Sunday, April 27, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Spidey Super Stories!

"Spider-Man, where are you coming from? Spider-Man..."

If you grew up in the '70s and '80s, I'm willing to bet you mentally shouted out, "Nobody knows who you are!" By way of some background, in 1971, PBS started aired a series from the Children's Television Workshop called The Electric Company, aimed at helping kids read via comedy skits, etc. It boasted the presence of such luminaries as Bill Cosby, Rita Moreno, and Mel Brooks (as well as regular player Morgan Freeman before he became MORGAN FREEMAN). In the '74-'75 season (the show's fourth) CTW worked out an agreement with Marvel Comics to let them use Spider-Man (free-of-charge). Thus, we got Spidey Super Stories:

Yeah, so that's pretty much nonsense. But oh, what glorious nonsense!

What you see above is basically how every segment went down. Around five minutes long, random "villain" shows up at the start, silent Spidey (played by puppeteer/dancer Danny Seagren) saves the day via convenient word balloon (and animated webs). But those five minutes were like water after a long desert trek if you were five-year-old me. I'd wait and wait and wait and wait to hear that theme song. Of course, given that there were several hundred episodes of The Electric Company, and only thirty-ish Spider-Man segments, it was a crapshoot whether I'd see one, made even more random by the fact that this was Saudi Arabia where I watched them, and they'd just as easily cut stuff out.

Here's the Electric Company intro from year four, with Spidey added to the mix:

And here's another skit, with Spidey meeting Electric Company mascot the Blue Beetle (no connection to the other Blue Beetle), played by actor Jim Boyd:

(For more Electric Company Spidey skits, click here.)

Marvel also released a tie-in comic titled (originally enough) Spidey Super Stories published bi-monthly between 1974 and 1982 that lasted for 57 issues. That book didn't have a mute Spidey a la the TV version, natch, but it did use slightly simplified language to help the kiddies learn to read. I never saw that comic, as it had already been cancelled by the time I learned to read, but I did read the Electric Company magazine when I attended the American school in Riyadh, and that used to have five-page Spider-Man comics that I'd eagerly devour whenever I got a chance (here's the version of his origin that appeared in the mag).

Back then, if Spidey was in it, it was already a super story.

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