"Spidey Super Stories" was a live-action, recurring skit on the PBS children's television series The Electric Company. Episodes featured the Marvel Comics character Spider-Man (Danny Seagren), which was provided to the Children's Television Workshop free of charge, and premiered during the season premiere of The Electric Companys fourth (1974–1975) season, show 391.
Stories involved the masked superhero foiling mischievous characters who were involved in petty criminal activities (such as burglary or assault). The cast of The Electric Company played the roles of the various characters in each story, with another serving as narrator.
Unlike other live-action and cartoon productions of Spider-Man, this version of the web-slinging hero does not speak out loud, instead communicating only with word balloons (Having a similar role to Clarabell the Clown of Howdy Doody), in order to encourage young viewers to practice their reading skills. This was done because Spider-Man was not drawn with a mouth. He also never appears out of his costume as Peter Parker and, given the series' budget limitations, uses his web-shooters sparingly.
The theme song that plays at the beginning and end of the shorts was written by Gary William Friedman. The lyrics are:
- Spider-Man, where are you coming from?
- Spider-Man, nobody knows who you are!
Approximately one dozen "Spidey Super Stories" segments were produced during The Electric Company
's 1974-1975 season, with another 12 or so during the 1975–1976 season and an undetermined number during the series' final season.
A 4-DVD boxed set was released by Shout! Factory and Sony BMG Music Entertainment on February 7, 2006, named The Best of Electric Company. It featured 20 episodes from 1971-1977 (D4D 34121), three of which contained Spidey segments.
A second 4-DVD boxed set with 20 shows from 1971–1976 was released on November 14, 2006 (82666-31014). Two of the episodes in this boxed set featured Spidey segments, however in several of the other episodes, the Spider-Man segments were edited out to minimize the appearance of the character because of rights issues. Episode 60A, from season five, which featured a Spider-Man sketch as the sketch of the day, was altered drastically from the version that originally aired on television.
On March 7, 2006, another DVD named The Best of the Best of Electric Company, a truncated version of the volume-one boxed set, was released (DD 31006).
- "Spidey Meets the Spoiler" (Narrator: Morgan Freeman) -- In the very first Spidey Super Stories segment. Spidey links a rubber glove sandwich and a no dogs allowed sign that hangs from a fire hydrant to the Spoiler (Skip Hinnant), a mischievous villain who aims to spoil people's fun. He demonstrates his evil personality by smashing a woman's (Judy Graubart) ice cream cone between a pair of cymbals. He later plans to spoil Spider-Man's day (purportedly so he can hear the world mourn, "The Web-Head is dead!"). However, Spidey is quickly able to defeat the Spoiler.
- Note: Spider-Man also appeared in the opening sequence of the actual episode (#391, the fourth season premiere), as follows: J. Arthur Crank (Jim Boyd) looks around for Spider-Man, but only comes upon Easy Reader (Morgan Freeman). Behind him, Spidey walks around. In the end, Crank never finds him and walks off, frustrated. Spidey: "What a yo-yo!"
- "A Night at the Movies" (Narrator: Skip Hinnant) -- At a movie theater, Count Dracula (Morgan Freeman) plans to bite the neck of an unsuspecting movie-goer (Judy Graubart). However, Spidey is able to foil Dracula's plans just as he is about to strike. The woman's boyfriend (Luis Avalos) arrives to find Spidey about to take Dracula to jail and tells him he is in his seat. However, the woman (who has been oblivious to everything that has gone on), tells the man to be quiet, "You'll miss the best part!"
- Note: Count Dracula (based on the Bram Stoker character) was a regular character on The Electric Company, appearing in skits with the Werewolf (Jim Boyd) and Frankenstein's monster (Skip Hinnant). It was episode 9B’s sketch of the day as well.
- "Dr. Fly" -- Dr. Fly (Luis Avalos), a mutated half-fly half-human ("and all evil") plans to turn the world's inhabitants into the same mutant hybrid. He carries out his mission by disguising himself as a vendor to distribute hot dogs laced with a formula of fleas and flies. Spidey saves a prospective customer from eating a tainted hot dog, just before trapping Dr. Fly in his web. A police officer (Morgan Freeman) subsequently gives Spidey a citation for operating a pushcart without a license (Spidey: "Why me?").
- "Spidey Meets the Wall" (Narrator: June Angela) -- At a Mets baseball game, a mutated wall-human creature (Jim Boyd) sneaks up behind outfielder "Gumbo" Grace Ivy (Skip Hinnant) and knocks him down, causing Gumbo to miss a routine fly ball (the narrator terms it "a cheap home run"). An ill-tempered umpire (Morgan Freeman) yells at The Wall, but is also knocked down. Spidey (who is attending the game) catches the wall, but is summarily ejected from the ballpark because no spectators are allowed on the field. The umpire even confiscates the Web-Head's scorecard. It should be noted that this also aired as part of the last episode of The Electric Company, episode 130B.
- "Spiderman Meets the Can Crusher" (Narrator: Morgan Freeman) -- A young boy visits a soup factory but loses his pet frog, which apparently jumped into a kettle of tomato soup. He has since become obsessed with finding his pet frog. As an adult, the Can Crusher (Jim Boyd, sporting a Don King-type hairdo and wearing a black jumpsuit) visits supermarkets to find the can where his beloved frog may be; he causes a disturbance when he destroys cans in his vain effort. Spidey is called on to stop one such disturbance, but is defeated.
- "Spidey Meets the Funny Bunny" (Narrator: Morgan Freeman) -- A woman dressed in an Easter Bunny costume (Judy Graubart) sets out to steal other children's Easter baskets, in retribution for a bully having intentionally damaged her own basket years earlier. She plans to disrupt the annual Easter Egg roll at the White House. However, Spidey is tipped off and sets a trap that catches the un-Funny Bunny.
- Note: The role of the president is played by Melanie Henderson, who is believed to be one of the first African-American actresses to play the role of a U.S. president on television. See: List of fictional United States Presidents'.
- "Meet Dr. Fright" (Narrator: Hattie Winston) -- Dr. Fright (Skip Hinnant) has a face so frighteningly ugly that he conceals it beneath an oversized top hat. He uses this to his advantage, revealing his face to unsuspecting victims; after they become frozen in fright, he is easily able to confiscate their wallets and other valuables. He plans to freeze Spidey so he cannot interfere in his criminal activities. However, Spidey freezes Dr. Fright after holding a mirror up as he reveals his face, allowing Spidey to take the villain into custody.
- "Meet Mr. Measles" (Narrator: Jim Boyd) -- The fiendish Mr. Measles (Skip Hinnant)—armed with a large bag of measles-causing spots—plans to spread a worldwide measles epidemic. He infects several people, requiring them to spend 10 days in bed (Mr. Measles: “In the dark! No books! No magazines! Nothing to read!”), by which time he expects to infect everyone and thus allow him to gain autocratic rule. While Spidey catches Mr. Measles before a large-scale outbreak happens, the villain gets a moral victory: Spidey becomes ill with the measles.
- Note: Watch very closely at the beginning of the sketch just as the page turns...on the lower right of page one, you will spot (for one second) the ending of the story where Spidey is in the hospital, sick with measles, being cared for by the nurse. This is the same panel that will close the story. Also when Spidey shouts the word "Stop", it just stays there for the rest of the story.
- "Spidey Jumps The Thumper" (Narrator: Judy Graubart) -- The Thumper (Hattie Winston), who fancies herself as Napoleon Bonaparte, gets revenge on innocent people because she didn't get a yellow pony for her 8th birthday. After assaulting two citizens (Luis Avalos and Skip Hinnant) by hitting them over the head with an oversized boxing glove, Spidey manages to nab The Thumper (but only after he, too, is thumped). As he regains his senses, he realizes who his enemy is. The Thumper is standing over him laughing. Spidey then coils back to sling his web. The Thumper notices this, gasps and slowly begins a wind-up to thump him again but, Spidey launches the web onto her before she's able to. The Thumper's attempt to bribe Spidey by offering to "give him anything" after she is captured falls on deaf ears.
- "Spidey and the Queen Bee" (Narrator: Morgan Freeman)-- A half-human half-bee mutant named The Queen Bee (Hattie Winston) plots to rule the world; her underlings are also mutated bee-human creatures (played by Skip Hinnant and Jim Boyd). Spidey tracks her down and foils her plans by webbing her minion, "The Beekeeper" (Luis Avalos), but the other mutated bee-humans sting Spidey repeatedly while she escapes.
- "Little Miss Muffett" -- Based on the nursery rhyme. Spidey comes to the rescue of the title character (Hattie Winston) after a large spider terrorizes her. However, Spidey and the spider (a large prop) become friends, as Miss Muffett leaves in disgust.
- "The Bookworm" -- Easy Reader (Morgan Freeman) is helping his friend, Valerie (Hattie Winston) sort books at the library, when they suddenly notice large holes in the books. They suspect that a large bookworm (a purple- and green-striped sock puppet) is behind the damage. Easy Reader and Valerie try to beat back the oversized worm by throwing books at it, but it continues to advance on the pair. Spidey arrives in time and eventually catches the Bookworm in his web; however, it manages to crawl through the web and escape.
- "The Birthday Bandit" (Narrator: Luis Avalos) -- The Birthday Bandit (Jim Boyd), dressed in a multi-colored suit, steals birthday party items (e.g, cake, ice cream, balloons, etc.) from a home, telling what he's doing in Dr. Seuss-style rhyme. Spidey, who is trying to enjoy a rare day off, learns of the theft from a news report on the radio and investigates. Meanwhile, The Birthday Bandit shows up later at another home, concluding that an oversized cake is a trap set by Spidey. Spidey shows up to catch The Birthday Bandit and spends the rest of the day in his birthday suit ... doing laundry.
- "Spidey Meets the Prankster" (Narrator: Skip Hinnant) -- Spidey is visiting his friends, the Short Circus, at school when several practical jokes by an unknown culprit develop (e.g., squiggly snakes pop out of textbooks; a chocolate pie baked in Home Economics class has been replaced by a mud pie; a telephone receiver has been glued onto the base). Spidey eventually links the pranks to Principal Prescott (Jim Boyd), who after his capture admits he was frustrated by a series of recent pranks by the Short Circus and only wanted to get even. The teen-agers, with crossed fingers, promise not to pull any more pranks, but one of them (Rodney Lewis) quickly glues Principal Prescott's hand to a door knob. This was also episode 60A's sketch of the day.
- "Spidey Meets the Blowhard" (Narrator: June Angela) -- A man dressed in a tuxedo and cape (Luis Avalos), who fancies himself as the Big Bad Wolf, plots revenge on Fargo North, Decoder (Skip Hinnant) after the detective foiled his plans to blow down Trenton, New Jersey. Meanwhile, Fargo's friends -- Spidey, Easy Reader (Morgan Freeman), Jennifer of the Jungle (Judy Graubart) and Paul the Gorilla (Jim Boyd) -- plan a surprise birthday party for their friend. Later, when Fargo is asked to blow out the candles, The Blowhard crashes the party to enact his revenge. However, Spidey (with some help from Paul) is quickly able to capture the villain. The episode ends with Spidey and Paul shopping for another cake, since Paul used the original to stun the Blowhard.
- "Who Stole the Show?" (Narrator: Todd Graff) -- A former child star named Winky Goodyshoes (Hattie Winston) bemoans her inability to find suitable work. Later, she steals the props and costumes from an auditorium, where a dress rehearsal is in progress. Spidey catches Winky before she can literally move the show too far off-Broadway. However, the cast of the production remembers the former child star and they offer her a chance to star in the show -- as the villain!
- Note: This sketch features a flashback scene of the villain's childhood, with Short Circus member Réjane Magloire making a cameo appearance as the young Winky.
- "Spidey Meets the Yeti" (Narrator: Todd Graff) -- An abominable snowman-type creature (Jim Boyd) becomes homesick after wandering away from his home in the Frozen North, and sits on various cold items to help him cope (including a cake with icing, thinking it to be made of ice). Spidey sets a trap to catch the Yeti, after which a policeman (Morgan Freeman) wants to take him into custody. However, Spidey successfully persuades the policeman (who was one of the Yeti's victims) to let him take him back home.
- "Spidey Meets the Mouse" (Narrator: Janina Mathews) -- A college student (Skip Hinnant), upset over an errant order at McDonald's that left the cheese off his Big Mac, dons a giant mouse costume and steals cheese from wherever he can. Spider-Man eventually snares him in a trap set for the cheese-craving Mouse.
- "Spidey Meets the Sitter" -- More than 15 years before Mrs. Doubtfire came along, a young man (Luis Avalos) decides it would be fun to don an old lady's wig and dress, in order to take jobs as a baby-sitter. But unlike the Robin Williams character, who seeks employment as a nanny, this man was just your ordinary burglar looking for easy opportunities to steal things. Which is exactly what he does...until he makes the mistake of trying to take a job watching someone's baby (Short Circus members June Angela and Janina Matthews had already been hired). The thief locks the teenaged girls in a closet while he goes about his work, but Spidey shows up to foil the faux-granny. Spidey sticks around to help with the baby-sitting job.
- "Spidey Fixes the Hum" (Narrator: June Angela) -- An aspiring rock star named David Dinger (Luis Avalos) from rock 'n' roll's earliest days fails to remember the words to his songs. To salvage his act, he simply hummed the song. His concert is enthusiastically received, critics dub him the Hum Dinger, and he gains a huge fan following during the rest of the 1950s. But by 1960, the major hits stop coming for Hum Dinger, and he begins a career as an electronics repairman. As the years pass, he discovers he can defraud his customers by revealing phony hums in their televisions and radios, and – after making the unnecessary repairs –- leave them with an expensive bill. After several examples of his schemes are played out, Spidey is called on to investigate. Spidey eventually tracks Hum down at the home of another customer (Judy Graubart) and her son (Todd Graff), foiling him by leaving a radio turned on until Hum could no longer maintain his hum. Exposed, Hum admits that he missed his days as a rock star and was unsatisfied with his ordinary life. The customers remember Hum's heyday and –- with the nostalgia craze sweeping the nation during the mid-1970s –- decide not to press charges.
- "The Sandman" –- This is not the recurring villain from the original Spider-Man comics. A burglar named The Sandman (Luis Avalos) dresses as perpetual sleepwalker Wee Willie Winky to trick people into thinking he poses no danger to them. The faux nursery rhyme character sedates his victims by sprinkling magic sand on them, allowing for an easy robbery. Later, The Sandman happens upon a dance hall, where a grand gala is taking place (nearly the entire cast). Seizing the huge opportunity, he sprinkles his sand on everyone, causing the formally dressed party-goers to literally fall asleep on their feet and allowing The Sandman to clean up. Moments later, Spidey arrives and initially fails to notice something is wrong. He sees a pile of sand the villain had inadvertently left behind, and after he investigates it, falls asleep. Spidey eventually awakens and tracks down The Sandman, eventually nabbing him by using The Sandman's favorite device against him. Once the Sandman succumbs to the sand's effects, he is easily taken into custody.
- "Spidey Meets The Tickler" (Narrator: Hattie Winston) -- Years before Last Comic Standing gave Americans an opportunity to hear the worst jokes by amateur comedians, the Tickler (Luis Avalos) made his bid for national stardom at nightclubs. However, his clichéd jokes fail to impress the audience, leaving the Tickler very bitter and sans a career. So, after dressing as legendary hero William Tell and attaching feathers to his fingers, he begins pestering pedestrians with his bad jokes. When they refuse to laugh, he forces them into uproarious laughter by tickling them with his feathers; as they try to contain themselves, the Tickler helps himself to his victims' valuables. Spidey eventually questions one of the Tickler's victims and begins searching the city for him. Spidey eventually corners the Tickler and tries to snare him in his web, but he runs out of webbing. Instead of using this opportunity to make his getaway, the Tickler proceeds to tell Spidey some jokes, and Spidey laughs. Encouraged, he begins telling more jokes...until he finds himself being arrested, allowing Spidey to have the last laugh.
- "Spidey Gets the Old One-Two" (Narrator: June Angela) -- Conk (Jim Boyd) and Bonk (Luis Avalos) were ordinary third graders until a bully stole their lunches. Instead of reporting the heist to the principal, they decide to turn to a life of crime...right after recess. The duo, dressed in black suits and derbies –- assault their victims (Conk using an oversized mallet to strike the head, Bonk a large boxing glove to punch the stomach), grab the victim's lunch and enjoy the contents. Spidey interviews several victims before he borrows Paul the Gorilla's peanut butter and banana sandwich to set a trap. Once Conk and Bonk are lured in, Spidey uses the divide and conquer technique to snare both villains in his web. Spidey explains to a confused Paul what was going on, and all is forgiven.
- Note: The method by which Conk and Bonk went about their work was a parody of 1970s-era Alka-Seltzer television commercials.
- "Spidey Meets Eye Patch" -- A pirate named Eye Patch (Skip Hinnant) is cursed with an evil eye, concealed underneath an eye patch. Anyone who is exposed to Eye Patch's powers (by his briefly raising the cloth and inducing its effects) are prompted to do the last thing they'd ever want to do. So, Eye Patch ventured into town and caused trouble, all for his amusement and financial gain. Spidey arrives to stop Eye Patch, but the evil pirate is prepared and flashes his eye at the web head. All Spidey can do is dance foolishly while the pirate makes his retreat.
- Eye Patch then flashes his eye at a pretty peace-loving flower child (Judy Graubart), but unfortunately for him, the last thing she'd ever want to do is hurt someone, which she does by socking him square in the cursed eye. As Spidey shows up to console the woefully remorseful flower child, Eye Patch is momentarily stunned and suddenly gets a whole new outlook on life. After the three become friends, they wish the audience peace and walk off together.
- "Spidey Meets Silly Willy" (Narrator: Todd Graff) -- Similar to "The Tickler," a failed clown named Silly Willy (Jim Boyd) takes out his frustrations on the hapless public with his inane antics. As passers-by (including Hattie Winston and Morgan Freeman) respond with laughter, he bobs them over the head with a rubber chicken and robs them of their belongings. Later, Silly Willy is hired to entertain a party for the uppercrust (again, nearly the entire cast), robbing the guests as they try to contain their laughter. Spidey, however, fails to see any humor in Silly Willy's act and –- after lying in wait –- captures the evil clown.
- "The Uninvited" -- As a youngster, The Uninvited (Luis Avalos) is the only child in his class to not be invited to a birthday party. Years of this stinging exclusion takes its toll, and he gets his revenge by inviting himself to parties and other events...of course, to rob the guests. One of The Uninvited's victims is J. Arthur Crank (Jim Boyd cameoing his signature role on The Electric Company), who is trying to enjoy his bath; the thief makes off with Crank's construction paycheck. After banter between Spidey and Crank (who thinks Spidey is weird for talking in word balloons), Spidey eventually extends a special invitation to The Uninvited – to jail, courtesy of a webbing.
- "Spidey after the Fox" -- The Fox, (Hattie Winston) is a villainess dressed in a fox costume. She prowls the streets looking to rip people off of all they have on them including their clothes. A man is standing on the street reading the paper. She sneaks up behind him, strips him down to his underwear and even steals the Sports section of the paper he's reading. Spidey finds out about this and decides to set a trap. He is standing on the street dressed in a trenchcoat, hat and dark glasses. The Fox sneaks up, strips Spidey's trenchcoat off and sees that it is actually Spidey in his usual suit. Spidey then flings off his hat and dark glasses ready to do battle. The Fox proceeds to try to punch and kick Spidey. Spidey blocks her attempts and then knocks her into a corner. While she's still leaning against the wall in the corner, Spidey launches his web and captures her. Spidey and a Police officer then drag her off while she's still kicking and trying to get free.
- "The Beastly Banana" -- (narrator (Luis Avalos)- Jennifer of the Jungle (Judy Graubart) is worried about Paul the Gorilla's recent weird behavior. She links his foul mood to some bananas he ate and thinks it may just be a case of food poisoning. If only life were that simple. The tainted bananas are actually the work of Morgan Freeman's signature Mad Scientist character, who plans to capture Paul and make him his personal slave and to abuse him in a series of experiments, not for the good of science but for his own amusement.
- When Jennifer sees Paul following a trail of bananas –- he picks each one up and eats it -– that will lead to his fate, Jennifer begs for a vacationing Spidey to intervene. Spidey follows the trail of banana peels and catches up with Paul in the nick of time. Just as Paul is about to eat the eponymous banana (one that the Mad Scientist had specially prepared to cause the simian to fall under his control), Spidey grabs the tainted fruit and throws it out. The Mad Scientist hears the commotion and emerges from his lair, but when he sees Spidey he tries to flee. His getaway is short-lived once Spidey nails him in his web. As they wait for authorities to take the Mad Scientist into custody, Spidey and Jennifer comfort Paul.
- An undetermined number of additional Spidey Super Stories adventures were taped during this season. Any help on providing episode information is appreciated.
From 1974 to 1982, Marvel Comics
issued a comic book called Spidey Super Stories
, which was aimed at children ages 6–10. A total of 57 issues were produced, written by Jim Salicrup
. During the early years, a comic-book version of one of The Electric Company
Spidey skits was included. A truncated version also appeared in The Electric Company Magazine
. In contrast to the live-action Electric Company
segments, Spidey often appeared out of costume as Peter Parker.
Every issue of Spidey Super Stories featured at least one story where Spidey would team up with an established Marvel Comics superhero to fight an established Marvel villain. This served to introduce other Marvel characters to new readers who were unfamiliar with the company's characters prior to seeing Spider-Man on The Electric Company. Most of these stories would feature quick origins, usually taking up a single page or less, of both the featured hero and villain. Guest heroes included Iron Man (on several occasions), Captain America, Doctor Strange, Shanna the She-Devil, Nova, and Captain Britain; guest villains included the Green Goblin, the Blizzard, Jack O'Lantern, and even Thanos.
Other stories in the issue would feature regular characters from The Electric Company, such as Easy Reader and detective Fargo North, with Spidey as a supporting character; conversely, the Electric Company characters would sometimes appear as supporting characters in the Spidey-centric stories. Supporting characters from other Spider-Man comics made regular appearances as well, such as Peter Parker's girlfriend Mary Jane Watson and the staff of Parker's workplace, the Daily Bugle, most notably editor J. Jonah Jameson.
All issues were declared easy-to-read by Easy Reader (an Electric Company character played by Morgan Freeman) in a stylized drawing on the comic's cover. To aid comprehension by young readers, the stories featured larger print and less complex stories than most comic books; in particular, Spidey Super Stories as a rule featured no more than four evenly divided panels per story page.
Marvel themselves parodied the Spidey Super Stories in a humorous issue of What If...? For two pages, an alternate universe is shown where Marvel had instead teamed up with the National Endowment of the Arts to produce Spidey Intellectual Stories, where Spider-Man defeats the Mad Thinker by debating philosophy. The Watcher notes that it "is for a [yawn] select audience, to be sure."
Spidey Super Stories also appeared as a special vinyl record in the 1970s licensed by Children's Television Workshop to Peter Pan Records. Included on the record are two stories from The Electric Company: "Spidey Versus Mister Measles" and "The Queen Bee." Other stories include Spidey versus an evil toy-wielding criminal called the Jester in "The Last Laugh," The Purple Pirates and Evil MacWeevil in "The Leader of the Pack" (which includes a cameo of Fargo North, Decoder), and Spidey's origin Story. Three other stories feature Spidey with members of the Short Circus, and Pedro and his plant Maurice fighting the Mole Man in "20,000 Feet under the Ground"; and the group tackling more traditional Marvel Comics villains in "Deadly is the Doctor called Doom" and "Spidey versus the Sandman." On the records, Spidey/Peter Parker was given a voice, but a picture of Spider-Man on the back utilized the traditional Spidey-talking technique of having his words in word balloons. Elements such as Spidey's spider sense and the spider tracer are used in these stories as well.