During the ’90s, comic books were dominating Saturday morning cartoons. Shows like X-Men (1992) and Batman: The Animated Series (1992) were huge hits, while shows like Superman: The Animated Series (1996), Iron Man (1994) and Fantastic Four (1994) were met with mixed responses, but still have solid fan bases to this day. One of the more popular series at the time was Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994), which aired on Fox Kids, along with both X-Men and Batman: The Animated Series. While not as big of a hit as the other two, the wall crawler was still incredibly popular, and the show ran for five legendary seasons.
While X-Men and Batman were both known for their high production values, Spider-Man suffered from budget issues and censorship. The show was originally meant to have fully 3D rendered backgrounds, but they were considered too expensive, so they were only used part of the time. Also, to save money, much of the animation was reused, and not always in ways that made sense. The network also said that Spider-Man couldn’t throw any punches, meaning that fights often had to be awkwardly edited. The final result wasn’t a catastrophe, but plenty of mistakes and errors made it to air. Here are some of the most endearingly egregious examples.
15. VENOM CAN’T DECIDE HOW TO HOLD SPIDER-MAN
One of the most famous scenes from the show came during the first season episode “The Alien Costume: Part 3.” Eddie Brock had just been bonded with the alien symbiote, becoming Venom. He proves how terrifying a villain he is early on by not only besting Spider-Man in a fight, but unmasking him in public. Venom dangles the unmasked Spider-Man off the side of a building, while a crowd gathers underneath.
Jonah Jameson is in the crowd, desperately trying to use a camera to zoom in and see Spidey’s true face. As he looks through the camera, it appears that Venom is dangling Spidey pretty far away, with Venom not being visible in the shot. In other shots, however, Venom is holding Spidey pretty high up, almost face to face. Luckily, Jameson never saw Pete’s face and Spidey didn’t throw up from apparently bouncing up and down.
14. FARLEY STILLWELL DOESN’T KNOW HOW COMPUTERS WORK
This show’s version of the Vulture was obsessed with using an artifact known as the Tablet of Time to regain his youth. In the second season finale “The Final Nightmare,” his studies caught the attention of the Scorpion, who thought the technology being used with the tablet could return him to normal. Of course, instead of just talking to each other, the Scorpion attacks Vulture in his lab.
During the fight, Scorpion shoots acid at the Vulture, which misses and hits a computer. Farley Stillwell, a scientist who studied Neogenics, shouts that the computer has important information on it and tries to save it. Well, he tries to save the keyboard, which he pulls to safety while leaving the actual computer in the path of the acid. As a scientist, Stillwell should have at least some basic knowledge of the different parts of a computer.
13. DOCTOR OCTOPUS’ MAGICALLY UN-MELTING ARM
Based on his accuracy, it probably wasn’t a good idea to give Scorpion an acid-shooting tail. In the second season episode “Battle of the Insidious Six,” Scorpion is fighting alongside Spider-Man’s greatest villains as a part of the titular team. While trying to tag the wall-crawler with an acid blast, he ends up hitting one of Doc Ock’s arms, melting the end of it off. Obviously, this doesn’t sit well with Ock, and the two villains fight. That’s the problem with villain teams, they have no problem trying to murder each other.
The arm remains melted for the rest of the episode, except for several shots were it appears obviously unmelted. Animation mistakes like this were common, with damage to costumes often being inconsistent throughout episodes. Still, having part of an arm burned off is a huge injury for Doc Ock, and the animators should have caught this mistake.
12. VENOM SWINGS ON NOTHING
In the third season episode “Venom Returns,” Eddie Brock reunites with the alien symbiote and becomes Venom again, escaping from Ravencroft. He’s able to do this easily, and basically just bursts out of his cell and web swings away. The problem here is that Venom is shown shooting a web up into the air to swing over the gate, but he does so in an area where there is clearly nothing above him.
Web-swinging characters were often shown seemingly throwing webs up into the open air, with no buildings or structures to connect their webs to. It was usually forgivable, especially since most scenes took place in the city, so it’s easier to suspend disbelief. For Venom’s escape, however, Ravencroft is shown to be nowhere near tall buildings. It’s the most hilarious example of impossible-web-swinging, earning it a spot on this list.
11. BEAST CAN’T HOLD ONTO WOLVERINE
As popular as Spider-Man was, it was nowhere nearly as popular as the phenomenon that was X-Men: The Animated Series (1992). Since both cartoons aired on Fox Kids, the X-Men were able to appear in the second season episodes “The Mutant Agenda” and “Mutants’ Revenge.” The plot revolved around a scientist who is trying to create mutant soldiers for the Kingpin, and ends up capturing the Beast, who he traps in a cage.
During the final battle, Beast’s cage is dangled over a vat of chemicals. When Wolverine tries to save him, he’s knocked out and almost falls into the chemicals, only for Beast to catch him. Depending on the shot, Beast is shown holding Wolverine in completely different ways. Either Beast was juggling Wolverine in between shots, or the animators put the scene together in the wrong order.
10. ROCKET RACER IS REALLY FAST AT CHANGING INTO HIS COSTUME
One of the best aspects of the show was its willingness to dive deep into Spider-Man’s rogues gallery. This allowed for episodes like “Rocket Racer,” which included the titular character, along with Big Wheel. Rocket Racer lived in a bad neighborhood and has trouble with a local gang. By the end of the episode, Spider-Man teams up with Rocket to help bring the gang down.
Rocket fights off the gang in his street clothes, except for a bizarre segment where animation is used from a previous scene that shows him in his Rocket Racer gear. This makes it appear like he has the ability to switch in and then back out of his costume in under a second. Is this another example of cutting costs by reusing footage, or does Rocket have super costume change powers? Maybe he’s the Rocket Dresser.
9. CAPTAIN AMERICA’S EARS
Captain America played a prominent role in the fifth season, despite appearing in only a few episodes. His legacy played a big part in the “Six Forgotten Warriors” multi-part episode, where his old team reunited. Cap is eventually revealed to have been in stasis since World War II, and is brought to the modern world to fight alongside Spider-Man.
Once again, animation issues caused continuity errors. Captain America was depicted in his classic form, which was apparently too complicated for the animators. During a scene where he gives Spidey a pep talk, his ears alter between being visible and sitting under his mask. His gloves also change colors. This is usually a reason why cartoon costumes are simplified, to keep animators from missing key details like this.
8. DAREDEVIL’S VISION SHOWS THE WRONG ROOM
This show was notorious for reusing footage, which created a lot of continuity errors. One of the most jarring examples occurred during a two part episode that guest starred Daredevil. The show decided to portray Daredevil’s heightened senses by showing how he perceived the world. These “Daredevil visions” were essentially regular scenes with a red tint over them. During the second episode, “The Man Without Fear,” a fight breaks out Wilson Fisk’s mansion between the police and some thugs.
When Daredevil arrives, a shot is shown of how he sees the room. For this, the show reused a shot from the previous episode, “Framed,” where Daredevil fought some thugs in a warehouse. Since warehouses and mansions don’t look anything alike, this shot completely stuck out and made no sense.
7. SPELLING MISTAKES
Based on the constant animation mistakes and recycling, it’s not surprising that a lot of attention wasn’t paid to details. There are several instances of misspelled words appearing on screen, for example. During the Scorpion’s first appearance, he fights Spider-Man near the Daily Bugle, which has the words “Dail Bugle” plastered on the side of the building.
In “The Menace of Mysterio,” Spidey looks through Mysterio’s hideout, where he discovers plans for various buildings, including someplace known as the “muscum” (instead of the museum). In the reality of the show, Mysterio is supposed to be a master planner. It’s hard to take him seriously when he can’t be bothered to spell check. Unless the misspelling is all part of the illusion. You never can tell when Mysterio is involved.
6. REVERSING ROCKS
This list could have been made up completely of issues caused by re-used animation, which, as we’ve mentioned, was one of the show’s biggest problems. This is the strangest example, however, because it just doesn’t make any sense. During the episode “The Ravages of Time,” the Lizard smashes a wall and Spidey gets buried under a pile of rocks.
Then, amazingly, the footage reverses. It seems like this was meant to show Spidey throwing the rocks off of him, but that’s not what it looks like in any way at all, mostly because Spider-Man is clearly shown falling in reverse, and the rocks all fly straight up in the air. Granted, the fight is taking place near the tablet of time, so maybe this is just an effect caused by that?
5. DOC OCK RANDOMLY TELEPORTS OUTSIDE
In the third season, two-part episode “Make A Wish/Attack of the Octobot,” Doc Ock uses an Octobot to wipe Spidey’s brain and turn him into a villain (there was no brain swapping, but it’s still somewhat similar to the Superior Spider-Man storyline by Dan Slott).
In the cartoon, Ock wears a device on his head to remain in control of the octobot. When Ock gains control of Spidey, there is a scene where he attempts to unmask the hero. This scene happens in his lab, but certain close up shots show him with the night sky as the background. Since Ock is still wearing the headpiece in the scene, and he didn’t wear it in other episodes, it’s unclear if this is recycled footage or just a genuine mistake.
4. PARTNERS IN DANGERS
While the cartoon may have had issues with animation, it was ahead of its time when it came to writing. Unlike most cartoons, it featured season-long story arcs. Season 2 was dubbed “Neogenic Nightmare,” Season 3 was “Sins of the Father”, and Season 4 was titled “Partners in Crime.” While each episode would be titled something along the lines of “Sins of the Father: Chapter 3: Attack of the Octobot,” the individual episodes tended to stand on their own, with subplots eventually building up to an epic finale.
It was a really cool storytelling method that most cartoons shied away from. In season 4, “The Cat” and “The Awakening” were part of the “Partners in Danger” storyline, except they were mistakenly labeled as “Partners in Dangers.” Even the titles couldn’t escape the show’s error-filled ways.
3. SHOCKER AND VULTURE MAGICALLY SWITCH SEATS
Unlike the earlier seasons, which featured one season-long arch, the fifth season featured several multi-episode long arcs, the first of which was called “The Six Forgotten Warriors.” The storyline dealt with the descendants of the Red Skull teaming up with the Kingpin and the Insidious Six. Spider-Man teams up with S.H.I.E.L.D. and a team of retired heroes who fought alongside Captain America during World War 2 to deal with the threat.
During a scene where the Insidious Six are using a jet to escape from Spider-Man and some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Vulture is shown to be piloting the aircraft, with Shocker sitting next to him. Unfortunately, there is one shot where the image was reversed for some reason, and the two villains appear to briefly switch seats.
2. JOHN JAMESON TALKS WITHOUT MOVING HIS MOUTH
In a clever way to simplify Venom’s origin, John Jameson discovered the alien symbiote on the Earth’s moon in the first season episode “The Alien Costume: Part 1,” as opposed to Spidey finding the costume in a machine on the Beyonder’s Battleworld during the Secret Wars. Jameson, an astronaut, is shown exploring a crater on the moon when he comes across the ooze.
In an attempt to save money on animation costs, reflections of light on Jameson’s helmet obscure his mouth while he talks. There are a couple of shots, however, when his mouth can clearly be seen not moving. His voice can still be heard communicating with another astronaut, however. Maybe Jameson wasn’t just a skilled pilot and astronaut, but he was also an expert ventriloquist?
1. MARY JANE’S CLOTHES ARE CLONED
Spider-Man couldn’t escape clones during the ’90s, and the animated series was no exception. During the fourth season episode “Turning Point,” Mary Jane disappears after being knocked into one of the Goblin’s dimensional portals. She reappears during the fourth season, when she and Peter get married. Unfortunately, it’s revealed in the fifth season storyline “The Return of Hydro-Man” that Miles Warren used Hydro-Man’s special cells to perfect his cloning process, revealing that the Mary Jane who reappeared was a hydro-clone!
The strangest part of this very strange story, however, is that when the Mary Jane clone is formed, she’s already wearing the same outfit she always wore on the show (the yellow sweater/purples pants combo). Miles got her DNA from a hair sample, so where did the clothes come from? Was Mary Jane’s yellow sweater somehow encoded into her DNA? If so… where can we get some of those sweet, sweet genetic threads!?
What do you most fondly remember about Spider-Man: The Animated Series? Let us know in the comments!
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