When I was a kid, one of my favorite cartoons on TV was Batman Beyond, which was the sequel to Batman: The Animated Series.
By the time I was born, Batman TAS was nearing the end of it's run. I was around for reruns of the show, however, I don't remember watching them. The only thing I ever got out of Batman TAS when I was a kid was the action figures.
Despite not watching anything Batman TAS (I have seen the series in the past couple years), I became a fan of Beyond when it aired.
Despite watching the show before this, when I got the VHS tape featuring the first two episodes, I watched it six times in the first day I had it, which I still own to this day.
Batman Beyond took place in a very futuristic setting, filled with flying cars and laser weaponry. An aging Bruce Wayne retired from being Batman a couple decades after TAS when during a fight, he was forced to break his rule about guns and pull a firearm on a criminal.
However, when a corrupt businessman, who now owns Wayne Enterprises after buying it from Bruce, kills the father of a troubled youth named Terry McGinnis, Bruce decides Gotham needs Batman again. Terry McGinnis dons a much more technological advanced batsuit, becoming the new Batman and setting out to stop crime in Gotham.
Batman Beyond proved to be a major success. The show lasted for three seasons (the last episode was supposed to air September 14, 2001, the friday after 9/11. However, due to the terrorist themes presented in the episode, it got pushed back several months), spawned several pieces of merchandise, and has since had several volumes of comic books printed from DC Comics, with a sixth volume being printed currently (though it's coming to an end this month, November of 2014).
You might be wondering why I'm talking about Batman Beyond. Batman Beyond was a huge success on Kids WB, which rivaled my favorite kids programming block, Fox Kids.
Well, did you know that at the time Kids WB was airing Batman Beyond, Fox Kids had a very similar premised show on it's lineup: a show that was based off comic book superheroes, was a sequel to a previous animated series based off that superhero (I'll talk about this one later), which had a futuristic setting, featured the hero in a newly designed technology based costume and even had a comic book series emerge from it?
If you haven't, there is a perfectly good reason...
Spider-Man: Unlimited has been called one of the oddest Spider-Man cartoons to be made, and is one of the shortest Spider-Man cartoons to ever be made.
Spider-Man: Unlimited started airing in October 1999, on Fox Kids. However, it was aired opposite of Pokemon on Kids WB, and ended up getting crushed in the ratings. Fox cancelled the series after only a few episodes.
However, in 2001 Fox Kids aired the remaining episodes of the show, bringing the total count to 13 episodes.
How Spider-Man: Unlimited came to be is weird in itself. One of the developers of the series was interviewed about the cartoon at the link above.
There's apparently a long history of complications and troubles behind making this cartoon. Apparently Fox and Marvel had some obligations that needed to be made contractual, so in order to fulfill them they needed a new cartoon featuring Spider-Man.
The original plan was to do an extremely low budget adaption of the first 26 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man comic book series. However, those plans went out the window as a result of the then deal between both Marvel and Sony for the movie adaption of Spider-Man.
I don't understand how this exactly works, but this resulted in the developers being cut off from using the original Spider-Man costume and the original comics.
They came up with another idea about Spider-Man becoming trapped on another world where there's another Spider-Man, one who's Uncle Ben didn't die and thus he never had the moral and iron will to resist the Symbiote Costume.
However, Marvel shutdown that idea as well. Eventually, this is what we got for Spider-Man: Unlimited.
I mentioned before that Spider-Man: Unlimited is a sequel to another animated series. As you could probably very easily guess, what I meant by that was the Spider-Man cartoon that aired between 1994 and 1998, Spider-Man: The Animated Series.
However, there's actually some confusion as to if Spider-Man: Unlimited is actually a sequel to the 1994 animated series.
As I mentioned earlier, Spider-Man: Unlimited is considered to be one of the oddest incarnation's of the Spider-Man character, and it truly earns that moniker. As I'll get more into this article, you'll see just how odd and different this cartoon was from any type of Spider-Man media we had seen before.
As a result, Spider-Man: Unlimited has almost absolutely nothing in common with the 1994 animated series, from it's animation style to the character's themselves.
Given how the 1994 animated series ended, it's all possible that Spider-Man: Unlimited simply takes place sometime after the ending of the 1994 animated series.
We only get one real reference to the 1994 animated series in Spider-Man: Unlimited. In the first episode of the series, the awesome 1994 animated series theme song is played when Spider-Man suits up for the first time at the beginning of the episode.
(Broken YouTube Link Removed)
Much like with Batman Beyond, the first two episodes of Spider-Man: Unlimited are a two part episode that set's up the plot of the series.
It's been discovered that there's an exact duplicate of Planet Earth on the other side of the sun, called Counter-Earth. After an unmanned probe is destroyed by a blast from Counter-Earth, astronaut John Jameson, the son of J. Jonah Jameson, Peter Parker's boss at The Daily Bugle, is going on a one-man mission to Counter-Earth.
Before the launch, however, Peter Parker, who is covering the launch of the spacecraft, spots Venom and Carnage trying to get aboard the spacecraft.
Venom and Carnage are two characters in this series that truly represent just how different of an animated Spider-Man series this is. For example, just take a look at their appearances.
Carnage is normally portrayed as a normal sized human being, while Venom is fairly muscular, but still a normal muscular that could be obtained in real life.
Now Carnage is portrayed as being almost a complete skeleton, with spikes sticking out all over his body, while Venom is so big and muscular he looks like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon.
Also, while Carnage remained red...
...they changed Venom from black to blue.
Also, the eye colors of both Venom and Carnage were constantly changing from white to yellow, though they also did that with Spider-Man himself.
If you wanted any further examples of how different this version of Spider-Man is, Venom and Carnage's design's weren't the only things changed about the characters. For one, they were given new powers and abilities, so much so that they seemed like completely new villains.
For one, they were completely balls of goo like could shape shift into other people and could crawl through any crack or vent they wanted to. Also, they could regenerate if a hole was blasted through them, they could stretch out their limbs, constrict other people and could break off pieces of themselves and put them on other people so that they would be under mind control.
And as a result of these new morphing abilities, it was shown in several episodes that Carnage and Venom could combine to form one monsterous being.
I should point out, however, that Spider-Man does remark during their first battle in the first episode that he's never seen them do these type of things before, so it could be that these new powers and abilities are completely new. Given what happened to the two of them back in the 1994 animated series, it's all possible for this to be true.
Back to the first episode, Spider-Man manages to get on the outside of the spacecraft. However, Venom and Carnage's new abilities give them the upper hand against him, taking him by surprise and throwing him off the shuttle.
However, before he is thrown off, they tell Spider-Man that they are trying to get to Counter-Earth to reach something called the "Synoptic".
Carnage and Venom then storm their way into the shuttle, taking Jameson by surprise
As a result, Earth loses contact with the shuttle. Since everyone saw Spider-Man falling from the shuttle, Spider-Man get's blamed for what happened. A public witch hunt ensues against him, leading Peter Parker to fake Spider-Man's death while rescuing people from a fire.
However, while watching the news the next day, Earth receives a disrupted transmission from John Jameson. Apparently, he's alive on Counter-Earth, however, there's a desperate and emergency situation growing on Counter-Earth. He warns that if he doesn't receive help, Earth might fall next to a new threat.
Peter Parker decides he's going to go to Counter-Earth to rescue Jameson. Months later, while a new shuttle is being set to launch to Counter-Earth to attempt a rescue mission, Peter sneaks behind the scenes of the launch to hijack the shuttle.
With help from Reed Richards, otherwise known as Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, Peter develops a new tech based Spider-Man suit, which is built into a watch.
Built using nanotechnology, Peter presses a button and out comes his new technology based Spider-Man suit. While he also retains his old powers, the new suit also has incorporated sonic weaponry and stealth technology into it, giving Spider-Man some new abilities.
The suits new design is actually pretty cool in my opinion. It tries for something new while also trying to remain loyal to the old costume.
After running into Nick Fury, who decides that Spider-Man is best equipped for rescuing Jameson, Spider-Man gets inside the shuttle and takes off.
While approaching Counter-Earth, a tractor beam locks onto the shuttle. Spider-Man fights his way out of it, but it causes him to crash onto Counter-Earth.
After crash landing, Spider-Man finds his ship surrounded by a large group of robots known as Machine Men. They order him to surrender, but he fights back and escapes.
However, after escaping, he's chased down by a group of humanoid animals on flying motorcycles called The Knights of Wundagore.
A fight and chase ensues between Spider-Man and The Knights of Wundagore, where more of Counter-Earth is shown off. While we see tall, futuristic buildings filled with humanoid animals and flying vehicles, we also get to see run down buildings cluttered with poor humans.
Eventually, Spider-Man gets knocked out by The Knights of Wundagore, who take Spider-Man to their leader, the High Evolutionary.
Once Spider-Man awakens to being restrained, the High Evolutionary goes into a speech about how he created the perfect utopia on Counter-Earth, and helps set up the backstory to this animated series.
Having landed on Counter-Earth decades before in hopes of living in a utopia, the High Evolutionary found the planet ravaged by an ongoing war. The High Evolutionary decided that it was him who needed to create his utopia, believing that humans are inferior creatures that do nothing but spread violence, pain and misery.
The High Evolutionary went on to create the Beastials, the animal/human hybrids that inhabit Counter-Earth. He turned humans into second class citizens, where they are treated as such. Literally vertically separated, humans on Counter-Earth live in poverty, often in overcrowded and rundown slums and buildings, down below the huge technological advanced towers and spires that are inhabited by the dominant species on Counter-Earth, the High Evolutionary's Beastials.
The High Evolutionary now rules over the planet, with The Knights of Wundagore being an elite squadron of Beastials who serve him, while the Machine Men are used as the law enforcers of Counter-Earth.
Despite being so technologically advanced, The Knights of Wundagore never encountered the technology used in Spider-Man's new suit, nor are they able to tell exactly what Spider-Man is due to his mutated genetic structure. As they prepare to conduct experiments on Spider-Man, Spider-Man breaks free of his constraint and shackles and escapes from the building he's being held in.
After making it outside, he encounters a group of humans with laser weaponry fighting against a group of Machine Men.
The humans recognize him as Spider-Man, telling him they were sent to rescue him from the High Evolutionary. They also inform Spider-Man that they are part of a human rebellion against the High Evolutionary. Spider-Man and the rebels manage to make a narrow escape from The Knights of Wundagore and the Machine Men, where they take him to an underground shelter to see, much to Spider-Man's shock, John Jameson.
After Jameson puts Spider-Man through several tests and questions to reassure himself he's the real Spider-Man, a group of Beastials put under mind control by Venom and Carnage attack the hideout where the rebels took Spider-Man, having been led to the hideout during their escape. Apparently, Venom and Carnage are now working for the High Evolutionary.
Venom and Carnage also arrive to take on Spider-Man. Despite initially having the upper hand against him, Spider-Man's new suit capabilities help him dispatch Venom and Carnage, and free the Beastials under symbiote mind control.
With their base compromised, Spider-Man and the rebels flee to safer ground.
Jameson tells Spider-Man that he appreciates Spider-Man coming to Counter-Earth to rescue him, however, he's decided to stay on Counter-Earth to help the rebels in their plot to free the humans of Counter-Earth and defeat the High Evolutionary. With both of their shuttles in High Evolutionary custody, Spider-Man decides he has no option but to stay on Counter-Earth and help Jameson and the rebels.
While out of costume and walking the streets of Counter-Earth, Peter Parker rescues a boy named Shane from a damaged Machine Man. After Shane's mother, a doctor, heals his burned hands, he learns that they have a room for a rent, which they are willing to give to him. The two partier ends with Peter Park in his new room vowing to get off Counter-Earth.
The series lasted of course another 11 episodes after the first two part opener aired. The episodes afterwards showed off more of Counter-Earth, where we learned more about the High Evolutionary's evilness, such as how he experiments on humans and that genetical-defective Beastials are used as slaves.
Most of the episodes focused on Spider-Man and the rebels fight with the High Evolutionary, however, other episodes focused on Venom and Carnage operating on Counter-Earth.
Much like with Batman Beyond, Spider-Man: Unlimited also had reiteration's of Spider-Man villains, such as Kraven the Hunter and the Green Goblin, who's actually a hero instead of a villain on Counter-Earth.
Since he is a hero in this version, he and Spider-Man actually teamed up several times throughout the series.
Also, since we had John Jameson in this cartoon, we also got an episode where we saw his alternate Man-Wolf form!
The series ended on a cliffhanger in the 13th and last episode of the series. We finally learn what the Synoptic is that Carnage and Venom claimed to be working for on Counter-Earth, and why the High Evolutionary is teaming up with them.
From what I read, season 2 would of resolved the cliffhanger and brought more story lines to the series.
However, as mentioned earlier, Spider-Man: Unlimited didn't end there...
Like Batman Beyond later would, Spider-Man: Unlimited had a comic book series to tie-in with it. However, unlike Batman Beyond which has had several volumes (with more probably coming on the way) of comics produced over the years, the Spider-Man: Unlimited comic lasted only a few issues before getting canceled.
There actually have been a few volumes of Spider-Man comics under the name Unlimited. The first volume existed from 1993 to 1998, the second volume was what was used for the tie-in with the animated series, and the third existed within the mid-2000's.
I've never actually read any of the comics in the Unlimited titles, including the animated series volume. From what I read about that comic, it mostly followed the story line of the animated series, though it also introduced Counter-Earth versions of other Marvel superheroes, including Wolverine.
This series reminds me a lot of a cartoon that I covered in my first article on this site almost a year ago, called Vor-Tech: Undercover Conversion Squad. Both were sort of a sequel to a previous animated series (Vor-Tech was more of a reboot of the concept of a previous animated series), both were short lived at only 13 episodes each, and both ended on a cliffhanger that would have taken each series to new story lines.
Spider-Man: Unlimited has done better than Vor-Tech, however. While it didn't get a toy line like Vor-Tech, it received a comic book series. And it' also been re-aired on TV, airing on both Jetix and Disney XD up until a few years ago.
And as I've shown throughout this article, all the episodes of Spider-Man: Unlimited are up on YouTube to be watched.
With all the similarities to it, Spider-Man: Unlimited seemed to be created as a way for Fox Kids to answer Kids WB's success with Batman Beyond. However, Beyond and Kids WB ended up crushing those two, with Beyond still being popular to this very day.
Since all the episodes are up on YouTube, you can watch it whenever you want, if you want to. In my opinion, it's certainly interesting, and it isn't all that bad as many others make it out to be. It is fairly enjoyable, but it isn't the worst thing in the world if you don't watch it.