Ever since August 1962, generations have grown up knowing that New York is most famous for two things: pizza and Spider-Man.
He may not literally be swinging between the skyscrapers, but when you turn on the TV, a gaming console, or the computer, you can see Spider-Man realized right before your eyes.
The first Spider-Man TV show aired in 1967—five years after the character’s comic debut—and since then, there have been no fewer than ten more TV series starring the webbed Wall-Crawler.
Here we take a look at Spider-Man’s storied TV history and which of the various Spider-Man TV shows were truly great.
Spidey’s first outing remains one of his best to this day, even 45 years after it debuted. The animation might be outdated—and there are clear signs that the show didn’t have a big budget—but it had a kind of panache that few of Spidey’s TV series has achieved since.
It only ran for three seasons, but the show had universal humor that has stood the test of time. The show was also where Spider-Man’s most famous song came from: “Spider-Man, Spider-Man.”
See it or skip it? Depending on your level of dedication to Spidey, the series is one worth seeing—if only because it was the first, and it launched the legacy behind the many Spider-Man TV shows.
The Amazing Spider-Man (1977-1979)
The Amazing Spider-Man TV show was a live-action Spider-Man series loosely set in the same world as the classic The Incredible Hulk TV series, although the two series never crossed paths.
It’s a throwback to an era of television long passed, and nothing about it would stimulate modern fans of Spider-Man. The series was all shot in LA (even though the story took place in New York), and sometimes that was too obvious, much to the chagrin of fans.
It had good ratings at the time, even if Spidey fans didn’t take to it en masse. It ran for two seasons before being cancelled.
See it or skip it? Skip it.
Spider Man (1978-1979)
In the 1978 Japanese version of the character, Spider-Man is a motocross racer who fights the evil Iron Cross Army, who are responsible for his father’s death.
The differences between this version of Spider-Man and the original character of Spider-Man are stark, placing this Spider-Man firmly in the “multiverse” editions of Spider-Man.
It’s pretty out-there as far as renditions of Spider-Man go, but the character has been embraced by the Marvel family and has featured in other shows that call for alternate Spider-Men.
Skip it or see it? Skip it… unless you intend to know everything there is to know about Spider-Man. For modern-day fans, you have to be dedicated to track down and watch the series.
Although it wasn’t a continuation of the 1967 series, the 1981 edition of Spider-Man feels like a descendent of the original show. The animation was better, and the series was as accurate to the comic book adventures of Spider-Man as we could hope.
It ran for 26 episodes and ended in 1982, but you can stream it on Disney+ right now if you want to check it out.
See it or skip it? Frankly, this one is good but shouldn’t be the first Spidey adventure that you see. Come back to it later.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981-1986)
A direct sequel to the 1981 series—even almost a sister series—Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was bolder and better. It introduced several original characters to the Marvel universe (including Firestar) and had several guest appearances, such as the X-Men.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends ran for three seasons, spawning 24 episodes. They’re all available to watch on Disney+.
Skip it or see it? See it.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994-1998)
The Spider-Man animated series from 1994 was dramatic, fun, frightening, and featured guests from all around the Marvel universe. The show was faithful to the comics while breaking its own ground, which helped later adaptations move in bolder directions.
The series ran for five seasons, in which total 65 episodes were produced. All of them are available to stream on Disney+.
See it or skip it? See it! TV Spidey has never been better than he was here, and it remains one of the best animated cartoons ever.
Spider-Man Unlimited (1999-2005)
Spider-Man Unlimited hit TV screens in 1999, just a year after the end of the 1994 Spider-Man series, and it was met with lukewarm reviews.
The show’s development suffered because of behind-the-scenes disagreements between production company Saban Entertainment and Marvel, whose deal with Sony for the 2002 movie threw a wrench into the mix. As a result, the series feels like it was hastily put together.
The show famously ended on a cliffhanger after the first season and the second season never happened, leading to all kinds of frustratins for fans who wanted to see what happened next.
See it or skip it? Skip it. If you really want to watch it for whatever reason, the episodes can still be caught on Disney+.
Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (2003)
After the success of the 2002 Spider-Man movie, a new animated series was commissioned to loosely follow the story put forward by that film.
While none of the film’s stars reprised their roles in this series, Neil Patrick Harris did voice Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Plus, the new style of animation was fun.
It was received well by critics and viewers alike, but the show still met with cancellation after one season of 13 episodes.
See it or skip it? See it. It retains the same feeling as Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies featuring Tobey Maguire. In other words, it’s really good and captures the best of Spider-Man!
The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008-2009)
The Spectacular Spider-Man may have been victim to Disney’s takeover of Marvel, but it still ended up being one of the best Spider-Man TV shows made since the 1994 version.
It was well-written, charming, and surprisingly dark for an animated series aimed at a younger audience. The animation style was fun, and the series felt like it pulled Spider-Man’s animated adventures into the modern day era of comic stories.
The series was cancelled after two seasons, but it earns its place as one of the best TV series to feature the Web-Slinger.
See it or skip it? See it!
Ultimate Spider-Man (2012-2017)
Ultimate Spider-Man has the feeling of a show that tried to be bold but ultimately missed the point. It was ambitious, but the execution felt wayward—not only was it too over-the-top, but it also mishandled the intellect of the Spider-Man character.
While it did feature various other heroes, and even though the animation was nicely produced, the series wasn’t received well by critics. Yet it lasted for four seasons, all of which are available to stream on Disney+.
See it or skip it? Skip it.
The 2017 animated Spider-Man series, which once again rebooted the Spider-Man story for TV audiences, was a well-made production that knew the audience it was aiming for.
It feels less dumbed-down than some of the more recent series, while striving for a more challenging story that pays off. The animation feels like a nod to the 1994 series with a modern flourish. Plus, the show features many Marvel characters.
It lasted for three seasons of 57 episodes before the show came to an end. You can watch all of them on Disney+.
See it or skip it? See it.