THE INFLUENCE OF SPIDER-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES ON VIDEO GAMES

Spider-Man: The Animated Series did a lot to bring in new fans of the character, especially those who were introduced to the character via an animated series, namely the 1960’s Spider-Man cartoon, in the first place. At a time when comic fans were up in arms over the fact that Peter Parker may or not have been the original Spider-Man they’ve grown up with their whole lives came a show that paid a lot of respect to the material it was based on, telling important stories in its own unique way, such as “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” replacing Stacy for Mary Jane Watson and making the removal of the character from the universe more PG. Today it’s regarded as one of the best, if not the best, Spider-Man animated series to date and its influence on the Spider-Man franchise as a whole is felt in more than just the world of animation, but in the video game space as well.

spiderman TAS cover

This is most obvious in the 1995 SNES/Sega Genesis title “Spider-Man” or “Spider-Man: The Animated Series,” the first and only game set in the world of the animated series. It opened with the memorable title theme performed by Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and featured characters exactly as they appeared in the show. At the time it was published, only one season of the show was produced and released with many of the games rather large number of villains having yet to appear on the show, examples being the Vulture, Green Goblin, and Smythe (outside of his hover chair anyway.) When they did eventually show up, they appeared exactly as they did in-game, taking a cue perhaps from the action figures that had been released and conceptual art for their appearance in the future.

After ending in 1998, a short-lived follow up series debuted on FOX Kids that, if you take a leap in logic, can be seen as a sequel to Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Titled Spider-Man Unlimited, the new show followed Spider-Man as he ventured to a world unlike our own in search of the missing John Jameson (son of Jolly J. Jonah) and to stop the symbiote duo of Venom and Carnage. All of the voice actors from the show were recast with Rino Romano, an actor who would go on to play Bruce Wayne/Batman in the WB’s “The Batman,” taking over from Christopher Daniel Barnes as Peter Parker/Spider-Man.

When Activision obtained the Spider-Man license and released the Neversoft developed “Spider-Man,” it, much like Unlimited, was positioned as a follow-up of sorts to the 90’s Spider-Man animated series. Romano once again returned as both Peter Parker/Spider-Man along with two veterans from that 90’s series: Jennifer Hale as the Black Cat and the late great Efrem Zimbalist Jr as Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus. The sequel to that game, 2001’s Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro, would distance itself from the animated series, namely with Electro who was Max Dillon in the game as opposed to a World War II secret weapon developed by the Red Skull, and yes, that was a plot line from the show, look it up.

spider-man 2000 cover art

After numerous attempts to rekindle the magic created by 2004’s Spider-Man 2, Activision put Canadian developer Beenox on their Spider-Man series of games. The result was 2010’s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, a game that celebrated Spider-Man in many ways, primarily in its vocal cast. Each of the game’s four Spider-Men were voiced by an actor who played the character in the past, reuniting many with a role they hadn’t taken on in years. Christoper Daniel Barnes, who hadn’t performed the characters voice since the 90’s animated series, inhabited the role of Spider-Man Noir, regarded by many as the best section of the game. In a short twelve months later, the four Spider-Men cast was reduced to two (The Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099) in 2011’s Spider-Man: Edge of Time. Once again Christopher Daniel Barnes would return to voice a Spider-Man, this time the Spider-Man of 2099, Miguel O’Hara.

Of course Spider-Man has appeared in video games that weren’t starring him exclusively, so when it came to voicing some of the Spider-Man variants in the free-to-play MMO Marvel Heroes, developer Gazillion Entertainment called upon the talents of Christopher Daniel Barnes to the excitement of fans everywhere. This time around he provided the voice for not one, but two Spider-Men: The black-suit Symbiote Spider-Man as well as the brain swapped by Doctor Octopus Superior Spider-Man. This marked the first time that the once controversial, but now loved by fans, Superior Spider-Man appeared in a video game.

superior spiderman mh

Even after leaving the airwaves in 1998, Spider-Man: The Animated Series has continued to be an influence in the development of Spider-Man as a property outside of comics, especially in the video game arena. What was once simply an animated series and a way to reintroduce the character of Spider-Man to a new generation of fans has become such a part of the character’s history that its presence is felt more than a decade later in Spider-Man related video game projects.

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