With all the talk in recent months about the new Peter Parker (the third feature-film incarnation of him), I thought we ought to go back to the beginning of his on-screen days. You may or may not already know this, but the first live action iteration of Marvel’s popular webslinging wall-crawler Spider-Man was on the PBS learning show The Electric Company in the ’70s.
The Electric Company was a way for kids to learn how to read and understand language, but they also had these weird sketches that had very little to do with them, as evidenced by the above Spider-Man vignette.
They did several of these between 1974 and 1977, but I think this one, “Spider-Man Up Against The Wall” is my favorite, for sheer silliness. There are many reasons to love this. Here are mine:
1) That “comic book” looks like a hastily-produced coloring book my mom bought me at the supermarket. Those ones that only marginally resemble the characters, but it’s like 99 cents, so what the hell? Pre-licensing rights fiasco.
2) The title. It sounds like a Movie of the Week but with a superhero in it.
3) I know he’s from Queens, but I have a hard time believing Spider-Man would be a Mets fan. I’m not sure why. And he sure does think-cheer very loudly. Him thinking sounds like someone rubbing a penny on corduroy pants.
4) What is the deal with the lady to Spider-Man’s left in the opening illustration? It’s like Heath Ledger’s Joker got dolled up and went to a baseball game.
5) The Wall is maybe the best non-villain ever conceived. This is literally the one an only scenario where he could do even a modicum of harm. It’s like his whole life has been leading to this one, single moment.
6) What sort of chemistry experiment would turn someone into a 3×4 foot, fully realized brick wall?
7) What is Spider-Man looking at? The first time we see him as a guy in a suit, he’s really enthralled in whatever he’s watching, but all the painted people behind him are looking in a completely different direction. The mask apparently impairs eyesight.
8) Spidey’s “favorite player.” The Mets were in such dire straits in the ’70s that they’d let a nearsighted drunk rambling incoherently play professional baseball?
9) The Wall hates the Mets almost as much as people not in Queens do.
10) The Umpire. Yes friends, that’s Morgan friggin’ Freeman playing the rule book-toting ump. He was on The Electric Company for all seven seasons, during his “get busy livin'” phase.
11) No one can stop The Wall, except maybe The Wrecking Ball, The Dynamite, The Bulldozer, The Graffiti Artist, The Drunk With A Full Bladder…
12) Spider-Man can’t talk. Sure, he’s a weirdo in an ill-fitting spandex costume, but he’s still a comic book character, so he’d naturally talk in word bubbles.
13) Good point about the lack of mouth, The Wall.
14) What stops a guy who is made of bricks and mortar? A cargo net. Obviously.
15) The Theme Song. I love this the very most. Let’s take a look at the lyrics:
Spider-Man, where are you coming from?
Spider-Man, nobody knows who you are.
That could be a song about anybody in the whole world. Where are you coming from? Are we wondering where he just was? Or is it like, “Yeah! What’s your point of view, Spider-Man?” Nobody knows who you are. Of the 20 or so-odd things that are cool and worth singing about regarding Spider-Man, the fact that nobody knows who he is is only one step above “Clearly you’re bipedal.” Didn’t The Electric Company know that he does whatever a spider can — like go to Mets games? Spiders LOVE doing that.
There is so much enjoyment in this 3 minute clip. It makes me chuckle every time I watch it.
If you’d like to watch more of these delightful things, there’s a full YouTube playlist here. Let me know your favorites in the comments below!
Kyle Anderson is the weekend editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. He’ll throw a cargo net on you if you don’t follow him on Twitter.