Spider-Man episode 13: The Skull Gang vs. the Devil’s Hearse
Aired August 9, 1978
In this relative “cool-down” episode, Professor Monster goes out on the town looking for his next victim in his latest experiment, while Takuya learns an important lesson as he watches the machinations of the Iron Cross Army tear a father and his son apart. Let’s get started.
Professor Monster is admiring his latest acquisition, courtesy of the South American branch of the Iron Cross Army. He tells Amazoness that he will turn this poor lizard into a new Machine Bem. In this little scene we do learn two things, the baneful biologist has kept himself busy these 400 years, and that Bems really did used to be living beings before being turned into killer robots. Arriving at a secret clinic, Professor Monster surveys the bodies he has in deep freeze, and his very unsatisfied with the corpses at hand. He demands to find a new host for his Bem creation, and seeks to find a living, energetic human. He laughs like a smug bastard.
The narrator, with a hint of disdain, describes a past time of Professor Monster. With Amazoness dressed in funeral garb in a sedan at the front, the cyborg villain rides behind in a specially modified hearse. He drinks his wine in the trunk designed like a jet, and much like his airborne brethren he sure has a good time. Why a hearse? Because for some reason, the police won’t pull him over. But isn’t the police going to notice a hearse in the red light district if he goes there?
A biker gang drives by causing a huge ruckus to the Iron Cross posse, driving right by Amazoness’s car with such rudeness. Professor Monster orders that the bikers be stopped, and the driver of the sedan speeds up, intentionally crashing them. One remains, and he dare has the guts to attack Amazoness. Monster appears to have found his target.
At an arcade full of old time machines, such as miniature horse racing, slot machines, light stoppers and other things, the Skull Gang arrives causing trouble for everybody. Takuya is wasting his money on the slots and he picks a fight with the jerkbags, and although he has a duty not to reveal his Spider-powers, he can’t help but let his hotheadedness get the better of him. They take him outside, and Takuya’s Spider-Sense goes crazy but can’t seem to pinpoint the reason why except for the hearse parked across the street. He is taken to an abandoned lot and soundly gets his ass kicked, until he decides to fight them mano-a-mano, he fails at stopping them. An old man arrives, and it is revealed that he’s the leader’s father. The dad pleads with Masao to come home, and the Skull Gang leaves.
Takuya goes back to the arcade, and the hearse is gone. He spends a good part of the hour looking for it, but is unsuccessful. All he knows is that it went into the forest.
Later, Takuya tends to the old man’s wounds at a photo studio. The father of Masao talks about his son, and how he wanted to be a racer against his wishes. Takuya sympathizes with the kid, as he too was quite disobedient to his father growing up, especially without his mother. He mentions how young men do have a self destructive streak and will one day grow out of that phase. Amano hopes so.
The scene switches to Masao getting chased by the cops for the gang’s reckless driving. Meanwhile, Amazoness tells her boss that the young man is ready as a candidate to become a monster.
That night, Takuya stands in his father’s shrine room remembering the events of episode one. The second part of the ending song, “the Ballade of an Oath,” plays while he pays his respects. Takuya regrets all of the pain and trouble he has caused to his father because of his wild streak, and his vow is once again renewed. His siblings enter the room wondering why he is here at this time of the day, especially since people pray in the morning hours. Takuji tells Takuya it’s time for dinner and so they go.
Meanwhile, Amano is having another lonely dinner after checking on his deceased wife’s shrine. While reminiscing about the old days, Masao returns home, and the father begs him to stay. The brat asks for money to modify his bike, and selfishly takes it with no though of the consequences of his actions. Masao leaves once again, but suddenly an ambulance runs him over and Amazoness and her henchman suddenly take him away. The father watches helplessly as they speed away.
After dinner, Takuya reads the last words his father has written into his diary. Mr. Yamashiro regrets how he was unavailable to take care of all three of his children, especially Takuya during his formulated years. He always hoped that his son would take over the Astro-Archaelogical laboratory, and now he is willing to give up that dream. As if his diligent daughter/assistant won’t make a fine scientist too. He gives Takuya his blessings to do whatever he wants in life, but he must take responsibility for his actions like a man.
Shinko calls for Takuya, as a phone call has reached the residence. It is Masao’s father, who tells Takuya that his son has gone missing after an accident right outside his store. Takuya relays his findings, and tells the old man that Masao is not at any of the hospitals in the area, and contacts Interpol to get any leads.
Spider-Man searches for the boy for most of next day, while Amano does a little searching of his own. He bumps into Amazoness’s car by accident and realizes who she is from last night. He calls for a taxi to follow the sedan, while Spider-Man gets closer and closer to to where the Iron Cross Army is hiding. Amano finds the clinic first, but Professor Monster knows of his presence. He yells at Amazoness for her failure to notice her tail, and uses his laser eye to kill an elk head. While Amano tries to call Takuya of his findings, Amazoness is close by and shoots him with a sniper rifle. You’d think that the police would notice anything by now, but apparently they’re pretty lax. Spider-Man arrives too late, and is overcome with anger at the Iron Cross.
He goes back to the secret clinic and finds Masao turned into a Machine Bem. Ninders in their human form come into the room, and the Bem shoots an acid that corrodes a wall. Retreating to outside, the man moved by a parent’s love, begins to fight the Iron Cross Army once again. Amazoness and the Machine Bem return, and Spider-Man pleads with Masao to put down his weapon, especially since his father was murdered. It’s too late, as the cyborg conversion process removes all the humanity from a person. Biker Monster attacks with his sword, and it’s time for the giant monster battle.
Spider-Man calls forth the Marveller, and Leopardon is invulnerable to Biker Monster’s acid. He regretfully has to kill the Machine Bem and makes quick work of it.
After the battle, Takuya pays his respects to Mr. Amano. Professor Monster has done one of the worse things he can do outside of taking a human life, he has ripped apart the bonds of love between a father and son. The rest of the Skull Gang passes by and Takuya can barely contain his rage and frustration of today’s events.
This episode has a very simple plot, but it does touches one’s heartstrings as the villains knew exactly where to strike. Although no major advancement to the story is presented here, it just adds further fuel to the fire of Spider-Man’s revenge.