The Spider-Man animated series from the 1990s which aired on Fox was a masterpiece. In fact, Spider-Man the Animated Series defines the franchise, the comic books aside. While Tobey Maguire’s films were not bad per se (save the third film), Maguire never portrayed Spider-Man’s/Peter Parker’s intelligence. He was a typical geek who masqueraded as being smart. While Willem Dafoe and James Franco did a great job of portraying the Osbornes, the script plagued the films and was simply put, hard to watch. Rami’s films were not bad, but they didn’t portray Spider-Man, and more importantly Peter Parker, adequately.
Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man films were deeply flawed, but the casting was top-notch, especially with Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He had both the boyish charm and was able to portray the intelligence that Maguire lacked. Unfortunately, the films themselves were just okay. The stories were disjointed and despite a stellar cast, the films lacked any kind of clear direction, which is a shame because there was so much potential. I have not seen all of Captain America: Civil War, but from all accounts Tom Holland did a spectacular job and with Marvel’s involvement, Homecoming is sure to please fans.
With that being said, Spider-Man the Animated Series defines the franchise in terms of characterization, storytelling, and even acting (albeit voice acting). It’s a shame that so many who didn’t grow up in the 90s weren’t exposed to the show because it was not your typical campy Spider-Man. There was drama, there were tears. It dealt with the real problems Peter Parker experienced as Spider-Man and while it was funny at times, at others it was downright tragic. Death was not allowed, nor actual guns because of rules by the studio, but Spider-Man the Animated Series defines the franchise, save for the comic books, because it took a story for children and told it in a way that both kids and adults could relate to. It incorporated many of Spidey’s classic villains and while Spider-Man didn’t lack his classic whit, there was also a bit of a tragedy to the character. He wasn’t dark like Batman, who aired on the same station, but he constantly lost the ones he loved because of Spider-Man. The narrative was superb and the last four or five episodes or so actually brought me to tears. Spider-Man was portrayed with having real intelligence, something that was severely lacking in the Maguire films, which was my biggest disappointment.
While Spider-Man the Animated Series defines the franchise, Spider-Man Homecoming has the chance to shine. Tom Holland is an incredible actor and while Peter will be a teenager, as opposed to a college student in the television series, it has the potential to rival this classic cartoon. Spider-Man, X-Men, and Batman, who all aired on Fox in the mid-90s, all define their respective franchises, even though the films (I’m pointing to the Dark Knight Trilogy and some of the X-Men films) were lauded with critical acclaim and were good films. Up to this point though, there hasn’t been any iteration of Spider-Man to top the 90s cartoon series. It simply was that good, as well as the Batman Animated Series. Spider-Man Homecoming may not top the series, but hopefully with Marvel at the helm it will at least do the character justice. It’s a shame Garfield isn’t reprising his role as Peter, as he nailed the character, but they needed a clean slate. The films he was apart of simply put were not very good.
Spider-Man is, in my opinion, the best franchise that Marvel has to offer. If the movie bombs, at least there’s still the cartoon, which nails the essence of the comic book perfectly.