|This article is written from the Real World perspective|
|Beginning date||November 19, 1994|
|End date||January 31, 1998|
|Number of Episodes||65|
|Writers||John Semper, Jr.|
|Original Channel||Fox Kids|
|Previous Series||Fantastic Four|
|Next Series||The Incredible Hulk|
Spider-Man, also known as Spider-Man: The Animated Series, is a series that ran for five seasons for a total of sixty-five episodes starting on November 19th, 1994 and ending on January 31st, 1998.
It is the second longest running series based on a Marvel Comics property after X-Men. While Ultimate Spider-Man eventually surpassed the number of episodes, it did so in only three seasons and came to an end after its fourth.
Spider-Man is the fourth animated television series in the Marvel Animated Universe after X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Iron Man. It is the fourth to feature the character of Spider-Man after Spider-Man, Spider-Man, and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.
The series tells the story of the superhero Peter Parker and his struggle to maintain a job, keep a girlfriend, pay the rent, and occasionally beat up supervillains as the masked hero Spider-Man. As Peter, he must assist his Aunt May in the wake of Uncle Ben's death, help his friend Harry Osborn find his place in the world, maintain a job at The Daily Bugle, and find time to date the lovely Mary Jane Watson. As Spider-Man, he continually faces the forces of evil in villains such as the Kingpin, Hobgoblin, Green Goblin, Venom, and many more. Although balancing the two worlds is difficult for Peter he always remembers his uncle's words: "With great power comes great responsibility."
Over the course of the series Peter faces his dark side with the symbiote suit. He faces off with the likes of Wolverine, Blade, and Punisher. He must deal with his continuing genetic mutation. He saves the world and prevents his alternate self from destroying the entire universe. Before the end he will even meet the real life Stan Lee.
At the time, Marvel Comics was facing financial problems and in threat of going bankrupt, which they eventually did. The series was seen as a way to halt the problems the company was having. Avi Arad was heading up the newly started Marvel Films Animation to bring the characters to life. Their idea was to make every single Marvel character. Arad especially needed the success since his newly started company Toy Biz was riding on exclusively making Marvel toys. Also compounding was that Fox Kids was the number one network for children at the time.
Spider-Man was Arad's first venture into television and he desperately wanted to get it right. The studio originally wanted Martin Pasko who was a story editor on Batman: The Animated Series, but when the negotiations were not going well Stan Lee called John Semper, Jr. who had worked together before. Unfortunately, several days later he got a call saying that the deal with Pasko was finalized and they didn't need him. However, after several months Lee called him back saying that the Martin Pasko was going to be fired. Semper was brought in and began work immediately.
Semper ended up being the first black showrunner to head a Saturday morning cartoon show. He said of his hiring, "I was always aware of the fact that being a black man, I was not going to be given anything this industry did not want me in. So, I always had to make the most of what I got. Now, when I was given Spider-Man, it wasn't all shiny and new. It was just a heap of garbage. And I think that a lot of people just assumed that I was going to go down with the ship."
In 1994, Semper began working as story editor on the series. Upon entering the team he found that no writing had been done and the production was in total shambles. He worked on every episode except for "The Hobgoblin, Part Two", "The Spot", "The Return of Kraven", "The Return of the Green Goblin", and "The Gauntlet of the Red Skull".
Semper rewatched many episodes of Spider-Man, which he thought at the original time of airing was neat, before beginning. He knew of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, but knew that it was not the kind of series he wanted to make. He also watched a few episodes of the live action series The Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man. Interestingly, he based Peter's costume on Nicholas Hammond's outfit and included a giant robot as a reference to the Japanese series.
Arad had always intended the series to be "one big toy commercial," causing Semper to have to fight against certain decisions. At one point he was almost fired, but he and Arad found common ground when the toy maker realized that a great show would sell toys better than anything else. Although since then they had few arguments, Arad still considered the show a commercial. At times, Arad would call asking that a certain character be used to accommodate a toy, but they managed to work it out. Arad was dead set against Madame Web because he did not feel he could make a toy out of her. But Semper wanted her for the big final story arc and the toy was made anyways. He considers the Madame Web toy one of his most prized possessions.
Semper said of the toys, "There was always kind of a little bit of a minor friction between the needs of the show, which was that I needed the show to be good, but also the toy line had to have a little more influence over the show than I wanted it to. When I was a kid it always bothered me if there was a television show and then there was a toy, and the toy, ostensibly was connected to the TV show, but it didn't really have anything to do with the TV show. So I thought, 'How can I come up with a situation where there will be a number of Spider-Men together, so that the kid who bought Armored Spider-Man will see Armored Spider-Man on TV and will not grow up being frustrated that he got ripped off?"
The toy line did make Semper have to change the character of Hobgoblin and Green Goblin. In the comics, Green Goblin came first. However, Semper's predecessor changed the order before he left and was the only decision that lasted. Because of that, Arad began a large line of Hobgoblin toys and pressured Semper into using the character first. Semper rectified the situation by having Norman Osborn create the weapons as he did in the comics. However, he feels that "The Hobgoblin, Part One" and "The Hobgoblin, Part Two" were just a waste of time designed to sell toys.
Semper told his writers to focus on Peter Parker rather than Spider-Man saying, "I used to tell my writers, 'We're doing the Peter Parker show. We're not doing the Spider-Man show. Let's approach it from Peter's life. Spider-Man is just one of the many complications with his life.' And I think that's one of the reasons why the show is still resonating with people. It's not about explosions and superpowers and costumes."
Semper's use of guest stars was described as being a kid in a candy store. Doctor Strange and Blade were two of his favorite characters at the time. He liked Blade because he was black like him and was the character's first appearance outside the comics. Though he did use the X-Men as a stunt for ratings. He never made any episodes as a pilot for another series. However, Arad and Matthew Edelman were always taking scripts and outlines off his desk for pitches for series and made-for-television movies. He feels there may not have been a Blade film had he not brought the character to the attention of Arad.
Originally Semper was not allowed to use Sandman or Electro in the series because of a Spider-Man film being made by James Cameron. But when the film fell through he did use Electro, though Sandman remains the only major Spider-Man villain that was unused. They also did not allow Semper to start the series with the character's origin because of the film. However, this was not a problem since he did not want to start off that way as so many knew his backstory anyways.
Generally, no one at Marvel bothered him over the series. They were more focused on Marvel's problems and keeping their jobs. That is why he was able to adapt the Clone Saga from the comics, a highly controversial story arc, without much trouble. Stan Lee also had little to do with the creativity of the series.
Semper was expressly forbidden from doing season long storyarcs, but did it anyways and almost got fired for it. In hindsight, he would still do it. He believes the storyarc makes the show more epic and gives it somewhere to go. He liked being able to drop hints early on that wouldn't pay off until later episodes. He believes that viewers respect these kind of series because it forces them to pay attention. However, he wanted to do so as that was what was being done in comics. He said that he did the Neogenic Nightmare when no one was looking and when people realized what was going on it was too late to stop him. He is proud of the fact that he made enemies over it.
Semper ended the series the way he did so as to say that the character had moved beyond his creators and was something more. He wanted to give the sense of a conclusion but also leave it open for more. However, he does feel that there was not much he could do after saving all of existence. The show was ultimately cancelled, even though it was the number one rated hit, was because Margaret Loesch, head of Fox Kids, wanted to put Arad and Marvel Films Animation out of business. It did work and the company was shut down. However, the show was still cancelled because of a personal vendetta.
Spider-Man Unlimited serves as a loose sequel to the series. Though there are many differences, the second series generally alluded to this one. However, the series was not successful and ended on a cliffhanger.
The show combined traditional cel based animation with computed generated imagery, something which at the time was fairly new and experimental. Illustrators did a large amount of visual research to accurately portray New York City instead of the common buildings and skyscrapers most shows tended to default on.
The series was also notorious for reusing animation. This became especially noticeable when the animation saw slight changes in later seasons but reused shots from early episodes.
One thing Semper was not happy with the series was the animation. He felt it was choppy, sloppy, and mistake-ridden. He blamed Bob Richardson for the major continuity error in "The Price of Heroism". He said that upon seeing it he cried out in agony at the idiocy of it all.
The main theme song was composed by Joe Perry and Shuki Levi. Perry is most famous as a member of Aerosmith, and was referenced in the episode "The Alien Costume, Part One" where Peter used the symbiote to appear as him. Perry referenced the famous theme song from the 1967 series with the lyrics in the song. The song was referenced in the Spider-Man Unlimited episode "Worlds Apart, Part One".
At the time of production heavy censorship codes were in place, to deal with the censorship backlash of due to the violence on Batman: The Animated Series and Power Rangers, in order to make children shows seem politically correct. Among them were the inability to show guns or mention death, though these things had been present in the DC Comic animated show Batman.
These codes most affected the characters Morbius and Cletus Kasady/Carnage. Censors would not allow true vampires to appear on television so Morbius was made to be genetically altered. Also he was not allowed to suck blood through his fangs so the holes in his hands were introduced. Kasady could not be a serial killer as he was in the comics but simply a madman. He also could not kill anyone but instead drained their lifeforce. But he never had to omit a character for censorship. Venom and Carnage were the most extreme and they were still used.
Certain words like "kill" were inserted into some episodes through various means. They also invented the interdimensional portals as a metaphor for death. In addition, when the Sinister Six (comic name) were introduced they had to be called the Insidious Six, despite X-Men using a character titled Mister Sinister.
When he went to conventions Semper would read the censorship notes. His two favorites were Caution that when Spider-Man lands on the roof, he doesn't harm any pigeons" and "You may have a villain sent to jail, but you may NOT give him a bus ticket and send him to Florida."
In the episode "Duel of the Hunters", Kraven the Hunter tracks Man-Spider to the World Trade Center because of gunpowder residue in his webbing. He references a real-life bombing that occurred in 1993. However, after the September 11 attacks, when the WTC was destroyed, the reference was edited out of subsequent airings so that it is an anonymous parking garage.
A software package titled Spider-Man Cartoon Maker was released in 1995. It allowed users to create animations of the characters, which used designs from the series. It was narrated by Christopher Daniel Barnes. A sequel was released titled X-Men Cartoon Maker to tie in with X-Men.
There was a video game released in 1995 for the Super NES and Sega Genesis. The game used the same designs and the theme song from the series. While it introduced a great number of additional character, it would not be considered part of the series canon as in the introduction it clearly states that Alistair Smythe and Green Goblin were held in the Ravencroft Asylum for the Criminally Insane when at no point in the series were either captured.
Another video game was released in 2000 for PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Windows, and Game Boy Color. The game had voice actors reprising their roles from the two series such as Rino Romano, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and Jennifer Hale. But again the game is not canon since it shows Eddie Brock trying to control the Venom Symbiote while also working at The Daily Bugle, which also never could have occurred in the series.
As a tribute to this series, Edward Asner would later voice Officer Barr on Spider-Man: The New Animated Series and Ben Parker on The Spectacular Spider-Man. Additionally, Barnes would voice Electro and Spyder-Knight on Ultimate Spider-Man.
Martin Landau, who played Scorpion in the first two seasons, had won an Academy Award for his role as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood then became unavailable for the series. He was replaced by Richard Moll for the rest of the series.
All of the main cast of the X-Men reprised their roles. Alison Sealy-Smith played Storm in the first appearance playing with the rest of the cast. When the character returned for Secret Wars, Iona Morris, who was the original Storm actress, played the role. Sealy-Smith had replaced Morris and rerecorded all the lines as X-Men was a Canadian production and Morris was the only American actress causing issues with syndication. Morris had since returned to America and become friends with John Semper, Jr.
Will Mackenzie and Frank Gorshin auditioned for the role of Scorpion. Gorshin also auditioned for Hobgoblin. Coincidentally, both Gorshin and Hamill, who got the role, are known for their portrayals of Batman villains. Hamill for Joker and Gorshin for Riddler.
While the majority of the Marvel Animated Universe, the series from the 1990s, exist in very loose and often contradictory continuity, there are a number of connections.
Robert Hays, James Avery, the cast and designs of X-Men, and Quinton Flynn reprise their roles. There are references to Hulk and Avengers. Daredevil previously appeared in "And a Blind Man Shall Lead Them".
Spider-Man does make appearances on the X-Men episodes "Child of Light" and "The Inner Circle" as well as Fantastic Four episode "Nightmare in Green" along with Daredevil, X-Men, and Juggernaut. Though in Fantastic Four he was wearing the Scarlet Spider outfit which was being used in the comics at the time but not in the series.
The most immediate story that was cancelled was Spider-Man finding Mary Jane Watson in 19th Century England. Madame Web would have taken him there to find her but would also encounter Carnage, who would have taken on the identity of Jack the Ripper. The series was cancelled before the storyarc could be developed.
Semper also wrote a story involving Spider-Man and Ghost Rider. However, the character was going to have a series on UPN and Fox Kids did not want to promote another network's character. At the time Arad was provoking Fox, which ultimately led to the series being cancelled. In the story, Mysterio would turn out to be alive and have found the Time Dilation Device. He would use it to rob banks until he encountered Dormammu who would employ the special effects wizard. Spider-Man and Ghost Rider would team up to stop them.
Writer and producer John Semper, Jr. won an Annie Award in 1995 for Best Individual Achievement for Writing in the Field of Animation for the episode "Day of the Chameleon". Spider-Man was nominated for a 1996 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Animated/Live-Action/Dramatic Youth or Children's Series/Special.
In January 2009, IGN dubbed Spider-Man the 84th best animated television series.
Rotten Tomatoes ranked the series among its top one-hundred superhero series with this series at nineteen, the highest of any Spider-Man cartoon, above Big Hero 6 at one-hundred Spider-Woman at eighty-nine, Iron Man: Armored Adventures at eighty-six, Ultimate Spider-Man at eighty-three, Spider-Man Unlimited at seventy-three, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes at sixty-nine, The Super Hero Squad Show at sixty-eight, X-Men: Evolution at sixty-six, Fantastic Four at sixty-four, Avengers Assemble at fifty-eight, Guardians of the Galaxy at fifty-five, The Marvel Super Heroes at fifty-one, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends at forty-eight, The Spectacular Spider-Man at forty-six, and Spider-Man at forty and below only X-Men at five.
The series has a user rating of 8.8 on TV.com and 8.4 on the Internet Movie Database.
Fox Home Entertainment released several episodes on VHS while the series was airing.
In the late 1990s, Marvel Films and New World Entertainment released compilations of VHS edited into seventy to eighty minute movies based on a particular story arc. They were distributed by Telegenic Entertainment in Canada.
Only six DVD releases have been made, usually corresponding with a live-action film. They have four to five episodes each while some have additional bonus episodes from the series or from Spider-Man.
- Spider-Man: The Ultimate Villain Showdown released April 30th, 2002 to correspond with the Spider-Man film.
- Spider-Man: The Return of the Green Goblin released October 29th, 2002 also to correspond with the film.
- Daredevil vs. Spider-Man released February 11th, 2003 to correspond with Daredevil.
- The Ultimate Spider-Man Collection released November 2nd, 2003 containing the previous three releases.
- Spider-Man vs. Doc Ock released June 29th, 2004 to correspond with Spider-Man 2.
- Spider-Man: The Venom Saga released June 7th, 2005 after the announcement of Spider-Man 3.
Clear Vision Ltd. released all five seasons on DVD. The released are available in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Germany.
- Spider-Man: Complete Season One released June 22nd, 2009.
- Spider-Man: Complete Season Two released August 3rd, 2009.
- Spider-Man: Complete Season Three released August 17th, 2009.
- Spider-Man: Complete Season Four released September 15th, 2009.
- Spider-Man: Complete Season Five released October 19th, 2009.
- Spider-Man: The Complete Collection released November 7th, 2011.
One Canadian DVD titled Spider-Man: Mutant Agenda was a reissue of a 1997 New World VHS release and contains two bonus episodes from Iron Man. Another release called Spider-Man: The Hobgoblin is a reissue of a 2002 Disney VHS release. Neither release contains audio or subtitle selections. Both were remastered from the VHS.
Magnavision Home Video released a Video CD of the series.
A box set titled Spider-Man: Five DVD Set released in Poland contains the entire series.
The first season is available on Xbox Live and iTunes through Disney XD.
The entire series can be streamed over Netflix Instant.
Because of a lack of official DVD releases, bootleg versions are popular among fans. However, they are generally low quality and have watermarks.
The series is available on Disney+.
The series had a tremendous impact on the comics and subsequent adaptations. The first Spider-Man film and subsequent sequels would feature several changes started by the series. Norman Osborn and Green Goblin would be split personalities and Norman wanted to be a good father to Harry. Green Goblin captured Mary Jane and she fell off the bridge rather than Gwen Stacy. In the comics, the Venom Symbiote simply created unlimited webbing and could morph into civilian clothes. Following the show, the comics and other adaptations (including The Spectacular Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man) would have the symbiote also increase the host's aggressiveness while enhancing their normal powers. The third film featured a shot recreated exactly from the episode "The Alien Costume, Part One" while the trailer had a shot where Peter had a vision of himself as a form of Venom like in the episode.
Many following series and games would hire the actors of this show as a tribute to it. Asner would play an anti-Spider-Man cop in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series and Ben Parker on The Spectacular Spider-Man. Barnes played Spider-Man Noir in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions along with fellow Spider-Man voice actors Dan Gilvezan of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Neil Patrick Harris of Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, and Josh Keaton of The Spectacular Spider-Man. Barnes and Keaton would return as Spider-Man 2099 and the original Spider-Man in the game's loose sequel Spider-Man: Edge of Time. Barnes would play Electro and Spyder-Knight on Ultimate Spider-Man.
On the show's twentieth anniversary in 2014, Semper and the cast reunited at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo. The cast included Barnes, Hale, Imhoff, Saulsberry, Berger, and Labyorteaux while Asner recorded a message beforehand. Semper promised to dedicate the following year to honoring the show's memory. He told the crowd, "I wanted there to be a real, serious underpinning to the show." The panel showed a sizzle reel showcasing some of the actors' best work, many not having seen it since the show first aired. In fact, Ballentine was in tears when they showed Mary Jane's clone dying.
While discussing it, the cast attributed part of the success to the fact that they recorded their parts together in the studio, something that rarely happens with animation. Barnes said, "It was like a radio show. We were all in the booth together, and we were all interacting with each other. And you feed off of that." He also said, "You are the current avatar of this Marvel deity. This is our Iliad. This is our Odyssey. It touches something universal in us. When you get the chance to be the voice of that character, that means something." Ballantine got a big applause for reciting the famous Mary Jane line "Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot." However, the biggest cheer went to Asner's video message. Playing Jameson, he wondered why anyone would waste time talking about a show rather than being at Spider-Man's funeral.
Semper said that the finale was meant to be a happy one with the potential to keep going. He said, "I knew that we were finished with sixty-five episodes, but I thought maybe we'd have a little bit longer. I thought I made it very clear at at the very end that he was going to get to Mary Jane, but apparently I traumatized all of you. So I apologize for that. I was leaving that door open in case by some miracle they said we were going to do a few more."
Semper said he would be posting updates on the show's Facebook page throughout the year.
While at the panel, Semper and the present cast announced they were reuniting for a then-upcoming project financed through using crowdfunding titled War of the Rocket Men.
The series finale, "I Really, Really Hate Clones" and "Farewell, Spider-Man", went on to inspire several stories. Before this series, characters generally did not interact with their alternate universe counterparts. This series was the first to feature a hero teaming up with their parallel version to take down a threat to them all. The plot was used for the video game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. In 2012, Marvel Comics published Spider-Men, where Peter teams up with his Ultimate counterpart Miles Morales. Two years later, they would publish Spider-Verse, where Peter leads a number of various Spider-based people from his universe and others to stop a threat to them all. In 2018, they published a sequel story arc called Spider-Geddon. The Spider-Verse story inspired the theatrical film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which contains a number of references to nearly every previous series and film including this one.
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series Podcast interview with Robert N. Skir at player.fm
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series paved the way for Into the Spider-Verse and the MCU at SyFy Wire
- Spider-Man: Soundtrack from '90s Animated Series Released at Den of Geek
- John Semper at Twitter
- Top 100 Animated Series at IGN
- 100 Best Superhero TV Shows of All Time at Rotten Tomatoes
- 'Spider-Man: The Animated Series' Cast Reunites and Reveals New Project at The Hollywood Reporter
- Official Website
- Marvel Animation Age
- Internet Movie Database
- TV Shows on DVD
- Marvel Database
|Marvel Animated Universe|
|X-Men • Iron Man • Fantastic Four • Spider-Man • The Incredible Hulk • Silver Surfer • Spider-Man Unlimited • The Avengers: United They Stand|