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"This is starting to sound like a bad comic book plot!"—Spider-Man
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 made Spider-Man movie that was never made.
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, 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: TAS 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 and SHIELD, plus concurrent Marvel animated shows at the time like Iron Man and X-Men.
By the time the higher-ups caught on to what they had been up to, the series had become the number one cartoon in America. In the end, it was vindictive internal strife between Marvel Studios and Fox Kids that led the show to be cancelled. The head of Fox Kids Network at the time, Margaret Loesch, had deep antipathy towards show producer Avi Arad and sought to put him out of business. By refusing to order more episodes after the initial 65, she effectively forced the show to be cancelled and, as she had intended, Marvel Films Animation studio went out of business. And thus, the award-winning, number-one-rated hit show was brought to a close all thanks to petty internal politics.
Nonetheless, the series' legacy lives on. The Saban Entertainment produced Spider-Man Unlimited was an unofficial sequel to this series (they don't really work together, but Unlimited premiered only a few months after this show ended, which led to some viewer confusion). 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. 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.)
Not to be confused with the similar named Spider-Man: The New Animated Series.
- Academy of Adventure
- Action Girl: Black Cat.
- Actor Allusion: Daredevil was voiced by Edward Albert, who had played a blind man over two decades before in Butterflies Are Free.
- Adaptation Distillation: One of the greatest examples of Spidey's trademark wit and snark, partly due to excellent writing and partly due to Christopher Barnes' fantastic delivery. Also, despite the heavy censorship, the writers still managed to incorporate the Punisher into the show (complete with laser guns, see above) and make him both completely credible and sympathetic. Similarly, Carnage may not be shown actually killing people left and right (merely "draining their life energy" for Mordo), he was portrayed as unhinged and callous enough that it wouldn't surprise you if he went on a rampage.
- The Black Suit Spider-Man storyline streamlined the whole arc from the comics so well that this incarnation is the one usually referenced for future adaptations.
- One particular incident of this was born out of mishap. When the series tie in toys were being made, somebody's mistake lead to action figures of The Hobgoblin being ordered instead of The Green Goblin. This meant that the show had to follow suit. However, this kept Hobgoblin out of Green Goblin's shadow, and allowed him to blossom more as a character until "The One True Goblin" could be properly introduced.
- Adaptational Badass: Electro. The comic-book version could be defeated quite easily for someone with his powers (controlling electricity) to the point where even Daredevil brought him down in their first encounter. The cartoon version of him? He brought down the entirety of S.H.I.E.L.D. single-handed.
- It probably helped that the cartoon version was literally a different person from the comics incarnation.
- One could also make a case for Black Cat and The Spot. The Spot, in particular, went from a C-list member of Spidey's Rogues Gallery, to an antagonistic (but not evil) foe of his able to run circles around Webhead.
- Scorpion. He was always intended to be a tough opponent for Spidey, but by the time this show came along, he had become more of a joke. This series presented him as a dangerous (if not intelligent) threat that was capable of smacking Doc Ock or the Lizard around.
- Affably Evil: How Kingpin is often portrayed.
- Alliterative Name: Jameson, of course. Added to in one episode where he goes back into action as a reporter to uncover the conspiracy against Robbie, and reveals that he used to have a Red Baron of "Jigsaw". Yes, J. "Jigsaw" Jonah Jameson.
- All of the Other Reindeer
- Alternate Universe: The final arc has versions of Spider-Man from several universes team up to stop Spider-Carnage from destroying all reality. There's the Scarlet Spider, a Spidey in Powered Armour that sounds like he's that world's version of Tony Stark, one with Doc Ock's tentacles, a mutant version, and most surprising of all, an actor from a universe where Spidey is just a comic character.
- Amazonian Beauty: Felicia Hardy starts out as an ordinary friend and classmate of Peter, then becomes the Black Cat thanks to a Super Serum based on Captain America's. As a result, her golden locks turn White-Haired Pretty Girl, she gains increased strength, acrobatic prowess, and reflexes (not unlike that of Spidey and Cap), her personality changes to that of a self-confident Femme Fatale (complete with a huskier and more sultry voice), and she grows taller and more muscular. This change in her physique is readily apparent thanks to the skin-tight leather Spy Catsuit Felicia wears, as well as her change from her civilian persona being accompanied by a quick Transformation Sequence where her body glows a pale yellow as her muscles grow.
- And This Is For: "THAT was for Aunt May!"
- Anti-Climactic Unmasking: Spider-Man is unmasked by the Insidious Six, but because he is suffering from Power Incontinence, they believe that it's just Peter Parker (whom Doc Ock knows) in a costume playing the role to try and save his aunt, whom they are holding hostage. Silvermane mocks Kingpin over this, accusing him of strong-arming some poor teenager because he couldn't find the real Spider-Man.
- Anti-Hero: The Black Cat is a Type II. Unlike her comicbook counterpart she only resorts to theft once to protect her father from the Kingpin. Aside from that it mostly comes down to her more reckless attitude in contrast to Spidey as well as nabbing a man's motorcycle in her first episode.
- Anti-Villain: Several. In particular, this is possibly the most sympathetic version Norman Osborn, especially as the series goes on to establish the dichotomy between himself and his Green Goblin alter-ego.
- The Prowler was a late-series villain who started off as a petty crook caught by Spider-Man and was given legal help to get out of prison and Powered Armor by the Kingpin (which could match Spider-Man in battle), all because he protected Kingpins' son while in prison. It was interesting because he had every reason to become a real villain (including a potential Create Your Own Villain grudge) but when the Kingpin revealed the armor was on an Explosive Leash, he sought Spider-Man for help in resolving the matter as well as redemption for his own mistakes.
- Arbitrary Skepticism: After Felicia is kidnapped by Doctor Octopus (the first time around), Peter gives his account to the authorities and... is promptly laughed at. Because in a world that has seen Spider-Man, the Lizard, the Scorpion, giant Spider-Slayer robots and various unrelated super heroes (who have their own super villains), how could a guy with four mechanical arms grafted to his body possibly exist?
- Another example is in "The Return of Hydro-Man", when Mary Jane is arrested by the police and tells them about how Hydro-Man was after her. They don't believe her for a second, despite the fact that Mary Jane being a former target of Hydro-Man was pretty damn well publicized.
- A less direct example is how, at some points, people would instantly decide that any villain that exhibits superpowers has got to be Spider-Man somehow. Most ridiculous how Felicia and the police decided that Morbius was actually Spider-Man, despite the two blatantly looking absolutely nothing alike.
- Ascended Extra: Alistair Smythe was minor in the comics compared to his father Spencer, but here it's the other way around. Ironically, many fans found him a much cooler character before he became the Ultimate Slayer.
- Ascended Fanboy: Armando Coria, the Mexican voice actor who voiced Spider-Man in the Mexican dub of the series, is a hardcore fan of Spider-Man since childhood.
- Asshole Victim: The Oscorp stockholders (Jameson, Felicia's mother, and Kingpin) have almost this by the Green Goblin due to them chewing out Osborn himself being responsible for the selling of chemical weapons.
- The true asshole was Kingpin, who forced Osborn to make the weapons in the first place.
- Ax Crazy: Carnage! He even lampshades it:
"Guess I could say you 'axed' for this, web-man!"
- 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 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.
- 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 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:
- 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.
- 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 "Dr. Strange".
- 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.
- 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: Spiderman occasionally talks with Bruce, the gargoyle. No, not that kind of gargoyle.
- Composite Character: Gwen Stacy never appeared on the show (save for an alternate reality version in the finale) because the producers didn't want to use a character who was dead in the comics, never the less Felicia Hardy looks and acts a lot like the Steve Ditko-era Gwen Stacy (reasonably wealthy, the most popular girl at ESU, and a bit stuck up). Mary Jane also seems to have a lot of the Romita-era Gwen Stacy traits (mainly being down to earth and being thrown off a bridge by the Green Goblin).
- 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")
- Crossover: Several, including one with X-Men and the Secret Wars.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Death Is Cheap
- Destined Bystander: Harry and Norman Osborn, Felicia Hardy, Michael Morbius, etc.
- Did Mom Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?
- Driven to Suicide: Miranda Wilson in "The Haunting of Mary Jane Watson".
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Well, who's show did you think this was? Spidey himself even Lampshades it more than once.
"It's always the same! I can save the world ten times over, but when I need help, I'm on my own! Thanks... for nothing."
- Subverted in "Day of the Chameleon." After saving the peace talks and swinging off, Spidey figures he won't get his due. All of sudden, Nick Fury himself catches up with him to congratulate him.
- 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.
- 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?
Kingpin: There is no profit to be made in the destruction of the planet. It's very bad for business.
- Earlier on, Alistar Smythe disapproves the Hobgoblin. He is even happy when he sees him betraying Kingpin for Osborn.
- Evil Albino: The Chameleon, Tombstone.
- 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." Wow.
- He's the Green Goblin, he doesn't have to make sense!
- 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.
- The Faceless: Shocker is never seen without his mask off - 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 the 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 "Framed", the Chameleon mentioned something about Peter's parents.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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 Catch Phrase 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!
Dr. Octopus: "Back off, you pea-brained, uncoordinated, absurdly-dressed excuse for a man!"
Scorpion: "Who are you calling 'absurdly-dressed'?!"
- 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. Morbeus was the one who stole the blood samples and operated the neogenic recombinator by himself in an unsecured lab.
- I Want You to Meet An Old Friend of Mine: Christopher Daniel Barnes, who provided Spider-Man's voice, and Robert Hayes, the voice of Iron Man, had previously starred together in Starman. Both were reportedly thrilled at doing a team up.
- 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 SHIELD. 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. Most notable the clones of Hydro-Man and Mary-Jane. The latter of which was a pretty big Tear Jerker.
- 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: Spider-Man himself.
- A lot of the other characters were Hammy was 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: Hydro-Man tries this in his first appearance.
"Did you say 'Hydrant-Man?' The dogs must love you!"
"It's Hydro-Man! And it's the last name you'll ever hear."
"For somebody new to this super-villain gig, you've sure got the cliches down."
- Also the Hobgoblin's reason for his mask, explaining it to be the last thing he intends his enemies to see.
- Laughing Mad: Harry Osborn, especially during his Villainous Breakdown near the end of the series.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
- After Robbie has been arrested for apparently masterminding a naval robbery (long story, BIG conspiracy), he tries to explain how he only remembers being restrained and knocked out after getting in a random cab:
Prosecutor: "Strange cabs? Knockout gas? Mr. Robertson, this is a court of law, not a Saturday morning cartoon!"
- When the Insidious Six is first gathered. While agreeing to team up with the other villains, Mysterio has this to say.
Mysterio: "The plot seems clever enough, the climax ought to be intriguing."
- Justified by the fact as a former stuntman he thinks in terms of a director.
- 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).
"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.
- 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 patch-work 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 Kurt Conners experiments.
- Missing Episode: Following the 9/11 attacks, ABC Family pulled "Shriek of the Vulture" and "The Final Nightmare" (both of which featured a burning skyscraper) from the rerun schedule. These two episodes concluded the Neogenic Nightmare arc and led into Season 3's "Doctor Strange", so you can imagine how displeased fans were. It wasn't until the end of 2007, though, that this changed. Toon Disney aired the two episodes as a part of an all-series New Year's Eve/Day marathon. As long as the show has been airing, the two episodes have been rerun regularly ever since.
- 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. I guess she can't stay mad at him.
- Mr. Fanservice: Pete's a pretty hunky guy here, and not just in the Nerds Are Sexy way.
- 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.
- My Name Is Not Durwood: Many people get closer to discovering Parker's true identity, but end up guessing it wrong.
Punisher: I think I know who you really are Peter Parker. [Peter Parker looks shocked.] The way I figure it, you're really the Green Goblin.
Parker: That tranquilizer must have gotten to your head too.
- 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 Spider-Man 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!.
- The rich, armored Spider-Man double has a giant spider-robot -- a nod to the Japanese Spider-Man Toku series.
- Nerds Are Sexy: Both Peter and Dr. Conners.
- Never Say "Die": In spite of the heavy censorship, there were a fair few actual deaths, and at least one spoken aversion.
"If you work for the Kingpin, why don't you wanna kill me?"
- Still, the show was pretty infamous for seeking to avoid every variation of "die" or "kill." Sometimes the aversion of the word death would take the dialogue into serious, yet unintentionally hilarious, terrorism. In the episode "Return of Hydro-Man, Part II", Mary Jane says, with all seriousness, "I just can't shake the feeling that when we find out what's wrong with me, it's going to lead to my destruction!" Serious intents or not, try saying that out loud and see what kind of reaction you get. This Mary Jane was later revealed to be a clone, and did indeed die shortly later.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In "Make a Wish", Spider-Man accidentally caused a new lab building to be destroyed while fighting Doc Oct. 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Spider-Man, natch. "Turning Point" probably has the best example after Spider-Man fears the worst for Mary Jane:
Green Goblin: (laughs) What's wrong, Spider-Man? No quick comebacks? No clever one-liners?
Spider-Man: You think this is a game, Osborn?! IT'S NOT!
- Ordinary College Student: Peter Parker, naturally. He even wears the uniform.
- Our Goblins Are Different: Green Goblin and Hobgoblin both appear in the show. However, in a reversal of their comic book incarnations, Hobgoblin is the original "Goblin" and Green Goblin is the "runner up". In the comics, Norman Osborn created the Green Goblin first and the first Hobgoblin managed to make off with some of the Green Goblin's tech and Psycho Serum. In this series, Norman hires the Hobgoblin, a hitman, and furnishes him with a costume and assorted advanced weaponry (a vaguely bat-shaped personal gliding unit and explosives, primarily) in an effort to wipe out the Kingpin. Later on, Norman is caught in an explosion in his factory, where he breathes in a Super Strength granting Psycho Serum gas and stumbles upon some of the weapons he created for the Hobgoblin, as well as a copy of the Goblin suit warped into a greenish color by the chemicals, thusly becoming the Green Goblin.
- Paint It Black: Again, Spider-Man after coming into contact with the Symbiote.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Wilson Fisk presented himself as a legitimate businessman as well as to his own criminal organization with no changes to himself, including his white suit. Spider-Man himself had tangled with him in his own base of operations (the top of a skyscraper that houses his legitimate businesses as well), but when Peter Parker personally met Fisk towards the middle of the series he didn't recognize him as being anything like the also 400 pound Kingpin.
- "Peter Parker" must pretend he doesn't know Fisk is the Kingpin in order to protect his secret identity.
- 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.
- 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 Armour: Iron Man and War Machine appear in a couple of episodes, and another arc has several alternate universe versions of Spidey, one of whom wears a high-tech suit of armour.
- 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.
- 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 Conners = Scotty, the Enterprise = Iron Man's armour.
- Self-Made Orphan: The Kingpin is about as heavily implied to be this as they could get away with. After emerging from prison with the skills and connections he needed to make a name for himself, he destroyed any records of his old identity and had his men bring him the father who sold him out.
Smythe: I knew you were ruthless, but this...
Kingpin: Sacrifices must be made.
- At the end of that storyline, Kingpin begins to express concern that his son will eventually do this as well.
- 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.
- Shout-Out: "I hate to borrow somebody else's line, but it's clobberin' time!"
- Taina asking Spider-Man about his powers has this gem:
Taina: Where did you get your powers? Timmy says you're from a dying planet and your parents sent you here in a little spaceship.
Spider-Man: I think Timmy has me confused with someone else.
- "Another swim in that chemical soup and your hair might turn green."
- "Now, if I can Reverse the Polarity of this thing..."
- "Who do I look like? The Tick?"
- In the first episode, Spidey rescues a traumatized construction worker who keeps repeating "The red eyes are following me!", to which Spidey snarkily replies "And let me guess, those red eyes were attached to pink elephants?"
- Sins of Our Fathers: A whole arc of episodes featuring Daddy issues.
- 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).
- 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...
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
Spider-Man: (to Eddie Brock) You?! I'll save you for dessert... (to Shocker) And you... You're the main course!
- 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!"
- 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."
- Two-Faced: Herbert Landon after his partial mutation.
- 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.
- 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.
- "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.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Spider-Carnage, an alternate version of Peter. He wants to destroy all reality, but he lost both Uncle Ben and Aunt May, as well as faced the possibility of his life being a lie. Being possessed by the Carnage Symbiote pushed him into complete insanity. Even Ben Reilly (who this Peter tried to kill) sympathized with him.
"Ever since that spider bit me, the world has misunderstood me and tormented me! Now, it's my turn. I'm gonna obliterate you all!"
- The Lizard in "Night of the Lizard" (at least when Curt's mind has control). His ultimate goal is to use the Neogenic Recombinator to transform everyone in the city into creatures like himself, but he honestly believes doing so will spare people suffering and pain. Also, despite his behavior throughout the episode, he still cares for his family.
Lizard: I can make people well again. And I won't stop for anything!
Margaret: Not even for Billy? You want him to be like you, too?
Lizard: My son. I have a son.
- The Scorpion. As mentioned in Body Horror above, he gets turned into a freakish monster and at best he reverts to the usual levels for the character: Stuck in a suit with a giant tail. To make matters worse this version of Mac Gargan didn't really want to become the Scorpion anyway, he was bullied into it by Jameson. Compare this to the comics version, who was perfectly happy to be experimented on with radiation for money.
- 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.