Story By: John Semper
Written By: Robert N. Skir, Marty Isenberg and John Semper
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)
Based on Amazing Spider-Man # 20
THE PLOT: To seek out and unmask Spider-Man, J. Jonah Jameson hires Mac Gargan to undergo a SCIENTIFIC experiement and become a human scorpion. Naming himself “The Scorpion”, Gargan soon realizes what the transformation has done to him and goes on a rampage across town.
LONG STORY SHORT: Jameson realizes he’s created a monster and helps Spider-Man save the city and defeat the Scorpion.
Okay, let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat. This episode is either the second or the third episode as originally produced. This is made obvious in the scene where Aunt May continues to try and have Peter match up with Mary Jane over the phone. Schedules for the first season’s episodes in 90s television tend to be really wonky, and this is no exception.
With that in mind, this is another episode of the first season that I thoroughly enjoyed all the way through. Every scene, nearly every line of dialogue, everything worked very well. It’s yet another straightforwardly told story, but it’s pulled off so well that its just an enjoyable 20 or so minutes. I don’t think there’s too much to talk about it with the episode being so linear, but I’ll try to do it justice.
One thing I did notice that I haven’t before is that there were a ton of comic book references included, all said by Spider-Man. Most of them were Fantastic Four or Marvel Comics references, but there was one that referred to the Tick which works on two levels. A) It was a great line by Spider-Man, B) The Tick animated series, which also aired on FOX KIDS actually came out a couple of months before the 1994 Spider-Man, so the quip was very appropriate. The other references, the Fantastic Four ones specifically made it come off as though either the F4 are very well established in Spider-Man’s world (despite the fact that we don’t see them until the 5th and final season) or Spidey’s just a huge fan of theirs which is slightly ironic considering their relationship in the comics. Not to say they aren’t pals in the comics, but in this version he seems to be much more of a fanboy. He even steal’s the Thing’s “It’s Clobberin’ Time!” in episode three. The adamantium reference came off not so much that Spider-Man was familiar with the X-Men, despite the fact that he knows of them and meets them in the next season, but that adamantium was an established alloy in the Marvel Universe. It’s all very akin to how Amazing Spider-Man was in the 60s with references to the other titles scattered throughout the initial Stan Lee run. They were alos nice in that even though they were many, they didn’t disrupt the flow of the episode. You could not be familiar with the rest of the Marvel Universe and still be in the loop.
This episode, based on Amazing Spider-Man #20, does a great job of focusing on both Jameson and Mac Gargan as well-rounded characters. Gargan’s a worm; a sleazy slimeball of a guy who is nothing but a thug at the end of the day. His reasoning for going berserk and wanting to go back to being human comes off as being very forced, especially in that the original issue he gladly accepts his new powers after beating Spider-Man and decides to become a super villain. In my opinion, the original is the best, as Gargan never displayed any humanistic tendencies besides having sensitive skin. I suppose that’s played up once he sees how he looks as the Scorpion, but to make it really work the writers should have sold the audience on the idea that being the Scorpion was indeed a terrible thing. He’s stronger than Spider-Man, super agile and green. What exactly is the problem with that? It really is more the fault of the writers than the fault of the character, but it’s the only thing in the episode I didn’t care for. As for Jameson, this is the episode where we really get his whole character, from the blustering newspaper guy, to the crusader for the truth, to the widower to the guy who at the end of the day will do the right thing. Jameson was written very inconsistently in the first several ASM issues, from a television blowhard, to someone who was genuinely a bad person, to someone who was genuinely a good person. It’s nice to see that 30 years later the production team sees the hindsight of who the character really is and incorporates that in a single episode. None of it comes off as forced, and at the end of the day it was nice characterization for JJ to tell Spider-Man othing had changed between them and that he still wanted him destroyed. As jerkish as that sounds, it’s human of the guy and it all makes for a classic character who’s survived decades of cigar smoking and supervillain attacks.
Another unfortunate con of the episode is the fact that we’re starting to recieve the “repeated animation” treatment. It’s not nearly as blatent as…well, any of the episodes in season two, but it does become apparent. The scene where Scorpion jumps Spider-Man and snaps his web-line is done twice, just reversed. I have to say for that scene specifically I don’t really mind it as much as any others. For one, it first happens very quickly to show the Scorpion’s speed and surpise tactics. The second time, it’s slowed down considerably, I assume for the people who may have missed it before. So although the repeated animation is here in the episode, it could always have been much worse. The animation in this episode was overall very solid. Not as good as the last episode, I loved the way Spider-Man and Scorpion moved. Spidey specifically came off very acrobatic and springy, which is how I love to imagine the character. Th webbing was also very neatly animated as well, with variations on it’s consistency and form. That’s something that’s sort of been lost with the modern age of artists, and I liked seeing it here.
Scorpion did have some fingernails on his gloves at times though. That was weird…
Another thing I noticed was that the Scorpion’s yell was repeated over and over again, to the exact same tones. That was weird, could they not get Matin Landau to do more than two or three screams? It’s weird that they got Martin Landau in the first place! It’s odd because I never thought of the Scorpion as a screamer, so to speak. It may have been just the fact that Martin Landau was voicing him, the producers wanted him to go nuts while he could. He was a solid voice for the Scorpion, as I especially like the line “Me? Get back at Spider-Man? I’d kill for the chance…” as the words “kill”, “die”, “dying”, “dead”, “He’s dead, Jim.”, “murder”, “or “death” are very rarely said in the show. They are said at times, but it’s very few and far between, so much that I’ll try to point out whenever they are said.
But again, what I really take away from this episode is the characterization of Peter Parker/ Spider-Man. When embarking on review this series, I knew I’d praise Christopher Daniel Barnes every now and then as his is the voice I imagine for Spider-Man whenever I read the comics. His is the voice many of us grew up with and, to us, he’s just as iconic as Kevin Conroy is for Batman. But I didn’t think his performances would contribute to my enjoyment of th episodes so continuously. It has to be said, he’s absolutely excellent in the role. Nearly every line of dialogue was performed with such natural charisma, and pretty much every joke he spouted made me laugh Not every joke Spider-Man says is funny in any media, but in this episode they were.
-“Now, who is that little creep? Some mugger after my money? Heck, if I could find any I’d split it with him.”
-“He’s got no use for me, he hates Spider-Man, I bet he can’t even stand himself…although that would make sense.”
*After seeing Scorpion for the first time*-“Who the heck are you?! This is a joke, right?” *Dodges punch* “This is NOT a joke!”
Jameson: “How do you know all this stuff?”
Spidey: “Hey what do I look like, the Tick?”
It’s just awesome, and makes for another fun episode.
Part of me hesitates giving it the grade I’m about to, considering the repeated animation and Scorpion’s leap in logic. But the repeated animation is now a fact of the show. If I can’t get past that, then I might as well not watch the show at all. And as far as Scorpion’s reasoning to attack Jameson and the city, it was at least a reason. Much of the grading process goes into how much I enjoyed the episodes, so there you go.
5 “MARY JAAANE!s/5
Best Line Contender-
Jameson: “I still won’t rest until you’ve been unmasked, and eliminated.”
Spidey: “Fair enough pickle-puss. And I won’t rest until you shave that stupid moustache, so we’re even!”
images taken from marvel.toonzone.net.