The Lizard In Animation - A Retrospective
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One of this writer’s favourite villains in all of comic books, The Lizard is a classic Jekyll and Hyde character, which one being an honest, honourable and likeable scientist with his alter ego being a vicious, evil and horrifying monster who terrorizes the sewers, causing no end of grief for both Spider-Man, Dr. Connors and his family.
Originally appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #6 by comic book legends Stan Lee and Steve Dikto, The Lizard has ranked among many Spidey fans favourite villains and as such, as become something of a staple when it comes to other being translated to other mediums. Indeed, The Lizard has appeared in video games, action figure toy lines and most fans seem to be clamouring for Dr. Conners to finally start his research to regenerate his lost limb in order for The Lizard to have his long awaited big screen smackdown with the webslinger in Spider-Man 4. The villain has struck a chord with Spider-Man fans, perhaps because he is one of those Spider-Man villains who reflects greatly on Peter Parker as Parker and Doc Connors are friends but The Lizard considers Spider-Man to be a deadly enemy, therefore Spider-Man is often forced to hurt Conners in order to save him.
Since we’re here to talk about cartoons, let us being with The Lizard’s animated appearance. It would of course be 67 Spider-Man where the reptilian first encountered Spider-Man on the small screen in the show’s third episode, Where Crawls The Lizard. The episode follows the loose plot of Amazing Spider-Man #6 but comes up with an interesting twist, rather than travelling to Florida under orders from J. Jonah Jameson as he did in the comic, Spider-Man tricked Jameson into sending into the swamp as he wanted to know if he could beat the strange Lizard creature – one of the main things I love about 67 Spider-Man and even the old Spider-Man comics is the dreaded Spider-Man ego, his head can occasionally get very big and the character can get a little full of himself. It puts some off – when they did it in Spider-Man 3, I remember some people saying that that version of Peter was too far removed from the likeable lad in the prior two instalments. Bollocks to them, I say. I think it makes him more relatable personally, as someone who has often struggled to stop sounding so big headed myself, I’ve taken a liking to seeing Peter occasionally marvel in his own brilliance. The typical Parker luck is always there to bring him back to Earth of course, but it is fun to see his fall from grace, so to speak.
Back to the cartoon, after smart mouthing his way to a free trip to Florida from the dim witted yet fearless publisher of The Daily Bugle, Spider-Man searches the swamp in anticipation for his smackdown with the “Lizardman” as this show would call him. Upon finding Dr. Conner’s lab, he is attack by a 6ft Lizard who attempts to drag him into the swamp to fight him there. He manages to fend the creature off but admits that he is far stronger than he initially imagined. Upon meeting Billy Conner (notice the lack of ‘s’ at the end of the name of Conner) and eventually speaks to his Mother about Dr Conner and his experiments in the lab. He learns that Conner was attempting to cure swamp fever but his experiments eventually turned him into the Lizardman. Using Conner’s notes and his own smarts (“Boy, being a science student sure comes in handy!) he devises a cure and after a lengthy fight with The Lizard in a run down castle ala Amazing #6, he administers the cure and Lizardman returns to normal. It’s pretty much a straightforward adaptation of The Lizard’s original origin tale with a few minor tweaks.
This version of Curt Conner has two arms and his experiments, as mentioned above, are to cure swamp fever – he doesn’t study reptilian cellular regeneration here – this change doesn’t bother me that much, I actually rank Where Crawls The Lizard as one of my favourite episodes. Lizardman is a little goofy both in design and casting but it’s forgivable given the tone of the show – it was at it’s best when it was a comedy because trying to make a villain a serious threat in a 1960’s cartoon wasn’t going to happen.
Curt and Billy Conner would return in Fountain Of Terror when this show’s version of Kraven The Hunter, whose actual name escapes me, kidnaps Dr. Conner’s and Spider-Man flies to Florida to show the Oz a piece of mind and let him taste a piece of his fist. I don’t remember much of Conner’s involvement as he only appeared for a few moments at the end – I just remember young Billy annoying the hell out of me as most young boys in cartoons do.
The Lizardman would make one more appearance in the 67 show, to my annoyance. I’ll spare you my usual tirade about the second and third seasons of Spider-Man and take the time to inform you that Where Crawls The Lizard was one of the few episodes to be cut up randomly into an all new, barely plausible for an excuse for an episode which simply features the old animation over new backgrounds, only this time around The Lizard/Lizardman isn’t actually Dr Conner – when Spider-Man administers the potion (which must’ve caused a wicked sense of déjà vu for the webbed wonder) the creature simply disappears off screen and is never seen off again.
It was really dumb. I’m not even going to attempt to add logic to it.
The Lizard would have many chances to redeem himself via his plethora of appearances on the small screen. Would the 80’s be as harsh as on him as they were on everyone else who had to live through them?