Yesterday was a big day for comic book fans, and I’m not just saying that because Batman: Arkham Knight finally arrived to download and buy in stores. The other headline grabbing article was that Sony and Marvel announced not only the new Spider-Man who will appear alongside The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Tom Holland, but also the director of the first Sony/Marvel co-produced Spider-Man film set to arrive in 2017, Joe Watts.
For those not totally in love with Spider-Man and obsessively collect action figures of Spider-Men AND Women, you might be thinking “why is there a new Spider-Man? Didn’t we just get one of those?” and yes, we did, three years ago. Tom Holland will be the third actor to play the iconic web-slinger in a major motion picture in just thirteen years, but for someone who plays super hero/comic book video games I say “Only three? That’s nothing!”. Since voice in video games became the standard back when CD-ROM’s starting replacing cartridges, there’s been at least ten different actors who have played the role of Spider-Man counting mainline Spider-Man games and titles featuring the character like Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
To welcome Tom Holland into the pantheon of Marvel heroes like Captain America, Iron Man, Star-Lord Scarlet Witch, I’m running down my top five favourite voice actors who’ve played Spider-Man in video games, a few of which have voiced the characters in other mediums as well.
5) SEAN MARQUETTE
GAME: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN
Sean is the only performer on the list to play Spider-Man once, but it just so happens that he got to play him in one of the single best Spider-Man games ever, Ultimate Spider-Man. This was the first time that the role had to be recast as Activision couldn’t have used previous actor, Rino Romano, as the Spider-Man of the Ultimate Universe was much younger than the version of the character he played in both Spider-Man (2000) and Spider-Man 2:Enter Electro, nor could they use Tobey Maguire from the Spider-Man movie games. People may not remember Sean as Spider-Man, and for someone like me who can normally recall voice actors, I had to look him up, but his performance really captured the inexperienced yet still smart-mouthed Spider-Man of the Ultimate Universe. In re-reading Ultimate Spider-Man from the beginning via trade paper back, I even hear Sean’s voice when reading both Peter and Spider-Man.
4) JAMES ARNOLD TAYLOR
GAMES: SPIDER-MAN: FRIEND OR FOE, SPIDER-MAN: BATTLE FOR NEW YORK, AVENGERS: BATTLE FOR EARTH, LEGO MARVEL SUPER HEROES
More so than perhaps any other actor on this list, James Arnold Taylor is probably much more famous for playing other characters besides Spider-Man, namely Obi-Wan Kenobi on Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The first time that Taylor played Spider-Man was in the DS title, Spider-Man: Battle for New York, the second title based in the Ultimate Universe, and returned for Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, Avengers: Battle for Earth and Lego Marvel Super Heroes. Neither of these however would be the first time the actor played within the Spider-Man universe, that goes to Spider-Man 2 where he played Mysterio, and then even before playing Spider-Man he did yet another villain in Ultimate Spider-Man, voicing Electro. Outside of video games, James played Harry Osborn and other characters in the Spectacular Spider-Man with another actor who’ll appear on this list.
3) RINO ROMANO
GAMES: SPIDER-MAN (2000), SPIDER-MAN 2: ENTER ELECTRO
Spider-Man games had existed prior to 2000’s but this was the first time the player got to hear Spider-Man. Rino resumed the role he inherited in the short-lived Spider-Man Unlimited (not to be confused with the mobile game of the same name) animated series. Romano never got to really exercise his Spider-Man muscles, not as much as he did playing another superhero, Batman in The Batman, but he’ll forever be associated with not only the first ever 3-D Spider-Man game, but one of the best Spider-Man games to date.
2) CHRISTOPHER DANIEL BARNES
GAMES: SPIDER-MAN: SHATTERED DIMENSIONS, SPIDER-MAN: EDGE OF TIME, MARVEL HEROES
When thinking about Christopher Daniel Barnes and Spider-Man, you’re probably not thinking about video games, but the fan-favourite animated series from the 90’s that aired on FOX Kids alongside X-Men. After over a decades absence from playing the character, Barnes returned to the role for the pseudo Spider-Man celebration game, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, where he shared the spotlight with other actors who played the character, including Neil Patrick Harris. It was Spider-Man Noir, the character that Barnes voiced, who stole the show in the game as that characters emphasis on stealth over fisticuffs added some much-needed diversity to an otherwise simple game. A year later roles when roles were shuffled around, Christopher was placed in the role of Spider-Man 2099 and brilliantly captured the hopeful yet sarcastic nature of the Spider-Man from the future. Barnes voiced yet another version of Spider-Man in the free-to-play MMO Marvel Heroes, playing the brain-swapped Spider-Man/Doc Ock hybrid, the Superior Spider-Man.
1) JOSH KEATON
GAMES: MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 3, SPIDER-MAN: SHATTERED DIMENSIONS, SPIDER-MAN: EDGE OF TIME, MARVEL SUPER HERO SQUAD: THE INFINITY GAUNTLET
There will forever be actors who you associate with characters, especially when it comes to voices: Kevin Conroy will forever be Batman, Peter Cullen is Optimus Prime and Josh Keaton, at least to me, is my Spider-Man. After he lost the role of Spider-Man when he was replaced by Tobey Maguire in the first Spider-Man movie game, Josh came back with a vengeance in his portrayal of the character in The Spectacular Spider-Man animated series. Unfortunately the series didn’t last as long as the 90’s Spider-Man cartoon, nor the currently running Ultimate Spider-Man on Disney XD, but with that short time, Josh Keaton superbly balanced the fun-loving Spider-Man side of Peter Parker’s personality with the down-on-his-luck alter ego, Peter Parker. Alongside other actors like Christopher Daniel Barnes, Josh got to be the third character to voice the Ultimate Universe Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, capturing much of his Spectacular character, and then played two versions of Spider-Man in Edge of Time, an older Peter Parker with a twisted sense of his motto, “with great power must come great responsibility”, as well as The Amazing Spider-Man from the present day.