Rather than simply letting the character go to waste until the next time The Lizard appeared, Dr. Connors became one of the show’s most prominent supporting characters – he was both Peter’s teacher at Empire State University and one of Spider-Man’s most trusted confidants. Having recently bonded with a strange alien costume he found and noticing it was augmenting everyone of his powers and strangely effecting his emotion (particularly aggression) Peter approached Dr. Connors in hopes of studying the suit to learn more about it, especially it’s origins. In what will probably go down as the show’s most memorable scene, Peter originally found himself wearing the costume hanging upside down in the middle of Manhattan.
Connors was originally hesitant to help Spider-Man, as he was now a fugitive but later found himself intrigued with the suit – he learned that it was a symbiote, an organism that thrives by bonding and eventually replacing another. That would be the last we’d see of Doc Connors in season one but he was prominent throughout season two.
In a very ballsy move, Spider-Man spent the season battling a strange mutation disease. The opening of the season deals with Spider-Man dealing with the thought of losing his powers and Conners again examines him. The best part of the story comes in the epilogue of Battle Of The Insidious Six. I love quoting this because I remember seeing it as a boy and simply being beyond intrigued about what the future held for Spider-Man.
SPIDER-MAN: Come on Doc! My powers came back and I feel great! How bad can the test results be?
CONNERS: This bad. The mutagenic factor in your blood has undergone another transformation.
SPIDER-MAN: Did you say mutagenic, as in mutant?
CONNERS: I'm afraid so. Whilst I can't tell you exactly what your DNA is turning you into, one thing’s already clear. It won't be human…
One little speech, Spider-Man’s whole world comes crashing down on him. If you’re familiar with the character, you know that he doesn’t use his ‘normal’ life as a façade so that no one would suspect he is a superhero. He doesn’t wear a pair of glasses and play the fool or pretend to be a billionaire playboy to avoid suspicion as part of his daily routine – Spider-Man wakes up as Peter Parker. Peter Parker is his life, Spider-Man is something Peter feels he has to do but he always tries to build some semblance of a normal life – he dates (or tries to), he goes to school in hopes of one day becoming a somebody in the science field and he tries to make friends. This suddenly took all of that away. He even comments on it in The Mutant Agenda “I’ve never been so frightened in my entire life.”
Curiously, Conners is pushed to the sideline for a few episodes as Dr Mariah Crawford comes to Spider-Man’s rescue as she tries to find a cure for him but ultimately gives him an untested formula which only accelerates his mutation (she really, really needs to stop doing that!) and gives him 6 arms and eventually takes his humanity away as he becomes Man Spider.
They eventually learned that bombarding Spider-Man with the Neogenic recombinater rays kept his mutation disease from flaring for 24 hours and Conners found a more permanent solution of hope for Spider-Man with The Tablet Of Time, an ancient machine which apparently possessed the power to change cells – it was mainly used to make them young again but Conners believed he could’ve cured Spider-Man with it. What he neglected to tell Spidey was that he was also hoping to use it to cure himself…
With The Kingpin deciding that the tablet was far too valuable to be in the possession of someone who might actually do some good with it, he ordered Smythe’s latest attempt at a Spider Slayer to retrieve the tablet and kidnap Conners so he can continue his study of it under the tighter supervision of The Kingpin of crime. With Spider-Man already at the scene to get his daily dose of the Neogenic rays, he saw Curt almost transform into the Lizard before luring the robot away. This is where we learn that Connors mutation is based on his emotions – whenever he becomes too stressed or aggressive, he transforms back into The Lizard.
I dislike these particular episodes – I thought there was far too many characters and too much back and forth, everyone kidnapping someone else, the constant switches and trades and ultimately a lot of the characters weren’t used as well as they should’ve been. The Lizard in part two was especially shameful as he is jobbed to young Silvermaine – this wasn’t the ferocious beast Spidey battled with in Night Of The Lizard – this was a weak imitation of it. The Lizard was utterly wasted here. He made a return appearance in the next storyline as The Neogenic Nightmare drew to its conclusion. It was only a quick appearance towards the later end of the episode but Connors managed to cure Spidey of his mutation disease by transferring it over to The Vulture. Nothing of much merit really happened.
Connors was largely absent for season three and The Lizard didn’t appear at all until the fourth season and you really, really wish they hadn’t have bothered. The Lizard King showcases the show’s fall from grace – the plot’s pretty terrible, the characters aren’t interesting and there’s too many clips used from Night Of The Lizard which only goes to showcase the shocking decline in quality the animation took. The Lizard men race was a pretty silly idea – this, like a lot of season four, was simply a story that we did not need to be told.
Secret Wars would be the Lizard’s next and final appearance in the show. The story sees an intergalactic entity known as The Beyonder studying humans and he becomes fascinated by our concepts of good and evil. In hopes of determining which one is greater, he transports various supervillains from Earth over to a Paradise planet and lets them ruin loose for a year. He then picks Spider-Man to lead a group of heroes to fight the villains to save the planet.
One of his original choices was meant to be The Hulk (and She Hulk, if memory serves) who was to have Banner’s intelligence, much like the comic book at the time. However, with The Incredible Hulk airing over on UPN, FOX didn’t have the rights so the creative team came up with the idea of using The Lizard as a replacement for him. Upon arriving on the planet, the heroes are attacked by The Lizard who breaks free and is injured by the giant worm thingys that surround Spidey’s new crib. Pleading with his team for help, they manage to save The Lizard and Reed Richards and Iron Man analyse his brain and discover that Doc Connors mind is dormant in the beast’s body and do… something to make that part the dominant force, giving Connors control over The Lizard. He didn’t do much after that initial fight but it gave Spider-Man someone he knew to talk to about his struggles leading the time – once again, Connors becomes on of his most trusted confidants. I’m not sure if there was any great need for the character to appear here at all but hell, it was cool seeing Spidey and The Lizard team up and it gave him a better send off than The Lizard King would’ve.
Thankfully spared from Spider-Man: Unlimited, Connors received a name drop in the Spider-Man movie and was one of the few comic book villains translated into MTV’s Spider-Man: The New Animated Series and I for one am really glad they used him.