Mysterio In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four

The 1981 solo Spider-Man started as experiment. The show was to be based upon the classic Spider-Man comics and the 67 show. The show was syndicated because none of the networks were interested in an animated Spider-Man, so Marvel took a big gamble and actually funded the entire series themselves in hopes of showing the various networks that Spider-Man could work on Saturday morning cartoons. It has often been dubbed as “the forgotten” Spider-Man series because so few people have seen it and it never got much in the way of video releases and there’s still a great doubt of it ever making it to DVD thanks to the dumb asses at Disney. The show has a somewhat depressing tone because of the nature of Peter’s character in the cartoon – a down on his luck superhero who suffers because things never quite seem to go his way as either Peter or Spider-Man. He has his money troubles, he can’t catch a break with the media, he has an ailing Aunt who is constantly babying him and he seems to spend more time in Betty Brant’s bad books than any romantic interest should.

Visually, the show is based on the models of John Romita Sr. and his simplistic yet elegant style translates perfectly to animation. The show isn’t Return Of The Joker in that it didn’t have the money behind it to look stunning but the 1990’s Spider-Man: The Animated Series designers could’ve learned a lot from this show. Simple, clean, bulk-free models that can be done on a reasonable budget lead to a pretty looking show. A muscular, detailed model done on a reasonable budget leaves you with a show that’s slow, mistake laden and not as pleasing to the eye as it should be.

But this is a Mysterio retrospective, not a Spider-Man one, right? How did the master of illusion fit into all of this?

Mysterio should’ve fitted into the 80’s as well as he did the 60’s, but the results are quite as promising. Like most villains in the solo shows short run on 24 episodes, and the plot in which he was featured didn’t really work. In it, Mysterio is the owner of the hottest new club in town and has managed to hypnotise everyone in the club into doing his bidding, except for our friendly neighbourhood wallcrawler. The Pied Piper Of New York Town is downright weird and not really all that enjoyable, aside from the odd scene of J. Jonah Jameson at his grumpy best. Mysterio himself is given a rather generic design (for him!) and his voice simply didn’t fit. I could never quite but my finger on why but overall, this is a rather disappointing version of ol’ fishbowl.

If the solo Spider-Man series was too much of a downer for you, then Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends could surely be considered the polar opposite. Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends was all about having fun, regardless of logic, character development and accuracy to the comics. The show features Spider-Man and his two new roommates, Iceman and Firestar fighting crime as the Spider-Friends whilst the audience put up with an annoying comedy dog dubbed Ms. Lions.

The show is the closest thing we’ve ever had to a Marvel Team Up cartoon, and the first episode along features dozens of cameos from other Marvel characters. In a neat little nod, Angelica Jones goes to the comic book costume party as Spider-Woman.

Unfortunately, Mysterio appears in one of the show’s weaker episodes and doesn’t really do much to begin with. The episode is a little on the crowded side with the Spider-Friends travelling to Hollywood, The Incredible Hulk guest starring and Iceman falling in love with a robot. Mysterio has the same lacklustre voice as before and is given a slightly revamped design – this time around, the fishbowl is black and looks damn strange. The bowl is still a little on the small side and looks way out of proportion with his body and again, the episode doesn’t live up to some of the shows better episodes such as Spider-Man: Unmasked, Along Came Spidey and Triumph Of The Green Goblin.

Like most villains, he would only appear in one episode of the show and would have to wait until 1994 to make his return to animation.