Well, this is a figure that I never planned on reviewing. It’s a bit old at this point, but we’re looking at yet another Spider-Man retro card release from Hasbro and this time it’s Cyborg Spider-Man. Now, I remember seeing this quite some time ago at Target and thinking it looked fine, but I’m not a Marvel Legends collector so I never paid it any real mind. I say that, and yet 2022 is the year I bought more Legends than I have since 2006 mostly due to the X-Men animated line, but it also got started with the animated Venom. That Venom lead me down a rabbit hole where I wound up with Web-Man, Symbiote Spider-Man, and more recently the animated Spider-Man. It was getting that most recent one that basically resulted in me grabbing this guy because what I really wanted was a webline part. That figure didn’t come with one, but when I went to Target recently I spotted a figure that did. Spoiler alert – it’s this one!
Cyborg Spider-Man is a 2021 release, if I’m not mistaken. Possibly late 2020. Things blend together a bit in my head when it comes to release dates, especially for lines I don’t typically collect. The foot of this one is stamped 2016, but I’m guessing that’s because most of the parts are that old. It’s not recent though and not one I’ve seen in Target in quite some time. I don’t know why my nearest Target had one, random, figure on the pegs, but it did. It initially didn’t even ring up because the barcode was no longer in their system, and when it finally did, it rang up as some Spider-Man bow and arrow toy. Unfortunately, that toy carried the same MSRP as this one so I didn’t get a deal or anything, but it suggests to me that maybe Target recently unearthed some extra stock because the figure is also online again as of this writing. Regardless, I thought the sculpt was interesting and a pretty fun variant on Spider-Man, and since it came with a web line accessory, I said “Why not?” And since I have a blog that heavily leans into toy reviews, we might as well take a look.
Cyborg Spider-Man stands a tick over the 6 inch mark. He comes packaged on a retro card and is a nice throwback to the Toy Biz figure of the same design. I actually never had that one, I really didn’t get many Spider-Man variants, but I can recall thinking it looked fine. I just prioritized getting villains over yet another Spider-Man. He was also a late entry in the line, if I’m not mistaken, and it’s possible I was already shifting priorities. The design hasn’t changed though. This is basically Spider-Man, but with a robot arm. He does have a belt and some accessories on the head, but it’s the big, cybernetic, left arm that stands out the most. Since I’m not a regular buyer of this line, I couldn’t tell you where all of these parts are from. The main body is the same one we saw with Web-Man which I think originated with a Spider-Man 2099 figure. The arm could be from someone like Cable or Deathlok, or it could be all new. Since it’s an older release, it’s not a pinless body so we get the ugly red dot on the inner right arm resulting from the red peg that goes through it. The blue pegs around the knees don’t cause the same sort of eyesore. It’s a very muscular sculpt and one that feels appropriate for this specific version of Spider-Man. I like how the cybernetic arm turned out and it looks as it should. The head has these giant eye lenses which are also fun and very McFarlane-esque. The belt is glued in place, but the white wraps on his right thigh are a floating part which could be removed if desired. It’s a little annoying that it doesn’t stay in place and it’s a reminder why newer figures like Morph and Cyclops have them keyed in. The only details I don’t like about the sculpt are the tiny shoulders, which is a consistent criticism I have for Marvel Legends. They just look silly and sit too low.
As far as paint goes, we have our usual Marvel Legends mixed bag. The figure is a mix of blue and red plastic with a light gray used for the robot arm. The weblines are done well enough and I like the black outline on the red portions of the costume, something the animated Spidey didn’t roll with. The painted and colored reds look close enough and the painted portions of the head are fine. What I don’t like is how the spider logo on the rear turned out. It really needs a black outline or something to help it pop and it looks almost washed out. It also has a big hole which I guess is for an old flight stand. There’s also a severe lack of paint in most places. On the head, there’s stitches holding a portion of the mask together which were left unpainted. It’s a shame, because they’re sculpted well enough, but are barely noticeable due to the lack of paint. There’s also no paint on either the belt or the left arm save for the plate on the shoulder and bracelet area. The belt just looks boring and cheap as a result while the arm has too much of a plastic look. There’s no attempt to make it look like it’s made of metal and, again, it’s a shame because the sculpt is there. It just needs a little dry-brushing to bring it out. In a perfect world it would be painted-up like NECA’s Fugitoid, but I know Hasbro isn’t going to sink that kind of money into this line. At least this one is $23 instead of $28 or $35 so it’s easier to overlook these shortcomings, but still unfortunate to see Hasbro not do right by their sculptors and designers.
The articulation for this Spider-Man is not really it’s strong suit. I suppose we shouldn’t expect a cyborg version of the character to move as well as a traditional one, but I thought it would be a little better than this. The head is on the usual ball hinge which provides good enough range up and down, but not much nuance posing. The shoulders are ball-hinged and pretty limited out to the side. The left arm is hindered by the big plate on the shoulder, but even the right arm can’t quite hit a horizontal pose. There is a butterfly joint which provides more range going back than forward. It’s okay, but a bit ugly because the paint isn’t continued as far as the joint goes so you end up with gaps in the weblines on the front and the spider legs on the rear. The elbows are double-jointed on both arms and both can bend past 90 degrees. The cybernetic arm can even go further than the right arm as more plastic was cut away to make it work. The wrists rotate and hinge horizontally while the abdomen features a ratcheted ab crunch. It only allows one click back and one click forward so the range isn’t impressive. The waist twist is a waist twist and it is at least hidden by the belt because otherwise it would look pretty hideous. The legs can just about hit a split with a little effort, why newer figures can’t is a real mystery, while the legs kick forward to about horizontal with no range going back. We get the usual thigh cut and the double-jointed knees work just fine. There’s a boot swivel and the ankles hinge forward and back pretty far and feature a steep, but usable, ankle rocker. It’s nothing particularly impressive, but I don’t know what kind of posing most want to do with this guy. I tend to think he should be posed more like a brawler than the nimble Spider-Man of norm, but that could be just me. By Legends standards, it’s basically average.
And that’s kind of it for selling points with this guy because the accessories are not impressive. Cyborg Spider-Man comes with fist hands in the box and he has one thwip right hand he can switch to. He also has that all important webline I wanted which is just a piece of malleable, off-white, plastic with a little curl at one end and a triangular shape at the other. It’s kind of odd that they don’t have a clip on the end designed for the hand/wrist area. And since he can’t grip it with any hand it makes it hard to do much with. I found I can kind of get the triangle to work with the thwip hand, but it’s rather precarious and frustrating. It’s a bit amusing that I basically bought this figure for this piece and I’m not finding it very useful. If it was just a bendy wire that could wrap around him that would be better than this. That’s it though. One extra hand and one mediocre web effect.
Given the articulation woes and the lack of accessories, this figure is basically one to judge based on the overall aesthetic. And if you like this interpretation of Spider-Man, then you’ll probably be fine with this one. I do like the look, and while I wish it was painted better, I think it looks okay on a shelf. The fact that it’s at the older price point definitely helps because if it was up any higher I’d have not bought it. And if you are into customizing your action figures, this one probably won’t take much effort to really bring out some of the details. There are elements of the figure that are a bit dated, but the sculpt helps make it worthwhile. In short, I’m content to have this figure I never planned on getting.
When I was a kid, my dad took me to some local convention or trade show. I have no idea why because my dad wasn’t the type who would go to such an event. He liked car shows, but from what I can remember this was more of a hobby show. It was early in…
I wasn’t sure he would make it in time, but Hasbro managed to ship Cyclops before the end of the year. Cyclops marks the final figure (for now) in Hasbro’s X-Men animated series subline of Marvel Legends. It has been…a ride. What was once a dream line of mine to see brought to fruition, turned…
No, this is not bootleg Spider-Man, this is Web-Man! Who is Web-Man? I actually had no idea until I just looked it up. It would seem Web-Man is a copy of Spider-Man created by Dr. Doom. Not only are his colors inverted from the real thing, but so is most everything else. And since Spidey…
It was in 2021 that Hasbro released a PulseCon exclusive Venom figure on a Spider-Man retro card. The retro card series is meant to stir-up nostalgia for all of the adults who were buying toys and watching cartoons in the 90s as the retro card is a facsimile of the old cards Toy Biz used to utilize. The cards were for the Spider-Man tie-in series of toys that went along with the cartoon series of the same name. Airing on Fox Kids, Spider-Man was a natural follow-up to X-Men as it featured arguably Marvel’s most popular and recognizable hero in a starring role. The X-Men animated series did wonders to help boost the profile of Marvel’s mutants, and the Spider-Man cartoon essentially did the same. The retro card series that Hasbro launched just a few years ago often had some overlap with that cartoon, but they weren’t necessarily cartoon-specific sculpts. The exclusive Venom was different in that it contained two, new, headsculpts clearly modeled after Venom from the show. Plus, it featured his unusual shading from the show of light blue on one side and red on the other.
2022 saw Hasbro double-down on the retro releases as it launched the X-Men Animated Series subline of Marvel Legends. While we can certainly debate how hard the company actually went in to trying to recreate the characters as they appeared in the show, the line did try to showcase those characters with some animation specific shading and (in some cases) sculpts. The line must have been successful because Hasbro is doing the same in 2023 only with Spider-Man as the featured series. Why now? I don’t know. The X-Men line coincided with the show’s 30th anniversary and it would have made sense to do the same for Spider-Man in 2024, but Hasbro is apparently far too eager to wait another year. The show is getting the same treatment in that it’s likely to be reused sculpts with some shading added and it’s all packaged in a box designed to mimic a VHS release. The first set, as they’re apparently going with two-packs for now, won’t be out for a few more months, but we essentially got a preview to close-out 2022 in the form of an exclusive Spider-Man sent to Walmart. This Spider-Man is sold on a retro card designed to resemble the old Web Racer Spider-Man toy from the 90s. The image is essentially the same, but since there wasn’t much in the way of preservation for those old cards it had to be redone and has been lovingly recreated by artist Harry Moore. This time, Spidey is fully posable and doesn’t have a string running through him. It’s a new sculpt, though not a unique sculpt, and most importantly it features a cel-shaded paint job to fit-in with the previously released Venom.
Let’s get it out of the way upfront: Walmart sucks. This guy went up for preorder in July, but before a single figure was shipped it started showing up in stores in early December or late November. It showed up in tiny quantities though, apparently just 2 per store, and it was a bastard of a release to track down as a result. It also never showed up in Walmart’s app or website as in-stock, so it was a total shot in the dark to go looking for one during the busy, holiday, rush. As for those preorders, that’s how I got mine, but several are still waiting and with the listing being dropped from Walmart’s website it sure looks like a lot of folks are heading for a cancellation. It’s great that they made sure to send product to stores first, rather than take care of the orders they already took-in months ago. And if you are lucky and like me and manage to get one shipped from Walmart, expect it to come packed in a foil envelope likely beat to hell once it arrives. The cardback on mine is dinged-up pretty well, plus the plastic bubble was cracked and broken. I’m not a mint-on-card collector, but I know a lot of people are with these retro cards and plenty more like to double-dip to keep one carded and one opened. To those folks, best of luck. You’re going to need it.
Once opened Spidey stands at a tick over 6″. This sculpt is apparently the same as the first appearance Spider-Man also released in 2022 in the new style of packaging. It’s a pinless body and it’s notable because it’s a smaller Spider-Man. He’s well-defined, but not as bulky as the other new Spider-Man body from this year released in the Renew Your Vows two-pack. This is probably Hasbro’s best Spider-Man body to date. I’m certainly not an expert as I only dabble in Marvel Legends, but it’s much better than the Web-Man and Symbiote figures I do have. It still has its problems, which we’ll go over, but just overall has a nice shape. The smallish Legends shoulders aren’t laughably small here and most of all I just like this shade of blue that’s in use. It’s a light blue, shaded with a darker blue, and it just captures the look of the character from the era. I get more of an 80s vibe if anything from the color combo, but it’s fine as an animated version too, though I’d argue his blue was actually darker in the show. The only thing about the sculpt I don’t like is the head. It’s a little big, plus it feels pinched in the front. I don’t know why it’s not more round as it doesn’t even look like a human face could make this shape. It’s a shame, because the eye shape is nice and it’s pretty well-painted. Many have complained that web lines on their figure are off-center. Mine is, but it’s small. You can see it by looking at the hexagonal shape in the middle as one side touches the tip of the eye lens while the other does not.
The overall paint job strikes me as pretty much par for the course with Hasbro. There’s a lot of colored plastic in use which leads to issues of color-matching. The red on the chest is noticeably darker than the red on the arms and feet. That’s because one is painted, and one is red plastic. The edges are also not crisp and clean as my figure has a blemish on its right pectoral which is a rather lousy place for such an imperfection to exist. There are little instances of that throughout the figure, though not in a large number at least. The web lines mostly look good though with a defined curve to them rather than a boxy look which tends to happen. Both spider logos are nice and clean, and the pinless body is a welcomed addition as there’s no unsightly red dot on the inner arm any longer. There is one eyesore on the back of the figure where Hasbro didn’t continue the red paint of his belt area far enough so when he crunches forward you end up with a section of blue instead. Normally, not a big deal, but Spider-Man is a character who is known for deep crunches so here it’s not acceptable. The cel-shading is what it is. For Hasbro, this is one of their better applications of it. There’s some linework on the torso in black to highlight the musculature and the shading goes under the pecs. The rest of the shading is reserved for the inner arms, as they apparently wanted to avoid shading red areas as much as possible, and inner right thigh and outer left. There’s also a hit on both boots and the inner arm shading continues onto the gloves a tiny bit. Does it make a ton of sense? No, they’re clearly going in a haphazard manner. I think it looks fine on the torso while the inner arms are kind of “meh.” The thighs and boots don’t bother me. It is what it is and you know if you like it or not at this point. And if you want to remove it, good luck. It’s paint on top of paint where the arms are concerned so it won’t be easy to just wipe away. And where it goes over the web-lines you’re basically screwed. You would be better off just repainting the whole thing. At least for Hasbro, this one is probably better than all of the X-Men releases with only Sinister perhaps being better. Venom was pretty good too for what he is so maybe these Spider-Man releases will just plain be better than what we saw with the X-Men?
Articulation for a Spider-Man figure is rather important, and I was a little let down by the other Spideys I have. This one is better. Is it perfect? Of course not, but it’s a step in the right direction. The head is still on a ball and hinge so it looks up and down rather well and can rotate, but lacks much in the way of nuance posing. The shoulders are ball-hinged and they raise out to the side just fine, though it does expose the red hinge underneath which is set against the blue of the armpit which is one eyesore not solved by pinless tech. The butterfly joint provides more range back than it does forward, but it’s not a tremendous eyesore so I consider that a win for a Hasbro butterfly joint (and if you want more range, there’s a popular mod for doing so that may apply to this figure as well, just search for it on YouTube). There’s a biceps swivel which does what it needs to do and double-jointed elbows. I cannot get the top hinge on either arm to budge though so I am presently only getting a 90 degree bend (after the review, I did resort to the hot water trick and got it going, though it’s still pretty tight). Hopefully this isn’t a widespread issue. The wrists rotate and hinge horizontally on all hands. In the torso, we have a diaphragm joint which allows for some forward and back, but is mostly good for rotation and tilt which it does rather well. There’s a lot of painted stuff here though, so do be careful. At the waist is the ab crunch which goes forward and back plenty far. Missing is a waist twist which makes me wonder if a ball-peg would have worked better in place of the ab crunch. At the hips, we have ball and socket joints which still can’t quite hit a split. This is Spider-Man, Hasbro! Why can’t he do splits? He can at least kick forward a reasonable amount, but not back. There’s a thigh cut there, double-jointed knees which work better than the elbows, a boot cut, and a hinge and ankle rocker combo at the ankle. All of that stuff works well with no gummy-ness to the joints. I know some would like a toe-hinge, but I don’t really care if it’s here or not. He can hit some good Spidey poses though with the only real disappointment being those hips and my stuck elbows.
That’s where the good stuff ends as when it comes to accessories Hasbro loves to disappoint. Spider-Man comes with three sets of hands: fists, wall-crawling, and thwip hands. That’s basically the standard, Spidey, assortment, but some gripping hands would be nice. I suppose they’re not needed though since he doesn’t come with a web-line to grip. Instead, he has two web splat effects, one bigger than the other. They’re all white and made of a pliable plastic, but they don’t really do anything. I guess you can toss one onto a villain’s face? They’re more like window-dressing parts and what I would prefer to have is an actual webline or something from the show like his web backpack. These things are just useless.
If you want to get your hands on this guy, I guess all you can do for now is monitor Walmart to see if the listing returns. Their exclusive Black Series Holiday Scout Trooper recently showed up at Big Bad Toy Store so maybe this Spider-Man will too? Otherwise, it’s the secondary market at this point where this thing will cost a lot more than the $27 Walmart was charging. As is the case with virtually all Marvel Legends these days, this one isn’t exactly worth it, but if you have that Venom or really loved watching this show as a kid then you may feel a strong pull towards this guy. And in that case, it’s a price that can be accepted. At 50 or 60 bucks? Ehh, I wouldn’t do it. With Hasbro launching a dedicated Spider-Man line in 2023 it seems highly unlikely that this will remain a Walmart exclusive forever. After all, how can you do a Spider-Man line that doesn’t feature Spider-Man in red and blue? Hasbro does some stupid things, like not finishing the 92 X-Men team, but I don’t think they’re dumb enough to let this figure remain a Walmart exclusive. My assumption is there will be a VHS re-release with different accessories. It’s possible it will be on a different mold, but I don’t think they’ll go through that trouble. It’s a good Spidey though, probably Hasbro’s best, so when that re-release does happen (or this mold gets a comic release in this shade of blue) I would suggest jumping on it unless you absolutely hate the cel-shading. And if that’s the case, there’s the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends three-pack that has a Spidey from that show on this body with no cel-shading. It’s probably every bit as good as this one, perhaps better if you prefer your Spidey with a darker blue, but it costs $75 and comes with a decent Firestar and an absolute dumpster fire of an Iceman. That set would have been right in my nostalgia wheelhouse if they didn’t blow it so hard on Iceman, my favorite member of the X-Men when I was a kid. Hasbro just can’t make things easy for Spider-Man fans.
More from the world of Spider-Man and Marvel Legends:
When I was a kid, my dad took me to some local convention or trade show. I have no idea why because my dad wasn’t the type who would go to such an event. He liked car shows, but from what I can remember this was more of a hobby show. It was early in…
One of the most iconic costumes in the world of superheroes is definitely that of Spider-Man. I put that classic red and blue with webbed detailing right up there with Superman and Batman. I would argue that there’s no more iconic costume in the world of Marvel than Spidey’s, and the crazy thing with Spider-Man…
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When it comes to doing these write-ups, I naturally trend towards older Christmas specials. The name of the blog is The Nostalgia Spot, after all, so it would only make sense for me to favor stuff that’s at least a decade old, if not more. The fact of the matter is, there’s really not enough content out there to only focus on the old, and besides, sometimes it’s fun to be a bit topical. In 2022, Marvel unleashed Moon Knight on the masses via Disney+. Since I am a subscriber to Disney+ and a casual Marvel fan, I watched it because it was there and I like feeling like I’m getting the most bang for my buck. It was a fine show and I especially enjoyed the performance of Oscar Isaac in the lead role. I believe it was mostly well-received, though I know there were some out there disappointed at the lack of Moon Knight in a show called Moon Knight which is understandable. I’m sure we’ll see more of him though because this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, after all, and it’s always building towards something.
Prior to watching the show, my only knowledge of Moon Knight was that he was some superhero with a cool looking costume. I have an old ToyBiz Marvel Legends figure of the same, but I’ve honestly never picked up a Moon Knight comic. He always had the reputation of being a Batman knock-off, and to some extent I guess that’s true. In the hands of an unskilled writer, I could easily see his books turning into a Batman-like story. In the show, he was far more interesting though so I don’t think such criticism is warranted in that case, but what about in other media?
In 2012, Disney began airing a show called Ultimate Spider-Man. Despite the name, this show was not an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name. Like many post 2000 Spider-Man shows, it borrows from that comic, but also basically every other form of Spider-Man to create one big hodgepodge of what are hopefully the best traits of the various Spider-Men over the years. I never paid any attention to the show while it was airing, but it hung around to total over 100 episodes with the series ending in 2017. One of the last episodes of the show happens to be a Christmas one, and it also features Moon Knight, and it’s also presently the “knight” before Christmas, so now feels like the right time to take a look at this one.
Ultimate Spider-Man is a Film Roman production that was overseen by Alex Soto. It’s a 2D animated cartoon series with a pretty straight-forward approach to the character designs and scenery, unlike a more stylized series and prior Christmas spot entrant Spectacular Spider-Man. The show stars Drake Bell as Spider-Man/Peter Parker and when it begins he has already been Spider-Man for about a year, until attracting the attention of Nick Fury. This is a young Spider-Man still feeling his way around things and it seems an emphasis of the show was to feature lots of team-ups with other familiar faces from the Marvel Universe. The show was able to assemble a rather impressive writing team which included Brian Michael Bendis, the creative behind the comic of the same name, and Paul Dini, perhaps the most celebrated writer in superhero animation (this particular episode is by Elliot Casey). It would seem there’s a lot to like about this one on paper and it also looks like some money was spent making the show look good so it’s a bit of a surprise on my behalf that I’ve basically ignored the series for as long as I have.
The show begins without any sort of opening title sequence, I’m guessing that’s to come. We find Spider-Man (Bell) decorating a…tree of some kind and talking to himself. He seems to be trying to psyche himself up to have a terrific Christmas because he needs to. He’s actually house-sitting this Christmas for Dr. Strange (Liam O’Brien) in his Sanctum Sanctorum while the good doctor is off saving reality, or something. It would seem this is Spidey’s first Christmas away from his Aunt May and he’s just trying to make the best of it. Unfortunately, this bizarre, monster, tree that Dr. Strange keeps in his home is sentient and not up for being decorated like a Christmas tree. It also doesn’t seem to appreciate Spider-Man’s sass and takes a swipe at him forcing the web-slinger to retreat into another room. Oh, and this is a show that seems to break the fourth wall via its protagonist. A lot.
After running from the grinchy monster plant, Spider-Man finds himself in a fancy looking armory. It’s apparently a room he’s not supposed to enter and as he tries to recall what Dr. Strange told him about the room an apparition of the doctor appears above him. A very young looking Doctor Strange is recalled just telling him to stay out of the room because of all of the dangerous weapons and artifacts present. Spidey then sheepishly scratches the back of his head as an “Oops, my bad,” kind of thing since he’s already broken his promise to Strange. I’m getting the impression this Spider-Man is a bit of a goof.
A scream from outside gets Spider-Man’s attention. He’s supposed to look after Strange’s home, but he can’t ignore what sounds like a girl in distress! Spidey races outside to find a young girl being harassed by a strangely dressed man. That man is Moon Knight (Diedrich Bader), and it would seem that Spider-Man has never encountered this soldier of the moon before. His entrance is pretty cool though as Spidey looks up at the moon and we see the alleged hero reflected in the lens of his mask. Spidey deftly avoids him and grabs the young girl in the process before staring down his new foe. Moon Knight introduces himself, and Spider-Man makes a lame crack about him not being Santa Claus as we smash cut to the opening title. Apparently this era of the show is called Ultimate Spider-Man vs The Sinister Six as that’s what the title card says. I guess it would have helped if I had watched some of this show before jumping into one of the final 3 episodes.
After the very brief title card is “webbed away,” we get to see Spider-Man vs The Moon Knight! Moon Knight is impeccably voiced by Diedrich Bader in what feels like a preview of the somewhat aloof Batman (in contrast with the straight-forward Batman he has played elsewhere) he will play in the future on Harley Quinn. He’s an unintentionally humorous character (as-in, the character isn’t trying to be funny in-universe, but he’s definitely written to be comical to the viewer) as he constantly keeps referring to the moon, talking about the moon, and even converses with the moon. I’m having flashbacks to the Mooninites from Aqua Teen Hunger Force here because this guy loves the moon as much as they do. Spider-Man seems annoyed with him, and Moon Knight doesn’t really seem to have a high opinion of Spider-Man for that matter and even calls him a demon. It never dawns on Spider-Man though that maybe this guy is attacking this young girl for a reason, so he decides to retreat into the safety of Strange’s townhouse, but not before whipping Moon Knight by his cape into some snow (“And that is why I don’t wear a cape!”). Unfortunately, the building has a protective spell placed on it that requires a magical command to allow additional people through and Spidey is drawing a blank on what those words are. While he stands safely behind the magical shield, the girl he’s trying to save is in harm’s way. Worry not though, for Spider-Man is able to recall those words just before Moon Knight nails her.
As Spidey bids Moon Knight a good night, the vigilante tries pounding on the forcefield and cries out that Spider-Man is giving this girl exactly what she wants, but he’s not listening. Inside, Spider-Man and the girl get acquainted. Her name is Francine (Mary Kate Wiles) and she tells Spider-Man she’s an orphan. A recently made orphan as she lost her father not too long ago. Spidey acts like he’s going to cry hearing her sad story and welcomes her to spend Christmas with him in this lonely old house. We then go into a montage hosted by Spidey Claus! The two make gingerbread cookies that literally get up and walk away, which they have a laugh at. We then see a sequence of polaroid photos of the two making silly faces and eating candy canes. Spidey is laying in front of the fire looking at said pictures when the brief montage ends, while Francine seems interested in looking around. She soon finds the door to the forbidden room, and like most kids, immediately wants to go in once she hears it’s forbidden. Spidey tells her he’s not going to break his promise to Doctor Strange and let her in, but as he lectures her he doesn’t really pay attention and she just slips right past him.
Francine enters the room and is immediately drawn to a crystal ball. Spidey comes over and realizes he’s seen that ball before. It belonged to the villain Mysterio, and we see a flashback of him doing crimes and battling Spider-Man. Apparently, he fell off the Brooklyn Bridge at the end of one of their encounters and Spider-Man was unable to save him. The ball is his helmet and it was magically enhanced so that it could make Mysterio’s many illusions turn real. Pretty sweet! After Mysterio fell into the river below, Spider-Man recovered the helmet, but no body. He gave it to Strange and is surprised the sorcerer didn’t simply destroy it.
A crashing sound from upstairs gets Spider-Man’s attention and ends his little story time. He hands the helmet to Francine and tells her to stay put while he investigates. He heads upstairs into what looks like a library only to find Moon Knight inside! He’s pretty surprised to see him since Strange put that spell up to keep out the unwanted, but he’ll have to figure that out later. Spider-Man attempts to web Moon Knight, but he turns intangible and the web line goes right through him. Spidey then tries to attack in a more conventional manner, but continues to encounter difficulties. Moon Knight explains that he is but a reflection in the moonlight, which is poetic, but still confusing. Spider-Man then hears a sound coming from outside and looks up to see Moon Knight on the other side of a skylight. Two Moon Knights?!
Spider-Man noticing another Moon Knight outside seemed to be enough for this Moon Knight to call it quits. It disappears in a blue light and Spider-Man realizes he was just an illusion. Saying the word “illusion” out loud is enough for him to figure out what’s going on. He heads back to the forbidden room and somewhat nervously pops his head in to check on Francine. He finds the girl holding the orb and she too is surrounded by a cold, blue, light. When it fades we see she’s a grown woman, and wearing Mysterio’s old costume too. She then thanks Spider-Man, and introduces herself as Frances Beck, daughter of Mysterio! It would seem she holds a grudge against Spider-Man for her father’s apparent death and retrieving his magical helmet is exactly what she needs to exact sweet, festive, revenge. This is going to be the best Christmas ever!
Lucky for Spider-Man, the New Mysterio is quite new to this whole villain thing and Spidey just takes the helmet away from her via a simple web-line. He tells her she can’t handle this thing and suggests she’s not the real deal, but she assures him she is. She lifts her arms up and opens a portal in the ceiling and a horde of vicious looking elves drop in! Spidey is able to escape to the ceiling though as they’re rather short, and he and New Mysterio do the whole “You killed my father!” “No, I didn’t!” routine before Spidey bails into another room.
Spidey’s webs can only hold off the elves for so long as they are vicious little bastards, so he retreats back up to the library. There he finds Moon Knight, still just chilling out on the roof outside the window, before he’s visited by an unexpected guest. Or should I say homeowner? Because Dr. Strange can’t be a guest in his own home! He appears before Spider-Man and seems quite ticked off with old web-head. He let people into his home, entered the forbidden room, and has removed a powerful item from said room! Spidey tries to apologize, while Moon Knight bangs on the window shouting “Not strange!” This confuses Spider-Man more as he very much disagrees with Moon Knight and reminds him that this night has actually been very strange! He then finally realizes what Moon Knight is saying, and it’s probably helped by Dr. Strange lunging for the helmet and failing this whole thing, that he means Strange, not strange. Which, I mean, come on Spider-Man! I know you’re not a detective like Batman, but you’re facing an illusionist here and she’s already fooled you once!
The illusion of Strange then vanishes and is replaced by Mysterio. She makes a crack at Spider-Man referring to him as a joke to which he responds with “To be fair, I think everything’s a joke.” She also does some magic finger snap that just makes the helmet appear in her hands. She finally puts it on and uses the power of the helmet to summon a giant gingerbread man! Spidey points out that this is very much a joke as he dodges the massive candy cane the beast swings in his direction. I must say, I do admire Mysterio’s commitment to the season with her various summonings. Come to think of it, how did she summon the non-illusion elves without the helmet? Maybe it was the magic of the season? I guess it’s best not to think about these things.
Spider-Man does what he seemingly does best: flees to higher ground. Up on the ceiling, he’s able to watch the Christmas abominations lay waste to what are likely some very old and likely priceless objects in Doctor Strange’s library and also regroup. He tries to recall the advice Dr. Strange gave him in the past, but all he can do is recall generic advice like wearing a hat when it’s cold outside. He then remembers something about Strange advising him to make allies out of the enemies of his enemies. Naturally, this means Moon Knight who is still banging away outside because he is one persistent fellow. Spider-Man shouts out the magic words to release the barrier and Moon Knight is finally able to smash in that very expensive looking window and join the battle!
Moon Knight comes in wielding his baton and smashes some ginger foes! He’s ready to rumble, and it allows Spidey to attempt to appeal to Francine. She corrects him when he addresses her by that name and refers to herself as Frances Beck! She is not going to be swayed, but before she can really get into her villain speech she collapses to her knees in pain. Reaching for the fishbowl on her head, it would seem the orb is a bit more than she can handle. Spidey tries to help her, rather lamely though by putting an arm around her when he could have just yanked the thing off. She recoils from his touch and uses her power to open a portal that she and her gingerbread minions are able to escape through.
With Frances gone, Moon Knight and Spider-Man are able to have a little heart-to-heart. Only, Moon Knight doesn’t seem interested in sharing any of his knowledge with Spider-Man, probably because he’s pretty much responsible for this mess they’re in. Their conversation is interrupted though by the moon. Yes, Moon Knight takes his orders from the moon and it’s played rather comically since Moon Knight can hear the moon, but no one else can including the viewer. It would seem the moon has decided that Spider-Man’s help is needed and Moon Knight is commanded to reveal all. He basically just relays that the moon warned him about Beck and that she intended to wake a dormant evil that lurked in this place, which must be the fish bowl. It also told him how to stop it: a magic wand! Yes, some wand has the power to make the helmet collapse in on itself, and it just so happens to be in this house too! Spidey is forced to break his promise, again, to Strange and admit Moon Knight into the forbidden room. There he finds the wand they need and the two set out to stop Beck.
As the two walk out the front door, Spidey asks Moon Knight (he calls him Moony – adorable!) if this wand will destroy the wearer of the helmet. He only responds with “The moon shall have its vengeance,” which is interesting because I never thought of the moon as the vengeful type. Spider-Man points out that isn’t really an answer and tells Moon Knight if his aim is to kill Francine then he doesn’t want his help. He doesn’t offer a reply as the two head outside and find Mysterio floating high above the city doing super villain stuff. She uses her new powers to summon a giant snowman monster than looks curiously like Marshmallow from Frozen.
Upon coming face to face with this monster, Spidey is suddenly more interested in Moon Knight’s help and willing to accept any conditions. Of course, when he looks over to the vigilante for help, he’s busy chatting it up with the moon. This guy! It would seem he’s also trying to convince his…boss…that Spider-Man is a liability, which Spidey takes offense to. The two then turn their attention to the task at hand and Spider-Man observes the Moon Knight method of dodging. Which is to say, he does no such thing. He takes a punch from the beast and explains to Spider-Man that he’d rather take the hit than waste time avoiding it, which Spidey is forced to admit is pretty badass (my words, not his). While Moon Knight tangles with Marshmallow, Spidey tries reasoning with Frances, but she just responds by turning an inflatable Santa sentient which goes on the attack. Lucky for him, Moon Knight’s aversion to dodging gets him knocked into Santa and solves that problem for him!
Spidey takes to the sky to try to get away from the monster, but ends up getting swatted instead. He crashes through a building and finds himself in a department store. A giant, novelty, present broke his fall. Moon Knight soon follows and lands on top of another novelty present and Spidey is forced to make a crack about the bad holiday décor. Moon Knight ignores Spider-Man’s joke and informs him of the dire situation they find themselves in. He also adds that the moon demands this situation be rectified by any means necessary. The duo are soon set upon by an army of nutcrackers and toy airplanes. The two leap into the scaffolding smashing toys along the way until the big snowman comes bashing in with Mysterio right behind.
As Spider-Man dodges their attacks, he sees Moon Knight go for Mysterio. He calls out for him to wait, but Moon Knight leaps through the air and plunges the wand through the glass dome. Frances collapses to her knees and appears to be in a trance of some kind. Moon Knight suggests the spell is taking over and will soon end all of this, but Spidey isn’t willing to give up on Frances. He realizes that the only way to get Moon Knight to help him is to trick him. Sounds deceitful, but if this plan works then Moon Knight only has himself to blame for Spidey pretends to hear the moon. Moon Knight is perplexed, but also a bit impressed, as Spider-Man acts as if the moon is commanding him to save Frances. Moon Knight may be a badass, but he’s definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer as he falls for it. He agrees to hold off the monstrous snowman, while Spider-Man attempts a rescue.
Spidey doesn’t really know what to do, so he instinctively grabs the wand. That seemed like the logical place to start, only the unexpected happens and Spider-Man gets sucked inside the helmet! He finds himself in a dreary setting, but a farm house comes into view and Spider-Man figures it must be the farm house that Frances told him about. He approaches a window and spies Francine inside seated at a dinner table with her father, Quentin Beck (Paul Scheer). They appear to be having Christmas dinner, and the decorations in the background would indicate as much. As Spidey gets closer, he finds himself transported into the house and seated at the table. There, he tries reasoning with Frances by telling her this is all an illusion and they need to get out. She insists it’s real though, that her father is real, but Spidey tells her if it was real then he’d tell her what happened that night between them. So he does!
It turns out, Frances was right and this is the real Quentin Beck. He describes how he made a deal with the demon Dormammu for the power to make his illusions real, and this is the price he paid. He tells his daughter that Spider-Man did try to save him, but he refused the hero’s aid. When he fell off of the bridge, he was pulled into the helmet where he’s to remain. This also explains why Doctor Strange didn’t destroy it since doing so would have destroyed Beck. Unfortunately for the Becks, this world starts to collapse upon itself. A vortex opens above them and it’s pretty clear they need to get out. Frances pleads for her dad to come with them, but he knows he’s trapped in this prison. Or is he? Spider-Man doesn’t think so, but soon the ground opens up below them and Frances is sent falling into the void!
She stops though, bathed in a green light, lifted up by her father. He’s holding all three of them with his magic, I guess, suspended in the air. Beck then uses his powers and a green light envelops all three of them. Outside the helmet, Moon Knight is having a rough go of things. He’s being attacked by the snow monster, nutcrackers, and some nasty looking teddy bears. As he sees the helmet pulsate, he assumes that he has failed and apologizes to the moon. Then, his enemies drop dead and Spider-Man appears with the Becks and Moon Knight is forced to correct himself.
While father and daughter have a reunion, Spider-Man remarks how Moon Knight really trashed the place. He reminds Spider-Man this isn’t the only place that’s been damaged this evening and Spidey lets out an “Oh no!” We cut to Dr. Strange finding his home in shambles. As a book crumbles to dust in his hands, he curses Spider-Man to the heavens! We then are taken to F.E.A.S.T. where Aunt May volunteers to help the less fortunate. Spider-Man, Moon Knight, and the Becks are shown enjoying a meal together and there’s laughter and happy, holiday, cheer. We then head to the roof, where Spider-Man is attempting to wrap things up for us, only he’s distracted by Moon Knight’s persistent conversation with the moon. He makes fun of him for it, but Moon Knight turns the tables since Spider-Man can’t even explain who he’s addressing. Moon Knight calls him a weirdo, and Spidey is apparently content to leave things there as he wishes us all a “Happy Holidays,” and we exit with an iris shot.
That was how Spider-Man spent a Christmas. And it was a rather eventful one. I have to confess, I wasn’t much at all interested in the story of the Becks. We barely got to know Francine so it wasn’t as if I felt hurt by her betrayal of Spider-Man like he seemed to be. I also wasn’t attached to her, but I guess it’s good that Spidey wasn’t willing to take the easy way out and let the magic wand kill her. I also never saw the episodes with Mysterio so I didn’t have that to fall back on. What hurt things further though was the performance of Paul Scheer as Quentin Beck. He is so wooden in the role and the scenes with him are terrible. Was he just mailing this one in? I’m surprised they would stick with this casting because it did not work at all. Perhaps the direction for him was poor as when the vortex is swallowing them he sounds bored, like maybe he didn’t really know what was happening to his character? I also don’t understand how his powers work. I thought he just did illusions and the helmet contained the magic? Did he learn how to utilize the helmet’s magic from within it? Could he have “magicked” himself out of that thing this whole time? It’s messy.
What did work though was Diedrich Bader as Moon Knight. He steals the show and when he’s not on the screen I was definitely looking for him. He gets to be a badass with a personality as he comes across as aloof due to his constant conversing with the moon and Spider-Man is a natural foil for such a character. He takes himself very seriously, and Spider-Man could certainly be described as the opposite. As for old web-head, he manages to be charming and charismatic, but also annoying. It’s a unique quality that Spider-Man sometimes possesses. This particular iteration pushes things at times and he’s definitely upstaged in the funny remarks category by Moon Knight and his deadpan delivery, but I’m guessing that doesn’t happen in most episodes. As for Christmas, it’s here in spirit and Mysterio does her part to make sure of that. We don’t really see much of the reunion at the end so we never get a big dose of those Christmas feels, but given my distaste for the performance of Scheer, it’s probably a good thing that we ended things where we did.
If you like Spider-Man and want to see him at Christmas, this is fine. There’s some lore here to work around, but nothing that should feel too difficult for a casual Spidey fan. The animation is solid and I like how this thing looks. It did take me a bit to warm up to Spidey’s constant eye posing, but I could definitely watch more of this. I don’t know that I will, but maybe. This episode and the rest of the show is streaming on Disney+ and I would not expect to see it shown on television, especially this late in the game. This is also the show’s second Christmas episode, but the blurb on the first one made it sound like an It’s a Wonderful Life parody and I didn’t want to bark up that tree. If I’m mistaken and you think I should check it out, let me know. For now, I feel fine leaving it at this. Plus, that one doesn’t have Moon Knight!
Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:
2021 marked an important anniversary in animation: Shrek turned 20. The animated film from DreamWorks is credited as really helping to launch the company as a viable competitor to Disney’s Pixar. Prior to Shrek, DreamWorks had found success at the box office with Antz and Chicken Run, but Shrek was the first to really explode…
When I listed out the best Christmas specials over a week ago, I included the stop-motion A SpongeBob Christmas. And I stand by that as that special is pretty great. Before there was A SpongeBob Christmas, there was The SpongeBob Christmas Special. Confused? Well, there are only so many ways to title a Christmas special.…
We have reached a day of great, holiday, release – Christmas Eve. And what better way to mark the occasion than with a holiday short titled The Night Before Christmas. A lot of cartoons have made use of this title, but today’s subject is the Silly Symphony short that falls under that heading. It felt…
One of the most iconic costumes in the world of superheroes is definitely that of Spider-Man. I put that classic red and blue with webbed detailing right up there with Superman and Batman. I would argue that there’s no more iconic costume in the world of Marvel than Spidey’s, and the crazy thing with Spider-Man is he really has two now iconic costumes. The Black Costume, the Symbiote Costume, the Alien Costume – whatever you call it, is pretty popular on its own. I know I’ve encountered several fans who even prefer the black look to the classic one. I can’t go that far with it, but I do enjoy it, even if Venom has largely taken ownership of the look over the years.
The Symbiote costume has been popular. I can still remember when it first showed up in the ’94 Toy Biz line alongside the Venom II action figure. I wanted it, but because it was so popular, I had trouble tracking it down at the usual spots. I did have a local, dedicated, comic book store that had it along with Venom II. Unfortunately, they wanted 10 bucks for it which was double what Toys ‘R Us would charge me. I could only get one, so I got Venom. When I had replenished my funds, I could have gone back for it, but it was one of those figures saddled with a bad gimmick that made for an unattractive presentation. That was a thing we had to deal with back then. I didn’t mind a gimmick if it didn’t harm the sculpt, but ones that did were the bane of my existence as an action figure enthusiast in the mid-90s. I never ended up getting that figure, but I did get the 2022 edition so I feel like I’m making it up to my younger self.
The retro card series from Hasbro is essentially just a subline of Marvel Legends. The packaging reflects the old Toy Biz line, right down to the artwork used for repeat characters. It does cause some confusion as collectors aren’t quite sure if this is an homage line or a line that’s supposed to reflect the animated series itself. I see this most with the recent Hobgoblin release, even though it looks nothing like the old cartoon. Homage line seems to be the right call. That Toy Biz line wasn’t a direct animated line either, though it was much closer to its source material than the X-Men line. What this line certainly isn’t though is a dedicated toon line like the upcoming X-Men one Hasbro is launching this year. These strike me as designs based on the comic with nostalgic packaging.
The exception, of course, is the animated Venom released last year. I have a lot of nostalgic attachment to Venom and the show, so I wanted to grab that release. When I did, I knew I wanted to at least pair him with a Spider-Man. As a bit of a fill-in, I grabbed Web-Man because I really liked the color palette. I also put in an order for this Symbiote Spider-Man when solicitations went up so the long goal was always to get this guy for my display and now he’s here.
This Spider-Man is actually on a different body than Web-Man. I think Web-Man is on the “pizza body” and this version is on the updated body. They’re not vastly different, but there are some. This Spider-Man stands a tick shy of six and a half inches, which seems tall to me, but I’m not a regular collector of this line and can’t speak for how others feel. I don’t believe it’s a true 1/12 scale line. The overall look is pretty much what I envision Spider-Man to be. He’s well-muscled, but lean compared with the more bulky heroes out there. I really like the head shape which has a more pointed chin than Web-Man, and Hasbro did a solid job of minimizing the look of the articulation. It helps that this is a character in an all black suit so you don’t get unsightly issues like the color of the pins not matching the surrounding area. My one real critique of this body is a common one I have for Marvel Legends and it’s the shoulders. They just sit so low on the body. It’s not as noticeable as it is with Web-Man, but it’s something that needs to get better. They just really like this look of large traps sloping down into the shoulders when superheroes tend to have really big shoulders! These ones even sit entirely below the sculpted clavicle. It’s not super noticeable if you pose him well, but this design isn’t really helping out articulation (which we’ll get to) so I don’t understand why it persists.
Being an all black figure means there’s little need for paint. Had this been a true toon line, or one aiming to even replicate comic shading, there would be a need for blue highlights, but that’s not Hasbro’s style. He’s all black save for the white portions. And when it comes to that, we have almost two figures. From the front, he looks pretty great. The eyes are well-defined and well-painted. I love the shape of them. The logo on the chest is quite clean as well, though the opacity of the paint is subpar. There’s too much black showing through giving it a grimy appearance. That’s true of the white panels on the hands as well. Here, we have a possible error too as there’s no “web hole” even though the packaging claims this is the symbiote suit. Longtime fans know that when Spider-Man ditched the alien, he still kept the black look as a traditional costume so in that sense the absence is not an error. It’s a nitpick, I know, but how hard would it have been to get that right? On the rear of the figure, the spider logo is more messy. There’s a scratch on mine in the lower torso and some excess white paint just behind the right shoulder. It’s on the rear of the figure so it’s not a huge deal, but it’s an error and one of those that you can’t even see when inspecting a figure in the card which is always frustrating.
Spider-Man is known for being rather nimble, so of course a Spider-Man action figure is packed with articulation. This dude has a lot, but it’s not all as functional as it probably could be. His head is on a ball-peg and that has plenty of range. The shoulders are ball-hinged and this is the area I alluded to earlier. He can’t raise his arms out to the side all of the way and getting him into a swinging pose is more challenging than expected, but do-able. He does have butterfly joints and they’re okay. Hasbro painted the spider logo all throughout the joint so you don’t get an ugly gap on the rear of the figure. The legs won’t be aligned, but there’s no real helping that. There’s a biceps swivel, double-jointed elbows, and the hands swivel and hinge. All of the hinges are horizontal. There’s a ball-joint in the diaphragm which lets the figure tilt n’ twist. The spider will obviously become miss-aligned when you do so, but again, there’s no helping that. There is a solid amount of clearance between the upper and lower torso so paint rub is minimal, but still something to watch out for. The joint also lets Spidey bend back a bit and crunch forward and when used in tandem with the ab crunch below you get quite a bit of range. There’s no waist twist, and the hips use a ball and hinge so you can drop the legs down. The drop-down function doesn’t really add anything as he can kick forward just as far either way. His butt cheeks prevent him from kicking back, but he can go out to the side almost to a full split. There are thigh cuts, double-jointed knees, a boot cut, and ankle hinges and rockers and all have plenty of range.
This figure articulates well enough. If I were allowed to design it, the only thing I’d change is those shoulders and the hips. Normal ball and socket hips would allow a thigh twist there so we could ditch the kind of ugly thigh cut. I just find that style of cut useless because it miss-aligns the muscle groups and just looks stupid. This guy though can get into most Spidey poses. The one that’s still out of reach is the classic three-pointed stance. To aid in his posing are some extra hands, which are the only accessories he comes with. He comes with fists hands and he can swap to open, “wall-crawling,” hands and web shooting “thwip” hands. The thwip hands don’t make any sense if this is the symbiote suit, but I think they’re still good to have. No gripping hands is kind of a letdown, but he also has nothing to grip. I would love web effects, and they’ve done them in the past, and that’s something sorely missing. This is also a $22 figure and accessories and paint are where Hasbro skimps with them. I’m not surprised, but I can still want more. And what really could some already tooled web effects actually add to the cost here? It’s probably less than a dollar, probably far less, but that’s what you get with Hasbro.
And cost, or rather price, is really the main goal with this line. Hasbro wants to get you a good enough action figure at a low cost. This isn’t an import figure or a boutique thing, it’s a mass market retail release. As such, it’s pretty good! The figure does have that cheap feel when compared with a lot of other figures I own. The plastic can feel “gummy” at times and little in the articulation is smooth, but it’s also not loose or stuck so that’s a positive. And this is also a style of character that really fits what Hasbro wants to do: simple sculpt, simple paint, lots of articulation points. There’s a reason Hasbro keeps reusing this body, because it works. And for me, it gets the job done as now I have a Spider-Man to pair with my Venom. It would have been cool to get an animated deco, but this is fine. There are rumors that Hasbro intends to do an animated Spidey in his classic red and blue, and if so, I’ll probably take a look. Should they do that, I hope they at least update the arms to a pin-less system as I really hate how those look on the already released Spider-Man figures which end up with unsightly red dots on their underarm. I don’t know if it will be a deal breaker, but I guess I’ll know when I see it.
Symbiote Spider-Man is currently being stocked by both Target and Walmart with other smaller shops still awaiting product. It’s a popular release, so it doesn’t hang around on pegs for very long. I actually got mine via Hasbro’s eBay page which doesn’t charge for shipping. If you’re still looking, maybe keep an eye on that and see if they do a restock. It’s popular for a reason so I would expect the figure to remain in production for at least a little while, but with all of the delays around the world, it could be awhile. Stay vigilant and good luck and if you have to go to the secondary market at least the prices don’t appear to be outrageous.
No, this is not bootleg Spider-Man, this is Web-Man! Who is Web-Man? I actually had no idea until I just looked it up. It would seem Web-Man is a copy of Spider-Man created by Dr. Doom. Not only are his colors inverted from the real thing, but so is most everything else. And since Spidey is basically a genius, Web-Man is quite stupid. As far as I know, he appeared in just one issue in 1977 and has never been heard from again. Though this being a comic book character, it’s entirely possible I’m wrong about that last part as comics have been known to recycle characters here and there. Even obscure ones.
I’ve mentioned in posts before that I used to collect Marvel Legends. And alongside Legends, I also collected the offshoot Spider-Man and X-Men lines produced by Toy Biz and later Hasbro. I stopped though around 2007 and really haven’t looked back aside from a lone Deadpool acquisition last year. So why on Earth am I doing a Web-Man review? It’s kind of a funny thing. I’ve been aware of Hasbro’s retro card releases of the past year or so which seek to emulate the 1994 Toy Biz Spider-Man line. I loved that line as a kid and I had a bunch of those cards (and probably still do) and the figures that were once stuck to them. It definitely tickles my nostalgia bone to see these things in stores, though so far not enough to get me to bite. When it came to Web-Man though, I just loved the colors. He’s this light shade of blue juxtaposed with a very bright red. It’s not the true inverse of Spider-Man, who trends darker typically, but there is something so aesthetically pleasing to me about this color combo. I loved it the moment I saw it in product shots online, but not enough to buy it. That is, until, Amazon just happened to have the thing in stock and I grabbed one. I did want to add at least one Spider-Man to my collection because I snagged a Pulse exclusive Venom over the weekend (he has yet to ship), and now I have one. Sort of.
Being that I haven’t purchased a Spider-Man figure in quite some time, this figure is probably a bit more exciting for me than it is for longtime Legends collectors. I think the last Spider-Man I bought was Iron Spider-Man, which I think was released by Hasbro, but was one of the last figures Toy Biz was working on when it was dissolved. I’d dig it out if it was easily accessible (I might have even sold it) to compare, but other than that my last Spidey might have been the Marvel Legends Series 6 First Appearance Spider-Man. Either way, this is quite different. Now, my understanding is this Web-Man uses the same body as Hasbro’s Spider-Man 2099. I was actually a little surprised when I got him because I had just assumed this was a repaint of the classic Spider-Man released on the retro card. That one was pretty well-received, from what I understand, and ended up being hard to track down because everyone and their mother apparently wanted at least two: one to play and one to keep mint-on-card. The main difference between this body and that one is a diaphragm joint which takes the place of the waist twist on this one. There are pros and cons to each, one major pro of the other Spidey is that he can crouch down into a 3-point stance, but it’s more of an interesting observation for me than anything. I just assumed that all Spider-Men would be produced on that body going forward.
As mentioned before, this guy comes on a retro card back which looks lovely. He has a one sentence bio on the back with no cross-sell below. The card itself is thicker than the old ones and the blister is attached in a different way. It would have been awesome to see Hasbro invest in resealable blisters, but they also appear to be trying to phase plastic out of their packaging as much as possible (and that’s a good thing). Once extracted, Web-Man stands at about 6 1/4″ when placed on a flat surface. Immediately, my eyes are drawn to this guy. That blue is just beautiful and it contrasts so well against the bright red. The black web-lining is bold and striking and just serves as a reminder that this is one of the best designs of all-time. Superman, Batman, Captain America – all take a backseat to the classic Spider-Man design. I love the shape of the eyes which remind me of Ditko’s Spider-Man, but bigger. The webs on the mask form a little pentagon in-between the eyes and it’s so clean looking. The reference art I found on the guy doesn’t feature that detail, but I don’t care. I like the look of it. His head is a bit more square than most Spider-Man sculpts I’ve seen, but it’s not something I mind. The color matching between the blue, plastic, head and the blue paint on the torso is pretty well done. If anything, the head is just ever so slightly darker, but I don’t think most will notice it unless they’re putting this figure under intense scrutiny, which I am.
The torso is a little more of a mixed-bag, but certainly not a disaster. Web lines are hard, and with this figure I would say it passes the eye test when on a shelf. When right in front there are a few blemishes. The outer, black, line on the right hip is a little off on mine and there’s a little bit of blue paint over the center line right around the belly button. The right pectoral also has some blue slop and it’s probably the ugliest error on the front of the figure as the black webbing doesn’t extend to the outer line as a result. Up by his left trap is some missing paint resulting in a red line that’s distracting. It’s right on a seem where the plastic was fused together and if I was confident in my ability to match this paint I’d probably cover it. The back of the figure also features some messy spots along the edge, and he has an awful hole in his back. I don’t think Hasbro still uses those old peg stands, but I could be wrong. I’m guessing this hole was needed for Spider-Man 2099’s cape or something. It is an unfortunate eye sore though, as are the pins in his arms. If ever a character cried out for pin-less engineering in the arms, it’s Spider-Man, because you’re always going to run into this with his classic (and inverted) costume where you can only match the outer or inner color of the arm. Hasbro always opts to match the outer arm, which is the right move, but it means the inner arm has a circle of color that shouldn’t be there. In this case, it’s blue above and below the elbows. At least with the knees it’s not an issue. It would be nice if they just put a dab of paint there, but this is Hasbro and they’re quite focused on making low cost figures which is why their figures often are priced lower than everyone else.
Aside from the blemishes here and there, I do really like the look of this figure. This is a solid sculpt for a Spider-Man adjacent character. The only sculpting issue I have is that his shoulders are really small. Hasbro likes to almost recess them in the torso which just gives them an odd look. It’s really only noticeable in vanilla poses, but given this is a Spider-Man, you’re not likely to pose him in such a manner on your shelf. The musculature looks good otherwise as this is a lean dude and I like that he seems to have a unique spider logo on his chest. He’s just a very pleasing figure to look at, all in all.
Now when it comes a Spider-Man figure articulation is going to be super important. This figure may lack the updated configuration of the new Spider-Man body, but he’s no slouch in the articulation department. For starters, his head sits on a ball-hinge. This gives him very good up and down range, but little tilt. At the shoulders we have a butterfly joint that works very nicely. The inner pieces are painted though, so hopefully paint rub doesn’t become a major issue over time. For now, it seems okay. The shoulders are on standard ball-hinges and you do get that mismatch color issue here too as the hinge is blue plastic so he has a stripe of color in his armpit that shouldn’t be. Like the pins, this is just a trade-off on where to put the offending color and Hasbro did the best it could. And in this case, if they had tried painting over it the paint would likely just flake off rather quickly. The weird way they sculpt the shoulders does make it difficult to get his arms horizontal, but you can get close. There’s a biceps swivel past that and double-jointed elbows which bend past 90, but not much past. I was a little surprised with that part. At the wrists are swivels and hinges which might be a little gummy out of the box. At least mine were. In the torso we have an ab crunch and Web-Man can crunch forward pretty far and back a little bit, but without any ugly gapping issues. There’s a waist twist below that and the legs are on ball-pegs. He can kick forward rather well and almost do a split. There’s a thigh cut past there and double-jointed knees. We also get a boot cut and hinges at the ankles to go along with excellent pivot action.
Really, the only complaint I have with the articulation is the inability to get the figure into a classic, Spider-Man, three-point stance. Aside from that, he moves well and I didn’t have any stuck joints on my figure. Almost better, there are no loose joints either as everything is nice and tight. He’s a lot of fun to mess around with and probably would be even more fun with an action stand or some web effects. Sadly, he’s rather light on the accessory front, a common thing with Marvel Legends. He comes with fisted hands in the package that can be swapped with web-slinging hands or wall-crawling ones. They’re pretty standard Spider-Man hands, though he lacks gripping ones so even if you make your own web he won’t be able to grab them. It’s certainly decent, but does beg the question would collectors be happy to spend another buck or two to get more stuff? I’m used to buying NECA and Super7 figures which retail for a lot more than Legends so it’s probably no surprise where I come in on that question, but Hasbro exclusive collectors are definitely more price sensitive from what I’ve seen.
Web-Man is what I wanted him to be. I saw a design that looked really pleasing to me and the finished product didn’t disappoint. Yes, I can pick over this thing and find little blemishes and imperfections here and there, but that’s true of pretty much any mass market retail action figure. Especially one with as demanding a paint job as Web-Man. It definitely would be preferable to find a vast assortment of these guys at retail rather purchase online sight unseen. That way you can hopefully find the one with the least amount of imperfections. This is admittedly an odd figure to have as the lone Spider-Man representation so to kind of make up for that I’ve pre-ordered the upcoming black costume Spidey. Even so, I love how this guy looks and it doesn’t bother me at all that I don’t have a traditional Spider-Man figure right now. Maybe when Hasbro eventually does a pinless one I’ll bite, but for now this is great. If you’re like me and you find yourself just drawn to this color scheme then this one’s for you.
Forgive me if I’ve said something similar before; but younger people are shocked by the norms of the past! Yeah, it’s a very “old man” thing to say, but it’s also an easy way to impress someone younger. And in this case, the shocking thing to say is that Marvel Comics often found itself in a great deal of financial turmoil in decades past. The company that now is owned by Disney and is able to churn out hit film after hit film about even its most obscure characters once had to file for bankruptcy protection. Go through the history of the company and you’ll find other moments in time where things weren’t so rosy, though Marvel often can be credited with being forward-thinking in looking for other ways to make money.
That’s how Marvel ended up in the TV business in the 1980s. Unable to find the same level of success on both the small and big screen as rival Detective Comics, Marvel started self-producing television programs which included the company’s popular stars as well as properties unrelated to the comic business. The most successful Marvel TV program is probably Muppet Babies, as the company seemed to struggle to really break-through with one of its superheroes even famously failing to find a broadcast partner for its mega-hot X-Men franchise as the pilot for a cartoon series failed to be picked up. This ended up being a good thing since not too long after Fox would start airing a different X-Men series in 92 which ended up being far better than anything Marvel would have done on its own.
When video games started to take off once again in the 80s, it’s possible some in the industry would have expected Marvel to self-publish. It was already doing so with TV, so why not games? It’s possible Marvel just didn’t trust the industry which had only recently emerged from a crash itself. And whenever Marvel wanted to make money easily, it would turn to licensing deals. With comics rapidly gaining steam in the 80s and building towards what would be a massive boom into the 90s, Marvel probably saw no real benefit in exploring the world of games and was more than willing to see what other companies would do with its characters.
Enter Sega. Sega was fighting an uphill battle to dethrone Nintendo as the kind of the living room. Sega’s strategy was to go after the kids who may have first experienced games via Super Mario Bros. and were looking for something a bit more their speed as they grew older. This made a character like Spider-Man appealing to Sega, and in a world where exclusive licensing agreements were still far off, Sega was able to convince Marvel to let it develop its own games featuring Spider-Man. Details of the agreement are scarce these days, so it’s unknown just what kind of restrictions Sega was under. The deal was apparently tenuous, but success of the Genesis/Mega Drive game Spider-Man vs The Kingpin apparently settled things down as the title once had an attach rate of over 60% with Genesis owners.
Back in the 1980s, Sega was as much known for its home console business as it was for the arcade. The arcade boom was coming down, but Sega had success with a variety of genres and many of its games were ported to the Genesis. With the Spider-Man license in-hand, Sega sought to craft an arcade beat-em-up experience with the character that would differentiate itself from similar titles. It would be a game developed for Sega’s System 32 board which was the company’s first attempt at 32-bit development. This also meant hopes for a home port would essentially be dead-on-arrival, but that’s why Sega had the separate Spider-Man vs The Kingpin slated to arrive the same year, 1991.
When crafting a brawler for the arcade, one of the main issues to solve initially is just what characters to make playable? The brawler had started as a one or two-player affair, but by the 90s arcade-goers expected four-player co-op play. The challenge with Spider-Man is he’s mostly a solo act, so Sega likely had to work with Marvel on finding three allies to join him. They ended up settling on the sometimes ally sometimes foe Black Cat, Sub-Mariner, and the Avenger Hawkeye. The selection of Hawkeye was somewhat interesting as he was a playable character in the Captain America brawler also released in ’91. This naturally lent to comparisons between the two titles with at least my group of friends viewing the Spider-Man Hawkeye as the far superior affair since the graphics were far more attractive.
Sega’s approach to the tried and true beat-em-up genre is both conventional and unconventional. Sega often found gimmicks to keep things fresh, such as the transformations of Altered Beast or the mounts in Golden Axe. For Spider-Man, the game begins like any other. You select one of four characters and begin the game with a wave of enemies crashing down upon you. Players have to contend with enemies coming in from both sides of the screen and as they’re dispatched a “Go!” prompt will display imploring the player to continue right. Each character has just two action buttons: jump and attack. Pressing the two simultaneously provides for a ranged super attack unique to each character. Utilizing this move also sacrifices some health. Players can attack while in the air and also use a super move from that position as well which basically results in a diving attack. Interestingly, the amount of credits deposited into the machine increases the amount of health the character possesses as opposed to the amount of lives. As long as you keep pumping in quarters, you’ll never die!
Where things get interesting in Spider-Man is after the first boss encounter: Venom. The storyline for the game is the Kingpin as acquired some magical artifact and Spider-Man needs to get it back. When Venom gets exposed to that artifact, he grows to a tremendous size. In order to convey that to the player, the player characters and the environment around them shrinks via a zoom-out effect. This also alters the gameplay from a brawler to a basic platformer. Characters now have a ranged attack and all can cling to surfaces in order to scale buildings. Other elements often featured in that style of game show up as well such as falling surfaces, obstacles that need to be dodged, and so on.
Every act in the game features a zoom-out sequence, even though only the initial one features a giant enemy. If the entire game were crafted around this style, it would be okay, but when the two are mixed it works quite well as a change of pace. Some boss fights are exclusive to the zoomed out mode too, which is actually kind of a shame since we’re denied seeing a proper, large, model of certain villains. Nevertheless, it’s Spider-Man’s defining characteristic and it works really well. It’s a real surprise this tactic wasn’t utilized more, but then again, fighting games mostly took over the arcade space shortly there-after and the arcade brawler largely faded away.
The game is divided into four acts, but each one is quite long and will have the players going back and forth between the two gameplay styles. And even though there are only four acts, there are still numerous boss encounters with Spider-Man’s most popular foes. Expect to face-off against the likes of Venom, Green Goblin, Scorpion, Electro, Hobgoblin, and more. Many will have to be fought more than once, with Venom being the most frequent (this was probably when the character was at the height of its popularity). Some of the fights aren’t much to speak of as the enemy functions like a regular enemy, just with a unique sprite and health bar, but others are multi-stage battles and can get pretty challenging. Kingpin himself is also a bit of a red-herring as the real villain of the game is revealed after the third act, which keeps gamers on their toes, I suppose.
The presentation is where things are at though. The characters look great on the System 32 board, especially in the non-zoomed out portions. The models are big and detailed making Spider-Man one of the best looking beat-em-ups produced. The villains are tremendous as well, and in between acts there’s some story-line material with some limited voice over. About the only thing I dislike about the visuals rests with Spider-Man himself, as he has this odd, slightly stooped, posture. The music is also catchy, and some was even recycled from older Sega games. Most of the boss characters also get a line or two of spoken dialogue which helps add a little pizzazz to those encounters.
Like any brawler, the gameplay does get repetitive eventually. Spider-Man is able to help itself not just with the gameplay switches during acts, but also with the boss variety. A character like Green Goblin attacks in a manner far different from the Kingpin, for example, though by the end of the game there is definitely some boss fatigue. The hardest foes all seem to attack in a similar pattern in that they get knocked down and then pop back up into a charging attack. The penultimate fight of the game can get a bit annoying as the boss has a very small window of time in which he can be harmed before going into a charging animation that renders him invincible, or a blasting position that grants the same. Even so, Spider-Man is a surprisingly fair game. Most arcade brawlers exist just to extract quarters, but it’s possible to gang up on a boss and practically neuter them. Especially with two players, as most boss characters will pop-up after being knocked down to immediately vault across the screen, rather than be momentarily invincible when first getting up. This means two well-positioned characters can effectively “ping pong” a boss until it’s been defeated. Preventing this from becoming a true exploit though is the fact that most bosses are accompanied by standard grunt enemies. I never counted, but Spider-Man can handle a lot of enemies on screen all at once so things can get a bit hectic. It makes those crowd-clearing special maneuvers more and more useful as the game progresses. The trade-off though is that enemy sprites are recycled throughout as you will largely battle the same three enemies all game long, just with different weapon and color variations.
A play-through of Spider-Man will last about 45 minutes, maybe a bit more. The one trick the game does pull that I’m not a fan of is that the player’s health is always gradually depleting as a means of forcing the players to move quicker. This seems to mostly be in effect during the platforming sections which is a bit annoying as the game does encourage some mild exploration. The “Go!” arrow might be telling you to go one way, but there’s an obvious area in a different direction with health power-ups. Even with that health-drain in place, a pair of reasonably skilled gamers should be able to get through this one on about 20 credits, or 5 bucks back in ’91. After each act, scores are tabulated and health bonuses distributed in kind as well which helps prolong the adventure and adds a little competition as well. The game awards a boss “kill” to whoever scores the last hit and boss defeats are weighted far more heavily than basic enemies so competitive players will do whatever they can to make sure they land that final blow.
Since Spider-Man was an arcade-only release, it has become a bit of an obscure title. For whatever reason, other arcade-only brawlers like X-Men and The Simpsons seem to be remembered more fondly even though I find Spider-Man to be the superior experience. It’s a wonderful looking game, even by today’s standards, and the gameplay quirks help set it apart as well. As much as I enjoy X-Men, that game is a pretty basic brawler that’s over quickly, but also brutal when it comes to quarters. It’s possible Spider-Man has been victimized by the success of the Genesis game since so many people had it that it’s likely the first game they think of when people mention the character and Sega in the same sentence. It certainly wasn’t an issue of distribution as I routinely encountered this game in the wild, and it was often the game I went to first.
Spider-Man is one of the best arcade brawlers ever released, and it’s also one of the few to remain exclusive to that format. When Sega brought 32-bit gaming to the living room with the 32X, it chose to craft a new Spider-Man game for that system rather than port this one, which ended up being the final Spider-Man game developed by Sega. Eventually games like X-Men received a release just a via X-Box Live, but Sega’s Spider-Man has remained in cabinets alone. The game was fairly popular so it’s not hard to track down a cabinet today, but buying one is quite costly since the character is so beloved. I suspect we’ve never seen the game made available due to the complicated licensing agreements surrounding both the game and Spider-Man himself. Sony holds the license for basically all Spider-Man media, while the presence of Hawkeye might give Disney a substantial voice in the room should there ever be talk of re-releasing the game. And then there’s Sega, who no longer has a home console of its own to bill this as an exclusive for. The game is likely viewed as too niche to warrant trying to figure out how to spread the money among all interested parties. Ideally it would be offered as a downloadable title like the Konami brawlers were, but that window has apparently been shut, and Sony striking a deal with Sega to include the game as a bonus feature on a modern Spider-Man title seems unlikely. As a result, if you want to experience what Spider-Man has to offer in 2020 you’ll need to track down a cabinet, or resort to other, less legal, means. Should you find yourself playing it, expect to have a pretty good time. Just make sure to bring a friend, or two, or three!
Over the years, the comic book movie has changed immeasurably. Prior to the year 2000, you could basically count the successful superhero movies on one hand and the only heroes able to really break through were Superman and Batman. This meant Marvel was completely shut out despite feeling like the hotter publication for a long time. That company’s forays into the world of cinema were largely terrible and the only semi-successful venture was probably The Incredible Hulk television series.
Now though it seems like anything Marvel wants to send to the big screen is a massive success. It’s not that surprising that X-Men eventually worked or that Spider-Man could become a big player. Captain America? That one is pretty surprising considering how lame he was when I was a kid. Basically everyone associated with The Avengers had been pushed aside. Those were the heroes your parents might have read about, but us 80s and 90s kids wanted mutants, pouches, and clones, damn it! We once thought that in order for these movies to be successful they needed to be more grounded than a comic and basically not look like one. Drab costumes for the X-Men, realistic villains for Iron Man, and so on. Now we’ve learned that doesn’t matter. Bright spandex is in, heroes leave the planet, and a big, purple, bad guy can lead one of the most successful movies of all time.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse pushes the super hero movies even closer to the world of comic books. It’s a bold movie on the part of Sony Pictures and Marvel, though considering the budget for this film is far less than what is spent on a typical live-action super hero film it’s perhaps not perceived as being a great risk. Spider-Verse is a film aimed at the longtime fans of Spider-Man. It’s not really made for those who liked Spider-Man comics as a kid and then moved on, or simply know the character from his other films. This film is modern, it contains references to the old Peter Parker who fell in love with and married Mary Jane Watson, something Marvel has undone. It also references a Spider-Man who divorced MJ, a Spider-Man who is actually a woman, and a Spider-Man who is black. Only in comics could all of these different, yet all valid, versions of one character exist and this film seeks to throw them all into one movie. It’s a transdimensional gathering of Spider-People (and animals) which is the type of story usually reserved for the world of comics as comic fans are used to differentiating from Earth-616, Pre-Crisis, Ultimate, etc. It sounds complicated, and it kind of is, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ends up being far more accessible than it has any right to be.
I hope you like Spider-Man, because there’s a lot to go around.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is based on a screenplay from Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman directed by Rothman, Bob Persichetti, and Peter Ramsey. It’s a computer-animated film that seeks to emulate the look of a comic book. Movement is intentionally janky as a low frames-per-second was utilized to make sure that basically every moment of the film could work as a still image from a comic book panel. It’s the careful planning of the screenplay and the direction that allows the viewer to ease into this one as it slowly peels away layers making the plot more complicated as it goes along without becoming overwhelming.
Miles never leaves home without his trusty Sony headphones.
The movie focuses first on teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). Morales is a young man who is an only child to police officer Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry) and nurse Rio Morales (Luna Lauren Velez). His father is african american and mother Puerto Rican, and even though he shares a last name with his mother, his parents are a couple and they all live together in Brooklyn. Miles though is sent to a special academy for schooling which functions like a boarding school. He doesn’t like it, but his father insists it’s for his own good. His mother is more sympathetic to his concerns, but not enough to interfere on behalf of her son. Miles is quite smart and apparently gifted, but he desires to be what he feels is normal. As a result, he has a kindred spirit in his uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) who encourages Miles’ preferred form of expression: tagging. Aaron and Jefferson apparently had a falling out of some kind and aren’t on speaking terms, so Miles has to sneak around to hang out with him.
It’s partly through sneaking out with his uncle that causes Miles to run into Spider-Man (Chris Pine). While tagging a tunnel in the subway, Miles is bit by an odd looking spider. The next day, he feels off and finds he’s sticking to everything and unable to make sense of it. When he returns to find the spider that bit him he encounters Spider-Man, who is battling with a massive, monstrous, version of the Green Goblin who is working for Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber), also known as The Kingpin. Kingpin also employs The Prowler and Tombstone and they’re trying to prevent Spider-Man from destroying a particle accelerator. He will be unsuccessful, and it’s the turning on of that particle accelerator that opens up a rift between the various dimensions which causes other versions of Spider-Man to enter Miles’ world.
Spider-Man may be in the title, but this is a Miles Morales movie.
Most of the movie will then center around Miles and one of the other Spider-Men, played by Jake Johnson. With Miles trying to figure out his own spider-powers, he turns to Peter B. Parker, but unfortunately for Miles this version of Parker is older, out of shape, and not really a good teacher. They need to steal a code from Fisk in order to destroy the accelerator and return Peter to his own dimension. It becomes apparent that they’ll need help though, and gradually more versions of Spider-Man are introduced including Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) and Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage). Each time a new one is introduced, they get a little 30 second origin story that all utilize the same concept. It’s both informative and amusing and never gets old.
While a lot of different versions of the classic character appear, the film never loses sight of the fact that this is really Miles’ story. He has to deal with disappointing his father and trying to find his footing amongst a group of people that have all been at this Spider-Man thing for quite awhile. He’s insecure, and unsure of himself. He just wants to be a normal kid, and while we see right away he’s a fan of Spider-Man, it’s not really something he necessarily wants to be. It’s a movie of self-discovery, camaraderie, and family. Most of the villains are simply physical adversaries, though some time is given to Fisk, and yet the film doesn’t suffer because of it.
A good chunk of the movie is devoted to an odd couple pairing of inexperienced Miles with past his prime Peter B. Parker.
The story in the film is well-told, but the major take-away from the film will be its look and style. It’s computer-animated, but there’s a hand drawn quality to everything present not seen in something from the likes of Dreamworks or Pixar. It’s bright, bold, and unafraid to take chances. There’s a sequence where Miles and Peter are stuck via webstring to a subway car and are pulled throughout New York at night. They pinball off of cars, slam into pillars, and slide across windows. It’s a chaotic, visual, experience that never gets out of hand or hard to follow. The finale is even more ambitious as the heroes battle the villains while the accelerator goes nuts and starts sucking in buildings and vehicles from other dimensions with everything suspended in a surreal setting. The film doesn’t need those tricks to be interesting though as even watching Miles walk down the street or emerge from a subway car is visually engauging. Sony stumbled onto something that really works here and I doubt this is the last we’ll see of this style.
There are a lot of big fights and moments in this one, but no matter what there’s always going to be a scene where Spider-Man needs to hide from someone in an amusing manner.
The vocal cast is wonderful with not a bad performance to be found and the music the film turns to is appropriate as well. The film opens with Miles listening to the film’s featured song, “Sunflower” performed by Post Malone and Swae Lee, and the rest of the songs used in the film all sound like something Miles would listen to. It’s heavy on hip hop and R&B, while composer Daniel Pemberton mixes similar concepts within a traditional superhero score. Like the film’s visual, the soundtrack and score meld beautifully with the scenes and characters and it’s hard to imagine the film having a soundtrack that could possibly be more appropriate than what is here.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a technical and artistic marvel in cinema. It’s a film made for the Spider-Man fan, but one that isn’t exclusive to that fan base. The character of Miles Morales is portrayed in such an authentic manner that it’s almost unfathomable to think someone could watch this film and not fall in love with the character of Miles. His journey from typical teen with typical problems to full-fledged Spider-Man could feel too familiar, but the film makes it compelling and interesting every step of the way. It’s also impossible to talk about the film and not mention how important and refreshing it is to see a character of mixed race assume the spotlight in a superhero film. I’m just a dumb white guy, so perhaps my opinion isn’t relevant, but I found it exciting and awesome to see Miles assume the mantel of Spider-Man and make it his own. The message of the film is that a hero can come from anywhere, anyone can be Spider-Man, and it’s a message the film takes to heart. And it isn’t just Miles as we also get a wonderful portrayal of Spider-Woman via the Gwen Stacy character. I’d love to see another adventure from Miles, and I’d also love to see a Spider-Gwen movie because I found her character really compelling as well. Hell, I’d even take a Peter B. Parker movie to see how things turned out for him.
I would love another movie centered on Miles, but if Sony wants to give us a Spider-Gwen I won’t be complaining.
I suspect that given the success of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse that we’re not done with this setting. I don’t expect a sequel to feature dimension-hopping unless it’s flipped and Miles journeys to help another Spider-Man. I think more likely is that a more conventional plot is scripted for Miles. However it happens, it needs to because Miles is too wonderful to only receive top-billing in a single film. I think most who see this film will walk away pondering if it’s their favorite Spider-Man film or close to it. I want to watch it again, but I think I would put Homecoming ahead of it, but it’s not an easy call. This film may be crowded with Spider-People, but it understands Spider-Man and presents what is a perfect Spider-Man story. It may be animated, but it’s paced like a live-action film and definitely isn’t aiming to lure in children, like many animated films developed primarily for a western audience aim for. If you passed on this one because it’s not tied into the Marvel Cinematic Universe or are intimidated by the plot then you made a mistake. There’s time to fix that mistake though and I urge you to do so.
It’s not my favorite, but if you wanted to argue that Spectacular Spider-Man is the best animated series based on a Marvel property then I wouldn’t fight you on it. The show ran from March 2008 to November 2009 and produced a tidy 26 episodes. It was a re-telling of Spider-Man with an obvious emphasis on the Steve Ditko years, but with plenty of modern twists some coming from the still popular Ultimate Universe at the time. The designs for the characters were stylized, yet simple. The style used for the eventual Disney Infinity brand actually reminded me a lot of this show. Basically anyone I’ve ever spoken to about this show enjoyed it, and the only reason it was cancelled seems to be directly related to the Marvel acquisition by Disney. It was cheaper for Disney to discontinue the show and look to create a new one using internal assets. And since Sony still did and still does own the film rights to Spider-Man, there was probably less emphasis placed on him as opposed to characters Marvel and Disney could control.
Because of the somewhat premature cancellation, a lot of what the show was setting up was never really paid off. The final episode is titled “Final Curtain,” indicating there was at least some attempt at finality and that the creative forces behind the show considered that this was the end, but there was still so much more. Some of that is seen in this episode as Spectacular Spider-Man did an excellent job of creating lore for the series that could be referenced and built on continually. Like the comics itself, at some point that lore may have become unmanageable and the show could have suffered as a result, but it’s a shame it wasn’t allowed to reach that point as it feels like the show had at least another 26 episodes in it.
Spectacular Spider-Man only managed to produce 26 episodes, but they were 26 quality episodes.
One thing this show did was lean heavy on holidays. There’s Halloween episodes, Valentine’s Day, and of course Christmas. This episode, “Reinforcement,” takes place on Christmas Eve. It’s a true episode for the show in that Christmas is just a framing device, this isn’t a true special where everything stops for the holiday. And it’s going to be a rather chaotic Christmas for our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
The episode begins with Spider-Man (Josh Keaton) chasing some leads on Mysterio (Xander Berkeley). Apparently he recently swiped some high-tech stuff that can’t wait until after the holidays. Spider-Man is in a bad mood as a result and he’s pretty forceful with the thugs he interrogates at a local dive. One fellow he’s looking to speak with goes by the name of Blackie Gaxton (Steve Blum), and he’s fairly tight-lipped. As Spidey confronts Gaxton, an eye-patch wearing man is cautiously eavesdropping on the conversation before trying to slip away. Spider-Man notices him, and feeling he got what he could out of Gaxton, he takes off after him. He confronts him in the alley outside and the guy introduces himself as Patch (James Arnold Taylor) on account of his eye patch. Spider-Man wants to know who Mysterio is working for, and Patch offers up a name: Master Planner.
Here’s a story…
From a control room an older looking man watches Spider-Man via several monitors. He goes by the name of Tinkerer (Thom Adcox-Hernandez) and I just bet Spider-Man will have a joke for that name should they cross paths. He communicates with a shadowy figure over a video monitor and we come to know that person as The Master Planner. Dumb name aside, he has a good idea and shows Tinkerer the images of several super villains on his screen. They’re all presently incarcerated somewhere and he wants to spring them to take out Spider-Man. Comic fans should instantly recognize them as The Sinister Six! Or Sinister Seven?
At Ryker’s Island, a patrolling guard comes to the cell of Adrian Toomes (Robert Englund) and Quentin Beck. For you non comic fans, that’s Vulture and Mysterio. He notices they have no reaction to the call for breakfast so the guard enters their cell and finds that Toomes has been replaced with a hologram and Beck is a dummy and the guard sounds the alarm. We next head to the Ravencroft Institute for the Criminally Insane where a Dr. Ashley Kafka (Elisa Gabrielli) is leading a therapy session. The attendees include Cletus Kasady who has no spoken dialogue and is the someday Carnage, but the show never got that far. The other two individuals there are known to viewers though: Doctor Otto Octavius (Peter MacNicol) and Max Dillon (Crispin Freeman), better known as Dr. Octopus and Electro. Electro is openly hostile towards Kafka and demands to be called by his super villain name while Otto is meek and receptive to treatment. Soon, an animal-like Kraven (Eric Vesbit) bursts in and takes out the orderlies. He’s there to spring Otto and Electro only Otto has no interest in leaving. He cowers in fear by Kafka who pleads with Max to stay and continue his treatment. Using his birth name on him again was a mistake, and the villain shocks her into submission as he flees with Kraven.
Peter believes pity is the way to a woman’s heart.
At Rockefeller Center, Peter Parker is enjoying a night of ice-skating with many of his friends and classmates. It’s revealed Gwen Stacy (Lacey Chabert) is upset with him about something stemming back from a prior episode while Peter seems to be openly trying to woo Liz Allen (Alanna Ubach). He seems to be doing an okay job, perhaps too okay as he decides to tone it down with the ice skating and intentionally flops onto his rear. He’s looking to get close to Liz via some skating lessons, but when she takes pity on an injured Flash Thompson (Joshua LeBar) it sinks Pete’s ship. He then tries to cozy up to Gwen, but she refuses to be his second choice. Mary Jane Watson (Vanessa Marshall) saw the whole thing and tries to give Pete some friendly advice to slow down and focus on what he wants. The message seems to go over his head as he seems to immediately turn his attention to courting MJ. He suggests they spend some time together and she declares she won’t do so without some hot cocoa, so Peter takes off to get some. Apparently MJ doesn’t mind being his third choice.
Behold! The Master Planner!
At Tinkerer’s base, the Sinister Six have been assembled. They’re given their marching orders by Master Planner. All of the villains have their gear back and are ready for action. Master Planner explains he wanted to assemble a Sinister Seven, but since Dr. Octopus refused they’ll have to settle for Sinister Six. He then gives them their target for the evening: Spider-Man.
MJ swooping in like a vulture.
Back at Rockefeller Center, Peter is off getting the requested refreshments when Electro and Vulture attack. Kraven had tracked Spider-Man’s scent to the location and Electro is tasked with drawing him out. The sudden commotion causes Peter to spill the hot cocoa all over himself and burn his tongue. With his friends running for cover, Pete is forced into action. Spider-Man swings into action unleashing his trademarked banter, only with his tongue burnt it’s mostly indecipherable. The villains point this out and Spider-Man is basically shamed into shutting up. It’s rather amusing and Spidey shuts up just before it started to become annoying.
It’s going to be one of those nights.
Spider-Man is forced to lure the villains away from the screaming public, especially after Electro uses the ice as a conduit injuring several bystanders. He targets Vulture first and takes advantage of the fact that Vulture is clearly trying to keep his earpiece from getting damaged. Spidey knows there’s some coordination going on, plus this isn’t the first appearance of The Sinister Six in this universe. He eventually webs up Vulture causing him to slam into the giant Christmas tree. When Electro tries to free him he ends up doing more damage by igniting the tree Vulture is webbed in. The tree starts to come down, and Flash gets to be a hero by shoving Liz out of harm’s way, but with his foot in a cast he’s all but stranded. Spider-Man makes the save and deposits Flash on a nearby rooftop. Flash is pretty awestruck and even requests Spider-Man sign his cast, but he’s got more important things to worry about.
Vulture is basically attacked by Christmas.
Flash inadvertently provided enough of a distraction for Electro to blast Spider-man into traffic. He bounces around on moving vehicles while Electro gives chase, eventually reaching a tire warehouse of some kind. There, Spidey is able to toss a ring of tires on Electro and his powers end up melting them down creating a rubberized prison for himself. He has no time to gloat though as a giant fist of sand smacks him in the face. It belongs to none other than Sandman (John DiMaggio) who’s partnered up with Rhino (Clancy Brown) this evening. They end up on a pier where Spider-Man is forced to get resourceful. First, he uses a fire hydrant to turn Sandman into mud then he merely outwits Rhino into going onto the ice nearby. He’s much too heavy, and Spider-Man tosses him a scuba tank claiming he’ll need it as he crashes through the ice.
A little water wasn’t enough to stop Sandman though, and he comes roaring back. Spider-Man notices he’s a lot slower than usual though and deduces that the added water is freezing in the Christmas air. The problem for Spidey though is that his web shooters have become frozen as well, forcing him into simply dodging the slow version of Sandman. He’s able to position him under a tree where he dumps a ton of snow on Sandman causing him to freeze completely.
Rhino is the classic strong but dumb adversary.
With four down, Spidey reasons that Shocker and Dr. Octopus are still out there waiting for him. Emboldened by his victories, he calls out for them. He soon spots them on a nearby rooftop, and getting his web shooters functional once more, he web-swings his way up to kick them in the face. Only that’s what he intended to do, but comes to find that they’re holograms. This version of The Sinister Six features Mysterio and Kraven instead, and they reveal themselves when Kraven blasts him off the roof. Mysterio comes riding in on a dragon (he’s a showman) and Spidey is forced to flee. He tries to use a billboard depicting his favorite press-man, J. Jonah Jameson, as cover but Kraven comes smashing through it. He gets Spidey in a bear hug and the two trade verbal barbs before Spidey is forced to web Kraven in the face. He forces them off the building they were on and lets Kraven absorb the brunt of the fall. Mysterio comes in with his crazy, mechanical, dragon and Spidey is forced to flee into a nearby department store.
The Kraven of this show is far more cat-like than I’m used to.
There, he approaches a woman giving out free perfume samples and takes the whole thing. When Kraven comes roaring in he smashes the perfume in his face to overwhelm his enhanced sense of smell. The perfume is like torture to Kraven. Mysterio comes in and forces Spidey to the ceiling. He opens his cape and a bunch of Homunculi burst forth to attack Spider-Man. They’re merely a nuisance that spouts witty dialogue and Spider-Man makes short work of them. Mysterio vanishes in some smoke and reappears on a balcony above. He approaches the department store’s Santa and Elf workers and Spider-Man swings in for the rescue, only to get tackled by Kraven before he can nail Mysterio. Spider-Man is about to flee the balcony when Mysterio shouts for Kraven to stop. Only the call to stop came from below. Spidey looks down to see Mysterio, the real Mysterio, and realizes the one on the balcony with them is a robot copy, and it’s about to self-destruct. Uttering an “Oh fudge,” Spidey quickly swings-in to save the Santa and Elf and avoid the explosion. Kraven wasn’t so fortunate.
That’s gotta get you on the good list for life.
Spider-Man is then free to pursue the last remaining villain. As he and Mysterio trade insults, Spidey finds it hard to actually land a blow. Realizing Mysterio has made himself invisible, he covers the whole area in webbing to reveal him. Spidey tries to interrogate the incapacitated Mysterio, but he’s just taunted by the villain. “The Master Planner has a Master Plan.” The police then arrive to clean everything up.
Mysterio is surprisingly ill-prepared to deal with Spider-Man’s webs.
Back at Rockefeller Center, Gwen is worried about Peter and thinks the tree may have fallen on him. MJ is there as well and they’re both worried, until Peter walks in with a couple cups of cocoa. He explains the snack stand ran out and he had to go off and find another place for cocoa. Gwen hugs him and then is a bit embarrassed by her display of affection while MJ mostly stares in disbelief. As the cops have the tree raised, they find no one under it. Vulture is missing and a deep hole is in his place. Tinkerer is viewing all of this on his monitors that see all, and Master Planner’s voice pops in to say the extractions were complete indicating most, if not all, of the villains have escaped. We then head back to Ravencroft where Otto is watching news coverage of the villainous activity in the city with great trepidation. Dr. Kafka tries to assure him that everything will be all right when his mechanical arms come crashing in. They abduct the doctor against his will and drag him out screaming.
Doc escapes against his will, or does he?
At the Parker home, Peter is watching the news as well with some disgust. Aunt May (Deborah Strang) enters the living room and requests Peter turn that off since it’s Christmas and all. Pete agrees and then fetches her present from under the tree. She unwraps it to find a framed photograph of she, Peter, and Ben Parker. Peter remarks that it’s their first Christmas without Uncle Ben putting a more concrete timeline on the events of the show. May places the photo on the mantle remarking that Ben is always with them. They embrace and we get a nice exterior shot of their snow-covered home as the episode comes to a close.
Have to end it on a happy Christmas image.
“Reinforcement” is not a typical Christmas special, but similar to our other super hero special this year from X-Men: Evolution, it’s still a satisfying experience. There’s a lot of little Christmas puns throughout the episode, mostly through Spider-Man’s banter. Most of it is actually pretty charming, and Spidey even makes a premature ejaculation joke at Mysterio’s expense which caught me off guard. There’s also plenty of public domain Christmas tunes sprinkled throughout the episode, so it has some of that Christmas charm without really being “in your face” with it. It’s not as stand-alone as “On Angel’s Wings” though, thanks to the lore built into the show. As someone who had not watched an episode of this show in some time, it was a bit challenging to remember all of the relationships, especially with Peter and his many ladies. It’s a fairly action-packed episode though and watching it made me want to revisit the series in full.
As a Christmas special though? It’s a tough recommend because of all of the prerequisite knowledge needed to fully enjoy the episode. Obviously, if you’re into Spider-Man it’s a minor hurdle. And if you’re familiar with this show then you probably will want to watch it every year. If it had leaned more into the Christmas feeling I could have possibly recommended it as a general Christmas special, but I think this one is for fan’s only.
Unlike many of the specials we look at here, Spectacular Spider-Man is pretty easy to get ahold of. It’s low episode total likely helped in getting it a full DVD release, and there are streaming options as well. You just won’t actually be able to find this one on television since Disney has a new Spider-Man show of its own to promote. And if you don’t want to watch it via legitimate means, there are illegitimate means of viewing it too, though if you like Spider-Man I do recommend just getting the whole series.
When I settled on doing a top ten for animation on television there were eight entrants I felt rather strongly about, and a ninth I was pretty content with. The tenth spot was the wildcard and a number of programs were considered, but since this is my list (and it’s not exactly an original topic) I decided I should use this spot to highlight a personal favorite of mine, so I went with X-Men. That’s a pretty flimsy lead-in but it’s not as if X-Men is undeserving of praise. I’ve wrote about the series quite a bit, even going so far as to do a mini review for each of the show’s 76 episodes during this blog’s first year of existence. At the time, I was using the show as a device to keep me posting but I was also reliving what was probably my favorite show as a kid.
X-Men launched on the Fox network in October of 1992, and at the time, was another attempt to re-ignite Marvel’s television properties. Prior to its debut, a pilot had been produced in the late 80’s called “Pryde of the X-Men” which focused on a much different cast of mutants. It was never picked up, and Marvel’s television properties were fading from memory. The same could be said for superhero cartoons in general, as only recently did Batman return to animation shortly before X-Men debuted. X-Men was the best-selling comic at the time, so it made sense for a cartoon to finally break through. Before X-Men (and Batman), cartoons based on comic book heroes tended to be pretty generic and bland. They usually took the form of the hero, or heroes, taking on the villain of the week and toppling whatever hair-brained scheme had been concocted by said villain to take-over the world or just cause general mayhem. Other shows, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, were just severely watered-down aspects of the source material intended to move action figures, which in the 80’s became frequently attached to various cartoon properties (He-Man being the best example of a cartoon existing solely to sell toys).
Wolverine and Gambit were likely to two most popular characters on the show, but that didn’t stop the writers from developing many others.
X-Men was different. This was a show that, while aimed at children, wanted to bring legitimacy to the medium. The show placed its brightly colored heroes against the backdrop of an easy to grasp civil rights movement. Enemies were no longer defined as simply bad guys but were colored with shades of gray and given real motivations for their actions. Magneto was the prime example. Had “Pryde of the X-Men” been picked up, Magneto would have just been another super villain with a motley crew of evil mutants willing to do his bidding and match up against the heroic X-Men. In the Fox show, he was a Holocaust survivor which had convinced him that humanity could not accept the differences within its own kind, and therefore, could never accept anyone outside humanity. In this case, that was mutant-kind, often referred to as homo-superior by Magneto. Mutants often took the form of normal looking people but with special gifts. We the audience took those gifts to be super powers, and in the case of the X-Men, most could be described as such. They did often come with costs that were more obvious for certain individuals. Cyclops could not open his eyes without a special visor or else risk destroying anything in his line of sight. Rogue could not even touch another person skin-to-skin without putting them in a coma. And Beast was simply covered in blue fur. This take, later admitted by creator Stan Lee as a lazy way to explain how the X-Men got their powers, freed the writers from having to come up with yet another experiment gone wrong origin story for every mutant under the sun.
This civil rights narrative is what framed the first two seasons of the show. The opening plot revolved around an organization funded by the government who would pose as friends to mutants but was really secretly creating a database of mutants from which it could target them and, though only hinted at during the show since it was for kids, cull them from society. The X-Men could not simply fight this opponent and beat them into submission, but had to convince the United States government that this was the wrong course of action. As a child, some of this went over my head. When Beast was put on trial in episode three I did not understand why the X-Men did not simply break him out of jail. Such would have likely been the course of action in many of the show’s contemporaries with the plot either being resolved at the episode’s conclusion or just dropped entirely. Instead, Beast spent the bulk of the first season in jail awaiting a formal trial before finally being pardoned after the X-Men were able to win-over at least one prominent political figure.
Magneto was easily the show’s most successful attempt at blurring the lines between hero and villain.
After the first season, it seemed like all was right with the world but the show once more took a more sophisticated approach. With mutants gaining more legal freedoms, bigoted members of society sprung up to do what they felt the government failed to do. Once more, the show mirrored society in that the X-Men couldn’t hope to ever win over everybody to their side. The show would lose touch with this narrative after season two, instead opting to take the show in a more sci-fi direction while focusing on more condensed plots, but in those two seasons X-Men did a lot to legitimize the superhero genre outside of the comic book world. It’s the strength of those two first seasons, merely 26 episodes, that vaults the X-Men into this position, but the show also got a lot else right.
For starters, the voice cast (comprised of Canadian voice actors mostly unknown to American audiences) did an excellent job with the often weighty material. The show could, at times, be joyless and very melodramatic and the scripts would often contain superhero jargon that probably read poorly, but the actors were able to step up and deliver. Some characters, like the perennially wooden Storm, were always lacking but others shined very bright. For me, I will always hear Cal Dodd’s voice in my head whenever I read a line from Wolverine. His raspy, quiet, delivery perfectly suited the sometimes explosive Wolverine. When the show needed him to get loud and angry, Dodd was able to come through time and time again. David Hemblen’s Magneto was another highlight. This show is one of the few that actually depict the Austrian Magneto with an accent, something even the films chose to ignore. George Buza’s Beast was so good that it obviously formed the template for the Kelsey Grammer version of the character that appeared in X-Men 3. The soundtrack was also a standout, mixing orchestral instruments with electronic aspects that suited the show’s somewhat futuristic-like setting. The theme song should be considered a cartoon classic at this point.
The show never added to its core cast of X-Men, but that didn’t stop other fan-favorites from appearing in the show, like Nightcrawler.
Visually, the show adopted the look of Jim Lee’s X-Men quite well with some minor alterations. Most of what makes up the Jim Lee style was still retained though, with the men having bulging physiques and the woman looking like super models. Even the extras in society tend to look idealized. It’s a legitimate criticism of Lee’s work but I’m sure the animators were happy that the vast majority of characters were basically the same shape. There is enough detail in the work that the show looks quite nice in still-shots. The animation, especially in the first season when the budget presumably was at its smallest, could be stiff at times. The animators were obviously under some constraints as well as to what kind of violence could be depicted. After the first season though, the animation improved noticeably. X-Men was not the best looking of its kind, but it certainly was not among the worst. I enjoyed it far more than I would Spider-Man, which came in 1994 and featured some primitive, and mostly ugly, computer-enhanced imagery as well as a softer color palette.
X-Men was able to leave a mark on the world of cartoons. It’s solid production values combined with its mature approach to story-telling is what makes it standout amongst other Saturday morning fare. X-Men is still the gold standard for the super hero ensemble show, and still stands as the best thing Marvel has ever done on television. X-Men took risks in a world where risk-taking is often frowned upon. Most people think kids want a mindless program where the hero always wins and everything is wrapped up in 22 minutes. Children are capable of so much more and the success of X-Men is proof of that.
If you want to read more about the X-Men animated series, there’s plenty to be found on this blog. In addition to numerous posts that summarize and review every episode, I also made an entry on what I considered to be the best episodes the show ever produced.
Probably 90% of the posts here could be separated into two broad categories: video games and animation. Thus it would come as no surprise to anyone who has spent even a small sum of time browsing this blog that I love animation, especially the classic hand-drawn kind. I’ve never given much thought as to why I enjoy animation so much. I would guess it’s because animation can do anything, even things live-action cannot. It can imitate real life or do the exact opposite. It’s often a haven for comedy and a natural destination for characters who began life as a comic book.
Animation has spent considerable time on the big screen and on television. As film, animation often takes the form of a general audience picture running around ninety minutes. It of course began life as a short subject often pre-empting a more traditional picture, then Walt Disney came along and decided animation could go feature-length. On television, animation often occupies children’s programming, but select shows have broken through as animated sitcoms and adults-only comedy acts. Trying to narrow down the best animated films and television shows is quite a tall task, which is why this feature is going to concern itself with television for now. This I envision will be a long-running feature. I’ve settled on what I consider to be the ten best animated programs, but there’s always the possibility I could continue to add to it even after I do a write-up on my ten favorites. It’s also possible I never finish. The possibilities are endless!
Before getting to my top 10, I wanted to make an introductory post on the feature and use it as an opportunity to highlight the shows that just missed the cut. My list does not exclude the animation aimed at children and my top ten is almost half kid’s shows and half adult programs. I tried to approach all of them with the same basic questions: Is the show entertaining? Is the medium used well? Is the artwork pleasing to the eye while suiting the show’s needs? Naturally, the list will be influenced by the era I grew up in, the 80’s and 90’s, so the shows that came before that time are unfairly penalized (though in my opinion, most of the cartoons from that era are garbage). I also didn’t include the package shows like Looney Tunes. I loved those cartoons growing up, but they’re theatrical shorts
With that out of the way, it’s time to hit on the ones that just missed my list. One of the first cartoons I can remember watching daily as a kid is DuckTales. DuckTales was extremely pleasing to the eyes, like just about all of the Disney cartoons from that era, and featured a fun, engaging plot with likable characters and a catchy soundtrack. It holds up pretty well today, but is obviously aimed at children. The show could get redundant as well as the premise for most episodes was Scrooge having to thwart the Beagle Boys, but as far as children’s entertainment goes, it’s hard to beat DuckTales.
Spider-Man has made numerous appearances on television, but the oddest looking is probably the best.
DuckTales was an adventure program, and another adventure program that’s still fun to this day is Dragon Ball. Hailing from Japan, Dragon Ball tells the tale of Goku who travels the world in search of the seven magic dragon balls. The plot gets more complicated than that as the show moves along, but it’s packed with equal parts action and humor. Since it arrived in the states after its sequel series, Dragon Ball Z, anime dubbing was able to improve and english speaking audiences were treated to a wonderful dub, something that was rare during the 90’s. Dragon Ball Z is the more popular show, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the quality of Dragon Ball.
Superheroes have seen a great many takes on their comics in the world of televised animation. One such character has received numerous adaptations: Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man. Two adaptations stand-out for the wall crawler, the simply titled Spider-Man from the 1990’s and the more recent Spectacular Spider-Man. The 90’s Spider-Man was a great introduction for kids unfamiliar with the character. It hit on lots of Spidey’s most famous stories from the comics, and even though it was for children, it took itself very seriously. Sometimes too seriously. Spectacular Spider-Man distinguished itself with a unique look. It’s style was a bit off-putting at first, but the animation was crisp and the show packed a ton of energy. Sadly, it was a casualty of the Marvel purchase by Disney and an inferior Spider-Man program took its place.
Superhero shows were quite popular in the 90’s, but one stood out amongst the crowd for its satirical take on the genre. I am, of course, talking about The Tick. The Tick closed out the mega-popular Fox Saturday Morning block of programming and was a particularly zany take on the superhero genre. It was probably too weird and too out there for a lot of kids, but it’s definitely a show that works better on older audiences. So obvious was this fact that Fox attempted a live-action sitcom starring the dim-witted blue hero starring Patrick Warburton. It was not a success.
The Tick was a breath of fresh air coming on the heels of numerous melodramatic superhero cartoons.
In the world of adult cartoons, Family Guy is pretty popular these days. It was roughly animated when it first showed up, but the increased ratings lead to better production and the show looks much better these days. Unfortunately, like another very famous adult cartoon that I’ll get to much later, its current output is far less creative than the first couple of seasons. Family Guy really only had 2 and a half seasons of good content before the formula became too obvious and the characters unlikable. An even more vulgar program for older audiences, Beavis and Butt-head dominated a small chunk of the 90’s. It was impossible to find a teen that didn’t know who those two were. The show was a lot sharper than most gave it credit for, though the animation was as crude as it comes. It would make a Hell of a nice time capsule kind of show.
When it comes to cartoons not aimed primarily at children though, all present cartoons owe a great deal to The Flintstones. The Flintstones were basically a stone-aged take on The Honeymooners and the first primetime cartoon. It’s premise is clever, and the setting is a good example of one that works far better in animation that it ever could have as live-action (just watch The Flintstones movie if you’re not convinced of that). It’s also a show hurt by the age of your humble writer. I grew up watching The Flintstones in syndication when it aired as just another cartoon among many others. I enjoy it for what it is, but it doesn’t engage me enough to make my top ten. It very nearly did though just on its laurels, but I wanted to go with the programs that I personally enjoy the most, because after all, it is my list.
All of those shows I just mentioned were good at one point or another, though truthfully, other than The Flintstones, it wasn’t hard for me to leave any of them off my list. The ten I have picked as the best really are ten shows I enjoy quite a lot and I look forward to doing write-ups on them as I find time. And now, a few others I considered for this post: Rugrats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012, 2003), Rocko’s Modern Life, Sealab 2021, Batman Beyond, and Bob’s Burgers.