According to the title sequence, Jessica Drew (voiced by Joan Van Ark) was bitten by a poisonous spider as a child; her father saved her life by injecting her with an experimental "spider serum," which also granted her superhuman powers. As an adult, Jessica is editor of Justice Magazine, with two other employees featured; photographer Jeff Hunt (a cowardly braggart who nonetheless fancied himself as a quick-witted and resourceful crime-stopper) and Jessica's teenage nephew Billy. When trouble arises, Jessica slips away to change into her secret identity of Spider-Woman.
The Spider-Woman cartoon should not be confused with Web Woman, a Filmationsuperheroine cartoon launched at around the same time, which reportedly prompted Marvel Comics into creating a Spider-Woman character to secure the copyright.
The cartoon differs considerably from the comic book in its premise and supporting cast. Billy, Jeff, and Justice Magazine never appear in the comic book in any form. Nor do the darker elements of the comic book (the heavy use of Arthurian legend and the occult, Jessica's feelings of alienation) enter into the much brighter world of the cartoon. The origin of her powers is also altered somewhat; at the time of the series' production, the threat to her life in the comics was radiation poisoning (though her published origin has since been altered).
The animated Spider-Woman's powers are noticeably modified; her enhanced strength in particular seems entirely missing, as she is shown in several episodes being restrained by means (such as ordinary rope) that her super-strong comic-book counterpart could easily break. In addition to the ability to cling to walls:
Spider-Woman retains the ability to fire bursts of energy from her hands called "venom blasts", but they are white instead of green. The episode "Realm of Darkness" seems to imply that Venom Blasts can be fired as long as Spider-Woman has enough strength.
Spider-Woman has powers vaguely similar to ones possessed by Spider-Man that her comic book incarnation lacks:
A clairvoyant "spider-sense" that allows her to see dangers as they happen; no matter where she is, she can close her eyes and see the event, shown to the viewers as an image outlined by a spider-web.
She can also project spider-like "weblines" from the palms of her hands or an individual finger. This appears to be naturally generated, as opposed to Spider-Man's mechanical web-shooters, but she is similarly prone to running out of "web fluid" ("The Ghost Vikings"). She is able to control the direction in which her weblines move; "The Kingpin Strikes Again" shows her casting a web in a descending spiral to disorient and then restrain a criminal.
The animated Spider-Woman also had the ability to change into costume merely by spinning around, an idea borrowed from the live-action Wonder Woman television series starring Lynda Carter. In the episode "The Spider-Woman and the Fly", where Jessica had been momentarily stripped of her powers, her costume reverted to the every-day civilian clothes she wore for work.
While Spider-Woman could (at the time) only glide on air currents in the comics, the animated version appears able to fly at will, though her costume's glider wings were apparent whenever she took flight. (The comic book incarnation has since gained the power of true flight as well.)
The animated Spider-Woman would occasionally display previously unknown "spider"-powers, conveniently able to assist her in random situations, such as:
"Spider-telepathy", allowing her to mentally communicate with spiders and ask them for assistance ("Pyramids of Terror")
A sonic scream, dubbed her "spider-shriek" ("Realm of Darkness")
A protective "spider-bubble" allowing her to function underwater without diving gear ("The Ghost Vikings")
Spider-Man in this series was again voiced by Paul Soles who previously voiced him in the 1960s Spider-Man series, some similarities in the two series still remained. Perhaps the most noticeable similarity is "animated stock footage", where – before any episodes were completed – an animated sequence was created. This sequence would be used with an appropriate background added, whenever the need would arise. One example is Spider-Woman turning around, from back to front. Another example is where Jessica Drew gets a "spider-sense", turns her head while she closes her eyes, and then the location of danger appears using an editing technique.
Guest stars Spider-Man. The Justice Magazine crew investigate an alien invasion in Egypt led by the Mummy Khufu.
Realm of Darkness
September 29, 1979
The powerful demon Dormammu emerges on a Pacific island, threatening to enslave mankind.
The Amazon Adventure
October 5, 1979
Stolen gold from Fort Knox leads the Justice Magazine team into the Amazon, where they uncover a plot by the Amazon leader Shanna to take over the world.
The Ghost Vikings
October 12, 1979
A 'ghost' Viking ship emerges off the coast of Norway. The crew plan to steal the riches of the world, before returning to their own time. Spider-Woman travels back to 952 A.D. to defeat them.
The Kingpin Strikes Again
October 19, 1979
Spider-woman confronts Kingpin and his henchmen as they rob a bank, but after taking out two of his men, one of Kingpin's minions manages to turn the tables and locked Spider-woman up, allowing Kingpin to get the loot. Humiliated, Spider-woman, as Jessica Drew tries to get back at the Kingpin by writing up a maligning news article about him Angered by her recent Justice Magazine article, the Kingpin steals an experimental invisibility ray and seeks revenge on its editor Jessica Drew. However, while invisible, he witnesses her transform into Spider-Woman, and opts for a blackmail plot instead.
The Lost Continent
October 26, 1979
After US Air Force planes vanish in the Bermuda Triangle, the team from Justice Magazine investigate. They soon find themselves thrown into a hidden dimension, where dinosaurs roam the Earth.
The Kongo Spider
November 2, 1979
Guest stars Spider-Man. While covering the filming of a movie, the Justice Magazine team encounter a giant spider (in a plot inspired by King Kong).
Games of Doom
November 9, 1979
Athletes in the World Athletic Games in Moscow are being kidnapped and replaced by android doubles. Jessica Drew goes undercover as a Long Jumper to investigate.
Shuttle to Disaster
November 16, 1979
The Justice Magazine team find themselves on a hijacked space shuttle, heading towards the moon, where the villain Steeljaw intends to enslave mankind and put it to work digging for valuable gems.
Jessica confronts a former research assistant to her father, who has been mutated into a human fly after a lab accident. Deducing her secret identity, he creates a formula which will rob Jessica of her spider powers.
Invasion of the Black Hole
December 7, 1979
A UFO attempts to swallow the Earth in a black hole, in readiness for an invasion by aliens from the planet Graviton.
The Great Magini
December 14, 1979
Magician, the Great Magini, attempts to steal the World's most famous landmarks.
A Crime In Time
December 21, 1979
An experimental time machine unleashes an invasion of Wookiee-like creatures. Jessica is forced to reveal her secret identity to her fellow magazine crew, in order to save mankind.
Return of the Spider-Queen
December 28, 1979
Spider-Woman is brainwashed by an alien race of human spider creatures, who believe she is their long lost queen.
The Deadly Dream
January 3, 1980
An alien threatens the World with her sleep inducing powers.
In 2008, this series was planned for release on Region 2 DVD in the UK in by Liberation Entertainment as part of a release schedule of Marvel Animated series. However, the release never came to be due to Liberation going bankrupt. The complete series of Spider Woman was finally released on Region 2 DVD format on 20 July 2009. The series is released in a 2-disc set from Clear Vision Ltd.