The Best Episodes of Spider-Man: The Animated Series

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On the back of the success of X-Men: The Animated Series, it wasn’t long before a Spider-Man series also hit our television sets in the early 90’s. First airing in the US on November 19th 1994, Spider-Man: The Animated Series became the first Spider-Man TV series since Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends ended in 1983. Just like X-Men: The Animated Series, it ran for 5 seasons, but could/should easily have been more; circulated speculation of executive arguments caused the show to be ultimately cancelled, with its ending open-ended as a result.

Across its 65 episodes, Peter Parker’s life as Spider-Man is presented from his days as a college student. The series charts the development of both Peter and titular hero, and how both directly influence the other. College life, dating, break-ups, jealously, anger and even tragedy are all depicted in a faithful manner to the source material. Despite its demise, Spider-Man: The Animated Series truly remains the greatest animation adaption of Marvel’s beloved web-slinging hero. Thanks to the arrival of Disney Plus, we all get to relive it over and, you bet, over again. With that in mind, and in no particular order, here are the top episodes across its five fantastic seasons.

Night of the Lizard (Season 1 Episode 1)

The first season is all about introductions. This pilot episode introduces Peter’s life as Spider-Man, which has already begun, as has his freelance photography job at the Daily Bugle. It also lays the groundwork perfectly for the show’s tone, and of the characters that surround Spider-Man/Peter. There’s his boss at the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson, as well as Eddie Brock and Curt Connors, both of which become more complex characters in both Peter and Spider-Man’s life. The latter is another pilot introduction in the guise of The Lizard. As the first of many villains to cross Spidey’s path, The Lizard serves as a perfect example of how those existences cross paths. As for Peter/Spidey himself, he is perfectly crafted as the most human of superheroes. Peter’s delicate balancing of social, academic, financial and of course superhero responsibilities is cleverly conveyed from comic strip to screen. Peter’s superhero duties often take precedence over his own life, but here he is grounded by the reality of making $1000, money Peter sorely needs. In the end, he gives that money to his Aunt May, who needs it even more. After all, this is what Spider-Man is all about: setting a great example for everyone.

Menace of Mysterio (Season 1 Episode 5)

One of Spider-Man’s greatest attributes is his dedication to the good fight. When Spider-Man is framed for a museum break-in by an imposter for all to see, with the city turned against him, he is not deterred. But if it wasn’t Spider-Man, who was it? Welcome to another villain introduction. Welcome to Mysterio. Those of you who have watched the latest Spider-Man movie, Far from Home, will be somewhat familiar with Mysterio, otherwise known as Quentin Beck. He is the master of illusion, and in this John Semper, Stan Berkowitz and Marv Wolfman-penned episode, Mysterio even has Peter’s Aunt May fooled into thinking Spidey is the bad guy! But Spidey being Spidey, as well as Peter being Peter, he perseveres where most would have given up, in order to clear his name. After all, Spider-Man doesn’t fight for the glory; he fights because it’s the right thing to do.

Mutant Agenda (Season 2 Episodes 4 + 5)

Crossover time! Spidey is beginning to go through extreme changes as he begins to evolve from the spider bite that gifted his abilities. Dubbed “Neogenic Nightmare”, it’s a season-long arc with mutations, vampires, The Punisher, Blade as well as the usual criminal rogues’ gallery. To help face his own mutation issues, Spidey visits the X-Men for a cure. Spidey’s misinterpretation of the X-Men and its goal of human-mutant coalition inadvertently uncovers an anti-mutant plot disguised as the “cure” Spidey may need. Let’s be honest, there is always time for a crossover in comics, so why not in animation also? Here we have the also bonus of an injection of the same X-Men, voices and all, from the peerless, parallel-running X-Men: TAS show. It’s a great 2-part adventure for fans of both shows, and feeds seamlessly into this show’s season-long narrative format.

The Alien Costume (Season 1 Episodes 8-10)

Spider-Man: The Animated Series’ injection of Venom fits in perfectly with the first season of villain introductions. J. Jonah Jameson’s astronaut son, John, comes back from space with a rock believed to be more powerful than plutonium. The homecoming is met with a crash due to a black liquid substance from the rock, named ‘Promethium X’, which attaches itself to Spidey’s suit as he rescues the space crew.

Comic fans will no doubt immediately compare the symbiote’s origins with that of this more science fiction approach. Spider-Man’s print parentage of course had the suit acquired during the Secret Wars saga which wouldn’t be told in the animated counterpart until the end of the show’s run. There is nothing unmistakable however about Venom’s origin, or the influence of the symbiote on Peter leading up to one of Spider-Man’s most pivotal moments in history. Christopher Daniel Barnes really excels as ‘angry’ Peter as he dangerously descends further and further away from his own superhero moral code. As early as the first season the producers were not afraid to stretch beyond the single episode format very early on. This 3-episode marvel is one of the best told stories across all its five seasons. The cliff-hanger endings leave you wanting more, the less-frenetic-but-still-frenetic pacing is also a very welcome change. You will struggle to find a better hour of Marvel animated television.

Do you agree with these best episode picks? Which ones would you add, if any? Let me know in the comments below!

Animation Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas #12 – Ultimate Spider-Man: Nightmare on Christmas

A jump far forward into more modern times, with a friendly neighbourhood take on A Christmas Carol. After stopping the Shocker‘s latest robbery on Christmas Eve, Spider-Man is having a crisis of faith. Is Spidey actually helping anyone, given its come to this? As he ponders whether to give up the superhero mantle, angel and devil versions of Spidey appear to take him through a look back over his career and his effect on the community he is sworn to protect.

Ultimate Spider-Man S03 E22 – Nightmare on Christmas

This episode may be set around Christmas time, but it’s success comes with its homages to past material. There’s the A Christmas Carol setup, the Steve Ditko-style of the Christmas past sequences, and ultimately, a big nod to the classic Spidey No More comic book storyline.

I haven’t seen all of Ultimate Spider-Man, but this episode was pretty decent, and definitely a must for fans of Ditko. It is also definitely one for fans of the always-excellent Mark Hamill, for his appearance as Nightmare (the clues in the title). This one might suit known-fans more than the casual viewer, but its a nice little superhero Christmas nugget.

Animation Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas #4 – X-Men: Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas

Its the Fourth of December already. Seriously, how fast is the countdown to Christmas this year? I hope the re-opening of shops hasn’t been too stressful so far. I still have a few bits to get, but I’m not panicking just yet. Whatever your current mood, block out a few minutes and enjoy another advent animation pick. We’re staying in the 90s with another landmark comic book series.

X-Men: The Animated Series S04 E17 – Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas

Marvel’s first ever foray into Christmas television is a tale of tragedy, honor, leadership and, ultimately, togetherness. No, Marvel are not producing this Christmas Day’s Eastenders. Instead, the hugely popular (and Disney Plus resurrected) X-Men animated series of the 90s has a Christmas episode.

As the X-Men prepare for their own Christmas celebration, Leech, the littlest of the underground Mutant tribe known as the Morlocks, is taken critically ill. Storm won the mantle of leadership back in season one after a duel with Callisto and thus, it falls to the X-Men to get the treatment Leech requires. Problem is, Storm’s X-Men duties over the years means she doesn’t exactly spend too much time underground. And Callisto wants payback.

Anyone who has seen the X-Men animated show will be aware of its generally serious tone. After all, this was a Saturday morning cartoon that dealt with issues such as xenophobia, racism, slavery as well general macho bullshit for good measure. But this Christmas episode does have some welcome humour. The kitchen scene, with Gambit and Jean Grey squabbling over the latter’s Christmas dinner preparation, is a hilarious delight. As is Cyclops’ attempts at singing. Wolverine is the Scrooge of the group (naturally), with any attempt at Christmas cheer met with derision.

“”Did I hear an attack alarm? Or would that be hoping for too much?” – Wolverine

A quick tonal shift from cheer to fear sees the X-Men fighting for the Morlock’s life, with Logan (Wolverine) facing personal demons from his past as a cure appears to be found – Logan’s regenerative powers. The delicate balancing act between celebration, comedy and drama is handled with care. The overall narrative belongs to Jubilee’s, the foster child mutant of the X-Men, who is experiencing her first proper family Christmas and has finally found belonging in her life. Her strides of maturity shine through as she comforts the youngest Morlock through Leech’s illness. It is a testament to the strong continuity built as the show progressed.

Originally airing on the Christmas Eve Eve (23rd December) 1995, Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas is an excellent example of what made X-Men such a great show. Its blend of drama, action and overall camaraderie and teamwork shone throughout it’s five seasons. This episode is but one example of that. A great first Christmas TV outing for Marvel.

Spider-Man: 4 Games You Must Play

Spider-Man has always been a firm Marvel Comics favourite, and one of the world’s most beloved comic creations. Over the years, Spider-Man has become a marketable figure outside of comic lore; this summer’s Spider-Man Homecoming is the 6th Spidey movie in just 15 years. Spider-Man video games have also been ever-present over the years, with 30+ releases across almost every platform in the last 35 years. So here are 4 of Peter Parker’s best solo releases; heavy on the mythos, and not a Marvel vs Capcom game in sight.

Maximum Carnage:-

The early 1990’s gave birth to two major new villains for both Spider-Man and Peter Parker: Venom and Carnage. Venom (aka disgraced journalist Eddie Brock) quickly became a fan favourite. After terrorising Peter and wife Mary-Jane Watson in some of the comic’s most haunting scenes, he was even given his own comic series for a time. Once the murderous offspring Carnage (aka serial killer Kletus Cassidy) came on the scene, Venom became a good guy of sorts. Determined to stop this symbiotic progeny, a truce was called with Spider-Man in order to stop Carnage. And so began the huge comic book crossover that was Maximum Carnage, and the SNES/Sega Mega Drive adaption it inspired.

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Despite this Final Fight clone not holding up so well more than 20 years on, it’s devotion to its source material is still commendable. Panels from the actual comics are used to tell the story as you progress through simple yet challenging waves of bad guys and bosses. Despite being a Spider-Man story, Maximum Carnage did feature a strong supporting cast of heroes such as Captain America and Iron Fist. These can be called upon as special moves should you feel overwhelmed in combat.

The stages, scenes and characters all appear as if taken direct from a comic book. This gives Maximum Carnage a sense of authenticity and respect to its continuity, despite its frustrations.

Spider-Man: The Video Game (Arcade):-

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This Sega-developed, colourful arcade classic of the 90’s sits perfectly with the Konami and Capcom beat-em-ups of the time. While it follows the familiar formula of TMNT, The Simpsons and Final Fight, an extra dimension was added to shake things up; part of each stage would pan the camera back and become a platformer.

Classic villains such as the aforementioned Venom, Green Goblin and even Doctor Doom comprise boss elements. Marvel heroes Black Cat, Namor the Sub-Mariner and Avenger Hawkeye complete the playable cast. Unfortunately, unlike most of the 90’s classic arcades, Sega’s Spider-Man arcade has never been re-released on any format, but fingers crossed it will happen one day.

Spider-Man (PSOne, Dreamcast):-

Proving they had more than just skateboarding in their repertoire, developer Neversoft gave Peter Parker what he never had before: Personality. CD technology and storage capabilities meant a fully-voiced Peter/Spider-Man was finally realised. Delivering wisecracks a plenty in all manner of situations, it gave personality to an extremely competent 3D platformer/stealth adventure.

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Neversoft’s classic was truly the first modern Spider-Man game. It led onto a sequel, Enter Electro, and ultimately open-world adventures were developed that accompanied the imminent Sam Raimi trilogy. It also broke the mould for a character that for almost 20 years felt trapped in plain platformers and standard scrolling beat-em-ups.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

Shattered Dimensions is a unique experience. Firstly, it is essentially 4 smaller games in 1; not only do you take on modern day Peter Parker, but also a black-suited Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, plus a noir Spidey from the 20’s. Each ‘game’ is slightly tweaked from the next, such as noir Spidey owing much to the stealth sections of Batman: Arkham Asylum, albeit inferior in quality.

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The mechanics and the character differentials however lead to a disjointed experience overall. Swinging from web to web can be fiddly, especially when under duress from enemies. Different Spidey’s means variety, but you will quickly find they are not of similar quality.

Thankfully Shattered Dimensions’ settings, dialogue and excellent voice acting (particularly Neil Patrick Harris as Parker) steal the show. They all keep the adventure interesting and serve as a great tribute to the history and mythos of Spider-Man.

These are my favourites, what are yours? What are your thoughts on the upcoming Spider-Man by Insomniac Games? Please share in the comments!

 

The New Marvel vs Capcom and its ‘Infinite’ Possibilities

Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite could well be the heavyweight fighter Capcom needs, and should arguably be the flagship Japanese fighting series given its appeal of both Marvel and Street Fighter characters and the series’ competitive popularity.

Back in December it was confirmed that the director of the upcoming instalment of the Marvel vs Capcom series is one Norio Hirose, and while this is his first venture into video game direction, he has a wealth of programming experience in multiple Capcom fighting games. His involvement with X-Men Vs Street Fighter, the original Marvel vs Capcom crossover title back in 1996, was followed by other top fighters, including the follow-up Marvel Super Heroes Vs Street Fighter (1997/8), Marvel vs Capcom (1998), and Capcom Vs SNK (2000).

Following an interview with Game.Watch, director Hirose, he certainly seems the right person to continue the crossover series, especially given his experience on Capcom’s fight catalogue. Also revealed is that Infinite will revert to the 2v2 tag format that brought the X-Men/Marvel Super Heroes Vs Street Fighter games success; seamless tagging and for its story mode to concentrate on the characters selected instead of 1 over-arching story the Marvel vs Capcom series is more familiar with.

“In the story mode that was not in the past series, I will implement the story mode where each character is active, making full use of MARVEL and Capcom characters” – Norio Hirose

Hirose elaborated on the 2v2 format, stating his desire to concentrate more on character depth rather than character choice, although expanding the other way with potentially 4 or even 5 characters was initially considered. This decision for me was the right one; the best crossover titles have been 2v2 and always felt Marvel vs Capcom 3 had too many (and similar) characters. In terms of the characters on offer, so far 3 from each camp have been confirmed: Ryu/Mega Man X/Morrigan from Capcom, Captain America/Captain Marvel/Iron Man from Marvel.

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The subtitle ‘Infinite’ has a 2-fold purpose, as Capcom USA Producer for the game Mike Evans explains. “The theme of infinite possibilities” as he describes it refers to not just the reference and use of a Marvel concept, the Infinity Stones, but also signals the intention to create a game with as much longevity as possible. Separate story-lines is certainly a big step towards that, but most of all, the defining element of the game will be the ‘Stone’ system.

You choose the 2 characters you want, then you get to pick which ‘Stone’ system to play with, such as ‘Time’ or ‘Power’, which can be as defining as the characters you have chosen. For example if your preference is bigger but slower characters, the ‘Time’ system can be used to inject speed to your team. Think of it as a combination of the ‘Groove’ systems in Capcom Vs SNK (super combos/extra mode respectively) and the Infinity Gems element of an earlier Capcom/Marvel fighter Marvel Super Heroes, expect the Gems there were earned during battle and could change hands.

Based on the evidence and statements so far, Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite is a very exciting prospect indeed. After the disastrous and frankly embarrassing release of Street Fighter V, Capcom appear to be focusing on the right elements to please Marvel, Capcom and fighting fans alike.