Once more unto the breach, dear friends. Episode Three of the 1981 solo Spider-Man cartoon series, and this time there are Lizards, Lizards, everywhere!
|Executive Producer:||David H. DePatie, Lee Gunther|
|Distributor:||Marvel Productions, Ltd.|
|Editor:||Robert T. Gillis|
We open with a quick flash-past cross-show advertisement for the Incredible Hulk cartoon, as Spider-Man (supposedly in a hurry to get his photos to the Daily Bugle) swings his way across the Central Park Zoo. But he is destined not to make it today because... There are Lizards. Yes, Lizards. Everywhere.
Gators and Lizards and Snakes, Oh My! Spider-Man plays hero all through the zoo, rescuing [ahh-choo!] innocent civilians from cold-blooded critters of all shapes and sizes. Now, who is this sneaking around and releasing the gorilla? Green scaly skin? White lab-coat? Doctor Curt Connors? Nope. That name isn't mentioned at all. No time for back-story in a 22 minute cartoon!
But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Spider-Man first has to win a game of [ahh-choo!] peek-a-boo with the giant ape, and then... what's with all the sneezing? Spider-Man seems to have a nasty case of hay-fever going on, and it's slowing him down a bit. He does manage to save the general public from harm, but he doesn't manage to stop the reptiles from disappearing.
And here's the man behind it all. Oh, well, not "man" as such. Can you guess who this might be, emerging via high-tech elevator from his secret underground lair, it's (dramatic kettle-drum) THE LIZARD!
OK, I suppose you guessed. Well done. Ten points for Hufflepuff.
Lizard: Before this day is through I'll transform NYC into a jungle, and overrun it with wild reptiles – all of them controlled by ME, the LIZARD!
Hey, mark your spoilers, Lizard! Some of us are watching this episode for the first time!
The Lizard has the usual super-secret laboratory lair in Manhattan's sewers, decorated with blue and purple lighting. Doc Ock's lair had a very similar sort of theme going on. Maybe it's the same lair. Maybe they have it on time-share?
No, wait... LAIR-SHARE!™
The Lizard's lair has handy access to the NY subway, which is super-relevant, because the Lizard always wanted to be a train driver! Sadly, not a very good train driver. He deliberately derails the train (apparently, all you need to is hit the brakes really hard) blocking the tunnel. Step two, block off the other end of the subway, and he has a perfect nursery for raising his army of reptiles. [Evil Laugh].
Meanwhile, Spider-Man visits a drugstore. His sneezing is getting really, really bad. How bad? Well, any sneeze is bad when you do it inside a face mask. But the web-head's sneezes are now so forceful that he is losing control of his webbing as he sneezes, and he accidentally sneeze-webs the shelves!
The sneezing sub-plot will have to wait once more. Spider-Man hears the yells of panicked civilians from down in the subway. The lizard is playing train-sets once more, this time he's planning a head-on crash to block the other end of his underground reptile creche. Can Spidey rescue the passengers? Do they want to be rescued? Will they stop lecturing him about the importance of using a handkerchief?
Lizard: "You can't stop me, Spider-Man! You're DOOMED!"
We now get the off-brand version of the scene from Spider-Man 2 where Spidey tries to stop the runaway train. How off-brand? Well, he fails to stop the train from crashing! And now that the tunnel is sealed-off, the Lizard can summon the beasts from his lair with his "reptilian telepathy". Soon there will be thousands of them!
Our Spider-Man has a plan. He's going to... dig through the rubble with a giant shovel made of webbing? I'm really not sure about webbing as a raw-material for constructing earth-moving equipment, but here it seems to do the job. And when he does break through, what does he see? Thousands of reptile eggs!
Lizard: "There's no need to worry about these eggs, Spider-Man! 'cos you won't live to see them hatch! DESTROY HIM!
Lizard: "Your time is up, Spider-Man. You're about to make an excellent meal for my friends here."
Spider-Man: "No kidding? I didn't even know I could cook!"
What the hell just happened there? What's that weird noise coming out of my face? Did I just... chuckle? There's a strange arrangement of muscle tension on my face. Am I... smiling? I mean, it's still a really dumb joke. But either I'm just learning to lower my standards, or these guys are actually starting to fine-tune their delivery.
Tragically the wall-crawler's situation is nothing to sneeze at! Surrounded by foes and out of webbing, Spidey goes for a rapid refill, but an ill-timed AAAH-CHOO! sees him drop the replacement cartridge and end up webbing himself to the dirty floor of a Manhattan subway tunnel. It's bye-bye Spider-Socks!
Fortunately that's just a temporary annoyance, and Spidey is quickly on the attack facing up to the Lizard. Our scaly-boi decides that running away is the better part of valor and he bails out through a crack in the subway walls. Spider-Man is unable to perform the same trick and simply wanders off – assuming (incredibly optimistically and despite all evidence to the contrary) that the Lizard's plans are all washed-up.
Given that we see no indication that anything has been done about the wayward reptiles, or the mountains of eggs, I can't understand why Spidey feels good about the situation at all. All the Lizard has to do is hang around a few minutes on the other side the wall, wait for Spider-Man to leave, then come back to resume his plans.
And that's exactly what he does. Returning to his high-tech lab, El Lizzo welds up a "radioactive weather control device" to complete the final phase of his plan. He's doing to turn New York city into a "steaming jungle, just perfect for his newly-hatched reptiles". Hmm, I've visited the east coast in summer. Frankly, I don't think the radioactive weather machine has that big a task on its hands.
But Spider-Man doesn't seem to care about any of that. He takes back to the streets of Manhattan (having apparently recovered his spider-socks) interrupted occasionally by increasingly earth-shattering sneezes. When he gets to the point that he can no longer swing straight, he is forced at last to visit a Doctor.
Meanwhile as our hero sits reading a magazine, the Lizard activates his device and (within a few minutes) the weather has turned to permanent rain and thunder, giant trees have sprouted throughout the city, the eggs have hatched, and there are scaly beasts everywhere! The weather clears shortly after, but the damage is done – the Lizard's plan is complete!
Oblivious to all this, Spider-Man is now with the doctor (the Medical Doctor, not the Doom Doctor or the Octopus Doctor) who is having a tough time examining his patient.
Doc: "You'll have to remove your mask if I'm to check your throat."
Spider-Man: "I can't do that. My identity is a well-kept secret. What if you recognize my tonsils?"
When the Doctor checks our hero's pulse, it sets off his web-shooters. And before the Doctor can make any progress at all Spider-Man notices the noises of panic outside in the street and has to abandon his check-up to rescue a handful of innocent bystanders. The rescue list also includes one J. Jonah Jameson, whose Daily Bugle building has been entirely overrun by plants and lizards alike. Did you know that alligators could climb up 20-story tall trees?
Enough distractions! Spider-Man decides to go hunt down the Lizard and put a stop to all this. But where is old Lizard-breath? Oh, yeah. He's swinging on a vine just behind Spider-Man. The two fight. Spider-Man hangs off the Lizard's tail. Lizard drops his tail and immediately grows back a new one.
Spider-Man falls. Time for another web-parachute? Nope, let's have some variety. This time he whips-up an instant web-spring that (in defiance of all laws of physics) bounces him back up higher than he was when he fell.
In fact the web-springer is bounced to the roof top where he spots a random unlocked power cabinet, and fiddles with the dials to "alter the frequency of the radio antenna" to "jam the Lizard's telepathy".
The animals are no longer under enemy control. The Lizard is instantly subdued and taken back to the zoo, where all his animals (all ten of them, what happened to the other ten thousand?) follow him meekly into an enclosure.
Lizard: "You can't stop the Lizard so easily, Spider-Man! I'll be back!
Finally it's back to the doctor, where Spidey told that he has an acute case of [quote] "Hyper-Reptilius-Allergyosa".
Hmm, according to Hermione, that's pronounced "Allergy-OH-sa." Anyhow, if my Spanish is correct, it means that he's very allergic to reptiles. And I am too – this episode brought me out in a rash!
Surely these guys can't be serious! No they're not, and here is the proof.
I'm not sure if the Lizard is long-sighted, or if these are simply safety goggles. But either way, old greenskin is always careful to pop on his glasses when he's welding his radioactive weather modifier.
This single image completely won me over to their side. I think I'm in love with this dumb show.
I now "get it". A bunch of hippies from the 60's grew up, got jobs, and were assigned the task of throwing together a Spider-Man show.
Clearly nobody back in head office gave a damn what happened in each episode, as long as it featured Spider-Man and had some occasional loose connection back to the comic books.
If the writers didn't care if the show was dumb, why should I?
The stupidest moment in this episode? Tough question!
I really did want to mock the Lizard for totally forgetting that you can't raise thousands of cold-blooded creatures in a subway tunnel without food or heat. But right at the end of the episode, one of the writers must have suddenly had a brainwave, and we see lights being activated for a few seconds just before the creatures leave for the surface.
Of course that doesn't explain how these creatures can be born and grow to adult in one day. But that feels like "normal dumbness". I'm looking for something special here.
The final wrap-up was infuriating. There is absolutely no explanation of how Spider-Man knew anything about the Lizard's method of controlling his animals. Spider-Man never saw the Lizard's base. He never saw the subterranean transmission unit. How did he learn about the telepathy? How did he learn about radio waves? How did he figure out that this particular tower happened to be the one being used for the broadcasts?
But again, that's just a simple plot hole. I want something which is utterly out of the bounds of reality.
Ah, here we go. Spider-Man walks into a doctor's waiting room in Manhattan without an appointment, takes his place in the queue, and is called within minutes.
Now THAT is pure craziness!