REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN (1994) – SEASON 1-5

 

 

CAST

Christopher Daniel Barnes (The Little Mermaid)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
Rodney Saulsberry (The Animatrix)
Jennifer Hale (Wreck-It Ralph)
Gary Imhoff (The Green Mile)
Sara Ballantine (Batman Year One)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Liz Georges (As Told By Ginger)
Hank Azaria (The Smurfs)
Joseph Campanella (Ben)
Patrick Labyorteaux (Yes Man)
Maxwell Caulfield (Alien Intruder)
Neil Ross (Rambo)
Roscoe Lee Brown (Babe)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Batman: TAS)
Dawnn Lewis (Futurama)
Martin Landau (Ed Wood)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Don Stark (That 70s Show)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
George Buza (Mutant X)
Cedric Smith (Earth: Final Conflict)
Norm Spencer (Rescue Heroes)
Catherine Disher (Forever Knight)
Alison Sealy-Smith (You Kill Me)
Alyson Court (Beetlejuice TV)
Chris Potter (Heartland)
Malcolm McDowell (Star Trek Generations)
J.D. Hall (Undercover Brother)
Peter Mark Richman (Friday the 13th – Part 8)
George Takei (Star Trek)
John Vernon (Batman: TAS)
Courtney Peldon (Frozen)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Robert Hays (Airplane)
Barbara Goodson (Power Rangers)
James Avery (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 80s)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Dorian Harewood (Earth: Final Conflict)
Jack Angel (A.I.)
Jeff Corey (Conan The Destroyer)
Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Mira Furlan (Lost)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
David Hayter (X-Men)
Roy Dotrice (Hercules: TLJ)
Paul Winfield (Star Trek II)
Majel Barrett (Star Trek)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)

The set itself is well presented, although the artwork is a little cheap, and clearly done in a way as to mimic the style of the 90s series. Anyone who has the recent X-Men Season releases will be familiar with this. Unlike those, this one also has a slipcase. A booklet with episode synopses is also included.

Spider-Man has season-long arcs, which when viewed in succession make for great television. Christopher Barnes is brilliant as Spider-Man (especially in those fleeting moments of extreme rage), and the guests were memorable too, particularly Rob Paulsen’s oafish Hydro Man and Jennifer Hale as Felicia Hardy/ Black Cat.

The music was great too, but while Spider-Man relied on several repeated  cues,  Another thing about Spider-Man is that even after all these years I find myself being surprised by some of the plot twists, which were even more abundant upon first viewing. Thankfully, John Semper (creative head of the show) was bold enough to change much of the original stories to make them worth animating in the first place. What else? A minor triumph, but the colouring on this cartoon is the best of any I’ve ever seen. A simple praise. While the show lost its way during the muddled fourth year it had some great episodes in the last series, with one of the greatest resolution-with-cliffhanger endings in animation history. A rare treat in that its much, much better than you remember it.

Some of the best episodes were – the three-parter, “The Alien Costume”- a marvellous introduction for the ultimately underused Venom (a deliciously insane Hank Azaria)- and the two-part “Hobgoblin” are among the best in the show’s five-year run. “Night of the Lizard”, a pilot of sorts, is interesting in that there’s an awful lot more effort put into the animation than in later episodes, as is often the case.

Animation from the 1990s doesn’t come much better than this, and Marvel have yet to top it.

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REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS – SEASON 1-3

 

CAST (VOICES)

Dan Gilvezan (Transformers)
Kathy Garver (Family Affair)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Dick Tufeld (Lost In Space)
June Foray (Mulan)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Rino Roamno (The Batman)
Alan Young (The Time Machine)
Michael Ansara (Batman: TAS)
Michael Bell (Rugrats)
Peter Cullen (Transformers)

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Spider-Man, Iceman, and Firestar are fighting crime and protecting the world from villains. As Peter Parker, Bobby Drake, and Angelica Jones, the three heroes are not only teammates, but roommates and friends. As they try to keep Aunt May and Angelica’s dog Ms. Lion in the dark, the Spider-Friends battle enemies from Doctor Octopus and Doctor Doom to Green Goblin and the Red Skull. Fortunately, the Spider-Man, Firestar, and Iceman have allies in Captain America, the X-Men, and other heroes…saving the world is a hard job!

Image result for SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDSSpider-Man and His Amazing Friends ran for three seasons on NBC from September 12, 1981 to September 10, 1983. The series was produced by Marvel Productions and aired with The Incredible Hulk cartoon starting with the second season. Saturday mornings was ruled by the Super Friends. DC Comics had gotten the jump on the super team show and Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Wonder Twins were already well established when Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends premiered. Despite that,

The series was cheap. There are episodes where there are out and out mistakes (my favorite is “The Origin of Iceman” where a flashback of Iceman’s time with the original X-Men accidentally features two Cyclops in a group shot). You get lots of coloring errors and animation that changes. In addition to that, there are inconsistencies and things like just unknowns about the series…like Wolverine having an Australian accent instead of a Canadian (which would have been a lot easier for Hugh Jackman). It even stole character designs like for Cyberiad in “The X-Men Adventure” who was a complete copy of Legion of Super-Heroes’ Fatal Five enemy Tharok. Surprisingly, the show is loaded with cameos. Characters like  Matt Murdock, Captain America, Iron Man, and others make cameos throughout the series and the series helped introduce the X-Men to a larger audience.

I would say that the best addition to the Marvel Universe from Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends is easily Firestar. Firestar was meant to be the Human Torch who was tied up in legal tape. Firestar was created for the show to look like Mary Jane Watson, but ended up being retconned into the Marvel Universe in Uncanny X-Men #193 (May 1985). I love Firestar and she’s one of the few characters who really transitioned well from “made-for-TV” to comic. pider-Man and His Amazing Friends is a fun series…if you grew up with it. The cheapness of the series probably won’t impress younger viewers, but as a fan from childhood, it is great to revisit the show.

REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN (1981)

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CAST (VOICES)

Ted Schwartz (Transformers)
William Woodson (The Naked Gun 2 1/2)
Mona Marshall (South Park)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
Stan Jones (Little Shop of Horrors)

UntitledWhen I sat down to watch Spider-Man 5000 I was expecting some futuristic Batman Of The Future-type deal, with Spidey zooming into space decked out in weblined silver, led by a computerised spider-sense. In fact, the 5000 refers to an episode numbering system, not a time period. This 1981 animated series is set straight after the ‘60s Spider-Man show, with Peter Parker now attending Empire State University. The villains are contemporary and familiar – The Lizard, Sandman, Dr. Octopus.

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The series does a great job of capturing the ethos of the comic book. Peter Parker is a teenager juggling his love life with work and webswinging. Aunt May fusses over him and there’s a running gag about him slipping into the house without her noticing. Peter’s impatient date Betty Brant gets stood up on a regular basis. Spider-Man’s quips and interior monologues ring true. For example, he calls Magneto “Bucket Head” and “Turret Top”.The series adds its own quirks as well. Peter acts clumsy and cowardly a la Clark Kent. We learn that he prefers The Beatles to disco music, can make armpit web wings to glide from buildings, and isn’t above taking money to guard a million dollar artifact. These all come across more as plot devices than attempts to develop character or build continuity.

Spider-Man 5000 retains the child-friendly, uncluttered look of the ‘60s show but adds texture to its art and storytelling. There are detailed touches like the underwater ripples when Spidey treads water, and sight gags such as a billboard for Spritz Bug Spray. In each 20 minute tale, the hero has time to discover the villain’s plan, get knocked down and get back up again for a rousing finale. The villains come across as greedy, bellowing buffoons who thrive on thievery rather than any grand master plans. Even the Black Cat is a plain burglar here, more Catwoman than Felicia Hardy. This being the early ‘80s, Spider-Man relies on the miracle power of microwaves on more than one occasion to battle the bad guys. Who knew that those reheating waves could turn sand to dust and amplify magnetic power, bouncing it back to its source?  Spidey isn’t the only character who harnesses technology in unusual ways. In the first episode Bubble, Bubble, Oil And Trouble, classic villain Doctor Octopus modifies his terrible tentacles, adding a diamond sawblade and a vibrator. That’s a sonic quartz vibrator, which zaps walls to rubble around Spider-Man. Ock wants to get his protuberances on the world’s oil supply, but before he can thwart the tanker snatcher Peter has to do his homework and compete with rival photographer Mortimer (J. Jonah Jameson’s wonderfully sniveling nephew).16174889_1836004673347908_6687458020023952722_nIn Dr. Doom, Master Of The World, the Latverian dictator forgoes a typical destructive scheme for something more polite. He brainwashes UN representatives so they’ll vote him into absolute power. Questionable tactics aside, this is the Doom we all want to see – creepy and menacing with a Darth Vader voice. Sadly, he’s defeated too easily and he just runs away at the end. Above all, 5000 has some great visual ideas even if they’re not always executed effectively. They’re the kind of ideas that get kids talking in the playground, looking forward to their next Saturday morning episode. We get Doc Ock striding over the skyline with his tentacles extended, The Lizard breeding giant monitors and other zoo lizards in the subway, blocking off the exits with crashed trains, the Black Cat tightrope walking across power lines, and Spidey wrestling a gator in the Everglades, getting magnetized to a satellite and finding himself in other imaginative scrapes.

On the downside, true believers have been up in all eight arms about the transfer quality of these discs. Clear Vision blames it on the age of the material, but the color isn’t so much faded as flickering, as if an old digital generation has been used as the source footage. Cleaning up video frames can be painstaking, but if Clear Vision wants a loyal fan base then it’s going to have to put more work into the other volumes in this series. If you don’t mind the bad flicker and odd black and white frames, this early Marvel Production will surprise you with its joie de vivre, if not its sophistication. As the missing link between the original cartoon and Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends, this is a rare gem.