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The Vulture In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Three

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Does whatever a spider can,
Spins a web, any size, He catches thieves, just like flies
Lookout! Here comes the Spider-Man!

Arguably the most famous introduction to a cartoon of all time, the theme tune to the 67 Spider-Man cartoon is much more famous than anything else that came in the show which isn’t too surprising – it is one of the best theme tunes of all time and has managed to make it into all three Spider-Man movies without causing embarrassment to the integrity of the films.

We’ll soon be seeing an all new Spider-Man cartoon hitting the airwaves, dubbed “The Spectacular Spider-Man” which has promised to be the best so far. The Vulture has been confirmed as the villain in the opening episode, so to celebrate the launch of the new show, let’s look back over The Vulture’s prior appearances in animation.

One of the original Stan Lee/Steve Dikto villains, The Vulture originally appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #2 and has been one of Spidey’s most enduring foes ever since. The main difference between Adrian Toomes and most of Spidey’s weird and wondrous rouges is the fact that at his centre, The Vulture is a fragile old man who doesn’t have powers caused by a freak run in with radiation.

The Vulture made his animation debut in the aforementioned 67 Spider-Man in The Sky Is Falling Down and in all honesty, he’s not really all that impressive. Few of the show’s villains were because of its very nature, but The Vulture was really annoying. He certainly didn’t come close to taking the crown of the show’s best villain from Mysterio, master of illusion!

Vultureman, as he was mysteriously called throughout the show’s run, looked more akin to the Blackie Drago version of the character than the elderly Toomes but he constantly had this huge grin plastered across his face which didn’t make him look even slightly threatening – just a little too goofy. He’s not an old man and wears a helmet similar to Blackie’s.

Speaking of goofy, his plot was to take control of all the birds in New York in an attempt to hold the city to ransom. As with all ransom demands in the show (which were numerous) the fowl bird demanded that J. Jonah Jameson, Fearless Publisher of The Daily Bugle cough up. As with most of the Spider-Man villain, Spider-Man had previously met Vultureman and naturally, Jameson thought Spidey was in cahoots with this week’s villains.

The one thing that did take me by surprise was that punch The Vulture landed on Spidey – it wasn’t something I was used to seeing in this show. It looked like it hurt too – Peter showed up to work the next day with a nasty black eye.

The casting was cheesy. I’m not certain who actually voiced the Vulture in this show, but someone here will always be quick to correct me or inform me of stuff like this, so if you just wait a few posts, I’m sure that the guy’s name will be mentioned. However, I wasn’t impressed with him – something just didn’t click with him for me.

There’s a few amusing lines from Spidey in the episode, especially the show of him washing the windows as the window cleaners refused to work due to The Vultureman roaming the city and disposing of the contents of his bucket over the villains face with a cracking “For a lovelier you” one liner. Spider-Man eventually defeated The Vulture by scrambling the circuits in his helmet that he used to control the birds. After retrieving both one million dollar bills (that’s right, Vultureman demanded two $1 million dollar bill notes) and returning them to Jameson everything was returned back to status quo for the next episode to start (which was Captured By J. Jonah Jameson, for those interested in such trivial matters).

The Vulture was actually one of the show’s more prominent villains and would appear an additional three times (which I believe is a record for this show).

As Jameson goes to investigate why the clocktower was telling the wrong time, he discovers that The Vulture is actually using the tower as his base of his operations and is captured.

Jameson: I think I’ve solved the mystery of the penthouse robberies!
Vultureman: That’s too bad, for you!
Jameson: Do you realise who you’re talking to?!
Vultureman: Not the J. Jonah Jameson?
Jameson: In person! And I can’t waste time here, I’ve got to show up for the testing of the new miniature rocket this morning.
Vultureman: Tell me more, Mr. Jameson…
This goes on as Jameson keep blabbering his mouth about stuff he really shouldn’t be (bare in mind, in this show, the city seems to revolve around him)

In this second appearance, he desires a rocket to help him fly.

No, I don’t know why either, being that he can already defy gravity.

This goes on and on until Jameson eventually jams the clocks and Peter and Betty notice things aren’t as they seem over at the clocktower and Spider-Man heads over to investigate and see The Vulture. No fight here, Spider-Man just webs him up and demands a “Please” from Jameson before releasing him. Classic stuff.

The Vulture’s next appearance in the show would probably be my favourite episode of the show’s run if I weren’t so shamelessly biased towards Mysterio.

Dr. Noah Body (brilliant!) springs, The Green Goblin, Electro and Vultureman in hopes of creating a disturbing double-duo to vanquish the wall crawler once and for all. The episode is one of the show’s funniest as the villains continuously attempt to outwit each other and demand that they finally be the one to kill Spider-Man (much akin to Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, the debut of The Sinister Six). Spider-Man eventually bests the four of them with a ventriloquist performance that make Batman circa Read My Lips envious. It’s shameless fun, which is a lot more than be said for Vulture’s last appearance in the show.

As season two came along, everything that was good in the show besides the casting was replaced. I’m not sure how you manage to make the show look cheaper than it already did but the show looked like it was put together and animated by children. The stories were mostly original and didn’t bother following or even recognising the comics as Spider-Man mainly battled green skinned villains from other worlds. They did use a few unoriginal ideas a few times in the show’s third season though, by literally splicing together scenes from previous episodes to create a ‘new’ one for cost cutting reasons. They’re all terrible – think of a clip show but one without any actual merit.

So out went the 67 show and it’s average adaptation of The Vulture. Would the 80’s fair better?