Wednesday, October 05, 2011

SPIDER-MAN (animated series ABC/syndicated, 1967-1970)

Ahhh, tee-vee memories. Here's a program that I had a piddling interest in while it was being aired on ABC Saturday mornings way back inna late-sixties, only I didn't get as much of a chance to watch it as I would have liked. This was due to my daddy, who most certainly did not want me wasting my time watching cartoons on Saturdays when I coulda been working in the yard with him learning something! Really! And by the time I was getting heavily into the comic book scene in the early-seventies and at least could request time to watch certain Saturday AM 'toons that appealed to me (ARCHIE'S TV FUNNIES comes to mind), SPIDER-MAN had vamoosed to the independent stations that in no way shape or form I could draw in from a good 100+ mile distance! Really frustrating, because at that time what I needed most was SPIDER-MAN and indie tee-vee yet both of these necessities were far outside of my grasp! So cramming all of these facts together all I can say is yeah, I kinda do have a li'l "affectation" for these disques featuring a few of the episodes from the original animated series that I coulda been watching if only my character wasn't being built yankin' weeds outta the garden, and even though it is four decades too late better this 'n five decades...

The cheap sixties tee-vee animation does help...much better'n the various Saturday morning SPIDER-MAN cartoons that NBC was running in the late-seventies that certainly were too little too late for my own personal tastes. Not that those various series (I remember one of 'em being SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS for some odd reason, since I never watched the thing during it's original airing) were particularly fact, storywize they did hold up...but that supposedly "improved" animation style left much to be desired and in fact made my viewing of those all the more cringeing! The basic feel of the original holds up well and, if you can believe it, almost captures the Steve Ditko essence of the series back when he was drawing the thing. The stories are pretty good in themselves as they were adapted from those same early sagas, and I gotta admit that the show's penchant for focusing on the newspaper angle of the comic 'stead of Peter Parker as high school kvetch was pretty neat. Almost comes off like an alternative version of SUPERMAN with Parker as Kent, Betty Brant as Lois and naturally J. Jonah Jameson as Perry White which I kinda think was the intent of the series all along. I mean, can't argue with success.

Anyway, it's sure hotcha seein' these once again (yeah, I know I can latch onto a whole lotta these tee-vee rarities via youtube, but Bill Shute sure felt it in his heart to dub a couple disques for me!), and if anything they remind me of, like I said, just how I sure coulda used these 'toons in the early-seventies when I was in the midst of my comic book obsessions. And they certainly do hold up better'n those ultra-cheap Marvel productions that were popping up on indie tee-vee around the same time which were so primitive they made the mid-sixties King Features POPEYEs look like FANTASIA in comparison.

(One final foible...the cartoons that I saw were definitely taken off some relatively recent airing that originated in Canada [where the series was in fact animated]...I could tell this because the tee-vee "rating" that appears in the upper-left hand corner of the screen at the beginning of each episode has an outline of the Maple Leaf symbol etched into its own upper-right corner, and putting two and two together I figured that these particular broadcasts just hadda've originated in The Great White North clever deducer that I am. Fine enough, but what really stymied me is that in Canada these SPIDER-MAN cartoons must be considered mature subject matter by the nation's moral compasses [whom I picture to be a buncha brown noses who look like Mr. Weatherbee and Miss Grundy] because these programs actually have earned a "PG" rating north of the border!  I mean down here they'd probably get a "G" or even one of those OK for seven-year-olds ratings but up there a 1967 SPIDER-MAN cartoon is considered something that parents definitely must keep in mind that their children are watching and in fact must caution them about for whatever reasons the guardians of the nation's morals think they should! Yeesh, I know that Canada is a "progressive" country where Sunday Sermons are subjected to heavy scrutiny and hard prison time for the offending preacher, but I never thought it would get so bad up there that a program like this would be considered "verboten" by the new era of compassionate jackboots! Strangely enough, these same Canucks think nothing of hockey players plummeting each other into submission, so I guess some forms of violence are more equal than others! Hmmmmm, I guess that if SPIDER-MAN were to earn a generally healthier "G" in Canada there must be some sort of socially significance or redeeming value that would make the censors up there change their minds. Perhaps a hot bedroom scene between Parker and Brant would be the ticket. Better yet, one between Parker and Jameson! Who knows, with such kulturally konduit material like that innit SPIDER-MAN might have even won the Canadian Emmy Awards!)


Yowp said...

The voice work was done in Toronto. But the first season animation was done by Grantray-Lawrence in Los Angeles and after it folded, by Ralph Bakshi's people in New York.
The last season has a weird feel to it. Gray Morrow worked on layouts and Dick Thomas (ex Warner Bros.) did some great backgrounds in 'Revolt in the Fifth Dimension.'
'Rocket Robin Hood' was animated in Canada.

Christopher said...

Thanks for the info---by the way, Yowp has one of the most fantastic blogs out there totally dedicated to the early Hanna-Barbara Studio tee-vee snuggle in front of the set and watch HUCKLEBERRY HOUND days. Makes me feel like I'm three again every time I dial it up!

Anonymous said...

The complete series is also available for Instant Viewing on Netflix. Excellent quality video. Not totally with you on the animation part (it's primitiveness is kinda awkward at various points -- such as when background scenery repeats over and over), but overall it's solid, particularly the plots and storylines. And there's also a lot of killer mod-jazz soundtrack music. Wish they'd put out a CD of it!