Spider-Man: The Animated Series producer John Semper Jr. recalls how Stan Lee's late wife, Joan Lee, became the voice of Madame Web. The series ran from 1994-1998, before concluding in season 5.
Although she made a cameo alongside her husband of 69 years, Stan Lee, in X-Men: Apocalypse and first appeared in animated form as Miss Forbes in the 1994 animated Fantastic Four series, Joan Lee will be best remembered for voicing Madame Web in Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994-1998). Joan Lee passed away last week, after suffering a stroke the prior week.
In a Facebook post, John Semper Jr. - the producer and head writer on Spider-Man: The Animated Series - recalls why he introduced the elderly, powerful cosmic entity (who is a mutant in the comics) as Spidey’s enigmatic guide and chose Joan to voice her. As far back as the third season, when Madame Web made her debut, Semper had “wanted Spider-Man to face the greatest challenge he'd ever faced” in the series finale. After being put through one test after another, the big challenge in the end turned out to be Spidey having to team-up with Spider-Men from alternate universes to stop Spider-Carnage – a combination of Spider-Man and the Carnage symbiote – from destroying reality itself. To build up to that climactic moment, Semper decided to have an “ominous, almost supernatural creature warn Spidey of what was to come and guide him so that he'd be prepared.”
“I chose as his mentor ‘MADAME WEB,’ a strange elderly woman who sat in a giant, metallic, futuristic chair. She was a relatively obscure character who had appeared in the comic books only briefly. My then-boss, Avi Arad wasn't too excited about bringing her to life on the TV screen. ‘I can't make a toy out of an old broad,’ he grumbled. But I stuck to my plan.”
As he put pen to paper, it was Joan’s voice that Semper imagined for Madame Web, and seeing as though he had become friends with her and Stan years before, he didn’t hesitate ask her to voice the character.
“I knew she could capture perfectly the husky, haughty, almost arrogant attitude I wanted for ‘Madame Web.’ And, of course, she had that wonderful British accent! Joan graciously consented to perform the role, and she was, as I had expected, perfect.”
At the end of the series finale, after Spider-Carnage no longer posed a threat, Prime Spider-Man travels to our reality where he meets his creator: Stan Lee. Making it extra special, Semper made sure to have the animated Stan briefly meet Madame Web, coming up with dialogue in which they express a “mutual fascination with one another.”
“Joan and Stan record this brief exchange was for me one of the supreme highlights of working on the series. ... I am deeply saddened to learn of Joan's passing. She was a great lady, a real talent, and the incredibly significant woman standing arm-in-arm alongside the man behind Marvel.”
In the days since Joan Lee's passing, many from Marvel, DC, and all around the world of comics have expressed their condolences to Stan Lee and their own grief. Semper Jr's post both honors the late actress and offers fans of the Spider-Man series some behind-the-scenes insight into how her character came to be. To get a glimpse of Joan Lee's performance in the Spider-Man: The Animated Series series finale, take a look at the video below:
Source: John Semper Jr.
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