The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (lost Josh Keaton vocal performance of 2D animated series; 2012)
Still from "Along Came a Spider", the first of Spider-Man's three re-dubbed guest appearances.
The animated series The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (which ran from 2010-2012) had famous Marvel Comics hero Spider-Man guest-star in four episodes: #39 ("Along Came a Spider"), #44 ("Yellowjacket"), #49 ("New Avengers") and #52 ("Avengers Assemble", also the official series finale). Before they premiered, a rumor arose that Josh Keaton recorded the voice of Spider-Man. He previously voiced the character in the The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008-2009) animated series and five Marvel-themed video games. However, EMH viewers ended up hearing someone else in the role.
As became the case for several episodes of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, these four aired in Australia first, instead of America. "Along Came a Spider" received this treatment on June 6, 2012. Viewers didn't hear Josh Keaton, but Drake Bell instead. Prior to this, Bell had only voiced Spider-Man in the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man (2012-2017), which made its American premiere only two months earlier. Some viewers thought he gave a decent performance, while others felt disappointed not to hear Keaton instead.
A screenshot posted on the Facebook Group "Keep 'The Spectacular Spider-Man' Alive!" confirmed that Drake Bell's name appeared in the episode's end credits. Josh Keaton found the screencap on Facebook, and commented, "Wow so they redubbed my audio. I recorded a few Avengers eps as Spider-Man and was looking forward to seeing them. Typical Parker luck I guess."
The Hunt Begins
With the earlier rumors confirmed, Marvel fans quickly developed an interest to watch The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes with Josh Keaton as Spider-Man. One fansite, Marvel Animation Age, tried to promote hashtag activism as a means of convincing Marvel/Disney to release the undubbed versions of the episodes. This would involve Tweeting either "#JoshKeatonIsSpiderMan", or "#DrakeBellIsNotSpiderMan". However, neither hashtag became very popular. As controversy over the dubbing arose, Josh Keaton posted on Tumblr that this marked far from the first time one of his vocal performances became replaced, and that Drake Bell didn't deserve Marvel fans' scorn--he dubbed Spidey's guest spots for money, not out of spite.
When the rest of Spider-Man's guest appearances made their TV debuts, they still contained Drake Bell's vocals, instead of Josh Keaton's. "Yellowjacket" provided an exception, but only because Spidey had no lines, meaning viewers heard neither Bell nor Keaton. This also remained the case when the episodes finally made their American premieres, starting on July 22, 2012. The North American home video releases of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes do not include an option to replace Drake Bell with Josh Keaton.
When asked why Marvel dubbed over Josh Keaton, Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada explained that children watching The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes immediately after Ultimate Spider-Man might have become confused by Spider-Man sounding different in each show. The asker of the question proceeded to point out that some of the Avengers had made guest appearances on USM, but not with the same voice actors from EMH. Quesada gave no explanation as to why Iron Man's or Thor's voice changing would seem any less jarring to those children.
Two of Josh Keaton's fellow Spectacular Spider-Man cast members, Daran Norris and Grey DeLisle, can still be heard in the dubbed-over version of "Along Came a Spider". DeLisle reprised her role of Betty Brant, while Norris voiced J. Jonah Jameson and a policeman. However, his performance of Jameson became replaced by one courtesy of JK Simmons, who portrayed Jameson in both animation (Ultimate Spider-Man) and live-action (Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies). DeLisle's recordings remained intact because Betty Brant had yet to appear in Ultimate Spider-Man, saving Marvel the trouble of worrying that she would sound too different in between shows.
One post from Marvel Animation Age's forum suggests that at least one other English-speaking country aired The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes with Josh Keaton's voice intact, but this hasn't become verified yet.
The dubbing, and Marvel's refusal to inform Josh Keaton about it before televising the episodes, might have created the impression that they would never work together again. However, they eventually demonstrated otherwise: in 2016, Marvel cast Keaton to voice Ant-Man II in their cartoons, starting in 2017.
Meanwhile, Drake Bell voiced Spider-Man in animation for the longest time of any Spidey VA yet, but did not come back after Marvel greenlit the "back to basics" Marvel's Spider-Man animated series, which began airing in 2017. This show has Robbie Daymond voicing Spidey, while Josh Keaton plays some supporting roles, such as Norman Osborn.
The head writer of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Christopher Yost, continued writing for Marvel after the show ended, penning such projects as the live-action movie Thor: Ragnarok. When asked in November 2018 to release Josh Keaton's recordings for Spidey's guest spots, which Yost wrote, Yost replied, "I don't even know who's in charge over there. But even if I did, they're a pretty forward looking group". Indeed, when Disney+ made The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes available to stream and download one year later, it still had Drake Bell as the only option.
Josh Keaton finally resumed voicing Spider-Man in animation in the 2023 animated movie Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, which includes an appearance from the Spidey variant introduced in The Spectacular Spider-Man.
- "Keep 'The Spectacular Spider-Man' Alive!" reveals the replacement of Josh Keaton.
- Marvel Animation Age reviews the re-dubbed version of "Along Came a Spider".
- Josh Keaton addresses his fans.
- Joe Quesada tries to justify the re-dubbing.
- A hint of the Keaton audio surfacing overseas.
- Christopher Yost doubts an un-dubbed release.