Retro Marvel TV
The Marvelous 90s in Marvel Cartoons

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 3 Sep 2014 16:00
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SPIDER-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (1994 - 1998)
I remain partial to Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, but on balance this series -- largely overshadowed as "the other good Marvel cartoon" in its day -- was the best Spider-Man adaptation up to that point. Even if, for some reason, it held back on physical violence much more so than most other superhero cartoons of the day.

The story? Well... it's Spider-Man. Things work the same as they usually do, save for the powers/crimefighting etc starting in college rather than high school. Most of the changes involve the supporting cast (Felicia Hardy starts out as a wealthy heiress in this version, and isn't The Black Cat until well into the fourth season) and the order in which legacy villains appear -- most prominently that The Hobgoblin here arrives before The Green Goblin even exists. Electro, a small-time thief in the comics, appears here as the grandson of The Red Skull whose powers are the result of an experiment to create a doomsday device. Naturally, since the series was happening right in the middle of the Mary-Jane/marriage era in the comics' continuity, she's the most prominent love-interest right off the bat.

Speaking of continuity, like the two 80s Spider-Man series, this one also worked hard to pack as much Marvel continuity into things as possible. After a mostly episodic first season (apart from three-part story introducing Venom, because this was the 90s and you had to get Venom in there as soon as possible) the series switched to season-long overarching stories afterwards, mostly framed around scenarios that could involve other Marvel characters.

Season 2, "Neogenic Nightmare," was based on the "Six-Arms Saga" that began in the comics' 100th issue. Along with introducing Morbius: The Living Vampire (and Blade -- a few years before the Wesley Snipes movies made the character a major player again), this storyline led to the first meetup between Spidey and the (then-current Fox Kids versions of) The X-Men and a magical time-changing tablet.

The third season, "Sins of The Fathers," scooped up a surprisingly diverse number of references to Marvel characters tied to daddy issues -- Mary Jane, of course, but also The Kingpin, the Osborns and Robbie Robertson and his son versus the street-level villain Tombstone.

Season 4 refocused on the supporting cast for the "Partners in Danger" megastory, which snakes in and out of substories involving Peter proposing to MJ and preparing for married life. Season 5 ("Secret Wars") ended things big multi-hero crossovers: Spider-Man and a team of WWII-era heroes battle The Red Skull and Electro, The Beyonder shows up to stage a version of Secret Wars that involves cameos by Iron Man, Captain America and The Fantastic Four, a multi-dimensional series finale featured multiple Spider-Men (and Stan Lee!) ...hell, they even found time to fit in a variation on The Clone Saga.

Unfortunately, as mentioned, the rest of Marvel's 90s output wasn't quite as impressive -- or well-received. Next week, we'll look into that.

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