This is not to be confused with the Marvel Mangaverse version of Spiderman. This was the 1970s and Marvel, during the comic slump of the time, was looking to expand their properties. They saw that Japanese action cartoons were becoming popular. Battle of the Planets, Star Blazers, and Robotech all being prime examples. To grab some of this sweet fruit, they entered into a three year deal with Toei Entertainment, wherein each party could use the other’s characters in whatever way they deemed would work in their perspective markets.
Marvel adapted two of the Japanese characters to expand their Shogun Warriors (a sort of early Transformers) comic adaptation. While Toei created Battle Fever J, the Japanese Captain America of all things, an animated TV movie based on Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula comic, and this little gem.
|What did you expect it to look like?|
This isn’t your average spidey story. In fact the only similarities are the costume, some of the powers, and the web. The rest takes a sharp departure. The biggest being…? Well guess. Japan in the 70s making an action show geared towards kids? That has to include giant robots!
So Spiderman was given the mighty robot Leopardtron to strike against the evils of the world. Not that you would recognize any of the villains. This Spiderman didn’t fight against the Green Goblin, Sandman, or good ol’ Doc Ock. Instead the main villain is Professor Monster and his Iron Cross Army, an alien organization (that looked human) with plans to rule the universe.
As such with this series we have the monster of the week, or Machine BEMS, created by the Professor, who can change size from very small to huge, necessitating breaking Leopardtron out of storage and blasting it in a Voltron like battle.
The origin story is as follows: Professional motorcycle racer Takuya Yamashiro sees a spaceship crash land which out pulling some wicked moves. He goes with his father a prominent “space archaeologist” to investigate, but the elder killed in their exploration. The incident also attracts the attention of Professor Monster and his boys, the evil Amazoness, and monster creations, who are on Earth to conquer it.
|My favorite still.|
Takurya discovers a dying alien in the ship who bequeaths on him a green lant… oops I mean he discovers the last warrior of the planet Spider, who injects him with his blood, granting the young motorcyclist the powers of a spider- I guess- and the keys to the ship, called the Marveller, which can also transform into the aforementioned giant robot. Just before dying the alien gives the hero a mission: To fight and defeat Professor Monster and his evil Iron Cross Army!
Now apart from the powers mentioned above the Japanese Spiderman also is granted the GP-7 flying car, complete with missiles and machine guns. The Spider Bracelet, which contains his costume that shoots out over his body as needed, dispenses the webbing he all known, and acts as a homing beacon for his vehicles.
This series, while goofy, is an incredible amount of fun. Forty one episodes were produced between 1978 and 1979 with excellent titles like “The Hero's Shining Hot Blood”, "Professor Monster's Ultra Poisoning", "To the Flaming Hell: See the Tears of the Snake Woman", "The Onion Silver Mask and the Boys' Detective Group" and "From the Unexplored Amazon: Here Comes the Mummified Beautiful Woman". It is recommended that, if you can find a copy, to watch it with a group of pals with plenty of alcohol.
|Too much symbolism?|
I have been unable to find a full copy of an episode. There was a collection released in 2004 for Region 2 only, but you have to get it through Japan or a Taiwanese knockoff. But the soundtrack is available through Amazon Prime streaming if you are interested, it may be worth a listen. Marvel briefly had them streaming from their site, but have taken them down. So I have placed a few clips and Marvel’s official trailer for your gratification.
Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!
A highlights clip
A monster fight scene with Leopardtron
Some of the transformations scenes.
The series opening...
... and the ending ballad.