Anime series writers share notes on standards and practices

Screenwriters John Semper and Ernie Altbacker have worked together in superhero animation for a long time, with their latest collaboration being the upcoming DC Animated Movie. Green Lantern: Beware of my power. Projects Semper and Altbacker have worked on together include the classic 90s show Spider-Man: The Animated Series, with Semper serving as showrunner. More than twenty years after the end of the series, the show continues to occupy an important place in the Spider Man mythos.

In an exclusive interview with CBR during the promotion Green Lantern: Beware of my powerSemper and Altbacker took the time to share some behind-the-scenes crafting secrets Spider-Man: The Animated Series.

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CBR: Growing up, we heard that Standards & Practices gave notes about Spider-Man’s creepy pigeons on rooftops and Morbius having suckers instead of using his fangs, which is somehow worse.

John Semper: Funny thing is, every show gets S&P ratings, and they’re always silly. They are always exactly like that. I used to go to conventions and didn’t have much to say, so I thought it would be funny if I read some of the S&P notes as a schtick of my convention. This was before the internet and all kinds of social media, going to conventions, [and] do these things. Then I did an interview for an online site called Toon Zone, and I mentioned some of those S&P ratings as a joke. What I didn’t realize was that this little piece of information would be amplified, [with people thinking] the show was crippled by censorship. In fact, it was not. We had no more censorship than shows like x-men Where Batman or any other show. It’s been the urban myth since I foolishly started it.

to answer your question, yes. I got the note: “Be careful when Spider-Man lands on the roof, that he doesn’t hurt any pigeons.” The reason I had Spider Man was that I was already an established showrunner. Back in the day, when a company wanted to spend millions of dollars on an animated show, they only wanted to hand it over to an established showrunner, and I had helmed a few shows before running Spider Man. I already knew – I didn’t need the S&P to say it – I knew I wasn’t going to be able to have a bloodsucking vampire. I didn’t even get an S&P rating. I just knew I couldn’t have a vampire and blood.

Because Morbius wasn’t really a vampire – I later introduced Blade and that group of vampires – in Season 2, I thought I’d play it safe and not even try to make a him a vampire who bites his neck. It was a biological accident, so I just thought it would be really cool to give him cupping. [laughs] The inspiration was probably the salt monster from the first ever aired episode of star trek, which I watched. I thought that was really scary, so let’s just do that. It wasn’t S&P, and the very idea that I was bothered by censorship, I never was. In fact, Avery Coburn, the Fox Standards & Practices person, was contacting me to do this and that. We had a little chat, and I got on very well with her. This aspect of doing Spider Man was actually very easy.

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Ernie Altbacker: The word was that you tried to do the very first thing with ghost riderand ghost rider was shot because the note was: “It could be imitable. A child could pour lighter fluid on himself and fall with his ferris wheel on fire.”

Seed: It’s not true. I had a Ghost Rider, and I think Jim [Krieg] could have written it, Jim or Mark Hoffmeier. We were going to do a ghost rider story, we had it described, and then the network discovered that Avi Arad was shopping around a ghost rider serial to the UPN network. They said there was no way they were leaving an episode of Spider Man serve as a pilot for a cartoon that’s going to end up on a rival network, so you can’t do that ghost rider story. We had sketched out the whole plot, and it was a good story. I was really pissed off because it was a good story, we already figured that out, and then I had to throw it away. This is the truth behind this story.

Directed by Jeff Wamester from a screenplay written by John Semper and Ernie Altbacker, Green Lantern: Beware My Power will be released July 26 in 4K UHD/Blu-ray and Digital HD.