Every Spider-Man Movie and TV Show Explained By Kevin Smith

Look, I’ve nev­er been a fan of Kevin Smith’s ooooooov-rah, per se, but I will nev­er crit­i­cize his abil­i­ty to spin a bloody good yarn. He’s fun­ny, engag­ing, charm­ing, and knows his pop cul­ture. WIRED also knows this, so when on the eve of the (appar­ent­ly very good) Spi­der-verse movie, they called on Smith to sit down and run through every Spi­der-man Movie and TV Show and opin­ion­ate all over that mess. (And because Sony’s con­tract with the Mar­vel super­hero is up, this might be a nice demar­ca­tion line.)

I stepped on board the Spidey-train when he appeared as a char­ac­ter on PBS’ The Elec­tric Com­pa­ny, the edu­ca­tion­al kids show that would screen after Sesame Street. As Smith points out, this Spidey was mute, a red and blue mime who only spoke in thought bal­loons, some of which oth­ers could lit­er­al­ly read as they hung above his head.

Around the same time the ‘60s car­toon was also screen­ing, copy­ing the rogue’s gallery of vil­lains well known from the Steve Ditko-Stan Lee com­ic book. Both this and the Elec­tric Com­pa­ny Spideys had the best theme songs, and they still haven’t been topped. (If you’re a Gen‑X’er, you can drop the lyrics on request, any­time).

Now, before this, there had been a few live action attempts to bring the wall-crawler to the big screen but, well, they’re as cheesy and not-good as you might expect, so for the peri­od dur­ing the ‘90s, Spi­der-man stayed an ani­mat­ed con­cern. The high­light of the ’94-’98 ani­mat­ed series, accord­ing to Smith, is the final meta episode, where Spi­der-man cross­es over into “our” real­i­ty and meets Stan Lee, while Lee’s wife Joan played Madame Web.

Inter­est­ing­ly, Smith gloss­es over the three oth­er ani­mat­ed series that have run since then because of the begin­ning of live-action Spi­der-man films made with the pow­er and mon­ey of the mod­ern block­buster. (Inter­est­ing, I say, because crit­ics are now declar­ing the new ani­mat­ed film the best of the bunch).

Smith isn’t wild about the first Sam Rai­mi film in 2002. He ques­tions the deci­sion to cov­er up emo­tive actor Willem Dafoe with a Green Gob­lin mask for the final bat­tle. How­ev­er, he not only likes the sequel, but calls it “one of the great­est super­hero films ever made” because it nev­er los­es sight of the man behind the Spidey mask.

He chas­tis­es Sony for the need­less 2012 reboot, just five years from the final film in the Rai­mi tril­o­gy. His prob­lem: Garfield’s Spi­der-man is great, his Peter Park­er is not. The oppo­site is true with McGuire.

Final­ly, they got it right with Tom Holland’s ver­sion in Avengers: Civ­il War, that mix of geeky stu­dent by day, cocky quip­ster by night. Plus, as Smith points out, they gave him his Queens accent back. (Mar­vel comics, at least the first cou­ple of years, was always entrenched in a real New York City as back­ground.)

“The real charm of that character…is that he’s cov­ered from head-to-toe,” Kevin says, para­phras­ing Stan Lee. “You don’t know who he is or what he is. You don’t know if he’s a boy, a girl, you don’t know what he is, what race, creed, col­or, any­thing. So any kid read­ing that book can see them­selves as the char­ac­ter.”

And that leads us to the cur­rent film, which Smith can tell you about him­self. It fol­lows that uni­ver­sal­i­ty of the char­ac­ter and explodes it out to a bunch of alter­na­tive uni­verse ver­sions of all races, gen­ders, and genus.

“We live in such a gold­en era (for com­ic book movies),” Smith declares and even in a world of Mar­vel burnout, you want to believe him. Maybe the new film is the way for­ward: more diver­si­ty, more fun, more talk­ing ani­mals.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear an Hour of the Jazzy Back­ground Music from the Orig­i­nal 1967 Spi­der-Man Car­toon

The Math­e­mat­ics of Spi­der­man and the Physics of Super­heroes

The Reli­gious Affil­i­a­tion of Com­ic Book Heroes

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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  • Deez Nutz says:

    Only an idiot would gloss over the Japan­ese Spi­der-Man show Stan Lee approved of over the dull Amer­i­can show. It would alter pop cul­ture sig­nif­i­cant­ly com­pared to the MCU Hol­ly­wood dreck ever will.

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