The Lizard In Animation - A Retrospective

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

Given Marvel’s spotty track record with animation, I was instantly excited but still somewhat sceptical of a new Spider-Man cartoon. As enjoyable as it was, the last one got more wrong than right, and this one was announced as going to Kids WB! who had previously spent the past couple of years butchering Batman with their silly attempts to make him cool – what they were essentially trying to do was turn him into Spider-Man and sell a truckload of toys. They never quite got the show they wanted with The Batman so it only made sense to finally cave in and air their own Spider-Man show.

It sounded great on paper – basically Spider-Man: Year One with the show beginning on his first day of high school and meeting his rouges gallery for the first time. Rather than going down the original route as the past 2 shows had tried and utterly failed Spider-Man’s classic villains would appear.

So, after months of hype – people actually knew it was going to air – clearly, someone somewhere learned lessons from the complete lack of promotion Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes received (and fell promptly on it’s arse because of it!), The Spectacular Spider-Man premiered with Survival Of The Fittest. It would seem that they weren’t kidding when they said they were out to make this the Spider-Man cartoon to remember – for fans of the character, the first episode alone was bursting with stuff to love – the opening fight with Marko and O’Hirn, the introduction of Jameson, Betty, Connors and his family, villains to fight in The Enforcers, The Vulture and the leering threat of The Big Man – there was a lot to take it but it so perfectly paced that you had time to take everything in. The show was bursting with stuff to come back next week for – I love a good hook for a show – I utterly hate villain of the week shows and this clearly set itself out to be something beyond that.

I loved the mystery of who The Big Man but what really intrigued me was Connors injecting himself with an experimental formula in Survival and it’s follow up, Interactions. Natural Selection he finally manages to grow back his arm in a particularly disturbing manor now less – the show made the transformations as ugly as possible and they all really stand out. Whether people are physically growing limbs, having their molecules shattered to sand or metallic arms fused to their spinal cord they all look and sound like they hurt.

When his wife discovers scales growing across Curt’s back they fear the worst and Curt of course transforms into a gigantic savage Lizard. This version doesn’t talk either. This show doesn’t mess around with it’s fight scenes either – they’re all beautifully choreographed pieces which always full use of Spider-Man’s unique abilities and The Lizard offered some of the best yet.

Design wise – I often find a lot of them look too Fisher Price like for me but they animated extremely well so I don’t really care – not The Lizard though – I saw the model sheet for this bad boy and I thought it looked slick straight away. Dee Bradley Barker does a fine job with Connors too.

The highlight of the episode for me is Peter being fired as Martha feels she is unable to trust him after he cashes in by selling photos of The Lizard’s fight with Spider-Man. Immediately pissed that Spider-Man is getting in the way of Peter Parker’s progress, he contemplates using the gene cleanser they used to turn Curt human to rid him of his own powers but decides against it… for now.

I remember hoping to see them follow it up as he kept the formula – it re-emerged in the show’s finale as Peter flushed it down the sink, deciding to remove the easy way out of his responsibilities. It was a great moment for the character, so great in fact, I’ll even ignore the fact that the webbing that held the cleanser under his desk would’ve long melted before he found it again in Nature Vs Nurture.

So in summary then – the Lizard’s latest appearance may have been his best one yet. Hopefully we’ll get a round two!