So I’ve decided to do a mini-series of posts this month about Japanese takes on familiar non-Japanese characters. I’ll start with what’s probably the one I have the most to say about: Spider-Man.
Basically, what happened was that there was a deal between Marvel and Toei that let each use the other’s characters in any way they wanted. Neither company actually did as much with this as you’d think; Marvel used two Toei anime robots (Combattler V and Danguard Ace) in their Shogun Warriors comic, Toei made an animated movie based on The Tomb of Dracula (one of Marvel’s horror comics), and then there was this tokusatsu version of Spider-Man, and one other thing.
They definitely went for the “in any way they wanted” part; this Spider-Man is a different character with a different origin involving aliens, who only wears the same costume and has similar powers. (And first idea they had would have been even more different; Spider-Man was almost the sidekick of a time-traveling Yamato Takeru!)
Now, you might think Spider-Man has a giant robot because of Super Sentai, but that’s not quite it. The last show to result from the Marvel/Toei deal started off as a Japanese version of Captain America, but wound up even more distinct and didn’t even use the name at all (though it did have a Miss America, which is the name of a less-known Marvel character). The show was Battle Fever J, the first Super Sentai series to have mecha; this show was influenced by Spider-Man, the first live-action costumed hero with a giant robot.
So oddly enough, Spider-Man is the reason sentai teams (and by extension, Power Rangers) have mecha, not the other way around.
(Also, just as interesting, despite the original belonging to a version of Spider-Man and being in the Shogun Warriors toyline, Leopardon was not in Marvel’s Shogun Warriors comic.)