If you were born close to 1990, chances are you grew up watching Spider-Man: The Animated Series, an incredible show that ran from November 19, 1994 to January 31, 1998 on the Fox Kids Network. The series, which was produced by Marvel Films Animation and animated by Tokyo Movie Shinsha (yeah, we read the wiki), one of the most famous anime studios in Japan, is easily the best take on Spider-Man to date. There’s no point in arguing about it.
Before we move on, we feel the need to pay some respects here as Tokyo Movie Shinsha was responsible for much of our childhood as they have an incredible history of animating shows such as Lupin the Third, Detective Conan, Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Batman: The Animated Series, and even Akira. Yeah, the same guys who did the critically acclaimed Akira did The Animated Series for both Spider-Man and Batman. How rad is that?
Anyway, in case you did not know, X-Men: The Animated Series, which ran from October 31, 1992 through September 20, 1997, crossed over a bunch with Spider-Man: The Animated Series (and vice versa). And, not too long ago, Disney and Marvel announced that X-Men: The Animated Series was to get a continuation/sequel series based on the very same 90s show. Titled X-Men ’97, presumably because that was the year the last episode aired, the new series will see the return of the original voice cast such as Cal Dodd (Wolverine), Chris Potter (Gambit), and many others you know and love. Unfortunately, Norm Spencer, who played Scott Summers/Cyclops, is one of only a few not to return as he passed away back in August 2020 at the age of 62. May he rest in peace.
Still, the rest of the news is rather good for X-Men fans and considering the crossovers with Spider-Man, it is totally possible that Christopher Daniel Barnes will or would appear in X-Men ’97 at some point. However, that is not enough. We need that show to come back and wrap up its story arcs and take it another few steps further with more episodes exploring the vastness of Spider-Man’s tenure. Of course, both shows from the 90s are available in their current form, albeit in HD, on Disney+. But what we are saying is this:
If X-Men gets a sequel series, so should Spider-Man.
We learned a lot about the Marvel mythos and lore through these two shows. Heck, most of what we learned about X-Men, Spider-Man, and even Batman all came through their respective Animated Series. In fact, we owe our current geek levels to those three shows as without them, we may not have ever gotten this invested in comic books and all related media. Unfortunately, in regards to SM: TAS specifically, the show’s cancellation in 1998, after 65 episodes, left us with a strong desire to see the series return and wrap up properly, hoping Peter would find Mary Jane after her alleged death.
SM: TAS, which ran for 65 episodes across five total seasons, ended without the necessary closure. In the final episode, which aired on January 31, 1998, we saw 616 Peter taking on Spider-Carnage in an alternate universe. Eventually, 616 was able to save that version of Spider-Man using Uncle Ben, who was still alive in that universe. After the ordeal concluded and 616 saved everyone, Madame Web stepped in to aid him in finding Mary Jane, who had allegedly been killed off. This was also the same episode that 616 Spider-Man came into “our universe” and met with creator Stan Lee and swung him around the city. Since that moment, we have daydreamed every single day about the possibility of the Multiverse existing and turning our dull, non-super-powered-earth into a universe with superheroes. Ugh, still waiting for some wormhole or conjunction of spheres to make life more interesting. Anyway…
In regards to the cancellation, legendary writer John Semper Jr., who was a producer for SM: TAS at the time, stated in a post on his Facebook page that it was not because of disagreements between the network and the executive producer that the show got canceled, but due to funding-related issues.
“Fox contracted for 65 episodes and that’s exactly what we did. Fox hated Avi [Arad] almost from day one, so nothing much changed there. It didn’t help, but it wasn’t the reason we were not picked up for more episodes.
New World, who actually produced the show, had gone out of business, so there was nobody to pay for whatever costs Fox wouldn’t cover. And most shows rarely even made it to 65 episodes, so the feeling was we were done and that was enough. Spider-Man wasn’t “canceled”.
It ran its full course.”
Saying the show “ran its full course” and wasn’t technically canceled doesn’t bring us closure. The explanation Semper provided is more in line with their contract rather than pertaining to ending the show in a satisfying way. The series ender may have pleased some, perhaps even many, but you can’t disagree that there were things that needed to be answered for proper closure. And even if you don’t think so, you definitely can’t say that you didn’t want more of Christopher Daniel Barnes as Spider-Man in more episodes.
Barnes, who has been all across the map as the voice of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, among other Marvel characters, was the first connection we had to Spider-Man as kids and he has seared himself into our brains as the original wall-crawler. Later, when he appeared in video games as alternate Spider-Men, we could not help but jump in excitement to see him returned to his rightful role as the popular Marvel hero, even if it was one from another universe.
As for his history with the character, Christopher Daniel Barnes has voiced Spider-Man in many iterations and mediums so even if you don’t recognize him from The Animated Series, you likely have heard him portray Spider-Man in a videogame or two, such as Noir in the 2010 videogame Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions or as 2099/Miguel O’Hara in the 2011 game Spider-Man: Edge of Time. His later voicework for Spider-Man was back in 2013 when he played Symbiote Spider-Man and Superior Spider-Man in Marvel Heroes. Later still, Barnes found more recent work in other Spider-Man games, though not as Spider-Man himself, when he portrayed Electro and Vulture in Spider-Man Unlimited and then Electro again in the 2019 videogame, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order and as Donald Menken in 2019’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. He also played a handful of additional characters, including Electro, in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man series.
You may recall that The Animated Series did get a loosely connected sequel series in Spider-Man Unlimited and a separate series on MTV in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series with Neil Patrick Harris voicing Peter Parker. We weren’t huge fans of Unlimited but NPH absolutely crushed it as Peter in that MTV series. So much so that the actor came back to voice the character in Shattered Dimensions as the main Amazing Spider-Man while Barnes played Noir. The sequel, Edge of Time, saw Harris replaced with Josh Keaton as Amazing, who had also played Spider-Man a handful of times as well, including Ultimate Spider-Man in Shattered Dimensions, which saw these three legendary actors voicing Spider-Men while saving the Multiverse together.
Sure, the various Spider-Man voice actors and the mediums they played the character are all over the place. However, we loved each and everyone but none more so than Barnes who deserves the role in a sequel series that equally deserves a sequel as much, if not more than X-Men: The Animated Series.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series taught us so much about Marvel heroes and villains and we could not be happier to see that at least the X-Men are getting more episodes but, and not trying to be greedy, Spider-Man needs to come back, too. From teaching us about teamwork and doing the right thing, to proving that science nerds can be buff, we desperately want more SM:TAS with Barnes in the titular role. Also, it had one hell of an intro.
After all, with great power comes great responsibility and we firmly believe that it is Disney’s and Marvel’s responsibility to bring back this classic and continue onward for new generations.