The '90s were a magical time: The world seemed full of wonders and the future was anything I wanted it to be. Yes, I'm a '90s kid, and if you too are a '90s kid who loves superheroes, there are two Marvel shows that you watched every week without fail. These were the excellent X-Men animated series and Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Being the Spider-fan that I am, I'm sure you can imagine where I'm going with this. Yes, Spider-Man: The Animated Series is what inspired my love for Spider-Man — I'd watch it every week and watch every repeat when I could, it truly was a joyous time.
After 65 episodes the series was cancelled, but not all the loose ends were tied up. Spider-Man had just saved the multiverse from destruction at the hands of one of his clones and had even met Stan Lee. But there was one plot thread left dangling — he still had not yet found Mary Jane! MJ had been missing throughout the final series after being thrown off the George Washington Bridge by the Green Goblin into a dimensional portal. The final episode does IMPLY that Peter and Mary Jane meet again, but truly it seemed we would never know.
Will He Find Mary Jane? I Have To Know!
That is until now! John Semper Jr., the head writer and executive producer of Spider-Man: The Animated Series runs a Facebook page dedicated to the series. If you haven't checked it out seriously, do it (Click here now!). On this page he shares stories from behind the scenes as well as concept art and storyboards from the show. He has also offered us a teaser of the lost episode.
Hearing Christopher Daniel Barnes reading lines as Spider-Man once again was magical to me. It is his voice I hear in my head when I read Spider-Man comics and in my opinion, he is the definitive animated Spider-Man. I would love to see more episodes of the series, though I very much doubt this will happen. But, as anyone who watched the whole of the video will know, we can get something pretty close. As well as offering behind the scenes insights into the '90s series, John Semper Jr. is also using this page to raise awareness of his newest project — War of the Rocketmen. This will be an animated series that will reunite the original cast of Spider-Man: The Animated Series. It will be financed entirely by the fans, and anyone who donates will be sent a script of the lost episode "Peter Finds Mary Jane"!
Wait, How Do I Donate?
If this has indeed piqued your interest, then there is a way that you can get your hands on this script. If you visit the website on the video www.waroftherocketmen.com you too can contribute and finally get your answers. I don't know if they plan on recording any further lines from the episode (I REALLY hope they do!), but I do know I want to read that script. It gets better though, John Semper Jr. will also be giving away pieces of memorabilia from his storage locker! This ranges from toys to concept art, animation cells, and scripts. This is truly an opportunity not to be missed! Check out this video for more info (It's a 360° video so watch it in Chrome).
Why was the Show so Good?
Spider-Man: The Animated Series is beloved by fans, it is often named as fan's favourite adaptation of Spider-Man. It was very different to the cartoons of the time as it actually had a continuous story. Rather than a 'villain of the week' format there would be an overarching plot running through each series. An example of this is during series two when Spider-Man's powers begin to evolve and he starts to mutate. This culminates in his transformation into the Man-Spider in an adaptation of the 6-armed Spider-Man story from the comics. Spidey would battle villains in each episode while also dealing with the problems in his personal life.
This brings us nicely on to what was a high-point of the series for me - The Venom Saga. In the 90s Venom was a huge draw as a Spider-Man villain, he was involved in stories in the much-maligned Clone Saga and it was also the decade that spawned Carnage. During the first series of the show, John Semper Jr. had been desperate to try and adapt Venom's origin on the small screen as he was his favourite villain (I agree). The three-part story was paced perfectly. Spider-Man initially acquires his black suit after saving John Jameson when his space shuttle crash lands in New York City. At first, Spidey is very happy with his new costume as it augments his powers and creates its own webbing. But during part two, he begins to notice it changing him. He becomes much more angry and ruthless when dealing with villains. Ultimately, he almost kills the Shocker until he remembers who he is. He realises that it is the suit that is changing him and seeks to rid himself of it. Eddie Brock, who is a prominent figure in the first series of the show, follows Spider-Man to the church where he battles the Shocker and unwittingly becomes the new host of the symbiote.
Part three has Venom in full flow. Eddie Brock and the symbiote share a hatred of Spider-Man and they use this to become an effective villain. Venom knows all of Peter Parker's secrets and is also does not register with his Spider-Sense and he uses this to great effect. He psychologically stalks Peter and threatens him both at home and as Spider-Man. There is even a moment when he almost unmasks him in front of news cameras (though J. Jonah Jameson conveniently cannot get a clear shot). After defeating Venom, Spider-Man calls him his greatest enemy and I believe he is right in this.
Writers Who Know the Character and a Great Cast
John Semper Jr. is a fan of Spider-Man and you can see from the Facebook page he is very passionate about the 90s series. He has revealed that in order to get the best stories he could from the series, he organised writers who had written Spider-Man comics to help with storylines. Gerry Conway, the legendary writer of The Night Gwen Stacy Died is credited as writing the pilot episode and of course, Stan Lee had his input too. This was a masterstroke as it allowed fans to experience stories straight from the pages of the comics from people who truly understood the character. The passion from the writers comes across fully in the series.
I've already alluded to Christopher Daniel Barnes being perfectly cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, but he was not the only one who has made a mark on me. Throughout the series a number of big name guest stars appeared such as Mark Hamill playing the Hobgoblin and David Hayter (yes, Solid Snake!!) playing Captain America. Uniquely, rather than having the actors record their lines one at a time in a lonely recording booth, Semper chose to have the cast record their lines together. This allowed the actors to bounce off one another and react as if they were doing a play. Only the excellent Batman: The Animated Series had used this technique before and I believe it added to the show by giving realistic performances.
A Practice Run for the MCU!
I've already written a post about this, but the final thing I'd like to mention was how Spider-Man's world crossed over with other Marvel properties. During the 90s we had animated series based on the X-Men, Iron Man, Fantastic Four and Hulk to name a few. Spider-Man: The Animated Series was able to use these characters as it was required, just as the MCU does today. An example of this is during series two when Spider-Man is mutating, he visits the leading experts on mutation - The X-Men. All of the guest characters had the same look as their cartoon series and, importantly, they all sounded the same. The voice cast would crossover with the series as it was required. Perhaps this was the model Marvel tried to emulate when creating its own cinematic universe.
There's a couple of petitions online calling for the show to be resurrected and another one asking for a blu ray release. Personally, I think the blu ray release is more realistic (and vital!) but a revival would be incredible. The sheer nostalgia would be fantastic and I know from the comments on John Semper Jr's Facebook post that I am not the only one who got a bit excited by this short teaser. Either way, I know that I'll be contributing to the crowd funding so that I can read this lost episode's script and finally get the closure I so desperately need! Hell, I'd be happy if they released a Spider-Man: The Animated Series comic as they have with X-Men 92, come on Marvel - make it happen!
Did you love Spider-Man The Animated Series as much as I did? Please feel free to geek out about it in the comments! :)