Spider-Man In Animation - A Retrospective

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

I would be lying if I said this season matched up with the rest of the show. It has no real arc to get into, meaning that itís basically a bunch of standalones with a little bit about Spider-Manís relationship with Black Cat thrown in there. Black Catís introduction was handled well, but every following appearance just seemed to make her become more and more annoying.

The opener was pretty decent, above the seasonís average standard, but it starts something that would become highly irritating as the season went on Ė the long, drawn out flashbacks to MJís death in Turning Point. The episode came dangerously close to adapting one of the comic stories Iíd have liked to seen in this show Ė Spider-Man No More from Amazing Spider-Man #50. In the end, Iím glad it didnít, the Spider-Man 2 feature film did that storyline, and it did it perfectly. It was good to see that Spider-Man was once again motivated to wear his costume again and that he was indeed suffering from her loss. It wasnít the best episode of the season, but it was a lot better than most of what was offered here.

Iím not sure what changed Felicia Hardy because she was perfectly likeable as a snob back in the earlier seasons, but as The Black Cat she seemed a little too arrogant. Iím not sure if itís just the voice change that Jennifer Hale put on, but the character became a little too off-putting. It was great to see her become The Black Cat though, as the build up had been coming for a long, long time. She was introduced in the second episode!

One of the things I liked most about this season was Spider-Man himself. He wasnít his usual quipping self; he became a little darker and bitter now that he had lost Mary Jane. This is best presented in The Return Of Kraven, the seasonís best episode where he tells Black Cat he doesnít want her around and sheíll only regret wearing the costume in the end. After thinking heís lost Maria Crawford, he even claims heís going to destroy the person responsible! I can only imagine how much less corny it wouldíve sounded if he had said ďkillĒ instead, but FOX wouldnít allow anything like that on this show. The majority of the rest of the episodes range from pretty good to absolutely terrible. I feel the main problem with the season is that essentially, nothing big happens. Black Cat leaving was basically a ďBy the way, Iím leaving with Morbius, ttyl Spider!Ē Thereís no season arc and no big villains show up. I felt a big story with Venom and or Carnage returning was just what was called for, or even The Kingpin finally going down, but the season is filled with B and C stringers which is immensely disappointing Ė the rouges gallery on this show was outstanding, closely following those found on Batman: The Animated Series.

The show finally gave Harry Osborn the mantle of The Green Goblin this season but the character simply struggled to work as a supervillian. Considering that Spider-Man was fighting his best friend, I was expecting a little something extra from an emotional standpoint, but Harry literally felt like just another villain - a pretty poor one at that. Despite having The Goblinís strength, he still proved to be little more than a whiner. I was hoping they might go into the psychological reasoning for his turn to the dark side, but it was all passť. Iíve said this a few times in this thread, but the episode had so much potential that went unfulfilled, but damn, it was still a good episode! Itís perfectly watchable and there is a bittersweet moment when MJ returns and Spidey is taking his best friend to Ravencroft for help, believing that the nightmare is finally over. Again, the episode falters due to a lack of an emotional pull. I also donít think the episode required The Punisher to guest star either, but thatís not the point.

One of the biggest shockers of the season was the death of Mysterio. It was certainly an odd episode that came completely out of left field, but to be honest, I was happy to see this great villain back on the show.

The season ends on a low note, with two utterly crap episodes airing. The Prowler introduced himself in a rather tedious, pointless fashion and some nonsence involving The Lizard being a king amongst other Lizardmen. One canít help but wonder why a straight up sequel to Night Of The Lizard wasnít done instead, but you take the good with the bad I guess. Not a terrible season, but not a good one either.

The season opened up with a standalone episode in which Peter and MJ get married. I personally thought that their marriage took the entire spark out of the relationship but then again, it wasnít all that interesting to begin with. Peter works best when he has problems of the heart Ė the chase is always more interesting than the prize, but this is true of most romances, and characters do need to grow and move on otherwise you end up in a Smallville situation, in which the characters are literally no different in season five then they were in season two. Pete Ross may not be there anymore but letís be honest - no one cares.

Interestingly enough, Harry Osborn was chosen as the villain of the episode. Smythe, Kingpin and Scorpion were there too, but they were all pretty much useless here and took away from the story the episode was trying to tell. I thought Harry attempting to stop the wedding was a great idea, but once again, the relationship between Peter and Harry is barely noticeable and the episode lacks any emotional pull. I especially liked the ending with Liz Allen talking Harry out of it, but this would be the last weíd see of either of them. Harry was never used to his full potential in this show which is a great shame. I realise they didnít have a lot of time to do much with him because he appeared so late in the showís run, but Harry was a complete disappointment. I blame it on the fact that around this time in the comics, Harry was causing great problems for Peter and it all came to an end in Spectacular Spider-Man #200 with Harryís death, with a touching scene of Harry dying with Peter by his side and him admitting that Peter was his best friend. Itís an issue that comes close to bringing me to tears each time I read it and the cartoon never came close to matching it. Iím probably being harsh on it, but thereís so much wasted potential here.

With our hero now married, a five-part story that re-introduced Captain America into the modern day after a previous episode showed his origin. The story initiates with the story behind Peterís parents. Iíve always found that the Parkers were more interesting dead and there was something odd about their Ďappearanceí here, mainly due to there age. If Peter was a teenager (heís rumoured to be 19 years old when the show started) then how the hell were Peterís parents as young as they were in the flashback sequence? The whole thing was in dire need of an update for modern audiences, much like how Ultimate Spider-Man handled the whole situation. The rest of the story is a fine tribute to the Silver Age, featuring many of the superheroes that Marvel published before Stan and Jack thought up a fantastic foursome. It does feel a little out of place which seemed to happen throughout the season, leaving many fans feeling that it had gone a little too far off topic with itís relatively down to Earth hero. It didnít help that some of the most controversial episodes aired after this.

The next two episodes often anger me when I talk about them Ė when taking the captures from them for the site last year, I remember literally talking at the computer screen, stating how stupid the episode was. These episode featured the return of Hydro Man, and gave us the utterly retarded revolution towards the end Ė Mary Jane was not the real Mary Jane, merely a clone created from MJís DNA and Hydro Manís water based DNA.

No one was impressed after the episode aired.

Quite why this decision was made still baffles me Ė there were 5 episodes remaining. Would anyone have really minded if MJ and Peter remained married? Given how the whole situation was pretty much ignored the moment Peter left for the paradise planet in which The Secret Wars occurred, it still leaves me clueless as to why they decided to go down this route, and once again leave Peter searching for MJ. To make matters worse, Madame Web returned seconds later. Talk about kicking a guy when heís down. Hard. In the nuts. The whole situation was seemingly forgotten about several seconds later, as we begin yet another controversial storyline to add to the season Ė Secret Wars.

Secret Wars was one of the biggest events in comics in the 1980s, so much so that Marvel even attempted to develop a Secret Wars cartoon before they realised the networks werenít interested. SW has never even really been much of a Spider-Man story, his sole contribution was taking the alien costume back to Earth. If you read the comic before seeing the episode, you were probably confused as to why Spider-Man, of all the Marvel cartoons was chosen to adapt the story. Regardless of itís original intentions, Secret Wars was a very interesting tale which not only allowed a hell of a lot of guest stars and gave us what could be considered the very best version animated incarnation of Dr. Doom Ė once again, a Spider-Man cartoons delivers a much better version of the good Doctor than all the Fantastic Four cartoons.

The story has often been bashed due to Spider-Manís role as the leader of the episode. In response to this, I say Ė what else are they supposed to do, turn Spider-Man into a supporting character in his own show? Spider-Man is not a typical leader character and it was handled as such, constantly questioning his own decisions and worrying about offending this teammates. It was no doubt nerve wracking for Spidey, as members of the team were a fine leader in their own right. Reed, obviously, leads the FF, Iron Man leads Forceworks, Captain America is a born leader and Storm has been 2nd in command in this continuity for The X-Men. I found Secret Wars to be greatly enjoyable, despite a relatively mediocre second act Ė the finale more than made up for it, with Spidey standing up to Dr. Doom and uttering one of my favourite quotes from the series.

Dr. Doom: Do you take me for a fool? Who amongst you has ever wanted to give up their superpowers?

Spider-Man: I have, because Iíve learned time and time again, that with great power there must also come great responsibility.


Using his wits to defeat the dreaded Dr. Doom, the war was ended, and Spider-Man was told that his greatest battle was only just beginning.

After building up this battle for 3 whole seasons, I remember wondering just who they were planning on using. The Green Goblin, Venom, Doc Ock Ė all of Spideyís big baddies had been used before. So just who has Spider-Man going to fight? The answer? Himself.

Genius.

Whilst it was fun to see all the other versions of Spider-Man and to get one last hurrah with this shows excellent interpretations of Kingpin, The Green Goblin and The Hobgoblin, the real story here is Spider-Man Vs Spider-Carnage, a bitter, alternate reality version of Peter Parker who had bonded with the Carnage symbiote.

Many accuse the story of being just a bunch of different Spider-Man action figures fighting a bunch of villain who also had figures of themselves on the toy shelf, but theyíre missing the point. (And I loved my Spider-Armour and Octo Spidey figures as a kid, so there!)

This episode is also the only animated version of Gwen Stacey ever shown, to my knowledge. I thought there was something of a bittersweet moment in here where Peter saves Gwen from the evil Spider-Man Ė with Gwen of course being the one person he didnít save in the comics which still haunts him. The episode really gets going when Peter realises that his enemy isnít some clown in spandex, or some psychopath in a symbiote. To quote the man himself;

Spider-Man: ďNoÖ thatís what Iím doing wrong. I have to remember that me enemy here... is me.Ē

I still get Goosebumps when he begins that speech. Iíd probably consider this episode to be my favourite if that stupid Hydro Man story never took place Ė think about it. If MJ was still real and married to Peter with no signs of her disappearing and the 2 episodes were used to explain her disappearance and reappearance in oh, just about any other way that didnít involve clones, then the finale wouldíve been perfect. I thought bringing in his Uncle Ben to help him stopping from killing everyone was a highly inventive thing to do. His Uncle, the reason he became Spider-Man and fought crime in the first place, once again teaching Peter that with great power must come great responsibility.

Whilst many believe the meeting Stan Lee was fanboy fluff, I once again believe that theyíre missing the point. Stan admits that this isnít the Spider-Man heís been writing about all these years Ė heís grown beyond him. He likes himself, he likes his life and his Uncle is proud of him, both the good and bad in him.

Anyone whoís read the site I made for this show knows I love this show, it was my undisputed favourite as a kid and I still think itís vastly underrated today. The show was a daring attempt to bring Spidey to Saturday mornings and despite just about every obstacle placed in its path, it managed to succeed. Itís still undoubtedly the finest animated version of Spider-Man, and arguably Marvelís greatest foray into animation ever.

For those of you who donít like the series, think of it like this. It couldíve been much, much worse. Take a look at the next Spider-Man series if you donít believe me.