Back one more time to the Spider-Friends. We’ve looked at the individual origin episodes, we’ve looked at the first season, now we’re going to finish up with the final season, from 1983.
Spider-Man Unmasked! (by Michael Reaves)
The Sandman has escaped from prison and gets to see Spidey remove his costume after averting a shark attack at the beach. His initial introduction is shockingly poor, with animation on par with The Marvel Super Heroes. Chris Latta provides his voice, recognisable as the likes of Sparkplug and Wheeljack, but sounding nothing like Starscream or Cobra Commander. To protect Aunt May, Peter has to agree to give up his superhero identity until Firestar comes up with a plan to deceive Sandman.
I felt like this episode didn’t take its time or draw out the intrigue so well, it could’ve done with spanning two parts. I was also reminded, with the quick introduction of Sandman in this episode, just how quickly the writers worked their way through all the villains. All of the ones featured in the series were only used once, except for one that we’ll get to, and he was done differently each time he appeared.
Flash Thompson gets used in this episode as an unwitting stooge. Frank Welker played him far too dumb, Patrick Labyorteaux and Joshua LeBar did better with him as the arrogant jock. And at the beach, kicking some sand in the face of Parker, he’s accompanied by some “friends” who look significantly older than him and incredibly suspect, with full moustaches and beards!
The Bride of Dracula! (by Jack Mendelsohn)
At the ESU Spring Dance, Angelica is seduced by a mysterious man, leading them to Transylvania. Great, creepy score for the episode. Stan Jones does a decent, cartoony voice for Dracula, about what you’d expect. Dracula himself has the Wolfman (or Wolf-Thing) as his driver/pilot and Frankenstein’s monster as his manservant. Fair play to them avoiding giving the latter green skin as per the movie version.
Jack Mendelsohn really didn’t have a grasp on writing Iceman and Spider-Man’s relationship, with them going from normal gentle joshing to sniping at one another. That’s actually a big problem with the episode, it’s as if he brought a plot to the table and forced the characters into it, rather than building the plot around the characters.
The Education of a Superhero (by Dennis Marks)
We’ve met Videoman before, once as a creation of Electro and another time as a creation from an arcade game, both times as an enemy. This time, geek Francis Byte (see what they did there?) avoids the mind control of the Gamesman and is transformed into Videoman, a new identity he can switch back and forth between. It’s not an especially inspiring episode, but Patrick Fraley plays the Gamesman well and Videoman retains his geeky voice from Francis Byte (performed, I believe, by Michael Horton) even as a superhero. Quick X-Men cameo at the end of the episode too!
Attack of the Arachnoid (by Michael Reaves)
Mad scientist Zoltan Amadeus attempts to replicate the conditions that gave Peter Parker his powers as Spider-Man. At first he impersonates Spidey and frames him for crimes, but then he starts to transform into something very different. There’s a bit of this and a bit of that about this episode, with the framed Spidey needing the legal help of Matt Murdock and a subplot with the Scorpion, who doesn’t even have a telson on the end of his tail and has more of a rattlesnake tail. Zoltan gets a cool transformation into his next stage, but his voice becomes incredibly weird with too much reverb on it.
The Origin of the Spider-Friends (by Donald Glut)
Narrator Stan Lee tells us that WE asked for this story! How do the Spider-Friends afford their equipment? How did they come together? Marvel will tell us!
J. Jonah Jameson isn’t buying pictures of Spider-Man any more – Iceman and Firestar are the hot new thing! So, when the Beetle attacks, all three are brought together for a photo opportunity. There’s a feeling out period in their civilian identities, where Bobby and Angelica are both freezing and burning up Peter in one go, not knowing he’s Spidey, which makes you wonder how many people they do that to. William Marshall returns to play Tony Stark, the target for the Beetle, and his voice is no better a match for him than it was for Juggernaut. Funny moment at the end where Beetle gets his suit destroyed and is carted off by the filth in a t-shirt and his pants.
Spidey Meets the Girl From Tomorrow (by Dennis Marks)
Episode starts with a bizarre zodiac fancy dress party! This functions as a loose segue to an alien boy and girl landing on Earth in their futuristic spaceship, which Doctor Octopus wants also. Spidey gets to fall in love with the girl, Ariel, while Firestar, Iceman and the boy, Bartow, search for fuel, but catching a cold and the consequences of it for the aliens means that they can’t be together if she wants to live.
Nice to hear Cathy Cavadini and Bob Bergen in early roles as the alien siblings, but I never liked Michael Bell’s voice for Doc Ock, and the character design isn’t much better either. There’s a real sense of this possibly being the last episode, so it’s quite enjoyable, probably the best episode of the season.
The X-Men Adventure (by Michael Reaves)
While back training at the X-Mansion (or X-Manor, as it’s called here), Firestar meets someone she once knew, Cyberiad, a half-human, half-machine man who resembles Tharok from the Fatal Five. He takes over the building and seeks to destroy the X-Men as part of his revenge.
Voices are quite mixed in this episode. Neil Ross is great as Cyberiad and a far better Cyclops. Sprite (Shadowcat) sounds good too, if a little deep. But Professor Xavier sounds far too stodgy, Nightcrawler is irritating, and Colossus and Thunderbird are accent first, character second. It’s an alright episode, and the ending is somewhat shocking, but they didn’t get the X-Men really right for another ten years, although I might have a look at another attempt to.
Mission: Save the Guardstar (by Dennis Marks)
And we end the series with this episode. Lightwave, someone Iceman already knows, steals a piece of equipment and Iceman is conflicted as to whether to stop her. SHIELD agent Buzz Mason is after her, though. Although being manipulated, Lightwave passes easily for a villain. She hasn’t been used much beyond this show, but comes fully formed with cool powers and a nice costume and interesting background. The episode is so-so, as is the case for most episodes in this season.
Conclusion: The third season of this show isn’t as good as the first or second, and the absence of Christy Marx is noticeable, but it’s still a respectable show and far ahead of what DC was producing at the time.