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Cartoons: Spider-Woman

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Episode Review
History of Spider-Woman
Quick Facts
Voice Cast

History of Spider-Woman:  Spider-Woman started life in comic books.  She made her first appearance in the comic book series "Marvel Two-In-One" #29 (not #30 as is commonly believed) in 1977.  "Marvel Two-In-One" was really a title for The Thing, the rock-man member of the Fantastic Four superhero team.  It paired the mighty man with other superheroes both popular and fledgling.  This issue paired The Thing with the fairly popular hero Shang Chi, Master of Kung-Fu.  Spider-Woman, who makes only a brief appearance in this issue, is actually a villainess under control of the evil terrorist group Hydra.  Spider-Woman made several appearances in this title, transforming from straight villainess to a "gray area" heroine.  Also, her costume was slightly different at this time.  The mask completely covered her head; you did not see her long black hair.  In truth, her hair was blonde.  It was not until she got her own comic series in 1978, "Spider-Woman", did Jessica Drew dye her hair black and let it flow free from her mask.  THIS is the Spider-Woman we know best.

    In the early issues, Spider-Woman was not a fully-fledged superheroine.  That was finally established several issues into it.  Spider-Woman was an interesting experiment for Marvel.  They wanted to play off the name of their most popular character, Spider-Man, but create a completely separate character.  Besides occasional team-ups, Spider-Man and Spider-Woman had no relationship to each other.  Their powers were even different.

    By 1979, a "Spider-Woman" TV cartoon series was put into effect.  This cartoon series gets hammered a lot by critics for not following the comics.  There are a number of reasons the cartoon wasn't altogether faithful to the comics.  First off, the comic character of Spider-Woman had too complicated of back story to be explained in a fun little kiddy cartoon.  Secondly, the Spider-Woman comic series never really established itself.  It changed it's format and supporting cast very regular.  The premise laid down in the cartoon series probably would have been a good one for the comics.  At least it was grounded.

    The cartoon series lasted only one season, despite the fact that it was well-produced and one of the better superhero cartoons of the 1970s.  The comic book series ran until 1983, ending with issue #50.

    In the cartoon "Spider-Woman", young Jessica Drew was bitten by a poisonous spider.  Her father injects her with a life-saving spider-serum.  The treatment worked, but the side effects were extraordinary.  She has the ability to fire concussive "venom blasts", shoot webs, and has enhanced hearing.   Add these things to the standard superhero qualities like super-strength, super-agility, and near-flight (she "glides", actually), and you have the scrumptious super-babe Spider-Woman.  Now an adult, Jessica Drew works as editor of Justice Magazine and fights evil on both fronts.   Her boyfriend/photographer is Jeff Hunt, and her little nephew Billy Drew just kind of hangs around.

    In the comics, there is no Justice Magazine or anything like that.  As a matter of fact, Jessica Drew was more of a vagabond.  She really never had any set occupation.  At least not for long.  She didn't have any relatives that we hear about other than her father, who was murdered.  Also, her boyfriend Jeff Hunt was not a photographer, but a spy for anti-terrorist agency, S.H.I.E.L.D.  He didn't stick around in the comics too long, either.  As far as powers go, the comic Spider-Woman cannot shoot webs.  That was Spider-Man's thing.  Spider-Woman could only shoot venom blasts, either to stun or kill.  Also, there is really nothing in the comics about enhanced hearing. 

    Jessica Drew, in the cartoon, spins around to become Spider-Woman.  This was definitely NOT in the comics, and is a very obvious tip-of-the-hat to the live-action TV series "Wonder Woman".  In various episodes, we will also see rare, one-shot Spider-Woman super powers that we'll never see or hear about again.  These things include, but are not limited to:  protective spider bubble, shallow spider-breathing, and spider telepathy.  But her "spider sense" power is perhaps the most fantastic of all her non-comic powers.  Spider-Man's "spider sense" is very limited, only warning him of some impending doom, and nothing more than a tingling sensation.  Spider-Woman's "spider sense", exclusive to this series, is a powerful psychic ability that tells her exactly what wrongdoing is being committed.

    All in all, the cartoon Spider-Woman is shown far more fantastic than her comic book counterpart.  It was a respectful, albeit very farfetched adaptation of the character.  This is a fun little superhero cartoon, definitely made for very young children, but not without its charm for older audiences.

Quick Facts:

    Joan Van Ark, voice of Spider-Woman, was just starting out in TV's night-time soap opera "Knots Landing" at the time this cartoon was on the air, and achieved her greatest success as the character of Valene Ewing in an impressive 319 episodes (1979-1993).

    Bryan Scott, voice of Billy Drew, has done a number of things in voicework over the years.  His most popular part was probably as the voice of Kidd Video in the cartoon series, "Kidd Video" from 1984-1987.

    This was the last series for DePatie-Freleng Enterprises before the company was reincorporated as Marvel Productions.


"Spider-Woman" (1979)
Studio: DePatie-Freleng Enterprises
  1. Pyramids of Terror (September 22) GUEST-STARRING SPIDER-MAN!
  2. Realm of Darkness (September 29) GUEST-STARRING DORMAMMU!
  3. The Amazon Adventure
  4. The Ghost Vikings
  5. The Kingpin Strikes Again GUEST-STARRING THE KINGPIN!
  6. The Lost Continent
  8. Games of Doom
  9. Shuttle to Disaster
  11. The Spider-Woman and the Fly
  12. Invasion from the Black Hole
  13. The Great Magini
  14. A Crime in Time
  15. Return of the Spider-Queen
  16. A Deadly Dream
Episode Review:

2. Realm of Darkness:  Dormammu, the evil demon "Lord of Darkness" wants to permanently eclipse the sun and put the Earth in darkness.  A rare Spider-Woman power we see in this episode is "shallow spider-breathing" that allows her to not breathe in hypnotic gas.  This power was used again in the "Games of Doom" episode.  Another rare Spider-Woman power is her "spider shriek", a sonic scream that causes a rockslide.

    In Marvel Comics' titles, Dormammu was really more a villain for the occult superheroes like Dr. Strange.  Plus, he looks a bit different in this cartoon than he does in the comics.  Still, this is probably one of the series' better episodes in terms of writing and believability.  The animated "spider shriek" sequence is hilarious!  It looks so funny!

3. The Amazon Adventure:  Amazon women steal gold to build their hidden city.

4. The Ghost Vikings:  Viking ghosts raid the present-day.  Another rare Spider-Woman power we see in this episode is a "protective spider bubble" that allows her to breathe underwater.

5. The Kingpin Strikes Again:  A criminal mastermind known as The Kingpin steals an invisibility ray.  The Kingpin had been a popular Marvel Comics villain for some time.  He first appeared as a Spider-Man foe, then became Daredevil's top enemy.  But Spider-Woman really shared no association with the villain in the comics.

7. The Kongo Spider:  An insane German film director known only as C.B. uses a giant spider and a giant robotic spider to wreak havoc and make a movie.  Another rare Spider-Woman power we see in this episode is "spider telepathy" that she uses to communicate with the giant spider.  Marvel's most popular superhero, Spider-Man, makes a guest appearance.

8. Games of Doom:  Olympic athletes from every country are kidnapped and replaced with lookalike robots.  The rare Spider-Woman power, "shallow spider-breathing", returns in this episode and allows her to not breathe in sleeping gas.  We last saw this power in the episode, "Realm of Darkness".  A lot of people get ticked with this episode when they see the title, "Games of Doom", because they think popular Marvel Comics villain Dr. Doom is going to be in it.  That's never bothered me, but I do have one complaint:  I don't get the miniature man at the end of this episode.  What's that about?  Besides that, this is a fun little kiddy cartoon like all the others in the series.

Voice Cast:

Joan Van Ark as Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman
Bruce Miller as Jeff Hunt
Bryan Scott as Billy Drew
Dick Tufeld as Narrator