I Watched: Spider-Man (1981)

The Spider-Man cartoon from 1981 seemed like a good choice for my next series, with twenty-six episodes it did well as something to watch while eating my breakfast. The show has a collection of villains, some of which were well known while others were quite obscure.

This version of the wall crawler didn’t have an overarching plot. Dr Doom was a recurring villain whose story connected to his other episodes but every episode felt like it’s own thing. Peter Parker had a bit of consistency with events like when Aunt May went on holiday it meant she was away for a few episodes but there was nothing big that a viewer had to follow. Spider-Man doesn’t get any development in using his skills as he can just do whatever he’s trying (including cocooning, ballooning and creating diving bells), there’s no character growth for the established hero, he’s even met most of the villains already.

Animation at this point must not have been very developed as action scenes are slow and the whole programme has a sort of old Scooby-Doo feel to it, including a lighthearted tone which never made Spidey feel heroic but was nice to sit through. Adding to the Saturday morning cartoon feel were scene transition screens with dynamic music, to watch it you’d realise how family friendly the show is.

We get plenty of appearances from other characters who’s cameos are relevant to their individual episodes, thankfully you don’t need much backstory or knowledge of them to understand what’s going on. Namor, Captain America and Medusa (the Inhuman) all show up. There’s even an unnamed guy that Peter Parker recognises who looked like an animated Clark Kent which is definitely interesting.

Spider-Man 1981 is a consistently enjoyable show that’s low quality but fun. Ideas are explored that I haven’t seen much elsewhere like Aunt May’s hatred of Spider-Man and the Parker family poverty, Spider-Man paying fines for misdemeanours or going to the doctor with a cold, Jameson’s nephew Mortimer is Peter’s main reporter rival and Betty Brant is the love interest. The show goes to weird amounts of effort in some areas but is lacking in others.

I can recommend this one as a fun watch for Spider-Man fans, just don’t expect anything too serious.


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