Episode Title: The Quest of the Red Skull
Well, true believers, we’ve come to the final episode of season 1 for Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. This particular episode is one that could be considered somewhat controversial. In fact, due to its use of Nazi symbols and imagery, this episode was rarely arired when the series was rerun in syndication. Get ready for The Quest of the Red Skull.
Peter, Bobby, Angelica are attending a class party at the home of one of their college professors. Meanwhile, at the home of another one of their professors, Hiawatha Smith, some of the Red Skull’s goons are up to no good. They have been dispatched to find and steal the Scorpio Engraving. This relic will direct Red Skull to the place where the Nazi’s stored all the treasures they stole during World War II…including a huge stockpile of weapons.
Hiawatha Smith is of Native-American descent and has powers that allow him to communicate and control various animals. Smith teams up with the Spider Friends to chase down the Red Skull and stop his plan to start World War III and become “the next Hitler.” Along the way all three Spider Friends get captured by the Skull and are tied to Nazi missiles. That leaves Smith to come to the rescue.
This series has certainly made use of a variety of other Marvel heroes, both famous and obscure. However, Hiawatha Smith appears to have been created for this series. It is interesting to note that his occupation (archaeologist/professor/adventurer), and for that matter his name too, are both very similar to one Indiana Jones, who had just hit movie screens for the first time in June of 1981. Smith is an interesting character that adds diversity to the proceedings, though we don’t get a real strong idea of what his powers and abilities are. He has some potential as an ongoing character, but to the best of my knowledge this is the only time he would appear.
The strong point of this episode, though, is the Red Skull. This classic villain is portrayed as truly scary. Little kids watching this on Saturday morning in 1981 may have gotten a bit more than they bargained for. His look is scary, his voice is scary…the dude is just plain evil. Add to it all the Nazi images and you get a very sinister finale to season 1. I mean there are swastikas all over the place in this episode, including one that is a huge rock carving. We see a propaganda film complete with a cartoon version of Hitler and characters even shout “Heil Hitler.” Hey, everybody knows that Nazis make good villains, but I doubt you’d see anything like this in a cartoon produced today.
I did find that the third act of this episode dragged a bit but overall this is a nice close to the first season. Next time we kick off season two with The Origin of the Iceman.