He’s been called Amazing and Spectacular. He’s known as that Wall Crawling Vermin by some. He’s the menace responsible for Jameson’s blood pressure problems. Of course, I’m talking about the Web Head himself, Spiderman. Now given just how long Spidey’s been on screen, we’ll be picking one incarnation to focus on, specifically the Fox Kids entry aptly named “Spiderman: The Animated Series”. However, I will take a moment to mention that there is an amazing live action Spiderman series from Japan from the late 70s. Just so you understand, this series essentially changes Spiderman into a Power Ranger, complete with his own car zord … for some reason. Do yourself a favour and check out the intro on YouTube, it’s glorious. But for now, sit back, relax and let’s see drop in on our friendly, neighbourhood Spiderman.
Now beyond the opening theme (performed by Joe Perry of Aerosmith) that I guarantee will have you playing air guitar, this show had a lot going for it. One thing worth noting is the use of CGI both in the intro and in select shots of Spidey swinging through the city. Did it work all the time? Nope, but the effort was appreciated. Another major pull this show had was the sheer number of characters they brought it. Pretty much every relevant Spidey character shows up and for many of us, this was our first exposure to a lot of them. Given how faithful the show was in adapting some story arcs, we got to see almost perfect representations of characters like Venom, Doc Ock and The Kingpin. Talking about characters, I’d be doing a pretty bad job if I didn’t give big props to both the writers and the voice actors. While it does get a bit hammy at times (Looking specifically at Black Suit Spidey here), the dialogue was usually well delivered and each voice actor added their own touches that really brought the characters to life. Some great examples of this are the guttural rasp used for Venom when compared to the normal voice of Eddie Brock as well as the cultured tones of the Kingpin. Of course, no review would be complete without examining Spidey himself. This series did an excellent job of treating Peter Parker and Spiderman as two separate characters. Peter was perfectly sold as a total nerd while Spidey was quick with his mouth and always ready to drive his enemies insane before taking them down. And let’s not forget just how much fun it was to watch JJ rant and rave against that masked criminal.
Another plus for this series was its emphasis on the idea of choice and perseverance. The series always came back to Spidey’s adage “With great power, comes great responsibility” and it echoed throughout the show. In every conflict and every arc, Spidey is constantly tested to see if he’ll stick to his convictions and make the right choice. On top of this, the show was great for showing that sometimes the hero doesn’t win. You can do everything right, make all the sacrifices in the world and you’ll still sometimes fall short. And while they did plan on giving Spidey his happy ending had the show not been cancelled, they always showed him willing to keep trying regardless of how things had gone.
So overall, Spiderman: The Animated Series still holds up in my eyes, even if the attempted CGI and hamminess are a clear sign of the 90s. The whole series is up on Netflix, so take some time out of your busy schedule and give it a watch. Leave a comment below and let us know what you thought of it, and make sure to let us know what you’d like to read next. Catch you next time -BB