Episode Title: Knights and Demons
A few episodes ago, the Spider Friends battled a creature called Video Man to respond to the rise in popularity of videogames. But Pac-Man and Space Invaders weren’t the only entertainment for up-and-coming nerd children of the 80’s. There was a little something called Dungeons & Dragons. So, in our episode today, our heroes battle an evil wizard and his gang of demons, enlisting the help of Marvel’s Black Knight along the way. It’s time for Knights and Demons.
It seems that the evil wizard Mordred was long-ago imprisoned in the Land of Shades by the Black Knight and his ebony blade. However, a demon slave of Mordred’s encased in stone has recently been unearthed in modern times. When the beast awakens, it can steal the ebony blade (conveniently on display in a New York museum) and Mordred can take over the world. With this danger on the horizon, The Black Knight is summoned on his winged horse. His first job is to get back his ebony blade.
By the time The Black Knight arrives in New York City, the demon has awakened and the Spider Friends are struggling to to defeat it. The demon manages to swipe the blade, so now our heroes must join the Black Knight on a quest to Land of Shades. There the gang must contend with the likes of demons, giant two-headed snakes, skeleton warriors on dragons, and even a batch of sexy sirens.
The Black Knight is an interesting character to see show up in this episode. He was created in 1955 by Stan Lee for a series of stories published by Atlas Comics, which would eventually evolve into Marvel. From what I can tell, this is one of the few, if not only, times the character has appeared in animated form. That’s a bit of a shame since the character’s world introduces some of the most bizarre and dark images we’ve seen yet in this series. Many of the demonic creatures in this episode seem more suited to adult animated films like Heavy Metal than to a Saturday morning kiddie show. I’m not complaining, though. The creatures are a visual treat and make this one of the most unique episodes of the show so far. One of my favorite moments involved the demon causing Spidey’s own shadow to come to life and battle the web slinger.
This episode also pulls off some clever scripting as it deals a bit with…shall we say women’s lib. The Black Knight, of course, is a bit taken aback by Firestar wanting to join in the fight. She is, after all, a woman. At one point he even says to her, “Firemaiden…stay.” Firestar’s not putting up with that, of course. In the climax of the battle, she’s the one that ends up rescuing “Blackie” from one of Mordred’s spells. The Black Knight having to deal with changing women’s roles makes for some fun moments in this one.
This episode ends up being a real treat. It features both creative scripting and character design and makes great use of an often forgotten Marvel character. Speaking of characters, I should also mention that J. Jonah Jameson puts in his first appearance of the series in this episode. It’s little more than a cameo, however. Several more iconic characters…both heroic (Captain America) and villainous (Kingpin)…show up in our next episode – Pawns of the Kingpin.