By David Gallaher
On Saturday, September 12th 1981, SPIDER-MAN & HIS AMAZING FRIENDS made its debut on NBC. Originally developed to mirror the format and feeling of the Spider-Man comic books, NBC believed that Spidey needed some additional elements to bring in a wider audience. The network’s notes and intervention allowed Iceman and Firestar to join with the web-slinger to create a wonderfully charming show that is fondly remembered thirty years later.
Together Spidey, Iceman, and Firestar were more than just superheroes who teamed up to save the Marvel Universe, they were friends who enjoyed each others’ company and supported one another when the chips were down. Viewers would be as likely to see the trio battling out with Doctor Doom or Loki as hanging out at the beach or going to a costume party. It was the kind of show they let you experience the triumphs, the heartbreaks, and the humor of the characters whether they were in- or out-of-costume.
The series, which is currently streaming on Netflix, might feel dated in spots -- but these are the seven spectacular episodes that we feel are worth experiencing all over again!
7. Knights and Demons
In the spirit of Dungeons and Dragons, this episode features evil sorcerers and heroic knights in a rather unfamiliar and un-friendly neighborhood. Opening with events surrounding a local medieval festival, we are quickly introduced to the Black Knight, his Ebony Blade, and Arthurian mythology. More that just wall-to-wall action, we also treated to some fantastic dialogue between Iceman and Firestar bantering back-and-forth about chivalry and damsels-in-distress. More haunting than the subject matter is the final fate of the villain. All-in-all, this is a spectacular episode that is often taken out of circulation due to the subject matter.
6. Quest of the Red Skull
One of the episodes also frequently taken out of syndication due to its content, Quest of the Red Skull is an over-the-top adventure in the spirit of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Here the Spider-Friends team up with Hiawatha Smith as they try to stop the Red Skull from claiming the lost treasures of Adolf Hitler. It’s a spectacular pulp adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
5. The X-Men Adventure
Less humorous than other episodes in the series, "The X-Men Adventure" deals with the maturity that comes from heartbreak. The antagonist is Nathan Price, an ex-boyfriend of Firestar's, who was horrifically burned and has now sought revenge against her and her teammates. Beyond watching every member the X-Men getting a moment or two to shine against a hijacked X-Mansion – whether it is Cyclops burning through his Adamantium cell or Storm trying to confront her claustrophobia, we also get to experience Firestar dealing with her denial and later acceptance of the feelings she once had for Nathan.
4. Triumph of the Green Goblin
A torrential rainstorm, playful dialogue, a superhero costume party, a terrific sense of danger, maniacal laughter and a breakneck pace all highlight this premiere episode from the series. Norman Osborn has been given a clean bill of health and is free to rejoin society, but when his plane is struck down by lightning it unleashes something terrible inside of him. The first episode ever broadcast remains one of the best.
3. Attack of the Arachnoid
A complex episode featuring two different villains working independently of each other to great effect. The story opens with a daring robbery by the Scorpion and the momentum builds from there with a scientist trying to emulate the powers and abilities of Spider-Man. Add a scary eight-legged spider monster and cameos by Matt Murdock, The Fly, Klaw, and Electro and you have yourself a seriously fantastic episode that doesn’t let up.
2. A Firestar is Born
For many viewers of certain age, this episode was their first introduction to the X-Men. Using an X-Men class reunion as a framework, this story allows us to re-live Firestar’s compelling origin from the beginning. This episode also introduces us to the first animated appearances of both Wolverine and Storm. After watching this episode you’ll get a very good sense of why the episode’s author - Christy Marx – was the perfect person to later create the cartoon series JEM!
1. Seven Little Superheroes
A well-written tribute to Agatha Christie, this episode begins with a mysterious stranger inviting the Spider-Friends for a weekend retreat to Wolf Island. Once there, they are met by Captain America, Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, and Shanna the She-Devil. It seems that these ‘Seven Little Superheroes’ have all crossed the villainous Chameleon one too many times. To many, this is the quintessential episode of the series, made better by the intense cackling of Hans Conried as the Chameleon. (Conried was made infamous by his role as Captain Hook in Peter Pan.)