Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends – The First Season

OK, last time I looked at Spidey, Iceman and Firestar it was to review their origin stories from the short season two, so skipping back to the beginning now.

Triumph of the Green Goblin (by Dennis Marks)

 

Speaking of origin stories Norman Osborn has been released from the sanitarium and is no longer the Green Goblin… yeah, right! A quick recap recaps how he became it in the first place after Spidey gets a suspicion and ducks out of a comics costume party, which gives us some terrific Easter eggs of other party goers dressed like Thor, Daredevil and the Hulk, plus Iceman as Captain America (who we’ll find out later is his favourite hero), Firestar as Spider-Woman, among others.

 

Iceman must have brain-freeze as he allows the Goblin to kidnap his niece Mona in plain sight to help in a plot to turn the people of New York into green goblins like him. Not the strongest episode, it looks great but the plot is a little too simplistic without being embarrassing. Iceman and Firestar are basically guest stars in their own show.

 

Trivia: Pet dog Ms. Lion (emphasis on the Ms. part) is played by none other than Frank Welker!

 

The Crime of All Centuries (by Donald F. Glut)

 

(Of note, these episodes are out of order on Disney+, at least in the UK. I’m reviewing by airdate order.)

 

Kraven the Hunter is hunting dinosaurs in the Savage Land and needs Firestar to help him with his plot to hatch newborn dinos in New York. Firestar is initially seduced by his charms but quickly realises what a creep he is. Preceding Transformers by about three years, Kraven drives a truck with a trailer that looks just like Optimus Prime. First Stan Lee cameo as a pet shop owner and a deiced Iceman is Bobby Drake in blue pants in a funny image. The episodes visually look great, but the stories haven’t caught up to that quality yet.

 

The Fantastic Mr. Frump! (by Christy Marx)

 

Loser-in-life Mr. Frump inadvertently gains strange magical powers meant for Doctor Doom. And when I say strange, I mean strange! Telling someone to “Bug off!” turns them into a giant bug! This was a really interesting episode of when an average guy gains powers and doesn’t know what to do with them, against a backdrop of the Amazing Friends fighting Doom. Frump, played by Alan Young between being 7-Zark-7 and Scrooge McDuck is as likeable as he is misguided, so the conflict here is whether he will fall under Doom’s evil influence or hear sense from the likes of Aunt May. Best episode of the season so far!

 

Sunfire (by Christy Marx)

 

An evil Japanese inventor uses his mutant nephew, Sunfire, to unwittingly ensnare Firestar to help with his wicked plan. Spidey and Iceman are frustrated when she readily falls for him. A bit of a dip for me because there are a few too many stereotypical Japanese elements for my liking, as well as some of them are done. The uncle is played by Keye Luke, who had a fantastic career in both on screen and voice acting, although I’ll remember him best as the mysterious Mr. Wing in Gremlins. Therefore, I was a bit disappointed that the script didn’t serve him as well as it could.

 

Swarm (by Dennis Marks)

 

Quite different to the concept of a Nazi scientist being consumed down to the bone by bees who then form around his skeleton and absorb his essence, instead a meteor’s radioactive powers allow a swarm to merge as one into a being that is named and can only at first cry “Swarm!”. Swarm is actually quite sinister, with evil eyes and the ability to turn humans into insect-like beings with his alien powers. Dennis Marks’ script is on point for this mini alien invasion/giant bug episode, especially when it comes to the dialogue between our main characters.

 

7 Little Superheroes (by Doug Booth)

 

This was mentioned as a favourite in my previous Spidey-Friends review, and it’s hard to disagree with that. The Chameleon invites Namor, Shanna the She-Devil, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Spidey, Iceman and Firestar to Wolf Island and picks them off one-by-one using his powers to take their appearance. The plot and the writing is really strong as Booth moves the characters like chess pieces around the board. Some humour, intentional and unintentional, is in place with Namor as a pompous prick who is disarmed in an amusing scheme where he jumps into a pool to his dismay and exclaims “That’s not water! It’s… ALCOHOL!”. Hans Conried, in trying to play the Chameleon as faithfully Russian, ends up just to the left of Dracula, too!

 

Video-Man (by Christy Marx)

 

We looked at Video-Man in the origin episode for Iceman, and he had quite the inconsistent history as we’ll find in season three. This time he’s the creation of Electro, generated from an arcade game. The Amazing Friends battle him while Flash Thompson, who has discovered Firestar’s secret identity, plays for his own life in a Pong-like game inside Electro’s computer. Not the best episode, but the heroes and Flash being transposed into players in now primitive video games and Allan Melvin playing the maniacal Electro is interesting.

 

The Prison Plot (by Francis Feighan and Jack Hanrahan)

 

Magneto infiltrates a convention for prison wardens and jailers and holds everyone hostage until they release his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Luckily, the Spider-Friends are there in their civilian identities working as gophers. Not a great episode if you’re precious about Magneto, who’s played by Michael Rye with the same voice he would use for Duke Igthorn in Gummi Bears. I like Igthorn and I like Gummi Bears, but mutant terrorist Magneto he does not make. Even a subtle bit of homophobia in the episode, which is bizarre.

 

Spidey Goes Hollywood (by Christy Marx)

 

Two decades before the first Spider-Man movie was made, a fictional one is being made, although it’s the epitome of a troubled production thanks to foul play by Mysterio. Mysterio is also using a green and purple facsimile of a hero from another show too. To complicate it further, this actual hero turns up as well.

 

Rare bit of production inconsistency with troubled movie director Sam Blockbuster being called Stan Blockbuster on posters in the show. They obviously changed the name during recording and nobody must’ve updated the storyboard department.

 

This episode is good for a variety of movie business references and a wide cast of characters, with Bruce Banner/the Hulk making an appearance prior to having his own animated series, here played by Peter Cullen, who gets the mix of the troubled Banner and the roaring Hulk right, although his Mysterio is a little moustache-twirling. Great assortment of gimmicks including holograms and robots, though.

 

The Vengeance of Loki (by Donald F. Glut)

 

Loki causes trouble on the seas to draw out his brother and enemy Thor. This gives us some brilliant scenes showing off the world of Asgard and different Asgardians. Loki is played as older and more Shakespearean than we’re used to currently with Tom Hiddleston, but still uses his magic for trickery and deception. The use of ice giants and fire giants connects well to Iceman and Firestar too, with ice queen Zerona, who cries frozen tears the size of footballs, being particularly interesting. Loki heading to New York to take the realm of humans over isn’t half as good as Iceman becoming an unwitting fiance and king. There’s a good argument to be had for some episodes to have featured just one of our trio here and there.

 

Knights and Demons (by Donald F. Glut)

 

Much like the last episode, this episode benefits for a different look and change of scenery, with the Black Knight and the Amazing Friends teaming up to face the evil magic of Modred the Mystic after an initial superhero misunderstanding, with the Knight being a hero out of time, especially when it comes to his views about Firestar. Great visuals in this episode with the artifacts, demons and even the skull-like planet Modred is trapped on, as well as a green castle that bears some similarity to Castle Grayskull. It’s almost like a test run for Dungeons & Dragons.

 

Pawns of the Kingpin (by Donald F. Glut)

 

The Kingpin plans to get Captain America and Iceman to procure an experimental blaster. Although not as suave as Roscoe Lee Browne’s depiction in the nineties, the Kingpin here is sufficiently menacing, with his creepy assistant Dr. Faustus. Even more creepy is when characters are under mind control, leaving them with white, pupil-less eyes. Iceman following Cap unquestioningly even when he is a pawn of the Kingpin is quite charming. The weight gags against Kingpin (“Lardhead!”) stand out a bit more in this sensitive age, though.

 

The Quest of the Red Skull (by Dennis Marks)

 

An omission from Disney+ is this episode, with guest stars Professor Hiawatha Smith (yes, Indiana Jones was already out, why do you ask?) and the Red Skull. With the Red Skull comes certain iconography, so within 30 seconds a Nazi burglar proclaims “Heil Hitler!” at a Native American symbol that looks like a swastika. Further references to Hitler (who appears in historical footage in the episode of World War 2) and the Nazis have provided enough evidence for it to be the one episode left off the new streaming platform. I personally feel it’s a shame as there is a chance to learn from history, not be uber-sensitive about it.

 

Smith, an interesting character, who unlike Indiana Jones can stare down a python, holds the key to Nazi treasures that the Red Skull wants. Michael Ansara plays him, apt given he was Cochise in Broken Arrow. He would go on to voice acting immortality as Mr. Freeze in Batman: The Animated Series. Peter Cullen provides the voice of the Red Skull.

 

A shame this episode is only available on Region 2 DVD as it’s one of the best episodes of the season and again proves that Marvel were playing poker while DC were playing snap when it came to the quality and complexity of their animated adaptations.

 

Tomorrow: Original plan was to look at the third and final season of Amazing Friends, but that’s going to be bumped to another day to have a look at the animated versions of some Sunday funnies.