1994's Spider-Man: The Animated Series was the longest running Spider-Man television show with 65 episodes over five seasons. It originally aired on FOX alongside the X-Men animated series of the same time period.
|Spider-Man: The Animated Series|
This series is not only the most successful Spider-Man television show ever but it is also the most faithful to the comics. While it carved out its own continuity, the show's creators often borrowed heavily from popular comic book storylines such as the "Alien Costume" series or the Hobgoblin series. In some cases, the storylines were only a few years old such as the Carnage storyline.
Instead of doing stand-alone episodes, each episode was part of a much greater narrative. Long running storylines wove characters together into interesting and dynamic ways. Often the resolution to one storyline would launch another. Each character was treated as an individual with their own agenda - the show avoided stereotypical "good guys vs bad guys" action. Instead, you saw various factions struggle against one another. This lead to an almost "soap opera"-like feel to the show. Sometimes a lengthy series of shows revolved around a central theme such as the "Sins of our Fathers" storyline that dealt with relationships between fathers and their children.
This show, more than any other, captures the entirety of Spider-Man's supporting cast. Not only does it have the big names such as J. Jonah Jameson and Aunt May but it really digs deep by pulling out some old characters such as Deborah Whitman, Glory Grant, and Randy Robertson. Indeed, this show places Spider-Man firmly in the center of the Marvel Universe. Even in the first episode Spider-Man wonders out loud why the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Defenders don't ever have to go down into a sewer. The show featured many guest stars such as the Punisher, X-Men, Dr. Strange, and the Fantastic Four. To the pleasure of fans, Spider-Man got married to Mary Jane in this series - the only media outside of the comics in which this happened.
The animation is capable but not without its flaws. Character designs were simplified which works in most cases. Venom looks a little odd and sometimes the way characters' eyes were designed makes them appear as if they're staring off into space. The show integrated CGI landscapes into the action. Most of the time this works very well but there are times when Spider-Man is swinging that it the CGI becomes really obvious. For the time it was groundbreaking but when CGI becomes noticeable, it's a bad thing.
The voice acting is absolutely spot on. With very few exceptions (such as the Lizard's reasonable tone) the voices are exactly what you hear in your head when you read the comics. J. Jonah Jameson's gruff, tense voice is amazing and Peter Parker's voice is perfect for his nervous self-reflection.
A number of scenes from the Spider-Man 3 movie were directly inspired by the Venom episodes of this show. For example, Spider-Man waking up hanging upside down next to a skyscraper looking at his reflection in the widow. Spider-Man even goes to Dr. Connors to examine the symbiote, just like in the movie.
When it comes to animated superhero shows, Spider-Man: The Animated Series is hard to beat.
1LR REVIEW - 18 out of 20! It's a Solid Hit!