Spider-Man may not have as many TV appearances as, say, Superman, but he has had a strong appearance, primarily in animation with only two live-action appearances, not counting movies. This series is about television intros after all. Notice the TV in the logo. One of those live-action shows was in Japan. The rest have been animated but for this multi-part look we will be including the live-action intros. Live-action doesn’t usually have as cool an intro as an animated show but they should get some acknowledgement when they do something with their clips and actor credits. We also won’t be doing the video games, or the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. The former are not TV shows and the latter is just the logo being pulled off-screen by Spidey’s webbing. That’s kind of weak. So three intros per part and it should take the next three installments.
Remember what makes a good intro to me. It has to give you just enough information to fall into the series. It doesn’t have to spell it outright, like most Filmation intros, but it does have to make it easy to just fall in no matter what episode you start on, and convince you to stay around and check it out, especially on the first episode. We’ve seen a number of ways to do this in past installments. Let’s see what each of the Spider-Man shows did with that, starting with the first three shows, including that one theme songs everybody knows, even if they never watched the 70’s cartoon.
Can I ask why people stretch out the video, trying to make a show look widescreen when it isn’t? I was lucky to find one that didn’t and I’m hoping it stays up awhile, even if they did monetize it somehow. Anyway, I can see why this theme song has stuck around for so long. It gives you the important details of Spider-Man. He has radioactive blood (although I’m not sure why that immediately answers the question “is he strong?”), can swing from a thread (which the visuals shows coming from his wrists), and that wealth and fame elude him. The animation is in keeping with the animation of the show. We don’t see him hoping around like we will later on, but the animation at the time was kind of stunted. He would swing around on his webs, stick to walls and climb them, but it’s not as fluid as later shows would be, and that would just get better.
Also, fans would note that there’s only webbing on his mask, gloves, and boots, and not the rest of his costume. That was probably a time-saver. And yes, back then being in color was a big deal.
From there two live-action TV series came out, one in the US and the other in Japan. Neither was all that close to the source material but the US show was much closer. There was a pilot whose intro was just shots of Spider-Man walking on walls to a mediocre theme song. The actual intro for The Amazing Spider-Man however was slightly better.
In the beginning we get a decent use of clips to explain how Peter Parker got his powers, at least in the series. In the pilot he’s doing some kind of small-scale experiment with radioactive material that a spider got into. Somehow he gets out of the box, bites Peter, and he gets spider powers. We kind of see some of his powers but not really before going into the actor credits. The theme song isn’t that great either. If anything the pilot’s theme was better because it at least had a heroic tone to it. This is really downplayed. The next season before CBS decided it didn’t want to be the “superhero network” cancelling this and Wonder Woman of all shows, underwent an overhaul, and for the better.
Now that’s the 1970s I know and love. While an instrumental the theme is just as catchy and “superheroic” as the first animated intro. The clips are better used to showcase not only the Spider-Powers but the actors and what their characters basically do. Peter and the rival reporter, the newsman, and the secretary. Sure they don’t call, for example, Peter or JJ by name but you know immediately who they are and what they’ll do. Did you even know the last guy in the first intro was a police detective? Nope.
(Fun fact: JJ and the detective changed actors, and they possibly even changed the detective character, between the pilot and the series.)
Meanwhile, Marvel Comics was making a deal with Japanese studio Toei to produce a live-action Spider-Man series, but in their own style. Everything but the costume design was changed for the Japanese version, which is rather obvious from it’s intro.
Yes, those of you new to Japanese Spider-Man, he has a robot now. The Sentai series that led to the Power Rangers got their own soon afterwards. However, when the costume was damaged they had to drop that idea during the series.
The intro doesn’t start out very well does it? Screaming followed by “yeah yeah yeah wow”. It’s kind of weird. In other words, Japan. While it really doesn’t show off the origin…oh wait, I have to clue the newbies in on this one, folks. In this version an alien from the planet Spider chooses a professional motocross racer to give a device that stick him with a venom that gives him spider powers so that he can get revenge for both his father and the planet Spider against an invading force. He turns into Spider-Man by pressing a button on his ridiculously oversized bracelet (that also shoots his webbing–but just one), which release his “spider protector” costume, and one zipper later he was Spider-Man. Also he has a spaceship which launches a big go-kart that can fly into the ship and allow Spider-Man to control Leopardon, a giant robot for when the monsters are turned giant sized. Because Japan!
Anyway, while it really doesn’t show off the origin, you do get to see the biker that becomes Spider-Man and a demonstration of his powers, spaceship, and giant robot as he takes on goons. The theme mirrors the animated series in noting how he’s some lone crusader against evil, talking about how he gave up his own happiness and peace to fight bad guys, which I’m seeing as a common theme in superhero theme songs out of Toei. See also most Kamen Rider intros.
It’s all cartoons from here on out, kids. Next time the two 80s series, including one you may have never heard of, and bringing the classic theme song into the 90s.