The Lizard In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four - Part Five - Part Six

The 1981 Spider-Man show is a tricky one – while I admit this paragraph will no doubt raise the ire of the terrific Jon Talpur, it’s always been one of those shows that’s just there to me – there’s nothing especially bad about it and I have a great fondness for the visuals but a lot of the stories are usually pretty ho-hum. It’s quite different from the other 1980’s cartoons in order to help capture the tone from the Spider-Man comics but there’s something so ho-hum about it for me, even though it did one of the more daring storylines of any 1980’s cartoons with Spider-Man’s long running feud with Dr. Doom spread throughout the show’s run. I suppose it’s because of it’s villain of the week formula and the fact that his relationship’s rarely progress – he always seems to find himself in the same place with Betty Brant, and it’s never one he’s happy with.

In retrospect, I think I’ve been spoiled by the 1990’s show and found it a little difficult to go back and watch this show two decades on (I’m not old enough to remember when this show first aired, it started 5 years before I was born). I will give credit where credit is due though – they’ve realised that Spider-Man is a smart mouthed superhero who simply years for a normal life which he can’t have because his own selfish earlier actions will forever haunt him and now must suffer through the cruel injustices of life while optimistically hoping that things will eventually get better while the audience knows better. This version of Peter Parker is very relatable – most of his problems involve, rent, the aforementioned Betty and his studies. This isn’t some galaxy hoping superhero or some idiot who decided it would be a good idea to unmask in public and forget about the danger this would put his family in – this is me and you – one could argue that this is arguably one of the best versions of Peter Parker we’ve ever seen animated. No Nicholas Hammond hair here!

But this is the day of The Lizard – how does the future handbag fair in the 1980’s show?

Not very well, I am sad to say. Lizards, Lizards Everywhere, despite it’s catchy title, is a pretty ho hum episode which sees Spider-Man battling very reptiles under The Lizard’s control while battling a cold (which is ironic, at present time I’m trying to overcome a fearsome dose of Stu Flu – there, now I’ve got something to blame the typing/spelling errors on!). Regrettably, this show’s version of the Lizard doesn’t even mention Dr. Connors – there’s no difficulty with duality here, the Lizard is simply another supervillain with some aspirations about reptiles taking over the city. They’ve missed out on what defines the character for me and the episode suffers for it tremendously.

To speak of the positive, The Lizard has a truly fantastic design, even by this show’s high standards. I was always more fond of the later versions of Lizard with the reptilian beak (for lack of a better term) rather than just a the Dikto/Romita face covered in scales and The Lizard’s facial design here is absolutely fantastic, not at all like the comedy version of the 67 show. The rest of it is as faithful to the original comic book you can be – although one does wonder why The Lizard would dress up like a scientist if Dr. Connors’ isn’t trapped somewhere inside that leathery interior. The Lizard has always been one of my favourite visuals for a villain and they didn’t disappoint here. I’m personally hoping that The Lizard is featured in Spider-Man 4, I would love to see what Sam Raimi and co could do with the creature in live action, presuming Raimi decides to stay and helm Spidey’s fourth big screen epic.

Especially seeing how well they tackled his origin in the 1990’s Spider-Man cartoon.