Still swinging after all these years: Happy 25th to the one, the only "Spider-Man: The Animated Series!"

Latest News & Videos

Stu

Marvel Animation Age Webmaster
Staff member
Administrator
Reporter
Apr 15, 2002
18,387
0
48
33
The Marvel Animation Age
marvel.toonzone.net
"New York City. If only everything down there was really as peaceful as it looks from up here..."


As difficult as it is to believe for someone who so vividly remembers watching the first episode, 25 years ago today, Spider-Man: The Animated Series was here. On Nov. 19, 1994 ... the show was here. It wasn’t the first animated Spider-Man show, it certainly won’t be the last Spider-Man show, but it will arguably go down as the most memorable Spider-Man cartoon. The show remains just as relevant and popular then as it does 25 years later. In fact, the reaction to the show being part of the Disney+ streaming service was met with the same utter excitement as new episodes for most current cartoons. That says much about the shows legacy.

Turning back time to 1994, things were rocking on Fox Kids. The revered Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men: The Animated Series were ratings hits and the moment a new Spider-Man cartoon was announced, expectations were lofty. FOX expected another ratings winner, Avi Arad wanted a 22-minute toy advert and to gain some traction for Marvel to move into live-action movies (the definition of a pipe dream at the time, as ridiculous as that sounds now) and Producer/Story editor John Semper simply wanted to make a great show, like the Spider-Man comics he read as a kid. There was also a potentially massive Spider-Man movie in pre-production written and directed by James Cameron, following the massive success of Terminator 2: Judgement Day. A lot was riding on this show, a flop would’ve been devastating for all parties.

The show had a troubled pre-production, the likes of which I honestly cannot say I’ve seen before or since. The original story editor was dismissed a few months after being hired and Semper was brought into to get the show back on track. This created a nearly immediate creative backlog and problems that seemed to ripple out from there on all levels. Plus, as the series continued and grew more complicated with its storylines, it faced animation and production values that dropped to occasionally comical levels, hindering storytelling efforts. The scale of the stories told on the 65-episode series exploded from the scale of the earlier seasons. The series started with Spider-Man bemoaning his fortune in the premiere, the superlative "Night Of The Lizard," as he is stuck in a smelly, slimy sewer instead of being a galaxy-hopping Superhero alongside The Avengers, The Defenders and The Fantastic Four, many of whom he would actually team with in the penultimate story of the series, "Secret Wars." Along the way unleashed a plethora of Spidey villains, from the classic Kingpins, Doc Ocks and Green Goblins of the world, to more modern and then incredibly popular Venom, Carnages and Hobgoblins.

The villains weren’t the only characters who made their way over from Spidey’s four-coloured roots. Mary-Jane Watson, Debra Whitman and Felicia Hardy made their way over to complicate Parker’s life, bringing in the kind of drama Stan Lee thrived upon back in the swinging '60s. It was rare in these days for a cartoon to feature romance so heavily in its storylines, but if the show was anything, it was ambitious.

Such ambitions did eventually contributed to the shows downfalls as the carried on. The beautiful, complex models from the first season became a burden to the animators, primarily due to the budgetary issues, and the show became a shadow of its former self visually. Combined with the harsh censorship the show was hindered with due to the then-current outrage over the violence in Saturday morning cartoons, the show occasionally caused one to cringe.I feel I will never be able to hear the world "plasma" without ever feeling a bit bemused.

However, to this day, I feel the good far outweighs the bad. And as a Spidey fanboy? A Spidey fanboy as a result of this show, I might add? There is still so much to love here.

Finally seeing the likes of Norman Osborn, Eddie Brock and Felicia Hardy introduced before they became The Green Goblin, Venom and Black Cat? Check! Fully fleshed-out supporting characters from the comics including an iconic spin on J. Jonah Jameson, the tragic Curt Connors and dear Aunt May? Check! Not to mention the various guest stars finally given the likes of Daredevil, Nick Fury and Captain America on the small screen. Plus, one can't dismiss the awesome crossover appearance of the X-Men ripped right from their own spectacular show! The show was a fan's dream come true at the time. It's amazing how so much has changed since then!

Fanboy nods aside, the show utilized a daring serialized storyline format for its second season with an excellent "Neogenic Nightmare (Six-arm Spider-Man!)" and then expanded upon that first from season three to the finale with another long-running storyline which saw Madame Web training Spider-Man to battle a "horror beyond belief," which turned out to be his own self-doubt (but kinda in the form of Spider-Carnage). We all thought "Secret Wars" was the end-game arc. Nice twist, <I>Spider-Man: The Animated Series!</i> Along the way there were plenty surprises and turns including an adaptation of "Turning Point" with Mary-Jane substituting for Gwen Stacey and that character's infamous comic book demise ... sort of. Still, it was not something I imagine anyone saw coming! Long running storylines were far from the norm at the time the show aired, but have since become a staple in animation, and for the better.

Peter would eventually face and overcome his own personal fears in an emotional finale, which included some beautifully-written appearances from Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacey and even the late, great Stan Lee himself. Lee's appearance in the series has taken a whole new meaning in recent times, and one can't help but smile and tear up as his appearance plays out. Back to the show, tt’s a shame it wasn't picked up beyond its initial 65 episode order so Spidey could eventually be reunited with Mary-Jane, but alas, 65 episodes is a lot more than most other Spidey shows mustered at the time and Semper himself believed Peter reached the end of his journey in the show's final moments. He's content with himself, who he is and role in the universe. Now, it's off to the great unknown of time and space to find his true love! Galaxy-hopping superhero? Check!

The show's impact on Spider-Man lore cannot be ignored, either. It inadvertently paved the way for the massive Spider-Man movie in 2002, which ignited the superhero craze which is still thoroughly dominating Hollywood. Spider-Man 2 featured a backstory for Doc Ock which pulled elements from Spider-Man: The Animated Series and Spider-Man 3 is more or less an adaption of "The Alien Costume" ... just nowhere near as good. Even the bungled The Amazing Spider-Man reboot is simply a retelling of the first Spider-Man movie mixed in with the Spider-Man: The Animated Series episode "Night of The Lizard" thrown in there. And despite what The Amazing Spider-Man comic series writer Dan Slott once said, the utterly sensational Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse clearly owes some its origins to the series. It's finale had Spider-Man teaming up with Spider-Men from other dimensions to stop a multi-verse-destroying threat. Sound familiar?

Special mention must also go to Christopher Daniel Barnes, who led the series' incredible cast. He's still the voice countless fans here when cracking open a Spider-Man comic. Who else remembers the uproar of approval when it was announced he'd be playing Spider-Man again for the first time in 12 years in the Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions? Fans love the guy, and with good reason.

Thankfully, for longtime fans of this show such as myself, it's encouraging to see the series hasn't been ignored despite its age. While it is unfathomable that arguably one of the most popular superhero cartoons of the 1990s was never properly released to DVD during the prime of the format's life - especially when the equally popular Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men: The Animated Series did - it's was fantastic to see it included as a major launch title for the Disney+ streaming service. Not only will fans get to revisit the show whenever they want to, but the potential to reach millions of new fans is reassuring and kind-of heartwarming. The fact a 25-year-old cartoon made was Twitter's most mentioned show when Disney+ was announced - before the service was even releases - tells you that there is still demand for this series 25 years later. To those who worked on this show, that must feel amazing.

The current success of the Spider-Man franchise today can definitely be traced back, on some levels, to Spider-Man: The Animated Series. We were all there at the start of something much bigger and we didn't even know it. Looking back now, though, it seems clear. I can't help but wondering about something. 25 years, five other Spider-Man cartoons and 10 live-action film appearances later, I wonder how much of that would've happened if this show flopped all those years ago. Could you image? Let's be thankful that it didn't and, because of this series, Spider-Man is the icon he is today.

And now, 25 years later, the show can be binged from beginning to end just as John Semper intended all those years ago when he first made Spider-Man: The Animated Series. He's not wrong, too. Binging this series in large chunks actually makes the big strides and leaps in story-telling the show was aiming for all the more impressive. And, honestly, the show just works better watched in massive chunks. While I doubt we’ll ever see the continuation we wanted (sorry everyone, Spider-Man: Unlimited doesn't count!), it's reassuring to know that new generations will get to experience the great Spider-Man: The Animated Series from start to finish as it was meant to be seen. It actually feels appropriate this coincides with the series' 25th anniversary. Being able to watch any episode of the series whenever I want? That's a great way to celebrate the occasion!

Happy 25th, Spider-Man: The Animated Series!
 

wonderfly

Is this the future?!?
Staff member
Administrator
Mar 22, 2002
19,205
0
83
43
Springfield, MO
This came out in late 1994? I thought it was a product of 1995. Either way, I missed it. From 1992-1994 I was dedicated to watching "Batman", "Animaniacs" and "X-Men" on Fox Kids, but around this time (I guess in late 1994) I started focusing on watching and collecting "Anime on VHS"....well, that, and "Beavis and Butthead" and "Aeon Flux" on MTV.

I wasn't watching "Spider-Man"...until a few years later in reruns in the late 90's/early 00's. And while I never thought it held the emotional weight of the X-Men or Batman cartoons, I thought it was...a solid representation of Spider-Man. There were many "good episodes, but...not many "great" episodes...Or maybe my perceptions were hindered because I couldn't get past the way they depicted Doc Ock (my favorite Spider-man villain).

I dunno, I think the "Spider-Man" cartoon was kept from exploding in popularity (at least to the level of "X-Men" and "Batman") by the rise of "Kids WB" in 1995. But then again, to hear other's talk, Spider-Man was the last great cartoon of the "Golden Age of Fox Kids" (which ended around 1997 with the last few episodes of X-Men). It's just that I had already moved on.
 
Last edited:

Frontier

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
May 28, 2010
19,408
-3
113
Temecula California
I wasn't watching "Spider-Man"...until a few years later in reruns in the late 90's/early 00's. And while I never thought it held the emotional weight of the X-Men or Batman cartoons, I thought it was...a solid representation of Spider-Man. There were many "good episodes, but...not many "great" episodes...Or maybe my perceptions were hindered because I couldn't get past the way they depicted Doc Ock (my favorite Spider-man villain).
I actually loved their take on Doc Ock. I still read him in the comics with his voice from the show :p.
 

M.O.D.O.K.

Scientist Supreme
Staff member
Moderator
May 13, 2006
5,430
0
48
27
Advanced Idea Mechanics
While I think it's been surpassed by stuff like Spectacular Spider-Man or Into the Spider-Verse, it is nonetheless a series close to my heart. It single-handedly got me into Spider-Man in the first place and I will always have fond memories of watching it as a kid. Also, it was nice to revisit during the brief period where Disney XD replayed it and the other older Marvel shows.
 

Webbed-Wonder

Still thwipping!
Feb 22, 2009
833
0
28
Phoenix, AZ
I think it's still the most complete version of Spidey we've gotten on screen. It hit pretty much all of the main beats of 30+ years of Spidey history with some of its own twists, larger Marvel universe connections sprinkled throughout, and paved the way to the future (multiverse stories/Spider-Verse). It's a largely enjoyable show still today, even with all of its quirks and melodrama (which I feel only was being true to Stan Lee's verbose dialogue in the original comics) it replicates the feeling of following Peter's adventures month to month in the comics.
 

wonderfly

Is this the future?!?
Staff member
Administrator
Mar 22, 2002
19,205
0
83
43
Springfield, MO
Quick quesiton: Didn't this series also air late at night on The Hub network, or on Toon Disney/Disney XD, back in the early 2010's? I seem to recall watching it for couple months back then as well...good times.
 
  • Like
Reactions: RoyalRubble

Rick Jones

fan-man
Staff member
Moderator
Feb 27, 2008
10,829
-3
113
177A Bleecker Street
It sounds like it's a great time for it to be available on Disney+, probably getting viewed by some people too young for the first go around.

I really appreciate that I was a little kid when Marvel cartoons exploded on TV in the 90s after X-Men hit. I was already a big Spider-Man fan I had already pretty much seen the two 80s series at that point and loved them but I remember really wishing that there was a current modern Spider-Man series on TV happening within my lifetime.

First, I saw the cameo during The Phoenix Saga and felt certain that something would happen then I remember doing back to school shopping with my family and randomly seeing a ViewMaster on sale with Night of the Lizard reels months before it debuted on TV, and I was really excited about it. I had no real idea that it was even in production but I guess I really wouldn't have at that age, and in that time period.


Fox Kids was so great at making promos that got little me super excited. I remember seeing this and feeling my mind blown. It seemed like everything I was wishing for. The look, the action, the music: It was all working on me. This was a show that I started all the way on board with, and kind of grew out of as the seasons advanced but there is still a lot that I appreciate about it.

Quick quesiton: Didn't this series also air late at night on The Hub network, or on Toon Disney/Disney XD, back in the early 2010's? I seem to recall watching it for couple months back then as well...good times.
It continually aired on Toon Disney/Jetix/Disney XD until Ultimate Spider-Man debuted as part of the Marvel Universe block in 2012, at which point all of the old shows got vaulted. For a while, I loved catching the late night weekend block that would kick off with an hour of Earth's Mightiest Heroes and then go into X-Men, Spider-Man, etc, for the rest of the night. It was a great alternative watch when Adult Swim wasn't doing it for me.

Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk
 
Last edited:

Webbed-Wonder

Still thwipping!
Feb 22, 2009
833
0
28
Phoenix, AZ
I was very young in the late 90s but I'm old enough to remember seeing the merchandise at KB-Toys, Toys-R-Us, whichever defunct toy store you want, but I remember my mom bought me some of the big 10" figures, coloring books, and a sticker book that I've never seen pictures of online ever.

The first couple episodes I watched were the Hobgoblin episodes on a VHS tape, got it for Christmas when I was 3. I don't remember what came first out of all of this, but I also had the Spider-Man CD-rom narrated by Christopher Daniel Barnes with the first Hobgoblin story from the comics, and the infamous Spider-Man Cartoon Maker, so it was like a gateway into Spidey comics, into the cartoon, and my first taste of a computer. Definitely fond memories playing with the Cartoon Maker on my grandma's Windows 95, and delving further into Spidey lore with the CD-rom.

I rewatched the Hobgoblin VHS tape many times, I'd record any old episodes playing on Fox Kids. I remember seeing some of the Alien Costume episodes first that way, some of Mutant Agenda, and Return of The Green Goblin. I was 5 in 2000 and I remember wearing a Spider-Man Unlimited t-shirt. I'm not sure if I even understood it was a new show airing but it was Spidey so I loved wearing the shirt.
 
Dec 3, 2014
73
0
8
My house, DUH!!!
This show did have its flaws. My main gripes are Madame Webb and Anna Watson, the overuse of Kingpin after the Spider Slayer episode and some of the designs not looking that good (Harry looks absolutely horrendous) or aren't consistent in their look (MJ sometimes looked fine, but most of the time, she looked awful). Also, Kraven's debut is my least favorite episode (it just didn't have the kind of bang that the other episodes had).

But even with all those flaws (and some others that might escape me at the moment), I still feel this is a very solid show and one that has earned my respect. Voice performances are passionate, though there are times where the animation just didn't feel like it fit the vocal inflections of the actors (it tended to happen a lot before the 2000s because actors still did it like old time radio and implied movements with just their voices and deliveries).

Also, a lot of the casting choices are great. Martin Landau, Eddie Albert, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Jeff Corey, Joe Campanella, Michael Rye... classic actors that I had seen on TV and movies or heard in radio shows and other cartoons (what was funny to me is that Martin and Michael shared a scene in an episode of Mission Impossible, and now, years later, played the Scorpion and Stillwell). The rest of the cast is also good.

Yes, a flawed show, but one who still has a big oomph that is felt to this day.
 

Frontier

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
May 28, 2010
19,408
-3
113
Temecula California
Also, a lot of the casting choices are great. Martin Landau, Eddie Albert, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Jeff Corey, Joe Campanella, Michael Rye... classic actors that I had seen on TV and movies or heard in radio shows and other cartoons (what was funny to me is that Martin and Michael shared a scene in an episode of Mission Impossible, and now, years later, played the Scorpion and Stillwell). The rest of the cast is also good.
As far as I am concerned, Roscoe Lee Browne is the definitive Kingpin :cool:.
 
Dec 3, 2014
73
0
8
My house, DUH!!!
As far as I am concerned, Roscoe Lee Browne is the definitive Kingpin :cool:.
Roscoe was pretty good in the role. There were few times where his delivery was a little off, but most of the time, he was great.

Still, for me, the definitive Kingpin is a live-action one: John Rhys-Davies (he played Fisk on the Trial of the Incredible Hulk). But honestly, close behind him are Tom Harvey (67 Spidey), Thayer David (the Rockomic recording), Walker Edmiston (Spider-Friends) and Roscoe.
 
  • Like
Reactions: RoyalRubble

Spider-Man

Well-Known Member
Jan 7, 2002
18,055
0
63
Despite the show not really holding up all that well, that doesn't diminish how this show had a huge impact. I remember watching the preview airing and enjoying every second of it. While other shows have since surpassed it in quality I still have a soft spot for it and I hope more people get to check it out - or at least the first season, the only really good one - now that is it on Disney+!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Frontier

Rick Jones

fan-man
Staff member
Moderator
Feb 27, 2008
10,829
-3
113
177A Bleecker Street
I was very young in the late 90s but I'm old enough to remember seeing the merchandise at KB-Toys, Toys-R-Us, whichever defunct toy store you want, but I remember my mom bought me some of the big 10" figures, coloring books, and a sticker book that I've never seen pictures of online ever.
I loved getting ToyBiz Marvel action figures at KayBee. I remember them always going for prices like 3 for $10.

Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk
 
Dec 3, 2014
73
0
8
My house, DUH!!!
I still have my original super poseable Spidey around my shelf. I mean, aside from some paint wear with the webbing around his body, I'm actually surprised that it's in such a good condition, since I used to play with it a lot.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Frontier

Rick Jones

fan-man
Staff member
Moderator
Feb 27, 2008
10,829
-3
113
177A Bleecker Street
I still have my original super poseable Spidey around my shelf. I mean, aside from some paint wear with the webbing around his body, I'm actually surprised that it's in such a good condition, since I used to play with it a lot.
I was more of an X-Men figure guy but I remember having four from the Spider-Man line: Web Glider Spider-Man, Green Goblin, Doctor Strange and Jessica Drew Spider-Woman.



I remember talking my dad into buying this issue for me. I remember loving the article about the show and it's production. After learning that one episode took 9 months to make, I couldn't figure out how they made so many. It's cool to see that the Romitas worked on the cover. I was so new to active comic reading that I didn't know to pay attention to the artists names as yet. I think that I was born a fan of Sr's work while I didn't appreciate Jr's until high school. I always loved this image though. Getting stuff like this, along with Spider-Man candy sticks I bought to collect the temporary tattoos with all of the awesome character art, was right at the height of my enthusiasm for the show.



Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk
 
Last edited:

Trevor

Active Member
Jun 10, 2009
3,148
0
36
Ontario, Canada
I would say that this Spider-Man show and the 60’s show are the Top 2 Spider-Man shows of all-time. And the more recent shows can barely hold a candle to it or the 60’s show. I remember this running on YTV every day after school in the 90’s (I think it was at 4:30 pm) my brother and sister and I would watch it before supper. And an episode was also aired on YTV every Saturday morning (and then YTV would air a 60’s episode on Saturday afternoon at like 1 pm). The 90’s Spider-Man show was in heavy rotation on YTV back in the 90’s and early-2000’s. But I also remember how here in Canada Telegenic released so many episodes on VHS that were edited into 90 minute movies (and YTV aired a few of these movie edits in the early-2000’s). In 2008 Morningstar reissued the Telegenics edit of “Mutant Agenda” here in Canada on DVD, which also included the Michael Morbius origin story.

I also liked how the show was basically the Center show for the whole 90’s Marvel TV Universe since you had so many cameos from the other 90’s Marvel shows like the “X-Men”, “Fantastic Four” and “Iron Man”.
It would be nice if a movie could be made to finish off the series. Of course I guess the 90’s were about shows ending on cliff-hangers. “ALF”, “Spider-Man”...

Disney needs to rescan the film masters & remaster this show in HD.
 

Spotlight

Staff online

Who's on Discord?

Latest profile posts

If Flintstones = Grand Dad, what does Yogi Bear equal? Grand Bear?
It took me all day and most of the month, but I finally got my 2 laptops upgraded (SSD, new RAM, replaced any and all broken parts, full cleanup of useless programs and salvaging useful ones). It was rough work, but I enjoyed every minute of it!

Someday, I'm gonna do this for a living, honestly.
Asa
What is with Nickelodeon US refusing to air the Pineapple RV episode of SpongeBob? It's already been aired in some countries, how come America didn't get it yet?
Tex Avery's MGM Cartoons are finally getting a blu-ray release after years of us waiting, at last!
#RIPKobe, Gigi, and the others in the helicopter.