If you’ve never watched Marvel’s Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994-1998), now’s your chance to binge the entire series on Disney+. A decade before the release of Jon Favreau’s live action Iron Man, which kicked off the MCU as we know it today, this cartoon was the definitive comic book adaptation.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series appeared as a Saturday morning cartoon on the Fox Kids Network with a catchy guitar riff theme song and it focused on Peter Parker as a college student at the fictional Empire State University in New York City. He had already settled into his role as Spider-Man by the first episode, but his origin story is addressed in later flashbacks.
Produced by the newly formed Marvel Film Animations rather than Saban, episodes were adapted from actual comic book storylines and serve as a helpful introduction to the world of Spider-Man for anyone needing to learn more before the release of future MCU projects, including Spider-Man 3 which begins production this summer.
So, without further ado, here are three reasons to binge the series.
Venom: The Alien Costume Parts 1-3
Any “millennials” who watched this show back in the 90s will certainly remember the three-part origin story of Spider-Man’s arch nemesis Venom. In 2018, Sony released a Venom film starring Tom Hardy and Venom 2 is currently in production with Woody Harrelson as Carnage. If you haven’t seen it, these episodes will bring you up to speed.
Astronauts John Jameson (son of Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson) and Paul Stevens return to Earth with a sample of a valuable compound called “Promethium X,” but they aren’t alone. An alien symbiote is later released into the city and attaches itself to Spider-Man. At first Peter Parker is excited about how the black ooze enhances his super powers, but soon he discovers it’s changing him for the worse.
This is arguably one of the best stories from the series, which does an excellent job of presenting it across three separate episodes, highlighting multiple side stories along the way: Kingpin attempting to steal the Promethium X, J. Jonah Jameson’s Spider-Man vendetta and Eddie Brock’s transformation into Venom.
X-Men: The Mutant Agenda & Mutants’ Revenge
The mid-90s was the golden age of Marvel cartoons. X-Men: The Animated Series (1992-1997) could be listed beside Spider-Man as the best comic book adaptations of all time. Nothing was better than watching both of these cartoons on television, except for when they had crossover episodes.
In the “Mutant Agenda” and “Mutants’ Revenge,” Spider-Man visits Charles Xavier’s mansion and meets the X-Men. There has yet to be a film in the MCU with the Avengers and X-Men side-by-side, so it’s easy to forget that they exist in the same world, heck, in many storylines Wolverine is an Avenger.
Spider-Man and the X-Men team up to stop Dr. Herbert Landon from using his research to eliminate mutants. They also contend with Hobgoblin who is working with Kingpin to steal Dr. Landon’s research and build an army of mutants under his control.
None of the Spider-Man films have touched this storyline, but the animated series focuses a large part of its second season on Spider-Man’s uncontrolled mutation, part of his “Neogenics Nightmare.” Peter Parker’s mutation evolves dangerously and without help he could permanently transform into a horrific creature known as the “Man Spider.”
Morbius’ Origin Story and the Introduction of Blade
In Season 2, as Spider-Man is struggling with his own mutation, Dr. Mariah Crawford claims she has developed a cure to prevent him from transforming into the Man Spider. The only problem is she is afraid it will take away his powers permanently.
Spider-Man argues with Dr. Crawford about the serum, but she reluctantly hands it over. Little do they know, but Peter’s classmate, Michael Morbius, is secretly listening to their conversation and swipes Peter’s infected blood, using it to manufacture his own compound that accidentally transforms him into Morbius: The Living Vampire.
A Morbius film adaptation from Sony Pictures starring Jared Leto will be in theaters this July. Morbius is not a household name like Captain America or Wolverine, but the Spider-Man series features him prominently. Morbius’ transformation into a “pseudo-vampire” also opens the door for another Marvel character in the series — Blade: The Vampire Hunter.
Blade was first portrayed by Wesley Snipes in the late-90s, but Marvel’s forthcoming reboot will feature Mahershala Ali as the “daywalker.” No official release day has been set, but it’ll likely be out between 2022 and 2023. Blade is only a half-vampire so he can go outside during the day, hence his nickname. He keeps his thirst for blood at bay by consuming a synthetic substitute developed by his mentor and fellow vampire hunter Abraham Whistler.