A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spider-Man (also called Marvel Comics' Spider-Man or Spider-Man: The Animated Series) is the mid-'90s animated Spidey series. It's more like the movies than the earlier cartoons. It's dark: Villains aren't neatly trounced at the end of each episode -- in fact, nearly every episode continues into other episodes (which can be a problem, since they're not always aired in order). The action, while "comic book" in nature, is quick and explosive (sometimes literally). Characters often find themselves in moral quandaries, and their back stories -- which often involve the deaths of beloved figures like uncles and fathers -- are both described and shown. On the other hand, the difficulties of being a superhero (loneliness, fear) are also made clear, as are the characters' dilemmas ("I could save myself, but I might endanger others").
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What's the story?
SPIDER-MAN -- which originally aired on Fox from 1994-1998 -- follows Peter Parker/Spidey (voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes) from college through his early career and encounters with villains like the Green Goblin and Chameleon. Because each episode is part of a multi-part storyline, the action can be a little hard to follow (the episodes aren't always aired in order during reruns), and there's no expository catch-up -- familiarity with the Spider-Man back story and characters is assumed.
Is it any good?
This spidey series looks and feels more like a movie than a classic action cartoon. The plots are complicated, the scenes are cut in movie style, characters narrate their histories over flashbacks, and action interrupts conversations and prevents people from revealing or discovering things. It's interesting and complex -- a good introduction to the live-action movies that are more suitable for older tweens and teens.
It's also worth noting that this Spider-Man, like the one in the comic books and movies, isn't always clearly the good guy; he struggles with his identity. And other superhero characters in the series can be even more ambiguous. All of that complexity makes Spider-Man a fun world to enter into -- nearly everyone seems to have an alter-ego and a personal mission that drives them. In that way, it also serves both as a reminder that everyone has his or her own story and as an invitation to create your own.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Spider-Man more accurately reflects the original comic book Spider-Man than earlier series did. If so, what makes that the case? In what ways is it different from other versions of Spidey's story?
What messages do Spider-Man and his dilemmas send to kids?
How is Spider-Man different from other superheroes?
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