Monday, August 14, 2006

Spider-Man Family: Amazing Friends
A ‘one-shot’ issue from Marvel Comics; $4.99 U.S.

Many of today’s cartoon watchers will know this show from Toon Disney/Jetix, but I’m old enough to remember when Spider-Man & his Amazing Friends debuted on NBC in 1981. This was a blissfully pre-Internet, pre-mega-convention era, so there was no stir-up buzz a year before the show came out. About the only thing I noticed beforehand was a comic-book ad that showed all the planned NBC fall cartoon shows, a few months before (back then, I didn’t have access to comics on a regular basis, so even that was a treat). The show produced a total of 24 original episodes (running on NBC until ’86). No, most of the animation wasn’t groundbreaking (hey, what was in the early 80’s?), but the writing was top notch, as it captured the sometimes flirty, sometimes contentious relationship between three college-aged superheroes. At that time, I had never heard of Iceman, and my knowledge of the X-Men was fairly dim (Nightcrawler and Beast were the only X-heroes I was familiar with, for solo appearances in Spidey team-up books). Obviously, Firestar was brand-new, though, probably like a lot of kids, I assumed she was in the comic books as well. Well, she wasn’t—in fact, she didn’t make her debut in the Marvel Universe proper (616) until Uncanny X-Men #193, circa ‘84—as a pawn of then-villainess White Queen, no less. She was much younger (around Sprite’s age), and clearly not a contemporary of Iceman and most of the then-current team (What with the recent Deadly Genesis revelation, I suppose she could have been retconned into being a secret recruit that quit off-screen.. But I digress.. and sheathe your daggers, please..)
Current comics stands have Teen Titans Go!, Justice League Unlimited, and several other animation-based titles. Currently, in an era when just about any animated show is guaranteed to at least have a comic-book mini-series or an ongoing, it seems odd that Marvel would only publish a flimsy one-shot based on SMAF, and never look twice at the possible sales gold they could have had with a companion title to the show. I guess they figured there wouldn’t be any money in it (wasn’t this during Shooter’s tenure? Never mind, we won’t go there…). Over the years, there have been an assortment of team-ups of Spidey with Iceman, and Spidey with Firestar, but never with the (alternate-dimension only) legendary Spider-Friends together in one adventure. In the words of Bobby Brown, that ain’t justice!
At last, Spider-Man Family: Amazing Friends features an all-new (lost) story involving Spider-Man, Iceman and Firestar. Written by Sean McKeever (with art by Pat Olliffe and others) the story doesn’t violate 616 continuity, and takes place when Spidey was already married to Mary Jane, and Iceman had just rejoined the X-Men fold after his run with X-Factor. One of the cartoon series’ made-for-TV villains, Videoman, makes his retroactive debut here. Apparently Iceman has just broken up with a girlfriend (Opal Tanaka?) and so Spidey decides to set him up with Firestar (who runs into the guys while on a break from the New Warriors). The rest of the story explores what happens after their date, and the obvious dichotomies of fire and ice. The story’s pretty lighthearted, and doesn’t make any waves continuity-wise, for time-skeptics. The backup features include a ‘mini-Marvels’ humor tale, and reprints from Spider-Man 2099 and Untold Tales of Spider-Man.

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