Spider-Man: The ’67 Collection
July 7, 2004
A viewer’s appreciation of this collection will be based on nostalgia. Personally, it was one of the cartoons that I watched and loved as a child; I collected comic books and was a tremendous fan of Spider-Man. Those that fondly remember this animated series, with its insanely catchy theme song (music by Bob Harris and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster); will be in heaven as all 52 episodes have been digitally remastered over six DVDs. This cartoon has never looked better. Sure, it is pretty crude animation by today’s standards—simple renderings with little background detail and lots of repetition (in some episodes it seemed like Spidey spent half the time swinging through the city)—but that is part of its charm. What it lacks in slick technique it more than makes up for in content.
The show first aired on ABC in September 1967 and captures the essence of the original comic book perfectly. At times, it feels as though Steve Ditko’s artwork has leapt from the pages and come to life. Peter Parker (Soles) is an anguished young man torn between his duty as Spider-Man, and trying to maintain a normal life. Parker’s wisecracking Spider-Man persona is also successfully transferred over from the comic as he gleefully messes with villains before defeating them. And the crankiness of Daily Bugle newspaper publisher, J. Jonah Jameson (Kligman) is beautifully realized as he makes it his life’s work to expose Spider-Man as a menace, and torment those around him with his arrogant demands.
This authenticity is due in large part to the influence of Stan Lee and John Romita who made sure many of the stories from those early comic books were translated directly to the show. Spider-Man saves New York City from many of the comic’s most memorable villains: the Lizard, Electro, Mysterio, the Green Goblin, and Doctor Octopus. The show also featured some truly odd original bad guys as well: the Fifth Avenue Phantom whose sidekick was a woman with shrinking ray vision and the Sinister Prime Minister, who was armed with a walking stick, filled with sleeping gas and shot deadly darts.
In the second season, Ralph Bakshi (Fritz the Cat) came aboard as director, executive producer and story supervisor. Along with Gray Morrow, the show’s art director, they created an even more ‘60s influenced psychedelic look, with more science fiction/fantasy-influenced stories (as opposed to ones based on the comic book) and groovy instrumental music by Ray Ellis that ranged from ‘60s dance music to eerie, atmospheric instrumentals that really helped establish an ominous mood when appropriate.
One of the strongest episodes of this season was “The Origin of Spider-Man,” which followed the comic book faithfully. This included Parker discovering that he could crawl up walls and the creation of his web-shooters (two things that the feature film changed). It is also a fascinating snapshot of the ‘60s with an impressionistic take on New York City and trippy, abstract skies of all colours (at one point, a combo of yellow, green and black). What kind of smog did they have there?
Bakshi was also responsible for cutting corners to save time and money by reusing certain sequences over again and often resorted to having Spidey swing around the city to pad out episodes. One has to remember that he was working on a shoestring budget, with a very small crew and under a strict deadline.
Alas, there are none—but having the entire run of the series in mint condition is good enough for this fan.
How much you will like Spider-Man: The ’67 Collection really depends on the nostalgia value it holds for you. The animation is dated, in a wonderfully kitschy way. For fans of this series, it is a wonderful trip down memory lane.