Directed by Don Jurwich
Narrated by Dick Tufeld (Season 1) / Stan Lee (Season 2–3)
September 12, 1981 to November 5, 1983
Spider-Man teams with Firestar and Iceman as they fight crime and supervillains in New York City.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was my first serious introduction to Spider-Man and by extension the whole Marvel Comics Universe. I only knew bits and pieces about the character from the random issues in polybags that were once sold in every pharmacy and multiple random places in the country. I miss those things. Once in a while I would get an issue of one of his series (he had two at the time) and learn a little something about the character. This show however was the most in-depth and continuous presentation of Spiderman mythology that I encountered.
I understood immediately it was not faithful to the comic book universe as it stood at the time. Do not expect 100% fidelity to the comics. By then even Marvel had a ponderous mythology that could not be distilled easily for a show let alone a half hour Saturday morning cartoon. Rather it was a tease for that comic book universe. The only point at that time that the characters appear together in print as part of a formal team was in a loose adaption of the Green Goblin episode. I own that one shot BTW.
Something the show did that modern animated iterations (or even live action ones) do not do is take the character looks and translate them directly to the screen. And they do it in such a way that looks good. It was rare that they made any alteration to the character design. I think the only alteration I am aware of was that the Green Goblin physically transformed rather than put on a costume when he had his mental break as shown in “Triumph of the Green Goblin.”
We got a nice cross-section of the MCU. Everything from villains to heroes taken from the pages of Marvel comics. Dr. Doom, Captain America, or the Submariner and even the X-Men showed up among many others either in the background or on the forefront.
I have a particular favorite episode. Not because of any great story or anything like that but there is a costume ball scene in it, and you see all the major Marvel comics characters at that time on the dance floor. It is not actually them but the students at the fictional Empire University dressed up as them, but you get my point.
The show introduced a handful of original characters for their stories. Iceman got a half-sister in the form of Lightwave in one off episode. The dog Ms. Lyon, a Lhasa Apso, was introduced as the cute animal sidekick. My personal favorite Videoman became a recurring character in the series and made a total of three different appearances-two as a villain and one as a hero where a character called Francis Byte got merged via questionable scientific means with the character. But the most significant original character was Firestar who did not appear in print as a canonical Marvel Comics character until after the series ended.
I am not sure if Spider-Man and Iceman were close in the comics or even really knew each other at that point but they were paired effectively here with the character of Firestar. And they did not skimp on giving background on the characters either. They were not just static as creations. You got an origin episode for Spider-Man as well as Iceman but the most in-depth one was for Firestar in “A Firestar Is Born” (where Wolverine was Australian) which I guess is logical since she was the one with no information from which to draw.
The animation itself was better than most of the time at the time. I thought that then and I still think that now. I grew up in a time when the techniques of Jonny Quest were still employed. The action was more dynamic, and the figures were much less static. You needed to be with a character like Spider-Man in the mix.
The stories themselves were adventure stories that you could watch in any order mostly. A few episodes did vaguely reference what came before but nothing that would smack you in the face when it came to continuity. In its first season the show flew solo but during the second season it was paired with a new Hulk animated series as part of The Incredible Hulk and the Amazing Spider-Man with both sharing one intro. For the third season a flip occurred with the show now being called The Amazing Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk.
The Spider Friends as they were known lived in a tricked-out apartment in Aunt May’s boarding house. As was explained in one episode all their awesome equipment and even the secret exit were a gift from Tony Stark. How they pulled all this off without alerting Aunt May is a distinct mystery for the series. She was no doddering fool in the comics or the show but they snuck this one past her.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends is a great show. The stories and the voice acting are great. This was a high point in animated superhero storytelling as well as Saturday morning cartoons. The show itself is available on Disney+ in its entirety with a smattering of warnings on this episode or that because after all it was a product of its time. Watch it!