The Vulture In Animation - A Retrospective
Part One -
Part Two -
Toomes was retooled from a jewel thief to a corporate CEO who had been named dropped in a few previous episodes as a potential investor for the Neogenics department at ESU as Conners appeared to be struggling to find the funds to continue his experiments that his and Spidey’s lives depended on.
Toomes was being strong-armed out his own company by Norman Osborn with his aspirations to fold Toomes Aerodynamic into Oscorp to increase his presence in the market as he deemed Toomes too old and feeble to lead his company and the board members were quick to listen to him. Showcased as a man actively researching flying machines, Toomes used the tablet of time to create himself set of wings which allowed him to fly, and in a trick pulled from the early 1990’s run on Amazing Spider-Man and a set of talons which allowed him to suck and steal the youth of whoever he touched.
Old man Vulture first ran into Spider-Man when he was testing his talons and turned a young skater boy (is sk8erboi how the young ones say it these days?) and Toomes was initially pleased with it’s success but learned that he need to absorb a full grown man’s strength allow him to stay younger longer.
One of the more impressive aspects of the episode is Peter being a detective to find out who the old man actually is. Managing to capture a picture of him he uses The Daily Bugle’s face recognition program and deduced that it was in fact Adrian Toomes. He later turns up to Dr Conner’s presentation at Toomes building, both worried about his pending fate due to the Neogenic recombinater and whether or not Peter Parker would be accepted as Conner’s lab assistant (a storyline set up in the early stages of the Neogenic Nightmare). He lost of course, one again Peter Parker’s aspirations had to take a back seat to Spider-Man – his wall crawling duties continue to haunt his everyday life, which is one of the reasons we all love our everyman Spider-Man (remember him, Quesada?)
After being saved by The Vulture from Flash Thompson (and retaliating with a cracking one liner) Spider-Man himself has his youth sapped from him by The Vulture and spends the majority of the second part as an old man.
Before we get there, I should probably comment on the designs/voices for Vulture this time around. The colouring had gone to the dogs by this time in the show’s run as the latter half of season two almost always lacked that spark to it and visuals that once amazed now lacked even glimmers of pop. It’s nothing exceptionally great like the Lizard, Carnage or The Shocker designs, but it doesn’t suck. A little bit of polish on the colouring probably would’ve helped it tremendously. The late Eddie Albert voiced the elderly Vulture and I found him to be very good in the role, playing someone rather ruthless but obviously in ill health. I was less impressed with Alan Johnson as the younger version of Toomes, but I always felt The Vulture should be an old man – that’s what makes him different from all of Spider-Man’s other villains and adds that unique touch which is a staple of all of Dikto’s celebrated supervillains.
An elderly Spider-Man managed to escape The Vulture’s clutches and is horrified to learn that his youth isn’t returning to him. Meanwhile, The Scorpion has returned and kidnapped his creator Farley Stillwell in hopes of using him to turn him back into Mac Gargan. The Vulture later makes a terrifying discovery of his own – not only has he absorbed Spider-Man’s young and strength, he’s also obtained his mutation disease and keeps transforming into Man-Spider randomly.
Spider-Man calls Doc Connors and pleads for his help, which unfortunately for him is just where both The Scorpion and The Vulture both happen to be heading. You had to feel for the Doc when the villains kidnap Spidey and simply looks over at Connors and says “I always thought I could trust you…” The Doc redeems himself by tricking the Vulture into transferring his youth back to Spider-Man, but keeping his mutation disease, curing him of his ailment.
After a smack down with The Scorpion and a quick appearance from The Lizard, the Neogenics lab is blown up, taking the recombinater with it. Vulture flees and wouldn’t return until the middle of the fourth season, where we learn that The Scorpion had kidnapped him in hopes of using his brains to develop a cure for Gargan so he can get married to his girlfriend Sarah. The Vulture plays pretty much a bit part in the episode – the one interesting thing is that he’s no longer Man Spider – he simply changes from young to old uncontrollably. Sarah eventually realises him to help Mac as Spider-Man had kidnapped him because Smythe had kidnapped Black Cat because Alicia Silvermaine wanted to make Silvermain revert back to his normal self.
If you couldn’t tell, the main problem with the episode is that it had too many characters. He eventually swapped energy with Silvermaine who reverted back to his elderly self while Vulture kept his youthful form permanently.
Vulture would make one more appearance in the show as part of the Insidious Six, replacing Mysterio. There was a lot going on in that story, and as a result, none of the Insidious Six besides traitor Chameleon offer anything to it. There’s not even an explanation as to why Toomes would work with The Scorpion, who had held him hostage for weeks, months, years?
Overall, Spider-Man: The Animated Series did an adequate job with The Vulture. He wasn’t as cool as a lot of the other villains, but they’ve always outshined him in the comics as well. I would’ve preferred the old man throughout, but regardless, there’s little here to complain about, beside the quality of the animation in the episodes he appeared in.
The Vulture would be one of the many Spider-Man villains to have a loose translation of him be featured in Spider-Man Unlimited, this time, you guessed, as an actual Vulture. He’s nothing like The Vulture beyond anything other than his name and he’s a good guy this time around… you wonder why they bothered, especially considering they basically had The Green Goblin play the exact same role a few episodes prior. The design is all right by Unlimited standards, I don’t really like the mask but it could’ve been worse. If memory serves, Scott McNeil voiced the character. And Scott McNeil is Scott McNeil, he is awesome, there is nothing else to discuss. Of course if it wasn’t Scott McNeil, someone will again pop up and make me look like a fool (and I fully deserve it, I can’t put this one down to a typing error like I usually do!)
And that’s that for The Vulture. He appeared in the Spider-Man: The Movie video game and at one point, Sir Ben Kingsley was cast as him in Spider-Man 3 before the studio/Marvel decided to use Venom instead. I’m sure The Rabbi would’ve made a great Vulture and would actually like to see him featured in Spider-Man 4, alongside The Lizard if they get a long enough run time.
But that’s the future. Tomorrow will see the debut of the Spectacular Spider-Man. Will we see Spidey soar on Metallic wings and just get better like Batman did On Leather Wings all those years ago or will this simply be a case of better luck next time Spidey? Tune in tomorrow, true believers!