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Western Animation / Spider-Man (1981)

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A Spider-Man animated series by Marvel Productions that ran from 1981 to 1982 and aired in syndication.

The series isn't as remembered as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, a Spin-Off that aired concurrently.

This show provides examples of:

  • Actually a Doombot: The trope namer himself pulls this off in the episode "The Doctor Prescribes Doom", where Spider-Man confronts Doctor Doom at the end of the episode, only for him to turn out to be a robot double.
  • Adaptational Dye-Job: Betty has black hair, as opposed to the brown or dark red hair she's usually depicted with.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Black Cat is still a thief but far more antagonistic towards Spider-Man. Instead of being playfully amorous, she wants to publicly humiliate him for interfering in one of her robberies.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The Lizard is depicted as a straight-up madman bent on helping reptiles overthrow humanity from the get-go, when the comics portrayed him as an innocent scientist whose transformations were a side effect of attempting to regrow his lost arm. For all we know, this incarnation of Curt Connors may have even deliberately caused his transformation into a humanoid reptile. This version also depicts him with the ability to speak.
  • Big Bad: Doctor Doom is depicted as the most recurring villain, whose episodes make up a Story Arc where Spider-Man opposes his efforts to take over the world, while aiding rebels in Latveria to depose him.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Between Spidey and Medusa. They share a quick yet tender embrace before parting company.
  • Brown Bag Mask: After losing his mask while fighting the Sandman in "The Sandman is Coming", Spider-Man is forced to wear a paper bag mask to keep his secret identity safe.
  • Canon Foreigner: J. Jonah Jameson is given a nephew named Mortimer, a relative he never had in the comics.
  • Clear My Name:
    • "Carnival of Crime": Spider-Man has to clear his name when the Ringmaster and the Circus of Crime frame him for their crimes by using a gas to make everyone hallucinate Spider-Man as the perpetrator.
    • "The Capture of Captain America": Spider-Man accidentally gives Red Skull the opportunity to capture Cap, but Jonah gins up an angry mob into believing Spidey did it deliberately. With the entire city condemning him, Spider-Man needs to rescue Cap.
  • Costume Copycat:
    • "The Capture of Captain America" features a heroic version. With Spider-Man getting blamed for Red Skull capturing Cap, he can't be seen in public without getting attacked by a mob. Peter goes to a costume shop and dresses up like Captain America in order to get around and follow a tracer to the Red Skull's location. He briefly tries to imitate Cap's voice while trying to bum a ride.
    • "Arsenic and Aunt May": Chameleon resorts to this. He doesn't have any big scheme for why; he just wants to flee from his lair, while Spider-Man is fighting his way through various traps. This choice of disguises was in order to evade police, as the Chameleon had just broken out of prison and the real Spider-Man had been on the police's good side recently for some good deeds.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. The fact that it aired in syndication helps, compared to the more strict guidelines of Saturday morning network TV.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Spidey and Medusa grow fond of each other in Under the Wizard's Spell, but she's unable to stay in New York.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Red Skull forces Dr. Niemann to do his bidding despite the latter wanting to use his inventions for the good of humanity, all while insulting and threatening him. When Niemann gets a chance to render him harmless by separating his mind and his body, he jumps at the opportunity.
  • Explosive Leash: In "Under the Wizard's Spell", the Wizard uses an explosive collar to force Medusa of the Inhumans to be his accomplice in crime.
  • Flashback: A brief one in "Arsenic and Aunt May" features part of the origin. Told by the Burglar's cousin, we see Spider-Man go from his show business career to hunting down Ben's killer.
  • From Bad to Worse: In The Sandman is coming Spidey ends up in the Everglades and has a fight with an alligator. He wins and sends the beast flying but then half a dozen more attack. After a few problems with his webshooters Spidey makes a quick exit...
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the episode "The Capture of Captain America," just as Spidey was heading towards the sewers to get away from the New Yorkers after him for seemingly letting Red Skull capture Cap, you can make out a vandalized wall in the background with writing spelling out the word "jackass."
  • The Ghost: Harry Osborn is mentioned in "The Vulture Has Landed", but is never seen.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Chameleon's plan in "Arsenic and Aunt May" is to take advantage of Spider-Man's role in Ben's death by drugging and manipulating May into becoming determined to kill Spidey. Spider-Man doesn't even recognize what's happening until he spots the Chameleon's truck outside May's and follows him back to his lair. As Spider-Man gets caught up in various defenses, the Chameleon intends to slip away and avoid police by dressing up as the webslinger. What he didn't know was that May was nearby and saw him in costume, so she started attacking him and inadvertently foiled his getaway.
  • Grand Theft Me: The Red Skull's plan in "The Capture of Captain America" was to switch minds with Captain America.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Peter admits to a bit of jealousy towards Captain America, who is also a mask-wearing superhero but adored by the public (even by Jonah!). Peter wonders if he subconsciously wanted the Red Skull to capture Cap.
  • Halloween Episode: The episode "Revenge of the Green Goblin" took place on Halloween.
  • Half-Arc Season: The majority of the show is episodic in nature, with the exception of a handful of episodes that comprise the Doctor Doom Story Arc.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Doom is done in by his own Kill Sat in "Countdown to Doom".
  • Horrible Judge of Character: In contrast to his tendency to have it in for Spidey in spite of the web-slinger time and time again stopping criminals and saving the day, J. Jonah Jameson always thinks that Doctor Doom is a good person. You'd think that the name would tip him off.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "Revenge of the Green Goblin", one scene has Spider-Man run into a black cat. He notes that it's a good thing he isn't superstitious, then he crosses his fingers.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Spider webs are used for the scene transitions.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: "The Incredible Shrinking Spider-Man" had Spider-Man shrink to the size of two inches after being zapped with a shrink ray by a villain called the Gadgeteer.
  • Killed Off for Real: Heavily implied to be the case for Doctor Doom after being blasted by his own Kill Sat in "Countdown to Doom", the finale of his multi-episode Story Arc. Tellingly, he never returns after this and every Doombot across the world shuts down after his demise.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: "The Sandman is Coming" has two cases of unscrupulous characters immediately getting their just deserts. J. Jonah Jameson sees Spider-Man about to get hit by a truck and refuses to help him, only to get arrested because a bystander saw him gloat about photographing Spider-Man's death and reported him to the police. Peter Parker's mean-spirited classmate Sally-Ann Beaumont also tries to get Peter expelled by claiming that he left her at the mercy of the Sandman, but she ends up expelled instead when Spider-Man presents the teachers with photographic evidence that she shoved Peter into harm's way.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: In "Curiosity Killed the Spider-Man", Spider-Man at one point encounters a well-built man in a blue suit with a red tie and glasses using a phone booth, noting that there's something familiar about him. The obvious implication is that the man is Superman in his civilian identity Clark Kent.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: "Triangle of Evil" has a couple examples. During their first televised challenge, the Stuntman zaps Spider-Man's webline. As it starts to give out, the director says it's time for a commercial break, which the actual episode soon cuts to. Later, Spider-Man has trouble crawling up a building and asks a worker to spray it clean with his hose. The water is animated splashing back against the fourth wall and briefly dripping from there.
  • Mythology Gag: "The Sandman is Coming" has Spider-Man forced to flee from fighting the Sandman after losing his mask to avoid having his secret identity exposed. The same thing happened during Spidey's first fight with the Sandman in the comics.
    • Peter refusing to donate blood is probably one to the "Master planner" arc in the comics where (after previously giving blood to Aunt May she developed radiation poisoning and Peter barely managed to find a means to save her in time. Given the series opens a number of years into his career its very possible Spidey faced that issue in this universe as well and has no desire to go though that again.
  • Officer O'Hara: Spider-Man encounters an Irish-accented cop in "Revenge of the Green Goblin".
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Stopping the missiles in "The A-B-C's of D-O-O-M" requires inputting a special code that Goron programmed on behalf of Doctor Doom. With only 30 seconds, Spider-Man types in "Doom" as a guess and proves lucky. He reasoned that Doom's own massive ego made it so likely.
  • Plot Allergy: In "Lizards, Lizards Everywhere", Spider-Man has difficulty bringing down the Lizard because of sneezing fits. After he finally defeats the Lizard and consults a doctor, it turns out that the constant sneezing was because he was allergic to reptiles.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Unlike the comics, Medusa is not married and becomes Spidey's love interest for an episode.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Goron from “The A-B-Cs of Doom”. Not only he is Doctor Doom’s frequent enemy and Spider-Man knows of him including his true form, but the world leaders appear to be personally aquinted with him as well.
  • Robotic Reveal: In "The Doctor Prescribes Doom", Spider-Man accidentally knocks Robbie Robertson out of the window. Upon crashing to the ground, he is revealed to be a robot duplicate of the real Robbie Robbertson, but Spider-Man is unaware of this and believes he killed Robbie Robertson before meeting the real Robbie and finding that he's the genuine article when he tears off his shirt to try and expose his mechanical insides.
  • Rogues' Gallery Transplant:
    • Doctor Doom is featured as a recurring villain in the series with no mention ever made of his usual enemies the Fantastic Four.
    • Spider-Man fights Magneto in the episode "When Magneto Speaks...People Listen", with Magneto's usual enemies the X-Men being nowhere in sight.
    • Spider-Man deals with the Wizard, a Fantastic Four villain, in "Under the Wizard's Spell".
  • The Scapegoat: "Arsenic and Aunt May" establishes that a lot of criminals know Spider-Man started fighting crime the night Ben Parker was killed by the unnamed burglar. As a result, that guy isn't very popular among those that Spidey sent to prison, but they also hate the Burglar's cousin just by association and will vent any frustration towards him.
  • Secret-Keeper: Spider-Man shows Medusa the face under the mask, as a show of trust. She refuses to look out of respect for his secret, so it's actually averted.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "Dr. Doom, Master of the World", an elderly pilot retorts to Spider-Man's remark about his beat-up plane by asking if he was expecting the Starship Enterprise. The end of the episode also has Peter Parker ask Betty Brant if she'd like to see a movie about a super-guy from another planet who is allergic to green rocks.
    • In "Curiosity Killed the Spider-Man" a bespectacled man who looks exactly like Clark Kent is using a phone-booth and Spider-Man remarks that he looks familiar.
    • "The Incredible Shrinking Spider-Man" features at least two iconic moments from the Richard Matheson book in which Spider-Man encounters a cat and a Black Widow spider.
  • Spin-Off: Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, a concurrently airing series which had Spider-Man team up with Iceman of the X-Men and an original character named Firestar (who later made it into the comics). In spite of a few minor discrepancies between the two series, it is generally believed to be in the same continuity.
  • Story Arc: Dr. Doom's five appearances form a loose story arc, as Spider-Man thwarts his multiple attempts to take over the world and learns of the growing rebellion effort in Latveria.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Magneto ends up escaping Spider-Man at the end of the episode "When Magneto Speaks...People Listen".
  • With Friends Like These...: "The Doom Report" opens with a rebel leader escaping captivity. The man in charge of the site is an old friend of Doom's and profusely apologizes for this. Though acting conciliatory, Doom blasts the floor under the guy's feet to send him into the dungeon, saying he would've done worse if the guy wasn't an old friend.