May 09, 2015

SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS

AVENGERS ROLL CALL: Firestar became a reserve member of the Avengers in Avengers vol. 3 #4, 1998 before being promoted to a full member in Avengers vol. 3 #7, 1998. She quit the team in Avengers vol. 3 #27, 2000.


SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS
(NBC, September 12, 1981-November 5, 1983)

Marvel Productions



MAIN CAST:
Dan GilvezanSpider-Man/Peter Parker, Arachnoid/Zoltan Amadeus
Frank WelkerIceman/Bobby Drake, Mr. Jones, Flash Thompson, Videoman/Francis Byte, Matt Murdock, Ms. Lion, Ben Parker
Kathy GarverFirestar/Angelica Jones, Storm/Ororo Munroe
Dick Tufeld – Narrator (season 1)
Stan Lee – Narrator (seasons 2-3)

 For the history of Spider-Man, check out the post here.


            The sequel that wasn’t a sequel. 


Character model sheet: Firestar, Iceman, Spider-Man, Aunt May, Bobby Drake, Angelica Jones, Peter Parker and Ms. Lion.

Despite using the same music, character designs and a few of the same actors, Marvel ComicsSpider-Man and His Amazing friends premiered the same time as 1981’s syndicated Spider-Man on network TV. It was an attempt by Marvel Productions to capitalize on ABC’s success with the Super Friends franchise, based on rival publisher DC ComicsJustice League, and to further entice networks into carrying their programming. 


Makin' it snow.

            Amazing Friends partnered the titular Spidey (Dan Gilvezan) with two other heroes. The first was original X-Man Bobby Drake, aka Iceman (Frank Welker). Iceman possessed the ability to use the moisture in the air to generate ice, allowing him to freeze objects or create ice structures, such as the slides he uses for transportation. Iceman had originally appeared in the Sub-Mariner portion of 1966’s The Marvel Super Heroes with the rest of the original X-Men, but this was his first major starring role. Unlike the comics, this version of Iceman was not only a secret agent, but was given a half-sister in the form of Aurora Dante, aka Lightwave (Annie Lockhart). Lightwave was also a mutant, who could manipulate and control light, and worked for the world peace-keeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D.


Hero-swapping: Angelica as Spider-Woman and Bobby as Captain America at a party.

            Producers originally intended to have the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch joining the pair to provide the fire and ice contrast on the show. For years, rumors persisted that they opted not to include him due to a fear that children would light themselves of fire trying to emulate the character. In actuality, the rights to the Torch were tied up in a 1977 deal Marvel made with Universal Studios to produce television programs and movies based on several of their characters. That was also the reason he was replaced by H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot for the 1978 version of the Fantastic Four cartoon (ultimately, a project featuring Torch was begun and scrapped by Universal). So, a new character was needed in keeping with the intended theme, and the series introduced Firestar (Kathy Garver).


Concept art for Firestar.

            Angelica Jones, named after series writer Dennis Marks’ old girlfriend, was a mutant who could generate microwave energy that allowed her to fly and generate fiery blasts of energy. Like Iceman, she was a former member of the X-Men. Designed by series art director and comic book artist John Romita and finalized by Rick Hoberg, Firestar was given a simple yellow suit with red and orange gloves, boots and mask to emphasize her powers’ theme. Her hair was also made to simulate fire, growing a lighter shade of red and becoming livelier when she changed from Angelica to Firestar in a stock transformation sequence (which Iceman also had whenever he iced up his body). While in the concept stages, names thrown around before settling on Firestar included Heatwave, Starblaze and Firefly. Because Romita’s women tended to have a certain look to them, many regarded Firestar as a replacement for Spidey’s love-interest Mary Jane Watson (since Spidey, and Iceman, both flirted with Firestar and both women had red hair). However, that was just a coincidence.


A partnership is formed.

            The three heroes attended the fictional Eastern State University (changed from the comics’ Empire State University) together, although none of them were aware of their alter egos until they had to team-up to stop the armored villain Beetle (Christopher Collins) from stealing an invention from Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (William H. Marshall). Deciding they worked well together, they became a team called the Spider-Friends (which was the original intended name for the show, furthering the Super Friends connection). Together they lived in Peter’s Aunt May’s (June Foray) boarding house with Firestar’s dog Ms. Lion (Welker), who sometimes provided comic relief and gradually became more May’s pet.  As a thank you for the help, Stark upgraded their apartment with a concealed lab, computer system and a tunnel which they could use to slip in and out, activated by moving a trophy on their mantle (although, they very rarely used this set-up outside of its appearance in the opening sequence). Their battle cry was “Spider-Friends, go for it!”



Title card featuring the Kingpin and the Spider-Friends with Captain America as chess pieces.

The series made liberal use of Spidey characters. Amongst them were his rogues such as the mechanical-armed Dr. Octopus (Michael Bell); the insane Green Goblin (who in this version transformed into the Goblin rather than wore a costume as in the solo Spidey show, voiced by Neil Ross); the sand manipulating Sandman (Collins); and big game hunter Kraven the Hunter (Robert Ridgely and George DiCenzo). Although this series didn’t focus much on Peter Parker’s life apart from Iceman and Firestar, some of his supporting cast made appearances such as publisher J. Jonah Jameson (William Woodson, reprising the role from the syndicated series) and bully Flash Thompson (Welker). Other heroes made guest appearances on the show, including the man out of time Captain America (DiCenzo); the Gamma-irradiated rage monster the Hulk (Peter Cullen); the Norse god of thunder Thor (Vic Perrin); master of the mystic arts Dr. Strange (Woodson); and queen of the prehistoric Savage Land Shanna the She-Devil (Janet Waldo). Non-Spidey villains featured were Captain America’s arch-rival The Red Skull (Cullen); the mutant master of magnetism Magneto (Michael Rye); the god of mischief Loki (John Stephenson); and the Latverian dictator Dr. Doom (Shepard Menken).


Videoman was introduced in the series as both a villain and hero.

While making full use of the existing Marvel Universe, the series also employed numerous new characters designed specifically for it. Amongst them were Mona Osborn, the niece of the Green Goblin (as opposed to using his son Harry, voiced by Sally Julian); Zoltan Amadeus, aka Arachnoid (Gilvezan), who turned himself into a man-spider in an attempt to gain Spidey’s powers; and Nathan Pierce, aka Cyberiad (John Haymer), Firestar’s former lover that became a cyborg. Two versions of a character named Videoman appeared: one as a creature created by Spider-Man villain Electro (Alan Melvin), the other as a superhero when Francis Byte (Welker) played an arcade game so hard he causes it and the others to explode, giving him powers.


The Spider-Friends and the X-Men in "The X-Men Adventure."

The most notable guest appearances on the show were the X-Men in two episodes. While the original team had been animated before and again in the flashback episode “The Origin of Iceman,” this was the television debut of the Second Genesis team first introduced in Giant-Size X-Men #1. Included were powerful telepath and founder Professor X; demon-like teleporter Nightcrawler (both Stanley Jones); optic blasting Cyclops (DiCenzo & Ross); the winged Angel (Bill Callaway); the mistress of the elements Storm (Garver & Lockhart); the organic steel-skinned Colossus; super-strong Thunderbird (both Stephenson); the intangible Sprite/Ariel (more popularly known as Shadowcat in the comics, played by Julian); and the fast-healing clawed Wolverine (Ross). Sunfire (Jerry Dexter), another fire-wielding mutant who was briefly part of the new team, also made his own individual appearance and served as a love interest for Firestar. The team’s second appearance in “The X-Men Adventure,” where Thunderbird, who died shortly after his first appearance in the comics, replaced Wolverine on the team, was intended to serve as a backdoor pilot for their own series. The heroic version of Videoman and a version of the character Ms. Marvel called Lady Lightning were going to become X-Men for that show, but the idea was never picked up.


When not used for killing, Wolverine's claws double as shish kebab sticks.

One thing of note was Wolverine’s voice: he was portrayed with an Australian accent. This was due in part to the growing interest in all things Australian thanks to the success of Mad Max starring Mel Gibson. New World Entertainment, then parent company of Marvel Comics Group and Marvel Productions, was also looking into the possibility of an Australia-based Wolverine movie. Hoberg had stated in X-Men: The Characters and their Universe (Mark Mallory, 2011) that it was, at one point, planned to make Wolverine an expatriated Australian in the comics. However, those plans were eventually scrapped and Wolverine remained Canadian. The whole thing did turn out to be oddly prophetic as Wolverine would go on to be successfully portrayed in the X-Men film series by Australian actor Hugh Jackman. Australian Wolverine, however, would make a return appearance in the pilot Pryde of the X-Men.


Title card for "The Prison Plot."

The series proved immensely popular, lasting two seasons longer than the solo Spider-Man effort, although it aired two fewer episodes in total (and season two was technically a half season). Attempts were made to retroactively connect both Spider-Man shows in the episode “Origin of the Spider-Friends,” as well as including a flashback scene from “When Magneto Speaks…People Listen” from that series in the episode “The Prison Plot.” The series’ music was arranged and composed by Johnny Douglas, who later re-released the theme in a disco version with new lyrics. While most of the animation was produced through Korean studios, the second season was done by more expensive Japanese studio Toei Doga when the artists became too busy with production of The Incredible Hulk (1982), giving those episodes a different look from the rest of the series. In a bit of irony, some of the sound effects on the show were used in Universal Television’s Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers series.




During the second season, the show was paired with the newly produced Hulk series and presented together in an hour-long block called The Incredible Hulk and the Amazing Spider-Man complete with a singular new introduction. Spider-Man and Hulk co-creator Stan Lee joined the cast as a narrator, replacing Dick Tufeld in the role. First season episode narrations were later redubbed by Lee in order to create cohesion between the seasons. However, many of those narrations were not on the master tapes and have not been heard since their initial airings on NBC. For the third season, the block’s name was changed to The Amazing Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk. Ushering in the third season was NBC’s preview special The Yummy Awards, which featured actors dressed as Spidey, Iceman and Firestar. 


Spider-Friends.com's handy-dandy guide to Firestar's diminishing "sexuality."

Some internal changes occurred as well, with NBC requesting the toning down of Firestar’s body lines in order to prevent ire from parent groups over any perceived sexuality. During the first season, her breasts were reduced in size and definition, as was her buttocks gradually over the three seasons. After its initial run, the series continued on in reruns on the packaged 1988-91 programming block Marvel Action Universe, which showcased Marvel Production shows.



The Marvel UK version of the Spider-Friends' comic debut.

Along with some minor merchandising, the episode “The Triumph of the Green Goblin” was adapted into a one-shot comic by Marvel written by Tom DeFalco and drawn by Dan Spiegle, marking Firestar’s first appearance on the printed comic page. The issue was later reprinted in the Marvel UK series Spider-Man Comics Weekly, which had changed its name for a time to match the series’ title. Firestar’s popularity would allow her to join the official Marvel Universe in 1985’s Uncanny X-Men #193. She later received her own origin mini-series and went on to join the New Warriors and Avengers before finally matching up with her animated counterpart and joining the X-Men in Amazing X-Men vol.2 #1


The Mini-Marvels version of the Spider-Friends, complete with their battle cry.

To celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary in 2006, Spider-Man Family: Amazing Friends #1 featured the first official team-up story between the Spider-Friends set in Marvel’s past called “Opposites Attack,” as well as “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends Co-Workers” featuring the comedic Mini-Marvels series where Spidey is forcibly given Firestar and Iceman as assistants on his paper route. Both stories were written by Sean McKeever with art by Pat Olliffe and Chris Giarrusso. McKeever also played up Firestar’s resemblance to Mary Jane, as well as the show’s love-triangle between the heroes, in issues of his series Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. The trio got together again, this time in the present, when Spidey guest-starred in Amazing X-Men vol. 2 #7. Ms. Lion would also make her way into comics in Marvel’s Pet Avengers series between 2009 and 2010 (however it was revealed he’s actually a boy dog whose owner named him Ms. Lion).


Ultimate Amazing Friends!

The alternate-universe series Ultimate Spider-Man paid homage to the show with #118’s cover mimicking the title screen of series. However, Firestar was long-time Spidey supporting character Liz Allan (who had originally debuted with Spidey in Amazing Fantasy #15, 1962) in this continuity instead of Angelica. Spidey, Iceman and the Human Torch also lived together in Aunt May’s house in the follow-up series Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, reflecting the original intended line-up. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe also acknowledged the show by giving it the alternate reality designation of Earth-8107, which was seen as one of the featured realities in the 2014-15 Amazing Spider-Man event “Spider-Verse.”


Ad for the 1981 season on NBC.

Starting in 2012, scenes from the show, as well as The Incredible Hulk, were cut, edited ad re-dubbed into comical shorts as part of the Marvel Mash-Up segments of Disney XD’s “Marvel Universe on Disney XD” programming block. They were shown between episodes of Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The complete series has yet to be released in the United States outside of streaming services like Netflix, but in the United Kingdom the complete series was originally released to DVD by Liberation Entertainment then re-released in 2010 by Clear Vision.


Also in 2010, Activision released the game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions which featured a story that spanned across four dimensions: the regular universe, the noir universe, the 2099 universe, and the Ultimate universe. The voices for all four featured Spider-Men were each veterans of Spidey’s animated adventures, including Neil Patrick Harris (from MTV’s Spider-Man: The New Animated Series) as regular Spidey, Christopher Daniel Barnes (from Spider-Man: The Animated Series) as Spider-Man Noir, Josh Keaton (from Spectacular Spider-Man) as Ultimate Spider-Man (the Peter Parker version), and Gilvezan as Spider-Man 2099



EPISODE GUIDE:

Season One:
“Triumph of the Green Golbin” (9/12/81) – Norman Osborn reverts to his Green Goblin persona and plans to dump his goblin serum into the city’s reservoir to change the entire city.

“The Crime of All Centuries” (9/19/81) – Kraven the Hunter plots to unleash a dinosaur army on the city in order to take control of it.

“The Fantastic Mr. Frunp” (9/26/81) – Dr. Doom attempts to use an ancient amulet to give him unlimited universal power, but it ends up in the hands of Mr. Frump.

“Sunfire” (10/3/81) – Firestar meets fellow mutant Sunfire who recruits her to help ignite his uncle’s fusion reactor, which unbeknownst to them is designed to unleash a fire monster.

“Swarm” (10/10/81) – A fallen meteor unleashes Swarm, who uses bees to form his body and eye beams to transform people into bee-people.

“7 Little Superheroes” (10/17/81) – The Chameleon lures the Spider-Friends, Shanna, Namor, Dr. Strange and Captain America to an island death trap.

“Videoman” (10/24/81) – Electro brings Videoman out of an arcade game to help him enact his plan to steal all of New York’s electrical power.

“The Prison Plot” (10/31/81) – Magneto attempts to break his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants out of prison and seizes control of the east coast’s power supply as leverage.

“Spidey Goes Hollywood” (11/7/81) – Mysterio lures Spidey to Hollywood for an elaborate deathtrap where the Spider-Friends end up caught behind a robot Hulk and the real Hulk.

“The Vengeance of Loki” (11/14/81) – Loki sets his sights on two gems The Twins of the Gods, which wreaks havoc for the Spider-Friends and Thor.

“Knights & Demons” (11/21/81) – Sorcerer Modred brings the Darkon statue to life to steal the Ebony Blade of the Black Knight, causing the Knight to appear and aid the Spider-Friends.

“Pawns of the Kingpin” (11/28/81) – Kingpin, with the help of Dr. Faustus, takes control of Captain America and uses him to steal the Omni-Blaster from a military base.

“Quest of the Red Skull” (12/5/81) – Professor Hiawatha Smith and the Spider-Friends team-up to stop the Red Skull from uncovering a cache of experimental Nazi weapons.


Season Two:

“The Origin of Iceman” (9/18/82) – Videoman returns and along with draining the power from the city it drains the power from Iceman and Firestar’s brainwaves, taking away their powers.

“Along Came Spidey” (9/25/82) – Aunt May is hurt while Spidey pursues the Shocker, causing him to consider giving up crime fighting.

“A Firestar is Born” (10/2/82) – Firestar and Iceman attend an X-Men reunion as Juggernaut sets his sights on crushing his half-brother Professor X.


Season Three:

“Spider-Man: Unmasked!” (9/17/83) – Sandman discovers Spidey’s true identity and the Spider-Friends try to convince him he’s mistaken.

“The Transylvania Connection/The Bride of Dracula” (9/24/83) – Dracula hypnotizes and abducts Firestar, but Iceman and Spidey are on his tail.

“The Education of a Superhero” (10/1/83) – Arcade fanatic Francis Byte accidentally becomes Videoman and attempts to help the Spider-Friends defeat the Gamesman.

“Attack of the Arachnoid” (10/8/83) – Zoltan seeks to give himself Spidey’s powers to frame him for his crimes, but his plans backfire when he becomes a half man/half spider creature.

“Origin of the Spider-Friends” (10/15/83) – The Spider-Friends team-up for the first time to stop the Beetle from robbing Tony Stark.

“Spidey Meets the Gril from Tomorrow” (10/22/83) – Spidey falls in love with Ariel, an alien girl from the future, while Dr. Octopus steals her ship for his own means.

“The X-Men Adventure” (10/29/83) – Firestar’s ex-lover returns as the cyborg Cyberiad and attempts to get revenge on her, Spidey and the X-Men for his current state.

“Mission: Save the Guardstar” (11/5/83) – SHIELD recruits the Spider-Friends to stop Iceman’s half-sister Lightwave from stealing the Guardstar.

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