Spider-Man Romances In Animation - A Retrospective
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Part Seven -
Season four opened with Spider-Man suffering from flashbacks to the scene at the bridge. Personally, I thought it was good the first time they did it, as they showed that it continued to haunt him. However, they really did overdo it – the scene was showed over and over again to the point where I was simply sick of seeing it. It would’ve been better had they simply showed quick, instant flashes of the fight on the bridge and MJ’s disappearance – the entire sequence simply interrupted the point of the rest of the episode. Clearly distraught over the loss of MJ, Peter decides he’s had enough of this life and doesn’t want to be Spider-Man anymore, but quickly changes his mind after Robbie is framed and Jameson gets himself in trouble whilst trying to prove his innocence. He later decides to stick with the costume after getting a much needed pat on the back from Robbie.
After that, after three entire seasons of build up, ladies and gentlemen, introducing The Black Cat! After a tussle with a wasted Dr. Octopus, Spider-Man begins looking into Felicia’s past and discovers her Dad has actually been locked up in S.H.I.E.L.D because he is the only man who is aware of one of the world’s best kept secrets – the Super Solider formula which turned Steve Rogers into Captain America. I remember getting Goosebumps watching that episode – this was back before spoilers ruined everything but there he was right there on the TV! Captain America himself!
The Kingpin then injects Felicia with the formula, creating The Black Cat. I thought this was a lot better than those stupid bad luck powers from the comics – the whole thing was an original take on the character which I thought was much more interesting than the comic storyline. Spider-Man and Black Cat originally act as enemies but after she tells him she needs his help to free John Hardesky, they team up to break him out of the Kingpin’s Crime Central. The episode in question is full of great twists and turns – everything falls into place perfectly, it was simply exceptionally well crafted.
The rest of the season, however, takes a quick dive. There was no real hook to the storylines – after doing so well in the previous seasons of maintaining a serialised storyline, going back to episode of the week stuff wasn’t really a welcome change. Add that to a great lack of any great villains and you’ve got a pretty disappointing season.
The highlight of the season is The Return Of Kraven in which Spider-Man is still bitter over the loss of Mary Jane and has little regard for the feelings of those around – Harry, the people he is trying to protect and even The Black Cat. He even tells Black Cat to stop playing games and leave the costume at home; “My great power has brought me nothing but grief. Quit while you still can.”
I remember really disliking this episode when I first saw it, but I think it gets better everytime I see it now. Chris Barnes does an exceptional job venting Spider-Man's frustration when he believes that Dr. Crawford has been killed by the beast. The role was superbly cast - a lot of people don't care for Barnes in the lead role but I always thought he was absoloutly sensational.
He spends the rest of the season warming up to The Black Cat but refusing to get too close because ultimately, he knows the relationship will end with her being six feet under like it did with Mary Jane. Things are complicated further when Morbius returns and Felicia reveals that she is The Black Cat to him, something she was never willing to do with Spider-Man.
She eventually leaves him for Morbius to help him and Blade rid the world of vampires, leaving ol’ webhead on his own. Not for long though – The Punisher begins to investigate Mary Jane’s disappearance and Harry goes mad due to the loss of both his Father and Mary Jane without any explanation and Mary Jane mysteriously re-appears without the slightest memory of where she’s been. I thought her return was a little rushed to be honest and to be totally honest about it, I like Spider-Man as a bachelor. He isn’t half as interesting when he’s married, all great romances are about the chase – things quickly become stale and predictable the moment they become together.
The next episode ends with a brilliant cliffhanger as Spider-Man reveals that he is Peter Parker to Mary Jane and then pops the questions which comic fanboys were no doubt dreading to hear “Mary Jane – will you marry me?” and even worse, she agrees, after throwing herself off a building, no less. Women. Crazy. One of the little touches that I love about this episode is that Spider-Man is actually sat on Bruce The Gargoyle, who was the one who suffered through many of Peter’s rant about terrible his romantic life was in the previous seasons.
The rest of the episode is thoroughly tedious (poor Lizard, you deserved so much better). I think this season would’ve been a lot better had they actually had Peter and Felicia reveal their identities to each other – that would’ve added a great spice to the relationship and would’ve worked a hell of a lot better than the random “See ya Spider!” conclusion we received.
Pete and MJ get married a couple of episodes later – there’s nothing of great interest about the episode other than the surprise appearance of The Black Cat at his wedding – yes, Peter invited his ex. Classy. Harry shows up, threatening to kill everyone unless MJ marries him, Liz randomly decides she loves him and stops him, whilst Spidey flirted with his ex outside. It’s not an especially brilliant episode, it just seems to lack a certain spark.
The next couple of episodes feature Spidey teaming up with Captain America and the Six Forgotten Warriors – there’s no romance in these episodes, so I’ll skip over them and probably go on and on about them when I finally get around to finishing Cap’s retrospective.
Next, the show’s most confusing plot point comes into play – the fact that the MJ he married isn’t actually the one he first hit the jackpot with, she’s actually a clone, based on her and Hydro Man’s DNA. Given how close we were to the show coming to a close, I still don’t understand why they felt they needed to kill her off – I understand that Peter works better as a bachelor but if everyone else thought that, why marry him off to begin with? For a full on rant about it, check out the page on the website, here. See folks, if you’ve ever had to deal with creating a website that suffered numerous delays, never quite looked as nice as you wanted it to and realised that most of the work you had done for it was crap so you restarted it from scratch, occasionally you need to vent. Or other times, you simply wait until you review an episode that you hate and unleash a rant chock full of fury.
Again, the next episodes feature Spider-Man leading a team to Battle World to prove which is mightier, good or evil. No romance involved beyond a brief flirtation with The Black Cat and Captain America.
Sadly afterwards, the show reached its conclusion, where most people probably expected him to finally get the girl. But alas, it was not to be. Despite an awesome appearance from Gwen Stacy in an alternate dimension and an arrogant MJ, this episode is all about Peter, and it’s simply bloody brilliant.
After saving all reality, overcoming his own misery and defeating one of the show’s coolest villains, don’t you think our hero deserved a happy ending? Me too, but people rarely seem to notice that he actually did.
SPIDER-MAN: “Y’know, for so long, I thought that I never got any breaks. But now, after all I’ve been through, for once I like my life. I like myself and for the first time ever, I wouldn’t wanna change anything about me.”
STAN: “Gee, you’re defiantly not the guy I’ve been writing about all these years.”
SPIDER-MAN: “Well Stan, we all have to grow up sometime. Even us characters of fiction.”
And yes, after that he went off to find Mary Jane. That’ll ding dang do for me.
Spider-Man would return in a new cartoon a few years later. He was already married to MJ in this show, but spent the majority of it on an alien planet, fighting Beastiels. I found the show to be thoroughly awful as it’s pretty much the polar opposite of what Spider-Man is all about – a relatable, down to Earth, down on his luck superhero with the coolest set of villains ever (sorry, Batman). He isn’t a friendly interplanetary superhero, he doesn’t wear nanotech and he doesn’t team up with The Green Goblin! The show sucked, and there’s no interesting romantic moments to be found. One dare say you could remove the word “romantic” from the last paragraph and it would still be accurate.