X-Men was undoubtedly the biggest Marvel cartoon of the 90’s. Coming in second is Spider-Man. I loved the former but was never a huge fan of the latter. Its clunky animation, lack of subtext, use of laser guns and dreadfully dated euphemisms for blood and death (plasma and destruction) really got on my nerves, especially in the post Batman:TAS era. That being said there were some good things about it. The whizz bang action scenes were well done, the voice acting was spot on and the script was decent despite the heavy censorship. Like X-Men it also featured ongoing story arcs and was all the better for it. Season 2 of Spider-Man featured a two part crossover with X-Men. ‘The Mutant Agenda’ and ‘Mutant’s Revenge’ exhibits the best of both shows.
In the second season of Spider-Man, Peter Parker’s DNA begins to mutate. It begins to manifest as a simple alteration in his powers but he is concerned that he may turn into an inhuman monster like his friend Dr. Curt Conners. He seeks the aid of Professor Charles Xavier in the hopes that he can cure his mutation. Spider-Man’s hopes are dashed when Professor X tells him that his school is to aid mutants into accepting who they are and to control their mutations, not to cure them. Spider-Man leaves in disgust and while Wolverine is glad to see him go, Hank McCoy aka Beast feels some sympathy. He gives Spider-Man the name of an old colleague Dr Herbert Landon, an expert on genetic mutation. Little do they know that Dr. Landon has a genocidal plan to destroy all mutants.
The season wide story arcs are utilised just as well in Spider-Man as they were in X-Men. This may put off viewers watching it for the first time but it’s well written enough to keep you up to speed. Only this time there is a lot more focus on high-octane action than drama. X-Men fans may not like the fast paced nature of the episodes but this is Spider-Man’s show and the explosions and big pow wow brawls all come as standard. But fear not. The X-Men aren’t just guest stars, the whole story features everything you love about their show too, especially in the character development of Beast.Hank McCoy has always been my favourite X-Man. Not only is he smart, strong and a sweetheart I also love his back story. Once a popular and well-respected young man he was shunned when he was outed as a mutant. This brought upon a spell self loathing and a desperate attempt to find a cure for being a mutant until he learned through Professor X to love himself and accept that he is just as human as anyone. It was Beast’s research that inspired Dr. Landon to create the experiment with which he plans to destroy mutantkind, giving the episode a bitter and ironic twist. That’s the beauty of this cross over. It really does feel like a great X-Men episode too.
When it comes to comic books I prefer Spider-Man to X-Men. The opposite is true for the animated shows. I’ll always recommend X-Men over Spider-Man. His 90’s cartoon does have its moments though and it’s not to be sneezed at. When it comes to cartoon crossovers however it’s probably the best of them all. It’s not done as a cheesy gimmick (The Flitstones/The Jetsons) or a cheap 20 minute advert to sell a less popular show (The Simpsons/The Critic). The Mutant Agenda/Mutant’s Revenge tell a great story with their characters and keeps in spirit with the expanded Marvel Universe Stan Lee created. If you only watch two episodes of Spider-Man, make it these two.