The Many Faces of Spider-man

You know this site needs? More Spider-man! Everybody can use more Spider-man, right?

Let’s take a brief look at Spider-man on T.V. Come on, it’ll be fun! All videos come from YouTube. Hopefully everyone can see them all right…


Sixties

Spider-man

For me, this is Spider-man, voice, mannerisms and character. Which is pretty bad, considering how far it strays from the source material.

Still, this is one of the few artifacts from my youth that I can still watch without too much too much pain. Oh, I cringe when they refer to the Vulture as Vulture-man and the Lizard as the Lizard-man. On the whole, though, these aren’t bad kiddie shows. Paul Soles is excellent as both Peter Parker and Spider-man, Paul Kligman was J. Jonah Jameson up until the movie came out. Poor Peg Dixon’s Betty Brant is kind of wasted in the series, but, then again, Betty remains my favorite girlfriend, so there is probably something there.

What surprises me, though, is that on a few occasions they snuck actual Spider-man story lines. For instance, the “Lizard-man” story is fairly faithful to the original. They also retell the very first appearance of a Spider Slayer. Way cool.

Cooler still is that this is one of the rare series that has Spider-man’s origin lifted complete from Amazing Fantasy #15. And the music!

Hard to beat Sixties Spider-man.


Seventies

Spider-man (Live Action)

I would have thought this would be out on DVD now. I’ve been dying to watch it. Why isn’t it out on DVD now?

Because it’s a terrible adaptation of Spider-man? With only the barest connection to the source?

Bite your tongue!

Seriously, though, this is one of the worst Super Hero TV shows out of the Seventies. As a for instance, the pilot movie ends with Spider-man defeating the head villain by yanking down one antenna. That sort of anticlimax sums the whole series right there. Add to it that the villain of the week seldom had any powers themselves and you have one boring show.

This doesn’t prevent me from wanting to see it again. Nor does it stop me from thinking Nicholas Hammond as the Spider-man. Even though both his Peter and his Spider-man are rather dull…


Electric Company

The whole reason for watching the Electric Company was for the Spider-man stuff. Water down super heroics and only one character from the comics meant nothing to Brother Eric and me when we were kids. There was Spider-man! Right there! We hung on every word bubble.

Can’t watch it know. Take the above clip. I get as far as the baseball game and I have to stop. How’s he going to eat that hot dog with his mask covering his face?


Toei no Supaidâ-Man

Of course, the Hammond Spider-man looks like a line by line adaptation when compared to this winner. We’re all okay right up until the moment Spider-man summons his giant robot.

Yeah.

Giant Robot.

The first Japanese live action show to have the hero summon a robot to defeat a larger monster, from what I hear.

Thus making this the forefather of Power Rangers.

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko must be so proud.

Or not care at all.

Whichever.

Crazy as it may seem, though, I kind of like it. Why hasn’t this come out on DVD? Huh? Three movies and no TV series DVD What’s up with that?

Yeah. I am an idiot.


Eighties

Spider-man

Never knew this was on TV, back when I was a kid. I caught a few episodes when I was out of the target range and thought it was on par with my beloved Spider-man and His Amazing Friends (more on that in just a bit.) I don’t think I would object too much to seeing more of ’em.

But let’s talk about that opening sequence. Ignore the no name shrinker dude and the animators obsession with a small Spider-man (did they show the entire episode in that short bit?) Note a dearth of actual Spidey foes. We have two appearances of the Green Goblin and that’s it.

Meanwhile, we have Doctor Doom a-go-go. Four appearances.

Now, I like Doctor Doom. A lot. Probably more than is healthy. But he’s not a Spider-man Villain. At least, not in the same way, say, Doc Ock is.

Where’s the Doc Ock love, I ask you?


Spider-man and His Amazing Friends

Every Saturday, Young Cullen and his brother Eric would watched in rapture as Spider-man, Ice-man, and Firestar battled the forces of evil. Young Cullen often hoped that poor Spidey would date the pretty Firestar (though Young Cullen did not know exactly what that would entail). Young Cullen hoped this show would last forever and ever amen, and was crushed when it didn’t quite make three seasons.

Old Cullen thinks Young Cullen was high on sugar drenched cereal. This show is almost too painful to watch.

And yet, guess what Old Cullen wants to do right now?

Yeah. Yeah, Old Cullen knows.

Again, where is the Spider-man rouge gallery in the opening credits? Green Goblin and Doctor Doom? Doom should be cursing Reed Richard’s name, while the Norman Osborn Goblin has been dead for at least seven years. Where’s the Lizard? Sandman? Someone, any one.

Oh, and all that computer equipment popping out of Peter Paker’s place? The stuff he could never ever afford to buy, let alone repair? All of that was a gift from Tony Stark/Iron Man.

How sad is it that I remember that?


Nineties

Spider-man

There are a lot of people who would say this is the definitive Spider-man series. They’re wrong. This is bad. Very bad.

It doesn’t look bad on the surface, mind you. And it takes a while to get really bad. But before the series is over, you have massive, convoluted plots that don’t always make sense with characters dropping in and out seemingly at random. Worse, when they adapt stories from the comics (and to their credit, they do adapt them frequently) they strip some of the story’s soul away. If you’re familiar with the story in question, it’s sometimes very hard to watch.

If you are to sit down and watch this, do yourself a favor. Don’t watch Batman: the Animated Series (BtAS)or any one of its kin. BtAS does it right more often than not, and it will make watching this particular Spider-man all the hard by thinking about what could have been.

Hell, BtAS makes all the Spider-man TV series pale by comparison. Best avoid it. (Hee hee hee. Telling people to avoid good cartoons. I’m evil.)

The one thing I can say about the opening here is that at least it’s all Spider-man’s foes. Doom doesn’t show up once.


Spider-man Unlimited

I’ve never seen this one. All I know is that this is Spider-man trapped on a parallel world.1 Why is he trapped there? Who cares? Better question is, who would think this was a good idea?

Besides Doctor Doom.


Aughts

Spider-man

This was the MTV Spider-man series, and I’m probably alone in saying that this was the best of ’em since the Sixties. As it’s following the movie, we can drop worrying about how it compares to this classic story or that classic story and in joy it for what it is. To me, it’s closer to the spirit of the comics than most of the ones that came before it.

It’s a pity it only lasted one season, as it ends on a nasty cliff hanger. But all in all I liked it.

Then again, maybe my standards have been worn away by the previous two.

(BtAS, though, kicks its butt, FYI.)


1 Oh research, you are the bane of my existance! According to Wikipedia, he’s not trapped. He choses to stay in order to help the people of Counter Earth. In character, maybe, but not much better.

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7 Replies to “The Many Faces of Spider-man”

  1. Aww 😦

    But I liked the 90s one!

    Even the crappy episodes at the end, once I realized that they basically gave up on Spidey stories, it was fun just to watch all the team ups (Ironman carrying Captain America while flying was a happy sight to see, esp now XD) and stuffs 😀

    I HATED that they recycled animation SO often tho, esp when it was glaringly obvious that it was recycled. 😦

    But I think the 90s tv series rly introduced a lot of us to Spiderman and made us fans. 🙂

  2. BtAS kills every other super-hero cartoon and stomps on their lifeless husks.

    Then it goes around the city, looking for clues to solve such an unsolvable crime. Who could have done this? It will remain a mystery.

  3. Hey, Cullen – you should have watched the Electric company thing all the way through: not only do they specifically make a joke about the hot-dog thing, but it also contains a rather young-looking Morgan Freeman!

    I mostly agree with you. I have this perverse desire to watch as much of the Japanese series as i can get my hand on. it would almost have to be better than the American one, giant robot and all.

    Now, the thing you have to remember about the 90’s one is that it really was, up to its time, the definitive Spider-Man series. Cut out the crappy, overly-convoluted and nonsensical episodes, and the series, as a whole, is pretty good, as long as you keep in mind the target audience (8-11 year old boys). Its first Venom episode is probably the best screen treatment of the villain out there (which, considering his presence in the recent movie, is a sad thing to be able to say).

    I will grant you that Mary Jane being saved from falling to her death by The Spot was quite possibly also the stupidest moment in television superhero history. (And, now that I’ve brought it up, why the hell is The Spot even IN that cartoon? Does anyone even CARE about the Spot?).

    Final point: the Mtv Spider-Man was one of the few good things to ever come out of Mtv. It actually, IMHO, beats the heck out of B:TAS. It should never have been cancelled, and if Mtv ever had even a vague interest in something that resembled quality programming, they would have gone to the trouble to promote it and put it on at a decent hour. Instead, we get The Real World.

    What a f****n’ joke.

  4. The really odd thing about that Japanese one is that I don’t think Spider-man interacts with the robot. At least, I couldn’t tell if he did.

    It’s like the Japanese just have to put giant robots in everything. I can imagine the staff of the show sitting around like people who haven’t had caffeine all day, until one of them breaks and shouts, “I’m putting in giant robot footage!”

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