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Early Adaptation Weirdness

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Looking back at the oldest adaptations of franchises with a modern lens, many come off as unusual by the standards of the series. They were likely faithful at the time of release but, with years of Characterization Marches On and other developments, they've since become wildly out of touch with their source material. Or maybe they were always a bit off, but the stuff they contradicted wasn't considered important at the time.


They often feature Early Installment Character Design Differences, characterization differences, and plot differences compared to the standardized portrayal of the work.

Related to Early Draft Tie-In and Early-Installment Weirdness.

Contrast with Truer to the Text, where an adaptation is noticeably more faithful to the source material than earlier adaptations.


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    Sonic the Hedgehog 
The Sonic the Hedgehog series had both an original installment with an excuse plot and a lack of co-ordination between Sega's various international marketing teams leading to an impressive array of alternate interpretations in early adaptations.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Yuu Mishouzaki's The Legend of Zelda was one of the early manga adaptations of the video game series of the same name. It plays loose with the already thin plot that the first Zelda game has and features a lot of oddities because of its age. For example, the long-eared humans known as Hylians are referred to as "elves" and are hated by many humans (most notably the Hyrulian Noble Family, which is actually Hylian in canon). It features a very different Link than most other adaptations: he doesn't wear his signature tunic (instead wearing overalls), he's a Half-Human Hybrid instead of full Hylian, he's a Cowardly Lion instead of a courageous hero, and he's Zelda's older half-brother. Despite this, the manga features many things that the games would later use (either intentionally or unintentionally), such as a teenage Zelda and a young Impa.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The Great Mission to Save Princess Peach! is very similar to how the franchise would later be developed, however it contains some early oddities, such as Luigi having a greedy personality and most strikingly in that it ends with Peach marrying an original character instead of staying with Mario.
    • Early volumes of Super Mario Bros. Manga Mania features a rougher and more abrasive version of Mario which contrasts with his more jovial modern self.
    • Being one of the earliest adaptations, the characters in Super Mario don't resemble their game selves as closely as they do in later adaptations, both in terms of design and personality. It also contains some NSFW Parental Bonuses, scenes involving smoking, and other things that wouldn't be allowed in later Mario adaptations.
    • Downplayed with Amada Anime Series: Super Mario Bros. Most of the OVAs are relatively in-line with what the Mario franchise is known for, except for one thing: Super Mario's Momotaro features Mario wielding a gun. While the original idea for Super Mario Bros was that Mario would carry a gun, nowadays the franchise does without to the point that during the development of Super Mario Sunshine, some people at Nintendo complained about Mario using a water pistol (which would later become FLUDD).
  • The first television adaptation of Doraemon came out in 1973. The 1973 series features, among other things, a different art style, a unique character named Gachako, various changes to the existing characters and items, and plots that haven't been done in later adaptations. The later TV series don't have these changes.
  • Toei's Yu Gi Oh anime has several inconsistencies with the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga even at the time as well as later events in the manga, as well as characterization differences, Character Exaggeration, and episodes with original villains with powers normally reserved for the supernatural.
  • The 1990s Sailor Moon anime is the first adaptation of the manga, and because it was developed in parallel with the manganote , it deviates in ways that later adaptations don't. For example, Rei is given an Adaptation Personality Change into a Hot-Blooded tsundere in sharp contrast to the other incarnation's Aloof Dark-Haired Girl.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Adventures is full of a lot of this, much which has stuck over the years because it's a part of the manga's lore. For example, the entirety of the Indigo League Elite Four and several Gym Leaders (namely Koga, Lt. Surge, and Sabrina) were given Adaptational Villainy due to Pokémon Red and Blue's lack of named antagonists. The manga predates the Team Rocket Executives so other characters were used to fill in roles, even though this may go against their personalities in the games.
    • Pokémon Origins is a later adaptation (being released over 10 years into the franchise's life) but has one detail that stands out: Red's personality. He's an energetic Stock Shōnen Hero partially because the anime predates Pokémon Sun and Moon and Pokémon Masters canonizing him as stoic and quiet.
    • Being one of the earliest Pokémon manga adaptations, Pocket Monsters contains a lot of Early Adaptation Weirdnesses. Most notably, the main character's Pokémon starter is a Clefairy, which is a nod to when Clefairy was intended to be Pokémon's Series Mascot instead of Pikachu (although Pikachu remains as a major character of the series, and is established to be Clefairy's cousin). Among other oddities, most Pokémon can speak human language, Pokémon can "devolve", Giovanni has a brother, an Off-Model Mewtwo unceremoniously appears as a wild Pokémon, Bill is a Fat Slob while Blue is a big-chinned hunk, there are made-up Pokémon that appear nowhere else, and most infamously, it features a lot of Vulgar Humor and NSFW jokes that would be unthinkable to include in modern Pokémon media.
  • Masaomi Kanzaki's manga adaptation of Street Fighter II only had the original 12 fighters to work with (since it was drawn before the Super iterations that added more fighters) and thus the author had to improvise to flesh out the story. Ryu is a much goofier hero than his gaming counterpart and a bit of a glutton, E. Honda has a one-sided infatuation with Chun-Li, Blanka is a thug who wants to join the ranks of Shadaloo, Guile is responsible for his friend Charlie's death (who was under the influence of M. Bison's mind control drug) and has a rivalry with Zangief, Balrog (the boxer) is a sympathetic character who ends up abandoning Shadaloo, Vega (claw) is responsible for the death of Chun-Li's father, and Sagat is a mere lackey who was already working for M. Bison when he was scarred by Ryu instead of a disgraced champion who joined the organization to seek revenge. The manga did end up giving a name and face to Ryu and Ken's sensei Gouken, who prior to the manga was just a nameless character alluded to in character bios, but even then his death at the hands of M. Bison was something that was not incorporated into the games, as Akuma (a character introduced in the later games) was responsible for the deed.
  • The first anime series of Ranma ½ is of a very different tone than the manga, having a slower pace, emphasis on comedic pauses, and several original quiet slice-of-life scenes. The low ratings on Japanese TV lead it to being cancelled with episodes still unaired, and the studio reshuffled the staff (including changing the director) to continue with a Denser and Wackier series closer in tone to the manga, which ended up lasting several years.

    Comic Books 
  • You can very easily tell when an issue of Star Wars (Marvel 1977) came out by checking which character Luke is getting Ship Tease with. The writers were seemingly convinced that Luke/Leia was the Official Couple, and even after The Empire Strikes Back put a lot of focus on Han/Leia, they still more or less ignored it and kept on trying to develop Luke/Leia. Needless to say, this abruptly stopped after Return of the Jedi's release in 1983.
  • The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones was launched immediately following the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark. While most of the stories are standard Indy fare, the writers made the understandable assumption that Marion would be a recurring character and she features prominently in much of the run: taking a job with Marcus as head of PR for the museum and often accompanying Indy on his adventures. This makes it almost impossible to reconcile the series with later movie continuity.
  • The comic book adaptation of Super Metroid is mostly close to later Metroid canon. In fact, it's notable as being the first Metroid-related story to establish that Samus Aran was orphaned by the Space Pirates and adopted by the Chozo leader Old Bird. The biggest difference, however, is that the human character Armstrong Houston, a fellow Bounty Hunter, has a Power Suit that looks just like hers but is blue instead of orange. Later canon would establish Samus' Power Suit as highly advanced Chozo technology bordering on Magitek, and it's so hard to reverse engineer that even her Galactic Federation allies could only start making bulkier and shoddier versions of her weapons years after the events of Super Metroid.

    Films — Animation 
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut has many notable differences compared to how the show is recently due to being created around the same time as the show's third season. If someone who was introduced to the later episodes of the show watched this film, they would notice the much cruder animation, art style and jokes that were standard during those times, and how much smaller the town of South Park used to be. Cartman himself is the bratty jerk he was known for early on instead of the cunning and manipulative sociopath of the later seasons. Also, certain characters who would rise to prominence much later on, such as Craig and Token, are just background characters. It's odd to see such a big event where Butters is nothing more than a Spear Carrier (or for that matter, where Kenny actually does get focus). Even Randy, who has since gone on become the most prominent adult character of the show, only had one single speaking line in the whole movie (questioning the V-chip).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Batman serials of the 1940s and its successor Batman and Robin depict Batman and Robin as officially sanctioned government agents going against ordinary mobsters and crooks. Super-villains as we know it didn't exist back then and Batman's famous Rogues Gallery was still in its infancy. The 1943 Batcave (which didn't exist prior to this, and was created due to budget constraints) is a small cave that contains only a desk and a few chairs. Bruce's love interest in the 1943 serial is a now forgotten character named Linda Page rather than one of his better known comic book flames like Selina Kyle or Vicki Vale. There's no Batmobile, and the dynamic duo instead drive around in an unmodified Cadillac in the first serial and a Ford Mercury in the follow-up (again, largely owing to the low budget). Perhaps most infamously, there are jarring propagandistic overtones in the first serial, with the narrator using anti-Japanese slurs and even attempting to justify the U.S. government's internment of Japanese-American citizens.
  • Due to being an In Name Only adaptation, the Captain America serial from 1944 is quite different from all later adaptations. Rather than a super-soldier named Steve Rogers, the hero's true identity is a district attorney named Grant Gardner, rather than using a shield he uses a gun (which would become one of Bucky's weapons upon taking up the mantle), he did not fight Nazis, Bucky was nowhere to be seen and he was a vigilante rather than a government-created superhero.
  • Casino Royale (1954)note : Compared to the later Eon film series, this adaptation is noticeably different. James Bond is an American agent and referred to as "Jimmy", Felix Leiter is British and renamed to Clarence, M is completely absent, and the production values are lower due to being a live TV production.
  • The mid-1960s Doctor Who film adaptations Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. were made when the TV show had only been running for two or three years, and has the Doctor's actual name being "Dr Who" and him being a human "mad inventor" with no control over the TARDIS (which is referred to as "Tardis" as if it were a proper noun, and also not an acronym). It hadn't yet been established that the TV version of the character was a Time Lord from Gallifrey and early episodes did strongly imply he was human, but one from another planet in the far future.
  • Peter Pan (1924) was made less than thirty years after the play. It's a Setting Update set in the contemporary 1920s. This was before adaptations became Frozen in Time in the 1910s. The characters are also American instead of British, which is something later adaptations never change.
  • Super Mario Bros. tried to adapt a series that runs on Excuse Plot at a time when it was still developing its identity. The film contains a lot of old remnants, such as the manual's plot of Toadstool being the daughter of the Mushroom King, Koopa transforming Toads and other creatures with magic, Goombas being traitors to the throne, and Mario being a middle-aged man (which he originally was, but even in Japan this was changed by the late-1980s) and several years older than Luigi because they wouldn't be revealed as twins until Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island.
  • The Wizard of Oz (1925) is one of the earliest adaptations of the Land of Oz series. It has virtually nothing in common with the source, playing very loose with the lore and characters. It departs heavily from the later adaptations within the first ten minutes: Dorothy is aged up to eighteen, Uncle Henry is a cruel and Evil Uncle, and Dorothy is secretly a Doorstop Baby who's really the lost Princess Dorothea of Oz.

  • The Mega Man Universe Compendium "The Official Guide to Mega Man" was released back when only the first three games were released, and Dr. Wily's Revenge was about to debut. Most of the lore featured in the book was made up without the original developers' input, featuring original characters and concepts that push the setting's tone in a more space opera-esque direction (for example, the heavy emphasis on off-world colonies that was mostly limited to the third game at the time). At the end of the book, Mega Man was interviewed, and it was noted that he can't talk under normal circumstances, while he has no problem communicating with other characters in later games of the series.
  • The "Worlds of Power" novelization of Metal Gear written by Alexander Frost was a far cry from the serious war drama that the series would become from Metal Gear Solid and onward. For one thing, it's based on the NES version of the first game, which had an inconsistent localization between the in-game translation (which was a relatively direct translation of the Japanese script for the most part) and the box & manual (which extensively changed the game's backstory). Because of this, instead of following the in-game narrative and have Solid Snake's commanding officer and the secret leader of the enemy forces be the same character (Big Boss), they're instead two separate characters named Commander South and Colonel Vermon CaTaffy. Likewise, Solid Snake is given a full name (Justin Halley) and never uses his weapons to kill anyone (only using his handgun once to destroy a lock), with the idea of pacifist runs not being implemented until much later in the series.
  • Metroid: Zebes Shin'nyuu Shirei, due to being based on the original Metroid, features many oddities compared to the rest of the series. Much of this is carried over from the original game, although this gamebook expands upon or adds additional weirdness:
    • Zebes is an asteroid, rather than a planet.
    • Ridley is the original inhabitant of Zebes, living on the inhospitable asteroid long before the arrival of the Space Pirates. He was originally docile and peaceful, and has only become aggressive and cruel while under Mother Brain's mind control. Instead of actually breathing fire, Ridley possesses Psychic Powers that simulate the intense experience of being hit with fire breath.
    • If a Metroid latches onto Samus, she can escape by firing missiles instead of planting bombs.
    • Samus is repeatedly referred to as a cyborg. This continues even after it is revealed that she is a human woman, suggesting that it was not merely a red herring like in the original game.
    • The leader of the Space Pirates is the Pirate Boss, while the series usually refers to Mother Brain or Ridley as the leader. Additionally, the Pirate Boss is a human, while all later Metroid games would only show aliens among the Space Pirate ranks.
    • Samus and the Space Pirates may team up to take down the Metroid=Mutant. Later Metroid lore would establish that Samus and the Space Pirates hate each other so much that they would never consider teaming up, even against bigger threats like the Ing or Dark Samus.
  • The Thrawn Trilogy, as one of the first spinoffs of Star Wars, was working with the best information available and couldn't know that things would change over a decade later with the release of the Prequel Trilogy in 1999, starting with The Phantom Menace. One of the biggest parts is that its depiction of cloning using "Spaarti cylinders" is completely at odds with that seen on Kamino in Attack of the Clones, though that's easily handwaved by saying that Spaarti and Kaminoan cloning use different methods with different side effects. Another major plot point is that it's been about 40-odd years since the Clone Wars (based on backstory given by Lucas at the time), while the prequels later established it as 20-something instead.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Batman (1966) show is full of this because it was created during a transitional stage in comics. Along with being a full-blown comedy series, it features forgotten Silver Age stuff, such as Dick Grayson having an aunt, Batman and Robin operating in broad daylight, and many of the villains (such as Mr. Freeze) display characterizations that have long since changed. The show originated Barbara Gordon, but it features her as a brunette who wears a redheaded wig for disguise (something associated with Kate Kane instead of the naturally redheaded Barbara) and also depicts her as several years Dick's seniornote .
  • The Incredible Hulk (1977)
    • While not the first adaptation of the character to the screen, having come eleven years after The Marvel Super Heroes, as the first live-action adaptation, the show takes surprising liberties, such as Hulk being rendered mute for the most part, instead communicating in growls and grunts, Banner being referred to by his given name rather than his middle name of "Bruce", his given name itself having been changed from "Robert" to "David", General Thaddeus Ross having been replaced with original character Jack McGee and pretty much every other character having been Adapted Out.
    • The Incredible Hulk Returns also features this in the form of Thor. Also having first appeared in television in The Marvel Super Heroes, this was the first live-action portrayal of the Marvel portrayal and rather than Blake and Thor being the same individual, they are two different characters (The Kenneth Branagh film would do something similar, but with Blake being The Ghost and becoming a brief alias of Thor), with Thor not being a god, but a Norse warrior whom Blake summons by holding a magic hammer and calling the name of "Odin".
    • The Trial of the Incredible Hulk features similar examples. While the Kingpin had been appearing on the screen since Spider-Man (1967), this was his first portrayal in live-action and differs from what came after by never being referred to as "the Kingpin", only by "Wilson Fisk", having facial hair as well as averting Bald of Evil, by actually having hair. Likewise, this was the first portrayal of Daredevil, as Spider Man And His Amazingfriends had only portrayed him as Matt Murdock, and rather than the red suit everyone is familiar with , he wears a black ninja-like outfit and was inspired by a police man to be a hero, rather than seeking to avenge his father's death.
  • The show Mortal Kombat: Conquest has a bit of this, with the most notable probably being Noob Saibot. In the games, Noob is eventually revealed to be Bi-Han, aka Sub-Zero from the first game, brought back from the dead by Quan Chi. In Conquest, he's some sort of Outworld assassin who seems to be unconnected to Sub-Zero or Quan Chi. He also seems to be made of oil, as opposed to the shadow powers that would be established later.


  • Executive Meddling led to The Wizard of Oz (1902) being a very loose adaptation. It removed major characters such as Toto, Glinda, and the Wicked Witch of the West. Since the MGM film The Wizard of Oz codified the franchise, newer adaptations couldn't get away with removing so much of what makes the Land of Oz series iconic.
  • The Musical adaptation of Peanuts, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, was first produced in 1967 and only uses six characters: Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, Schroder, and Patty, the last of whom was already being Demoted to Extra in the strip by that point (and tellingly doesn't even get a solo song). Notably, the 1999 Broadway revival completely revamped the libretto to replace Patty with Charlie Brown's sister Sally, a far more popular character.

    Video Games 
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Legend of the Lost Spatula was made when the TV show was in its first season, and it shows. Characters use their less refined designs from the first season, the Flying Dutchman is the Big Bad and rules over a Fire and Brimstone Hell that's never seen or referenced in any other media, Plankton is a background NPC with two lines of dialogue, and the game features characters, locations, and places that have almost never been referenced since: SpongeBob can wear his hall monitor uniform and equip the moon rock gun from "Sandy's Rocket", "the carnival" (an assortment of fishing bait) appears as a platforming area, and the boss of Jellyfish Fields is the giant jellyfish from "Jellyfishing" instead of the King Jellyfish from "I'm Your Biggest Fanantic". Additionally, Bubble Bass appears as an enemy, and he didn't really become a major character until after The Sponge Bob Movie Sponge Out Of Water.
  • The Simpsons arcade game was developed during the show's first two seasons. Signs of this include the cast sporting their first-seasons designs, most of the enemies being made-up or based on bit characters and gags from early episodes rather than any of the more recognizable antagonist characters the show would introduce in later years, Sideshow Bob showing up as a minor ally (due to his first appearance on the show being as a silent background extra) and a few animations showing Marge hides rabbit ears under her haido (something that was planned in pre-production but scrapped for the show proper). Another notable bit of weirdness is that one stage takes place at the Channel 6 studio, except in place of the recurring reporter Kent Brockman (who is recognizable even to the most casual fan of the show), the news is anchored by a one-off reporter from the Season 1 episode "The Call of the Simpsons".
  • Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (2000) came out in the waning days of the era where X-Men was Marvel's biggest Cash-Cow Franchise, and it really shows in the roster: eighteen of the 28 Marvel representatives hail from that series in some sense, including two versions of Wolverine. The really telling part is the presence of Marrow, though; an absolute E-lister who wouldn't warrant an appearance even in a purely X-Men fighting game nowadays, but she was actually getting something resembling a push in the mid-late 90s (one that did not last). Other oddities of the era include Cable wearing a Jim Lee X-Men uniform instead of his more famous Rob Liefeld look (which he did wear in the comics - for less than six months), and Sabertooth having Birdie as his Girl Friday (the character was very short-lived, and in fact had already been killed off in the comics by the time Marvel 2 came out).
  • The FMV game Gundam 0079: The War for Earth was one of the first piece of Gundam media officially released in English, before the franchise had much of a Western presence, and as such employs many romanizations that differ greatly from the standardized ones used in later releases. These include Char Aznable being "Shar Aznabull", "Zakus" being "Zaks" (as in the English translation of the novels) and the Principality of Zeon being the Duchy of Jion (infamously pronounced "John" by the actors).

    Western Animation 
  • The 1940s Superman Theatrical Cartoons serials are the second earliest adaptation of Superman (coming just a year after The Adventures of Superman) and contain a lot of weirdness. Clark was raised in an orphanage without his adopted parents around and he doesn't fight any supervillains barring the occasional mad scientist who has no connection to Lex Luthor. Kryptonite is completely absent, as are pretty much all notable characters except Lois Lane and Perry White. Also, Superman's power is a lot lower—his enhanced senses, Eye Beams, and freeze breath are absent, and in one Out of Order short, Superman gets around by jumping, not flying. Superman gained his flight specifically because it was easier to draw and it was later added onto the comics.
  • The early Peanuts TV specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown were made before fan favorite characters like Woodstock, Peppermint Patty and Marcie were introduced. In their place are characters like Friedanote , Shermynote  and Violetnote , who were later Demoted to Extra or written out altogether.
  • Captain N: The Game Master has many bizarre and barely-recognizable versions of NES video games characters, a perfect demonstration of folks trying to interpret those games with minimal, non-existent, or even contradictory input from their makers. For example, Pit being called "Kid Icarus" wasn't a mistake; Nintendo insisted on it so the characters would be saying the name of the game as much as possible. And Big Bad Mother Brain from the Metroid series is portrayed as a comedic and talkative Large Ham, whereas the canon character from Super Metroid onward would be increasingly characterized as a very sinister Silent Antagonist bordering on a Mechanical Abomination.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! was a loose adaptation even at the time, but much of it appears even more loose when compared to later Mario canon. For example, not only are there no implications of romance between Peach (who is redheaded instead of blonde because her design is based on her palette limited sprite) and Mario, but Peach is implied to be a teen while Mario is middle aged. This contrasts with the two being 20-something year old Childhood Friends and love interests in most post-1980s media. Among other weirdnesses, Mario and Luigi have thick New York accents instead of their signature Italian accents, Bowser uses his Japanese name, King Koopa, and is presented as a Composite Character between Wart, the Big Bad of Super Mario Bros. 2. The show also prominently features enemies from that game that are largely ignored in Mario's current canon such as Tweeters, Albatosses, Trouters, Flurries, Mouser, Tryclyde, etc.
  • The animated The Legend of Zelda (1989) series was made when only the first two games were out (with the first game being the primary inspiration), and it shows. The Triforces of Wisdom and Power are green and red tetrahedrons instead of golden flat triangles; meanwhile, the Triforce of Courage is nowhere to be seen. Link fights by shooting beams from his sword, just like he does in the 2D games when at full health, but this mechanic has been mostly dropped in the most popular 3D installments. The show also re-uses sound effects from the original game. Many now-iconic staples of the games, like the Master Sword, the Gorons, the friendly Zoras and Zelda's Lullaby, hadn't yet been created and so are absent in the cartoon. To say nothing of Link's characterization as a talkative and flirtatious Jerk with a Heart of Gold...
  • Keeping in with the theme of 80s video game adaptations, Hanna-Barbera's Pac-Man cartoon has some blatant differences from newer takes on the game. The villains are referred to as "Ghost Monsters" instead of either "ghosts" or "monsters", and their personalities are entirely switched around. Clyde is the leader, Blinky is cowardly, Pinky is a slow-witted male shapeshifter, Inky is cross-eyed and goofy, and the barely acknowledged Sue (her color changed from orange to dark purple) is second-in-command of the ghost gang and the sole female, and the ghosts turn purple when Pac-Man eats a power pellet. The producers also created a Canon Foreigner human Big Bad, Mezmeron, out of whole cloth.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) is the only screen adaptation on record to Race Lift Baxter Stockman from black to white. That every screen adaptation to feature the character keeps his original skin colour, highlights this case of weirdness.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, which ran from 2010-2012, is a glimpse of a different, pre-The Avengers (2012) Marvel than what'd come afterward (which would be as close to the MCU as possible): Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne are main characters, Black Widow is only a recurring character, Carol Danvers is called "Ms. Marvel" and not "Captain Marvel", Loki is an unrepentant villain, the Guardians of the Galaxy behave professionally, and characters related to the X-Men and Fantastic Four made guest appearances and cameos. The only big change from the MCU that made the jump at first was Jarvis being Tony Stark's AI instead of his butler. (This all stemmed from the show beginning production at the time only Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk had been created, and the only thing they really drew from the latter was Abomination's backstory and accent.)
  • Spider-Man (1967) is the only time the title character has been portrayed using a different voice as Spider-Man, something that no other adaptations have followed suit with.