And so we begin another chapter of the Neogenic Nightmare, true believers! In the last episode, we encountered a blood sucking vampire that couldn’t actually suck blood. This week, we’ll cross paths with a murderous vigilante that can’t actually murder anyone. Such is life when you’re adapting a comic book for a kids cartoon in the 1990s!
So Peter Parker, in his quest to not turn into a horrible mutant monster, has taken an experimental serum that causes him to grow four extra arms. He now has a total of eight limbs…ya know….like a spider…get it? He’s freaking out that his worst nightmare has finally come true and is making plans to leave his civilian life behind when, in a case of the worst possible timing, Mary Jane calls and wants to treat him to dinner & a movie. As much as he would be thrilled to hear this news at any other time, he has to come up with an excuse to pass because no one could love a disgusting mutant freak like him. (Spoiler Alert: His mutation gets a lot worse before it gets better.) Meanwhile, Peter’s classmate Michael Morbius has mutated into a living vampire after monkeying around with Parker DNA and vampire bats. However, nobody but Peter Parker knows that. They all just assume that Morbius was attacked and kidnapped by Spider-Man because Spidey gets blamed for everything. All this adds up to an assassin named Punisher gunning to take out Spidey once and for all.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the last forty years and aren’t familiar with The Punisher, I’ll break it down for you. Frank castle was a soldier and a damn good one. While on leave, he decided to spend the day with his wife & kids at Central Park. The Castle family got caught in the crossfire of a mob hit and Frank was the only survivor. Frank then made it his mission to wipe out the world’s criminal element; but not in a “catch them and let the legal system sort it out” way like most vigilantes…more of a “shoot them in the face and let God sort it out” kind of way. Frank shows up in this episode on the hunt for Spidey because he mistakenly believes him to be a dangerous criminal. It’s pretty much the same way Punisher made his first comic appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #129. In that issue, he’d been convinced by the Jackal that Spider-Man had killed Norman Osborn. He later found out that he’d been played for a fool, but that’s kind of what you get for being dumb enough to trust the Jackal in the first place.
Since this is a kids’ show, Punisher’s “guy in the chair” Microchip is encouraging him to use non-lethal weapons to take down Spidey in an attempt to get the cops to lighten up. It’s really hard to use a vigilante with no qualms about killing people when the network censors won’t even let you use the word kill. That being said, the show did a pretty good job with the Punisher here. With the combination of worrying about Morbius, freaking out about his current condition, and the recurring bouts of crippling abdominal pain that have been coming and going for this entire season, Spider-Man almost gets caught by Punisher a few times but manages to power his way out and swing away. What Spidey doesn’t notice is that he’s been tagged with a tracking device.
Rather than wallow in his misery, Spider-Man decides that he has to help Morbius because it’s kinda his fault that Morbius in the predicament he’s in. Well, it’s mostly Morbius being a nosy a-hole, but it is kinda Spidey’s fault. Using Morbius’ personal audio recorder that he’d dropped from an earlier fight, Spider-Man manages to track down the location of Morbius’ secret lab. Just as he’s confronting the
blood plasma sucking fiend, Punisher shows up and starts blasting RPGs at them. Morbius manages to get away, but Spider-Man gets taken down by one and falls through the roof of a greenhouse. Remember what I said about Spidey’s mutation getting worse before it gets better? Well, this is when things start to kick into overdrive.
Looks like that ol’ Neogenic Nightmare is finally a reality.