Peter Parker, the amazing Spider-Man, first appeared in August of 1962 in the final issue of Amazing Fantasy, created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. An unpopular teenager who lives with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, Peter’s life is radically changed when he is bitten by a radioactive spider at a science demonstration, leaving him with amazing powers: the proportionate strength of a spider; the ability to cling to walls and other surfaces; amazing speed, agility and reflexes; and a mysterious spider-sense which triggers when danger is near.
Seeing an opportunity to make some quick money and improve the life of his poor Aunt and Uncle, Peter designs a costume, creates a set of mechanical web-shooters to fire a substance not unlike a spider web, and sets about courting the media. Early in his attempts to attain celebrity, Peter allows a thief to escape which he could easily have caught, not viewing it as his responsibility to stop crime. However, as Peter arrives home from this event, he finds his Uncle Ben has been murdered during a home invasion, and sets about to find the killer. Much to his shock, Peter discovers that the murderer is the same thief he failed to stop earlier in the evening, and out of guilt takes it upon himself to use his powers for the greater good, in order to live up to his Uncle Ben’s famous motto: “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
A smash hit with readers, Spider-Man quickly came to be Marvel’s most iconic – and arguably profitable – character. Unsurprisingly, the character was quickly adapted to other media, first in the iconic Spider-Man animated series from 1967. Despite its low budget and stiff animation (overseen in the second and third seasons by the notorious director Ralph Bakshi), the series was a smash hit and provided the character with perhaps the most iconic theme song any superhero has ever had:
So popular is this theme, it has been covered numerous times, including my personal favorite version by the Ramones…
…and even one by crooner Michael Buble:
In 1981, Spider-Man appeared in not one, but two different animated series. One was the short-lived syndicated series Spider-Man, which featured this not quite as memorable opening theme song...
…while the second and more famous series of that year was Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.
However, perhaps the most fondly remembered animated series based on the character remains the 1994 Spider-Man series, which ran five seasons. Remarkably faithful to its source material, the program was a solidly written and performed series, with actor Christopher Daniel Barnes (Greg Brady from the 1990s Brady Bunch films) turning in a memorable performance as the title character. Other actors of note who appeared on the series include Ed Asner as J. Jonah Jameson, Hank Azaria as Eddie Brock/Venom, and Martin Landau as the Scorpion.
Of course, Spider-Man has not only appeared in animation. The character made his live action debut in 1977 in the TV movie The Amazing Spider-Man, which lead to the weekly television series. The funk-tacular series starred Nicholas Hammond of The Sound of Music fame as Parker, and despite its brief run was a major hit for the CBS network. However, high production costs and a fear of CBS brass for being known as “the superhero network” (a title I am sure some network these days would kill for) led to the program’s death, as well as that of the longer running Wonder Woman television series.
One man not heart broken by the series death? Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee, who criticized the show repeatedly during its run.
Since the death of that series, attempts were repeatedly made to turn the comic into a feature film, including some very close calls in the 1980s which James previously covered on the blog here. Most famous of all however was director James Cameron’s repeated attempts to adapt the character, which were brought down by a long and complicated legal dispute over who held the film rights to the character.
The character finally made it to the big screen in 2002 in the film we are discussing this week. A hit with critics and audiences, the film resulted in two sequels, including the more highly lauded Spider-Man 2…
…and the somewhat disappointing Spider-Man 3.
This year, the cinematic Spider-Man series is being re-launched with the reboot film The Amazing Spider-Man.
So just who is behind the 2002 Spider-Man film? The film is directed by Sam Raimi, who prior to the success of Spider-Man was known primarily for his cult hit films, such as Darkman...
…and the often quoted Army of Darkness.
The film’s screenplay is credited to screenwriter David Koepp, a writer with an extensive list of credits to his name, having worked on the scripts to films such as Jurassic Park…
…and Panic Room, amongst others.
So does Spider-Man still hold up as a film? Or is the reboot of the series really required? Listen as Dave and Dru duke it out in this week’s episode!