All three of these shows share the same problem: they ended on cliffhangers. Spider-Man Unlimited was a response to a necessary change due to rights issues, but didn’t do well enough to continue. MTV’s version, referred to as Spider-Man: The New Adventures, was also canned thanks to low ratings, but MTV meddled with the darn thing so much they screwed themselves. (Personally I thought it was pretty good.) The Spectacular Spider-Man had all sorts of rights issues involved with its collapse. But how well did each do with their intros? In this final look at all the intros of Spider-Man we get to find out, continuing in chronological order.
Spider-Man Unlimited transported the web-head and Colonel John Jameson to Counter-Earth, where they dealt with…well see what you can guess from the intro?
I have to give credit to this intro in how fast Spider-Man’s origin is told, from the way it explains the radioactive spider-bite to the only intro that actually references Uncle Ben’s death, the event that led to Peter using his powers to fight crime instead of perform. Other intros have pointed to the spider-bite before but not Uncle Ben. It’s also the only time Aunt May shows up in the show by the way. Mary Jane had a cameo in the first episode and they were mentioned a few times, but that was it. The show never bothered with an origin story for Spider-Man, which the other versions in one way or another eventually got to.
But what else did you gather? While we do get a glimpse of Spider-Man’s normal abilities as well as a few from his new nanite-formed costume (long story) the focus is all on the new situation, like “you already know who Spider-Man is, but here’s the weird new life he’s about to have”. We get the space warp, the monsters that turn out to be the new forms of Venom and Carnage, and some of the threats this planet has to offer. Oh, and the Beastials, the anthropomorphic beings that were created on Counter-Earth and have oppressed the humans. Long story, but are you curious to learn what that is? If you said yes then the intro has done it’s job. The theme is also really good at setting the tone of this new take on Spider-Man. (Also, Rino Romano is my favorite Spider-Man and he’s not the one I grew up with. Then again Dan Gilvesan is always Bumblebee the Autobot to me.)
After the success of the first Sam Rami Spider-Man movie, MTV teamed with Mainframe Entertainment to create a new take loosely based on the movie but somehow set after it. They also wanted celebrity voices and made other requests that made this show so late in coming out the movie was long since on home video. I have to admit that the result was actually quite good, an older take on Spider-Man that previous and future versions.
Yes, more clips, but that’s par for the course with Mainframe. CG may be to blame. It did match the tone though. It’s MTV of course it’s flashier and zooms by fast. The show didn’t hang around long between scenes but the writers and actors did quite a bit with those scenes. Peter gets a new girlfriend named Indy, starting a love triangle with MJ (possibly to wait on the sequel movie), but the focus was on Peter, Mary Jane, and Harry while showcasing how Spider-Man affected each of their lives. As in the movie and the comic story the movie took cues from, Harry blames Spider-Man for his father’s death, not aware he was the Green Goblin or what happened in the fight, but as Spidey continued to show up in his life he started having doubts. Mary Jane still harbored feelings for Spidey while growing interested in Peter, further blocked by Peter’s growing relationship with Indy, an intern at a TV station Peter shot video for to get some extra cash. (JJ was there, too, voiced by Keith Carradine.)
However, most of the focus of the intro tends to be on action, as you see Spider-Man zipping around, explosions, with some focus on the threats Mainframe took from the comics (even having Michael Clarke Duncan reprise Kingpin from the Ben Affleck Daredevil movie), but there’s so much going on it’s harder to follow than the others. Even the 90s one was easier to track.
Finally there’s The Spectacular Spider-Man, a show I had trouble getting into but seems to have a huge following. Of course, that was during the OTHER year I was in the hospital, just learning what Crohn’s Disease was and leading to events that would cause BW Media Spotlight to exist, so it was hard to really get into. Plus it took a few liberties, but I’ll come back to that. Let’s see the intro. Or one of many.
The “cast list” would change every episode, to give you a heads up as to what characters would be putting in a focal appearance this episode. The one used here was concerned with (unless I’ve had to relink since you read this) you get Gwen Stacy in Harry Osborn, but other episodes may replace them with Eddie Brock, or Mary Jane Watson, or Flash Thompson…all with backgrounds that reflect their character or at least look neat. Then again they changed a few things. Harry doesn’t look like a jock, and Gwen, in a failed attempt to convince me she’s Peter’s perfect choice, is turned into a science geek like Peter. Why does this keep happening. The Ultimate comics turned MJ into a science person and the Amazing Spider-Man movies also made Gwen into as much a scientist as Peter. Are there really no scientists in the world who date/marry attractive women who aren’t also into science? Way to pigeon-hole, guys!
Also, if we’re going to keep shoving Peter back into high school can we remember most of this supporting cast didn’t meet him until college? Peter had no friends or love interests (0utside of a fling with Betty Brant) until college. If you really want to do his origin story, then sacrifice the characters or put him in college if you want the characters. Like I said in last week’s commentary, accuracy is kind of important. I know this show has its fanbase, and I do admit it is well-deserved, as the writing and acting are excellent, but besides forcing me to deal with Gwen Frickin’ Stacy again (I don’t hate the character, but I’m getting tired of having her shoved in my face as MJ gets pushed further away from Peter), it messes up too much continuity for me to really get into it. Plus unlike every other character, Gwen and Eddie (and you can make the case for Harry as well) are so removed from their counterparts they’re practically new characters. Aunt May’s awesome, though, and I am so off-topic now, aren’t I?
Right, the intro. The theme is performed by The Tender Box, a group of Mexican descendants, and they kind of give me a Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe which works well. Things do flash by, but the way they do it visually actually makes things clear. I like how they explain quickly that the spider-bite (I think they used the genetic engineering origin of the Ultimate comics and Sam Rami’s movies) altered Peter’s DNA and thus Spider-Man. Then you have the cool transitions (I think the use of the newspaper is my favorite, followed by the amazed kids). They also have to make room for additional focal character so while they do repeat “Spectacular” a lot they kind of had to since they didn’t want to have the important parts of the theme song there. The theme and visuals come together to create a great combination of theme and visuals to bring the readers into Spider-Man’s world.
And there you have it, the many intros of Spider-Man’s TV career. I hope the upcoming Spider-Man cartoon follows the examples set by these series we’ve looked at over the past few days and gives us an exciting intro to draw the viewers into whatever new Spider-Verse we’re being taken into. Otherwise we’ll get this:
And that’s how you do it wrong. Geez, even the remade Thundercats had more effort than this, guys!