Monday, 10 October 2011

Psychedelic Pspider-Man

No cartoon series in the history of television made an abrupt change more than the original adventures of Peter Parker’s alter-ego.

The show debuted September 9, 1967 (9 a.m.) and went from a pretty standard hero-fights-villain-as-supporting-cast-provides-comic-relief cartoon to something disconcerting. The supporting cast vanished, the animation was reused over and over and over (even within the same episode) and the plots seemed pretty warped and other-worldly.

And the most bizarre cartoon of them all was one that’s become a cult favourite: ‘Revolt in the Fifth Dimension’ (1970).

The tabloid tale of events: Grantray-Lawrence in Los Angeles produced the first season of the show and went bankrupt. Steve Krantz and Ralph Bakshi in New York took over for the last two seasons. Both would explore the drug culture in ‘Fritz the Cat’ a few years later, but the two experiment with psychedelia here. Lots of flashes on the screen, nightmarish fast spinning, and a disjointed story line. The fact is the story, drawings, even the voice track was lifted from a cartoon made a couple of years earlier: the ‘Dementia 5’ episode of the most wretched Canadian cartoon series ever made—‘Rocket Robin Hood.’

But the backgrounds are really cool. And they’re by someone who was known for fairly ordinary and unobtrusive work at Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera—Richard H. Thomas. Check out these. Beautiful colours, too.

Dark and foreboding. Who knew Dick Thomas had it in him? Think you’d see this in a Hippety Hopper cartoon? (Although that “giant mouse” is disconcerting in his own way).

Many of the backgrounds in this cartoon weren’t designed for characters to work in front of. They were flashed onto the screen for effect. And, if the whole cartoon hadn’t been undermined by the repetitive, cheap-looking animation, it might have worked.

Thomas worked from layouts by incredibly inventive illustrator Gray Morrow, who died ten years ago when he decided he could live with Parkinson’s Disease no longer.

The other great thing about Spider-Man in the Krantz years was the decision to save money by going with recorded background music from England featuring some of the greatest library composers of the 1960s. It’s instantly recognisable to any Spidey fan. I don’t know whether this will work, but try to play these two tunes by Johnny Hawksworth. (Late note: Sorry, the links don’t work any more).



‘Revolt in the Fifth Dimension’ may still be up on the internet. It’s worth watching just to see how odd a cartoon it really is.


  1. Thanks a lot, Yowp.. I watched those..but one that stands out was one used in a 1969 American lung Association ad with a guy on a ship dock smoking and then being victim of his own vice, anbd some increasing sharp stings keep appearing, which were used in Spiderman a few times. Steve C.

  2. One of the British KPM library tracks used within the last two years of the Spider-Man TV series clearly got around: "Power Drive" by Johnny Pearson. Used perhaps most famously in the episode "Diamond Dust" (originally aired Oct. 19, 1968) where Spidey tangled with a gorilla that escaped from the local zoo, this tune was also utilized by Los Angeles' CBS O&O KNXT (now KCBS-TV) Channel 2 as the theme for both their daily afternoon Early Show skein of movies, and their top-rated Saturday night movie umbrella The Fabulous 52 in the latter's last years on the air (it ended in 1974); plus more famously, in Australia, as the theme for the cop series Division 4.