HEY YOU GUYSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! If you are old (like me) you remember the opener that signaled the beginning of many a child’s (mine included) fascination with the wall crawler. Was it artistic brilliance or just not enough TV to choose from? Get ready, spiderphiles, for a foray into Electric Company Spidey!
I’ve had this on my radar to cover ever since my first year writing these posts. After the recent Spider-Jeopardy, I feel like this is the perfect time for this greatness!
So what is Electric Company Spider-Man?
Well, no discussion of Electric Company is complete without the signature opening line from Rita Moreno:
Let’s go back in time to 1971 – gas was $.40 a gallon, it cost a whopping $1.50 for a movie ticket, I was 1 year old, Disney World opened, and Richard Nixon was president. That last one being the most important to Spider-Man fans. Why? Because President Nixon was big on literacy and wanted the creators of Sesame Street to develop a show for kids a little older to teach them how to read. Thus, Electric Company was born.
They wanted a superhero to help them sell kids on reading, so they created their own – Letterman, voiced by Gene Wilder. It was not bad, but kids weren’t clamoring for Letterman Halloween costumes.
OK, it was bad.
It wasn’t until 1974 that they introduced Spidey. His first appearance wasn’t great, but still beat the low bar Letterman had set.
“Spidey Meets the Spoiler”
Folks, this one is so bad that even narrator Morgan Freeman and the Mark Hamill-esque performance from the Spoiler can’t save this one. Uggh. Of course, the “No Dogs Allowed” at the fire hydrant is a classic…. Well, the good news they can only get better from here.
“Spidey Meets the Wall”
So what is Spidey’s favorite baseball team? Everyone knows that one! If you don’t, be sure to pay attention as it may appear on the Cobwebs final exam in June. This is the episode that really raises the bar for these skits. Get ready for a true classic!
Morgan Freeman as the near-sighted umpire won an Oscar! (OK, that may be a bit of fake news.) It is, however, unequivocally agreed by critics to be his most accomplished role in filmography. I think all future Spider-Man writers should be made to study this one in order to understand the old Parker luck.
This one shows how Peter Parker was never a character in these skits. Spider-Man is just Spider-Man – 24/7. He even goes to baseball games in full costumes.
Bonus points to anyone who can correct spell out that onomatopoeia for Spidey’s first word balloon!
Unfortunately, there are no video copies of “Spider-Man Meets the Can Crusher”, which has maybe the best super-villain origin ever. As a young boy, visited a soup factory and dropped his pet frog into a vat of tomato soup. Years later, having never recovered from the loss of his pet, he goes to grocery stores and smashes cans in hopes of finding his beloved frog. Now that’s a Spider-Jeopardy waiting to happen!
“Spidey Jumps the Thumper”
OK folks, if you’ve stayed with me this far, here is where it pays off. This one has it all, great villain origin, costuming, and terrific one liners.
Doesn’t he know he shouldn’t talk to strangers! Ha!
This shows marks Spider-Man’s first live action appearance. The actor playing Spider-Man was Danny Seagren, mostly known for his muppet skills. He also played Big Bird a couple of times for Sesame Street. To get this gig, he pulled in his Children Television Network connections to get an interview. The big boss, Andrew Ferguson, told him to put on the costume and he would come back and see how he looked in it. Danny put the costume on and said he felt he needed to “knock his socks off” to get this job, so he climbed up on a filing cabinet and when Ferguson walked him, he jumped over him and landed on the desk and did a few poses. It worked! Ferguson said, “Oh my God! You’ve got the job!”
Seagren was professionally trained as a dancer and he credits that with his success as the character. He was able to make money off the deal besides just getting paid by Electric Company. He bought a suit for $300 and was able to be hired by shopping malls and such to make public appearances. He said that one time, between shoots, he was walking around the mall in his regular clothes and some little girl recognized him as Spidey. He said nobody ever knew who he was and still has no idea how that little girl figured it out.
“Spidey Meets the Queen Bee”
This one is awful, but I mention it here for two reasons – one, the number of “bee” puns that Morgan Freeman makes, and two, they just seemed to forget why they were even using Spider-Man to begin with. I won’t bring down the quality of this post by putting it here, but I will provide a link where you can watch it and provide another link where you can hear the Peter Pan Records version of this same story which includes Spider-Man talking (voiced by Jim Boyd).
Marvel gave the rights to Electric Company for free. Never asked for a dime. It was good publicity for them and getting Spider-Man on the small screen I’m sure was good for Lee as he was trying to move from comics into the film industry. The only character from the comics to appear in a skit was Spider-Man (there was a Sandman, but not the same one).
Finally, I’ll leave you with one of the greats! It’s got thrills! It’s got chills! It’s got monsters that sit on ice cream cones!
“Spidey Meets the Yeti”
“So why did he sit on a cake which isn’t cold at all? Because he is a very dumb yeti.”
Electric Company Spider-Man is actually canon, now, thanks to Spider-Verse! In one of the more memorable scenes from that arc, a Spidey references him:
In a completely meta-moment, the TV skit that was inspired by a comic book in turned inspired the creation of a new comic book – Spidey Super Stories. They gave Danny a free subscription to the comic version as a way of saying thanks. This one did include characters from the actual comic book series and each one of them is a classic. We’ve reviewed one on here already when we looked at Webby, the very first Spider-Man clone. Maybe a whole post is warranted on that series, but that will be for another day.
As a parting gift, here are the lyrics to that song that will now be bouncing around in your head all day!
Spider Man, where are you coming from?
Spider Man, nobody knows who you are…
Spider Man, you’ve got that Spidey touch…
Spider Man, you are a web-slinging star!
So who remembers sitting around the TV set watching these skits as a kid besides me?
Edlitz, Mark. “TV’s Original Spider-Man Breaks His Silence.” 13th Dimension, 1 Aug. 2017, Accessed 13thdimension.com/tvs-original-spider-man-breaks-his-silence/. 6 Jan. 2018.
Saffel, Steve. Spider-Man the Icon: The Life and Times of a Pop Culture Phenomenon. Titan, 2007.
“Spidey Super Stories.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Nov. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spidey_Super_Stories. 23 Dec. 2017.
“What Happened in 1971 Important News and Events, Key Technology and Popular Culture.” The People History, 2017, www.thepeoplehistory.com/1971.html. 28 Dec. 2017.