From the Vault: Spectacular Spider-Man Review
I’ve been very busy this past week, so busy I haven’t had the chance to write anything even the stuff I had planned to write. So instead of rushing out something I’d regret later here’s a review from a few years ago. This is a review of the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon back when it first aired in 2008. It’s based on the first two episodes, since they aired episodes one and two back-to-back, and was written for my university newspaper/magazine. It’s interesting to look at my ideas and feelings about the series from when it first started and see where the series eventually ended up.
So here’s a look at my first thoughts of an awesome show. I’ll probably do a full review of the series later when I have the time, but right now here’s an ‘oldie’ from 2008.
Saturday 8th March saw the return of one of the classic superheroes to the small screen. Spider-Man has a new animated series and it is legendary.
It’s set at the end of the summer after Peter Parker got bit by the spider, gaining his abilities, and with him starting his Junior year of High School. The death of his uncle is still a big weight on him since it happened at the start of summer.
In the first episode he fights his first major foes, and it’s a big challenge for him. Over the summer he’s been stopping muggers, liquor store robberies, and one bank heist he’s very proud of, but nothing like he’s about to face.
The Vulture, aka Adrian Toomes, is the central villain of this episode with the mercenary trio of The Enforcers in pursuit of him as well. Vulture has had an update for this series, gone is the green suit and out comes the great red and black armour he wore in the Marvel Knights Spider-Man comics. His weak comic origin has changed as well, no longer is he a guy who made an actual flying device just to rob jewellery stores, but is an inventor who’s had his “magnetic air transport” technology stolen by business mogul and scientist Norman Osborn. The only means left for the aging inventor to gain recognition for his work is to don his prototype flying suit and force Osborn to admit to stealing his invention.
The series is going to focus on the very beginning of Spidey which hasn’t been done in animated form before. The classic stories of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko and Stan Lee/John Romita Sr comics will be retold in a contemporary style. Then if the series goes on long enough they’ll start translating the later eras of the comics.
They are condensing some of the timeline to get the most out of the supporting cast. So not only do we get to see J. Jonah Jameson, Betty Brant, and flash Thompson, but also characters who appeared later such as Eddie Brock, Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy, the Osborn’s, and many many more. Which I think is a good idea and most assuredly will pay off in the future.
Some of the supporting cast has had their ethnicity changed because it wouldn’t reflect the world we live in now, nor New York the most culturally diverse city in the world, if the cast was 99% white like the 60s comics. It’s nothing big and doesn’t matter one iota story wise. But I think it’s cool that they’re doing this and trying to make it reflect the real world.
The creative team behind this are amazing. Greg Weisman, co-creator of Gargoyles, is the supervising producer. Victor Cook, From Hellboy Animated DTV’s, is a producer. Sean ‘cheeks’ Galloway, again from Hellboy Animated, is the lead character designer along with other very talented individuals such as Greg Guler, lead character designer for Gargoyles.
The voice actors were pretty spot on. Josh Keaton as Peter/Spidey is the perfect choice. He nails both sides of the character and delivers a different distinctive voice for them. The Vulture is voiced, brilliantly, by Robert Englund. Freddy Kruger of the Nightmare on Elm Street fame. Other excellent actors litter this series with such veterans as Jeff Bennett, Keith David, John DiMaggio, Phil Lamarr, Clancy Brown, and Crispin Freeman.
The writing in this series is top notch and not “dumbed down” or “kiddiefied” as other action cartoons set around teenaged protagonists have been. Story points made in these episodes, big and small, will be used again, such as Spidey capturing petty crooks Flint Marko and Alex O’Hirn (future Sandman and Rhino), to Dr Curt Connors injecting himself with modified lizard DNA. A lot of the main villains do appear before they gain powers and start breaking the law.
The most prominent one is Eddie Brock Jr, who later turns into fan favourite Venom. He is in the show from episode one as an old high school friend of Peter’s whose now a freshman at Empire State University and is actually a nice guy for once. He will become Venom in the season one final, the reasons for hating Peter and Spider-Man will be tragic and for once actually well written.
The only real problems with the series is the facial designs which take some time to get used to as these designs haven’t been used in animation before so they look “weird”. They’re pretty simple but allow for good expressions and after the second episode the only reason to complain about them is if you want to hate this show.
The animation is just sensational. The simple designs allow for very fluid movements and animation. As Greg Weisman has said when commenting on the designs, “We want a Spider-Man that moves.” And they definitely got one.
All in all this is a great start for what will be a truly amazing series. I honestly can’t imagine this series failing in any way.