Episode 1: Pyramids of Terror / Original Airdate: Saturday September 22, 1979
Jessica and Friends travel to Egypt to research the mummy Khufu only to find themselves embroiled in an alien invasion.
Yes indeed Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman, had her own cartoon show. If you are unfamiliar with the story it goes that Marvel quickly created and published a story about a woman with spider powers to keep another company from doing so. Thus keeping anyone from piggybacking on their own Spider-Man’s success. Though what could have been just a throwaway act would turn out to be a beloved character who has certainly stepped out of Spider-Man’s shadow, if indeed she was ever truly in it.
The series follows Jessica Drew, secretly Spider-Woman, who works as the editor of Justice Magazine. Joining her in her work and adventures is Jeff, Justice Magazine’s expert photographer, and Billy, her nephew. This would suggest that Jessica has a brother or sister but we never even ever see them.
Much of the drama and action of the series centers around Jessica’s need to slip away from Jeff and Billy to change into Spider-Woman. Her origin and powers differ somewhat from her comic counterpart. She can wall-crawl and use her venom blasts, but in the series she can fly at will, which she could not do in the comics at the time. She has a form of spider-sense and can communicate with spiders but lacks super strength. Borrowing from Wonder Woman when it comes time to change into Spider-Woman, Jessica twirls inside a dazzling sparkling tornado into her costume.
In this episode some sort of mummy alien named Khufu plans to turn the people of earth into mummies through the use of flying pyramids. His plan is foiled by Spider-Woman however not without a bit of help. Which leads me to this…Immediately after the title sequence who is the first person we see?
And herein lies a huge problem I have with this first episode. Yes, her name is Spider-Woman. Yes, people would have automatically linked the two. But there was no need for it here. It’s always fun when heroes team up but this is not just Spider-Woman’s show; this is the first episode. We didn’t need Spider-Man swinging through to save the day. Spider-Woman should have been able to stand in the spotlight on her own, especially right out of the gate.
Also complicating this more is that if Spider-Man needed to help out with the generic villain of the week then where is he when Jessica takes on actual marvel universe villains some of which are heavy hitters. Part of this has to be the time period, although with Wonder Woman on TV there was a contemporary example of a female lead.
There’s also a lot of Jeff trying to step in and protect Jessica, which is annoying. And the ever present suspension of disbelief in these types of shows when Jessica suddenly disappears only for Spider-Woman to show up and Billy and Jeff converse with her like they are best friends. But I enjoy that since it goes with the territory.
The first episode does a good enough job of introducing us to Jessica and her world. The animation is serviceable and very of its time. Still, it’s a bit crazy. At one point something happens with Jessica and a helicopter and it’s the most ridiculous thing you’ll see in a cartoon. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
It’s a fun artifact from Marvel’s history and even with its flaws it still gave little girls in the 70s another hero who was like them when those were rare. It’s gets a definite thumbs up for that.
Verdict: 3 out of 5 Banana Breads
My name is Gary, #1 New Warriors zealot, I’m an elementary school teacher, cyclist, swimmer, and lover of Pop-Tarts. Comics taught me how to read but Uncanny X-Men 118 is where the love really began which also cemented my admiration for Misty Knight. Cloak and Dagger are my absolute faves.