001Marvel’s Spider-man, created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, is a huge movie figure today. Films starring the crime-fighting web-spinner have grossed billions of dollars and survived multiple reboots, with another coming our way next year. But the first live-action incarnation of Peter Parker’s superhero alter-ego was not in theaters, but on the small screen, debuting on PBS in 1974, as part of The Electric Company, a fondly-remembered bizarre, psychedelic reading education program.

Spider-man does not speak, but communicates via word balloons so that the kids watching at home can read along.

Tonight we bring you a whole bunch of the Spidey Super Stories segments, the first of which is narrated by Electric Company regular, Morgan Freeman. This was all to promote reading skills among young kids, and also to give a boost to Spider-man, who had already become a major super hero, on par with Superman and Batman. These are still a lot of fun and might be good viewing for super hero-obsessed toddlers today. The villains are original creations, not drawn from the comics, and these shorts are more like the 1966 Batman TV show than Marvel’s angst-ridden comics.

Spidey Super Stories remained part of The Electric Company until the show ended in 1977. From 1974 to 1982 Marvel produced a companion comic book, which was ad-free and aimed at younger readers.