Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Spider-man/Spider-man and his Amazing Friends

Ever since Disney bought Marvel, I've had the chance to catch a lot of the old Spider-man cartoons I used to watch back in the eighties on Disney's cable channel, and as  unlike everything else I used to love as a child, these are actually better than I remembered. Both shows were released in 1981 and saw heavy rotation and recycling through that decade, pervading my ever sponge-like brain making me a Marvel person rather than a DC guy (I swear, I just argued with my wife over which mythos was better today). So with 50 episodes between them, I have spent quite a bit of time watching all of the episodes over again... and again... and what do you know, yet again. So here's why these are so much better than even I realized. While not truly canonical to the original comic series, they are true to the spirit of Spider-man capturing his essence that so many other interpretations miss, and at least in the case of the Spider-man series, actually adds some depth to the comic series.

So I really got into comics around 1990 and I grew very familiar with the canon of Spider-man, be he Amazing, Spectacular, or just regular old Spider-man and the one defining characteristic besides his powers is that he is a sarcastic wise-ass. He's always cracked wise while in costume; not because he's arrogant, but because he's absolutely terrified (I believe it was Bendis who made that clear in his Ultimate Spider-man run). He's a teenager fighting people who are trying to kill him, defending people who despise him. So he cracks wise as distraction for himself and his enemies and it's an idiosyncratic quirk that makes him lovable. It's what was missing from Sam Raimi's Spider-man run (which was good except for the third one), but it's what we get in spades twenty years earlier. I don't think the show goes more than 2 minutes without Spider-man cracking a joke or pun, and sure they're corny but they've always been corny. It's sort of the point. And with the stand-alone series, the voice actor for Peter Parker/Spider-man sounds like a New Yorker, not some over the top New York accent, just a touch of nebbishiness that's almost impossible to do in the comics but it makes the character feel more present and grounded in reality. It's a guy who sounds like my father does sometimes, and when you hear it, you realize that yes; this is a guy who has lived in Queens his entire life. Why doesn't he always sound like this? It's why I think the stand alone series is just a little bit better than Amazing Friends.

Now that's not to say that Amazing Friends isn't also great. It is. It was good enough that the character of Firestar, who was created just for the show and had not previously appeared in Marvel continuity, was eventually absorbed into continuity and has been active in the comics since 1985 (first appearance Uncanny X-men#193). But it also gave a larger venue to play with a lot of different properties, and not just the villains but you get to see interactions with Namor. Namor, for God's sake, a character that I don't think I ever cared about but he's a lot of fun in the episode Seven Little Superheroes, a nod to both Agatha Christie and the superhero team The Defenders. Its things like that that actually makes me like Amazing Friends more than Spider-man, but I believe that Spider-man is the stronger of the two series. Regardless, I will watch each episode over and over and hopefully, share them with my daughter.

Rating: A-

1 comment:

  1. Sweet Pea is totally going to be a DC girl. Just sayin. :)