Based on characters created by: Steve Ditko & Stan Lee
Written by: Mark Hoffmeier, Doug Booth and Stan Berkowitz
Starring the Voices of: Christopher Daniel Barnes, Sara Ballantine, Roscoe Lee Browne, and Edward Albert
- Bonus Fantastic Four episode featuring Daredevil
- 1966 Spider-Man episodes: “King Pinned”
- Stan Lee intros for all episodes
- Stan Lee’s Soap Box featurette
Released by: Buena Vista
Rating: NR, suitable for most audiences
Anamorphic: N/A; episodes appear in their original 1.33:1 format
My Advice: Skip it.
[ad#longpost]Daredevil vs. Spider-Man collects four sequential episodes from the popular Spider-Man animated series of the mid-1990s. These four episodes are installments six through nine in the “Sins of the Fathers” story arc from the show’s third season. Herein, Peter Parker has been framed for some heinous crime while in the employ of Fisktronics (a Kingpin front company, though Peter doesn’t know it), and Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) has received a sizable cash retainer to represent Parker in the coming trial. Things get complicated when Parker is sprung from his jail cell by none other than Spider-Man himself. Confused? Imagine how Parker feels.
It turns out the Chameleon has done the kidnapping on behalf of Wilson Fisk’s son, who wants the daring “rescue” to cement Peter’s guilt in the mind of the jury, therefore leaving him (the real culprit) scot-free. Of course, Daredevil’s having none of it, and intervenes in hopes of getting to the bottom of this elaborate framejob someone has done on his young client Parker. Not content to sit back and wait for his own conviction, Parker pulls out the webbed tights and starts seeking some answers himself, but has to contend with a suspicious Man Without Fear before he can proceed with his investigation.
Why none of the American companies releasing animation on DVD seem to “get it” is beyond me. It’s really very simple. You have an animated series. It was popular with the kids (or whoever). You want to sell it on DVD. Do you A) package randomly selected story arcs in such a way as to reveal absolutely no hint that it was part of a recent animated series and not some direct-to-video crap? or B) create simple boxed sets or sequentially numbered discs that release the entire show episode-to-episode? The answer, as any distributor of anime on DVD can tell you, is B. Buena Vista doesn’t get it, though, and has selected four episodes from the middle of a twelve-plus episode storyline and slapped them in a case, with no identifying marks to let people know it’s from the mid-1990s animated series, nor any numbering to let you know where you are in the series–and they just hope to the gods someone buys it.
Four episodes is a decent chunk for an animated series on DVD, particularly when one considers the bonus features. There’s an episode of the later-1990s Fantastic Four animated series that also happens to feature a guest spot by Daredevil, and then, the real gem, an episode from the 1960s animated Spider-Man series featuring Kingpin as a villain. The odds against finding the 60s series anywhere else on DVD ever almost makes this disc worth it alone.
The series itself was of middling quality. The action is great, and there’s tons of it, but the decision to use CGI in conjunction with traditional animation would have done well to wait until they had a better handle on the CGI (or could afford better talent to create it). The writing’s pretty middle-of-the-road and occasionally given to “wheel of morality” cheeziness, but the dialogue has a little bit of the classic Spidey snap to it. The voice-acting is pretty solid from the series regulars (with an excellent turn by Ed Asner as cigar-chomping J. Jonah Jameson), but the guy brought in to do Murdock/Daredevil blows chunks.
The animation is pretty mediocre for the most part, as well. Spidey himself gets a pretty good turn from the artists, but unfamiliar or guest characters like Daredevil tend to be hit or miss. Kingpin, for example, is pretty well done, but the horned one looks like he’s been overinflated with a tire pump. This really detracts from the animation as a whole, and when combined with shoddy CGI compositing, the show’s not winning anything for its looks. The series, essentially, succeeds (where it succeeds) on the strength of the characters themselves, and doesn’t ever elevate to the level of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s Batman, Superman, or Justice League franchises, nor even the contemporaneous X-Men series from many of the same creators.