In 2000, Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man comic book series modernized Peter Parker and his supporting characters while reinventing Spidey for a new generation. That series received so much acclaim that it captured the attention of MTV, which made a rare venture into superheroes for a new Ultimate Spider-Man animated series.
However, the success of the live-action Spider-Man movie in 2002 threw those plans out of the window. In place of Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man: The New Animated Series took its place. Bendis remained attached to the show and even wrote for the series.
This series shared a loose continuity with Sam Raimi’s film, and it featured Peter in college alongside Mary Jane Watson and Harry Osborn. Neil Patrick Harris voiced Peter/Spider-Man, while future Sharknado star Ian Ziering co-starred as Harry. The series’ presence on MTV may be one of the primary reasons that musician Lisa Loeb was cast as Mary Jane, with Rob Zombie appearing in a guest role as Curt Connors/the Lizard.
Unlike previous Spider-Man cartoons, The New Animated Series didn't have many content restrictions. It also didn't shy away from more complex storytelling and occasionally unhappy endings for Spidey and his friends. Additionally, it was among the first wave of TV cartoons to utilize CG animation ... and it shows. While The New Animated Series featured cel shading and reasonably emotive human characters, it still looks primitive compared to advances made after the series.
In a twist of casting, the late Michael Clarke Duncan reprised his role as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin from the Daredevil movie released by 20th Century Fox. That's good enough for a proto-MCU to us! Unfortunately, MTV proved to be less than an ideal home for Spidey and the series ran for only a single season of 13 episodes. Regardless, it still has a special place in our hearts for its more mature treatment of Spider-Man.
For more details about Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, check out the latest episode of SYFY WIRE's original series, Everything You Didn't Know!