The 1970s Electric Company adaptation of Spider-Man, “Spidey Super Stories,” was originally envisioned very differently. PBS had pressured the Children’s Television Workshop for more “crossover” programming, which was intended to appeal to children while incorporating popular adult interests.
In the winter of 1973, they filmed the first episode of “Spider-Man’s Finnegans Wake.” In addition to Spider-Man, it featured Morgan Freeman’s “Easy Reader” character as a sort of Mysterio-By-Proxy / Finnegan, already dead but constantly in view. The episode began with Spider-Man reciting a variation on the first line of the Joyce novel:
Zoinks, gang! A way a lone a last a loved a long the Hudson river, past the Port Authority, from swerve of Brooklyn to bend of The Bronx, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Central Park and Environs!
In test screenings, both children and adults disliked it with a fierce and unbridled passion, with 75% of child viewers stating unprompted that they “fucking hate[d] Spider-Man now,” and one adult viewer tearing up his pocket copy of Ulysses and wiping his own bottom with it.
* A similar attempt was made in the 1980s to cross “Fantastic Four” over with “Gravity’s Rainbow,” but John Byrne’s failure to grasp the source material led to an opening splash page with the Human Torch just flying over the iconic New York City skyline, shrieking the entire time. Jim Shooter wisely killed the story, but The Thing’s new catchphrase, “It’s Postmodernin’ Time,” persisted for three issues in 1984.