June 6, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Epic Spider-Man Rewatch: Spider-Man (1967) S2 E1

Season Two, Episode One: "The Origin of Spiderman" (Yes, without the hyphen. Sigh.)

This episode begins season two of the 1967 (now 1968 I guess) Spider-Man cartoon.  And with this new season comes a major shift in tone and style.  Gone are the bright colors, bubbly villains and silly storylines.  In their place are dark and psychedelic colors, villains who will make you wonder what they are doing in a Spider-Man cartoon and well, still silly storylines, but in a different way.  Instead of being fun, the stories will make you wonder how much drugs the creators were taking back then?

Krantz Animation takes over under the eye of Ralph Bakshi. And while in many ways we’ll get more of the same (since it will still reuse footage from season one), there will be many times when you’ll think you are watching a different show that just has Spider-Man dropped into the middle of it.  Which is literally what happens sometimes…but we’ll get to that.

One thing that neither animation studio can seem to get right is the inclusion of the hyphen.  Several show titles in season two will have “Spider-Man” in them, misspelled as “Spiderman” including this origin story.

In some ways it is a little surprising that it takes until season two to get our first non-comic version of the now very familiar Spider-Man origin.  One of the reasons for this may likely be that everything Spider-Man hinges on the death of Uncle Ben.  And death just wasn’t a thing in season one.

From the opening we have a sense that things are different now.  From the title we are prepared for this to be a flashback, but it doesn’t prepare us for the changes in colors and even character designs.  The show going forward will also make use of a narrator which was never done in season one.

Since it is a flashback, it’s no surprise that Peter is still in school.  I don’t think season one makes any mention of him still being in school, but Jameson let’s us know in almost every episode that Parker is still a teenager.  And while it is not explicitly said here (or in future episodes from what I’ve seen so far), Peter is not in high school but in college.

But Peter is Peter and when his “friends” Moose and Sal approach him to join them as they have a trio of girls they want to take out for coffee, Peter turns them down to attend a science experiment on radiation.  Note that there is no sign of usual Peter Parker schoolmates like Flash Thompson, Liz Allen or even Harry Osborn or Gwen Stacy.

At the radiation demonstration and before the inevitable happens, we see another stylistic change.  We are privy to Peter’s thoughts.  Which is nothing unusual, but in season one this was generally done with Peter or Spider-Man talking to himself.  But now we are treated to another voice-over.

After Peter receives the bite from the radioactive spider that will change his life forever, Peter is seen driving around town contemplating why he feels so different.  He does this driving on a motorbike, which is another Peter Parker staple from the comics, but not until much later after he gains his powers.  This also adds to the fact that Peter is in college and in his late teens as opposed to the high school version in the comics.

“The Origin of Spiderman” is of course mostly based on Spider-Man’s first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15.  But this version has more in common with a re-telling of the origin, still written by Stan Lee, that appeared in Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1 in 1968.  The show borrows dialogue directly from the book, and also adapts a confrontation between Peter and some street punks shortly after he receives his powers.  That scene was new to the Spectacular version of the story.  Then, after almost getting hit by a car and jumping out of the way and discovering he can climb walls (which is in all versions of the story), Peter begins testing his powers and eventually heads home.  The Spectacular version and the show completely ignore Peter’s debut as a wrestler to make some money.

The rest is exactly what you’d expect and common across all three versions.  Peter spends some time at home creating his costume and his webbing and web shooters.  We also get our only appearance of good old Uncle Ben.  Aunt May makes a somewhat rare appearance, but looks very different with the redesign.  Peter then goes on to become something of a celebrity, doesn’t stop a crook who is getting away, which of course eventually comes back to haunt him as he murders Peter’s Uncle Ben.  Spider-Man then tracks the killer down to an abandoned warehouse and makes the discovery that will haunt him forever and set him on the hero’s path.  Spider-Man will also let us all know that “with great power there must also always be great responsibility”.

And that covers the story of the show, but I wanted to touch a bit more on the changes from season one.  One of the big changes we’ll see is that the majority of the shows going forward (and all of season two) are full length episodes, with only the occasional episode split into two stories.  Which flips the format completely from season one.  It also means that in many episode we get a lot (and sometimes A LOT) of shots of Spider-Man just swinging around the city to fill up time.  Several episodes also feature the playing of the Spider-Man theme again, usually in its entirety as Spider-Man swings around.

I mentioned the redesign on Aunt May, and we’ll see in future episodes that Jonah and Betty look very different as well.  Peter looks mostly the same, but less cartoony and more in the new art style.  Spider-Man is essentially identical with one major change.  There was an issue with Spider-Man’s costume in season one in that the spider on his chest and back only had six legs.  And everyone knows that spiders have eight legs.  This is remedied in season two, sort of.  The problem is that any new art features the corrected spiders, but any reused animation (of which there is a lot) still has the six arm version, so Spider-Man’s suit is constantly changing from shot to shot in many cases.  (It’s possible some of the old animation was updated as there are familiar looking shots that have the updated spider, but not many.)  The first shot of Spider-Man leaving his house in this story features the colors on his costumed reversed, but that is simply a mistake.  This is also an issue with Aunt May’s house as any new animation has it colored red and reused season one animation has it colored blue.  The house is a completely different style as well.  This seems like less of a mistake and more of a redesign, but it seems silly then to intermix the animation.

Two final differences are with the title card and the end credits.  Instead of the title being displayed against the blue cityscape background on top of a spider web, we get the title with a dark and gloomy background showing a boat dock.  Because nothing screams Spider-Man like night time at the docks.  There is also no webbing.  The end credits are also different, playing over that same boat dock background.  But at least they’ve added some webbing.

This episode wasn’t so bad.  It’s hard to mess up a story taken from the source material by Stan The Man himself.  Unfortunately, things go very quickly downhill from here.

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