Christopher Daniel Barnes, Roscoe Lee Browne, Sara Ballantine, Ed Asner, Maxwell Caulfield, Joseph Campanella, Rodney Saulsberry, Jennifer Hale, Gary Imhoff, Linda Gary, Neil Ross, Efrem Zimbalist Jnr, Hank Azaria, Mark Hamil, Richard Moll
Storm – “Power of lightning strike again!” Spider-man – “Erm, power of web-shooters, get really sticky.”
Many people will argue that cartoons from the 1980s were the best cartoons ever. Many people are sadly wrong. Although it's true there were a whole bunch of now legendary toons from the 80s, it was the 1990s that saw a change in the way the material was presented. Gone was the idea of using a toon to just sell toys and instead came a bunch of intelligent and often surprisingly adult pieces of animation. Batman: The Animated Series was one, X-Men was another and then there was Spidey!
In Spider-man (The Animated Series?) university student turned super hero, Peter Parker, juggled battling super-villains as The Amazing Spider-man, with trying to get the romantic attention of socialite Felicia Hardy. His love life became even more complicated when Mary Jane Watson, the niece of his Aunt’s best friend, arrived on the scene and when Pete and MJ hit it off, his double life as Spidey started causing him further headaches. To make matters worse, Peter was contacted by the mysterious Madame Web who told him that he had been chosen for a special destiny, but with villains such as Venom, the Green Goblin and Doc Ock all wanting a piece of his free-time, it was all a bit too much. When the Green Goblin learnt Peter's secret things spiraled and that's when Madame Web returned to make Peter fulfil his destiny!
The Spider-man animated series followed previous animated hit shows from the 90s, by taking intelligent storytelling and applying it to a cartoon series where anything imaginable could be brought to the screen. The stories re-interpreted (at the time) recent and classic storylines from the comics and blended them together creating a Spider-man for a new generation. The continuity heavy Spider-man from the comics was stripped back and rewritten and it proved that old fans and newcomers could enjoy an incarnation of everyone’s favourite neighbourhood Spider-man, that was close to the spirit of the mythology, but wasn't afraid to make changes if it was in the best interests of the series. Gwen Stacy, a former girlfriend of Pete’s from the comics, who died during a battle between Spider-man and the Green Goblin, was not brought into the series, (except during a brief cameo towards the end of the series' run) and instead, elements of her story were adapted for the character of Mary Jane. That little tweak streamlined what was already a hectic love-life for Spidey, made for a more concise journey for the animated hero and provided the show with an ongoing dilemma concerning whether Peter should reveal his secret identity. Likewise, fan favourite character Venom was freed up of his comic-book link to the Secret Wars story (which was later be modified to fit around Spider-man’s journey), and the Kingpin was brought in to be the constant background villain fuelling the crime in New York. Small changes such as those really developed the show's own sense of continuity and often ideas introduced in one story created a springboard for future episodes. Peter’s friendship with Curt Connors and Harry Osborn personalised a number of situations and created an inner conflict for a hero who was just trying to find his place in the world.
The heart of the show always centred around Peter’s fears and anxieties and no matter how far the series went, even when crossing into other dimensions and realities, that rule was always adhered to. The show lasted for 5 seasons and even though many different Spider-man animated shows were broadcast after the series' conclusion, none of them achieved the same success. The 1980s may have made heroes out of He-Man, She-Ra and the Thundercats, but it was the 1990s that really knew how to give a hero the journey he deserved.
SEASON BREAKDOWN: A guide to Spider-man Season 1: The first season perfectly set the foundation for the following seasons by making sure there was a background villain controlling all of the action. Superman had his Lex Luthor and so Spider-man had Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of crime, working behind the scenes on numerous schemes that Spider-man often found himself tangled up in. The episodes ‘The Spider Slayer’ and ‘Return of the Spider Slayers’ introduced Alistair Smythe, son of the inventor Spencer Smythe who quickly became the right-hand man of the Kingpin and the pairing proved to be an interesting combination. This gave someone for the Kingpin to play off of and also provided the technical knowledge for some of the more science orientated situations. The structure of season 1 was mostly single stories but there were a few multi-part adventures filling out 13 episodes. A number of classic Spidey villains appeared, including Mysterio, Doc Ock, Kraven, the Chameleon, the Scorpion and Venom.
Season 2: All 14 episodes of season 2 were part of the story-arc titled ‘The Neogenic Nightmare’, which saw Peter transformed from Spider-man, into a mutant creature called Man-Spider. The story started when Peter discovered had lost his powers, then his body sprouted four extra arms and he became an unrecognisable arachnid-beast. The storyline cleverly made use of Dr Michael Morbius’s transformation into a vampire as well as the Vulture’s 'rejuvenation' storyline from the comics to keep the thread running. Villains from season 1 were united to tackle Spider-man as the Insidious Six; Dr Curt Connors and Kraven returned to offer assistance to the wall-crawler, and Spidey was joined by other Marvel comics characters the X-men, Blade and the Punisher.
Season 3: Season 3 was titled ‘Sins Of The Father’ and introduced the Green Goblin. The Goblin's alter-ego Norman Osborn was introduced in season 1, but he didn’t adopt the Goblin persona until season 3. The Goblin was mostly kept out of the action after his initial introduction until the episode ‘Goblin Wars’ where he acquired a time-dilation accelerator developed by Dr Ohn, which gave him the ability to move through time portals. The season finale ‘Turning Point’ saw Norman use the accelerator to learn Spider-man’s secret identity which lead to a fantastic showdown on top of the George Washington Bridge with Mary Jane’s life in the balance. In a surprise twist, Mary Jane was lost inside one of the portals with Peter unaware of where she had gone, leaving the season and the wall-crawler on a cliffhanger. More guest-stars also continued to help spider-man and the season introduced the mysterious Madame Web, who appeared sporadically to inform Spider-man that he had a destiny outside of New York.
Season 4: Subtitled ‘Partners In Danger’, season 4 began with Peter coming to terms with Mary Jane’s unexplained disappearance and then finding solace with the Black Cat. The team-up between Spidey and Black Cat gave the season a new dynamic as storylines from previous seasons were revisited, but the partnership was short lived when the puuuurfect pussy found a new calling alongside Morbius and Blade. As Partners In Danger drew to a close Harry Osborn took up the mantle of the Green Goblin and Mary Jane returned, but the final episodes of the season (‘The Haunting of Mary-Jane Watson’, ‘The Lizard King’ and ‘The Prowler’) were lacklustre.
Season 5: The final season kicked off with Peter and Mary Jane getting hitched in ‘The Wedding’ and then the season split into numerous multi-stories. The first 5 part story, ‘Six Forgotten Warriors’ saw Spidey team up with heroes taken from Marvel Comics' Golden Age led by the Living Legend, Captain America! Hydro-man, last seen in season 2, made a return to reveal the truth behind Mary Jane’s disappearance and then Madame Web returned to whisk Spider-man off for the three-part story, ‘Secret Wars’. The final story 'Spider-Wars' saw Pete transported to an alternate reality to stop a misguided Peter Parker (twisted by the Carnage symbiote) from destroying all of reality. The symbiote was a left over plot thread from a previous Carnage and Venom storyline, but even continuity couldn’t save the story from Dullsville. With the multi-verse safe, there was one final story thread to solve, the ongoing quest for Mary Jane, but not before Peter got some advice from Uncle Ben and Marvel Comics very own Stan Lee.
WEB-SPINNER: *The series ran for 65 episodes, spanning 5 seasons and featured numerous guest stars from the Marvel universe, including, the X-men, Punisher, Blade, Dr Strange, Nick Fury, Daredevil, Captain America, Silver Sable, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man and War Machine. Notable exceptions of characters who also had cartoons during the 90s but didn’t make an appearance included the Hulk and the Silver Surfer.
*Mary Jane's fate was never actually revealed on as the series concluded, so the series ended on a cliff-hanger...of sorts.
*Christopher Daniel Barnes who provided the voice of Spider-man/Peter Parker also played Greg Brady in ‘The Brady Bunch Movie’ (1995).
*Amongst the voice cast were Efrem Zimbalist Jnr, Ed Asner, Richard Moll and Mark Hamil. All had provided voice acting duties for the DC animated universe.
*The Secret Wars story was an adaptation of the 'classic' 12 part comic series where the mysterious Beyonder pitted numerous Marvel heroes against villains. The storyline was adapted to be more Spider-man centric for the animated series and saw the wall-crawler team-up with the Fantastic Four, Captain America, Black Cat, Iron Man and Storm from the X-men. Despite the fun of the team-up, it wasn't very good.
*The ultimate weapon in the Six Forgotten Warriors story was Electro, the classic 60s Spider-man villain whose real name in the comics was Max Dillon. In the series he was known as Rhienholt Kragov, was the step brother of the Chameleon and the son of the Red Skull, making him a different Electro than the one from the comics. This was due to the character being tied up with a proposed Spider-man movie that was in the works at the time.
*The Sandman was one of the only classic villains from the Spider-man comics not to appear in the series. Just like Electro (see above) he was tied up with a potential movie which never happened. He did eventually appear as a Spidey movie villain in “Spider-man 3” (2007).
*Stan Lee appeared only once in the closing few minutes of the series finale, but his wife Joan provided the voice of Madame Web in numerous episodes. When Stan saw Madame Web he asked who was the exotic lady? A few seconds later Web told Spidey that she thought Stan was truly special.