from Stan Lee
In the 1967 origin episode, Peter Parker mentally plotting revenge
against those who've taunted him - just one step away from being a
villain himself. Jameson was right!
Tech Specs: English
and Spanish Dolby Digital sound, English subtitles
road to the big screen took quite some time to work out, with several
studios fighting over the rights to make the film. So it should really
come as no surprise that Spidey's life on the small screen has spawned
yet another legal battle.
In the mid-nineties,
the Fox Network entered into a deal with Marvel Studios to run Spider-Man
as a Saturday morning show (occasionally moved to weekday afternoons).
Held in fair critical esteem, the show eventually disappeared into
the Fox Family Channel, while Spider-Man's movie fate went to Sony.
With Sony, Marvel began developing a brand-new Spider-Man cartoon,
which will debut in a few months (they hope) on MTV.
And then last
year, Disney bought the Fox Family Channel and all of its assets.
Suddenly, Disney had the rights to a whole bunch of Spider-Man cartoons.
Timed to ride a little of the movie's lightning, the House of Mouse
released Spider-Man: The Ultimate Villain Showdown, a collection
of four consecutive episodes from the third season of the animated
Just last week,
Marvel filed suit in New York, demanding that Buena Vista Home Video
(Disney's video arm) pull the DVD from the market.
So what's all
the hullabaloo about, anyway?
The four episodes
here, chapters 2 through 5 of an arc called "Sins of the Fathers,"
hold together pretty well in giving viewers a taste of what Spider-Man
is all about. In particular, the first two episodes allow Spider-Man
to retell his origin to a young girl who claims to be his biggest
fan. Though the main plot deals with a collusion between Doctor Octopus
and The Kingpin (leading into trouble at Oscorp - hmm…Sony just started
twitching), the impetus for this two-parter comes from adapting Roger
Stern's classic "The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man," one of the best
Spider-Man stories ever written.
By fusing that
story with an adaptation of a classic Lee/Ditko Doctor Octopus story,
the animated series made both tales a little stronger. Doc Ock manages
to wipe Spider-Man's memory and convince the wall-crawler that he's
a bad guy. It's only through the interference and faith of a little
girl that Peter Parker comes to his senses.
Both lines tie
indirectly into the third episode, in which Norman Osborn feels pressured
into trying an experimental nerve gas on himself. (There's that Sony
twitch again.) Of course, this leads to an accident that creates The
Green Goblin, and this episode plays out pretty much like the film,
though in a kid-friendly, non-fatal way.
In the fourth
episode Spider-Man tackles the Wheelmen, whose stolen technology helps
the Rocket Racer get his start. Originally a villain in the comics
(and a rather lame one), here the Racer turns out to be a young kid
still wavering between good and bad. All he really knows is he sure
can skateboard. What makes this episode notable is that the Wheelmen
wear exo-skeletons that look almost exactly like the movie Green Goblin.
Coincidence? You be the judge.
Does Marvel have
a leg to stand on in trying to block this release? Probably not. Their
case is further undermined by the participation of Publisher Emeritus
Stan Lee, who comments on just about everything on this disc.
most of his commentary is pretty engaging. Even when he relates anecdotes
we've all heard and read before, The Man has a charm that commands
attention. And when he muses about the universal appeal of Spider-Man,
you have to stop and, well, marvel at what it must be like to have
created something so loved. Aspiring comics creators could do much
worse than listen to Lee's philosophies.
Aside from everything
else, Lee has a generosity to those who have followed him. In the
"rogues' dossiers" section, you can click on his "thoughts" on the
characters. He freely admits to those he wish he created, such as
Morbius and Venom. (Understandably, he seems a little ambivalent towards
it reveals all the cheesiness of the '60's series, the inclusion of
that origin episode is a great treat. Grantray Animation traded lushness
for skill; the modern series has more real action (and movement, for
that matter), but the art direction has more depth in the original.
Any excuse to hear that funky theme-song is worth it. Joe Perry's
tune just can't hold a candle to it.
For the historical
value alone, this disc is worth it. But as someone too old and too
busy to catch the Saturday morning show in the 'nineties, I found
these episodes more enjoyable than expected.
The only aspect
of the DVD that looks rushed and downright boot-legged is the interactive
menus, which feature some horrendous artwork. It's a small price to
the DVD before Marvel stops you!