Spider-Man: No Way Home thrilled audiences last Christmas with its inclusion of three live-action versions of Spider-Man, with former web-slingers Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield joining Tom Holland's Marvel Cinematic Universe iteration for a multiversal blockbuster, that celebrated 20 years of Spider-Man on the big screen.
However, despite featuring these versions of the character, No Way Home doesn't actually feature every live-action version of Spider-Man. Way before Tobey Maguire donned the suit, the character appeared in not one, but two television series, the first being the short-lived CBS series The Amazing Spider-Man (1977-1979) and later appearing in the Japanese TV show Spider-Man (1978-1979). Both wall crawlers were ultimately absent from the blockbuster, film but who where they, and why were they missing?
In the 1970s, Marvel Comics started to branch out into the realm of TV, with Doctor Strange, The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man receiving series pilots at CBS. The Incredible Hulk (1978-1984) was the only true success that Marvel and CBS found, with Dr. Strange (1978) not getting past the pilot stage. The Amazing Spider-Man’s success is harder to determine, with the show only running for two seasons. Whilst the show aired weekly when it started, a sporadic schedule, as well as a loss in ratings eventually led to the show's downfall.
The Amazing Spider-Man starred Nicholas Hammond as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, with the show following Parker’s heroic journey fighting crime on the streets of New York, while also working as a photographer at The Daily Bugle, under the watchful eye of J. Jonah Jameson (played by David White for the pilot, and Robert F. Simon for the rest of the series). The show’s first season consisted of five episodes, with the second featuring seven.
During the 1978-1979 TV season, CBS started airing the show infrequently and despite making changes to try to attract a more adult audience, it was eventually canceled, with it being said that CBS was concerned about becoming known as a “superhero network." The show never returned, despite attempts to cross over with The Incredible Hulk, and though having a fan base, it hasn't managed to inspire a long-lasting legacy like The Incredible Hulk series.
The next live-action Spider-Man is perhaps one of the more bizarre adaptations of a Marvel comic book property. Produced by the Toei Company, Spider-Man begun airing on Tokyo Channel 12 in May 1978 and despite being based on the Marvel character, the show and its version of Spider-Man have very little in common with the source material. Peter Parker is absent from the series entirely, replaced by Takuya Yamashiro played by Shinji Todō, a motorcross driver who becomes Spider-Man with the help of alien blood and a magical bracelet that imbues the wearer with the power of a spider.
Setting out to avenge his father’s death, this version of Spider-Man was more brutal than his comics' counterpart, no longer being a "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man," instead being known as the "Emissary of Hell." This version of Spider-Man also fought with a giant robot by his side called Leopardon, which proved incredibly popular with viewers.
The show ran for 41 episodes, and is more well known than the CBS version, mostly due to the impact the show had on popular culture, with clips and images from the show featuring in internet memes, as well as being the subject of an episode of the Disney+ documentary series Marvel 616. Takuya Yamashiro has also been embraced by fans, with Dan Slott introducing the character into Marvel Comics in The Amazing Spider-Man #9 (2014).
The Spider-Verse has become incredibly popular over the last few years with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) and Spider-Man: No Way Home both featuring multiple versions of the character. Yet, neither of the TV versions appeared in those projects. Despite showing interest, Nicholas Hammond was absent from the film, saying in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, "I was really hoping I'd be approached but unfortunately, that didn't happen." An appearance by Hammond would have been a nice Easter egg for fans of the show, but alas it wasn't meant to be.
Despite also missing out on a cameo in No Way Home, the Yamashiro Spidey is heavily rumored to be appearing in the sequel to the 2018 animated film, the upcoming Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023), which is set to include 240 spider characters, in some shape or form. Producer Phil Lord also implied on Twitter back in 2019, that the Japanese Spider-Man is going to be one of these characters. So, fingers crossed, audiences will finally get to see more of this character, and if we're lucky maybe even an appearance from Hammond's Spider-Man, as well.