10 Best Episodes of the '67 Spider-Man Cartoon

By Chris Sasser in Cartoons, Comics
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 8:00 am
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I'm sure you all know how it goes: He spins a web any size. He catches thieves just like flies. He even has radioactive blood, bud. Wallopin' web-snappers! Is your spider-sense tingling? Mine sure is. Because of all the translations of everyone's favorite web-headed hero from comics to screen over the years, none has so faithfully and successfully captured the magic of Spider-Man as the 1967 animated series produced by Grantray-Lawrence Animation.

The first season of the series focused for the most part on classic villains and supporting characters from the pages of the Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's comic, going so far as to even adapt some of the original stories that appeared there in print. It made the most out of character favorites J.J. Jameson, Betty Brandt and nearly all of Spidey's best rogues. Even some of the adversaries Spidey faced that were created specifically for the toon were good fun as well. The Fly Brothers (Stan and Lee!), Parafino, the Fifth Avenue Phantom, and the invisible Dr. Noah Boddy (how clever!) were memorable foes in their own right. The second and third seasons... well, things got a little psychedelic as the cartoon came under the guidance of Ralph Bakshi, but overall it was still a heck of a good, web-slinging time. If you're a Spider-fan and haven't watched this classic Marvel cartoon, you owe it to yourself to give it a try; it's currently streaming on both Netflix Instant and Marvel.com. If you don't have time -- like, say, if you have two full-time jobs as a superhero and superhero photographer -- why not check out just the 10 best '67 Spider-Man cartoon episodes here?

10) The Power of Dr. Octopus
While investigating a series of "mystery lights" outside the city, Spider-Man discovers the secret lair of Dr. Octopus. It seems that old pie-face has his warped sights set on destroying Manhattan. Why? Who knows? Perhaps he lost the latest Roy Orbison look-a-like contest. The episode illustrates how well the series maintained Spidey's sense of humor and knack for one-liners. When he gets the drop on Ock, the villain shouts, "Spider-Man! No one can interfere with my plans!" Without missing a beat, Spidey retorts, "Looks like I caught you with your plans down!" Nevertheless, Ock manages to one-up Spidey and imprisons him in a reinforced steel cage. And like all good evil geniuses, Ock keeps our hero alive so he can view his grand plan of destruction come to pass. Meanwhile, a concerned Betty Brandt foolishly goes searching for the overdue Peter Parker which, of course, only leads her to be captured by Doc Ock too. But it does provide Spider-Man with the diversion he needs to escape from his prison and take on the eight-armed menace in his imitable web-slinging way. This marks the first appearance of Dr. Octopus in the series and is a great example of a simple story set-up and action that makes the series such breezy fun.

9) Menace From the Bottom of the World
A bank in the heart of Manhattan disappears by way of slipping deep into the ground. Spidey goes below to investigate and swings his way through a barrage of nightmarish landscapes. It isn't long before Spider-Man nearly becomes a snack for a horrific pterodactyl-type-thing and encounters a Harryhausen-like giant guard before he finally discovers a city inhabited by hairy blue ape-like humanoids (they are referred to as "subterranean mole-men" but I'll be damned if they don't look like apes to me). Spidey sneaks inside the main hall and karate-chops a couple of mole-men guards in the back of the neck -- sending one of them plummeting off the side of a cliff to his death -- and then learns that their mask-wearing leader is actually a criminal called Mugs Reilly who has tunneled out of prison and disguised himself as a mole man leader. When all is revealed, the angry mole men restore things back to normal and Spidey has saved the day again. What makes this a stand-out episode? Spider-Man is battling blue ape-looking creatures, 'nuff said! Just check out the way they charge when they attack! Now that is groovy animation!

8) Electro, the Human Lightning Bolt
How is it, despite a completely ludicrous costume consisting of green and yellow jammies and an impractical starfish-shaped mask, Electro manages to still emerge as such a great Spider-Man villain? Even old Jameson calls Electro a circus clown upon seeing a photograph of him. Nevertheless, the lightning-throwing baddie puts the web-slinger through his paces in his debut appearance here. He begins his crime wave by breaking into Jameson's apartment and blasting open the old skinflint's wall safe, which of course ihe immediately blames on Spider-Man. The final showdown takes place at one of those conveniently abandoned amusement parks that are so abundant in the realm of superhero stories. Following a treacherous ride on a runaway rollercoaster and walk through a deadly funhouse, Spidey finally bests Electro's flashy powers by using a special asbestos based web fluid! It's another terrific episode that benefits from a distinct comic book feel.

7) The Golden Rhino
The Rhino is revealed here as little more than a rotund narcissist who is knocking over trucks and vaults to obtain enough gold to make a statue in honor of his "fame and strength." This episode is so pleasantly amusing it had to be included here. It was a tough choice, as in the previous Rhino appearance Spidey felled the massive charger by attaching an economy-sized can of pepper to his horn and causing a sneezing fit, but I just love the Rhino's hair-brained scheme in this one. Get over yourself, tubby. And though he may be low on brainpower and motivation, the Rhino is effectively made out as a force to be reckoned with. He smashes through the side of buildings, slams into motor vehicles and even charges a train head-on, destroying it with nary a headache. It's an endearingly dopey affair that's good fun to watch... especially when the Rhino stomps his foot upon the ground before charging.

6) The Vulture's Prey
Judging from the strange helmet he wears, the series appears to have used the Blackie Drago version of this classic Spider-Man villain as their model template. This time out, the Vulture is using a clock tower conveniently located across from The Daily Bugle as his hideout. The decrepit old clock is constantly on the fritz, chiming endlessly at the wrong time and displaying the wrong time. Fed-up with the malfunctioning clock, concerned citizen J.J. Jameson investigates, only to be captured and used as a source of information by the Vulture to plot his crimes in which he obtains "trinkets to feather his nest." Of course it's Spidey to the rescue, much to Jameson's chagrin. Something about Spidey and the Vulture doing battle in a clock tower with J.J. caught in the middle is just wonderful.

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