Cartoon Corner: Spider-Woman (1979)

I have written in the past about superheroes and archaeology, largely inspired by the papers given at the Monstrous Antiquities conference back in November. Today, I just want to point out that there is a surprising amount of archaeology in the 1979 Spider-Woman cartoon … or, well … sort of. 

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Spider-Woman cartoon, but it seems to have been largely an attempt to cash in on the popularity of Wonder Woman, right down to the spinning transformation, here called a “spider-spin.” And yeah, you know you’re back in the olden days when Marvel is trying to cash in on a DC property. 

Anyway, the cartoon basically resembles what you’d get if you got one of the less grounded Bronze Age creators (poor old Bill Mantlo, perhaps, or maybe Bob Kanigher (I may mean Bob Haney)) and just fed them an absolute shitload of cough syrup and told them to have at it, oh, and to try to work in something educational to satisfy the FCC. Maybe the easiest way for you to see what I mean about this show’s bizarre mix of earnestness and foolery is just to watch an episode. 

Our very first episode is “Pyramids of Terror,” and it kicks off with Spider-Man being in Egypt (for some reason) where he is captured by a villainous mummy. Spider-Woman, her bumbling sidekick and her plucky sidekick go off to Egypt following a series of mummy attacks, and then … erm … 



It turns out, right, that these mummies came from space in their pyramid ships and were buried under the sands of Egypt lo these many years ago, and I guess they inspired ancient Egyptian culture, because why not? The classic motif of the Sphinx shooting beams out of its eyes is gone one better here — not only does it have eyebeams, but if the beams hit you, they turn you into a mummy!


Eventually, Spider-Woman realises that the motive force behind the alien spaceships is, no fooling, Pyramid Power and uses her webbing to turn the lead ship into a cube. 


It’s like a checklist of pop culture Egypt: 

  • ambulatory mummy
  • did ancient astronauts …?
  • Pyramid Powah!

So this is all well and good, but what’s weird is that it keeps happening. Spider-Woman is a very globe-trotting sort of heroine, and she winds up in contact with a lot of past-type stuff. 

She goes back to the 10th century to fight some Vikings: 


Fights some Amazons in a vaguely Mexico-ish sort of Amazon temple thing:

Seriously, I think the statue:eyebeams ratio is about 1:1.
Seriously, I think the statue:eyebeams ratio is about 1:1.

And there’s a few more temples and castles as well. Apparently it all gets a bit more UFO-y in the later seasons, but I’m not there yet. I really just wanted to share that mummy episode with people because, you know, pink pyramid spaceship with sphinx-shaped mummy-ray turret. 

Cartoon Corner: Spider-Woman (1979)

Movie Monday: The Viking (1928)



This week’s film is kind of an oddity. It’s silent — one of the last big silent films — but it’s in colour. In fact, just as it was one of the last big silent films, it was one of the first big colour films, widely considered at the time to be one of the best uses of the Technicolour process. As we’ll see, it looks pretty good!

Well, OK, maybe not good per se.

Anyway, it’s an adaptation of a 1902 novel, the which you can find on Gutenburg and which I have also put on my Kindle but not read yet. The novel is in turn sort of based on The Saga of Erik the Red and The Saga of the Greenlanders. Sort of.

Ready? Here we go.

Our story begins with a little casual … not racism as such, but a little reminder that 1928 was a different time.

racisme romanticisme


Right you are, squire.

But funnily enough, our hero is not one of these paragons of manliness. He is Alwin, an English guy from the late 10th / very early 11th c., and he lives here:



Ah, it’s like I’m back in the early middle ages already.

Alwin and some others are captured by Vikings and sold into slavery. This film will clearly establish that Alwin is a bit wet:

Quit your moping, wimp.
Quit your moping, wimp.

But Alwin catches the eye of Helga, a Viking maiden who falls off a horse for no readily explicable reason.


She buys him, and her chum Sigurd buys a girl who was in the big slave jail thing with him, with the very clear implication that he’s going to rape the heck out of her. In fact, when he gets home, Mrs Sigurd is very annoyed:


… but it turns out she’s actually a new maid for Mrs Sigurd! Jooookes!


Also at the Viking camp is the baddie, Egil:

Still from "History's Dumbest Hats."
Still from “History’s Dumbest Hats.”

Egil likes Helga, Helga likes Alwin, Alwin likes moping. Meanwhile, Leif Eriksson, leader of the Vikings, is off hanging out with King Olaf and getting converted to Christianity.



Leif (leisurewear).
Leif (leisurewear).

That dude standing behind Leif is Krark or Kark or something, aka Snivelling Badguy #2.

Leif comes home to find Egil bullying Alwin. Alwin says he’ll fight him, Leif talks some noble shite about Vikings and bravery, they fight, Alwin spares Egil, Leif approves. Leif looks like this:


They sail to Greenland in a series of scenes that seem like they take forever. Egil continues to not like Alwin and to wear stupid hats.


Leif goggles at a map a lot, and gets Alwin to help him with the goggling because he can read.


They arrive at Brattahlid.


Krunk or whatever snitches Leif out for being a Christian, and he has a big falling out with his dad. He forbids Helga to join them on the voyage to the west, but she disguises herself as a boy and sneaks on board. When they find her, Leif announces he’s going to marry her, blissfully unaware that she loves another, the thicko. The superstitious crew get more and more frightened the further west they go, and Egil plays on their fears to lead a mutiny. When he tries to stab up Helga, Alwin throws himself in the way and gets wounded. Leif scoops up a sword in each hand and goes apeshit. 1928 fight choreography technology was still in its infancy, though.

Anyhow, Leif is super mad at Alwin for cockblocking him, but then he remembers that Jesus says you probably shouldn’t murder people just because you’re a little annoyed, and then they discover America and open up the special Flag Compartment in their hold:



Then they are friends of the Indians and build a tower:


And then this:


No. No. Bullshit.


The Newport Tower is no more a Viking watch tower than I am. It’s like a 17th century windmill or some shit.

You know what’s fun? Reading Wikipedia pages about obvious bullshit and watching the editors falling all over themselves trying to maintain “NPOV”.

So, yeah, historically it’s not up to much, although there was said to be friction between pagans and Christians during the voyage. Other than that …

Movie Monday Bonus Image: Creepy Little Pervert!


Movie Monday Bonus Image: Whaur’s yer Marvel Comics noo?





Movie Monday: The Viking (1928)