Spider-Man: The Animated Series Team Remembers the '90s Classic and Opens Up About the New Show That Will Reunite the Cast
The team behind the classic ’90s Spider-Man: The Animated Series is swinging back into action.
Spider-Man head writer and producer John Semper Jr. has launched a crowdfunding campaign for War of the Rocketmen, an animated series that will reunite the entire cast. The cartoon harkens back to the serials of the 1940s and tells the story of a secret team of Rocketmen who fought to save the U.S. from rocket-propelled Nazis during World War II.
“It was an era when it was very clear who the good guys and bad guys were,” Semper tells PEOPLE of the World War II era. Christopher Daniel Barnes (who played Spider-Man/Peter Parker in the ’90s series) adds that the series will be relevant given today’s political landscape.
“We have degenerated into such vitriolic factionalism that it would be really nice to say, ‘Remember what it means to just all be together?’ ” says Barnes.
Semper, Barnes and the rest of their team made cartoon history with Spider-Man, which ran for 65 episodes from 1994–98 and remains one of the best regarded animated comic book adaptions ever. The ambitious series introduced a number of elements now taken for granted as a part of Marvel lore – including the idea of the multiverse, in which alternate versions of Marvel characters exist in different universes. The final story arc for the series saw Peter lead a team of Spider-Men from alternate universes to combat a major threat.
“Each Spider-Man had a different personality. Chris is using the same voice, but he’s getting across the personality just through sheer, wonderful acting. For me that will always be one of the highlights of working on the show,” says Semper.
The series ended on somewhat of a cliffhanger, with it unclear if Spider-Man would ultimately find his beloved Mary Jane (Sara Ballantine), who was lost somewhere in an alternate dimension. Now fans will get the answers to that and more, thanks to the crowdfunding campaign, with prizes including a script for “Peter Finds Mary Jane,” which Semper describes as a lost (but unofficial) episode of Spider-Man.
Barnes, who was in his early 20s when he was cast in the show, says he’s still moved to meet adults who say the show taught them lessons about courage and doing the right thing as children. For him, the role was a dream job as a life-long Spider-Man fan, and he tried to capture the essence of both Peter and his costumed alter ego, making his voice slightly higher when playing Peter.
“When he’s in Peter mode, I wanted to emphasize the youth and insecurity and wonder,” says Barnes. “When I was in Spider-Man mode, I wanted to emphasize the push back of the heroic nature and the will asserting itself to overcome these obstacles the character has.”
Marvel fans are now used to seeing characters like Iron Man and Captain America (and with Captain America: Civil War, even Spider-Man) interact with one another on the big screen. But that’s nothing compared to the sheer number of characters Semper had available to him on his show.
“They were on the verge of bankruptcy, so Marvel publications exerted no control over my show whatsoever,” says Semper. “I had the entire pantheon of Marvel characters available to me, none of them and been parceled out yet to all these movie studios. So I could say, ‘I want to do Doctor Strange.’ ‘Great. Do Doctor Strange.’ ‘I want to do X-Men.’ ‘Great, do X-Men.’ ‘
One area Semper is particularly proud of is the diversity he introduced to the small screen in his show, which saw Spider-Man nominated for an NAACP Image Award during its first season.
“They noticed that I put in a lot of characters of color, which was a very rare thing on Saturday morning in 1994,” says Semper. “I had a lot of women in prominent roles. It was a huge honor.”
Click here to learn more about their War of the Rocketmen campaign or to make a donation.