TV URBAN LEGEND: There was almost a TV crossover of Spider-Man and the Hulk.
Most everyone reading this column is quite familiar with the hit TV series from the late 1970s and early 1980s called The Incredible Hulk, right?
Starring Bill Bixby as David Bruce Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, it adapted the Marvel comic book series but threw in a whole lot of the hit TV series, The Fugitive, into the mix and was a great success.
Less famous, but also briefly quite successful, was the Amazing Spider-Man TV series starring Nicholas Hammond as Peter Parker.
It lasted two seasons (but only 13 episodes) from 1977 through 1979. It was one of the first casualties of the idea of “demographics,” as its ratings were pretty good, but were driven heavily by children, which was not the sought-after demographic at the time (nor is it the sought-after demographic today). Coupled with the high cost of the series and the fact that the ratings were on a significant downward trend, the show was canceled.
However, there was almost a reunion of both shows in 1984!
Lou Ferrigno recounted the story in his 2003 biography, My Incredible Life As the Hulk. He recounted the following interview Hammond gave to SFX Magazine:
“I used to know Bill Bixby quite well in those days. Anyhow, we used to speak on the phone once in awhile, and we talked about the problems the Hulk series had ran into and why SPIDER-MAN didn’t work. Bill asked me during one of these conversations would I play the part again. My response was only if I could have more control over the character, I wanted to make him more humorous and was interested in doing more of the physical stuff. I felt one of the problems with the series was that the Peter Parker applied and the Spider-Man, who was played by a stuntman, were so opposite and lots of the believability of the character was lost. Bill liked my ideas and said that he would let me know if anything came up.
“About three weeks to a month later, I got a phone call from Bill saying that he had spoken to screenwriter Ron Satlof and he was close to setting up a deal with Columbia Television to start work on a project which featured both Spider-Man and the Hulk. Bill was going to direct, and I was to have writing credits with Stan Lee and Ron Satlof. One of the main problems early on though, was Universal Television weren’t prepared to let Columbia have use of the Hulk character and this took a while. Eventually Bill phoned again saying that both networks came to a deal to co-produce the tele-movie with Universal having the rights to screen.
“Things started moving quickly and we got most of the technical crews from both original series on board and the movie had air date of spring 1984. I was very excited because work had been tight, and as Bill said, this could open doors on the acting front. I also loved the character. Bill was also keen to do it because his private life was in something of a limbo and directing the movie would have really taken his mind off things. The most impressive thing about the movie was to be the costume I was going to wear. It was to be the black costume used in the comics around this time, and it looked a lot better than the one in the TV series.
“Just as everything was running smoothly, Bill phoned again. ‘Hi, it’s Bill, Nick. I’ve got some bad news. The project has been cancelled. Lou is unavailable, Universal won’t do the movie without Lou.’ Lou Ferrigno was in Italy making a Hercules movie and wouldn’t be available to make the movie and they weren’t prepared to wait for him. Personally, I have always thought that this was Universal’s own way of cancelling the project. If they had just left it to Columbia, it would have got made easily. I was a bit upset because I was looking forward to doing it again and the script was good, and I never got the chance to work with Bill. A shame really.”
Ferrigno then noted that no one had ever actually contacted him about the project, so he presumed that it really was a case of Universal just not being interested in doing a joint project. It is interesting to note that New World (who took over from Universal) eventually DID bring the Hulk back in a series of TV movies and they DID involve teaming the Hulk up with other Marvel heroes, just ones that New World licensed the TV rights to, so they would not have to split the money (and control) with another studio. They could do what they wanted with Thor and Daredevil (the two heroes they licensed for the movies).
Can you even IMAGINE how crazy that project would have been? And a black suit Spider-Man would actually have totally worked with the style that the shows were going for back then (see Daredevil’s costume on the Hulk TV movie).
The legend is…
STATUS: Apparently True
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