Marvel has plenty of great TV shows, from villain spin-off stories like Loki to modern day twists on classic characters like She-Hulk. While these shows entertain and delight today’s Marvel fans, they are simply the latest in a long tradition of Marvel shows that dates back to the mid-20th century.
In particular, the 1970s were a great time for Marvel TV shows, with popular heroes like the Hulk, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four starring in their very own animated and live-action programs. Shows like The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Woman proved that superheroes were popular, even outside comic books. These classic Marvel shows take viewers on a historic journey through the franchise, and allow them to see their favorite heroes as they were portrayed 50 years ago.
6/6 Fred And Barney Meet The Thing Combined Marvel With The Flintstones
Although Marvel superhero the Thing and classic cartoon caveman Fred Flintstone seem like an unlikely match, the two were combined in 1979 in Fred and Barney Meet The Thing. Each episode placed segments starring Fred and his friend Barney alongside segments in which The Thing battled his foes–without any crossover between the two worlds except for the occasional short bumper bit.
Fred and Barney Meet The Thing told the Thing’s solo story, without any other members of the Fantastic Four. In fact the show deviated from the comics almost entirely, and depicted Benjamin or “Benjy” Grimm as a high school student involved in adolescent adventures. Perhaps this departure from the character’s comic book origins is why the show hasn’t been a particularly popular piece of the Marvel archive.
5/6 Spider-Woman Shares Similarities To The 1967 Spider-Man Cartoon
More than ten years after the infamous 1967 Spider-Man cartoon first introduced television audiences to Spidey superheroes, Spider-Woman premiered in 1979. The show featured much of the same crude animation and silly situations as the original Spider-Man, and also tended to drift from the Spider-Woman comic book storyline.
Despite all that, the show is a fun vintage cartoon with a strong female lead. Interestingly, Filmnation aired a show about a spider-themed superhero called Web Woman around the same time, supposedly causing Marvel to quickly create Spider-Woman to nab the copyright.
4/6 The New Fantastic Four Is A Missing Marvel Treasure
The New Fantastic Four marked the second time the Fantastic Four were featured in their very own TV series, following 1967’s Fantastic Four. The 1978 show included Thing, Invisible Girl and Mister Fantastic, but not the Human Torch. Due to a copyright issue, he was replaced by a robot named H.E.R.B.I.E., who made his debut in the 1978 show but was later added to the comics as a friend of the traditional quartet.
Although there were only 13 episodes, the show lives on in the memories of those who watched its original run. The 1978 Fantastic Four established an animation style that would later be used in animated series like The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends in the 1980s. Marvel completionists who want to enjoy this classic piece of Marvel history might be disappointed, however, as it is unavailable to stream on Disney+.
3/6 The Amazing Spider-Man Was Spider-Man’s First Live-Action Appearance
Although it was relatively short-lived, The Amazing Spider-Man was an exciting, well-rated show that brought the iconic character to live-action for the first time. The pilot was a 90-minute film simply entitled Spider-Man, which aired on CBS but was also released theatrically in 1977. The show has a classically 70s cinematic feel to it, with Nicholas Hammond delivering a layered portrayal of Peter Parker.
The Amazing Spider-Man was canceled after two short seasons, as it was quite expensive to produce and wasn’t particularly popular with adult audiences. In retrospect, the show feels a bit outdated and corny, with awkward special effects and somewhat rudimentary stunt work, but it remains a fun and fascinating piece of Spider-Man lore.
2/6 Japanese Spider-Man Took The Hero In A New Direction
From 1978-1979, another live-action Spider-Man hit the airwaves–but this time in Japan. The show took a lot of liberties in its depiction of Spider-Man, giving him a totally different backstory and a new alter ego: Takuya Yamashiro. This version of Spider-Man also piloted a giant sidekick-like robot named Leopardon, who would become a popular character in his own right.
Despite these differences, the show was praised by Stan Lee, other Marvel Comics staff and fans due to its stunt work and special effects–even if they’re outdated by today’s standards. Takuya Yamashiro even found a place in the comics within the Spider-Verse comic book crossover when Spider-Men and Women from across the multiverse teamed up. Although it deviates from typical Spider-Man lore, Marvel fans might find Japanese Spider-Man to be a fun and subversive take on the classic wall-crawling hero.
1/6 The Incredible Hulk Is A Memorable Classic
Before Hulk’s rippling green muscles were rendered by CGI, there was Lou Ferrigno, a professional bodybuilder painted green. Although he had never acted before his run as the non-verbal, fearful beast, Ferrigno’s performance on The Incredible Hulk is fondly remembered by fans who watched it in the late 70s and early 80s. Bill Bixby also delivered a memorable performance as Banner, who’s first name was changed to “David” for the series.
Unlike the 1960s Batmanor shows likeShazam!, which aired around the same time, The Incredible Hulk ventured away from a comedic or kid-centric tone. Instead, it took on a more serious, cinematic sensibility, and although its effects seem a little campy by today’s standards, they were quite impressive at the time of its release. Watching The Incredible Hulk, it’s hard not to be transported back to the late 70s, when it was perfectly plausible to paint an enormous man bright green and place him on a major TV network as one of the world’s most beloved heroes.
Next: 10 Darkest MCU Movies And Shows