Spider Man is an interesting figure in comics. He is a comic icon, a character whose popularity rivals such figures as Superman and Batman. The character has spawned several different comics, over four television shows and three major motion pictures. Ironically, much like the character himself, the Spider Man franchise is defined more by its failures then it successes.
Ask a comic fan for his thoughts on Spider Man, and you will likely hear a diatribe about either the infamous “One More Day” story, or the “Clone Saga”, or the resurrection of some ancillary character. Mention the film franchise and be prepared for lots of complaints about the use of Venom, or the emo dancing. While these complaints might seem bitchy, the truth is they have a point. Spider Man is an institution with amazing highs and some very awful lows.
The character’s forays into animation are also riddled with success and failure. However, we here at Worst Cartoons Ever, are really only concerned with the failures. The failure we are most interested in debuted in 1999. It was the year that Spider Man the Animated Series had been cancelled. SAS had been the #1 show on Fox. It had managed to adapt the most popular comic stories for younger audiences, while at the same time revamping various characters that had long since become unpopular to comic fans. It did all of this with a low budget and constant conflict with Fox executives. Fox, not wanting to lose their viewers, however, decided to make a new series. This show would become the infamous Spider Man Unlimited.
Spider Man Unlimited arguably should have been popular. It came out the same year SAS ended, limiting the risk of losing an established fan base. It had flashier animation and the ever popular 90s strategy: a darker and edgier plot. However, it only took about 3 episodes for viewers to see what this show really was: a crappy retooling of an already popular franchise.
Spider Man Unlimited basically did everything it could to separate itself from SAS and the Spiderman franchise as a whole. The premise was basically: Spiderman accidentally boards a spaceship to a strange new world called Counter-Earth. There he fights a poor man’s magneto without the magnetism powers, called the High Evolutionary. He is supported by a cast of characters that can only be called rejects from the Island of Doctor Monroe.
What was the main problem with this show, you might ask? Well, it took the character of Spiderman and stripped him of all his supporting cast and his classic setting. Counter Earth is a poor man’s replacement for Manhattan. The new setting is basically a generic sci-fi local with random sections that try to emulate Spidy’s old stomping ground.
The new characters are also poor imitations of the classics. Gone is JJ, Mary Jane, the Osborns, Kingpin, Aunt May, and all the other characters that helped make the Spider Man franchise so great. In their place are two hulked out versions of Venom and Carnage…who for some reason are working together now, despite every other medium presenting them be enemies? The green goblin is now a heroic Hispanic guy who looks like a reject from some bad Disney show. In fact, the show often made use of Bizaro…I mean “Counter-Earth” versions of classic villains. What was their twist? They were heroes on this planet. How ingenious. I mean who doesn’t want to see all their favorite characters changed into completely different characters with blander personalities and limited to only one or two guest spots.
It’s needless to say that these changes were not popular. Every change the creators made seemed only to annoy fans. Even Spiderman’s costume was a flashier, but less interesting version of his classic suit. All these alterations and the lack of interesting new characters quickly drove fans away from the show, proving once again that a gimmick is not enough to keep an audience.
Spiderman Unlimited got cancelled before it even finished its season. Several episodes went unaired. And until recently the show was all but forgotten. Disney’s Jetix block has recently been airing the complete 13 episodes. So if you are curious about how bad this show truly was, you can find out for yourself.
Verdict: Spider-Man Unlimited might not have been so bad if it hadn’t been about Spiderman. If it had been some generic Sci-fi show about humans versus animal men, it might even have become popular. Instead it was seen as an insult to the fans of SAS and Spidy in general. The mere existence of this program is evidence that some networks think the only thing that makes a franchise is the title character. Spider-Man Unlimited is defiantly one of the great failures of the Spider-Man franchise, but thankfully the character is able to keep bouncing back.