Are you a fan of that 90’s spider- man cartoon ? Did you grew up watching ‘Spider-man: The animated series’?
John Semper Jr., Producer and Head writer of “Spidernan: The Animated Series” shares his unique ‘behind the scenes’ experiences and never before seen ‘character model sheets’ on his facebook page as a celebration of the 20th anniversary of one of the best spider-man iterations of all times.
He gives his thaughts on various interesting tidbits on the making of the series and also answers fans’ questions.
Some of them are as follows
(Note : of course I haven’t interviewed mr. semper or anything, I am just a fan wishing to share the treasure I srumbled upon the internet.)
Reason for choosing lizard’s storyline for 1st episode and to avoid a origin story.
THE LIZARD was, of course, the very first villain that SPIDER-MAN fought in “SPIDER-MAN:THE ANIMATED SERIES”. I didn’t want to start with an “origin of Spider-Man” story because I thought that would be too predictable, and I never wanted to be predictable. My first thought was to jump right into Venom, because he was being so popular at that moment – so I initiated a “Venom” story (since I hadn’t hired a writing staff yet, I handed scriptwriting duties first to Len Wein, a good friend and the creator of Wolverine). But our network guy actually made a good point when he said that we should work our way up to Venom, saving our big guns for later in the season (network executives rarely make good points, but on the elusive occasion when they do, I’m more than happy to hand them credit ) So what other villain should I begin with? There was so much political turmoil going on that time at our studio – with everybody having conflicting opinions about everything – that my course soon became clear. There was only one solution to cut through all the in-fighting. I would choose a pre-existing story from the early days of the Spider-Man comic that had a distinct beginning, middle and end (very few comic book stories do – story structure is not the strongest suit of most comic book writers). I chose “The Lizard.” That way nobody at the studio could argue about the validity of the story – because it was straight from the comic book and had been written by Stan Lee himself. And nobody wanted to insult Stan. So, that was one big hurdle I’d crossed. There was no legitimate reason for turning it down. The powers-that-be all had to approve it. All that was left was to squabble over the plot details – and there would be plenty of that before we were done.
Why they made hob goblin appear before green goblin and not other way around.
The short answer is that the first person hired as the head writer on the series made the decision to introduce the Hobgoblin first, for reasons that are only known to him. In fact, from what I understand, he was NOT going to have the Green Goblin appear in the series AT ALL! Based on his decision, an entire line of HOBGOBLIN toy figures was created for release just before the financially crucial (to the toy company) Christmas sales period. By the time my predecessor was fired from the show and I was hired to replace him, it was too late to stop the creation of the Hobgoblin toys. Despite my protesting and cajoling, I could not get the powers-that-be to agree to let me start off with the Green Goblin BEFORE the Hobgoblin, so I was stuck having to introduce the Hobgoblin first. Given all of that, I think I did a pretty good job of having it all make logical sense, but for comic book purists (like myself), I still would have preferred to begin with the Green Goblin. We all can agree, however, that the voice performance of MARK HAMILL did an excellent job of making the Hobgoblin fun and interesting!
More on Green goblin and ‘that’ internal monologue.
As for the Green Goblin, I think our depiction of him was perfect, and “Turning Point” especially was an excellent (and very literal) adaptation of the original, classic comic book story. Neilson Ross did a wonderful job as the Green Goblin’s voice. Bringing “Turning Point” to the screen with all of the excitement I felt when I first read it as a teenager was one of the high points of my career. Of course, in our show, it was Mary Jane Watson who fell from the bridge instead of Gwen Stacy. And she didn’t die, she was sent into another dimension. But dramatically, since Spider-Man thought she had died, it was the same result. Chris Barnes did an incredible job with the final soliloquy. It was bold of me to even have that soliloquy at the end. A solid minute of interior monologue with no major action — I’d never seen anything like that American animated TV before (the Japanese do it in their anime all the time). I miss the days of being able to experiment like that. Everything on animated TV today seems so hyper-action-driven and kiddie-oriented.
About the decision to intoduce and develop then-obscure character of felicia hardy.
Without question, the boldest decision I made in Season One of “SPIDER-MAN: TAS” was to introduce to TV and develop the character of FELICIA HARDY. She had been a relatively obscure character in the comics, with no definitive personality. I re-imagined her as an upper-class, high-society socialite, somewhat spoiled and self-centered, which was entirely new. Blonde and beautiful, as had been Gwen Stacy in the early comics, Felicia was an entirely different sort of character. Parker would find himself being alternately exasperated by her petulant, egocentric nature and yet completely seduced by her beauty and charm. And, of course, he’d be torn between his feelings for both her and the more down-to-earth Mary Jane. I also knew that Felicia ultimately would become her own super-hero, The Black Cat, who was another relatively obscure character in the Spider-Man universe at that time. With 65 episodes to fill, I kind of figured that eventually I’d have Felicia mature and take on the “great power and responsibility” of being a hero. I have to admit that I get a huge kick out of seeing how important The Black Cat has become. You can’t go to any convention these days without tripping over hoards of sexy young woman dressed in black leather jumpsuits with white fringe (I frequently take on the heavy task of having myself photographed with as many of them as possible. Hey, it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it ). I like to think that our series was hugely responsible for bringing The Black Cat to prominence. And I must praise the voice performance of the legendary voiceover actress JENNIFER HALE. Without her incredibly sexy, sultry tones, none of this would have worked.
About ‘The Venom Saga’ and including ‘black spider-man suit’ part.
The most popular characters in the Spider-Man comics in the early nineties were VENOM and CARNAGE, so we knew that fans were expecting them to appear on “SPIDER-MAN:THE ANIMATED SERIES.” I had originally intended to start off with Venom in the pilot episode, but it was ultimately decided that we should build up to his appearance. That’s when I came up with the idea of creating a rivalry between Eddie Brock and Peter Parker in the first few episodes leading up to Venom’s creation. By what I can only assume was sheer luck of the draw, the episode that introduced the alien symbiote, Part One of the Venom Saga, was animated by one of the best units at Tokyo Movie Shinsha, the overseas studio that did all of our animation. Consequently, it had elaborate, feature-film-quality animation. The Venom Saga was originally conceived as two parts. Part One (arrival of the symbiote) and what eventually became Part Three (creation of Venom) were written first. I argued that we really needed to do the middle “black Spider-Man suit” part of the story because the fans were clamoring for it. I won that argument, and I was allowed to move forward with a new episode featuring the black suit which we inserted between the two parts that had already been written. I think that if you join all three episodes together, it makes a really exciting 66-minute animated movie, especially with the first part looking so good. When writing Venom’s character, it was always hard to remember that he never spoke in the singular. He only spoke in the plural. The first thing I noticed in that flawed “Spider-Man Unlimited” series that followed ours was that they had Venom and Carnage in the first episode, and both were speaking in the singular. That’s how I knew right away that the writers of that short-lived series hadn’t done their homework.
About the rumour that bruce the gargoyle with whom spider-man used to chat, was named after bruce wayne aka batman.
One rumour that I come across from time to time is that “Bruce,” the inanimate stone gargoyle that Spider-Man occasionally “chatted” with up on the top of a building, was named after “Bruce Wayne” (aka Batman). That is WRONG. I named Bruce the Gargoyle after my late, good friend, Bruce Hepler who was an accomplished, Emmy-nominated film editor here in Hollywood.
About choosing right voice for peter parker/spider-man.
the saga of the creation of the show, the next important decision that had to be made about Spider-Man was his voice. Who was going to give voice to our lead character? These kinds of decisions are made by the joint collaboration of the studio and the network. After a long audition process, of which I admittedly played very little part, the choice boiled down to two actors, CHRISTOPHER DANIEL BARNES and BILLY CAMPBELL. Coincidentally, both of them had a prominent Disney connection. Campbell was the star of the live-action Disney movie, “THE ROCKETEER.” Chris Barnes had been the voice of the Prince in Disney’s animated film, “THE LITTLE MERMAID.” Barnes, was also no stranger to live-action. As a child actor, Chris had co-starred with Robert Hays in the TV version of the hit movie, “STARMAN.” Both Campbell and Barnes were excellent choices. At the time, since I was more familiar with Campbell and had been a big fan of “The Rocketeer” movie, I was probably more excited about the prospect of working with him. Fortunately, the decision wasn’t mine to make. I think, in the end, it was thought by the powers-that-be that Campbell sounded a bit too grown-up for the role. Chris Barnes was chosen to be Spider-Man’s voice. Since then, Chris and I have become great friends. He is a brilliant actor, a brilliant voiceover artist and a truly great human being. And I honestly couldn’t imagine anybody else in the role. For me, the absolute high point of working with Chris was in the final episodes when he had to play multiple “Spider-Men” from different dimensions, each with their own distinct personality. To watch him playing off of himself, talking to himself, but giving each character his own distinct “flavor” was truly awe-inspiring. I can’t wait to get him into the recording studio again for War of the Rocketmen.
Thoughts about spectacular spider-man series that came after.
I get asked from time to time what I think of the “SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN” series. Unfortunately, I have never seen it. A lot of you seem to like it and a few of you even think it’s better than my “SPIDER-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES.” My thought is that it OUGHT to be at least as good as or better than my series. Why? Because it had my series to reference (as well as several multi-million dollar live-action Hollywood films)! When you can look at something that precedes you and works well, and you can see how it works, you should be able to emulate that and even do better. The big challenge when we did my series was that we had NOTHING useful to reference. When I started working on “Spider-Man: TAS”, I watched every Spider-Man TV series that preceded mine (the Ralph Bakshi-directed “Spider-Man” series on ABC, which I had watched as a kid, the “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends” series, the prime-time Nicholas Hammond live-action series – even the Japanese one with the robot, etc.) and I quickly came to the conclusion that they were of NO value to me. I didn’t want my series to be anything like them. So, now I was starting from scratch. Think of all the decisions that had to be made which today we take for granted. Was Peter Parker going to have an interior monologue? If so, would it be in a regular voice or with filtered audio reverb to differentiate it from his spoken dialogue? And how much of it would there be? Were we going to opt for the John Romita Spider-Man design or the Todd McFarlane Spider-Man, which was being hugely popular at that moment? Would we do continuing storylines or one-shot half-hours? How much humor would there be? How much drama? How young of an actor would we cast to do Spidey’s voice? Would Spider-Man have a dog? Spider-Pup? (Just kidding!) Stan suggested that we do something called “The Spider-Man Diaries” which would be narrated by Spider-Man. “I’ll never forget the time I fought the Green Goblin…” etc. etc. I respectfully argued against that idea because, if Spider-Man is telling you the story in the past-tense, then it implies that he’s currently alive to tell the story, which means there’s no jeopardy. We already know that, whatever happens, he’s going to survive it. My point is that, creatively, I was venturing into brand new territory and that’s a nerve-wracking place to be. If one aspect of what you do is wonky, then the whole series gets thrown out of balance. Based on the success and surprising longevity of my show, I’d say we got it mostly right. As for “SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN,” they were able to start their show-creation process from the enviable position of having a precedent that already worked, i.e. my show (and those blockbuster movies – which also “borrowed” from my show). Their biggest challenge was to top it. For some of you, apparently they succeeded. Which begs the question, how can we explain the lackluster results of the several low-rated Spider-Man TV series that came in-between ours? Why didn’t they see what my series had done and build on it . “Spectacular” apparently did), instead of taking several steps backwards?
The cliffhanger ?
A “cliffhanger” is a term derived from the old movie serials where the heroine or hero would be left dangling from a cliff at the end of an episode. So, the use of the term implies jeopardy. At the end of “Spider-Man,” there was NO jeopardy. Nobody was in danger. We just didn’t show Peter actually finding Mary Jane. We implied that he would. We just didn’t show it. Now, if you REALLY need to see Peter find Mary Jane, then the following will make you happy…
“Peter Finds Mary Jane” is a “lost” script that I’ve written which will tell the entire tale of exactly what happened after the end of our show. It will be a free giveaway to anybody who donates to the crowd-funding campaign of my new TV series “WAR OF THE ROCKETMEN” which will feature the entire voice cast of “Spider-Man: TAS.”
What’s with that Stan lee’s cameo (probably first of his many that he and enjoys doing now) In last episode.
Back in 1994 when I wrote Stan Lee into the final episode of “Spider-Man: The Animated Series,” it was a unique thing — possibly the first time ever that he’d appeared on screen with one of his super-hero creations. Now, twenty years later, Stan has cameo appearances in all of the big budget Marvel movies and even in some of the most recent Spider-Man cartoon shows. So it’s yet ANOTHER Marvel tradition that I started!
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