Since the first appearance of Spider-Man in 1962's Amazing Fantasy #15, the character has grown in popularity and crossed multiple mediums. Spider-Man was one of the first comic book characters to make the transition to television in animated form, appearing only five years after his comic debut.
Since that classic first animated appearance, Spider-Man and his associated characters have appeared in a number of animated series, explored different eras and continuities of his mythology, and even made the big budget leap to the big screen. Today we are going to examine the good and the bad of the various animated versions of Spider-Man, and see how they match up against each other.
One of the more unusual entries on this list is 1999's Spider-Man Unlimited. Now Unlimited's low place on the list doesn't necessarily mean it's not a good show, as it managed to deliver an entirely new type of Spidey story in the hopes of revitalizing his struggling animated presence.
Unfortunately, despite transplanting the hero in a spiffy new nano-tech suit to a Counter-Earth controlled by the geneticist High Evolutionary, the series didn't take off as Fox had hoped. Despite some interesting new characters and Spider-Man's new role as a rebellion leader, the dramatic change in setting and huge fail with the characterizations of Venom and Carnage keep Unlimited low in the rankings.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends aired concurrently with another Spidey animated series in the 80s, though Amazing Friends is definitely more widely remembered by fans today. This is largely due to the fact that the series varied wildly from Marvel continuity by teaming Spidey up with Iceman and Firestar, who was created for the show when the Fantastic Four's Human Torch wasn't able to appear.
While the popularity of Firestar led to her eventual debut in the comics, little else from the series holds up today, considering the occasional absurdity of the series. Let's face it, Spider-Man could never have afforded a high-tech headquarters with his "Spider-Friends" while in college.
Following the acquisition of Marvel by Disney, all Marvel animated series (like Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes) created out of studio were canceled and new series (like Avengers Assemble) were created to air on Disney XD. Ultimate Spider-Man took inspiration from the comic of the same name by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley.
The series reimagined a youthful Peter Parker as the leader of a SHIELD-sponsored hero team, which sounds good in theory. However, Ultimate Spider-Man was geared towards a much younger audience than previous animated series, losing some of the older generations of fans.
The mostly unseen Spider-Man: The New Animated Series first aired in 2003 on MTV, but didn't reach the levels of mainstream popularity that some of the other animated Spideys. The New Animated Series was loosely based on the Sam Raimi films and included celebrity voices like Neil Patrick Harris as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Ian Ziering as Harry Osborn, Lisa Loeb as Mary Jane Watson.
The series even featured Michael Clarke Duncan, who reprised his role as Kingpin from 2003's Daredevil. Spider-Man: TNAS was computer animated by the same Canadian studio that created the popular ReBoot animated series, though the limitations of the technology at the time are very apparent.
The 80s saw a new take on Spider-Man hit the small screen in a couple of ways. 1981's Spider-Man aired alongside the previously mentioned Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends and focused on college student Peter Parker. The series also featured a new recurring threat in the form of Doctor Doom, which greatly enhanced the stakes of the wall-crawler's adventures.
The series also featured a number of other Marvel superhero cameos like Namor, Captain America, the X-Men, Ka-Zar, and a wide selection of villains. Unfortunately, Spider-Man also resulted in the creation of villains like The Gadgeteer, who unlike Amazing Friends' Firestar, did not make the transition to the comics.
The newest and still running animated series featured a wildly different take on the web-slinger, inspired by the more youthful cinematic version played by Tom Holland in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel's Spider-Man features a young Peter Parker in an advanced science school, alongside a number of reimagined characters, both heroic and evil.
Much of the wall-crawler's rogues gallery has been adapted to fit into either the teacher or student mold, which can feel inauthentic at times, but the series has streamlined the convoluted continuity to allow young Peter to work alongside newer characters like Miles Morales (Spider-Man), Spider-Gwen, and Spider-Girl (Anya Corazon).
Spidey fans of all ages grew up watching the classic Spider-Man animated series, and continue to do so today thanks to continued syndication on TV. While the series is incredibly dated, it also serves as a delightful snapshot of the swinging 60s while memorializing the early years of Spider-Man's career.
The series initially featured fairly simple adventures with a few appearances from classic Spidey villains but took a turn towards the psychedelic when animation legend Ralph Bakshi took over the series and focused more on the college days of Peter Parker. The theme song for the series is a fondly remembered piece of pop culture that is continually referenced in new adaptations.
Following the success of X-Men: The Animated Series, Fox debuted Spider-Man: The Animated Series in 1994 with a clear focus on providing a source for toy merchandise, like most cartoon productions of the time. Spider-Man: TAS ran for five seasons and covered a number of iconic comic storylines, and even tackled an adaption of the 1985 maxi-series Secret Wars.
The first season of the show actually created the mainstream origin story for the Venom symbiote, which is largely used today in media other than the comics. Spider-Man: TAS remains one of the best animated series based on the wall-crawler, and one of the longest running.
Whereas the majority of the early animated Spider-Man series focused on an older college-age Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man brought the character back to high school, modernized the setting, and really dug into what made Peter Parker put on the webs. The series was heavily inspired by the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko/John Romita Sr. runs, and even included the iconic webpits as part of the animated costume.
While some of the modernized villains and new origins differed greatly from the comics, they fit perfectly into the new animated universe created for the series while honoring the source material. Unfortunately, The Spectacular Spider-Man only ran for two seasons following Marvel's sale to Disney and was canceled in order to launch Ultimate Spider-Man on Disney XD.
There's no surprise that the animated Spider-Men of Sony's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse would top this list. After all, the movie did recently win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Spider-Verse mainly focuses on the story of Miles Morales, though viewers were introduced to a few other alternate reality Spideys.
These included the first animated appearances of Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Noir, Peni Parker, and down on his luck Spidey Peter B. Parker. Not only did the cinematic introduction of Miles Morales tell a beautiful and comedic story full of comic fan service, but Into the Spider-Verse wowed viewers with a visual spectacle unlike anything seen before in Spider-Man's animated history.