Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends

The Three Amigos
I know, I know...folks would rather here about D&Dish stuff over here at Ye Old Blackrazor Blog, but I've really got nothing at the moment. Truly, the well's a bit dry at the moment. For one thing, Paraguay just doesn't inspire anything in a "fantasy-exploration-adventure" kind of way. For another, Alexis's book (my reading of it, analysis, and review) just took a lot out of me. I just need a couple weeks to recuperate before I approach anything like a D&D-style campaign. Sorry.

Rather than leave you folks on empty (and rather than fall out of practice with the blogging thang), I'm going to talk some superheroes. I know the genre turns off some people, but it's better than nothing, right? You certainly don't want me blathering on about the Seahawks and the NFL (next projected post on that subject will be at the end of the regular season).

SO...Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. That's where I'll be starting: the Saturday morning cartoon from the early 80's (specifically 1981 to 1983, per wikipedia). This would have been back when I was in the 8-10 age range, so probably the perfect demographic. I purchased comic books back then...usually in the summer months from the Missoula, Montana Circle K located down the street from my grandma's house...but I certainly had no sophistication regarding comic titles, nor was I regular collector, nor did I have any sense of the history of the Marvel series being published in the 80's (most of which had a couple decades of history/backstory to them). Plus, I preferred Ghost Rider or Rom to anything as pedestrian as the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man.

I was, however, pretty fanatically loyal to this particular cartoon.

I enjoyed Saturday morning cartoons, immensely. When I was a kid my family never had cable TV, which means we were limited to 5 to 7 channels the first couple decades of my life. Cartoons we're played on three of those channels (ABC, NBC, and CBS) for a couple hours, starting around 7am or so and ending around 10 or 11. During that window, I surfed between the three channels, focusing on a variety of action/adventure flicks: Thundarr the Barbarian, Blackstar, Jonny Quest, Godzilla as well as the usual superhero flicks. Things that had a mystical/mythology twist or a lot of ass-kicking was what I wanted to see. When cartoons started having "messages" or "morals" thrown in at the end...well, that's when I stopped bothering to get up early. Shows like Transformers and G.I. Joe sounded the death knell for my love affair with cartoons, probably circa '84 or '85 (though I was pretty diligent about watching the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon for the length of its run on TV).

But before that happened, there was Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. Spidey replaced the Superfriends for my superhero watching (though the Justice League received a small *bump* when they brought in Darkseid & Co. circa '84). The villains were ones I recognized, the threats seemed more interesting, the art and writing was better. Plus, the acrobatic Spider-Man is a character that was made for animation. The titular "friends" (Iceman and Firestar) are pretty cool as well.

Recently I've had a chance to re-watch these shows (ahh...the magic of the internet) with my son...something I haven't done since they went off the air in '83 (I don't know if they were later syndicated, but if so I missed 'em). And compared to the 1960s Spider-Man (also viewed on the internet) or the Superfriends (even the great Legion of Doom episodes)...really there's no comparison. It's a great, great show: the animation, the writing, the humor and action. For me, it really captures the youth and energy of the late Silver Age...there are no dark antiheroes or grey areas. It's fun, but it's interesting, and the comic relief from the small pet is a nice balance to some real instances of scary ("scary-ish?") jeopardy/peril in which the heroes find themselves. The series leads off with three badass villains (Green Goblin, Kraven the Hunter, and Doctor Doom) and has some great ones like the Red Skull (with literal Nazi themes...that ain't something you see too often in a kid's cartoon!).

[just by the way...the depiction of Dr. Doom in this show is probably my favorite non-comic book depiction of the good doctor in any medium. The 70s Fantastic Four version..."I need Black Beard's treasure to take over the world" is sooooo weak-sauce compared to this minor happenstance. And don't get me started on the live-action version...]

Not that I'm bringing this up to stroll down Nostalgia Lane (though feel free to enter your own personal comments, as always). Fact is, I'm tinkering on the hero game (once again) and there are various aspects of the show I want to discuss...things that relate to, oh say, what I want to do in superhero-based RPG.

But let me save that stuff for individual posts.

[sorry, I wrote this yesterday, but didn't have a chance to get it posted. Will try to get another one done today]


  1. I loved this show back in the day. Something must be in the air; this is the 3rd time in a week that someone has mentioned this show around me or in my social circles.

    We one played a "next gen" Supers game where the characters were the offspring of other supers. One guy played the son of Iceman and Firestar.

    1. @ Tim:

      Ahhh...the offspring trope. We used a lot of that back in the day...from D&D to ElfQuest to Marvel. Lots of mileage there.
      : )

  2. Incredible. I just watched "Spidey Goes Hollywood" with The Hulk just yesterday!

    1. @ Tim (Snider):

      As did my son and I! Small world!

      Mysterio is one of the villain's that actually scares my son...even the version in in the 1960s Spider-Man.

  3. What an odd coincidence; I just watched a couple of episodes of this the other day! I last watched it back in 1986 or so and while I remembered liking it I had forgotten some elements, like how much of a dork Iceman is, and their weird living arrangements -- they seem to be at university but they've brought Aunt May along to cook and clean for them!

    1. @ Kelvin:

      I just wonder what he does for a job, seeing as how he's always broke, never seen working, and yet has a monthly rent bill to pay. Does he get an allowance from his parents?

  4. Great cartoon. I loved it as a kid, especially the recurring villain who was a video game come to life.

    Also the first cartoon appearance of the X-Men, at least that I knew of. The one with Juggernaut was pretty awesome.

    1. @ Tom:

      Haven't yet rewatched the X-Men episode. Just had a conversation with the boy about "mutants" in the comic book 'verse.