John Semper Talks Black Cat From Spider-Man: The Animated Series

The Marvel Animation Age was able to talk to Spider-Man: The Animated Series writer/producer John Semper about The Black Cat and her role in the series.

MAA: In the series, Peter's romantic dilemmas where often that he couldn't chose between Mary Jane or Felicia Hardy. What made you choose Felicia instead of Gwen Stacy?

John: I've said in interviews before how I chose to go with Felicia Hardy instead of Gwen Stacy because all roads with Gwen lead to death, which we couldn't really do on Saturday morning. But Felicia in our series was really a completely new character. She wasn't the Felicia of the comics at all. So I guess I can take some credit for 'creating' the version of her that we used.

Obviously her becoming The Black Cat later on in the show was bound to have some effect on the way you used the character, but the similarities between comic Felicia and the cartoons Felicia where few and far between. What where the reasons for the changes?

I though it made her more interesting and very different from Mary Jane, who was much more 'middle-class.' This Felicia was wealthy and a bit snobby, a total departure from the comics. It was something fresh and new. We even cast her voice, performed by the wonderful Jennifer Hale, to be like that.

What thought went into introducing The Black Cat to cartoon audiences?

I didn't know if I'd last long enough on the series to actually do it. And the way we did it, with the whole John Hardeski thing, didn't really occur to me until much later. That whole sub-plot that linked her to Captain America and the Super Soldier Serum was completely my idea and I'm damned proud of it.

I always though that having somebody project 'bad luck' on somebody else as a 'super power' - the Black Cat's super-power in the comic books - was ridiculous. Doing the Super Soldier Serum thing got us into a much deeper, richer storyline, which is what I had to do to keep the series unpredictable and interesting.

The animated series introduced Felicia's father, John Hardeski, a World War II spy whose photographic memory allowed him to remember the precise formula for the Super Soldier Serum. The serum was eventually used on Captain America and The Black Cat; later, the Kingpin got his hands on Hardeski and the formula, which was then used on Felicia.

The show starred some of the most talented voice actors in the business. Are there any that especially stood out?

I had met John Phillip Law at a convention and I'd always though he was a foreigner who was dubbed in all his movies, such as Barbarella, and Danger Diabolik. To my utter amazement, he opened his mouth and spoke and that deep 'dubbed' voice was his real voice! So I asked him if he'd do the voice of Felicia's father and he agreed. He's a great guy, too. He did a great job.

Looking back on The Black Cat, is there anything you would have done differently?

I don't know that I would have done anything differently with Black Cat. I liked the while Morbius/Black Cat relationship that came along later. That was fun. All the female cast members used to giggle like schoolgirls every time the actor playing Morbius, Nick Jameson, would purr "Feliciaaaaaaaaaa...." in his Slavic accent."

The censors where especially strict on Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Where there any incidents with Black Cat involving the censors?

I never had any censor trouble specifically with her that I can rememberAs for doing more with the characters, I would have absolutely loved to continue writing adventures with these characters. It came very easily for me, since I was a huge Spidey fan from way back.

Spider-Man: The Animated Series has remained on the air since the last new episode aired years ago. The series continues to grab ratings on it's current home, ABC Family. Any comments on how popular the show remains?

I'm very glad the series continues to entertain audiences. It means I did my job, which was reinvigorate the franchise and produce a hit series. I did both, so I'm proud of that. I like to think that in some small way we set the stage for the huge success of last summer's movie, which I still haven't gotten around to seeing yet. Too much like 'deja-vu all over again,' as the saying goes.

I hear they're struggling their way through a new Spider-Man animated series for MTV. I'm still waiting for a phone call. Avi, are you listening? I can hear Avi responding right now, 'Over my dead body!'"

The Marvel Animation Age would like to thank John for the interview. Cheers John!

-Stu and James