Spider-Man: The Animated Series (“The Menace of Mysterio”)

Season 1, Episode 5
Date of airing: February 25, 1995 (FOX Kids)

This was a pretty straight-forward episode and I liked it for that. A new villain, a personal connection to Spider-Man that comes with a back story, an ongoing thing with Mary Jane Watson, and a lot of scenes with Peter which did not make me thing that SPIDER-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES is all about Spider-Man only. If there is a lot of Peter Parker in the show, then I will definitely be happy, and this episode had as much Peter Parker as it had Spider-Man, which is the perfect mixture.

I liked Mysterio as a villain, because he could have been the smart antagonist to a smart protagonist. Tricking the world into believing that Spider-Man can be a bad guy as well was actually a great idea, and if the writers would have thought about the possibility to have Mysterio be part of a multi-episode arc, “bad Spider-Man” could have been a thing for an episode or two, having Peter try his best to prove his alter ego’s innocence while also thinking about hanging it up as Spider-Man, because life with the mask is complicated and hard. But Mysterio needed to show from the get-go that everything seemed to be a ploy, although it seems a bit weird that Mysterio was running the show with his visual hologram effects as good as he did. He must have been in the museum, when he had Spider-Man rob the place, which means he must have been captured by the cameras — except of course he was leaving the cubes behind, which means that the cubes were pretty much automated on all fronts, which I cannot believe either, especially since he would have ran the entire show by himself, and after SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME, I do not believe for a second that Mysterio can run the entire show by himself.

Gotta work out to stay ahead in the New York dating game.

Still, I liked these 20 minutes, because they brought Spider-Man and Peter closer to the reasons for his actions. The origin story for Spider-Man must have been known to a 1990s television audience who were also comic readers, otherwise the writers would not have brought Uncle Ben’s death it in the fifth episode of the show and established Spider-Man’s origin story this way. And every once in a while, the guy wants to have a life, and for the first time in his superhero career, he asked himself what good the costume brought him. That was actually quite an interesting character arc, and although I never believed that Peter was about to trash the costume “Spider-Man No More”-like, it was great to see that the writers were penning the script with that story in mind, maybe even having developed the story to go down the “Spider-Man No More” route. And who knows, maybe a future episode of the show actually will see the famous comic arc adapted.

Meanwhile, I was hoping for Terri Lee to be a recurring character, because she seemed interesting in this episode. Poised to catch Spider-Man in the act, but believing nonetheless that the wall crawler was too much of a good guy to be a bad guy in this episode. I would have loved to see Terri and Spider-Man team up to catch Mysterio, but I guess Spider-Man needed to do his thing on his own, without help from the outside, which is a shame. Spider-Man may work alone for obvious reasons, but every once in a while he is allowed to accept a sidekick to help him out, because not unlike Mysterio, he can’t do the world-saving all by himself. That is what the Avengers are there for.

Spider-Man is in the middle of movie magic.

And finally, there was MJ, who behaved very strangely at the end of the episode. It almost sounded like she based her decisions on wanting to hang with Peter or not off of how the press handled Spider-Man’s criminal activities. You know, a woman can be mad about he date she missed with the guy she has a crush on, even without the media having to tell her that you can change. MJ being mad at Peter could have been a nice arc for an episode here and there, but apparently she was too much of a cult character in the comics world to not be Peter’s love interest from the first second until they marry and have a Spider-Boy or a Spiderling. Or a Spider-Girl who will lead her own spin-off show.

Spider-Man: The Animated Series (“Doctor Octopus: Armed and Dangerous”)

Season 1, Episode 4
Date of airing: February 18, 1995 (FOX Kids)

Maybe the episode’s title rhymes, but I was chuckling for a few seconds about the “armed” part of “Armed and Dangerous,” because I didn’t even get the literal meaning of it until after I started watching the episode. Anyway, this was a solid half hour of television. Four episodes into the show’s run, and the writers might have developed a sense for the characters, and how to run the story without overburdening it with too many action sequences or too much animated Y7 bullcrap like shootouts with laser guns, as well as explosions that don’t leave any damage to anyone. Spider-Man was in action for two scenes only (both times he went up against Doctor Octopus), which means Peter Parker had the chance to shine as a character, which he did perfectly, when he was trying to argue with Doc Ock and get Felicia and J.J. Jameson out of the building alive. Who would have thought that Peter tried to be a hero, instead of his superhero alter ego Spider-Man? This needs to be a premise more often.

Doc Ock is very photogenic during a full moon.

In the meantime, I’m starting to get just a tad bit confused about Peter and Felicia’s relationship, especially since the woman is still supposed to be dating Flash Thompson (she even mentioned him during this episode), yet she went on a date with Peter here. Maybe the episode order I’m watching this is a little screwed, or maybe Felicia Hardy is just a bit polygamous and doesn’t mind having multiple men in her life, who in return also don’t mind their love has another guy as a side piece. Here I am, knowing that SPIDER-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES is very conservative when it comes to violence and death, but here I also am, thinking about Felicia having men in every one of New York City’s Burroughs. Seeing this in a Y7-rated TV show is weird, because the children audience were subjected to storytelling they didn’t even know were based on real-life sexual preferences. Did the realize that Flash and Felicia were fingering each other (she also mentioned Flash’s hands, and that pretty much means they went to third base), and Felicia was going out with Peter at the same time? I’m confused and slightly amused.

Meanwhile, Doc Ock was a bit of a generic villain in this story. He might not have been properly utilized as a villain, because he was only after one thing (money to fund his research), but I loved that the action sequences weren’t overblown with lots of movement or explosions, and the conflict between the superhero and the supervillain was kept in a rocket construction facility only (how convenient that New York City has one of those). Now, if only Felicia and J.J. would have been more useful as characters who have just been taken hostage, then maybe this episode would have had something great in it, but at the end of the day these 20 minutes were solid, but generic and painted by numbers.

The power of the sun… in the palms of his hands.

Well, there isn’t much else to say about this episode, except maybe the fact that the NYPD let Peter handle the money delivery without police back-up (the FBI did the same with J.J., making them something of a dumb federal agency in this show). It’s almost like the police wasn’t interested at all in getting back Felicia, let alone solve this kidnapping case, when they just let Peter handle the phone conversation with Doctor Octavius, like Peter was part of the FBI team. Just a funny stray observation from my end. At the end, this is the best episode of the show so far, which means SPIDER-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES could turn out to be a nice surprise at the end.

Spider-Man: The Animated Series (“Return of the Spider Slayers”)

Season 1, Episode 3
Date of airing: February 11, 1995 (FOX Kids)

Well, hello there, Miss Mary Jane Watson. It’s a shame you have to appear in this episode, because I was just about to get into the premise of Peter and Felicity possibly being love interests for each other, but apparently the kiss in the previous episode was just male wish-fulfillment, as well as getting Felicity confused as to whom she should be dating in this show, if the writers were even interested in that narrative device. When she turned up with Flash midway through Smythe’s mission to make life difficult for Spider-Man, I certainly was confused about the decision to have those characters dropped into the spider slayer’s next battle, especially since Felicity seemed to have been very much interested in Peter only. Then again, a piece of monologue from Spider-Man had this episode set months after the previous one, so whatever happened between the previous and this episode, Smythe took a few weeks or months to build his new spider slayers, and Felicity apparently moved on. And now there’s Mary Jane Watson, so the writers were definitely able to get into that story. Which I guess is a thing they wanted to do.

The reporter and the reported are forced to spend a little time together.

This episode was pretty much just a battle between Spider-Man and the spider slayers. Not much of character development up until the very last scene, and as always way too much noise and destruction, and it made me wonder if New York has an extra tax code that would fix all the destruction that was caused by Spider-Man’s rogue gallery and pay for the reconstruction of damaged buildings. I mean, in this episode the spider slayers were freaking destructive, they even killed an office building, besides the outer sides of various buildings across Manhattan. If CinemaSins ever decides to waste some time on the show and do a “What’s the Damage?” video, they might hit some gold with SPIDER-MAN and come out of the other end with an impossible sum of how much it will take for New York City to be rebuilt after every episode.

Alistair Smythe continued to be the villain, although he turned out not to be the smartest of villains here. He could have unmasked Spider-Man, just to know who he was, because if Spider-Man would have escaped, at least Smythe could have hunted down Spider-Man’s alter ego. Like Doc Ock was doing it in the second Sam Raimi movie and like Green Goblin was threatening Spider-Man with in the first, but apparently the wallcrawler’s rogue gallery was not that smart to begin with. Instead, Smythe decided to make Siamese twins out of the wallcrawler and J.J. Jameson (which by itself was a great idea — shame that it wasn’t followed up on throughout the entire episode), made a time bomb out of the wrist cuffs, and took his time to hunt down Flash, Eddie, and Norman Osborn, apparently just to exact some revenge on the people who brought him into this situation, instead of exacting revenge on the guy who according to him killed his father. I could understand why Smythe was hunting down Norman Osborn, but the side tracks with Eddie and Flash were more like filling airtime than making logic storytelling-wise. But hey, I guess a scene was needed for Eddie, so that he can vow revenge on Spider-Man as well. The Symbiote storyline is coming up, I assume?

Don’t hit the nose on your way to the concrete.

While I liked the race against the clock in the second half of the episode, maybe it could have been a much better idea for Spider-Man and Jameson to work together to save their, ehm, friends, because there really was a great idea behind Jameson being dragged along through the battle, and maybe there could have been some comedic elements in the story, with Jameson probably crapping in his pants while Spider-Man was swinging from building to building. Chance missed, although maybe there wasn’t even room for that joke, considering FOX Kids needed to put ten minutes of commercials into a 20-minute long television cartoon.

Spider-Man: The Animated Series (“The Spider Slayer”)

Season 1, Episode 2
Date of airing: February 4, 1995 (FOX Kids)

It didn’t take long for the show to have a poor fella dress up as Spider-Man and get into trouble because of the costume. I loved that the poor fella was Flash who initially decided to play a trick on Peter (which quickly backfired of course), and I loved that the story was used to get the Black Widow (no, not Natasha) confused for a hot minute, as well as Spencer Smythe and his goons, who could not even figure out what was actually happen before their eyes and that there were two Spider-Men in action. Seriously, they captured Spider-Man, but the superhero wasn’t defending himself, not even for a single second? One might have thought that it would be a little weird, if the Spider-Man you captured would just sit there on the ground, barely say anything, probably be scared and wetting his pants, especially after you unmasked him. Not that it’s to be expected to always capture the wrong Spider-Man, but still, Smythe should have been asking himself why Spider-Man was so calm and non-responsive — that is usually the first sign of something rotten happening in the state of Denmark, but who knows, if probably would not have been an advantage for Smythe to realize he captured the wrong Spider-Man.

This is a date, soon to be interrupted by violence and destruction.

Anyway, I liked the story. Peter and Felicia have been developed somewhat, with the two being romantically interested in each other, and even the responsibility of being Spider-Man has been put into the story, if only just what the suit might bring for the one who is wearing it. I was quite impressed by Peter, in his costume, telling Flash that this is what happens when you wear the costume, giving even more of a reason why Peter should never give up the suit, and that he would be nothing without it (to quote a line from SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING), and maybe that line of dialogue could be considered a major plot point for Spider-Man’s adversaries, who hopefully start to learn that Spider-Man isn’t just a random superhero, and that even the wallcrawler has things at stake. And that Spider-Man is being defined by the person who wears the mask — not that Peter Parker is the only Spider-Man in the comics universe, but I’m pretty sure this version of Spider-Man can only be carried by Peter Parker himself.

Meanwhile, the story of the Smythes was okay. I was wondering whether Spencer was working for the Kingpin or secretly for Norman Osborn to hunt down and kill Spider-Man, considering that Kingpin was probably the financier of the operation, which could have never happened without OsCorp. Who knows, maybe Norman and Kingpin were working together in the background, and it’s the first step toward a Sinister Six-like storyline? Spencer being unable to kill Spider-Man might have been predictable, but what I liked was that his fate was pretty much unknown by the end of the episode, with his son Alistair looking back at the exploding building, in shock that he just lost his father. Granted, even though OsCorp exploded doesn’t mean that Spencer died (I’m pretty sure he came out of it somehow, since SPIDER-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES can’t kill its characters, probably not even off-screen), Kingpin using that event to manipulate Alistair into continuing Spencer’s work is intriguing, especially now that the next episode was able to work with a generic revenge plot.

Flash Thompson wishes he was a superhero.

I would have hoped for something better with Eddie Brock though. Kidnapping Spider-Man with the help of the Black Widow robot? I don’t think I got the story here, because I can’t imagine that Eddie was using the opportunity to unmask Spider-Man, while the superhero was actually being hunted down by a real villain at the same time. Does that also mean Eddie was perfectly fine doing crime to level up in his career? After all, if Peter really had been kidnapped and unmasked, he may have had an opportunity to sue Eddie for kidnapping. Here is a hilarious thought: Have a Spider-Man episode play out in the series universe of THE GOOD WIFE…

Spider-Man: The Animated Series (“Night of the Lizard”)

Season 1, Episode 1
Date of airing: November 19, 1994 (FOX Kids)

I have no idea why I never watched this version of the Spider-Man franchise, and instead watched “The New Animated Series” at least twice or thrice, as well as some episodes of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, before I gave it up due to time constraints. I probably thought that 1990s animation shows were too hyper for me, and I would easily get annoyed by the fast animation cutting and the mostly ridiculous action sequences where characters never stand still and stuff continuously explodes left and right. Also, this show was always the heart and rock of the Marvel animated television world, and with X-MEN one of the most well-received animated shows of all-time (apparently, because I haven’t watched that one either), it was about time for me to get my head up all in this show, to see whether or not I still get annoyed by animated shows targeted to young boys who love seeing stuff blow up and characters fight to the death without ever getting bruises. So, here I am, watching this show for the first time, wondering when I will really be annoyed by the hyper-sensuality of the show: The rapid change of colors, the loud sound effects during action sequences, the fact that Spider-Man is the main character while Peter Parker is rarely seen in the show, or simply the never-ending score, as if Mark Snow had been behind the music.

All of it made me wonder if I’m actually in the target audience of these kind of animated shows, besides having realized that those elements and genre traits distanced me from ever getting into either X-MEN or BATMAN or even some of the more obscure 90s animated shows that regularly aired Saturday/Sunday mornings. But I guess I’m too much of a Spider-Man nerd to stay distanced from this show for ever and always, and since I’m pretty much halfway into the first season of MIGHTY MORPHIN’ POWER RANGERS (it takes me a long time to go through that repetition of a show), which is essentially an animated show for boys, but in live-action, I thought it was time and I could find enjoyment with this show. Yet I wasn’t fully pleased with these 19 minutes.

If it ever gets hot for Peter under the covers, this is why.

First of all, the storytelling was pretty solid, considering the short amount of time that was needed to get the story told, but with only 19 minutes of Spider-Man action against Curt Conners in his reptile form, there was absolutely no time focusing on the characters for even a second. While Aunt May was dealing with due bills, the writers could have used it to bring some depth into the show, but the due bills were a plot device to have Peter hunt for the $1000 picture of the lizard, which is a generic Spider-Man storyline (and I can imagine it will be used multiple times throughout the show: J.J. Jameson will tell everyone what the next picture is worth, and Peter will get the prize money to help someone out, because he is the responsible superhero). The only story with depth in this episode, and that’s just a maybe, was Debra Whitman being so excited by Peter being such a brave man, when Conners turned into the lizard and attacked them in the lab. As if the writers didn’t even want to get into the two most prominent love interests for Peter Parker and start a different story first, and this from the beginning.

Secondly, I loved the animation. They definitely look like they were coming straight from the 90s, but I felt a bit nostalgic about them, wanting to watch a few more animated shows in that style, but hopefully without the pretentiously annoying score. And here we have the biggest problem of the show: The music was extremely pregnant, even during Peter’s scenes, when there didn’t even need to be any music. Instead of focusing on the dialogue exchanges between Peter and the person he was conversing with, the producers had to stick a score into the scene, which was on the same level of volume than the dialogue was. And I already know I won’t stand listening to the score all the time, which is why I will have troubles bingewatching SPIDER-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (so one episode every few days will have to suffice).

Women’s can’t handle big guns.

Also, I’m worried that the writers were wasting one member of Spider-Man’s rogue gallery after another, without banking on the hope that the villains might be reused for another episode, maybe with an eye on the Sinister Six or another villain group, maybe even an original creation by the writers (yeah right, as if that is ever going to happen). Granted, Curt Conners was saved at the end, and I have no idea if the fight underwater actually reversed the transformation (it almost looked like, but it means that Conner’s machine was not working like it should have), but every once in a while, I’m expecting villains to be, ehm, killed off (I’m wondering if characters in animated shows actually get killed off, because I don’t know), or at least put into a realm of “We won’t use them ever again,” because the character had been retired by the writers to focus on a different villain for future episodes.

But all in all, I can see after only one episode why this show is considered to be one of the best animated shows of the 1990s. While the action sequences were targeted for kids, they have a realistic tone to them, and with Peter’s voiceover commentary of the events and his feelings about what is happening, it gives the show a mature touch, maybe even one of a character coming of age, albeit Peter looking like a 40-year-old virgin in this animation, and him seemingly being in college (or past college) by the start of the show, which I find just a little confusing. I was thinking the show would follow Peter through high school first, but apparently the writers didn’t think so and made him an adult character instead, which bites with the target audience of the show. Then again, Peter in college could be an interesting premise, because which animated TV show on a weekend morning schedule focused on the characters in a particular setting to begin with?