I started buying Spider-Man comics in the late 1970's, but for various reasons I never watched these 1981 TV shows the first time around.
Seeing for the first time now is a real blast from the past.
|Executive Producer:||David H. DePatie, Lee Gunther|
|Distributor:||Marvel Productions, Ltd.|
|Editor:||Robert T. Gillis|
In a New York City alleyway, dogs and cats prowl the night. Specifically the Black Cat, who prowls the city skyline, climbing glass skyscrapers towards the Daily Bugle with some as-yet-unrevealed goal in mind.
Spider-Man meanwhile has a very clear goal. It's five minutes to midnight and Peter Parker is late for the Daily Bugle's New Year's Eve party. He promised to meet Betty Brant hours ago. But as long as nothing untoward happens, he'll make it before the clock strikes...
Oh bother. There goes Black Cat, climbing through that 14th-floor gaping hole in the Daily Bugle window where somebody forgot to install one of those 6' x 10' giant double-glazed window panels. How careless.
Coincidentally, that's the hole in the side of the skyscraper that leads right to the Daily Bugle New Year's Eve costume party. Betty is rocking a Cleopatra costume and a 20" bathing-beauty queen waist. Jonah is looking fine in a Buccaneer's outfit. Stylish! Also present is Black Cat, along with "every big-wig in New York" along with their diamond necklaces, gold watches, and silver bracelets.
A fitting prrrrr...rize for the greatest cat-burglar in the world.
Black Cat immediate sets-to stealing watches off wrists, and ear-rings out of ears, amazingly without detection. But just as midnight arrives, Spider-Man swings in through that same open window and confronts her, webbing her up and returning the loot to JJJ.
Jonah is still trying to figure out exactly how this is all Spidey's fault, while our wall-crawling hero grabs the bundled-up Black Cat and drags her off to take her to the police. Without any evidence of any kind, I'm not quite sure exactly what Spidey expects to do with her when he gets to the police station. But he's spared that problem when Black Cat pops a super-sharp claw, cuts the webbing, and gives him the slip.
Round One: Ends in a draw.
The next morning, Peter heads into the Daily Bugle where he receives a frosty reception from receptionist Betty Brant. She's had enough of Peter standing her up, and she won't take it any more! But Peter grovels a bit, and they agree to go to lunch together.
Now if only Peter could sweet-talk Jonah in the same way. Thanks to Peter's absence, he has no photos of... THE BLACK CAT! As in... the Black Cat just swung into Jonah's office via the wide-open picture window.
Well, Black Cat wants Jonah to put her challenge to Spider-Man on the front of his newspaper. She's going to steal the "million dollar Maltese Mouse", and she doesn't care how knows it. A Maltese Mouse, you say? Well, now we know what the Maltese Falcon eats.
The Maltese Mouse is arriving from France today, and it's going to be displayed on TV tonight on the "Johnny Griffon" show. Naturally, Jonah gives Peter the job of taking photos. Spidey heads to the docks and follows the crate as it gets loaded into the back of an armored truck. But he's already too late. When he jumps into the truck and takes a peek inside the crate, there is no mouse. It was a trick!
As Spidey races back to the docks, the Black Cat is already sneaking aboard the ship as the real Maltese Mouse is being unloaded. She gains another advantage when Spidey realizes that he's going to miss his lunch date with Betty and is forced to stop and find a phone booth. Fortunately he finds one that is recently vacated by... err, I have no idea who that guy is. Never seen him before.
Peter grovels YET AGAIN to Betty about missing their lunch date, and she gives him one LAST, LAST chance. They arrange to meet at the Johnny Griffon Show.
Phone call over, Spidey makes it to the boat just in time to see Black Cat sprinting past with the mouse (after she handily wrapped up the men who were guarding it). Spidey snags her with a web-line, but then gets himself tangled up in the anchor chain. The Black Cat escapes with the mouse, and Spider-Man is dragged down in chains to the bottom of the harbor.
Round Two: Victory to Black Cat.
So, if you've just been caught up in an anchor chain as it runs overboard, how do you get rid of the loop of giant chain encircling your waist? Un-loop it? No! Simply wait until a giant boat hurtles towards you with an 18' propeller and comes close enough to shred the chain into chunks!
And with that done, Spider-Man is free! But Black Cat is long gone...
Oh, wait. No she's not. Despite having received a massive head start, she still hasn't managed to travel far enough to get out of plain sight. Spider-Man races after her, and after a bit of high-wire tussling, he webs her up to a car park access barrier before snatching back the stolen mouse.
But what's this trick the Black Cat now has? She raises the car park barrier that was blocking the cars from entering the pier. And you know what that means! All the parked cars immediately start their engines, engage their gears, and start driving towards the end of the pier so they can launch themselves into the sea!
THEY... WHAT? WHY!?!? What on earth? Are those cars empty? Are they occupied? Neither case makes any sense. But wait. Spider-Man then shoots a web-barrier at the end of the pier... THAT ISN'T SUPPORTED BY ANYTHING. Brain. Hurts. Make. It. Stop. Mommy.
At least Spider-Man has foiled the Black Cat, and the mouse is returned to its rightful owner who immediately asks Spider-Man (in return for a hefty paycheck) to come onto the Johnny Griffon Show to guard the mouse for tonight's live TV broadcast. Except, this is all part of the Black Cat's trap! She intends to make a fool of the web-slinger in front of a live TV audience of 50 million people.
That night Peter duly meets Betty and together they take their seats in the studio audience. Meanwhile outside, the Black Cat urges her pack of trained house cats to attack the security guard allowing her to enter via the stage door. And the first thing she spots inside is...
Let's see... that's what I need. The perfect prop to trap a Spider-Man!
Pete's Spidey-Sense goes tingling, and he makes his excuses to leave his seat ("I need to get some more film just in case").
Brilliant: "Hey boss, thanks for the photo assignment, but I need to leave now because I didn't bring enough film!"
Changing into costume, Spidey slips onto the stage to perform his role in guarding the mouse, and also to be interviewed by Johnny.
Spidey does pretty well being interviewed, but not so great with the guard duty. The Black Cat simply swings across the stage on a web-line and grabs it off Johnny's desk. Ooops!
Spidey now chases Black Cat around the upper catwalks of the studio, until she leads him into her conveniently placed trap! Specifically, the convenient prop she found was a 10' long mouse-trap, already spring-loaded and ready to go. And indeed it does spring! It springs Spidey all the way back to Peter Parker's recently-vacated seat where he is roundly mocked by J.J.J.
But once again, Black Cat has utterly failed to take advantage of the time she gained from her successful trap. The fabulous feline is still in plain sight, and Spider-Man easily catches her. At least – he would have caught her, except she catches a cab.
Time for yet another spectacular webbing trick. This time, it's "web skis". Combined with a quick web-tow-line to the back of the cab, Spider-Man tarmac-skis behind the cab... until Black Cat then orders the cabbie to "hit the brakes"...
...causing Spidey to ski-ramp-jump over the cab and lands in a pile of his own webbing to become stuck to the tracks of an roller-coaster...
...as Black Cat leaps down into the lead car of the roller-coaster... wait? Leaps DOWN? Down from where? How do you get from a New York taxi into a position 30 feet above a roller-coaster? Conveniently placed helicopter? Teleportation? Transcendental mediation?
Fortunately, Spidey manages to leap clear just in time. But Black Cat finally has Spider-Man cornered... in one of those carnival "dunking" booths where somebody stands on a platform that drops them into a tub of water when somebody successfully throws a web-ball at the target that releases the platform. It's all over, Spider-Man. Black Cat has the high ground! She's standing on the dunking platform!
Having successfully dunked the Black Cat, Spider-Man claims his prize from any shelf. He chooses the diamond-studded mouse.
But the prize he doesn't win is a night on the town with Betty Brant. Having been stood-up by Peter Parker for the third time in 24 hours, she grabs Jonah Jameson by the arm and they head out to party the night away together.
Round Three: Spidey Wins.
The original comic book Black Cat was a meticulous planner, setting the scene with prepared traps and tricks. Later she acquired "bad luck" super-powers and enhanced physical abilities.
But the Black Cat in this episode is not explicitly shown to have no super-powers at all. She's just a fit-chick in a fur-trimmed black leotard. So how do we explain Spider-Man's difficulties in catching her?
I'm working on the assumption that this cartoon version does have some kind of super-powers, and/or is carefully preparing the field of battle – even though this is never expressly stated. How else do you explain a giant spring-loaded mouse-trap conveniently hanging in front of the stage exit, and a roller coaster sitting ready and waiting at the top of the track in the middle of the night, instead of stored away in a shed?
There's one other point that jars with me regarding the Black Cat in this cartoon – her apparent casual willingness to kill Spider-Man. Snagging his ankle in an anchor chain and dragging him overboard? Running him down with a roller coaster while he is webbed to the tracks? These are not mere inconveniences. These are brutal acts of murder. This is a girl with sociopathic tendencies.
Black Cat dunked at the fairground? Sign me up for more of that!
Bonus points for how relentlessly and unrealistically sexy all the female characters are in this episode. There's perky breasts, waspish waists, and even a cheeky Playboy bunny. Entirely inappropriate. Shocking example to set for innocent young children. I'm surprised we haven't raised the ghost of Fredric Wertham already!
Web-Wonders: Self-supporting web-wall. Web-road-skis.
Dumbest moment in this episode?
I'm jolly tempted to pick the moment where Spidey uses a propeller to slice the anchor chain that is dragging him down to the bottom of the harbor.
Let's just think about it for a moment.
That means that the second boat that chewed-up his chains must LITERALLY be smashing through the first boat at maximum speed.
But no. That doesn't take the cake – I'm going to skip right over the suicidal self-driving cars, and I shall award this episode's "diploma of dumbness", its' "statue of stupidity", the "mantle of moronity" to... the Open Windows of Winter!
This episode takes place in January in New York, where the temperature is lucky to reach the forties in the afternoon (Fahrenheit for Americans, or 5⁰C for the rest of the world). And at midnight during the party it is doubtless well below freezing point.
So you would think that somebody would do something about the GIANT GAPING HOLES IN THE SIDE OF THE SKYSCRAPER!