Animation Block: Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends

Debuting in 1981, Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends was the first real contact I ever had with the Marvel Universe. Does the show hold up? That is another matter. It is said the worst thing you can do is go home again.

Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends was meant to be a loose adaptation of the Marvel characters, as evidenced by the Australian-accented Wolverine, and the show was never meant to have any long running plots or continuity.

The show tells of Spider-Man and the adventures he has with his friends Firestar and Iceman. Together they form the Spider Friends and fight various villains throughout the Marvel Universe. Featuring stories from Donald Glut and Christy Marks, Spider-Man encountered classic foes like the Green Goblin and newer ones like Videoman.

The episodes were written to the 1980’s standards. No one was ever shot or in any real danger. Injuries always turned out to be not serious. The show did have an impact, such as the character of Firestar; created due to either a licensing dispute regarding the Human Torch or a fear children would set themselves on fire (as mentioned in the 1981 special Spider-Man on the Move), would be brought over into the Marvel Universe proper after the show ended.

The series wasn’t perfect. As mentioned before, it was written to the 1980’s standards so stock footage was used heavily. Puns were also very common. The show didn’t conclude as much as stop, a fairly common thing for most animated programs of the era.

The makers also seemed very sold on the character of Videoman, a two dimensional creature capitalizing on the rising video game market. Introduced as villain with no back story, the character was brought back several times, including as a hero with a secret identity.

Does the show hold up? Since it was a Marvel Production the music and sound effects were all used in later Marvel shows like GI Joe and Transformers. As nostalgia it does a serviceable job, but on its own it is a little harder to sit through.

There are no plans for an official DVD release in the States, although it was released in the UK a few years ago. Most episodes can be streamed and edited versions occasionally air on Disney XD, mostly as part of the Marvel Mash Up shorts. Worth a trip down memory lane, but your millage may vary.