Welcome to the conclusion of our look back at some of Spider-Man’s journeys through film and TV (and occasionally elsewhere) in celebration of the new hit film The Amazing Spider-Man. This time out, we’ve got movies, a musical, several cartoons, and an explanation as to why Spidey fought beast-men on Counter-Earth.
But first, a bit of a correction to the first part:
This came in the mail from Sanctum Sanctorum Comix:
In your article detailing the varied history of Spidey in assorted media, you have a listing for “ROCK REFLECTIONS OF A SUPERHERO” album.
That is all well and good, but then you have a Mark Waid quote, but he is describing a DIFFERENT record.
He is referring to the SPIDER-MAN ROCKOMIC, (“BEYOND THE GRAVE”) that guest starred Doctor Strange, as Aunt May is kidnapped by the Kingpin and had an interior spread illustrated as a series of 5 comic strips by John Romita Sr.
The ROCKOMIC (released in 1972 by Budda Records) is an opera (or sorts) with spoken acted lines and sung rock opera songs interspersed throughout.
Spidey is played by actor isRene Auberjonois, and the songs are byRon Dante(most famously from the Archies) and a renamed band called “the Webspinners”.
The ROCK REFLECTIONS is just a series of songs.
If you’d like here is a youtube clip of the main theme:
And here’s the first chapter of the 5 chapter story (with links to the rest)
We regret the error. It had been a while since we heard “Rock Reflections,” and, well, even Mark Waid has an off day.
Let’s begin with a couple of unrealized projects…
Cannon Films’ Attempted Spider-Man Movie: By the 1980s, Spider-Man had become enough of a recognizable figure that a feature film seemed on the horizon, but development and legal complications made this a nearly two-decade journey to the big screen.
Cannon Films, known for many a Chuck Norris flick, optioned the film rights to Spidey in 1985, and went through several scripts over their development period. Their first effort, scripted by The Outer Limits creator Leslie Stevens, apparently involved Spidey being portrayed as an eight-armed monster battling other genetic freaks (you can read more about it in this article on different Spider-Man scripts).
Though a very brief teaser you can watch below was produced, the film was never made. Considering what Cannon did with the 1992 Captain America film, that might have been for the best.
”The Night of Doom,” the Arena Show that Wasn’t: It recently came out that Marvel head honcho Jim Shooter scripted an elaborate arena show that would have pitted Spidey against Dr. Doom back in the mid-1980s — . This would prove to be a harbinger of things to come…
James Cameron’s Spider-Man “Scriptment”: Cannon eventually sold the rights to the company Carloco, who hired a post-Terminator 2 James Cameron to write, direct and produce a Spidey film. Though this effort never got made, copies of Cameron’s “scriptment” (an elaborate treatment similar to a full screenplay) have been available online for years; .
Cameron’s and the previous Cannon scripts were later purchased by Sony, and aspects of Cameron’s script found their way into the 2002 film, specifically giving Peter Parker organic web-shotoers as part of his spider-powers, as opposed to building his own devices where he mixed web fluid in a lab. There were many, many complaints about this before there was even an Internet, trust me.
The 1994 Fox Spider-Man Animated Series: Boy, the 1990s were pretty much the best time for cartoons ever, huh? Batman: The Animated Series, Animaniacs, The Tick, Duckman, Freakazoid, Pinky and the Brain, Exosquad, Gargoyles, Beast Wars, War Planets, Reboot, the Nicktoons, MTV, the early years of what would become Adult Swim, The Simpsons…so many more. We don’t count Pokemon.
And of course there was X-Men on Fox, which proved you could do the more elaborate storylines of comic books as an animated series, and which in turn led to this hugely-popular, long-running cartoon.
Featuring some dead-on voice-casting (Ed Asner as newspaperman J. Jonah Jameson!) and some odd choices (the bizarre opening theme by Aerosmith’s Joe Perry with the chorus “spider blood, spider blood, radioactive spider blood”), the series featured dozens of Marvel Universe characters and storylines, and ultimately ended not due to ratings but behind-the-scenes troubles.
You can re-watch the whole thing – including the weird bit near the end where Spidey’s marriage to Mary Jane is invalid because she’s really a clone of Hydro-Man – on Netflix Instant or on Marvel.com.. In a weirdly prescient bit, the first episode pitted Spider-Man against the Lizard, whom he’d later fight in the new reboot.
Spider-Man Unlimited:: All right, this is the third-or-fourth-weirdest item in our recap.
The short version is that this 1999 series took Spidey and put him in some of Marvel’s more SF-based landscapes by having him journey to the alternate planet Counter-Earth to rescue J. Jonah Jameson’s son John from Venom and Carnage, only to become involved in a revolution against the mad scientist the High Evolutionary and his Beastials. Also, there were alternate versions of characters like the Green Goblin and X-51 the Machine Man showed up.
Admittedly, this did have a pretty cool opening credit sequence with the most elaborate depiction of Spidey’s origin yet (the radioactive spider that bites Peter Parker actually causes a mini-mushroom cloud!).
But what exactly was the reason for such an odd take on Spidey? To find out, we asked animation veteran Will Meugniot(of the aforementioned X-Men, Exosquad and more), who developed the series with Avi Arad. Mini-interview time!
Newsarama: So, Will, how did this series initially come about? What was behind the more SF focus of the storyline?
Will Meugniot: It’s complicated, but the short version is: Both Marvel and Fox Kids needed a new series with Spider-Man in the title to fulfill contractual obligations.
Doing the new episodes, which couldn’t be a continuation of the previous show, would allow Fox Kids to keep airing their earlier Spider-Man series for several more years.
Initially, the goal was to do an extremely low budget adaptation of the first 26 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man comic book. We’d started work on that version of the series, but then Marvel and Sony locked the Spider-Man movie deal, and we were suddenly cut off from our source material. We could no longer adapt the early comics or use the classic Spider-Man costume.
We toyed with Spider-Man 2099 for a week or so, but realized that Batman Beyond had more or less appropriated that property’s territory.
But all parties still needed a series, and Marvel had some characters they needed to be seen on TV, so Marvel gave us a list of what they wanted in the series, and Michael Reaves and I sorted through it and came up with a storyline to accommodate Marvel’s needs, including setting the show on Counter-Earth.
The initial story focused on Peter arriving on Counter Earth, realizing he needed help to get home, and trying to hook up with that world’s Peter/Spidey. But he soon discovered the glitch in his plan; Uncle Ben had not been killed on C.E., which resulted in that world’s Spider-Man not having the moral fortitude to resist becoming Venom. Everybody seemed to like the pitch and we went into production.
However, after we were already full into script, someone at Marvel freaked out, misinterpreting what fans found onerous about the end of the Clone storyline in the comics, and declared we couldn’t do a story with two Peter Parkers. So we found ourselves in production with a show whose dramatic core had been destroyed.
Nrama: Were there any particular mandates toward having Venom and Carnage as part of the storyline?
Meugniot: They were on the big list of things Marvel wanted included.
Nrama: Did you have a long-term plan for the series, and if so, could you share it with us?
Meugniot: The long-term plan was to examine who Peter Parker was through the hardship of being on a strange world and not knowing if he could get home.
Dealing with the Counter-Earth Spidey/Venom was intended to be the main subplot, and by the end, Peter would have gone home with the knowledge that the hardships of his origin had made him the good man he’d become.
Nrama: Overall, how do you look back at this experience? What did you like about it and what would you change?
Meugniot: As with many of my dealings with Marvel, it’s bittersweet.
I got to work with some great people, and there are some nice action sequences in some of the episodes, but I wish we could have done the real Spider-Man as originally planned. And that’s the main change I would have liked – just being allowed the honor of doing a straight forward adaptation of the books I loved as a kid.
Thanks, Will Meugniot! You can check out his website at www.storyboardpro.com, and relive the sheer strangeness of Spider-Man Unlimited on Netflix Instant or on Marvel.com.
But now it was time for Spidey to hit the big time with…
Spider-Man (2002 Sam Raimi Film): This is the one you remember – the film that, along with Bryan Singer’s X-Men, helped launch the modern superhero films.
Many legal battles and much online controversy (Organic webshooters! The Green Goblin looks like a Power Ranger!) later, Sam Raimi’s take on the webslinger proved to be a faithful and energetic homage to the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko comics.
Starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane, James Franco as Harry Osborn and Willem Defoe as Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin, the film’s dead-on characterization, playful special effects and iconic upside-down kiss between Spidey and MJ made it an international hit, grossing $821 million worldwide.
Here’s the rarely-seen initial teaser for the film, which came out in 2001…and had to be yanked a few months later for obvious reasons.
The MTV Series: In those days after Doogie Howser, M.D. and before he was properly recognizes as a national treasure, Neil Patrick Harris gave voice to the webslinger in this 2003 CGI series that featured Ultimate Spider-Man writer Brian Michael Bendis as executive producer.
The 13 episodes of this show (also featuring such odd voice casting as Lisa Loeb as MJ, Ian Ziering as Harry Osborn and Rob Zombie as the Lizard!), followed the events of the first Raimi film, and received acclaim for their action…not so much for their plotting. The series ended on a cliffhanger with Peter once again swearing he would be Spider-Man no more, which, given the show’s cancelation, might be the only time this decision has stuck.
All 13 episodes are available on Hulu, and you can watch the first episode below.
Spider-Man 2: Considered the best Spider-Man adaptation by many critics and fans, this 2004 film features Peter giving up the mask after too many setbacks in his superhero and personal lives (including a dead-on recreation of the “Spider-Man No More!” cover), only to swing back into action to battle Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina).
Featuring a great tragic character in Molina’s Otto Octavius and plenty of great character moments, the film (which included Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, along with Kavalier & Clay author Michael Chabon working on the script), the film is an action-packed look at Spider-Man’s continuing struggle to do the right thing in the face of adversity, even if it does seem like half of NYC has seen him without his mask by the end.
Here’s the teaser!
Spider-Man 3: The most financially successful ($890 million worldwide) but critically-derided member of Raimi’s films was originally scheduled to have the Vulture as the villain in addition to Thomas Haden Church as the Sandman and Harry Osborn as the new Green Goblin, but Raimi was convinced by Avi Arad to include Venom instead, played by Topher Grace.
Positing the Sandman as the real killer of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben and recreating the comics’ alien costume storyline, Spider-Man 3 was criticized for…well, trying too much, with many of the storylines underserved by the sheer number of characters appearing in the film (we’re still not sure why Gwen Stacy was in this). Pressured by a deadline for a fourth film and unable to find a satisfactory script, Raimi quit the franchise, and Marvel announced a reboot.
Rather than rehash oft-heard Spider-Man 3 complaints, here is one big video with all of them.
We maintain, however, that this scene is criminally underrated.
Evil alien costumes give you SWERVE.
The Spectacular Spider-Man: Though it only ran two seasons, this 2008 animated series was widely acclaimed for its strong characterization and storylines, spearheaded by Gargoyles creator Greg Weisman along with Victor Cook. The storylines drew from all eras of Spider-Man, often emphasizing the drama of being a superpowered teen, and included a well-developed look at how Eddie Brock became Venom. Here’s the first episode!
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark: After years of development, millions of dollars, delays, rewrites, lawsuits, multiple injuries and the longest preview period in Broadway history, this elaborate musical from Bono, the Edge and Julie Taymor finally hit the Great White Way for its official run in 2011.
Though called one of the worst Broadway musicals of all time by Ben Brantley of The New York Times and being mocked on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Saturday Night Live and even Sesame Street, the musical retelling of Peter Parker’s origins and his battle against the Green Goblin has proven a hit, though it will need to run five years to recoup its estimated $75 million cost.
Though we don’t have any footage from the original version that prominetely featured a “Geek Chorus” and the spider-goddess Arachnae (along with a musical number where her and her minions come to Earth and buy shoes), here’s the Green Goblin’s spotlight number with the Sinister Six from Late Night With David Letterman. Don’t ask us to explain “Swiss Miss.”
Ultimate Spider-Man: Launched in time for the new film, this animated series features Spidey being trained as a young hero by Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside the likes of Nova, White Tiger, and Power Man and Iron Fist (along with a comic tone and anime hommages). The behind-the-scenes cast includes Paul Dini, Brian Michael Bendis and the Man of Action team of comic creators/animators responsible for Cartoon Network’s hit Ben 10.
The Amazing Spider-Man: In theaters now is this new hit from (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb, which recasts Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, with Rhys Ifans as Curt Connors/The Lizard. This new take emphasizes the teen angst and romantic storyline of Peter’s life, while adding an acrobatic style for Spidey with elements of parkour and a conspiracy storyline involving Oscorp and the death of Peter Parker’s parents. Also, mechanical webshooters! Are you happy now?
Rather than try to impress you with the storyline and effects, here are Garfield and Stone singing about the plot for a German TV show. Aren’t they just a-dorbs?
And that’s all the Spidey film, TV and miscellaneous we could think of for this piece, minus all the video games, because this was long enough. But one thing is clear: Throughout the decades, throughout the different media used, the colorful action and human conflicts of Spider-Man and his friends and foes exert a universal appeal that speaks to the power of the character created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. And with each new generation that discovers these works, there’s a new generation of fans that will carry that legacy into the future.
Just no more musicals, please.