Everyone has heard of Spider-Man, but who or what is Supaidaman? While it may sound silly, this weird Japanese Spider-Man television series was not only a massive hit in its home country, but a major influence in worldwide pop culture to come. Supaidaman was actually the inspiration for The Power Rangers. That’s right, the freakin’ Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
American audiences are by now fully aware of the litany of crazy Japanese kids shows out there, but not many of them spark an entire genre of entertainment. Although giant robots and giant monsters were already a staple of Japanese culture, Supaidaman was the first franchise to bring the two together for epic battles. Worldwide audiences have been enjoying that trope ever since. While the version of the wallcrawler seen in Supaidaman is a far cry from the Peter Parker that North American fans are used to, they share in common a lasting impact, a red-and-blue costume, and a desire to dispense arachnid-themed justice!
The very nature of Supaidaman may make it seem like a knockoff, but it’s actually the result of a bold and serious collaborative initiative between the North American Marvel Comics and the Japanese Toei Company. In the late ‘70s the two companies reached an agreement under which they could use each other's creative properties in whatever way they wanted, for a three-year period. In North America, Marvel would end up using some of the Toei characters in their Shogun Warriors series, while over in Japan rough adaptations of Captain America and Tomb of Dracula were made. However, the most successful, and the roughest, adaptation of them all was Supaidaman, the Japanese Spider-Man.
Although the costume worn by Supaidaman is quite close to the original Spider-Man’s outfit, that’s where the similarities between the two characters end. This wallcrawler’s real identity is Takuya Yamashiro, a young motorcycle racer. His father, Dr. Hiroshi Yamashiro, witnesses the crash of a spaceship known as the Marveller, hailing from the planet Spider. The spaceship kills Takuya’s father, but he follows and encounters the dying Garia, a warrior from Spider who carries spider-abilities in his alien blood. Garia decides to inject his arachnid-powered blood into Takuya, and Supaidaman is born.
This Supaidaman uses a gun frequently, and instead of quipping, says things like “I am the emissary from hell!” The actual spider-powers are similar, but they way he obtained them are certainly not.
The dying alien Spider-guy leaves Supaidaman with an amazing gift: the very Marveller ship that crashed on Earth and killed Supaidaman’s father. The Marveller is no ordinary UFO, however, as it has the ability to transform into a massive fighting robot known as Leopardon. Veteran fans of Spider-Man comics will recognize this as a slight deviation from the web-slinger’s usual crime-fighting arsenal, as was the Leopardon themed Spider-Mobile that Supaidaman possessed. Leopardon comes with a bracelet that Supaidaman can use to summon the mega-mech whenever the situation calls for it, which is surprisingly frequently.
If any of this is sounding like a rip-off of the Power Rangers, that's not too far off from the truth. The concept of Leopardon would prove so popular that it would be reused in a number of future series, including The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers via their Zords.
The main antagonist of the Supaidaman series is Professor Monster, who is a murderous intergalactic warlord despite his exceedingly ordinary villain name. Professor Monster had already destroyed the planet Spider, which is why the dead alien who gave Supaidaman his powers was traveling through space in the first place. It was now up to Supaidaman to take up the fight against Professor Monster and his Iron Cross Army as they tried to take over the entire universe. One tactic frequently employed by these villains was taking a regular-sized monster that Supaidaman had fought and transforming it into a giant-sized monster, which ensured that Leopardon always kept busy. Once again, this was a basic formula that really worked for Japanese audiences, so it was no surprise when it resurfaced as a Power Rangers trope.