As many know, and as we’ve talked about here in the past, the Marvel characters first came to television in 1966, in the form of a syndicated animated series produced by Grantray-Lawrence. The series ran five days a week and featured five Marvel characters: Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America and the Sub-Mariner. But that’s not the way it started out. At the beginning of negotiations with Grantray-Lawrence, Marvel had included a different fifth character in the line-up; Spider-Man.
A bit of the early promotion for the show and a few licensing deals featured Spider-Man among the cast of characters. But before things went too far, somebody–either Marvel’s Martin Goodman or the folks at Grantray-Lawrence or both–realized that Spider-Man was popular enough that he could headline his own series, and so he was held back for exactly that purpose, and the Sub-Mariner was hastily substituted in his place. (So hastily, in fact, that there weren’t yet enough extant Sub-Mariner stories to draw upon as episode sources, leading to original-to-the animation stories having to be written in order to fill out the package.)
Most all of the MARVEL SUPER-HEROES episodes were based directly on earlier comic book stories from the books themselves. In fact, most of the artwork was taken straight from the comics (a fact that displeased all of the artists involved, who didn’t receive any additional payment for this use despite the fact that it was their drawings on the screen) and animated–I use the word “animated” loosely, as the images were often just slid in front of the camera, with perhaps some mouth movements or the occasional arm being moved. It all looks incredibly crude to today’s eyes, but at the time, this made the show a very strong distillation of the Marvel style of the era.
Because I have entirely too much time to think about stuff like this, I sat down at one point and came up with what I think the 13 Spider-Man episodes of the MARVEL SUPER-HEROES show would have been, had they been done as planned in 1966. In doing so, I tried to limit myself to the ground rules that the show had: you couldn’t use any characters that weren’t part of the agreement, you couldn’t have too many speaking roles (or the same actor doing too many roles in a given storyline) and each story had to fill three 7-minute segments, which could sometimes be difficult to do with just a single comic book. So here’s what I came up with:
THE ORIGIN OF SPIDER-MAN: Adapted from the origin story in AMAZING FANTASY #15 and also using the opening half of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1, which introduces J. Jonah Jameson and sets up the series. I’d probably have tried to place other key characters such as Flash Thompson, Liz Allen and Betty Brant into these episodes so as to establish them from the get-go. We’d also need to be careful in handling the Death of Uncle Ben, as any sort of reference to a character dying was dicey. (And yeah, I’d keep those eyeballs in Spidey’s mask at this moment–heck, I’d make ’em blink!)
THE VULTURE: Taken from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #2 and #7. We’d combine the Vulture’s first short outing with his first full-length appearance to give us enough material to fill the episode.
THE CHAMELEON & KRAVEN: Combining the Chameleon’s first appearance from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 with his return and the introduction of Kraven in #15. The Fantastic Four’s involvement in the first story would be excised.
THE SANDMAN: Combining AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 with the relevant portions of ASM #18 and #19. The Human Torch would have to be left out of the latter.
THE LIZARD: A straight up adaptation of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #6, since that’s all the material we have to work with on the Lizard. They did it in the 1967 SPIDER-MAN cartoon, so I feel like this ought to be possible. We’d likely need to recycle some Spidey shots from elsewhere and maybe add in some incidental incidents in the swamp to fill time.
ELECTRO: The same thing, a straight up adaptation of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #9, possibly with some material cribbed from issue #10 to pad the episode to length.
THE ENFORCERS AND THE GREEN GOBLIN: Speaking of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #10, we’d use a portion of it for this episode, as well as material from ASM #14. We’d write out the Big Man and have the Enforcers working for the Green Goblin all along to tie things together more readily. (The Enforcers would also have already shown up in the SANDMAN episode)
DOCTOR OCTOPUS: This episode would combine portions of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #3, #11 and #12, leaving the Human Torch out of the material cribbed from #3. It would all wind up being a single crime spree without Doc Ock being incarcerated between chapters, just to make things simpler.
MYSTERIO: The adventure from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #13 possibly incorporating some material from ASM #24 as well, in which Mysterio is the mystery villain. I’d probably juggle some stuff, using Spider-Man’s visit to a psychiatrist in the middle of 313 to segue to the #24 material, and then back to issue #13 for the big fight and climax.
THE SCORPION AND THE SPIDER-SLAYER: This one would really be about J. Jonah Jameson’s crusade against the wall-crawler, with him fist financing the creation of the Scorpion to eliminate the web-head, then doing the same with the Spider-Slayer robot. (I considered combining #20 with the second Scorpion story in #29, but I feel as thought hat issue would have been released late enough in the process that it probably wouldn’t have been available for the production team.)
THE RINGMASTER AND THE CIRCUS OF CRIME: Combining portions of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #16 and #22, along with maybe some sequences cribbed from INCREDIBLE HULK #3. We’d need to take Daredevil out of the first part, and the material I’d pull from HULK wouldn’t involve the Green Goliath but rather the Circus of Crime’s spree of robberies and looting.
SHOWDOWN WITH THE GREEN GOBLIN: This episode would combine portions of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #17 with #23. The Human Torch would be eliminated from the first part, but it would be Peter Parker needing to flee his battle with the Goblin that would give ol’ Greenie the free path to attempt to take over the Lucky Lobo mob.
HOW GREEN WAS MY GOBLIN: A straight up adaptation of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #26 & 27 featuring the Green Goblin and the Crime-Master.
Because I’m a nut, I also worked out a second season for MARVEL SUPER-HEROES, which would feature five different features: X-MEN, DAREDEVIL, DOCTOR STRANGE, NICK FURY and THE AVENGERS. I’m sure we’ll get to that in due time, though.