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Home > A Look Back At ‘Spider-Man: The Animated Series’ 30 Years Later

A Look Back At ‘Spider-Man: The Animated Series’ 30 Years Later

Christopher Daniel Barnes as Spider-Man, Scarlet Spider, Armored Spidey, Octo-Spidey, Six-Armed Spidey, and Powerless Spidey | Walt Disney Studios

Revisit Your Friendly Neighborhood Wall-Crawler

Almost 62 years ago, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, with uncredited help by Jack Kirby, credited an iconic character, known to the world as Spider-Man, that has stood the test of time. This, of course, leads to various adaptations through movies, video games, and animated shows. One animated series that arguably made the biggest impact on the character is the show simply titled, Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994-1998). Created by John Semper, the show followed Peter Parker, a.k.a Spider-Man (Christopher Daniel Barnes), during his young adult years with him navigating college life and his superhero activities. This was the longest-running Spider-Man show until Ultimate Spider-Man (2012-2017) surpassed it years later. 

The Series Adapted the Comics’ Popular Storylines 

One thing that helps this show stand out from the others is the amount of storylines from the comics that were adapted. From The Alien Costume to The Sinister Six to The Green Goblin, many of Spidey’s important arcs were brought to life on the silver screen. What worked about them was how much time was spent on them, often in multiple parts. As the show went on, storylines would span most of a season. Semper made Fox and Marvel buy him a collection of Spider-Man comics so that he could reference them when writing the series. That exemplifies the care and dedication that went into adapting the source material. Another strong aspect is that, while there were changes, it did so in a way that makes sense. How Spider-Man gets the black suit is different from how it was in comics, but how it’s done with him finding it in a crashed space shuttle still works and has since been used in later Spider-Man media. 

How Spider-Man and X-Men Created Their Own MCU

During the ‘90s, multiple Marvel animated shows were airing on Fox Kids at the same time, including Spider-Man. One of those shows that was also popular was X-Men: The Animated Series (1992-1997). Because both series were a big hit, it was decided that the two should crossover with the X-Men appearing in a two-parter during the second season of Spider-Man. This was a big deal at the time since there had never been a crossover between two different Marvel shows in mainstream media before. It proved a crossover would work long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was even a concept, and this wasn’t the only time this happened. Robert Hays and James Avery reprised their roles as Iron Man and War Machine from Iron Man: The Animated Series (1994-1996). 

Not only did characters from other Marvel shows appear on Spider-Man, but many Marvel characters made their first appearance outside the comics in this series. Punisher (John Beck), Blade (J.D. Hall), and Daredevil (Edward Albert) all make their first appearance in the mainstream on this show. These crossovers and guest appearances built up fan service, but it was done in a way that served the story. Any time another superhero appeared in this series, they had a main role in the plot of the episode they were in. 

Christopher Daniel Barnes as Spider-Man, Hank Azaria as Venom, and Scott Cleverdon as Carnage | Walt Disney Studios

The Show Marked the First Appearance of a ‘Spider-Verse’

In the two-part series finale, Spider-Man meets different versions of himself from parallel worlds including an Octo-Spidey, an Armored Spidey, a Spider-Man without powers, a Six-Armed Spidey, and even Ben Reilly, a.k.a Scarlet Spider. While it’s not referred to by name, this was the first official appearance of a “Spider-Verse.”  Of course, most fans will know the Spider-Verse from the games, comics, and animated movies. Like with the crossover with the other Marvel shows, this was huge at the time since it hadn’t been done before, not even in the comics. The closest fans had to having multiple Spider-Men in the comics was in The Clone Saga which is loosely adapted in the finale with Ben Reily. Although none of the writers from any of the Spider-Verse material that came after have ever publicly credited these episodes as an inspiration, it had an influence. This is especially apparent with the game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (2010) bringing back Christopher Daniel Barnes as a version of Spider-Man, this time as Miguel O’Hara. 

Similar to the Spider-Verse films, the finale got meta. Spider-Man makes fun of The Clone Saga as, “A really bad comic book.” If that wasn’t enough, Spider-Man learns about a world where he is a fictional character and meets his creator, Stan Lee. 

The Legacy of Spider-Man: The Animated Series 

In the years following the show’s ending, Spider-Man: The Animated Series is considered by some to be one of the greatest animated superhero shows of all time — so much so that fans have been clamoring for a revival, especially with X-Men: The Animated Series getting a sequel show, X-Men 97 (2024-Present). This series focused on the character during his adult years, something many writers avoid, and it adapted many of his biggest arcs from the comics. It even quite arguably has the happiest Peter Parker in any Spider-Man media. By the end of the show, Peter, after everything he’s gone through, says, “I like my life,” something not even the main comics Peter has ever said. It pushed Spider-Man forward and helped give ideas for future writers, such as the concept of meeting other Spider-people. When all is said and done, Spider-Man: The Animated Series is a landmark for comic book adaptations that will be remembered for years to come. 

Spider-Man: The Animated Series can be found on Disney+. 

Christopher Daniel Barnes as Spider-Man, Lenore Zann as Rogue, Chris Potter as Gambit, Norm Spencer as Cyclops, Cal Dodd as Wolverine, Alson Court as Jubilee, George Buza as Beast, and Susan Beaubian as Mariah Crawford | Walt Disney Studios

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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I am from Michigan. I am a recent graduate of Bowling Green State University majoring in Film Production with a minor in Media Production.