Friday, October 26, 2012

TV Review: Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends

For normal reasons, I've spent some time over the last two weeks watching a cartoon which apparently aired on NBC Saturday mornings 1981-1983: Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. Or SMAHAF as the kids are never calling it these days.

Featuring the voices of Dan "Spidey" Gilvezan, Frank "Iceman" Welker, and introducing Kathy "Firestar" Garver. No, not Starfire, the Teen Titan! Wrong company. You tryin' ta get us sued? FIRESTAR! The Girl Who Was on Fire Class of 1981. Take that, Katniss!

Unable to use the Human Torch for the usual overwrought reasons ("My kids always douse themselves in gasoline and dive off the roof!") Peter Parker conveniently found a team-mate with BFF Johnny Storm's firepower plus the looks of Mary Jane. Talk about your amazing friend!

Although, in fairness, neither John Storm nor Mary Jane Watson may exist in what is now known to the Intelligentsia (I mean, the Hyper-Nerds) as Marvel Universe 8107. The cartoon dimension's rules only apply to itself, not the continuity of the mainstream comics (Universe 616, don't cha know).

It's a universe where Wolverine hails from Down Unda, where mutants glow and men chunda. Where Aunt May's boarding house is crammed full of secret, load-bearing escape tunnels and Tony Stark's donated super-computers. Possibly "on loan from Tony Stark" is also the reason The Chameleon has his own island, mansion, and swimming pool filled with alcohol (not for himself, you understand, but to trap and ignite the Sub-Mariner).

And the awards go to:


FAVOURITE EPISODE: 'The Origin of The Spider-Friends'. Has it all. Narrator Stan Lee. William Marshall as Iron Man. Bobby 'Iceman' Drake and Angelica 'Firestar' Jones holding handshakes uncomfortably long just to make Peter think he's feverish with chills.  And the Beetle: rocking the craziest voice in the world.

HONORABLE MENTION: 'Spidey Meets The Girl From Tomorrow'. This sweetly romantic little episode wants SO BADLY to be Silver Age DC Legion of Super-Heroes. Perhaps even more so than the subsequent episode: where the villain is clearly the Legion's cyborg enemy Tharok.

BEST SEASON: Season 2 is a mere 3 episodes long, and entirely made of origin stories, but the animation is markedly better. Spider-Friends GO FOR IT! (Actual catch-phrase.)

MOST IRRITATING NEW VILLAIN: Swarm. The 1950's-style alien insect invader smart enough to enslave a college campus but not smart enough to say anything but its own name. Over and over.

MOST IRRITATING NEW HERO: Francis "Wishing I Was Woody Allen" Byte AKA Videoman. News Flash: Playing Pac-Man and involuntarily transforming into an 8-Bit paper-thin goblin doth not a super-hero make.  Even if you do end up at the Xavier Academy despite no evidence that you are a mutant.

GREATEST BREAKOUT STAR: Ms. Lion. Angelica's Lhasa Apso, fobbed off on Aunt May the same way Videoman is fobbed off on Professor X. Ms. Lion saved the lives of her superhero pals several times over, despite being a lapdog of average intelligence. The puppy even outshines the All-Seeing Eye of the Vishanti, which in any normal dimension would prevent Sorcerer Supreme Dr. Strange from being duped. Ms. Lion, 30 years later, is a beloved member of the Pet Avengers, successfully making the transition from cartoon back to the comics that inspired it. Just like Firestar did! Except Firestar's in the actual Avengers. Not the Pet Avengers.  The Pet Avengers are PETS. Just saying.

Speaking of amazing, I gotta say I'm loving Netflix. Real life has never been so avoidable.