|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.|
|Producers|| Stan Lee|
|Original Channel||FOX (Fox Kids)|
|Previous Series||Fantastic Four|
|Next Series||The Incredible Hulk|
Spider-Man, also known as simply Spider-Man: The Animated Series or New Spider-Man, is the fourth animated television series in the Marvel Animated Universe. It is the third to feature the character of Spider-Man after Spider-Man (1967), Spider-Man (1981), and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.
The series ran for five seasons for a total of sixty-five episodes starting November 19, 1994 and ending January 31, 1998. It is the second longest running series based on a Marvel comic after X-Men.
The series tells the story of 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 since all his money 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 a story editor from Batman: The Animated Series, but when the negotiations were not going well John Semper, Jr. was called by Stan Lee who Semper had worked with before. Unfortunately, several days later he got a call saying that the deal with the first person was finalized and they didn't need him. However, after several months Lee called him back saying that the first guy was going to be fired. Semper was brought in and began work immediately.
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 (1967), which he thought at the original time of airing was neat at the time, 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 commerical," 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 commerical. 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.
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'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 Matt 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, which was highly criticized, 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 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 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 be find 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.
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.
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.
Semper had to deal with the censorship backlash of due to the violence on Batman and Power Rangers.
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 Nintendo and Super 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.
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 Image Award for Outstanding Animated/Live-Action/Dramatic Youth or Children's Series/Special.
The series won a 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.
|Pre-MAU||Spider-Man (1967) • Spider-Woman • Spider-Man (1981) • Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends|
|MAU||Spider-Man • Spider-Man Unlimited|
|Post-MAU||Spider-Man: The New Animated Series • The Spectacular Spider-Man • Ultimate Spider-Man|