Western Animation: Spider-Man: The Animated Series
aka: Spider-Man The Animated Series
"This is starting to sound like a bad comic book plot!"Spider-Man
, commonly referred to as Spider-Man: The Animated Series
after a certain other comic book cartoon that came out around the same time
, is The Nineties Animated Adaptation
of the popular superhero Spider-Man
. Premiering in 1994, it ran for five seasons on Fox Kids. The animated series chronicles the story of a single, nineteen-year-old Peter Parker attending his first year at Empire State University, trying to get by through his part-time job as a photographer for the Daily Bugle
, adjusting to new relationships, and growing into his newfound alter-ego as the amazing Spider-Man. The production history has it meant to be a tie-in to a James Cameron
movie that was never made
(eventually passed over to Sam Raimi
to become the well-known film franchise released over half a decade later).
Being made in the 1990s, and not being Batman: The Animated Series
, the Saturday-morning cartoon came under heavy censorship — heavier, in fact, than even other Marvel cartoons of the time
. Spider-Man almost never threw a punch, and most of the action sequences was either Deadly Dodging
or swinging kicks. Never Say "Die"
was in full force and there was even a joke among the staff that they couldn't even disturb any pigeons on the rooftops for fear one might have been hurt. The corner-cutting animation also left a lot
to be desired, featuring static movement, constantly recycled sequences, and all manner of video goofs.
Even while hampered by the vehemently severe censorship and shoddy animation, even while given strict instructions to keep the cartoon as simplistic as possible, story editor John Semper and his writing team managed to "sneak in" everything that made Spider-Man
the series it is, that being compelling character development and story arcs. It condensed the major Spider-Man stories from the comics in a very efficient manner, so much so that it's a good point of reference for future adaptations of other works. There was a great number of recurring characters from all over the Marvel Universe
, each of whom have a particular spotlight episode
or even story arc the series followed, all the time keeping a strong focus on Spider-Man and his interactions with all of them. This hit the spectrum from obscure minor characters to Captain America
, Nick Fury
, plus concurrent Marvel animated shows at the time like Iron Man
The series' legacy lives on. The Saban Entertainment produced Spider-Man Unlimited
, which is considered by many to be a sequel despite plot discrepancies, a little over a year later. Not only is it one of many '90s cartoons responsible for introducing a new generation of fans into the world of comic books, but several of its plot elements were later integrated into the blockbuster films
that followed it. And despite getting Screwed by the Network
, at 65 episodes, this was for the longest time the single longest lasting Spider-Man cartoon
until Ultimate Spider-Man
and the second-longest Marvel Animated Adaptation
after the X-Men
. Even after being canceled, it continues to have reruns going to this day in the U.S. and in various other parts of the globe. (Of course, the reruns are even more
censored.) It also inspired the visual style of the "Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man" ride at Universal Studios' Island of Adventure theme park.
There's also an episode guide
Not to be confused with the similar-named Spider-Man: The New Animated Series
In the Marvel Multiverse, it was listed as Earth-92131.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series provides examples of the following tropes:
- Back from the Dead: Hydro-Man, appearing in the first and last seasons. Unusual for this trope, the actual nature of his return is crucial to the story.
- Badass Bystander: Spider-Man notes that Mary Jane was the one who was able to set up Hydro-Man's defeat, as she lead him away from any significant water source and he continued to use up what reserves he had fighting Spider-Man.
- Badass Longcoat: The Punisher.
- Badass Normal:
- The Hobgoblin manages to be a legitimate threat for Spider-Man without having his comic book abilities.
- Also, as in the comic, the Kingpin. He once describes himself as having very little fat and Spider-Man gets to see what 400 pounds of muscle can do.
- The Spidey actor from the dimension in which Spider-Man is a fictitious character also managed to have his moments.
- And don't forget The Punisher, of course. Sure, he doesn't get to kill anyone on-screen, but he still has the sheer balls to face down and take a swing at a horrifically-mutated Spider-Man.
- Berserk Button:
- Beware the Nice Ones: When Mary Jane is lost in limbo, presumed dead by the characters, Spider-Man starts going after the Green Goblin with the exact same rage as when he was manipulated by the Symbiote. Except, obviously, this is purely Peter doing it.
- Big Bad: Many of the more noteworthy members of Spider-Man's Rogues Gallery make appearances, but the most frequently appearing was "the Kingpin" Wilson Fisk (whereas the other villains dropped by once or twice a season). He even plays sizable role in several of the series' most notable story arcs. After Peter himself, he was actually the most frequently appearing character.
- Big Budget Beef-Up: Despite the generally shoddy animation later in the shows run, most big episodes were fully animated and looked rather great. This includes the conclusion of the WWII arc with Captain America and the Grand Finale.
- Big Damn Villain: Vulture in "Partners".
- Big "NO!": Blade lets out a particularly, unintentionally hilarious one of these in the season four episode, "The Vampire Queen". And Spider-Man has a far more effective one when the Mary Jane clone dies.
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: From "The Spider Slayer":
Jonah: The other networks are laughing at me, Brock! Even Fox! Can you imagine the humiliation?!
- Blood Knight: In the episode "Doctor Strange" featuring the titular sorcerer, his Battle Butler Wong seems to be this. Doctor Strange has shades of it as well:
Here we are again, Wong. Leaping into the unknown to fight the deadliest battles of our lives. Wong:
Exciting, is it not, Doctor? Doctor Strange:
It is. Spider-Man: No offense, but you guys are really weird
- Body Horror:
- The "Neo-genic Nightmare" arc has Spidey eventually mutate into the mindless Man-Spider. It is not pretty.
- At the end of this arc, it's transferred to the Vulture because of his energy absorbtion technology. He retains his mind, but is shown flying away in horror at what he has become. When he reappears, while he's human now, he shifts back-and-forth between his true, aged form and a younger form repeatedly.
- The Scorpion gets a higher dose of this than usual. In his first appearance he doesn't stop mutating, gradually growing into a monster complete with fangs, claws, green skin and standing at least twelve feet tall. Hes partially cured by the end of the episode but is still trapped in his suit and with scorpion powers.
- Michael Morbius. Getting bitten by a vampire bat that fed on some of Parker's irradiated blood turned him into a "living vampire" that needed plasma to live. He had chalk-white skin, an upturned bat nose, fangs, pointed ears... and suckers on his hands which he used to feed! Later he was further mutated into a hulking man-bat, though that was eventually undone and he was restored to his normal sucker-handed vampire self.
- Bowdlerise: The ABC Family run of the show heavily censored several episodes for being Too Soon due to 9/11. Some episodes were even completely taken out. Thankfully, later runs on the channel (as well as it's run on Toon Disney) would be shown uncut with all episodes intact and shown.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Spider-Man and Mary Jane, briefly, in the third season opener "Doctor Strange."
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: When Mysterio claims that Spider-Man ruined him on the Brooklyn Bridge, Spider-Man couldn't remember who he was until his Friend on the Force went through police records and reminded him. Justified since a lot of criminals he stopped always say they make Spider-Man pay.
- But He Sounds Handsome: Spider-man inverts this when someone compares him to Peter Parker; instead of trying to defend or play up Peter, which might sound suspicious, Spidey acts insulted.
- Canon Immigrant: Whistler, best known from the Blade movie series, for which he was created, actually made his first official appearance on this show, under permission from David S. Goyer.
- Casual Danger Dialog: Spider-Man, of course.
- The Cavalry: In "Framed," Peter Parker is trapped and suffocating in a superstrong airtight chamber strong enough to contain Spider-Man; fortunately Daredevil comes to rescue him.
- Charles Atlas Superpower:
- Despite only having years of training under his belt, the Kingpin is every bit as strong as any genuinely superpowered character on the show. A great example is when the Kingpin, Spidey, and the Insidious Six are shackled. Despite this group including the likes of Scorpion, Doc Ock, and freaking Rhino, Kingpin is still the first one to bust loose.
- When temporarily returned to his prime, Silvermane was a good example as well. Hell, immediately after the transformation, he decides to pick a fight with the Lizard for the hell of it, and proceeds to toy with him.
- Chekhov's Gunman / Early-Bird Cameo:
- Eddie Brock appears for several episodes as a reporter crossing paths with Spider-Man before the Alien Costume arc, unlike in the comics where he was an example of Remember the New Guy.
- Both Felicia Hardy and Michael Morbius debuted as Peter's classmates before developing superpowered personas.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: The Hobgoblin betrays both Osborn and Kingpin in his debut episode.
- Classy Cat-Burglar: Three guesses.
- Clear My Name:
- Kingpin and his son manage to frame Peter Parker for treason, completely unaware that he's also Kingpin's biggest enemy.
- On his debut episode, Mysterio framed Spider-Man for his crimes.
- Eddie Brock framed Spider-Man for stealing the mineral John Jameson brought to Earth.
- Tombstone made a deal with the Kingpin to frame Robbie.
- Not to mention all occasions Spidey is being blamed for things nobody ever deliberately tried to frame him for.
- Companion Cube: Spider-Man occasionally talks with Bruce, the gargoyle. No, not that kind of gargoyle.
- Conspicuous CG:
- The majority of web-slinging through New York had the background as CG, which allowed some aerial angles that would be very difficult in traditional animation.
- Also used pretty much anytime something was viewed under a microscope.
- Conspicuous Trenchcoat
- Cosmopolitan Council:
- The mob leaders, including the Kingpin (who was kicked out), Silvermane, and Hammerhead.
- Oscorp stockholders, which includes the Kingpin, Lydia Hardy, and J. Jonah Jameson.
- Could Have Been Messy
- Criminal Amnesiac: Spider-Man in the Season 3 episode "Attack of the Octobot".
- The show had a crossover with the 90's X-Men animated series. It was considered a big deal because it was a completely different animation studio involving the then current roster from X-Men in a show that was not their own. Even more impressive was the effort put in to keeping all the same cast (save for one, Gambit, presumably for contractual or scheduling reasons) for the sake of continuity. Even more fun, the crossover remains in continuity for Spider-Man, as Storm returns during the series' adaptation of the Secret Wars crossover event.
- Robert Hays also reprised his role from Iron Man in several episodes.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: In one episode, Jameson briefly goes back to being a reporter to uncover a conspiracy against Robbie. He actually does a pretty damn good job at it, successfully finding the necessary information largely on his own, and handling himself reasonably well for an unpowered guy years out of action. (Even Spidey is impressed with ol' flat-top.)
- Cultured Badass: Kraven the Hunter.
- Dartboard of Hate: Mysterio has three of these in his warehouse in his first episode. "Beck's a one-man Spidey fanclub..."
- Dating Catwoman: Spider-Man and Black Cat have a large amount of UST throughout the series, starting with their first encounter (as temporary foes). Despite a few kisses here and there, nothing long-lasting develops from it other than friendship and Felicia eventually realizes that she has feelings for Morbius instead.
- Deadly Dodging: Spidey takes out the Hobgoblin this way.
- Deadpan Snarker:
- One of the few incarnations where Peter can be just as mouthy and sarcastic as his wall-crawling alter-ego.
- Some villains could be this as well, especially Smythe toward his boss, the Kingpin.
- Decomposite Character: The show didn't use Gwen as a regular character because all roads with lead to death so instead they gave her Ditko-era characterization as Lovable Alpha Bitch of Peter's college and character design to pre-Black Cat Felicia and her sweet wholesome girl next door characterization to Mary Jane.
- Destined Bystander: Harry and Norman Osborn, as per the comics. Eddie Brock's grudge against Spider-Man is built up over the course of season one, beginning with the first episode. Felicia Hardy takes the place in the cast you'd expect Gwen or Liz to occupy, and gets three seasons of screentime before becoming the Black Cat. Michael Morbius, etc.
- Driven to Suicide: Miranda Wilson in "The Haunting of Mary Jane Watson".
- Dude, Where's My Respect?:
- Earn Your Happy Ending: After Spider-Man stops Spider-Carnage from destroying all reality, and after his meeting with Stan Lee, the series ends with Madame Web promising Spidey that they will find the real Mary Jane Watson.
- Embarrassing Rescue: In "Shriek of the Vulture", the Vulture placed a device on Spider-Man's forefront that rendered Spidey immobile until the device was removed by Flash Thompson. Spidey didn't like being rescued by someone who bullies his alter ego.
- Enemy Mine: Happens often, usually due to the allied villain's Hidden Depths or the fact that they just hate the other villain more than they hate Spidey. Also of note is that, when the planet itself is in jeopardy, the Kingpin tends to be the first one to step up to deal with the problem. As he himself puts it, "There's no profit to be made in the destruction of the planet. It's bad for business." In "The Wedding," Kingpin operates a Mega-Slayer robot to aid Spidey and Black Cat against the new Green Goblin and Smythe's robots.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: The Scorpion hates it when people make fun of him, but nobody gets away with talking trash about his mom.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
- The Kingpin loved his wife Vanessa dearly, as well as his son Richard.
- Smythe was motivated by what happened to his father.
- Scorpion and Mysterio also had Love Interests.
- Venom's apparent attachment to his therapist actually lead to his Heroic Sacrifice to keep Carnage from unleashing Dormammu from the Dark Dimension.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
- Though he is willing to make Parker suffer every chance he gets, Green Goblin never harms his Aunt May while she is sleeping. This was before he goes after Mary Jane.
- Who could forget this Gem?
- Earlier on, Alistar Smythe disapproves the Hobgoblin. He is even happy when he sees him betraying Kingpin for Osborn.
- Evil Albino:
- Evil Costume Switch: Spider-Man after wearing the Symbiote version of the suit. Ironically it was this animated series that created the idea of the Symbiote suit affecting its wearer's mind, which was used in the third live-action film, the Spectacular cartoon, and the Ultimate comics line.
- Evil Parents Want Good Kids: Felicia's father.
- Evolutionary Levels: Invoked between, of all things, two humans when, after revealing to Harry that he was his father, the Green Goblin exclaims, "I am the ultimate evolution of Norman Osborn! Smarter, stronger, able to be more ruthless than he ever was." Although it deserves to be mentioned that "evolution", when not specifically referring to biology, can be defined as synonymous with "growth" or "development" — so the Goblin wasn't speaking nonsense after all.
- Exploited Immunity: At one point, Tombstone, who doesn't need to breathe, catches the hero in a chokehold inside a room that's filling up with toxic gas.
- Expy: The show had a minor recurring expy of Sharon Carter named "Agent 1".
- The Faceless:
- Shocker is never seen without his mask on — even during his stint in prison.
- Ditto for the Chameleon.
- Fail O'Suckyname: The Whizzer
- Family-Friendly Firearms: Handled somewhat better than the 90s X-Men cartoon — at least the guns actually look futuristic. Plus, with so many other "super-science" type things going on in this series, it's perhaps justified (compared, at least, to shows where phasers are the only divergence from the present day).
- Figure It Out Yourself: Madame Webb was training Spider-Man for some great mission to come, and being generally omniscient she would leave hints as to how he should approach a current situation. A combination of Stealth Mentor and Secret Test of Character.
Eddie Brock: I'll get even with you! I'll get even with you if its the last thing I do!
- In "Goblin War", Felicia says she feels like a black cat, bringing bad luck on all who know her. Next season, she becomes the Black Cat.
- In a single line, Dr. Connors talks about the possibility of receiving a grant from the Toomes Foundation to save his Neogenic Research, several episodes and two mini-arcs away from its actual appearance.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- The closest one would be Peter describing Morbius as "a refugee from the Rocky Horror Picture Show".
- In the first episode, Spidey rescues a traumatized sewer worker that keeps repeating "The red eyes are following me!" Because the guy was driving so erratically, Spidey suggests he's just seeing "Pink Elephants".
- "This snowjob won't stop me, Mysterio!" Season four, episode 9. 'Nuff said.
- Good Parents: Norman Osborn, of all people. The demands of his work caused him to neglect Harry during his childhood, but Norman deeply regrets it and is willing to risk his own life to protect Harry. His desire to protect his son is even part of the reason he becomes the Green Goblin, in a stark contrast with the next animated Osborn.
- Gollum Made Me Do It: Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin.
- Grand Finale: And quite an amazing one as well, tapping into the comics mythology and just about every incarnation of Spider-Man out there. Stan Lee himself even shows up!
- Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: This is how The Kingpin came to be — originally sent to prison for larceny, after one of his dad's scams went south, and his bulk prevented him from following his father up a fire escape. Once he comes out, he's got "connections", and uses what he's learned to begin building his criminal empire.
- Hero Stole My Bike: Spidey and Black Cat.
Motorcycle owner: You miserable thieves!
Spidey: We're not thieves! Well. Well, I'm not, but — her, I'm not so sure about.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Nobody dies, but John Hardesky voluntarily returns to prison to prevent anyone else threatening his family or attempting to get the Captain America formula from him.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Thanks to Felicia, the vampire Morbius realizes he's become a plague, like the one in his home country. The reason why he came to America was to work on a cure.
- Hidden Depths:
- Mysterio was just a vindictive jerk, albeit a fairly smart and effective one, for most of the series. Then came the episode where it turned out that he'd been living in the catacombs beneath an old film studio, where he'd fallen in love with a disfigured actress...
- The Kingpin was as ruthless as they come, but several later episodes showed he genuinely cared for his wife and son.
- The Scorpion seems generally considered dumb muscle, but when the Insidious Six first team-up, he's the one to think of exploiting the known "connection" between Peter Parker and Spider-Man (even before Doc Ock). A later episode also reveals that he's engaged and that his criminal life is to fund a way to return himself to normal.
- Jonah Jameson hates Spider-Man and verbally abuses his staff in every episode he appears in, but he loves his son, goes out of his way to prove Robbie innocent of a frame-up and (secretly) pays Peter's legal bills. And, after Peter and Mary Jane get married, his gift is a Daily Bugle van for them to take a honeymoon on. It's occasionally implied that he sees Peter as a surrogate son.
- Felicia Hardy is introduced as a spoiled rich girl but beneath her more confident than thou exterior it is shown that she is genuinely lonely, has some family issues (like a thief for a father), wishes she had something more fulfilling in her life and after she becomes Black Cat she does try to help ex-flame Morbius.
- Hollywood Hacking: Breaking into the Kingpin's computer system, Spider-Man somehow gets a few letters of the word "PROGENY" and guesses the rest, as if password cracking worked like Wheel of Fortune.
- Hot Teacher: In the episode "Rocket Racer", Peter becomes a science teacher. It it shown he fits the bill on this trope.
- Hypocritical Humor: When the Scorpion (who looks like this)◊ meets up with the Vulture, he has this to say.
Scorpion: What's with them wings? And how come you're wearin' that dumb green costume? You some kind of a nut?
- I Just Want to Be Normal:
- Peter tries to quit the superhero gig so often his Catchphrase might as well be "Hello Peter Parker, goodbye Spider-Man."
- It's also the Scorpion's motivation for most of the series; he just wants to turn back into regular old Mac Gargan.
- Instant Sedation: Knockout gas. Always effective.
- Insult to Rocks:
Hobgoblin: (to Landon) You didn't think I'd fall for that old exploding warehouse trick, did you? What kind of a fool d'you take me for?
Spider-Man: Personally, I'd never call you a fool. That'd be an insult to fools everywhere!
- I Take Offense to That Last One:
- It's All My Fault: Spidey blames himself for everything, no exceptions. Particularly egregious is the whole business with Morbius; Spider-Man goes so far as to state he created Morbius as if he shoved the guy in a tube and shot him with the neogenic recombinator personally, even though in reality, all he really did was fail to anticipate Morbius trying to steal his work. Morbius was the one who stole the blood samples and operated the neogenic recombinator by himself in an unsecured lab.
- I Will Protect Him: Norman Obsorn's Green Goblin Split Personality is quite like this, obsessed of protecting him from harm by attacking anyone who dares to oppose him like Spider-Man, Hobgoblin, and Kingpin.
- Joker Jury: The Green Goblin gives this to the board members who he blames for the 'death' of Osborne, where he is Judge. He even has a Justice Statue with his face.
- Just Hit Him
- Kidnapped by an Ally: Used by S.H.I.E.L.D. If Nick Fury wants to have a word with you, your next taxi might be a Flying Car in disguise.
- Killed Off for Real: Yes, the series did suffer heavy censorship, but that didn't stop a few real fatalities from occurring.
- Lampshade Hanging: Tombstone in this series has an origin very similar to The Joker's... his skin is bleached after falling into a vat of chemicals. At the end of his title episode, he almost falls into the vat again, but Spider-Man saves him, saying:
Spider-Man: Another dip in that chemical soup, and your hair might turn green!
- Large and in Charge: The Kingpin, easily the tallest and widest character in the series, barring giant robots, of course.
- Large Ham:
- A lot of the other characters were Hammy as well (Blade being a good heroic example, as well as mostly anyone with an accent). All the villains, particularly, even The Kingpin, fell into ham at least once in the series, and both Goblins practically ran on the stuff, especially Green Goblin whose voice and extreme performance were an intentional contrast to Norman Osborn's usually even temperament.
- The Last Thing You Ever See:
- Laughing Mad: Harry Osborn, especially during his Villainous Breakdown near the end of the series.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
- Legacy Character: Harry Osborn replacing his father as the Green Goblin.
- LEGO Genetics: Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard. He added the DNA of a reptile to himself to grow a new arm when his was severed, and it turned him into a whole reptile.
- Leitmotif: Most characters have a recurring theme that plays every time they are onscreen. This is especially noticeable with Morbius and Black Cat.
- Let's You and Him Fight: Just about every time Spidey came across another hero. Amusingly, Daredevil believed he had helped frame and kidnap Peter Parker (it was Chameleon, of course).
Spider-Man: Just my luck. This guy thinks I kidnapped me!
- Lighter and Softer:
- The Punisher. The series had to do this to even get him on the show. He's restricted from using proper firearms, and doesn't kill anyone, but it does slightly imply that he has done so in the past (his partner convinces him to use the nonlethal ordinance for once). And he looks like he's about ready to off a crook in his first appearance, the crook having to jump out the window and run to the police himself instead.
- Also Carnage. Most likely he was brought in as part of a Mordo/Dormammu plot so that he would spend his time "draining life energy" from victims rather than going Ax-Crazy on them in a more... direct manner.
- Lizard Folk: The Lizard, and also a race of sentient humanoid lizards he accidentally created when mutagenic fluid from his experiments got into the sewers.
- Limited Wardrobe
- Littlest Cancer Patient: In one two-part episode, Peter responds from a request from a little girl who wants to meet Spider-Man. She helps him during a fight and learns Spidey's secret identity... turns out at the end of the second episode she's terminally ill and living in a hospice. It was an adaptation of one of the best-loved Spider-Man stories: "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man".
- Lost in Imitation: Most tellings of Venom's origin story after this series are at least partly based on this show's version of events. The comic-book Symbiote never actually made Peter more aggressive (though it did take his body on joyrides and tried to permanently bond with him when he learned it was alive).
- Lull Destruction: And how. It is especially noticeable as dialogue was the only thing keeping the patchwork animation together.
- Making a Splash: Hydro-Man and Mary Jane's clone.
- Meaningful Name: Felicia Hardy becoming Black Cat.
- Meta Origin: Spider-Man's powers and a handful of other villains including Scorpion and the Lizard are connected to a specific branch of Mad Science called Neogenics. Spidey's powers were a complete accident due to a spider being caught in an experiment, just like the comics, while Scorpion was an intentional creation gone wrong and the Lizard was a side effect of Curt Connors' experiments.
- Modesty Towel: Felicia Hardy wore a light blue towel in the opening of "The Vampire Queen" before suiting up in her Black Cat attire.
- Mood Whiplash: In the "Secret Wars" episodes, Black Cat was angry at Spider-Man for bringing her to the planet while she was helping Blade and Morbius. Throughout the episode, she called him "selfish" and refuses to talk to him. But by the end, she's back to flirting with him again. We guess she can't stay mad at him.
- Motive Decay: At first Morbius wants to find a cure for his vampiric hunger. By the time Blade shows up, though, Morbius has already tasted Spider-Man's blood...er, plasma. Stronger than he had ever been, he liked it and set out to turn the entire city into vampires. The downside of course is that he remains a villain for a more extended period of time, and a lot of viewers grew sick of him as a result.
- Mr. Fanservice: Pete's a pretty hunky guy here, and not just in the Nerds Are Sexy way.
- Ms. Fanservice: Black Cat/Felicia Hardy (among others).
- The Multiverse: The end of the show featured a team-up of several Spider-Men to prevent Spider-Carnage from destroying a multiverse. One of them didn't have any powers and was really an actor playing Spider-Man in a movie. His universe was strongly implied to be "ours".
- Murder by Mistake: In "The Return of the Green Goblin", Spidey believed Norman did this when he threw a bomb at Peter and Harry's rented apartment. In fact, the Green Goblin believed he had killed Spidey until our hero showed up to fight him. Spider-Man unmasks the Goblin only to learn Harry took in Norman's footsteps.
- My God, What Have I Done?:
- JJJ, when the Scorpion goes on a rampage.
- Spider-Man after a medical lab is destroyed following a battle with Doc Ock.
- Mythology Gag:
- When Peter gets the Symbiote costume, he decides to test his strength by lifting a fire engine. He then remarks, "And I used to have trouble lifting a Volkswagen!" In Spidey's origin story in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Peter tests his new spider strength by lifting a Volkswagon, straining a little.
- The rich, armored Spider-Man double has a giant spider-robot — a nod to the Japanese toku series.
- The alternate Spider-Men from the Clone Saga actually reference different costumes/situations from the comics; the mainstream Spider-Man did have six functional arms at one point (a storyline referenced by this animated series earlier, during the Neogenic Nightmare arc), did once steal and try to use for himself a set of Doctor Octopus's arms, and did once make an armored suit for a particularly tough opponent. And, of course, the Scarlet Spider needs no introduction...
- In the series, Spider-Man's first public appearance is a TV show called It's Amazing!.
- When Spidey visists the little girl Tiana, she asks him about his origins, saying, "Timmy says you're an alien from a planet full of spider-people that blew up. But your parents put you in a rocketship to Earth when you were a baby!" The Shout-Out to Superman is obvious. More subtle is the reference to Timmy. Tiana is the Gender-Flipped version of a character from a famous Spider-Man story, "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man". In that story, the boy Spidey visisted was named Timmy.
- In the Grand Finale Peter visits another universe where among other changes from his own universe Mary-Jane is a shallow empty-headed party girl unlike the Mary-Jane he knows. The amusing part is the shallow empty-headed party girl WAS her character when she was introduced in the comics before Character Development that this show had skipped in order for her to be the Betty to Felicia Hardy's Veronica.
- Nerds Are Sexy: Both Peter and Dr. Connors.
- Never Say "Die":
- In spite of the heavy censorship, there were a fair few actual deaths, and at least a couple of spoken aversions.
Spider-Man: If you work for the Kingpin, why don't you wanna kill me?
- Vampire characters would always say they need "plasma" instead of "blood."
- Regarding Tombstone's dip in chemical soup:
Robbie: I didn't think Lonnie survived. They told me he was—
Spidey: Maybe they really thought so. He sure looks it! Anyway, he came back.
- Robbie tells Jameson that The Punisher is wanted for questioning over the "disappearance" of crime bosses.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- In "Armed and Dangerous", Spider-Man followed Jameson giving Doc Ock the ransom. It led to a brief fight in which Doc threw Spider-Man out the window. When Spider-Man ran back, he finds them both gone, realizing he blew it. Felicia's mom calls him out, saying no-one asked him to help.
- In "Make a Wish", Spider-Man accidentally caused a new lab building to be destroyed while fighting Doc Ock. Jameson pointed this out (and plans to condemn Spider-Man further). Robbie tried to defend him by saying he was trying to stop Doc Ock, but Jameson countered this by saying no one asked Spider-Man. Peter realized this too, and in his anger, decided to give up Spider-Man (again, but only temporary).
- No Smoking: Due to the censorship, JJJ's is never seen with his iconic cigar.
- Not So Different: Between Beast and Herbert Landon's assistant Genevieve.
- Obnoxious In-Laws: Anna Watson
- Old Shame: In "The Mutant Agenda", Henry McCoy tried to create a cure to eradicate the mutant gene, which would ultimately kill the carrier. It comes back to bite him later on when his former partner Herbert Landon recreate it.
- For Spider-Man, it would be his wrestling career prior to becoming a superhero. After all, it was from the studio that the crook who stole money from them was getting away, he refused to provide assistance. It was only until he tried to avenge the murder of Uncle Ben that he discovered it was the same crook he saw escaping the studio that he realized, that if he'd have used his powers for good then instead of self-interest, his uncle would still be alive.
- Omnicidal Maniac: Spider-Carnage, the final Big Bad. An alternate Peter Parker, he was at the end of his rope due to his world's Clone Saga (which included the death of Aunt May) before being possessed by the Carnage-Symbiote and acquiring dimension-travel tech. When Spidey goes to one of the alternate universes and brings back a still alive Uncle Ben in tow to try to reach the man inside of Spider-Carnage, that Peter finds his efforts to fight the influence of the Symbiote to be all for naught and subsequently sacrifices himself to save the multiverse.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Venom, in his first full appearance in "The Alien Costume" series. After the symbiote bonds with Eddie Brock, Venom locates Spider-Man in the midst of losing a two-on-one battle against Rhino and Shocker. Prior to this, both Rhino and Shocker were easily defeated by a black costumed Spider-Man in separate fights, and decided to team up to take Spider-Man out. When Venom arrives, he takes out both villains and goes after Spider-Man himself.
- On the Money: When J. Jonah Jameson offered a thousand-dollar-bonus for the first one to bring him a photograph of The Lizard, Peter was thinking about the stuff he could buy with the money until he learned Aunt May will need almost all of it to pay her bills.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Spider-Man, natch. "Turning Point" probably has the best example after Spider-Man fears the worst for Mary Jane:
- Ordinary College Student: Peter Parker, naturally. He even wears the uniform.
- Paint It Black: Again, Spider-Man after coming into contact with the Symbiote.
- Parents as People: This is one of Norman Osborn's most sympathetic portrayals, though mainstream Osborn has been kicking so many dogs lately he's not hard to beat.
- Path of Inspiration: A strange cult that ensnares Mary Jane and later Spidey himself. It turns out to be run by Baron Mordo, who turns them against their better natures by letting them see their fondest dreams come true.
- Pink Means Feminine: prior to her career as Black Cat, rich girl Felicia Hardy was frequently seen wearing pink skirts in her civilian attire.
- Portal Cut: When the Hobgoblin goes on a crime spree using the Time Dilation Accelerator, he realizes the device is running out of power when a portal closes sooner than he expected, taking part of his cape with it. "This could have been my arm! Or leg!"
- Powered Armor:
- Iron Man and War Machine appear in a couple of episodes.
- Another arc has several alternate universe versions of Spidey, one of whom wears a high-tech suit of armor.
- One-shot character The Prowler also had one of these.
- Previously On
- Prisons Are Gymnasiums: Kingpin ended up in prison because he couldn't lift his own bulk onto a fire-escape ladder. By the present, he can bear-hug Spider-Man into submission.
- Psycho for Hire: Hobgoblin and Carnage are two different takes on this. The former enjoys what he does but is ultimately in it for the cash, whereas the latter is just full-on Ax-Crazy.
- Punch Clock Villain: The Spot initially only steals to fund his research, and then later only because the Kingpin forced him to do it. Otherwise he's an extremely amiable guy, who even saves Spider-Man when he gets into mortal peril during their fight. He eventually switches sides to save his girlfriend from The Kingpin.
- Pyrrhic Victory: Discussed after Spidey chases Hobgoblin out of Crime Central.
Kingpin: It worked. Exactly as planned.
Smythe: (looking at their smouldering base)
Ever hear the phrase, "pyrrhic victory
Kingpin: You're wrong, Smythe. We're going to rebuild it, bigger and better than before. The main thing is, it's mine again.
- However, the "Tablet of Time" two-parter was also a pyrrhic victory for Fisk, and he couldn't deny it. In his goal to obtain the Tablet, his wife was kidnapped, and though she is rescued unharmed, she decides to leave him at the end, despite his pleas. Fisk winds up with the Tablet, which he had wanted in the first place, but he orders Hammerhead to get rid of it. "The sight of it sickens me," he growls.
- Reality Warping Is Not a Toy: Doctor Doom is anything but weak-willed. Yet when he tries to steal the Beyonder's power, his new utopia is soon assaulted by demons born out of his nightmares and subconscious fears. This is pretty much what happens in the original Secret Wars comic book too, which that ep was based on.
- Redemption Equals Death: Venom, Mysterio, and Spider-Carnage.
- Rogues Gallery
- Say My Name: MAAAAAARY JAAAAAAANE!!!!!
- Scotty Time: During the Secret Wars arc. Spidey = Kirk, Curt Connors = Scotty, the Enterprise = Iron Man's armor.
- Self-Made Orphan: The Kingpin is as strongly implied to be this as the censors would allow. After being left for the police by his father in a robbery gone south, he walked out of prison with the physical strength, connections and mentality needed to build his empire. It's not made clear what he did to his father, but Smythe is shocked that even Kingpin could be so ruthless. Near the end of that storyline, the Kingpin makes his own son Richard take the fall for Kingpin's exposed scheme. After his wife leaves him for this betrayal, the Kingpin is left alone holding a photo of his shattered family, bitterly wondering when his own son would take his revenge.
- Sequel Hook: Along with Left Hanging, Madame Webb was going to lead Spider-Man to Mary Jane and it's implied that is what they do. More ambiguous is the end of "The Return of Hydro-Man" where the doctor responsible for cloning Hydro-Man got a sample of Spider-Man's DNA, supposing they would pick up with the Clone Saga had the series continued.
- Sins of Our Fathers: A whole arc of episodes featuring Daddy issues. "Sins of the Fathers" was actually its name.
- Skepticism Failure: Doctor Crawford didn't believe Eddie's stories about Venom — proposing more rational psychological explanations. The episode is titled "Venom Returns", so that viewpoint proves extremely short-lived.
Venom: Do you believe us now, Doctor?
- Small Name, Big Ego: The armored Spider-Man from the Grand Finale. In all fairness, though, he came from a universe where absolutely everything always worked out for him perfectly. He didn't really have any way of knowing he would be much less effective in a universe that wasn't stacked completely in his favor (or even that there was such a thing as a universe that's not stacked in his favor).
- Spin-Off: A UK comic which followed the continuity of this show, Spectacular Spider-Man Adventures has outlived the show by almost a decade.
- Split Personality: "I'm not Osborn! I am the Green Goblin!" Unsurprisingly, leads into Split Personality Takeover.
- Spoiled Sweet: Despite being introduced as a trendy overindulged rich girl, Felicia "Black Cat" Hardy is surprisingly polite.
- Spot the Imposter:
- "Day of the Chameleon" is built on this trope.
- A variant appears in the climax of "The Menace of Mysterio". After saving Terri and Jonah, Spider-Man is confronted by five well-armed Mysterios — one real and four illusions. The real one is certain Spider-Man won't be able to pinpoint him in time, but one Spider-Sense-guided jump and kick later...
- Spotting the Thread: When Chameleon copies Nick Fury based on his obituary picture, he doesn't notice that the picture was accidentally flipped. Spider-Man notices the difference immediately.
- Stalker with a Crush:
- Hydro-Man. The guy only ever shows up to chase Mary-Jane around. He was so obsessed over her that after his clone heard she may have died, he forced Dr. Miles Warren to create a clone of her based upon his abilities. Didn't really work out for him, as she still loved Peter and they both died anyway.
- Felicia Hardy/Black Cat towards Spider-Man, though not to the same self-destructive extreme as the above example.
- Status Quo Is God: Invoked at the end of the Secret Wars, in a departure from the source it was based on which had several lasting repercussions, the Beyonder tells the heroes that despite their victory, all the changes that took place will be restored back, and they will have no memories of the events that took place. Ben Grimm (who could change back and forth to his human and Thing forms during the war) is unhappy to find this out:
Ben Grimm/The Thing: So, I'm gonna lose the power to change back to normal?
Beyonder: Yes. Everything must be as it once was.
- Stock Footage: One of the most infamous examples. It got to the point where upwards of 25 percent of a given episode, especially action scenes, were reused footage.
- In particular, the scene where Spidey does some high-speed dodging of Doc Ock's tentacles was reused with nearly every Doc Ock episode.
- Particularly funny during "Insidious Six" where Peter had temporarily lost his powers at the time. They try to cover it by shoehorning in the line "At least I still have some of my Spider agility."
- Story Arc: Several. Multi-episodes storylines were appropriately titled.
- Strapped to a Bomb: It had the hero and J. Jonah Jameson strapped to the same bomb in a Chained Heat fashion. However, Alistair Smythe decided to use a countdown as a trigger for the detonation, and gave Spider-Man enough time to remove the bomb, and then later use it to destroy Alistair's Spider Slayer robots.
- Stuff Blowing Up: Invoked by Spider-Man in regards to the Punisher after barely escaping a suitcase bomb: "I'm getting really tired of that guy blowing stuff up around me!"
- Super-Powered Alter Ego: It's not particularly explicit but Felica's personality appears to change into a more casual, reckless, confidant, slightly more amoral and sexually forward version of herself upon turning into the Black Cat. This is shown best after her inital bank robbery where the Cat is smugly boasts about her sucess but quickly becomes indigant and outraged after turning back into Felica.
- Super-Powered Evil Side: While a lot of the villains qualify, Symbiote Spider-Man takes the cake.
- Super Wheelchair: Spencer Smythe only worked for Kingpin so he could afford to build one of these for Alistair. He didn't live long enough to see Alistair in it, which in turn drove Alistair to work for Kingpin.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Detective Terri Lee fills the Reasonable Authority Figure spot that would usually be filled by George Stacy or Jean De Wolff.
- Take That: In the episode, "I Really, Really Hate Clones", after he heard the Scarlet Spider's story, the real Spider-Man said, "This is starting to sound like a bad comic book plot!" This was a reference to the infamous Clone Saga arc, which ran from 1994 to 1997. (The episode title itself also qualifies, naturally.)
- Talking to Themself: Norman and the Goblin.
- That Man Is Dead:
- During their final battle, the Green Goblin tells Spider-Man, "There's no Osborn anymore, Parker! There is only the Green Goblin!"
- "There's no more Eddie and no more symbiote! Only... Venom!" In fairness, though, the symbiote causes severe personality changes and causes Eddie to become mentally unstable without it...
- There Can Be Only One: Played straight in the episode "Goblin War" where Green Goblin proves to Hobgoblin that he's "The real deal"
- They Called Me Mad!: Doctor Octavius and his cold fusion reactor. Led to fusion experiments with improper safety protocols and eventually an explosion that fused his harness to his body.
- Title Drop: Multiple times.
- Once during the first episode of the "Secret Wars" arc, with the episode ending with Spider-Man declaring his intentions to keep a record of the events he witnesses, so that the battle will not become "a secret war."
- Another occasion was during the "Neogenic Nightmare" story arc. After first battling with Morbius and realizing that the blood sample Spidey himself left in the Empire State University lab was what started the events leading to Morbius's change, Spidey says, "Now Morbius is in the same neogenic nightmare I'm in."
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Mary Jane's Aunt Anna was bad-tempered, arrogant and condescending, treating Peter like yesterday's garbage even though he was never anything but polite to her. In the comics, on the other hand, she was a sweet lady much like Aunt May, who even developed a very positive opinion of Spider-Man after he saved her from a Spider-Slayer.
- Two-Faced: Herbert Landon after his partial mutation.
- Unexpected Character: In the Series Finale, Spidey went to an alternate universe where he met Gwen Stacy, who was unexpected because there was no appearance or even mention of any Gwen Stacy in that series until then.
Spider-Man: (thought) Great, Parker, you're engaged to a girl you never even met.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The Fisk building has a fold-out hangar and has insane guys on hoverboards flying in in broad daylight as well as giant spider-robots, and yet no-one suspects he might not be totally on the level.
- Villain with Good Publicity: The crime-boss "The Kingpin" is known to the public as Wilson Fisk, the philanthropist. Peter Parker even saves his life from the Hobgoblin, and it isn't until the third season until Peter finds out Fisk's criminal identity.
- The Voiceless: Chameleon never speaks in his normal body, always changing to someone else even for brief comments.
- Watch Where You're Going!: Spidey uses some Deadly Dodging to trick the Scorpion and the Lizard into running into each other during the Finale of the Neo-Genic Nightmare arc.
- We Gotta Stop Meeting Like This: Spider-Man quips this after saving Jameson once again in "The Sting of The Scorpion".
Spider-Man: We've got to stop meeting like this, or else tongues will start to wag.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy:
- Even though Norman was a considerably better person on this show, Harry still had some of these issues, though to a lesser degree.
- Kingpin initially, when he recounts his backstory. Ironically, when he actually did get his father's respect, he had him killed.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Lizard in his first appearance. He plans to turn everyone in the city into creatures like himself ("a better race"), but he honestly thinks doing so will spare people suffering and pain.
- Wrong Side of the Tracks: Lonnie Lincoln and Robbie Robertson were childhood friends until one day Lonnie got arrested for trying to steal ice-cream after the store window broke. While Lonnie was in juvie, Robbie became studious and eventually graduated from college before working as an intern at the Daily Bugle. Lonnie would eventually walk back into Robbie's life and try to frame him by breaking in to the chemical plant for abandoning him all those years ago (Robbie left his fingerprints in the plant), but fell into the chemical vat and became Tobstone, the underworld hitman.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds:
- World of Muscle Men: While it's not as extreme as say, He-Man, one has to wonder if the only reason Peter Parker manages to keep his ID a secret is because apparently all newspaper workers and science nerds are buff to start with.
- Xanatos Gambit: The Kingpin uses one of these in his introduction.
Osborn: Something occurs to me. Either Spider-Man is destroyed or you get Oscorp. Either way, you win.
Fisk: That's why I'm the Kingpin.
- You Fight Like a Cow: Naturally. It's Spider-Man, after all.