1994 Spider-Man Double Review: “The Hobgoblin” two-parter

A double sized edition of the 90s cartoon as Spidey for the first time tackles the Hobgoblin!

Part 1.-Credits
Story By: John Semper
Written By: Larry Brody
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)

Part 2.-Credits
Written By: Stan Berkowitz
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)

The Plot: A game of “Pass-the-Traitor” involves Spider-Man, as the Hobgoblin goes back and forth from Kingpin to Norman Osborn, attacking Aunt May in the process. With Harry Osborn held for ransom, Spider-Man must battle the masked madman in a fight to the finish.

Long Story Short: Peter manages to rescue Harry, best the Hobgoblin in aerial combat and return to his comatose Aunt May, who awakens and reveals she nearly died over his messy room. Seriously. 



 MY THOUGHTS: While reviewing this series and re-watching each episode, it occurs to me how the first season seems to stand out in my mind more prevalently than the rest of the series. I’ve certainly seen the entire series, and I would also say that the Neogenic Nightmare arc in the next season was very memorable in and of itself as well. But whether it’s the season’s general quality which has been very good, or the fact that this show was certainly one of the driving points that created many Spider-Fans, this first season has proven to be the most striking and indelible and remains to have made an impression on many of our young minds. The “Hobgoblin” two-parter is chief among the episodes, staying in my brain for years and years following its initial airing. Again, I’m not sure if it’s the plot where we get more Kingpin, Smythe and Osborn, or Mark Hamill’s performance as the Goblin himself, but this always stayed in my mind for a very long time. Going back to this two-parter for review, I’m not sure I understand why that is exactly. I think it’s an overall good episode, but it has its pros and cons. Maybe it’s due to the simple fact that this was probably re-run over a dozen times. Who knows.

As it stands, this is an interesting arc that builds and continues to build on past continuity, which this show was very good at. We see Harry again after a few episode’s absence as well as his father, and we get more of a role for Kingpin, who has spent much of the season being a puppeteer behind the scenes. It also gives us our first hackneyed “Aunt May is sick/dying” subplot, which one gets the impression that the writers felt forced to do at least once. It is a classic trope and is used literally everywhere from the first movie to Spectacular Spider-Man, but it usually isn’t very fun to watch. At least with the Spectacular Spider-Man she actually had a legitimate reason to be in the hospital I.E. suffering from a heart-attack. The reason she’s sick here ends up being one of the more moronic things I’ve ever witnessed on a cartoon show, the idea that Peter’s messy room caused her to drop into a coma. I mean, you’re serious? No result of the gas from the pumpkin bomb attack, no shock to the system due to the chemicals, a messy room? Well that’s great and worthless. It’s contradicted as soon as she says it because Peter was dazed by the blast but you get the impression that he was better off due to his Spider-Strength. And wouldn’t the hospital scan May for residue from the bomb?Ugh…


Now the Hobgoblin is something that has proved to be a bit of a notorious aspect in the 90s show. After all, every Spider-Fan worth his salt knows that the Green Goblin was the first glider-wielding nemesis to take on the Wall Crawler, and the Hobgoblin didn’t appear until some twenty years later. This is actually something that producer John Semper  had no control over by the time he was brought onto the show. The backstory is that the original producer thought it would be a bright idea to introduce the Hobgoblin first and have him turn out to be Norman Osborn under the mask. Naturally he was immediately fired, and Semper was brought on to bring forth creative ideas. However, the toyline business already made plans to make the Hobgoblin action figure, so both Semper and Avi Arad had to roll with it and put the Hobgoblin in the show. An interview explaining this wacky mistake can be found at http://marvel.toonzone.net/spideytas/interviews/sempergoblin/. In it, Semper goes on to express his disdain for the character, saying how he sees the Hobgoblin as a useless villain.

I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that. For one, you could have done a hell of a lot worse than picking Mark “Son of Vader” Hamill to voice the character. I’ve said before to different people on the boards, but I’ve always thought that for as similar as Hamill’s voice is to his rendition of the Joker, there is a distinct difference. For one thing the Hobgoblin’s laugh never gets as downright maniacal as the Joker’s does. It certainly starts out in that creepy tone, but it rarely rises above it. Also, this version of Hobgoblin is played up more as a thug in a mask. He’s obsessed with money and is ruthless in his aspirations to get more at whatever the cost. The Joker is many things but a thug he ain’t, and while there are many aspects of both characters that are similar in the way Hamill portrays them, they aren’t the exact same.

As hinted before, this is the start of what could be called the “Fisk and Smythe Variety Hour” as in the two are now full into foreground as enemies and planners of villainy. True, they were in the “Alien Costume” saga, but due to Spider-Man’s costume and crazy attitude, I personally didn’t feel they became much of a threat until these episodes. Kingpin is awesome throughout most of the two parter, as evidenced with his line as he shows Norman that he’s kidnapped Harry “This is what happens when someon tries to double-cross me.” There’s nothing that’s not perfect about how he’s written or Roscoe Lee Browne’s excellent voice acting. Rounding out the Variety Hour is Smythe, who’s relegated to being the Exedore to Kingpin’s Breetai, or rather the Smithers to his Burns. Typically complaining and admonoshing Kingpin’s plans, Smythe could easily have come off as annoying in this show, and dances on the line between that and engaging at times. I think what makes it fun is how both men are so cultured and refined in their villainy, that to see them bicker back and forth, with Kingpin planning a crime, Smythe saying “You know that really isn’t going to work” and the two arguing over it throughout is kind of funny in its own way. Maybe it’s just me.

So what does this two-parter suceed in? For one thing, the plot is even handed throughout both parts. It’s admirable considering that the Hobgoblin switches sides every five minutes seemingly, and one can get lost in his motives (in which case I do). What I also like about it is that as much as I don’t care for the “Aunt May Messy Apartment Coma” subplot, it does give us a nice and PO’ed Peter, who keeps the story interesting with his fury. This would have been boring as can be if Spider-Man were to just try and go after the Hobgoblin without the emotional baggage he carried. Instead, I get fired up everytime he leaps over the Oscorp gates and sprints to the air vent, changing into Spider-Man.

Guess they do these things for KICKS, right? *dodges tomatoes*

Which leads me into the action sequences. These were great all around. In the case of someone like the Hobgoblin, you didn’t need fist-pounding action to make a great action scene so the censors had little say in these fights. There were some great moments of Spidey flying around on his web, chasing and dodging the Hobgoblin’s attacks. From running across the JJJ billboard to backflipping on the streets, all of it was nice to watch. I especially liked both the conclusion to the first part and opener to the second part, where you think Spidey is toast, cut to him acrobatically dodging the explosions and lading on his butt on the streets below. These were very nicely storyboarded, and rank up there with the best in the series. The second part had a great climax sequence with Spidey catching Harry’s glass tube and running to excape the impending explosions. I’ll get more specific about the animation soon, but the second part in general had better animation than the first. A favorite was when Spidey and Harry are in the elevator and the gravity goes as the wire is snapped.

What detriments the story as a whole is I think the Hobgoblin’s constant back and forth with his allegiances. It was certainly part of his character, but it got tiresome. Considering this whole two parter seemingly takes place in a 24 hr period of time, the Goblin goes from working for Osborn, to the Kingpin, to Osborn, to going against Osborn for no reason whatsoever. Revenge? Seriously? No, he had no reason to go against Norman other than being a greedy little git that loves money and power. That’s all that needed to be in the dialogue, the lines about revenge were too stupid to accept. He turned on the Kingpin because he wanted to be paid immediately, which was rather stupid in and of itself, yet attacked Osborn for….no reason given. That really did bug me as Hamill’s performance had such conviction in it. To yell about nothing consequential goes back to what was annoying about this version of the character.

Another con is the choppy animation. The models and designs were for the most part decent enough, with the second part having some very nice animation at times (I’m thinking in particular to the scene with Spider-Man, Osborn and Kingpin at night outside of the Crime Headquarters) But mostly the animation was very inconsistent and terms of functionality. Pretty much all of the lip-synching was off by a mile, which is unfortunate. Sometimes the shots of the backgrounds and characters were obviously misplaced in scenes. The whole thing was so badly edited, even the re-cap sequence at the start of part two was pathetic. It was all done so inconsistently, it very seriously bogged the episode down a bit in viewing experience.

All in all this was a fairly solid two-parter, dragged down by this or that. The bad parts weren’t offensively bad but they certainly did take away from a decent entry in the series’ canon. I’m still not sure why these two stay so prevalent in my mind, but that’s neither here nor there. The first season is almost complete.

Altogether, 4/5 “MARY JAAANE!!!”s


Pt.1-Hobgoblin: “Pathetic! How’d you ever get your reputation?”

Spidey “Must’ve been the tabloids.”

Pt.2-Kingpin: “What I ‘like’ is inconsequential to what I demand.”

images taken from marvel.toonzone.net and http://drg4.wariocompany.com respectively. 

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