Saturday, September 5, 2009

1981 - Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends

During the fall of 1981, Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends splashed onto NBC’s Saturday morning cartoon scene. Being a huge fan of the 1967 Spider-Man series, this show blew me away. While the 1967 explored Spider-Man and his rogues gallery, this new series broadened Spider-Man’s universe to include several other Marvel heroes, like Hulk, Captain America, and the X-Men. The theme song, while not as catchy and classic as “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man”, was also wonderful and still imparts that nostalgia every time I heard it.

This series was also more about Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, Firestar and Iceman. Firestar made her debut in this TV series and would make her first in-continuity appearance in Uncanny X-Men #193 (May 1985) which was followed up by the Firestar four issue miniseries.

Interestingly, the cartoon was originally to have included the Human Torch rather than Firestar. However, the same legal issues that dogged Marvel with the Fantastic Four cartoon (and replacing the Torch with Herbie) forced the change to Firestar.

The voice actor for Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Dan Gilvezan also provided the voice of the Autobots Bumblebee and Hot Spot and the Decepticon Snapdragon in the original 1984 Transformers cartoon. Not to mention that Dan guest starred live on many 1980s TV shows like Moonlighting, Newhart, ALF, and recently on Boston Legal.

The only thing that I despised was Ms. Lion. I don’t mind animal, I have a cat. What was it with Saturday morning cartoons and those cute sidekick, cutesy characters, like Scrappy Dappy Do (from Scoopy Dooby Doo) and Godzuki (from Godzilla)?

Little known facts:

- Dick Tufeld narrated Season 1 while Stan Lee did Season 2 and 3; during the re-runs of Season 1, Stan Lee narration was dubbed over Tufeld.

- Wolverine spoke with an Australian accent.

- Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends #1 (December 1981), a one-shot that adapted the pilot episode, "The Triumph of the Green Goblin". This issue was reprinted in 1989 as Marvel Action Universe #1.

- Spider-Man Family: Amazing Friends #1 was put out in the late summer of 2006 to celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary.

Here’s breakdown of the episodes by season. If you want a synopsis of each issue, check out:

Season #1

#1 “The Triumph of the Green Goblin"
#2 "The Crime of All Centuries"
#3 "The Fantastic Mr. Frump"
#4 "Sunfire"
#5 “Swarm”
#6 "7 Little Superheroes"
#7 "Videoman"
#8 "The Prison Plot"
#9 "Spidey Goes Hollywood"
#10 "The Vengeance of Loki!"
#11 "Knights and Demons"
#12 "Pawns of the Kingpin"
#13 "The Quest of the Red Skull"

Season #2

#14 "The Origin of The Iceman"
#15 "Along Came Spidey"
#16 "A Fire-Star Is Born"

Season #3

#17 "Spider-Man Unmasked!"
#18 "The Bride of Dracula!"
#19 "The Education of a Superhero"
#20 "Attack of the Arachnoid"
#21 "The Origin of the Spider-Friends"
#22 "Spidey Meets the Girl From Tomorrow"
#23 "The X-Men Adventure"
#24 "Mission: Save the GuardStar"

For some reason, Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends - The Complete Seasons 1-3 box set was released only in the UK with no North American release in plan. Guess there must have been a lot of UK Spidey fans? I’d love to pick up that DVD set as well as the Incredible Hulk series that launched soon after.

For more information about the show, including taking a moment to sign their online petition to get the show on DVD here in North America, check out:

So despite the campy 80s dialog, despite the continuity problems, and despite Ms Lion, this show will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m getting a kick out of watching these episodes with my four-year-old daughter!


  1. Along with Dungeons & Dragons and Thundarr the Barbarian, this was probably my favorite cartoon from the 80's. I never really liked their hi-tech secret headquarters in their apartment. Even as a young kid I thought that clashed with what was established for Spider-Man.

  2. Yeah, I loved those two shows as well. If I recall, the hi-tech headquarters in their apartment was a gift from Tony Stark after they saved his life in one of the episodes.

  3. Great shows all around. I found out Years later that Kirby had a hand in Crafting Thundarr. I would add to the list Herculoids (in rerun form), But Spider-man stands head and shoulders above the rest.

  4. It was network policy at the time that all animated cartoons had to have a cute animal character. Good shows, like this one and the D&D cartoon that was saddled with Uni the Unicorn, gradually phased out the animal characters past the first season when they had more latitude for doing so.

    The hi-tech HQ's explanation was retconned into that season 3 episode. Before that, it was likely an effort to attract merchandizing deals by giving the show a built-in playset for action figures.

  5. I really enjoyed this series as a kid as well. I tried to rewatch some episodes recently and, keeping in mind that they are created for children, I don't think they hold up that well. But, I would still like to have the complete series for my (future) kids. :)

    Even when I was a kid, I thought the cute "animal" element in 80s cartoons really sucked. They seemed so out of place with the series. We had Ms. Lion, Uni, Wonder Dog, Gleek, etc. The list goes on and on. It's like the networks were trying to force comic relief into series that didn't require it.

  6. Hey Ron, my daughter absolutely loves Firestar and watches a few episodes none stop. Although she's terrified of the Juggernaut, calling for me when he makes his appearance!

  7. who didn't love this saturday morning cartoon as a kid!?

  8. i still got the intro. song in my head. it's almost as classic as the Spiderman cartoon intro. song.



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