A look back at “Spider-man”

When I was a kid, I could have easily
and with no hesitation told you what my favorite cartoon was -
“X-Men.” I wasn’t always as good at catching the
episodes (it was a lot harder in the pre-Internet dark ages), but to
my 12-year-old self, there was no better TV than “The Phoenix Saga”
(although that really does hold up).

I was such an “X-Men” nut that when
they were going to appear on “Spider-man,” I gleefully made the
time to check out that other Marvel kids show. Lucky for me, I kept
watching that show about a wall-crawling wisecracker.

After a while, I had to admit that
while my heart will always be with the “X-Men,” “Spider-man”
was the better show. And now that they are both on Instant Watch,
it’s time to look back at both these kiddie shows that left a lasting
impression on this young geek.

One of my theories about “Spider-man”
is that the show is infinitely better when the writers go for the
arcs or the multi-parters, and so far, the first season has pretty
much confirmed that thinking. There’s nothing wrong with the
standalone episodes, but they can feel rushed and/or padded, and the
resolutions are typically unsatisfying.

The episode “Kraven the Hunter” is
probably the best example of the weakness of the single episodes.
It’s sandwiched between two very strong multi-parters, and while it’s
supposed to be a breather, it’s really just kind of pointless. We
meet a new villain with a semi-tragic back story, there’s some
fighting and then wham, Kraven and his sweetie pie ride off into the
sunset. It’s probably not practical to have every episode be part of
an arc (at this early in the game, but I wouldn’t have minded).

It’s a minor complaint (and a complaint
that I know gets corrected in the next few seasons, so we’ll revisit
this theory next time), but this season does what’s it supposed to
do. We meet a lot of Spidey’s enemies (including one that J. Jonah
Jameson helped create!), we meet his friends and (potential)
girlfriends, and we get a clever and quick origin story for this
elusive character.

We also get to discover the Spider-man
is kind of a dick. Between the snarky comments and how he treats
other people when he’s in the costume, Peter Parker gets to unleash
every rotten thing he’s thinking. He even helps foster Eddie Brock’s
resentment and bitterness (from humiliation and put downs, it’s not a
surprise that Brock takes Venom to some dark places).

But what a start for a kids show.
Spidey is in some ways responsible for the trouble he gets in to,
especially with regards to Brock, and his heroism costs him a lot,
from the constant worry about his elderly aunt to his inability to
have a romantic relationship with Mary Jane or Felicia. And for all
his trouble, he still is mostly hated by the NYC people he is always
looking to save.

His heroics are a costly struggle, and
while I wouldn’t want to be Peter Parker, it’s a joy to get to watch
him all over again.

Stray thoughts

  • In our world, science is pretty
    awesome, but in the Marvel universe, all science research seems to
    bring about is more super-villains. Where are the political leaders
    and doomsayers calling for a ban on all research and development? I
    bet more than a few NYC residents would sign that petition.

  • The TV show reversed the order of
    the Hobgoblin and Green Goblin appearances, but damn if that
    switch-up didn’t create the best two episodes of the season. Two of
    Spidey’s foes, Kingpin and Norman Osborne, square off with while the
    Hobgoblin shifts his loyalty between the two villains. For all his
    silliness in appearance, the Hobgoblin has two things that make him
    so dangerous: a lot of luck and nothing to lose. (Again, all this in
    a kids show!)

  • While “Day of the Chameleon”
    wasn’t awful, it was probably the weakest episode of the season,
    which is a double shame as it’s the season finale. The chameleon is
    quite the shapeshifter, but really, the belt should be a dead
    giveaway, especially as it’s always visible. That guy should have
    been found out immediately, and it just made SHIELD and the other
    characters look stupid for not seeing through the disguise. Bad form
    guys.

  • And for my last parting word,
    let’s give some praise to the show’s best villain so far: The
    Kingpin. I didn’t really remember him, other than knowing he’s Evil,
    but here is a man who runs a criminal empire, has no morals and
    complete anonymity. He’s also cunning, smart and rational, three
    traits no other criminal on this show possesses. He’s also a man who
    has a secret entrance to his crime lair, an entrance that is lined
    with explosives, just in case. I wouldn’t believe that from anyone
    else on this show, but from him, I buy it.

  • I’m not sure when the next
    write-up will be, but don’t worry, we’ll go through it together.

Best Episodes: “The Hobgoblin” (1
and 2), “The Alien Costume” (1-3)