The Changing Faces and Voices of Spider-man

The news that Andrew Garfield has been cast in the reboot of Spider-man (read all about it on Splashpage and other places) made me think of all the other people who have played the part of the webslinging superhero.  Garfield, a relative unknown whose previous credits included a role in Heath Ledger's last movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and a couple of episodes of Doctor Who, will burst to fame overnight and he will hope that his version of the wallcrawling, wisecracking young hero will be as popular as the version depicted in the last three movies directed by Sam Raimi.  [The new movie will be helmed by Marc Webb, director of the little hit (500) Days of Summer.]

The Sam Raimi movies made Tobey Maguire a superstar and turned him into the face of Spidey for a whole generation.  In my opinion, Maguire was perfectly cast in the role and his performance will be difficult to top.  But heroes on the big-screen often have different people playing them over the years.  The characters are many times larger than the actors who play them.  James Bond and Batman have endured despite constant changes in the leading men who brought them to life.  Your friendly neighborhood Spider-man is no different. 

Many have played the part before.  The classic cartoon in 1967 (with the still memorable theme song) had Paul Soles providing the voice of Peter Parker and his costumed, crime-fighting alter ego.  Soles also voiced Hermie the misfit elf who wanted to be a dentist in another classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

An under-rated depiction of Spider-man is the performance of Nicholas Hammond in the campy television series from 1977 to 1979.  The costume was laughable, the storylines weak, and the special effects super-cheap, but for some reason as a kid I loved it.  The actor is best remembered for his role as one of the kids in The Sound of Music, but I always think of him as Marvel's iconic hero.

I don't know who played Spidey in the Electric Company segments that many of us remember fondly.  Those "Super Stories" were fun to watch.

Sinjo Todo is another forgotten Spider-man.  He played the masked, super-powered do-gooder in the wacky Japanese version in 1978.  The plot was very different from the comic book -- the only thing that really stayed the same was the costume and little else, but it is still fun to watch, like the best of the z-grade Japanese productions.

There were a bunch of animated versions of the radioactive-spider-bitten avenger.  Ted Schwartz briefly voiced the character in 1981, followed more memorably by Dan Gilvezan in the beloved Spider-man and His Amazing Friends.  Gilvezan was a TV character actor who also voiced roles in the Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons. 

Christopher Daniel Barnes, who played the teenager in the Starman television series and later Greg Brady in the Brady Bunch movies, provided the lead voice in Spider-man: The Animated Series (and also the voice of Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid). 

Neil Patrick Harris, best known as the star of Doogie Howser, MD, and Barney from How I Met Your Mother, also voiced the role in Spider-man: The New Animated Series on MTV.

Singer and voice actor Josh Keaton was the last guy to play the character in the most recent cartoon, The Spectacular Spider-man.

So Andrew Garfield joins some crowded company.  How memorable will his version be?  I think it all depends on how good or bad the new movie turns out.  The release date is scheduled for 2012.

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