For a history of Spider-Man, check out the post here.
The first incarnation of Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man on TV took its initial cues directly from the comic on which it was based. Produced by Grantray-Lawrence Animation for the first season, the series primarily focused on Peter Parker’s (Paul Soles) life as a freelance photographer for The Daily Bugle newspaper. In between clashes with his gruff boss, publisher J. Jonah Jameson (Paul Kligman), and shyly flirting with Jonah’s secretary, Betty Brant (Peg Dixon), Peter would swing into action as Spider-Man to battle many nemeses from his comic. These threats included a decent selection of Spidey’s rogues from standards such as the Green Goblin (Len Carlson), Dr. Octopus (Vernon Chapman & Tom Harvey) and the Vulture (Gillie Fenwick & Soles) to new creations such as the Fifth Avenue Phantom (Max Ferguson), Dr. Magneto (Cowan) and Ms. Trubble (Dixon). Character co-creator Stan Lee served as story consultant for the first season of the show, while then-current series artist John Romita served as art consultant, bringing a mixture of his and predecessor Steve Ditko’s styles to life.
Spider-Man debuted on ABC on September 9, 1967. The series was mostly written by Lin Carter, with Fred Halliday, Ira Turek, Phil Babet, Al Bertino, Dick Cassarino, Bill Danch, Dick Robbins and Ralph Bakshi. June Patterson served as the script supervisor, as well as provided scripts herself. Ray Ellis composed most of the series’ music, with additional music by Syd Dale, David Lindup, Phil Coulter, Bill Martin, Johnny Hawksworth, Alan Hawkshaw and Johnny Pearson.
The series was a joint Canadian/American production, with animation being handled in America while the voice talent were all located and recorded in Canada. The budget for the show was extremely limited, putting a heavy reliance on stock footage. The animation utilized as little actual movement as possible, although it was still a marked improvement over their earlier animated effort, The Marvel Superheroes, which animated mouths over scanned comic images. The series worked under extremely tight deadlines, as evidenced by the fact that newspaper articles appeared in an episode that aired just three months after they were published. A result of this was that the web design was left off of Spidey’s torso area in order to make animating him quicker and easier. Most of the episodes that season featured two separate story segments, with some single stories to fill the entire timeslot.
After the first season, Grantray-Lawrence went bankrupt and production was moved to Krantz Films under the supervision of Bakshi. With an even smaller budget to work with, further cost-cutting measures were taken for the next two seasons. Footage from previous episodes were cannibalized and re-edited together with minimal changes to create new stories. Footage from two episodes of another Krantz production, Rocket Robin Hood, was used almost in their entirety with Robin Hood replaced by Spidey. The classic stable of villains was also eliminated in favor of more generic villains that could be reused over and over.
The second and third seasons took a darker tone than the first with the use of dark coloring, psychedelic images and atmospheric music. An attempt was also made to focus on Peter’s life away from work and heroics, including time at school and troubles with women. The second season presented the first time Spidey’s origin was seen on film, although it was based on and used liberal amounts of dialogue from the updated retelling from the deluxe-sized magazine Spectacular Spider-Man #1 from 1968, published just a few months prior to the episode. The second season was comprised of single-story episodes while the third returned to the original first season format. After spending two seasons on ABC, the show moved off of the network into syndication and was primarily seen on Sunday mornings.
|Who knew a web-sword would actually...work?|
Probably the most famous element of the show is its theme song. Written by Paul Francis Webster with music composed by Bob Harris, the opening lines “Spider-Man, Spider-Man/Does whatever a spider can” became almost as recognizable as the character itself. Besides being referenced or parodied in movies, TV shows and various comics by numerous publishers (including Spidey’s own), it has been covered by many recording artists over the years including Aerosmith, The Ramones and even Michael Buble. The song appeared in all three Spidey movies directed by Sam Raimi in some form, notably the Aerosmith version in the first one (with slightly altered lyrics), and was played as part of the Marvel Studios logo for their Spidey film series. The Activision video game, Spider-Man, used a re-recorded version of the theme utilizing the instrumentation from the game’s soundtrack in 2000.
Throughout the next three decades, various episodes would be released to VHS along with other Marvel shows. The first time the show was released to DVD was as part of compilation collections of episodes from Spider-Man: The Animated Series by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment starting in 2002. In 2004, Disney released the complete series in Spider-Man: The ’67 Collection, which also featured an introduction from Stan Lee. In 2008, Liberation Entertainment released the first season in Region 2 before the rights eventually went to ClearVision, while Morningstar Entertainment released some episodes in Canada from VHS and Betamax copies of the Prism Video Marvel Video Library. The entire series eventually made its way to virtual streaming on both Netflix and Marvel’s website. In 1967, Marvel published a package comic, America’s Best TV Comics, to promote the network’s Saturday morning line-up which featured a truncated reprint of The Amazing Spider-Man #42 (1966).
|Spider-Man '67 meets Ultimate Spider-Man and Miles Morales in Spider-Verse Team-Up #2.|
In 2014, the world of the series was presented as an alternate universe in the story arc “Spider-Verse” running through The Amazing Spider-Man and related titles. The story depicts Spider-Men from various dimensions banding together to stop a threat that seeks to eliminate them all. Amazing vol. 3 #11 sees two Ultimate Spider-Men (Miles Morales from the comics and the animated version airing on Disney XD at the time) traveling to the ’67 Universe (designated Earth-6799) to recruit that world’s Peter Parker. While the visiting Spideys retained their distinctive style, that Peter and his world were rendered in an art style made to resemble that from the show. Many in-jokes to both the dated look of the show and the limited production budget were made by the two visiting Spideys. Along with Spidey, appearances were made by Jameson and Brant in the first part, and villains Green Goblin, Scorpion, Vulture, Electro and Dr. Noah Boddy in the second part in Spider-Verse Team-Up #2. In 2018, the Spider-Verse concept was adapted into the film Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and the ’67 series was referenced and shown a few times. Additionally, stills and GIFs of several scenes had become viral internet memes on social media.
Originally posted in 2014. Updated in 2020.