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.

Covid-19 Lockdown: the Sequel – Video Game Picks for Survival

Like an inevitable movie sequel, the UK, among many other countries too, are back in Covid-19 isolation. As the virus continues to spread across the globe, many have been told to work from home and isolate where possible. Restaurants, bars and most non-essential shops have closed once again, and many people’s lounges have become their office. For others that may mean not being able to work at all. Staying indoors for long periods can of course take its toll in different ways to all of us. But don’t fear, as in between those Zoom/Teams/Skype meetings there is a plethora of incredible video game across a variety of platforms to catch-up on. Here is a list of suitable candidates to sink your teeth into.

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

There isn’t a soul in the world who doesn’t like Studio Ghibli, is there? Whether you have seen just one of their movies or the whole collection, it is easy to see why they’re loved unanimously around the world. So imagine the excitement of many when Ghibli decided to lend their talents to the video game industry. The recently remastered first Ni No Kuni entry, Wrath of the White Witch, adopted the standard JRPG style of open-world adventure with an active-time battle system. Revenant Kingdom retains the open-world aesthetic but with free-roaming battles, for a more action-RPG affair. Add to that a completely new set of characters and story, all animated by the Ghibli team, and you’ve got yourself an adventure well worth your time. It took over 100 hours of mine, and that was before lockdown.

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is available on PS4/PC.

Vanquish: 10th Anniversary Remastered

One of Shinji Mikami’s lesser-known titles, Vanquish is an action tour-de-force that is short but oh-so-sweet on the fingertips. You play Sam Gideon, an agent of DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency), as he teams up with an army of US space marines to retake a Russian-occupied US space colony. Armed with the prototype Augmented Reaction Suit, Sam can wield three weapons of varying types at a time, from assault rifles to sniper rifles and laser cannons. Against the backdrop of an almost exclusively greyscale colonial fortress, you guide Sam to shoot, run, roll, duck, cover, even slide through six acts of intense, robotic-destruction action. A quick flick of L2 while rolling initiates a slick slow-down feature, which is critical as swarms of sentient soldiers breathe down your neck. Whilst a little dull in appearance, the 60fps upgrade to the speed of Vanquish is a real highlight. And if you’re a trophy/achievement hunter, this is a really fun and often-challenging title to exploit. And for less than £20, its a tough one to ignore if you need a few hours of unadulterated entertainment.

Vanquish is available for PS4, Xbox One, PC. Please check out my full review here.

Fall Guys

If you have access to a PS4, and a PS Plus membership, the likelihood is that you’ve had at least one round of Fall Guys. Visually a vibrant, multicoloured Gang Beasts meets Takeshi’s Castle (including the wacky costumes), Fall Guys pits round after round of sixty online players across several challenge games until just one remains to take the crown (By the way, that first victory crown still eludes me). Simple, fun and on the right side of frustration, a round of Fall Guys is the perfect way to pass on a few minutes.

Fall Guys is available on PS4/PC.

Streets of Rage 4

There are some positive events amongst the shit-cloud that is 2020. The announcement of one of Sega’s most beloved 16-bit franchises receiving a sequel over twenty-five years on was initially met with mighty scepticism. However, all those fears were crushed as publisher Dotemu, on the back of the excellent Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, teamed up with Guard Crush Games to deliver the finest scrolling fighter since Streets of Rage 2. Ex-cops Axel, Blaze and crew are back. Ten years on from the death of criminal overlord Mr. X, his children have taken over as the new masterminds of crime. Streets of Rage 4 not only delivers top fighting action, it is a sequel that always has its predecessors at heart in all the right ways. Intuitive, challenging, exciting, wonderfully animated with an absolutely masterful soundtrack, Streets of Rage 4 is a retro-revival everyone should experience.

Streets of Rage 4 is available on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Spider-Man is the most accomplished comic-book-hero video game ever made. Developer Insomniac Games have come a long way from platforming series Spyro the Dragon. Honing that platforming with a narrative adventure in the Ratchet and Clank series has led to this, a licensed comic-book adventure that is, at times, a storytelling masterpiece. As a long-time Spider-Man comics fan I needed to adjust somewhat to these new takes on Peter Parker and supporting cast. But Insomniac certainly stuck with the courage of their convictions to deliver an excellent Spider-Man tale that is a unique and universal experience for anyone willing to pick up their gamepad and play. It’s open-world Manhattan environment contains seemingly unlimited tasks and missions to complete, and that’s outside of the main storyline. Visually it ranks among the greatest looking games on Sony’s console, with a ton of top action and storytelling that makes Spider-Man an absolute must.

Spider-Man is available on PS4, with a remastered version available for the PS5 also.

There is still a fair amount of time left in this current lockdown, if it even is one (don’t go there now – ed.). If you’re having to isolate or stay home for any reason at the moment, hopefully these suggestions will keep the spirits up as we head towards Christmas and the next generation of consoles. Stay Safe.

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!