends turned on a force field to protect the earth. Unfortunately when the flare hit the force field, it surrounded the planet with a radioactive layer that ended humanity. Bummer.
The aliens decide that earthlings deserve another chance, and so they use their mental powers to “turn back the time stream” to before the flare hit earth. Again the Legion of Doom shoots their rocket into the sun; however, this time, the space beings temporarily move the moon, which creates an eclipse and prevents the flare from arriving. The Superfriends taunt Lex Luthor and tell him he should have checked his almanac; in return, Luthor says he did, and can’t explain what happened. The aliens leave earth without even saying goodbye, leaving the battle between the Legion of Doom and the Superfriends to continue. As far as I can tell, Manatu, Suba, and Rano never made another appearance on the Superfriends, in a comic book, or anywhere else.
And that, my friends, is how Lex Luthor lost his hair.