Spider-Man had his own team?
Before his appearances in the Avengers movies, you usually didn’t see Spider-Man as part of a superhero team. Not unless he was subbing in for The Avengers or The Fantastic Four, that is. Most of the time, Spidey works solo, but in the Marvel cartoon world, Spidey actually had his own team two former X-Men: Iceman, and Firestar. Thus, we were given the 1980s cartoon show, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. And all 24 episodes can be viewed on Disney+ (there are also a few episodes on DailyMotion if you don’t have a Disney+ account).
You might remember this one for Saturday morning cartoons in the '90s, but unlike a lot of superhero adaptations from that era, this one actually sort of holds up. In their origin episode, Iceman and Firestar come to town after quitting the X-Men and team-up with Spider-Man. Afterward, the three heroes decide to make their collaboration permanent, and “The Spider-Friends” are born.
Why is Spider-Man the leader? Maybe Firestar and Iceman are just trying to make him feel better because he can’t do any cool hero-transformation feats.
Poor Spider-Man. Iceman can encase himself in a block of ice that he can dramatically burst out of (though he seems to be reduced to his underwear). Firestar can surround herself in a blaze of intense light that not only changes her outfit but also gives her a perm and redder hair.
Spider-Man can…put on his mask. And change his clothes. It’s just not the same, okay?
Iceman and Firestar are clearly just trying to assuage Spider-Man’s ego in letting themselves be called “The Spider-Friends.”
It should be noted that Iceman was always part of the original X-Men team as a long-established character from the X-Men’s beginnings. Firestar was actually a character created solely for the purposes of this show — the Human Torch wasn’t available due to the rights still being tied up. Thankfully, this time we didn’t get another H.E.R.B.I.E the goddamn robot.
I guess the writers decided Spider-Man needed both a cold teammate and a hot teammate (I’m not going to make a joke about this — too easy). But after the series, Firestar did, in fact, become an actual character in the comics and was given official membership with the X-Men, the Hellions, and the Avengers — she definitely made a massive impact on the Marvel fandom despite only being created for this show.
In real life, the three heroes — Peter Parker, Bobby Drake, and Angelica Jones — are also college students and roommates who rent an apartment in Aunt May’s house.
The team has meticulously converted into an entire hidden crime lab, which Aunt May has miraculously never managed to stumble upon, even by accident.
Maybe the Spider-Friends just do their own housecleaning.
A later episode explains that the Spider-Friends obtained all their equipment from a vaguely semi-British-accented Tony Stark. Stark gave them all the technology in return for saving him several times (I guess the Iron Man suit was in the shop that day).
This is the ‘80s, and when you have a girl thrown in with two guys, unfortunately, you’re usually bound to get one of those godawful love triangles. However, with this cartoon, I can at least respect that they didn’t make romance a focal point with the show. Peter and Bobby flirt with Angelica and, once in a while, will take her on casual dates, but it’s never is shown to be particularly serious. They all are shown to have their own social lives and have dates with other people to avoid the weirdness of inter-team dating.
And I can appreciate that Firestar is a fully-fledged member of the team and not just a passive heroine whose job is to get kidnapped and rescued by her male teammates (i.e., early iterations of The Invisible Woman).
She has an active set of powers that allow her to be a thorough team participant. Sure, she has her moments in captivity, but she manages to do her fair share of saving the guys as well.
I would say that Firestar’s lowest point came in the form of an especially weird episode involved her getting kidnapped by Count Dracula to be his bride. Spider-Man and Iceman have to battle Frankenstein and the Wolfman to save her.
Yeah, this episode is basically Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, but not even remotely humorous.
The Dracula episode was definitely one of the weaker ones, but that’s not to say that there aren’t any good stories here. Actually, many strong episodes featuring well-known villains from the comics. You have a couple of episodes with an unmemorable one-off bad guy, but most of the time, we got to see the team fight villains like Dr. Doom, the Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, and the Red Skull.
Heck, even Loki shows up for an episode!
Besides an impressive array of supervillains, we also get several guest appearances from other Marvel superheroes. The Spider-Friends teamed up with Thor, Captain America, and the X-Men—with an Australian-accented Wolverine in tow (a review for another time).
The show can be cheesy — all three heroes are guilty of spouting corny jokes and tired metaphor — but overall, it’s a fun, enjoyable superhero cartoon show with plenty of action, likable characters, and engaging storylines. The three team members have a solid dynamic and play off each other well.
The animation is also pretty good. It’s an older cartoon, but the movement is natural and flows reasonably well. It’s not stilted or awkward like the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon. Plus, all twenty-four episodes are stand-alone, so you don’t have to watch them in any particular order. It’s a light binge and an entertaining look at a blast from Marvel’s past. If you’re intrigued, I’d recommend having a look.
Rewind is an Inverse series that remembers the forgotten performances we love.