January 08, 2022

CROSSOVER: TANGLED WEB

 
            Before comics became a lot less insular thanks to annual events, when it came to crossovers—or “team-ups”—at Marvel Comics, Spider-Man was typically their go-to guy. Either someone would be passing through his friendly neighborhood, or he would be popping up in their books (usually as a ploy to increase sales). Heck, not only did he headline one of the books whose sole purpose was crossing over characters, the very first issue of his series featured him meeting the Fantastic Four and he heralded the first intercompany crossover with rival publisher DC Comics!


The X-Men have come to play!


The Spider-Man cartoons since the 1980s continued this tradition. In his animated adventures he’s met Captain America, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, the Hulk, the Punisher, and even ushered in the first Blade appearance outside of comics (predating Wesley Snipes, even). But the most unprecedented crossover came during the two-part Spider-Man: The Animated Series episodes “The Mutant Agenda” and “Mutants’ Revenge” when Spider-Man (Christopher Daniel Barnes) met the uncanny X-Men! Now, Spidey has met the X-Men twice before in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends as part of Marvel Productions’ attempt to get a network interested in a series about them. What made this encounter so unique was it was the first time a Marvel show crossed over with another as these were the X-Men from fellow Fox Kids program, X-Men: The Animated Series (albeit slightly off-model when compared between the shows).


Mo' mutants, mo' problems.


            Written by John Semper, Michael Edens, J.M. DeMatteis, Francis Moss and Ted Pedersen, the crossover saw Spidey seeking out mutant expert Professor Charles Xavier (Cedric Smith) to help cure him of the mutation occurring in his irradiated blood. What he found instead was a mansion inhabited by the X-Men—Wolverine (Cal Dodd), Cyclops (Norm Spencer), Rogue (Lenore Zann), Gambit (Chris Potter), Beast (George Buza), Jean Grey (Catherine Disher), Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith) and Jubilee (Alyson Court)—and the news that curing mutants isn’t what they do. Beast’s attempts to reach out to and console Spidey resulted in his being captured by Herbert Landon (David Warner), who was secretly working on a way to destroy mutants. Landon is mutated himself during an attempt to rescue Beast, and Spidey and the X-Men work together to stop him.

Iron Man and War Machine, from their own show (top) to Spidey's.


            However, that was only the Saturday morning crossover. Spidey ended up having two others with the syndicated branch of the Marvel TV family. Running concurrently with the debut of the series, Marvel Films produced a syndicated programming block called The Marvel Action Hour, which featured Fantastic Four and Iron Man. Iron Man and War Machine appeared in the episodes “Venom Returns” and “Carnage” voiced by their Iron Man actors Robert Hays and James Avery, respectively (again, looking similar but different from their prior appearances, much like the X-Men before). Iron Man alone would return one more time for the three-episode “Secret Wars” story arc, which also featured the Fantastic Four. Showrunner Semper wasn’t a big fan of the animated series and not only had the characters completely redesigned, but also didn’t seek to cast the voice actors from there--save one: Quinton Flynn was tapped to reprise his role as the Human Torch, which he took on during that show’s second season.


Spidey teaming-up with the Marvel Universe.


            It was planned for the X-Men to make another appearance on the show, but they were unable to fly the Canada-based cast down to record again. Instead, only Storm returned during “Secret Wars” as her first season voice actor, Iona Morris, was based in Los Angeles where they recorded.

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