Tour the world of Spider-Man games, memes and TV shows

Spider play

The screenshot from the low-budget 1960s animated show that has been immortalised as a meme.

The superhero character has appeared in over 40 games, which draw from various comic-book arcs. In the games, you might meet characters that never make it to the screen adaptations. The first Spider-Man game appeared in 1982, developed by Atari. In it, Spider-Man must fight the Green Goblin, who is making an escape from prison with the help of hired goons.

The first Spider-Man game, released in 1982, had a vertical scrolling interface. (Atari)

Spider-Man 2, released in 2004 for the PS2 and Xbox, set the standard for future Spidey games. It was the first time that players got to sling webs in an open world, fight crime, go on missions. This game also featured an arch-villain, Mysterio.

More than a decade later Marvel’s Spider-Man, released in 2018, surpassed it and is now often cited as the best Spider-Man game, featuring a trove of familiar characters, great movement graphics, a gripping storyline where players control Peter Parker at a point when he has been Spider-Man for eight years. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is now due for release this year.

In Spider-Man 2, released in 2004, players got to sling webs in an open world for the first time, fight crime and go on missions. (Activision / Marvel)

Other games include Spider-Man and the X-Men (1992), where players must first solve challenges as X-Men characters before getting to fight as Spider-Man; Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales (2020), where this teenager must save New York after Peter Parker’s death; and Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (2010), where players get to control four different versions of Spider-Man from the Spider-Verse.

The animated Spider-Men

Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994-98) introduced the Spider-Verse to viewers before the animated movies did.

There have been several animated Spider-Man series over the years. The first one ran from 1967 to 1970, and involved cult animator Ralph Bakshi, working on extremely low budgets. The highly stylised and dark series found new life in the 21st century, as memes (more on that in a bit).

There have been at least 10 other animated series based on the Spider-Man comics since, with the most popular being the 1994 series Spider-Man by the Fox Network, which also aired in India. It was among the longer series, with 65 episodes and five seasons, which also featured the popular Spider-Man song. (It’s ringing in your head right now, isn’t it?)

It featured a host of notorious villains, including Venom and Green Goblin, and, as with the Spider-Verse game, offered a version of the Spider-Verse long before the first such film arrived in 2018.

A new series, Spider-Man: Freshman Year and Sophomore Year, is in the works, due for release in 2024. It will explore the early days of the wall-crawler as he goes through high school, before he meets Tony Stark. It will also feature a certain visually challenged young man from Hell’s Kitchen, who will go on to become a lawyer, and also the vigilante Daredevil.

Spidey memes

The best Spider-Man memes come from the low-budget 1960s series directed by animator Ralph Bakshi. One, from an early episode, shows a suit with a spider symbol, except the arachnid in the logo has only six legs. Because Bakshi reused a lot of footage (the show ran from 1967 to 1970), it often appeared in later scenes, even though the number of legs was corrected early on.

Versions of the Spider-Man logo as they appeared in the first animated series, in the ’60s.

Screenshots from the series now populate the internet and are used to riff on various subjects, including when two similar people meet for the first time.

Unsung heroes and villains

From 1962 to the present, there have been over 900 issues of Spider-Man comics so far. So much from these books will never make it to the screen. Here are some arcs to check out.

A scene from the My Dinner with Jonah issue of The Spectacular Spider-Man series. (Marvel)

In the Superior Spider-Man, which ran between January 2013 and September 2014, Peter Parker is killed but his consciousness is transferred to Dr Octopus, who is determined to be a better person than Peter and a better superhero than Spider-Man ever was.

In The Spectacular Spider-Man, which ran from 1976 to 1998, the young hero sits down to a heart-to-heart with J Jonah Jameson, editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle, the newspaper that Parker works at.

Among the intriguing villains who haven’t got screen time but is a recurring character in the comics is Martin Li aka Mr Negative, a billionaire businessman who runs a homeless shelter and heads a crime syndicate. Other characters we’re yet to meet on screen include the mysterious Hobgoblin, the villainous Black Cat (who is also a Spider-Man love interest), and Kraven the Hunter, whose appearance leads to darker storylines with world-ending stakes.

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