In the pose above, Spider-Man seems to be saying something like: “Why have a head-to-head match-up about who is the best cartoon superhero? I’m the obvious winner, hands down!” Despite what Spider-Man’s opinions might be, who do you think is the best cartoon superhero between the Spider-Man of the original series and Batman of Batman: The Animated Series? Is the choice really such an obvious one? If it was left up to you, our loyal and astute readers, which one of these two super-heroes would you choose as the winner?
Spider-Man premiered in 1967 and ran to 1970. The show’s first season was produced by Grantray-Lawrence Animation, which soon went bankrupt. In 1968, animator Ralph Bakshi took over. Bakshi’s episodes suffered from extremely low budgets, were stylized and featured dark ominous settings and pervasive background music. The series may be best remembered for its theme song. Spider-Man was voiced by Paul Soles, who also did the voice of Hermie the misfit elf in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The premiere episode was called “The Power of Dr. Octopus.” Dr. Octopus kidnaps Spider-Man in order to hold the city ransom.
Batman: The Animated Series (often shortened Batman: TAS or BTAS) is a two-time Emmy Award-winning American animated series adaptation of the comic book series featuring the DC Comics superhero, Batman.
The visual style of the series is based on the artwork of producer Bruce Timm. Jean MacCurdy and Tom Ruegger were the executive producers. The original episodes, produced by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, were first aired on the Fox Network from September 5, 1992 to September 15, 1995. When the first season of the series aired on weekday afternoons, it lacked an on-screen title in the opening credits and was known only as Batman (and would be referred to as such in episode recaps that summarized what had happened “previously on Batman…”), although it was retroactively officially titled Batman: The Animated Series. The premiere episode was called “On Leather Wings.” Reruns can currently be seen weekday evenings at 7:30/6:30C on Toon Disney.
Category 1 – Main Characters
Spider-man/Peter Parker: Voiced by Paul Soles
Elizabeth “Betty” Brant and other love interests: Voiced by Peg Dixon
J. Jonah Jameson: Voiced by Paul Kligman
Bruce Wayne/Batman: Voiced by Kevin Conroy
Dick Grayson/Robin/Nightwing: Voiced by Loren Lester
Alfred Pennyworth (“On Leather Wings”, “Christmas with the Joker” and “Nothing to Fear”): Voiced by Clive Revill
Alfred Pennyworth (onwards): Voiced by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.
Commissioner James Gordon: Voiced by: Bob Hastings
Detective Harvey Bullock: Voiced by Robert Costanzo
Barbara Gordon/Batgirl: Voiced by Melissa Gilbert
Main Batman:TAS Villains
Mark Hamill The Joker
Paul Williams Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot/The Penguin
Adrienne Barbeau Selina Kyle/Catwoman
John Glover Edward Nygma/The Riddler
Michael Ansara Dr. Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze
Richard Moll Harvey Dent/Two-Face
Diane Pershing Pamela Lillian Isley/Poison Ivy
Arleen Sorkin Dr. Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn
Henry Polic II Dr. Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow
Aron Kincaid Waylon Jones/Killer Croc
Roddy McDowall Jervis Tetch/The Mad Hatter
Ron Perlman Matt Hagen/Clayface
One problem with determining the winner of this category is that the show was focused more on Spider-man’s battles with villains and Peter Parker’s dealings with J. Jonah Jameson than Parker’s love interests and his relationship with his Aunt May. In other words, there were not really a whole lot of main characters in Spider-Man, as opposed to supporting ones. In contrast, Batman: The Animated Series goes into his personal relationships as Bruce Wayne more, hence the characters he interacts with as Bruce Wayne, and Robin is a main character, of course. His butler, Alfred, is an important main character, and Batgirl, and various policemen like Commissioner Gordon and Detective Harvey Bullock round out the main cast of characters; I also included Main Villains in the series, as well, because many of them are often major characters, they are voiced by famous people, and because of Batman’s psychological relationship with the villains he battles, which is a key component to his own character. Because of the sheer numerical difference in the number of main characters between the two series, and that Batman: TAS has more famous actors/actresses doing the voices, I’m declaring Batman: TAS the clear winner of this category.
Category 2 – Secondary Characters
Doctor Octopus: Voiced by Vern Chapman
Dr. Smarter: Voiced by Gillie Fenwick
The Lizard/Vulture: Voiced by Curt Connors
Electro/The Sandman: Voiced by Tom Harvey
Mysterio: Voiced by Chris Wiggins
The Scorpion: Voiced by Carl Banas
The Green Goblin/A Fly Brother (Stan Patterson): Voiced by Len Carlson Parafino
Dr. Smythe, Dr. Noah Boddy/The other Fly brother (Lee Patterson): Voiced by Harry Ramer
The Rhino: Voiced by Ed McBamera
Billy Connors: Voiced by Billie Mae Richards
The Phantom: Voiced by Max Ferguson
Secondary Characters – Batman: TAS
Ingrid Oliu Officer Renee Montoya (Season One)
Liane Schirmer Officer Renee Montoya (Season Two)
Brock Peters Lucius Fox
Mari Devon Summer Gleeson
Diana Muldaur Dr. Leslie Tompkins
Lloyd Bochner Mayor Hamilton Hill
Marilu Henner Veronica Vreeland
William Sanderson Carl Rossum
William McKinney Jonah Hex
Julie Brown Zatanna
Adam West Simon Trent/The Gray Ghost
Even Spider-Man would be hard-pressed to deny that there are many more famous actors/actresses that have lent their considerable voice talents to Batman: TAS. Both series are voiced by very talented people, and I have a lot of nostalgic feelings about having watched Spider-Man when I was growing up. I know that the original Spider-Man series was hampered by budget concerns, but I will still have to say that Batman: TAS is the winner of this category. Will it succeed in also being the over-all winner, or will Spider-Man make a tremendous web-slinging comeback, by sweeping the rest of the categories?
Category 3 – Over-All Concept
On the one hand, you’ve got a meek, mild-mannered teenager, Peter Parker, who is psychologically scarred by the death of his Uncle Ben, killed by a mugger. He gets bitten by a radioactive spider, finds he has gained super-powers as a result, and he makes it one of his goals to combat villains/criminals wherever he finds them. The series stays very true to this concept, as does Batman: TAS. Among the main differences are that Bruce Wayne doesn’t have super-powers, it was his parents that were killed, not his uncle, and he worked hard, long years to develop his body into a fighting machine and to intellectually hone his intellect and detective skills.
Both shows have strong concepts that they stick with. Both main characters have deep-seated, very personal reasons to combat villains wherever they find them. Their concepts, though originally developed by creative, talented individuals at two competing comic book companies, DC and Marvel, are similar in some respects–for example the initial impetus for both Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne to fight crim being related to the deaths family members. The psychology behind what makes both Spider-Man and Batman tick is one of the most interesting characteristics about them, IMO, and what makes both series among my favorite cartoons and comic book super-heroes.
Spider-Man had some episodes that told one plot, like the one that opened up season two, on Spider-Man’s origins, and some that were made up of two separate cartoons. I liked most of them, so it’s not easy to choose a favorite, but I’ll pick one from the second season, Episode 20 – Aired: 1/20/1968 – that was made up of two cartoon episodes, “Sting of the Scorpion” / “Trick or Treachery.”
“Sting of the Scorpion”: When the Scorpion, intent on vengeance upon Spiderman and Jameson, escapes prison, he visits the laboratory of his creator, Dr. Stillwell, and drinks a potion that vastly increases his size. “Trick or Treachery”: Paroled from prison, the Human Fly Twins rob diamonds from an importing company, and one of them does this deed in a Spiderman costume so that the guard, before being hit on the head from behind by the second twin, believes that Spidey is the culprit.
Batman: TAS has several gems to choose from. One episode I really liked was “Harley and Ivy,” from the first season. In it, the Joker fires Harley, so she tries going on a crime spree of her own, joining up with Poison Ivy, and the two become Gotham’s Queens of Crime, much to Joker’s fury. I like it because it teams up Harley with Poison Ivy, and the Joker is also in it, and he is one of my favorite Batman villains. Which episodes are your personal faves? Please let me know in the Comment form below!
The “Intangibles” category has made and broken potential cartoon winners in the past head-to-head match-ups I’ve done. Will this category once again prove to be the determining factor as to which of these fine cartoon series is the ultimate winner? Let’s find out!
Spider-Man has undeniably the most memorable cartoon theme song ever. It was even used in the first Spider-Man movie. Though the theme song for Batman:TAS is cool, it’s not as catchy and memorable as that of Spider-Man. How important do you feel it is to how great a cartoon series is to have a memorable theme song?
The amount of merchandising a cartoon series generates is also an “Intangible” I’ve often discussed. Which of these two super-hero icons has generated the most merchandise that their fans have gladly purchased is another indicator of their popularity. I have no way to determine this exactly, but I am fairly sure that Batman merchandise surpasses that of Spider-man. This, in itself, doesn’t mean all that much as to which series is the best, but it is another factor I consider.
Yet another factor that comes into play here is the quality of the animation of each series. This is, in a way, not fair to Old School cartoons in general, because animation has greatly improved from the time Old School cartoons first aired. Also, economic realities forced many animation studios to produce cartoons as cheaply as possible, and Spider-Man is a case in point. Ralph Bakshi, as I mentioned, had to make do with a very limited budget when he made the second and third seasons of Spider-Man. In contrast, Batman: TAS, while having a somewhat retro feel, had a bigger budget to work with, and the animation quality is worlds better.
I’d kind of like to call the “Over-All Winner” a tie, because I love both series, and I know that both Spider-Man and Batman have millions of loyal fans. Strong arguments can be made by both groups of fans as to which of these two series should claim the victory, but Batman: The Animated Series has beaten Spider-Man in the categories of “Main Characters” and “Supporting Characters,” and, IMO, edged out Spider-Man also in the category of “Intangibles.” That’s why I’m going to declare that, despite whatever Spider-Man might think in the picture of him I used at the start of this match-up, Batman: TAS is the “Over-All Winner”!