Frame By Frame Review Spider-Man TAS The Spider Slayer
These reviews will look at a single episode of a show, usually an incredibly silly one, and go through it bit by bit looking at each stupid moment in turn. This time we’re looking at the 1994 Spider-Man cartoon done by John Semper and made by Fox Kids.
Some background for the show: Along with Semper, Avi Arad, a toy maker, was in charge, he also was involved in making the other 90s Marvel cartoons and is one of the producers for all the Sony Spider-Man movies. Arad obviously had a hand in the designs in this show as we’ll see a lot of them look like toys. Like the Superman cartoon this show had a lot of bad censorship, the stupidest of which was probably changing the name of the villain team Sinister Six into Insidious Six because sinister is a bad word of kids. I don’t think there was anything as stupid as saying robots have souls, although if that happened here Spidey would have to use children’s card games to solve his problems.
Let’s get into this shall we.
Warning this post is long and image heavy.
The intro is… well it’s not really much of anything. It’s a bunch of stock footage from the show with lots of quick cuts interspersed occasionally with original footage of the villains. Those are really bad and most are off model so it looks like they had an animated intro but it looked so terrible the only way to salvage it was to replace 90% of it with stock shots (insert your own joke out the animation quality from season 2 onwards here). The theme is done by Aerosmith’s lead guitarist Joe Perry, no really, and I will share it all with you now. *guitar-riff* “Spider-Man” *repeat* *guitar-riff* “Spider-Blood” *repeat* “Radioactive Spider-Blood” *repeat* *guitar-riff* and that’s the entire theme. So just imagine that for a minute long intro.
Anyway time to get on with the season 1 episode:
The episode opens with Spider-Man swinging through the city and landing on the side of a building. Just as he started to relax his Spider Sense goes off as he’s attacked by “flying toys” as he puts it. Each of them has a camera and I think they’re one of the few things that weren’t made into a toy in this show.
Coming never to a toy shop near you.
He dodges out of the way as the scales the building. When he gets to the roof he jumps out the way of one and it explodes as it crashes. “Flying smart bombs” indeed. He takes a photo of one as it flies past him and webs the back of it, tying it down. What’s funny about this is not the bad one liners Spidey is spouting but that his camera clearly has its lens cap still on.
How does he earn money if he can’t take pictures properly?
This isn’t a plot point or an intentional funny moment, it’s just the design of his camera is bad. We see it in other episodes looking exactly the same and he’s somehow taking pictures with that thing covering the lens. Anyway the one he tied down starts spinning around and some more come after him. The roof blows up as he manages to get off it in time and two more “toys” follow him. He does the ol’ ‘get them to fly into each other’ trick (why do robots keep falling for that?) and he lands in an ally. With one left he doges out the way as it slams into the ground. He wonders who’s on his tail this time and we cut to see just that:
The Green Goblin and the Spider Slayers, either one of the weirdest villain crossovers or the worst band name ever.
We see Norman Osborn, Spencer Smythe and his son Alistair are behind it all. Why? Well the “toys” were “Spider Seekers” meant to track Spider-Man. Osborn says they’ve failed to destroy him, but Spencer retorts that they were only meant to find Spidey. So why were they trying to fly into him? Also why did they explode so much? If they’re only meant to track him why start trying to kill him when they could’ve easily followed him back home? Enough with this thing called logic because Spencer unveils the new toy to buy… I mean his Spider Slayer, the Black Widow! (And I wish I was talking about Scarlett Johansson)
I had one of those as a kid
Hmmm this seems familiar. Shady businessman after trying to kill the hero at the beginning with robots unveils a bigger and stupid looking, robot to stop him. If this episode has out of nowhere lava or Spidey flying into space to rescue MJ I’m out.
We then cut to the next day at the Daily Bugle where we’re introduced to Felicia Hardy. Spider-Man fans will recognise her as the Black Cat, sometimes thief sometimes good guy, platinum blond and uber sexy. She grew up learning to steal from her father and her first outing was to break him out of prison. She’s very much Spidey’s Catwoman, and not just in the superficial sense. What did this show do with the character… well this:
I’m definitely getting cat-burglar vibes from her
Here she’s the daughter of Anastasia Hardy, who is a rich philanthropist. We never hear from her father till season 4 and she only becomes the Black Cat then as well. They essentially created an entirely new character here, called her Felicia, and just went, “who cares?” On the plus side she’s voiced by Jennifer Hale.
As for the scene, her mother’s doing a charity event that Jonah’s hosting in his house. The Jolly One doesn’t want to spend any more money on it but her mother told her they absolutely must have a photographer. So JJ says he’ll get his very best.
Cue Peter standing outside looking at photos he took of the Seekers and… hang on:
He must have one sturdy bomb proof camera.
How did he get those? We only saw him take one, and that with the camera in his hand. There’s no way he could’ve gotten those shots and angles, not to mention that roof top got blown up. So as he wonders who’s after him this time Robbie calls him into Jameson’s office.
He calls Peter his best photographer while he crosses his fingers behind his back, like he’s five years old. Thanks for that, I couldn’t tell he wasn’t being honest, what with that sarcastic tone he had. Felicia let’s us know she and Peter go to college together and then she flirts with him for a bit. As she leaves Jonah asks where Eddie Brock is because he’s supposed to have some big scoop for him. Not like he’d be able to take a cameraman for a story without telling anyone what he’s doing, let alone his boss. Oh wait.
We cut back to the Black Widow getting finished up and we get some exposition about an acid being the only thing that can penetrate the Widow’s armour. All this while screws are being put into it… Hang On:
SCREWS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!
There’s nothing there needing a screw. All its doing is dropping some acid to make a hole so a screw could be put in. There’s also no way it’d actually screw in since the acid is the only thing that damage it. This is only there to go, “LOOK plot point! This is how Spider beats it!” and it makes no goddamn sense why any part of this is happening in the show.
Eddie’s also there, saying how big of a scoop the capture of Spider-Man is going to be. Spencer says Brock’s his insurance to make sure everything’s done on the “up and up” and I did like that touch. It shows he doesn’t trust Osborn one bit and suspects his “capture Spider-Man” plot isn’t all he’s after. Osborn protests this, saying he doesn’t intend to “play judge and jury” but apparent he’s fine playing vigilante and funding giant robots in order to do so.
As he and Eddie leave he tells them there’s nothing to worry about and they “have to trust [him].” There’s a good exchange here as Alistair says he, “gets a bad feeling whenever somebody says I have to trust him” and Spencer wheels him over to a holo projector. He explains the reason he’s working for Osborn is to get Alistair a hover chair because he feels guilty over causing the accident that put Alistair in the chair. It’s a nice bit of characterisation for a one shot character and it’s good that he’s not just some mad scientist making robots. How do you dampen that nice moment? With this thing:
I can’t count all the ways that’s impractical.
That’s the hover chair, and it’s ugly as sin. It’s big, bulky, and doesn’t look like it’d fit through most doors. It’d make his daily life more complicated not less. I’d wonder what they were thinking when they designed it but guess what, it’s another toy. I’m not sure what they were thinking when they said “let’s give the crippled character a high tech battle wheelchair” especially since he doesn’t use it like that till season 3. This is why toy makers shouldn’t be in charge of TV shows, or anything beyond making toys. So after Spencer has a touching, ‘I’ll compromise my moral principles to fix my mistakes’ moment and tells Alistair that Osborn’s, “not that bad” as we cut to a scene showing Osborn is in fact that bad.
We get an establishing shot of the Chrysler building as Osborn is meeting the Kingpin inside it. This is the Kingpin’s main base of operations, but we’ll get to how stupid that is next time. Right now Osborn’s saying how no one knows or suspects Kingpin’s involved in the Spider Slayer/Capture Spider-Man plot. Kingpin exposits that crime is his livelihood, that he runs a worldwide criminal empire and Spidey keeps interfering in it.
Kingpin loves Saturday morning cartoons
He’s got a video library cued up of Spider-Man clips, even one from the opening title sequence. We also find out Osborn is doing this to pay off a loan and if it fails Kingpin will get Oscorp, a win/win for him. He seems like a very smart and in control villain here. It doesn’t last very long past this episode and his control of Oscorp doesn’t amount to much other than setting up the Hobgoblin episodes later this season. But it was nice to see the original intention of the Kingpin before he became the root of all evil in the show.
We then see the Smythe’s sending out an army of Seekers and Alistair saying, “If we find him we’ve got to destroy him, because with Spider-Man you don’t get a second chance.” Umm this is your second chance. You’re first try was at the beginning of the episode so this, by definition, is your second try. Also they want to capture him for the cops, not “destroy” him. So a ‘cool’ line falls flat on its face because the writers couldn’t remember what they wrote five minutes ago.
We now get to see the charity event at Jonah’s house. Harry and Flash Thompson are there and Felicia pulls Flash in to dance with her. She then gets distracted by seeing Peter in a tuxedo, like completely forgetting she’s dancing with Flash distracted. Peter comes in with Aunt May with her saying it’s nice but she’d rather be watching her cable TV, this is a plot point. Not joking here.
Just as May is telling him he should’ve brought Anna Watson’s niece Mary Jane, go on Peter I hear she has a wonderful personality, Felicia comes over. She grabs him for a dance, he says he should be taking pictures and she says she should be dancing with Flash. But Peter how can you take photos when you clearly don’t have your camera? There’s no way a profession camera, like the one he had in Jameson’s office earlier, could fit in his pocket. That little hole and bad design is quickly forgotten next to Felicia’s really creepy smile here:
Those are not good thoughts going through her head
Flash looks on at this and says he “had a feeling this might happen.” What, that your date would get stolen by Peter? Or maybe Felicia would go, “oooh pretty” and leave you waiting in the wings? Given the way she’s acting and Flash’s reaction I think she does this a lot. Now I actually believe Felicia is the best female character in this series, but this scene makes it look like she’s a horrible person.
So Flash makes his way outside to his car and puts on a Spider-Man costume in order to try and scare Peter away from Felicia. Now I do given them credit on justifying the costume by saying it’s one he rented for a frat party. However it sounds like he brought it with him just in case he needs to scare off a guy making moves on Felicia. So either this happens a lot or Flash is really insecure. I suppose it could be both, there’s nothing ruling that out.
Now the entire reason why this happens is so a Seeker can see him going into Jameson’s place dressed as Spidey and mistake him for the real one. Upon seeing the address Eddie Brock exclaims happily that his, “boss is gonna have a front row seat.” Yes I’m sure Jonah is going to be thrilled that you let a giant spider robot attack his home. Seriously none of these guys think sending the Widow in is a bad idea; even the Smythe’s who are supposed to be the scientists wanting to keep things on the “up and up.” Yeah I don’t their moral compasses point in the direction they think they do. Anyway they send in the Black Widow to attack the home of a well known wealthy media mongrel. What could possibly go wrong?
Back at the party Peter and Felicia finish their dance and she kisses him, it’s not a peck on the cheek either but a full on kiss. I now think Flash has a very good reason to feel insecure. Speaking of Flash he’s just walked in and everyone’s aghast at Spider-Man being there. There is a nice little exchange where Peter says it must be an imposter and Felicia asks him how he’d know, so he just says, “Umm yeah, yeah, maybe it really is him.” It amused me in an episode that’s about to get stupider because as Flash grabs Peter we get these two shots with a cut between:
Man Flash is a bit short
Wait… scratch that.
Yeah they clearly tried to cover up the fact that they reused the Spider-Man character model for Flash by making him shorter and then taller than Peter. This just makes the scene unintentionally hilarious as I’m just imagining ‘Spidey’ standing on tip toes trying to intimidate Peter. It’s a pity because it’s a funny bit, with Peter barely contained smugness over this joker trying to pretend to be Spider-Man. Sadly it doesn’t last as Flash spots the Black Widow outside the window and screams as he backs away.
The Widow breaks through the roof scaring everyone off then looks directly at Aunt May. Why Aunt May? So Peter can run to protect her while Felicia complains that he’s running off. The show really did force the whole ‘girls think he’s a coward because he runs off to be Spider-Man’ drama. This time it just adds to the pile of selfish that is Felicia Hardy in this episode. So Peter drags Aunt May to a room and then shuts her in, brilliant idea there. I’m sure this giant robot couldn’t possibly get through a wooden door. All he’s done is make sure she’s trapped with no exit if the Widow smashes in.
My jazz hands will stop it!
Add another stupid mark to Felicia as she just stands there and says to it, “You! You’re ruining everything!” You tell that giant spider robot, Felicia. I’m sure all it needs is a good talking to. Thankfully as it approaches her she does the most sensible thing she’s done all episode. Scream and get into the duck and cover position. Good thing, for her not for me, the real Spider-Man shows up and gets its attention.
He gets it to headbutt a wall and then the rest of the ceiling collapses on them. Smooth move there. The Widow searches the debris and sees an unconscious Spider-Man, hmm I wonder this is possibly Flash Thompson? Nah. It grabs that Spidey and flies away as… wait a minute:
All evil robots must have branding
The Black Widow has a logo on it, TSS. The Spider Slayer? T. Spencer Smythe? This Stupid Story? Why did they brand it? And if it’s Osborn’s then why doesn’t it have the Oscorp logo? Who knows. Anyway it dumps ‘Spider-Man’ back at its home base.
Then we cut back to police and rescue crews looking over Jameson’s destroyed home. Jonah says it’s going to cost him a million bucks to fix this and then he hears the TV from the next room. As he walks in we see Aunt May, strangely not evacuated like you’d think she would be, just watching TV.
She really looks traumatized by the giant robot spider attack
Yup she’s watching TV, I told you it was a plot point. She seems very calm and nonplussed about a robot crashing through the ceiling almost killing her. It’d be funny if it wasn’t established later she’s so frail she has a heart attack over Peter’s messy room. Seriously that happens about eight episodes from now.
Anyway she’s watching Eddie Brock reporting live on “The Unmasking of Spider-Man” and I have no idea why he’s an on camera reporter here. In every other episode he’s just a regular newspaper reporter for the Daily Bugle except for this episode. I suppose I should explain that in this series Jameson owns J3 Communications, which comprises of the Daily Bugle newspaper and a TV news broadcast. So I guess Jameson here is Rupert Murdock.
Jameson then says, “looks like it was worth all the damage.” Really? At least a million dollars worth of damage to your own home is fine so long as there’s a big scoop at the other end of it. And from the tone of his voice he doesn’t even sound like the typical, “I hate Spider-Man” Jameson. He seems very nonchalant about the whole thing. Then again last episode he did create a supervillain just to capture Spider-Man, so he might be fine with it. Although you’d think he’d have learned from that. But why would we have character development on this show?
Brock unmasks ‘Spider-Man’ and May indentifies him as Flash. Jonah finds the idea of Spidey being a “goofy kid” to be unbelievable. And we get another stupid moment as Spidey’s just hanging on the ceiling this whole time.
I like watching my Aunt watching TV
Whenever the camera was on Jonah, which was most of the time, we could see the door and we don’t see any other way in or out of that room. So either Spidey teleported in or he’s just been sat on the ceiling watching Aunt May watch the news. Creepy.
Jameson realises he’s the real deal, sticking to the ceiling might’ve been the giveaway, and then says, “Which just means Eddie Brock just made my whole company look like jerks.” Not to mention accessories to abduction and destruction of private property, but looking like jerks is far worse than criminal charges.
While that’s going on some goons break into the lab where Flash is. Spencer immediately blames Osborn and he denies it with a flimsy, “I had nothing to do with this. Nothing” Yeah that just means it wasn’t your idea, not that you didn’t know about it. You’ve got to work on your denials, Normie. The best part of this is Brock asking one of the goons a question and being so completely unconcerned about five goons with rifles barging in.
So how long have you been a henchman?
Then they smash the camera just because it gets too close to them. Not the brightest of henchmen here. Someone needs to get The Monarch’s henchmen in here to show them how it’s done.
Spidey swings away to go and rescue Flash, lamenting how he has to save the guy who hates Peter Parker. Oh the irony! Wait a second… how does he know where Flash is? Brock didn’t say where they were and the camera was pointed at Flash never at Osborn or the Smythe’s. Oh screw it we’ve got five minutes left and need to resolve the plot somehow.
So Spidey finds the place with his Spider Plot Sense and breaks open the door making some goons wander out so he can do a not so silent takedown on them. The other henchmen inside say they’d better finish ‘Spidey’ off or, “otherwise the Kingpin will finish us off.” So this secret criminal emperor will just allow his name, even his nickname, to be bandied about by the goons? Especially when he wanted to make sure no one knew he was involved earlier in the episode. How does he stay so secretive? Spidey doesn’t find out he exists till partway through season 3, and Kingpin becomes his main bad guy in season 2. The goon even says it so loudly that Spencer overhears it and questions Osborn on it. That line creates a giant sized plot hole, but we’ll get to that later.
Before they can laser Flash to death Spidey comes in and fights them off, or just throws them over his head since he isn’t allowed to punch anyone in this series. One of the goons threatens the Smythe’s to tell him how to start up the Black Widow, and it’s apparently a big red button on the front of it. The Widow automatically goes after Spidey and he fends it off with a construction beam that was randomly lying around the lab. Osborn then goes to, “even the odds” by activating a Spider Seeker. This serves only one purpose, which is for Spidey to hit it with the beam while making a baseball joke and for it to crash into the wall setting fire to the lab. This lab is very flammable apparently.
Everyone flees except Spidey, Flash, and Spencer because Osborn came up to him and said, “Remember our deal? No spider splat no hover chair.” For some reason Spencer doesn’t tell him to stick it where the Sun don’t shine because of all the crap he thinks Osborn just pulled on him. He instead just agrees to it and tells Osborn to take Alistair away from there. Why listen to the man you were just blaming for breaking the, “No kill Spider-Man” deal? Since Osborn said “spider splat” I can only assume the writers forgot that Spencer only wanted to have Spider-Man arrested and tried to make sure Osborn wouldn’t have him killed.
So Spencer forgets his own characterisation and pilots the Widow on his computer. It grabs the beam off of Spidey and uses it as a weapon against him. Spidey’s run out of webbing and climbs a wall to get to safety so he can change cartridges. On the way up he sees… WHAT THE HOLY HELL?
Are we sure Flash isn’t Spider-Man?
How did Flash get all the way up there? Shouldn’t he have tried to run towards an exit and not climb this incredibly spacious laboratory? As we see there’s only one very narrow walkway to get where he is so how and why did he go there? Yes instead of getting the hell out he finds the highest and most difficult corner to hide in.
Spidey tries to get up higher than the Widow but it flies above him and squirts out some oil that makes him lose his grip. As he falls the Widow gets under him and he falls on top of it. Spencer tries to shake him off then he spots Flash and thinks he’s already done it.
It goes towards Flash, with him begging for his life, and Spidey uses that distraction to attack Spencer from behind disabling the computer so the Widow can’t function anymore. Oh wait no that’d be the non-contrived way to end the episode. What actually happens is he dumps some spare web cartridges into the Widow’s rocket holes, webs the back legs and pulls it over the edge. The cartridges gum up the rockers so it conveniently falls into the only acid that can destroy it. Spidey had absolutely had no knowledge about the acid and our hero wins by dumb luck.
The first Spider Hoodie
After that’s done Flash comes up to Spidey, with the mask that was once a separate part of the costume now attached to it randomly. He says he always thought when things got tough he’d be like Spidey, his big hero. Now he sees he’s just a coward. What’s that? Character growth? Nope, it’s forgotten by the next episode and never mentioned again.
Spidey grabs Flash and swings out of there, stopping to grab Spencer on their way out… oh wait he doesn’t. He leaves Spencer in the lab to get blown up or burnt to death, our hero ladies and gentlemen. We actually see the place blowing up with Alistair thinking his father is dead. No one could survive the raging inferno at the bottom of the lab and the blowing, especially not unscathed. Well at least until season 3 that is. Urg.
Back at Jonah’s ruined home Brock is trying to explain himself, and how it’s all Spider-Man’s fault somehow, but JJ just fires him. Doesn’t have him arrested, but I’m not a media mogul so what do I know about the law. Jameson also says, “The other networks at laughing at me, Brock. Even Fox.” Which did get a chuckle out of me since this was originally broadcast on Fox Kids. I’m also imagining what the modern day Fox News would think of this.
We see Felicia reading Flash the riot act then when Peter comes up she calls him a coward. Claiming he abandoned her when he went to save his elderly aunt. She could’ve ran away too instead of being an idiot and trying to yell at it to stop. After Felicia storms out Aunt May shows up and says it was kind of exciting and tells Peter more about the nice girl she wants him to meet. Miss wonderful personality.
Then we cut to Alistair on a hill over looking the blow-up laboratory. Kingpin shows up saying he was an associate of his fathers and wants him to make new Spider Slayers to destroy, “the man responsible for his father’s death, Spider-Man!” and we get a “To be continued” ending. Now remember that big gaping plot hole of the goon saying he works for the Kingpin, this is it. Alistair should try to get revenge on the Kingpin for also being responsible for his father’s death. But we’ll get to that in the next episode.
Oh and as the credits role I spotted this gem:
Of all the names in all the world and they had to pick those.
Yes all the goons are just named “Masked Leader” which kind of puts a dent in the whole chain of command if they’re all supposed to be the leader. Apparently the writers didn’t know, or bother to think about, what a hierarchy is.
Honestly this was one of the better episodes of the show. The Smythe’s were the highlight of the episode, till their characterisation was dropped towards the end. Kingpin and Osborn had a good introduction here. They set up some things nicely, even if they were followed up on terribly later on, and that’s if they were followed up at all. The lowlight was Felicia Hardy’s whiney selfish stupidity and constant flirting. Peter and Flash were too good for her in this episode. The writing was dumb, the plot holes were huge, and if you thought about any single part of the episode ten more problems popped up. I’d probably have better things to say if I didn’t know what the rest of the series was like and how little everything here mattered.
“One of the better episodes” doesn’t mean it was good, just better than the rest of the series.
The next episode is, Return of the Spider Slayers, where we’ll be seeing all these wonderful characters again, an introduction to a classic one, and even more toys you could buy!