I have always been a Spider-Man fan, I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb reading the comics, so when I found this gem I had to give it a listen. In 1995, BBC Radio commissioned a Spider-Man audio book which aired on BBC Radio 1 over 50 episodes on week days between January 15, 1996 and March 24, 1996. The performance was co-produced by Brian May who also contributed to the musical arrangement and wrote and performed the theme tune. Yes, the same Brian May that plays lead guitar for Queen. BBC Audiobooks has taken this production and no made it available as a CD audiobook, I haven’t looked yet for any download versions.
The run of the production includes a number of familiar characters from the Spider-Man comic books as well as key figures from the Marvel “Heroes” universe such as Fantastic Four, Namor the Submariner, and Doctor Doom. This is a re-telling of the origin of Spider-Man, not exactly as Stan Lee originally wrote it, but pretty darn close. In this version rather than Peter Parker going to a demonstration of Atomic energy (pretty dated sounding, right), he is conducting an experiment at the high school using low level radiation, but a spider gets in the mix and bites our hero. Very similar to the origin the story continues with Peter Parker calling Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic, of the Fantastic 4 to ask for help, after all he thinks he’s turning into a spider.
After finding out the Fantastic 4 are out of office he decides he needs to make some money and goes on the TV circuit performing feats of spider-like ability. After a criminal kills his Uncle Ben, Peter then takes up the crime-fighting mantle. The play then brings on such villains as; the Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, the Sandman, Prince Namor (hero/villain) and Dr. Doom.
My only complaint is that not once in the performance does Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s line that is his raison d’etre come out. You know the one, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Stan Lee has been known to say that when he first came up with the phrase for Spidey, it sounded cheesy, but, it is a great life-lesson. But the Brits decided to leave it out of the production. I won’t fault them too much because this was fun to hear.
The role of Spider-Man was performed by William Dufries. Also included in the cast list was EastEnders star Anita Dobson. The entire cast and the production meld to make a great comic book to audio book adaptation.