Everybody has a favorite incarnation of Spider-Man. Maybe you’re a Peter Parker purist and only enjoy his adventures on the page, or maybe you love Tobey Maguire’s take on Marvel’s eternal teenager. If you’re a little younger, it might even be that your favorite webslinger was played by Andrew Garfield in the Marc Webb movies. But there’s an entire world of outrageous Spider-Mans going way back to the wild times before the MCU when Marvel still played fast and loose with their licensing rights. These halcyon days gave us some of the oddest and most obscure versions of our friendly underoo-wearing hero, and we’ve compiled six of the strangest for your viewing pleasure! Don’t lose, Spider-Man!!
Japan’s Toei Company brought Peter Parker to life in this cult curiosity, arguably the strangest Spidey incarnation of all-time. From the incredible title song to the giant monster fights, this tokusatsu take is awe inspiring. Born of an age when Marvel granted wild creative freedom to their licensees, this tale includes a 400-year-old alien, a badass transforming mech ship (the first by Toei and later popularized in Super Sentai), and one of the best visual representations of “Spider-Sense” ever. With impeccable stunt work, a groovy soundtrack, and radically weird villains, Spider-Man ’78 is a must for Spidey fans.
The Amazing Spider-Man (1977)
Beginning as a made-for-TV movie, this live-action show expanded to a series and starred The Sound of Music‘s Nicholas Hammond as a college-age Peter. Aunt May was portrayed by a different actress in each appearance, and the pilot included a brainwashing suicide cult and some very Hand-esque ninjas. CBS phoned this series all the way in with hokey sets and laughable production quality, though that didn’t stop the pilot from being the channel’s highest rated program of the year.
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Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (2003)
This MTV original is one of the oddest animated incarnations of Peter and friends. With unbelievably dated ’00s character designs–including Mary-Jane and her one crop top that she wears in every episode–this CG monstrosity sits in the weird space between kids TV and “aimed at cool teens” animation. Looking like a never-ending cut scene for a video game that’s pretty much entirely based around an MJ, Peter, and Harry love triangle, Spider-Man: The New Animated Series is unique in its weird Gen X-ness. This one’s for hardcore Spidey heads or fans of the over-the-top CGI classic Reboot only. But at least it had Neil Patrick Harris as the voice of Peter. That makes up for a lot.
Spider-Man Unlimited (1999)
Originally conceived as a continuation of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, this largely forgotten kids shows jumped the shark almost immediately. Suddenly Spidey was in space dealing with some deep cut Marvel characters like Man-Wolf and the High Evolutionary, who’s busy commanding a horde of half-human, half-animals called Beastials. A strange reverse X-Men parable about humans fighting for freedom on a plant of animal-human hybrids, this cosmic cartoon is a stone cold curiosity.
3 Dev Adam (1973)
The first ever live-action Spider-Man appearance, albeit completely unlicensed, this cult Turkish action film includes some seriously silly pajama-style costumes, wild action sequences, and Spidey as THE VILLAIN with a bulletproof costume who must destroy any other hero who wears a mask! Making matters even weirder, he faces off against Captain America and El Santo–the famous Mexican luchador–in this B-movie classic. In one of the most memorable scenes Spidey puts starving rats into a tube attached to a captive’s face in the hopes that the animals will eat the man’s eyeballs. Yep, it’s just as amazing as it sounds.
The Electric Company: Spidey Super Stories (1974)
This PBS companion to Sesame Street saw Marvel’s first licensed live-action appearance of their friendly neighborhood hero in kid-centric adventures often narrated by none other than Morgan Freeman! Faux comic book panels mixed with live actors give these shorts a unique charm, and Freeman actually appears in one episode as Count Dracula. These educational PSAs introduced a generation of kids to the wallcrawler, even spinning off into a Spidey Super Stories comic book by Marvel that featured this indescribably perfect Thanos moment:
Also, let’s take a look at one of these vignettes, and puzzle at the theme song:
Where are you comin’ from?
Nobody knows who you are!”
Have you seen any of these Spider-Oddities? Which one will you be surfing the wild web to watch? Swing into our comments and let us know!
Images: Marvel, Disney, Toei, CBS, PBS, MTV, Fox