"Banded together from remote galaxies, are thirteen of the most sinister villains of all time — The Legion of Doom — dedicated to a single objective: the conquest of the universe. Only one group dares to challenge this intergalactic threat — The Super Friends. The Justice League of America vs. The Legion of Doom. This is The Challenge of the Super Friends."
— Introduction to Challenge of the Super Friends (1978).
One segment of our fall exhibition Heroes and Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross will include pencil sketches, marker roughs, and paintings from Ross' Justice comic book series.
The animated television series Challenge of the Super Friends aired on Saturday mornings for only three months in late 1978, but the series left an indelible impression on 8-year-old Alex Ross. The second half-hour of the hour-long TV show All-New Super Friends/Challenge of the Super Friends, Challenge of the Super Friends featured heroes and villains from the Silver Age of DC Comics battling each other.
Lauded as of the most accurate depictions of comic book superheroes in an animated series, Challenge of the Super Friends featured the villains Lex Luthor, Toyman, Bizarro, Brainiac, Sinestro, Solomon Grundy, Black Manta, Cheetah, Giganta, The Scarecrow, The Riddler, Captain Cold, and Gorilla Grodd working together as the Legion of Doom. The heroic Justice League of America comprised Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin, Aquaman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Black Vulcan, Apache Chief, and Samurai.
The 16 episodes of Challenge of the Super Friends have influenced Alex Ross' work throughout his career, perhaps more than anything else related to comic books. In fact, Challenge of the Super Friends was the direct inspiration for Ross' 12-issue Justice comic book series, which debuted in 2005. In addition to painting the books, Ross co-wrote the story with frequent collaborator Jim Krueger. Justice, named after the Justice League of America, featured an epic battle between the heroes and villains from Challenge of the Super Friends, in addition to heroes such as Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Plastic Man, Red Tornado, Captain Marvel, and the Metal Men, and villains such as Black Adam, Clayface, Metallo, Doctor Sivana, and the Joker.
In the words of the artist, "[Justice] is a love letter to a fictional universe, attempting to do justice to its inspiration."