The TOP 13 SPIDER-MAN ’67 Cartoons — RANKED

The greatest comic-book cartoon ever premiered 53 years ago…

I’m a Batman guy at heart and anyone who reads 13th Dimension on a regular basis is probably well aware of this.

Nevertheless, of all the superhero cartoons released since the 1940s, the 1967 Spider-Man show on ABC tops my list. It’s wacky and wonky and wildly entertaining. There’s plenty of kitsch, cool villains, groovy plots and all those hypnotic swinging scenes. Plus, the music! (I’ve actually managed to cobble together a really strong playlist for when I’m in that jazzy mood.)

When I was a kid in the early ’70s, Spider-Man was already in syndication and everyone I knew was well aware of the enternally catchy theme song. I was almost entirely a DC kid but I loved Spidey, had my Spider-Man Mego and lamented that I never got to be everyone’s favorite wall-crawler for Halloween. (I do have a Ben Cooper costume now, however. Not that it fits, of course.)

Anyway, earlier this summer, my son Sam and I watched the entire series from beginning to end on my DVD set. It was fascinating to watch the show as it evolved, its ups and downs, and the surprises hidden within. As you may be aware, the first season was dominated by shorts that starred Spidey’s classic villains; the second season was taken over by future animation auteur Ralph Bakshi and the series took a decidedly weirder, darker tone, sometimes recycling material from a Canadian cartoon called Rocket Robin Hood; the third season was a mish-mash of shorts and full-lengthers that often utilized footage from earlier episodes, combined with only slightly rejiggered plots.

But with all the good and bad, Spider-Man always gets under your skin, never failing to engross if not exactly enlighten. In all senses, the show is fun.

So, naturally, with the show premiering Sept. 9, 1967, Sam and I have put together THE TOP 13 SPIDER-MAN ’67 CARTOONS — RANKED.

Dig this, Spiderphiles:

13. Electro, the Human Lightning Bolt (Season 1). An early Season 1 half-length entry that uses its relatively brief running time to the fullest. Great atmosphere and a lesson in how a villain with such a garish get-up could still be threatening. Loosely based on Electro’s debut in The Amazing Spider-Man #9.

12. Cloud City of Gold (Season 2). Spider-Man was, in essence, three different shows in its three seasons and Season 2 was something else – Ralph Bakshi took over and the series took on an ominous, psychedelic tone with bizarre villains, bizarre plots, bizarre locales – most of which are bizarrely entertaining. This ep is one of the best as Spider-Man discovers a deadly, lost civilization in the Andes. And get this – Spider-Man gets menaced by a … giant spider!

11. Phantom From the Depths of Time (Season 2). Among the wackier series entries, this is one that has stayed with me since childhood: the hills that turn into giant beetles that shoot rays from their eyes, the evil ruler who looks like a green, overgrown roach and plays a mean pipe organ. There’s nothing classically Spider-Man about this episode, but so what? It slays!

10. King Pinned (Season 2). Season 2 started almost like a soft reboot of the entire series. For example, Jameson gives Peter his job in this episode, even though he worked for him the entire first season. There’s much more of Peter’s home and school life in the season, as well, as opposed to his days and evenings at the Daily Bugle. This one is another loose, yet effective, adaptation – this time, the classic ASM #50-52 that introduced the Big Man.

9. The Witching Hour (Season 1). We didn’t get to see the Green Goblin all that much during the series, but this Season 1 ep does Gobby proud with a story of black magic and malevolent spirits. Among the more atmospheric Season 1 entries.

8. To Catch a Spider (Season 1). This one just gets straight-up points for being a villain team-up. Dr. Noah Boddy breaks the Green Goblin, Electro and the Vulture out of the slam so the team can combine forces and defeat our favorite wall-crawler. (Of course, it doesn’t work out.) This was as close to the Sinister Six as the series ever got.

7. The Menace of Mysterio (Season 1). The series’ first full-lengther is an adaptation of Mysterio’s first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #13.

The animators did a great job translating the villain for the small, animated screen, though for the life of me I will never understand why he looks like Mr. Spock under the dome. Great “stunts,” set pieces and a full-on brawl between good guy and bad guy. One of the first season’s best…

6. Where Crawls the Lizard (Season 1) … but not quite as entertaining as this intro to the Lizard – or “Lizard Man” – a short that gives us everything we want from a Spidey story in 10-12 minutes. The Lizard is equal parts silly looking and scary and is animated surprisingly well. It’s also fun to see Spidey on the road – a concept used more routinely as the series would progress. The Lizard sounds great, his wife has an unintentionally phallic hairdo and his kid has pink hair! Another loose adaptation — of The Amazing Spider-Man #6!

5. Swing City (Season 2). Footage from this episode was used at least three times but there’s nothing like the original. An evil-doer raises Manhattan high into the air and Spidey has to take care of business. Fans often make fun of the extended swinging scenes but watching Spider-Man navigate the bottom of the city is exhilaratingly effective.

4. Cold Storage (Season 2). Easily one of the most off-the-wall episodes starts innocently enough with Spider-Man getting trapped in a cold storage freezer by a couple of Grade-Z thieves. But then Spidey gets frozen in suspended animation and wakes up in a Manhattan that’s equal parts Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run, Mad Max and Escape From New York. It’s wacky and bizarre and immensely entertaining, even if the “twist” ending is pretty mundane.

3. Revolt In the Fifth Dimension (Season 3). Easily the most notorious of all Spider-Man episodes, this is the one that ABC refused to air because it was brimming with unsettling, psychedelic imagery and music. Every wacky Spidey episode was building up to this story of our web-slinger trying to save a planet’s library from the evil clutches of the Infinata, who kind of looks like a stylish, cycloptic, walking lobster. What people forget is that the ep is as mesmerizing as it is unsettling. Couldn’t tell you what Bakshi and co. were going for in this one, but they achieved it.

2. The Origin of Spider-Man (Season 2). By far the episode that’s most faithful to the comic book, it’s a virtually note-for-note remake of Spidey’s origin. Bakshi more or less behaved like the first season didn’t exist and started fresh with an affecting adaptation of how Peter Parker became Spider-Man, complete with the death of Uncle Ben. Some wonky animation aside, it’s a series high point.

1. Menace From the Bottom of the World (Season 2). Like Swing City, this episode carried footage used in later eps – but in much less effective fashion than here. This funky gem reminds me of Revolt in the Fifth Dimension but has a more coherent plot; gorgeous, moody images of a subterranean world populated by loose-limbed blue apes, giant stone creatures and menacing, giant predatory black birds. And the music selection is perfect, giving the viewer an odd, compelling, humorous and wonderfully bizarre subterranean world under New York City. It never fails to thrill and enthrall.

MORE

— Dig These Groovy SPIDER-MAN ’67 Cartoon Action Figure Designs. Click here.

— Dig EVEN MORE Groovy SPIDER-MAN ’67 Cartoon Action Figure Designs. Click here.

Many images from the awesome SpiderFan.org.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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5 Comments

  1. I’ve never actually seen the 1967 “Spider-Man” cartoon other than an episode on DVD, but I feel completely convinced to watch the whole series.

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  2. Great list Dan! As a kid, other than the origin story, I was a bit flummoxed by the Bakshi produced episodes. The entire tone of the show changed, but I still watched and was entertained, if slightly creeped out.

    I feel like Season 1 really captures the spirit of those early Lee/Ditko, Lee/Romita years of the comic (which I would soon read in Marvel Tales while this show was still running regularly in syndication) minus some of the Marvel soap opera angst. I still hear Paul Soles’ voice in my head as both Peter AND Spider-Man!

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    • Thanks, Chris! Yeah, that’s pretty much my experience too. As a kid, I preferred those earlier episodes because they were much more superhero-y and the later ones could be unsettling. But now I have a sly appreciation for what Bakshi was up to.

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  3. I was 8 years old when Spider-Man, and also Hanna-Barbera’s Fantastic Four, premiered.

    I had only discovered Marvel comics a few weeks earlier but was already well on my way to building a collection so I was extremely excited for the two shows. I remember waking up early that first Saturday morning and reading Daredevil issues 30-32 before the shows started.

    I enjoyed the FF cartoon very much but my first impression of Spidey was one of disappointment because he didn’t have webbing on the body of his costume. How cheap, I thought. I watched the first season with mixed emotions because, while most of the episodes were reasonably entertaining, I couldn’t get past the limited animation. Seasons 2 and 3 were simply too weird and offbeat for me so there are still some episodes that I have never seen, even though the show was on in reruns for decades and I have the DVD set.

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  4. I would respectfully add “The Horn of the Rhino”. Another full length episode. While different than the comic book intro of the character, it’s a lot of fun. Peter catches a cold, and has to sneak out of the house from his doting Aunt May so he can fight the Rhino.

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