Prepare to have your mind blown through your web shooters.
Last week, you may have joined in the collective high five that erupted when Supaidaman, AKA “Japanese Spider-Man”, showed up in Amazing Spider-Man #12, as part of the ongoing Spiderverse storyline. Called in from one of the many Marvel parallel universes, his appearance makes Supaidaman canonical within the larger Marvelverse. Cue massive celebration.
Then again, maybe you’re wondering why you ought to care. Long version: Moviebob’s excellent article about Supaidaman from last summer. Short version: read on.
Now, we all know how bad Marvel used to be at licensing its characters out, and we know also that the late 70s and 80s were particularly awful. Supaidaman, a 1978 collaboration between Marvel and Japanese entertainment conglomerate Toei should have been the worst of the lot. The premise, divorced as it’s possible to get from the original, sees a motorcycle racer named Takuya Yamashiro given the Spider-Man uniform and power set by an alien who crash-landed on earth. With plots largely centered around defending Japan against the threat of invading giant monsters and evil invaders, the show basically zips back and forth between conventions mined to exhaustion by, well, every single live action kids show the country produced during the 70s.
Except it turned out to be incredible. First, as a pastiche of the decade’s cliches, it actually works, with wonderful fight choreography and, for its day and budget, effects. Sure, Supaidaman is, for some reason, described as an emissary of hell, but translations are difficult when concepts differ so drastically between cultures, and the show comes complete with the single most 1978-sounding disco theme song ever recorded, so we’re good. Most importantly, however, Supaidaman had access to a giant, transforming spaceship called Leopardon, the result being that the show gave the world the first ever appearance of a hand-to-hand combat hero piloting a giant, transformable mech in battle.
Supaidaman lasted 40 episodes plus a film (that’s a hit in Japan), but never made an impact internationally except as a cheesy artifact of the disco era. Maybe that’s why Marvel has quietly ignored the show’s existence ever since. Until now. Today’s Marvel is, of course, the company that seems almost effortlessly to produce hit films with talking raccoons, which makes it the perfect time for it to embrace and even celebrate stuff like Supaidaman. And so they have, by making several episodes available online, with English subtitles and everything. We’ve embedded the video for episode one below. Enjoy.