Above you see the first installment of Spider-man’s adventures on the 1970s children’s educational show from PBS, The Electric Company.  Three years before his first live-action, primetime series, Spider-man appeared as a regular character on The Electric Company, starting with the show’s fourth season.

The Electric Company was a production of The Children’s Television Workshop, who introduced the show after the success of their first project, Sesame Street. The Electric Company was a half-hour show targeted at older kids, and focused on English and Grammer, without covering Math and other subjects like its predecessor.  It also featured a cast of notable perfomers who would go on to greater fame, like Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno and Irene Cara.  Animated segments featured mostly uncredited voice work by Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Joan Rivers and many others, and before they brought in Spider-man, the show worked out a deal to include new animated segments of The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, directed by Chuck Jones.

As with Sesame Street before it, The Electric Company attracted a large adult viewership, and when they signed a deal with Marvel Comics to include Spider-man, it was proof that Marvel had fully crossed over into the mainstream.  The first season of Sesame Street included animated segments starring Superman and Batman, but five years later, Spider-man was big enough to be considered a hipper, newer superhero to help trick kids into learning.

Spider-man appeared in 29 full-blown segments (plus a few cameo appearances) over the course of three seasons of The Electric Company, and Marvel published a kid-friendly companion comic until 1982.  It took many years before Spider-man finally made it to the Big Screen, but prior to his primetime TV show, he had already worked his way into the hearts and mnds of America’s kids.

Because of rights issues, only handful of these have been officially released commercially, but some of them do turn up on the the Shout Factory releases of The Electric Company. You can probably find all of them tucked away in various corners of YouTube.

Here are a couple of other installments. They have a certain charm, with Spider-man speaking only in word balloons, to encourage reading, and short, simple stories.