The Lizard In Animation - A Retrospective
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With Batman: The Animated Series setting an unprecedented quality in American Superhero cartoons in terms of visuals, tone and storytelling and X-Men also being unlike anything Saturday morning audiences had seen at that point big things were expected from FOX, Marvel and the actual audience when Spider-Man finally made his long awaited return to the small screen.
With production apparently rushed from the day the show was announced and the initial story editor being shown the door at an early stage, a new crew of writers were brought into to bring Spidey from the comic book to the small screen, with promises to be more faithful to the essence of Peter Parker than ever before – this show would deal with the complications that Spider-Man and his secret brought into Peter’s life.
In hindsight, using The Lizard as the show’s first villain was a brilliant stroke on the creative teams part. The majority of the first season was the normal villain of the week affair and some of the episodes can be reshuffled without the story becoming lost but this is defiantly the best place to start – as far as villain of the week episodes go, this is probably the best the series ever did and probably explains my fondness for this particular villain.
The episode sees Robbie Robertson approach Peter to see if he can manage to chase down a picture of a gigantic Lizard that has apprantly been roaming the sewers. Believing it to be tabloid nonsense, Peter’s interest does a 180 turn when J. Jonah Jameson states there’ll be a $1000 bonus for whoever gets the scoop on the creature. Armed with his Aunt’s mortgage and his trusty camera, Spider-Man enters the sewer and captures photographic evidence of a huge Lizard footprint. Unsure as to what it actually is, he takes the photo to Dr. Connors in hopes that he has an explanation only to discover The Lizard in Connors’ lab, stealing the Neogenic recombinater.
Having not yet deduced that Connors and the creature are one and the same, Spider-Man decides to investigate further and visit Connors home and manages to speak to his wife before The Lizard again arrives on the scene to attack Eddie Brock, who was also investigating the story under orders from Jameson.
Upon getting his $1000 photo and a couple of one liners at the scaly supervillains expense in one of the show’s finest fight scenes as Spider-Man is forced to fight a villain who is stronger than him for the first time in his career The Lizard flees before he can finish Spider-Man off, at his son’s request.
Margaret Connors then informs Spider-Man of Curt’s research and how he used the Neogenic recombinater to regenerate his lost arm. Spidey is all too familiar with Curt’s research as he had been helping Connor’s with the same and now felt that he was partly to blame – this sequence also has a great shot of Connor’s mid transformation. It’s one of those few outstanding visuals that the one occasionally came up with, but not often enough in this author’s opinion.
Speaking of The Lizard’s design – bravo. Easily one of the best the show ever did. It’s especially awesome in this episode as the animation is superlative throughout – the models are sleek, the city is actually populated and the rain and sewers backgrounds capture the episode’s mood perfectly. The animation in the show never topped this episode – the characters are on model, the blacks are actually black and the whole episode simply looks a lot darker and more befitting to Spider-Man. It’s difficult to explain but watch this and any other episodes (bar maybe the first two instalments of The Alien Costume) and you’ll see the difference in quality very quickly.
Joseph Campanella voiced both The Lizard and Connors in the show and does a stellar job, without just resorting to adding sssssss onto the end of his ever sentence in his reptilian state. He does a good job bringing a likeable, sympathetic voice to family man Curt and a terrifying tone to the Lizard. What impressed me most is how well he managed to capture that middle voice as well – when Curt is controlling The Lizard.
The Lizard has his own motivation here – he wishes for everyone to be like him so they can live better lives and not have to suffer with the pain that comes with being human. One of the things that separated The Lizard from all the other villains in the show is that he has a family – a wife and a son, both of whom are used very well in the show. He’s a very rich character who is both connected to Peter through their friendship and the dual lives they both lead.
Spider-Man defeats The Lizard by blasting him with the Neogenic Recombinater and he reverts to Connors, the nightmare was over all concerned – Peter got his picture and Eddie Brock had no proof to back up his outlandish story that Connors and The Lizard were the same person.
But of course, with Spider-Man: The Animated Series, things were rarely as they seemed. Rather than just dispose of the villain after his defeat, both Connors and The Lizard would become recurring characters throughout the show’s 65 episode run.