Season 2 Episode 19 – “Stan by Me”
Since it’s release in 2012, Ultimate Spider-Man has been one of best iterations of everyone’s favorite web-slinger since the 1994 animated series. Based on the Marvel Ultimates imprint, the show introduces a re-imagined Spidey (he’s still in high school) who leads a S.H.I.E.L.D. sponsored team of young heroes against updated versions of classic villains like the Green Goblin and Venom. The show has proven to be quite popular, so much so that they replaced Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with an Avengers cartoon done with the same animation and by the same people who did USM.
Today’s episode was a spotlight on Stan, the janitor of Peter Parker’s high school. Inspired (and voiced) by the legendary founder of Marvel Comics, Stan has been a re-occurring character since the first couple of episodes. From his uncanny comedic timing and his spectacular linguistic skills, Stan Lee’s janitor character is definitely a fan fave. Even at 90 years old (yep Stan the Man predates World War 2) this man’s ability to remain relevant is nothing short of amazing. He’s a regular at almost every Con imaginable (including his own, Comikaze), makes cameos in nearly all the Marvel movies, and voices regular characters on both Ultimate Spider-Man and Superhero Squad. Not to mention that he hasn’t aged a bit in the last 2 decades. I’ve got it, Stan Lee is a Highlander.
Stan-worshipping notwithstanding, today’s episode was thoroughly entertaining. Staying late after school to catch up on their lab work, Peter, M.J., and Harry are plunged into darkness when the power goes out at Midtown High. Enter Stan the Man with a flashlight and a warning of something fowl afoot. Principal/S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson soon follows to guide the kids safely out of the darkened school. Before they can leave the room, weird snarls and claws mark appear on the walls and Coulson goes missing. After both Mary Jane and Harry refuse leave, Peter “runs off” to get help (really he’s just getting away so he can return in his super-powered alter ego). Spidey, with Stan, MJ, and Harry in tow, begin searching for the missing Coulson when they are waylaid by the Lizard who proceeds to kidnap Harry.
Now it’s up to Spidey, who’s been cut off from contacting his teammates, and his friends to rescue both Harry and Coulson. All the while, he has to prevent M.J. and Stan from finding out that their beloved high school is really a S.H.I.E.L.D. training facility. The trio tracks the Lizard down into an abandoned subway tunnel beneath the school where he has constructed some kind of brainwave-altering device. With the help of Stan and his “mop from Madripoor” (awesome reference by the way), Spidey is able to lock the Liz into the machine in the hopes of freeing Doc Connors of his scaly curse. Unfortunately the device locked away the Connors side, making the reptilian persona permanent. An epic battle ensues and soon the entire place is on fire. With Stan the Man’s help, Spidey is able to get everyone out safely. Amazed by his friends’ moxie, Peter realizes that powers don’t make a hero, courage does. After M.J. and Harry leave, Spidey returns to his normal, mild-mannered persona. Talking with Stan about wishing Dr. Connors could be saved, the custodian extraordinaire reveals that not only does he know that Peter is in fact Spider-Man, but that he is also an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and that he was the one who came up with that acronym). Talk about a plot twist.
In closing, this was another decent episode of Ultimate Spider-Man that though it didn’t introduce any new characters (and was thankfully scarce with the Chibis), it did pay homage to one of the true legends of the industry. That, if nothing else, is enough to make me say; EXCELSIOR!