Monday, June 25, 2007

Law of the Jungle (Marvel comics)
Spider-man Ep. 3 When: July 2003
Why: Greg Johnson & Audu Paden How: Neil Patrick Harris & Rob Zombie

The story so far...
Having lost his arm in an accident working for Oscorp; Dr. Curt Conners turns his scientific brilliance toward developing a means for cell regeneration through a hybrid genetic therapy using reptilian DNA.

With success imminent, the good doctor sends his lab aid, Peter Parker, home early so he can inject himself in private with the serum developed.

The doctor's arm quickly regenerates, but as time eventually reveals, there are other, more sinister side effects awaiting the doctor. Symptoms like scales, a prehensile tail, and erratic, instinctive animal-like behaviour. Good thing Peter is hip to the change, at least, it is for Harry Osborn, who's clearing his father's office out at Oscorp...

Previous Form:
Spider-man (#1): Has victories on film over arch-nemesis; Kraven and Green Goblin.
The Lizard (#300): Defeated by the X-Men and the Avengers on seperate occasions.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: The Lizard 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: The Lizard 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Spider-man 2 (Projectiles)

Y'know, the 'previous form' mini-section there tends to go completely under the radar, but it's an interesting statistic to note here. Yes, we've reached the three hundred mark, but more telling to this battle is the two hundred and ninety-eight characters that seperate Spidey and the Lizard.

The Lizard isn't any kind of schmuck! He's been an esteemed member of Spidey's rogues gallery since the beginning, but by his very nature he has a knack for being defeated. Which really goes to his core as a tragic villain.

The man inside the monster - Dr. Curt Conners - is not only a good, wholesome family man, but he's also one of Spider-man and Peter Parker's greatest allies. The nature of his transformations and the quality of the man within mean the people around him are always highly motivated to put an end to his turmoil, and ultimately makes him a soft target off-the-page.

We've seen Spider-man shoot to the top with an unprecedented number of wins (and features) in 2007, and it really just goes to highlight that, for all his "human foibles", Spider-man remains the archetypal hero when it hits print.

The Lizard has all the tools to challenge Spider-man. He's got strength, cunning, guile, speed, agility, and has even been known to match-up with a bit of wall crawling. Typically, he's one of those characters that brings Spider-man back down on his sliding scale of strength, and that might be justified by the psychological and emotional connection between Spidey and Conners.

Still, at the end of the day, Spidey's record against the character is likely insurmountable, and though he may periodically lapse, the Lizard will return to life as Dr. Conners. It is inherently as inevitable as his changing into the Lizard.

The Math: Spider-man (Meta Class)
The Pick: Spider-man

What went down...
Working late to clear out his deceased father's office [Spider-man: The Movie], an unsuspecting Harry Osborn finds himself under the attack of the lethal Lizard! Though succumbing to a primal state, somewhere inside, the Lizard calls upon his grim fate at the hands of Oscorp's negligance, and seeks revenge!

While Spider-man races to the scene, Harry maneuvers his way through the labyrinth of corridors in the Oscorp office complex, snagging a fire axe while evading the leaping lizard that claws and hops his way through the narrow halls.

Harry manages to slice away the Lizard's fingers as he slowly stalks around a corner, but they quickly regenerate thanks to the mysterious serum flowing in his veins. Unphased, the Lizard is now even more motivated as he corners the axe-wielding Osborn in a conference room.

Knocking Harry down with a slash to his arm, the Lizard prepares to move in for the kill, but as he does, a comedic voice descends from above -- Spider-man!
A self-launching Spider-man knocks the Lizard down, propelling himself from the bottom of a walking platform.

The Lizard recovers, taking several swipes and bites at the Spider-man, but his agility proves superior. A red fist swings up with a devestating uppercut, again flooring the Lizard as he goes head-over-heels, backward.

Grabbing a fire extinguisher with thoughts of acting out on his vendetta against Spider-man, Harry thinks better, agreeing to take Spider-man's provided escape opportunity.

In something of a primal rage, the Lizard crawls around on all fours before launching himself at Spidey. With no regard for the safety of himself or his prey, the Lizard sends he and Spider-man hurtling down beside the skyscraper.

Spidey shoots out web-lines to slow his descent, while the Lizard uses his talon-esque fingertips to cling to the side of the building. The Lizard wastes no time scaling the building in pursuit of Spider-man, who heads for the rooftop.

Inside, Harry calls the police, while above, Spider-man does combat with the ferocious Lizard.

Spidey again makes good use of his super-agility, narrowly escaping several close quarters lunging attacks, before springing to a higher vantage point atop a radio tower.

He attempts to connect with the Doctor within, appealing to his human nature to reject the return of his arm for the price it comes with. The Lizard wastes little time contemplating, instead using his own spring to leap after Spidey.

Avoiding the attack, Spider-man lands atop a large spinning fan, shooting web-lines out to the Lizard before feeding them into the spinning blades. The power of the machine yanks the Lizard from his tower perch, into the protective grill.

The Lizard hits with a thud as police helecopters begin circling overhead, casting their search lights at the super-powered struggle below.

With the fan jammed by Spider-man's webbing, the Lizard mangles the grill to free himself from his ensnarement. The police, believing the pair to be accomplices, calls for both of their surrender, while the Lizard launches an unsuspecting attack.

Lizard yanks Spidey off his proverbial soap box, and drags him to the ground below. With the blades of the industrial fan again spinning, the Lizard holds Spider-man menacingly by the throat with his powerful hands.

Preparing a killing stroke, the Lizard pulls his sharp nails back.
The police copter provides Spider-man with the leverage he needs to shoot a web to yank himself to freedom, as the Lizard follows through to plunge his arm into the spinning turbine!

It slices Dr. Conners' arm down in a parallel to his previous injuries. Sufficiently distracted, Spider-man webs him up from the bottom of the helecopter, and the police take-off with both in their 'custody'.

The Lizard continues to struggle, using his remaining arm to slash Spider-man's web. He plummets earthbound, landing in the streets below. Unable to make a getaway, the Lizard lies in the street, and sheds a single tear.

The hammer...
The winner, and still champion -- the amazing Spider-man!

I'm going to completely cop-out, and remind everyone that Mondays remain dedicated to the villains featured in the now classic, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance video game. These entries, which have fuelled the past few months, have been attracting some hits, so hopefully some of you hardcore gamers have gotten something out of them.

In a similar theme, it's nice to get another episode of the extremely underrated MTV Spider-man cartoon up! I think this was the kind of thing that really grew on me the more I've watched it, and I'm sure last time [Spider-man Ep. 13] I mentioned how impressive I thought the writing was, but I must do it again.

When you say 'MTV are doing a Spider-man cartoon', it's a bit of an ugh attractor. The inevitable image of a Spider-man with baseball cap backward and baggy pants comes to mind, but what the people behind this particular toon really did well was write motivated, intelligent done-in-one episodes with impressive success and respect for both the materials, and the requirements of MTV and their 'hip' image.

This is probably one of the few instances where, by luck or design, decisions to go with existing and original characters were made with flawless precision.
Few characters unique to cartoons or films are as enjoyable as some of the characters seen in this show, which, granted, were largely designed off existing characters like Black Cat, Rocket Racer and Kraven. But that shouldn't discount the decision process which ultimately proves 'right'.

Likewise the peppering of characters like Lizard and Kingpin and Silver Sable throughout the series helps sustain a familiarity for interested existing fans like myself -- but does so in a way that allows them to do something fresh and suitable for the surroundings in which these versions of the characters exist.

In many ways, I almost think with rare exception that this series was Ultimate Spider-man done right. Even if that's an incredibly subjective opinion.

For my tastes it's just a much interesting balance of factors like having Parker back in schooling (college, rather than high), elements of the movie, reinvented versions of characters, and classic elements of the Spider-man formula.
It just brings it together in a way - and at a pace and style - that sustains my interest far and above the regularly disappointing Ultimate title, which currently stands as a vague parallel to the existing Spider-man.

This episode represents a fairly familiar take on the Lizard character, but recasts Dr. Conners with the voice of Rob Zombie, which actually works quite well, and gives a suitably gruff edge to this version of the character. The stiffness in Zombie's voice-acting compliments the writing, which takes the friendly scientist and reimagines him as a much shorter and superior character.

The family connection is presumably removed to better relate the character to younger MTV viewers, while also better condensing the character's story and history into a single, relevant, flowing episode. While it's something I like about the redeeming qualities and conundrum of fighting the Lizard, I think the tragic villain is still well captured, even though this version relies on taking the already unlikable and building that up until a brief moment at the very end of the episode.
It's classic, even without mirroring the exact motivations of the original.

Of course, the MTV and Mainframe gang didn't hit every right note.
As much as they have their triumphs, they have their 'movie Dr. Doom' in the reimagining of Electro as a college sophmore who undergoes a drastic transformation. That, however, might be an entry for another day!

The Fight: 6 The Episode: 6
NEXT WEEK: Can even Marvel's mighty mutants stop The Executioner?!

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