In the previous episode, Spidey fought the big ol’ drip that was Hydro-Man. It didn’t really add anything to the ongoing “Neogenic Nightmare” story save for a couple passing mentions of Spidey being worried about mutating. This episode jumps right back into the thick of things with a guest appearance from the hottest comic book act in the early 1990s, the X-Men!
X-Men: The Animated Series had debuted two years prior to the start of Spider-Man. X-Men production was licensed out to Saban Entertainment and became a runaway hit. Ronald Perelman, the owner of Marvel at the time, suddenly remembered that he owned a film studio.
Marvel had started their own studio, Marvel Productions, for film & television projects in 1981. Cadence Industries, the company that owned Marvel, went out of business in 1986 and Marvel was acquired by movie studio New World Pictures for around $50 million. In 1989, New World fell on hard times and sold Marvel for $82.5 million to the Andrews Group which was a holding company owned by MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, which itself was a holding company owned by billionaire financier Ronald Perelman. However, as a part of the deal, New World retained ownership of all the assets of Marvel Productions and simply folded them with all of their other stuff. It ultimately wouldn’t matter though, as New World’s financial troubles continued and Perelman would buy the entire company less than a year later.
At the time, Marvel’s approach to getting movies and television shows made for their characters was “license anything to anybody who’s willing to pay for it”. In 1995, the company made over $50 million off of character licensing alone but wound up nearly that much in the hole once everything else was taken into account. After Saban picked up the rights for an X-Men cartoon and soon had a hit on their hands, Perelman decreed that all future animation projects be produced through New World. In 1993 Marvel Films Animation (A division of New World Entertainment) was born, with Spider-Man being its first production. It would also be its last. In 1996, Perelman sold New World to Fox for $2.5 billion. Shortly after that, Fox worked out a deal with Saban to handle all of its animated kids’ shows. Thus, Marvel Films Animation was shut down and Saban took over. Funny enough, Disney would buy Saban Entertainment in 2001, Marvel in 2009, and by the end of this year will most likely own Fox as well.
At the start of chapter four, Peter is terribly worried that he might turn into some sort of horrible mutant freak. Thus, he pays a visit to the world’s foremost expert on horrible mutant freaks, Professor Charles Xavier. But instead of walking in the front door like a normal person, he hops over the fence and goes skulking about the rooftops. This triggers the security systems that Xavier has in place on the exterior of the mansion since the damn thing gets attacked or destroyed on an almost weekly basis. Spidey gets wrapped up in a steel straight jacket and dumped down a chute straight into the basement where a welcoming party is waiting for him.
Spidey is face to face with the X-Men, and he has no idea who the hell any of them are. They recognize him (no doubt thanks to all that free press he’s getting from Jameson and the Bugle) but he’s clueless about them. You’d think that with both Spidey & the X-men operating out of the New York area, he’d have at least heard of them. In the comics, their first published interaction was a very brief encounter in Uncanny X-Men #27 where Beast and Iceman, at the sudden insistence of Professor Xavier, ask Spidey to join the X-Men but he declines.
Their first real story together would come in Uncanny #35 in which the X-Men attack Spidey because they’ve mistaken him for a bad guy and he mops the floor with them. The in-continuity story of their first meeting wouldn’t be told until thirty years later in Untold Tales of Spider-Man #21. Circumstances force Spidey to team with the group to take down a villain but he rejects an offer to stick with the team.
Back to the episode, Spidey quickly breaks free of his bindings and tries to make a run for it only to accidentally wind up in the Danger Room. Trouble is that Gambit, that irresponsible Cajun lout, had walked out and left it on while training with a deadly Sentinel program. The X-Men rush in to help Spidey fight off the giant killer robots and it’s only after doing this for a few minutes that somebody thinks to just turn the damn thing off. But it does lead to this great exchange that starts at the 47 second mark:
Xavier finally shows up and tells Spider-Man that he can’t help with his mutation problem at all, as his objective is not to cure mutations but to help mutants live with their conditions and use them for the betterment of the world. This causes Spidey to angrily storm out. Against the advice of the rest of the team, Beast takes off after him. He figures that if Spider-man wasn’t born a mutant and only got his powers from an accident, maybe he has a right to seek out a cure for his condition. He knows someone working at the Brand Corporation, a Dr. Herbert Landon, who is doing some groundbreaking research in mutant genetics and may be able to help. After all, Hank McCoy should know a thing or two about mutations and the Brand Corporation since it was research he did while working for that company that made him all fuzzy.
Landon, it turns out, is up to his elbows in some really shady stuff. Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, is paying Landon to create for him an army of super mutants. He’s using Fisk’s money for other research purposes though (something he considers to be his life’s work), and is being blackmailed by the Hobgoblin to keep Kingpin from finding out. After leaving the warehouse where they’ve met to drop off the latest payment, Landon blows the place up in attempt to kill Hobgoblin, but he survives. Hobgoblin, as in all of his appearances in this series, is voiced by Mark Hamill in a way that’s very similar to though not quite as over the top as his Joker. All of the X-Men have the same voice actors as their regular series, though only Wolverine and Beast have a lot of dialogue. X-Men did its recording at a sound studio in Canada while Spider-Man recorded in Los Angeles. It was deemed too expensive to fly the entire cast out to LA for extended recording sessions.
Beast finally tracks down Spider-Man and tells him about Landon’s work and how he’ll be presenting his findings at a press conference tomorrow. Spidey thanks him for the tip then swings off to sulk about his predicament some more. Suddenly, armed goons from the Brand Corporation get the drop on Beast. Somebody wants them to capture a mutant for an experiment.
The next morning, Wolverine notices that Beast never came home last night and goes looking for him. He tracks his scent to the spot where he was captured and also picks up Spider-Man and Brand goons and figures Spidey probably lead Hank into a trap. Why he would immediately assume that, I don’t know. But he’s the best there is at what he does, so let’s just go with it.
We then cut to the Brand Corporation’s announcement about their breakthrough in mutant research where Peter Parker talks to people who throw around the words “mutie” and “freak” like they’re Rip Taylor tossing confetti. Just as Landon takes the stage and the presentation begins, Peter’s spider sense is set off by the arrival of Hobgoblin who’s looking to get back at Landon for that attempted blowing up I mentioned earlier. Not wanting to tangle with Spidey at the moment, Hobgoblin tosses his entire bag of pumpkin bombs at the ceiling to make himself a quick exit. The ceiling begins to collapse over the audience and Spidey springs into action to try to web it together long enough for the people to get out.
As Spider-Man is trying to hold things together, Landon is trying to make his way out through the crowd while his assistant, who’d been talking about those “horrible mutie freaks” earlier, says they should help Spider-Man because he saved Landon’s life. Landon says nuts to that and runs off. Just as the ceiling is about to collapse, a mysterious energy holds it together for a few seconds; just long enough for everyone to clear the auditorium. Where the hell did that come from? Spidey figures that Landon would head back to the Brand Corporation labs and that Hobgoblin would soon follow, so he heads there.
Inside said Brand Corporation Labs, we discover that one blue & furry Hank McCoy is being held in a cage. Landon arrives and begins a super villain monologue about how his life’s work, the project he’s been secretly funding with Kingpin’s money, has been finding a way to eliminate mutantkind. The manifestation of that is a big vat of a chemical sludge that Landon claims will cause any body that contains mutant DNA to dissolve. He’d sent his armed goons out to find a mutant to test it on and they just so happened to find Beast. However, Landon thinks it’s extremely fitting that Hank be the guinea pig for this since the two of them were colleagues at the Brand Corporation back during the time when Hank experimented on himself in attempt to change his own mutation. Landon’s current project is even based on Hank’s research. Beast is then placed precariously over the big vat of anti-mutant goop.
Outside, Spider-Man waits patiently for Hobgoblin to show up and thumps him good when he does. He asks why he would want to hurt Landon only for Hobgoblin to tell him that he doesn’t want to hurt Landon at all, in fact the opposite since Landon is bankrolling him to keep a secret. Under further pressure, Hobgoblin admits that Landon’s secret is his project to eliminate mutants, which Spider-Man doesn’t believe. Just then, Wolverine shows up, still under the impression that Spidey has done something nefarious to Beast. I’m sure they’ll just talk this out rationally and get to the bottom of everything, right?