In celebration of everyone’s favorite web-head, July is Spectacular Spider-Month at AiPT! We have a series of amazing articles in store for the month. Movies, television, gaming, and of course comics will all be covered with great responsibility as we honor one of comics’ greatest heroes.
Spider-Man is one of the most well known comic book characters of all time. He has also appeared on some of the highest grossing movies ever. Not content to rest on his laurels, Spidey has also been a star of the small screen. Tracking Peter Parker’s animated adventures on television have been just as exciting as following him in the pages of Marvel comics.
Spidey’ first foray into television sets across America was in 1967’s cleverly titled Spider-Man. The series ran for three years and is known most for its catchy theme song. (“Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can” will now be stuck in your head all day.) The theme has been parodied and used in many Spider-Man movies in the decades since.
The series is known for more than a memorable opening, however. Many shots from the show have become memes. The art style has also been popular enough to be used in other animated Spidey flicks including Into the Spider-Verse. It also was the cartoon that showed that people would be willing to watch an animated Spider-Man show.
The famous theme has lived on for decades but the show itself only ran for three seasons. Over a decade later, Spider-Man would debut on television. Though it was faithful to the comics, it is arguably the least memorable of any Spidey cartoon. There was no catchy theme song, no famous episodes, nothing that made it stand out.
At the same time, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends debuted. There is a loose connection between the previous series, but for the most part, the two are completely unrelated. The series was the longest running Spider-Man series to date, running for five seasons. Along with its popularity, the show also had an impact on Marvel Comics. Firestar was a character created for the show, but was popular enough to enter the comics and join the Avengers and the X-Men.
In 1994, Spider-Man: The Animated Series debuted on the Fox Kids Network. Arguably, this is the most known and successful of all the Spider-Man cartoons. The series adapted many classic stories from the comics and had more episodes than any other cartoon about the web slinger. This is probably the show most people think of when it comes to Spider-Man cartoons.
At this point, Spider-Man had proven to be a popular commodity. The comic book industry was in the midst of a major crash, but web-head still seemed to be TV ratings gold. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Between 1999 – 2008, there were three separate animated Spider-Man series. The shows aired for a total of four seasons. The shows were met with positive responses (check out Rory Wilding’s excellent article on 2008’s Spectacular Spider-Man) but could not find an audience.
Thankfully for Spider-Man fans Ultimate Spider-Man was released in 2012. Ultimate not only became the longest running Spider-Man cartoon, it was the longest Marvel animated series up until that point. Despite its long run, the show has not been met with the same favorable reviews from fans. Some thought it skewed too much towards a younger audience while others just found it to be bland.
The popularity of Ultimate pretty much guaranteed there would be another Spider-Man cartoon. Once again, simply titled Spider-Man, the latest animated incarnation has done a good job of pleasing long time fans while being accessible to newer viewers. For a character as well-known as Spidey, this is critical. It is important to stay true to the fans that made the web slinger an icon to begin with, but it also cannot be forgotten that Spider-Man is a draw for even non comic book fans.
Spider-Man has been on television for over half a century. With each animated iteration, Spidey somehow manages to leave a lasting impression. Whether it is an ear bug of a theme song, new characters, or spectacular storytelling, people of all ages will be able to recount some memory of their favorite Spider-Man cartoon. Spider-Man cartoons are not just another show to watch on television; they are a part of growing up.
Thank you for joining AiPT! during Spectacular Spider-Month! Be sure to check back in every day for more Spider-Man content including interviews, features, opinions, and more!