Friday, April 25, 2014

Best Spider-Man TV Series

11. Amazing Spider-Man (1977-1979, 13 Episodes, CBS)
I got through about 8 minutes of a really boring pilot before giving up.  I fast forwarded to the parts where Spider-Man was in costume and I was even more bored.  I have never seen anyone say too many good things about this series online (nor all that bad either).  It is kind of just there.  Marvel's live-action properties before Blade just did not seem to click (I guess Ferigno's Incredible Hulk does have its ardent supporters, but I could never get into it).  This show doesn't have a memorable aethstetic or fun camp like Adventures of Superman or 1966 Batman.  Just kind of there.

10. Ultimate Spider-Man (2012-Present, 52 Episodes, Disney XD)
I have tried with this show on several occasions and it just does not work for me.  I know there are some supporters who claim that it is good and people just hate on it, but it kind of deserves the hate.  Drake Bell, who I always found to be likable enough, is absolutely grating as a voice actor.  The constant cut aways are incredibly intrusive and unfunny.  There is no comedic timing or point to them.  But then again none of the main story lines are that interesting either.  It is interesting to compare this to a show like the original Teen Titans where the cartoony humor helps its mature storytelling or Batman: The Brave and the Bold which serves as a loving homage to camp.  This is just loud and busy for no real reason.  Which is a shame, because the animation and designs are some of the best Spidey has ever had.

9. Spidey Super Stories (1974-1977, PBS)
Spider-Man was a recurring segment on the classic educational TV series The Electric Company, the sketches even spun off into a comic book for young readers.  On the show Spidey would only speak in speech bubbles to encourage viewers to practice reading.  The segments are pretty fun and suitable for young children.  Not amazing educational television, but it does entertain and has admirable goals.  It is nice to see Spidey, as a character who always plays well to young children, used in this way.

8. Supaidaman (1978-1979, 41 Episodes, Tokyo Channel 12)
Toei produced a Sentai series starring Spider-Man for Japanese audiences.  I don't have a huge knowledge of Sentai.  This show was clearly less concerned with adapting the comics and focused more on reaching a specific audience.  That said, I enjoyed what I saw of it.  The special effects are fun, the music is good, and there is some legitimate suspense to it.  Also the actor portraying Spider-Man is very good.  It is great seeing him so physical and agile in live-action.  Not an accurate adaptation by any stretch of the imagination, but still a fun one.

7. Spider-Man (1981-1982, 26 Episodes, Syndication)
This show has its fans, but I have never understood the appeal too much (aside from the obvious nostalgia).  For the early eighties, this is good superhero animation and it adapts the comic characters fairly well.  Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends spun off of this, which used the same designs and music (although different voices).  It is difficult not to compare it to Amazing Friends, that show just had such a perfect dynamic with its three leads.  This show lacks that sort of rhythm and urgency.  Definitely good for its time, but I don't see a huge reason to look it up.

6. Spider-Man Unlimited (1999-2001, 13 Episodes, Fox Kids)
This show has aged surprisingly well.  Oh don't get me wrong, it is still not a great cartoon but it is definitely an interesting one.  It has a pretty decent premise, really unique designs, Rino Romano voices a good Spider-Man, and the action is good.  I remember a few years after this show came out that it was considered to be the worst Spider-Man cartoon, but the bad will seems to have subsided.  For me anyways, it is interesting enough to justify its short existence.

5. Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (2003, 13 Episodes, MTV)
Computer animation doesn't age the best.  Watching it a decade later the humans don't look right and the movement is a little slow.  However the designs are good and Spidey himself moves well in CGI.  This show was targeted at young adults and the writers definitely take advantage of the maturity, this show deals with some tough issues in a fairly realistic way.  The focus is solely on Peter's college life.  Aunt May doesn't appear and J. Jonah Jameson is pretty inconsequential.  But the love triangle storyline is well handled.  It would be better if they used more actual villains from the comics instead of creating lame original ones.  But this is a pretty decent show.

4. Spider-Man (1967-1970, 52 Episodes, ABC)
Yes, this is primarily so high because of its theme song.  But that theme song is what kept Spider-Man in the public's consciousness for decades.  This was the most recognizable Spider-Man adaptation until the 1990s.  This is almost the equivalent of Superfriends or Adam West's Batman in terms of raising a comic book character's profile.  It holds up better than most action cartoons of the sixties.  Paul Soles does a good job as Spider-Man and it is just fun.

3. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981-1983, 24 Episodes, NBC)
This is honestly one of my favorite series.  I still watch it from time to time on Netflix.  Superheroes work great with camp and this is camp at its best.  Spider-Man, Iceman and Firestar have fun chemistry and the many guest stars make this almost an adaptation of Marvel Team-Up.  I loved watching this on ABC Family when I was a kid because it was a decent introduction for various Marvel heroes and villains.  There are some good jokes and the action is good for its time.  Superheroes should be fun and it doesn't get much more fun than this.

2. Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994-1998, 65 Episodes, Fox Kids)
This is how many people were introduced to Spider-Man and it is a great introduction.  It is a pretty accurate adaptation of the comics, it gets the character right, includes a lot of supporting characters and villains and has some great artwork.  The show can be a little overly dramatic, but the sincerity of Christopher Daniel Barnes makes it work for the most part.  Even if some episodes are better than others the series remains likable.  This is some of the best versions of characters such as The Lizard, Doc Ock and even J. Jonah Jameson.  The show had an impressive run and still holds up as one of my favorite Spider-Man iterations.

1. Spectacular Spider-Man (2008-2009, 26 Episodes, Kids' WB on the CW/Disney XD)
In only two seasons the Greg Weisman helmed series took its place as one of the all time best superhero cartoons.  Having a great grasp on Peter Parker's life as well as Spider-Man this is the most accurate adaptations Spidey has ever had.  It utilizes not just the main villains but also villains everyone else had overlooked such as The Enforcers.  Everybody is present in its massive supporting cast including Kong MacFarlane, Randy Robertson, Ned Lee, Frederick Foswell, George Stacy, Jean DeWolff and even Hobie Brown.  The show has a great sense of humor, can make teen drama seem compelling and can be mature without going too dark.  The designs are unique and has a clear Steve Dikto influence.  And the plotting of the series finale is incredible with its many twists and turns.  It is accessible for new audiences and huge Spider-Fans alike.  Not enough people have seen this, but it is one of the best.  This is how you tell a Spider-Man story.

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