Frame By Frame Review Spectacular Spider-Man: Survival of the Fittest

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These reviews look at a single episode of a show, usually an incredibly silly one, and go through it bit by bit looking at each moment in turn. As well as poking fun, adding sarcastic comments to the mix, and over thinking ever minor detail. This time it’s going to be a bit different as we’re looking at a good cartoon, the 2008 Spectacular Spider-Man, with the first jam packed episode: Survival of the Fittest

This is more of an experiment to see if I can apply the principles of the Frame By Frame Reviews for a show I want to praise rather than mock. Shows that have a lot of little details that would be overlooked in a regular review, while still making a bit of fun in the process, because no show is perfect. If I’m happy with it and if people like it I’ll probably do more. If not then it’s a tribute to a great so that started five years ago.

Some background: On March 8th 2008 came a Spider-Man show that became the definitive show for the wallcrawler much like Batman: The Animated Series by Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett did for the Dark Knight Detective. Helmed by Greg Weisman and Victor Cook with character designs by Sean ‘Cheeks’ Galloway they brought life into the webslinger taking cues from his entire 50 year history. From the early days of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and John Romita Sr, to the modern day in J. Michael Straczynski’s run and Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man. The series was meant to be a contemporary, concise, and iconic modernisation for the character and in doing so they decided that every named character in the show will be someone from the comics because the character has that rich of a history. While things has been revised, updated, and streamlined, the show is a tribute to the Lee, Ditko, and Romita, era of Spider-Man.

Without further ramblings and no ado let’s see why this series is considered to be so good in:

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The series opens on a shot of nighttime New York City as spider crawls around its web in the foreground. Some very nice imagery to open on, even if the spider legs sometimes don’t actually connect with the web it’s crawling on.

And right off the bat we get our first look at this Spectacular take on the web-head. Jumping from building to building as he narrates to the audience, “Tell me there’s something better. Go ahead, try.” Well I could make some dirty jokes, but yeah web swinging across Manhattan is probably more awesome. Then he runs past some Gargoyles and web-swings down the street with the animation for it being just amaz — Wait a second:

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Hey don’t you guys belong to Disney?

Those look familiar. Nah, they can’t be Hudson and Broadway from Gargoyles, Greg Weisman’s other famous series. Gargoyles sleep during the day, not at night. So with that fanservice out of the way Spidey exposits that it’s the end of summer vacation as he swings by the Daily Bugle building. We get our first look at Jolly Jonah Jameson, working late because it’s JJ. I’d imagine he’d have a bed in his office, but his wife would probably kill him for spending literally all his time there.

The exposition continues as we find out it’s the last night before school starts the next day. As far as exposition goes it’s very well done with it being framed as his mock “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” report. We get to see that Peter really loves being Spider-Man, we hear it in the wonderful voice Josh Keaton provides. It gets the information across about when this takes place, the summer right after he became Spidey, and tells us where the character is right now, really enjoying his life and not weighed down by fighting supervillains and personal drama. Before he gets back to school he “could really use some action” well he’s about 15/16 so all teenagers think that about once a day… wait he means fighting some bad guys. While I make dirty jokes it’s not too far removed from some of the double entendres we’ll be getting from later episodes.

The Universe, for once, provides as he hears an alarm go off in a building near him. Probably one of the few times the Universe has been on his side, and it’s not going to last long here. So he swings down to the roof of the Jewelery CenterTM and we see two unimportant goons carrying bags of jewels trying to escape. One of them says its one quick jump and they’ll be a million bucks richer, the other complains that “this ain’t no million buck haul. Not after the Big Man takes his cut.” He gets cut off by the first one, suggesting they’ve had this conversation few times and he’s sick of it. Hmmm and who’s this Big Man they speak of? We’ll have to get to that later because right as the complainy guy jumps he gets webbed right back and the other is left in the spotlight.

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Well the Spider-Signal Light, at any rate.

Now there’s a call back to the old Stan Lee days. Utterly impractical, no possible way for it to look like that if it shined through his costume, but still damn cool to see. We also learn that these guys are called Marko and O’Hirn, and Spidey’s taken them down repeatedly over summer. That shirt Marko’s wearing looks familiar, maybe I’ve seen it in the comics or a movie before. Probably not important.

So Spidey thrashes Marko with so little effort he gets to banter about his new Spider-Signal and wonder’s if it’s too over the top. He manages to hogtie Marko before he finishes a sentence. O’Hirn is also webbed up and is really not happy about it, this seems like a guy who definitely holds grudges. Not that it matters or that we’ll see them again or anything.

We then pan back to see someone in shadows watching the fight. The man is voiced by Keith David and he asks if that was a live feed. When it’s confirmed he tells Hammerhead to summon the Enforcers. We can tell it’s Hammerhead because there’s no other Spidey villain that wears a pinstriped purple suit and has such a flat head. The guy must have trouble finding hats with a head like that.

And with that we move into the opening sequence. This just nails the catchy theme song just like the 60s cartoon did. Even though some of the lyrics, such as “arriving in the speed of time,” don’t really make any sense. One of the cool things the intro does is introduce some of the principle cast, Peter, Gwen, Harry, JJ, and Spidey, with then standing next to their names and the background plays some significance in their role. Harry is in front of Oscorp, JJ in his office, Spidey’s on a rooftop with a camera, but Peter’s just on the street and Gwen is… well:

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Who is she again? I don’t think she had any impact in the comics.

That just seems sort of plain. If I was cruel I’d almost say it’s the top of a bridge, but obvious trying to hide that fact. That could just be my imagination as I think they give her a new one in season 2. What was good about this segment was that in season 2 it’d change depending on who was in the episode. So the show doesn’t have to introduce these characters in the dialogue, especially since any episode can be someone’s first, so we at least get a sense of who’s who.

After the intro we get an establishing shot of Peter’s home in Forest Hills. We see Peter in his room pulling on a top over his spandex Spidey costume. I’d say that must be really warm to wear underneath other clothes, but it is September so maybe it all balances out. He says he’s never been so enthused for the first day of school, “Because today everything changes.” Well we’ll see how generous the Universe is feeling.

Just as he’s coming downstairs he overhears his Aunt May talking to her friend Anna Watson over coffee. She’s lamenting that they’re almost out of money and that Uncle Ben was no “financial wizard” so they don’t have much of a fallback, savings, or any life insurance money coming in. We see that Ben’s death is still fresh for both May and Peter and that they’re both putting on a brave face for the other. She tells Anna not to mention the money problems to Peter because she doesn’t want him to worry. Whoops.

So Peter fakes that he never heard them talking and tries to cheer May up a bit. It seems to work and he takes his lunch and heads to school while looking a bit solemn as he walks out that door. That supposed great day isn’t starting off so well.

We cut to OsCorp and see an old buzzard of a man yelling at a pudgier scientist. This pair is Adrian Toomes and Otto Octavius, voiced by Robert Englund, from your nightmares, and Peter MacNicol, from your childhood. It seems Otto convinced Adrian to show off and try and sell his “magnetic air transport system” to OsCorp only for Norman Osborn to study the technology, reject it, then make a rip-off version called “TechFlight” four months later. The two are, or maybe were at this point, friends, which is probably why Adrian is taking it out on poor Otto rather than getting a lawyer to go after Osborn. Or maybe he has considered it and decided that because Osborn can hire more expensive lawyers than him it’s pointless. It’s entirely possible he thinks Otto had something to do with the IP theft and invited him to show off his tech not as a friendly gesture at all. So he’s taking it out on the man responsible, in his eyes at least.

Just as Otto is saying he’s sorry, Norman Osborn comes in, flanked by his two personal security guards, telling him not to dare apologise as OsCorp has nothing to apologise for. Adrian accuses him of stealing his invention but Norman shoots it down with a grin saying it’s entirely unsupportable, and in a slightly threatening manner saying it’s “dangerous talk.” What’s great about it is that even though it’s obvious that he did steal it the way he phrases everything means that he’s not admitting to anything so there’s nothing Adrian can go to court over.

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A smirk so slick you could market it for cookware

He then calls Adrian an “old buzzard” saying he’s not got a single successful invention to his name despite being at it for decades, so no one would believe he invented TechFlight. The final screw is using the OsCorp name for his invention, a subtle dig that the invention is his now rather than Adrian’s. Norman then has Adrian forcefully escorted off the property. As he leaves he tells Otto he doesn’t blame him anymore, seeing Osborn is the man his ire should be directed at. The man has had the one thing he’s worked his life towards stolen out form under him, his friend and colleague has no spine to stand up for him, and there’s nothing he can do about it other than get thrown out on the street. He’s absolutely powerless to stop Norman, to convince or scare Otto into helping, or just to keep from being manhandled out the door. All the while Norman is smugly blowing on his nails at another corporate victory. He just screams ‘I’m an evil bastard’ in all his mannerisms and the vocals of Alan Rachins.

We cut to “Midtown Manhattan Magnet High School” or “M3” as the logo states. Pete walks in and thinks that he’s going to let their money problems spoil his big first day. He’s been Spidey throughout summer and his entire outlook has changed. Being in the costume has freed him into being a much more confident person, not to mention he feels a lot more powerful, for obvious reasons. So he’s decided not to be the beat on nerd from before, he wants to take charge like he’s been doing as Spider-Man. Let’s see how well that does for him.

He meets up with his two best friends, Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn, they greet and ask how summer was. Gwen had fun at science camp and Harry had a “world tour” that was boring since his dad spent most of it boardrooms. As he wishes he stayed in town with Peter so they “could’ve done nothing together” we get another Stan Lee and Steve Ditko coda as Pete’s face has a half Spider mask appear on it.

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You might want to get that looked at, Peter.

It’s a cute little signifier of irony about whenever Peter’s two lives mix. This time it’s the idea Pete’s been doing nothing over summer when in fact his entire life has changed. As Harry asks if he’s ready for the “torture that is M3?” and he just says it’s going to be different as the music switches to a love theme and the screen goes tinted as the camera moves onto a blond cheerleader sitting by the water fixture at the entrance. It’s a romantic comedy gag as he walks over to her as Harry wonders how it’ll be different since he spent half of sophomore year shoved in a locker, but Pete just ignores him. He goes to embrace his destiny in full romance movie mode. It’s a decent visual gag but I never thought it fit the series, especially since we hardly ever see something like it again in the series. However the punch line is well worth it.

As he’s walking over to the innocent looking cheerleader he thinks his life is about to change because he’s a “wall-crawler not a wallflower.” You can tell he’s a teenager; the big life changing thing is him wanting to date a blond cheerleader. Truly the ultimate goal for all high school students, or if they swing that way a blond Jock, whatever floats their boat. His true destiny is upon him as he asks this girl, Sally, out as his friends look on in horror. The music swells and her response is, “ARE YOU DAMANGED!” and the music record scratches to a halt.

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Sadly he was right, this is his ultimate destiny with women.

The reference within the joke is that this is a scene lifted from Spidey’s first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 where a non-powered Peter asks a brunet Sally Avirl out. I think she was only slightly kinder in the comic. Here Sally would be offended “Midtown High’s champion geek” dared breath the same oxygen as her, let alone ask her out. Before Sally can throw more insults at him, or deck him knowing Pete’s luck, her posse shows up. Flash Thompson, Liz Allan, who’s Hispanic in this series the reasons for which I won’t cover right now, and Sally’s boyfriend Rand Robertson. Which must have been a recent thing, probably over summer; god knows what she had to do to make him go out with her since she’s such a horrib…ly outspoken person. Let’s go with that since she’s voiced by Grey DeLisle, who could probably burn me alive with a flick of her wrist.

So anyway Peter didn’t know about the two of them and apologises to Rand about it, who nonchalantly says “’t’s cool.” I like him already. Sally get’s offending that he’s not offending by this, he just replies, “Why? You wanna go out with him?” Sally just delivers a snide remark about not wanting to be on the same planet as Peter before the entire crowd of gathered kids laugh at him. Then Flash grabs him and says he’s lucky he didn’t try it with Liz or else, well he doesn’t get to finish as Pete tells him he’s not a punching bag anymore. Flash then promptly pushes him over and steals his lunch. You may have changed Peter, but to the rest of school you’re still a nerd who no one takes seriously. Not like he’s ever going to cross Flash and pursue Liz after this debacle, right?

So with Peter’s hopes of his school life thoroughly smashed let’s get back to the other plotline. In a warehouse devoid of anything except a stool with a speaker Hammer head walks in with three other people, the Enforcers. Classic Spidey villains who are the top tier of mob enforcers. Ox, Fancy Dan, and their leader in this version, Montana. The Big Man’s voice comes out of the speaker and we see that he’s not just hidden in the shadows for the audience but also from a lot of his organisation. He doesn’t want anything that connects him to his criminal endeavours, leaving Hammerhead to be his middleman.

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So is this the secret meeting warehouse or did they catch it in the off season for smuggling?

I do seriously wonder why the rest of place is empty. Sure it creates a great atmosphere, but in the show it makes no sense. So anyway the Big Man says that for the last four months their operations have been ruined and for a time he could hardly believe the reports. Thinking they were trying to “stiff” them out of their cut, with Hammerhead having to get a little “rough” with them. After establishing patterns of movement through summer they finally got confirmation that Spider-Man is real. I like that in the beginning Spider-Man is this urban legend where, even though the name is common to the point of Flash knowing it, he’s still something no one really knows that much about.

This does make me wonder what people thought he was since he did show up to do some wrestling, even if it was a one off. Did people at the people at the wrestling arena think a crazy dude in tights was taking down crooks? Is the wrestling stuff common knowledge or just something a select group know about? Not that it really matters but since they set up this urban legend of Spider-Man I’m curious what that was before it got confirmed. Anyway the Big Man gives the Enforcers the job of squashing the Spider and after that ominousness we cut back to M3.

Their Advanced Biology class has just finished and their teacher, Dr Warren, tells Peter and Gwen to remain behind. He asks if they remember a fieldtrip they took to Empire State University labs, run by Dr Curt Connors, and we get a mini flashback.

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Peter really was going Full-Nerd back then.

We see a nerdier looking Peter get bit by the spider and then a shot of his red and blue DNA changing. I’m fairly sure Peter’s insides aren’t colour coded to match his costume, but maybe that’s just how he pictures it in his head. Which would make more sense than his DNA suddenly growing tendrils, since that can’t be good for him. It’s a good little origin recap that only lasts a few seconds for people to get the significance of ESU labs. While Peter says he’ll never forget that fieldtrip Gwen jumps in saying Dr Connors work was thrilling. Ah geeky Gwen, I love that there’s a nerdy girl as part of the cast in this show and it’s not treated as anything other than normal. I can think of quite a few other shows, prime time ones too, and actual people that treat geek girls as a ‘rare mythical creature, probably non-existent.’

Anyway turns out ESU labs is offering two internships to promising high schoolers and Dr Warren recommended the two of them. They also start that afternoon, short notice for their parents/legal guardians, who surely would at least need to be notified of this. It is pretty much an after school job. Maybe they ask in the interim since the scene changes and Dr Warren could mention the technical details off screen.

So we now get a few shots of someone suiting up with a green filter on them, *insert Mass Effect ending joke here.* We see they’ve got razor sharp claws that come out of his boots and equally sharp retractable wings. I’m going to take a wild stab and say this episodes villain is the Scorpion. The green was a big giveaway.

After that quick tease we cut to the Osborn penthouse where Peter’s hanging with Harry before heading down to ESU. Harry’s surprised he’s not at the school paper, establishing Pete’s photography hobby and that he’s good enough to be called “their star photographer.” Peter boasts that he’ll be too busy “raking in the green” to take pictures. Oh there’s too much irony there to count. Harry questions his decision making since early he did ask Sally Avril out and she has the personality of a shrew. Peter rebuffs that by pointing out how much money Harry’s dad has made by being a scientist. Oh Pete, you really need a wake-up call from the Universe. Internships are usually unpaid, surely you should’ve asked instead of assuming… what am I saying, this is Peter Parker here.

Before they can go much further Norman overhears them and calls them outside. Peter starts apologising by Norman cuts him off saying, “Don’t you dare apologise, I never do.” I wonder why that catch phrase never caught on as much as “With great power there must also come great responsibility.” He asks about the lab job and then goes for the twofer of praising Peter while berating Harry for not being considered for it.

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Not awkward at all.

Just as Peter tries to excuse themselves to save Harry someone else breaks the tension and quite literally swoops down and carries Norman away. Looks like I was wrong, it’s Adrian Toomes as the Vulture. Silly me for thinking it could be the Scorpion, there’s no way this series would just merge two villains together like that… anyway.

With Norman being carried on his merry way Harry is quite rightly shocked at what just happened. It’s not everyday a nut in a costume and his own flying machine pops by the Osborn household. Peter snaps him out of it by telling him to go call the cops. As Harry runs inside Pete slips off his shoes, sets them down, and then jumps off the building. Presumably he’ll be changing in midair, hopefully putting on his webshooters first, but why leave the shoes? He had the rest of his clothes on, including his school bag, so he must stick them on some rooftop somewhere. If I had to guess it was the heat of the moment and he didn’t want his shoes falling off when he jumped. Since he’s doing quick changes into Spider-Man constantly he must have shoes that he can easily slip off. Which would just fall off when he’s plummeting through the air. He should really invest in better shoes though.

As Pete gets changed into his spider themed onesie the Vulture is flying around trying to intimidate Norman and show off how much better his invention is than whatever knock-off Norman’s made. We also get a great dialogue exchange between the two, “Not Toomes now, I’m what you called me. I’m the Vulture!” “I called you a buzzard!” “What?” “You can’t even get the name right.” The dialogue in this show is fantastic, and that was just one of the many highlights. Not only do we get Norman Osborn being cool under extreme pressure but we also see the start of one of the themes for the villains in this show. And that’s the powerless striving to become powerful then being corrupted by that power. He isn’t Adrian Toomes anymore, that man was weak and got pushed around by corporate thugs like Osborn. He reinvented himself into something powerful, someone who couldn’t be bound by the rules of gravity. He’s a vulture who wants to take Osborn and shown him how powerless he really is. How it felt to be pushed around by someone with power.

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Time to fly the unfriendly skies

I do really like the Vulture redesign here. The striped green jumpsuit and feathers are gone and replaced with armour and a red and black colour scheme. It’s similar to the Terry Dodson design from the Marvel Knights Spider-Man comics, but notably different. The headset he’s wearing probably lets him have basic mental control of the suit, and given we’ve seen he was a colleague of Otto Octavius they more than likely collaborated on that mental control technology together in the past. It’s rather strange he just happened to have the suit just lying around. I get the feeling this is a prototype Toomes made to try and sell after failing at OsCorp four months ago, possibly to the military given the razor sharp wings, but couldn’t once Osborn stole the technology.

All of that is just speculation and not from the show, but there’s enough in there to make some logical extrapolation. It doesn’t explain everything but gives us enough to make our own conclusions about this stuff. Though I do have to say Vulture really should invest in some gloves. It must be pretty cold flying around New York, not to mention it’d be safer against the razor sharp wings. So, like everything, the show’s not perfect.

Back to the episode the Vulture makes his demands, get rightfully named the inventor of the tech, get the money he’s owed, and a public apology from Norman. Oh boy, it was all well and good till that last point. Norman Osborn never apologises. So Vulture drops him to his death. It would be a rather messy end till our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man showed up to catch him. I really loved Vulture’s “What? These skies are mine now!” reaction and Spidey’s retort, “He may be right, I really just rent.” It does get a bit lost in the rapid fire banter and his introduction to them, since this is the first time someone prominent has seen Spider-Man before. What’s a great little animation touch is that while Spidey is swinging away with Norman he’s constantly swapping Norman back and forth between his arms. He needs both arms to swing so that’s the only real way he could do it.

Before Spidey can get too far the Vulture swoops in and cuts the webline with his wings, sending the two to splat on the street. Down on that street we get our first look at some more minor characters, also from the comics, Officer Jean DeWolff and Sergeant Stan Carter. They were in some little storylines from the 80s, I’m sure no one remembers them now. As they walk out of the police station they’re in the middle of a conversation and Jean was mentioning how “He’s not helping” and that “the perps he nabs almost always walk.” The “he” is undoubtedly Spidey and it goes a way to explain why we get the recurring crooks like Marko and O’Hirn. If they get webbed up in the middle of the night for the police to find then there’s no one around to press charges, and probably many other legal matters I know nothing about, the likely hood for the case getting thrown out is high. It’s quite clever for the show to bring this up in passing, so the line resonates if you’re paying attention, but it doesn’t hit the audience over the head with this fact when it comes up later.

Before that can go any further Spidey and Norman drop in on then, Spidey saving himself and Norman with a webline and unceremoniously dumping Norman onto Officer DeWolff. When asking what’s going on Norman just yells to explain inside the station, where the Vulture can’t go. What’s funny is that we see Stan pull out his baton to defend them.

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Yeah somehow I don’t think that’s an effect defence tactic

That’s just not going to do a damn thing to stop the Vulture. So Spidey goes after the Vulture, gives some good banter, which just seems to infuriate him more and flies away as Spidey calls him “beaky” and he screams back “The name VULTURE!” With Norman making the buzzard crack and now “beaky” that’s just stripping away at the power he thought he had.

We cut to later on as Peter is walking to ESU and talking to Harry on the phone. Pete’s taking off his webshooters while doing this, a subtle way of establishing he uses mechanical webshooters and doesn’t produce weblines from his body like in the film series. He gives a lame excuse that he tried to follow Vulture on foot, which even Harry has to comment on how dumb a move that was. He’s gotten his clothes and school bag back, but not his shoes. No explanation is given but I think it’s because the police would be at Osborn’s and the balcony is a crime scene. So he can’t go there as Spidey and doesn’t want to confront the cops as Peter given they’d ask questions he doesn’t want to answer. So he just left them there and hoped to pick them up later. Not to mention he had to hurry off to his new internship.

Speaking of, Gwen’s at the door waiting for him and he gets off the phone before she gives him “The Look.” She denies this but we’ll be seeing it later on in the show. As they go in they’re greeted by Connors’ personal lab assistant, Eddie Brock. He’s a childhood friend of there’s that’s now a college freshman, also a fairly obscure comic character from the late 80s and 90s which I’m sure not many people have heard of. We also get that he used to protect Pete from Flash when he points out Flash must have stolen his shoes again. So him walking around with no shoes isn’t exactly unprecedented. We’re then introduced to Martha Connors, Curt’s wife, and in this series also a scientist who works with her husband. Speaking of we then get our first look at Curt Connors as he secretly injects himself with an unknown substance in his office.

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I’m sure that stuff’s harmless

That’ll pay off later. What I’m more interested in now is Curt’s prosthetic arm. It’s got at least some basic movement that he controls mentally, which is entirely possible both now and back when this was made. What peaks my curiosity is why it doesn’t have any synthetic skin on it. Usually these prosthetics are skin coloured so why did Curt choose not to do that. I’d say, in his mind, doing that would be accepting the prosthetic was his replacement arm, and he doesn’t want that at all. His entire character is not accepting there’s nothing that can be done for him. He doesn’t want the arm to look real, to embrace a falsehood, he wants the daily reminder. He also wants to say ‘screw nature, I’m regrowing my arm’ but that’s for later. The production reason for it is so the audience can see it’s a prosthetic arm since not making it metallic would probably be difficult and confusing given the simplified artstyle.

And there’s also a glaring animation mistake as he clearly isn’t wearing a shirt, just a lab coat, but when he walks out the office, a second later, he’s got a shirt and tie on. I don’t think I could explain that away. Unless he’s been tampering with blue hedgehog DNA too.

Martha introduces Curt to Pete and Gwen, and Pete goes to shake his hand. The wrong hand that is. Curt takes it like it’s a regular thing, which it probably is.

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Keep smiling Pete, makes you look that much more awkward.

Curt kind of remembers Peter as the kid that got bitten by the spider, but Pete tries to defect it. I’m wondering if that earlier flashback cut off Pete passing out after he got bit and was taken to the hospital, like in the Ultimate comic’s version. So Curt tells them that they’re only getting the tour today and that the “real work” starts the next day, and then tells Eddie to show them around. First thing Peter asks Eddie is how much this job pays. Eddie tells him the obvious, that he’s high school student intern, he doesn’t get paid.

After work Peter is waiting with Gwen at the bus stop and lamenting the money problem that he thought he had sorted out. Gwen just tells him not to angst and that something will come to him as she gets on her bus. He looks around and asks the Universe “well, I’m waiting” then a newspaper get’s blown in his face. It’s a Daily Bugle paper with a headline about Spider-Man, which gives him an idea,

We cut to him crawling up the Daily Bugle wall, in his regular clothes not as Spider-Man, and complaining about how bad his current run of luck has been and that things haven’t gone right. “But May and Ben Parker didn’t raise no quitters, any quitters, you get the idea.” I like that he corrected grammar in his own head. It’s just one of those neat little touches this show does with its dialogue. So as he climbs into the storage closet, that has a window that can open from the outside for some reason, he sees the busy newsroom. J. Jonah Jameson comes out of his office barking orders at his stall, and then bumps into Peter mistaking him for an intern.

We get a sense of JJ and the Daily Bugle in general here, that it’s very fast paced and the JJ likes yelling orders at his staff, which just ignore him when they’re actually doing the work he’s shouting that they’re not doing. Then there’s Betty Brant, who just calmly walks through JJ’s typhoon of sound and fury and plainly tells him what he’s gotten wrong. In this case it’s that Peter isn’t the intern JJ was yelling about. We’ll get to know them in due time, but this is just the set-up for what will be a regular fixture in the series.

Pete, trying his best confident salesman tone, tells JJ he’s got a proposal for him. That pictures of Spider-Man in action will sell newspapers, and he might be able to get some. JJ yells at him some more about not knowing anything about selling papers since he’s a kid, worse a teenager, and yells for security. They must have already been on their way since they grab Peter immediately.

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Teenagers, always breaking into newspapers!

As the elevator doors close JJ tells his editor, Robbie, that they need pictures, pictures of Spider-Man, and Peter declares that this day “officially reeks.” Well maybe next time think about your cockamamie schemes a little before trying to do them. Don’t try to sell an idea, taken some photos of yourself and try to sell those. JJ’s not going to magically give you money for having a good idea. And it’s perhaps best if you don’t try to sell your idea as “I’ve got something better than a bagel” just saying.

So now, after the day he’s had, the Amazing Spider-Man is forced to sneak around for his shoes. He’s back at the Osborn penthouse but it’s nighttime now and he’s just hoping the Osborn butler hasn’t moved them off of the balcony. Outside Norman’s limo is pulling up and he asks his bodyguards if it’s all clear. Of course not even a second later the Vulture swoops down, because it’s a bit hard to make an open area clear against someone who can fly. So the limo takes off with Vulture in pursuit, with Spidey chasing after him, and then the Enforcers show up in a chopper and go after him because they were flying around in Spidey’s last known locations.

Spidey kicks Vulture out of the way and then weblines onto the Vultures foot, who takes him on a ride trying to shake him off. A ride which has Spidey having to run across rooftops and risking the most vital part of him.

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That would’ve been painful

The Enforcers catch up with them and Montana, while a bit confused over what’s happening, is a professional and doesn’t care about the freak show so long as it keeps their target distracted. He fires a net missile at Spidey, instead of a machinegun or even a laser that could, you know, actually kill him. He does the classic “my Spider-Sense is tingling” but doesn’t get to finish before he gets trapped in it. Next time less announcing your Spider-Sense is going off and more acting on that fact.

Vulture’s happy Spidey’s off his tail, or foot in this case, and falling to his doom. Spidey get’s free enough to shoot a webline to save himself. It catches on a gargoyle and swings to safety, or he would if it didn’t fall off the perch.

TSSMSotF18
NO! Not Broadway!

Yup it’s another Gargoyles reference. But instead of saving our hero this one nearly kills him as it falls and almost squashes him as he lands on a rooftop. Montana dispatches Fancy Dan and Ox to go finish the job as he stays in the chopper. They fight, giving Spidey a hard time since he’s not used to fighting thugs that have actual fighting skills. Powers or not if you’ve got proper training you can give anyone a hard time, at least for a little while. Fancy Dan kicks Spidey into Ox’s, very strong, grip and Spidey yanks on Ox’s very fine moustache to get free. Speaking as someone with facial hair, that would hurt like a bitch. Also I think they gave Ox a moustache just for that gag.

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Seriously that’s got to hurt.

They fight some more, with Fancy Dan showing off some of his martial arts moves and doing a nice Charily Chaplin walk when he twirled his staff. Ox also managed to snap some of Spidey’s webbing, which is quite impressive considering how strong that stuff’s meant to be. But it’s good to show it’s not indestructible. After kicking his arse a little bit he asks again who the hell these guys are, and Montana stopped him from leaving with a laser blast form the helicopter. So it does have lasers, those could’ve been useful instead of the net missile, but whatever. I’m not muscle for the mob so what could I know about these things.

Back with Osborn he thinks they’ve lost the Vulture. Well he has a good sense of dramatic irony as Vulture starts ripping open the roof of the limo right after he says that.

Spidey finally catches a break and manages to web up Fancy Dan. As he jumps off the roof to go after the Vulture Ox does the sane thing and jumps after him, grabbing him in mid air. Now that’s some loyalty and sense of duty right there, willing to kill himself in order to take the target down with him. If not then I can’t think why else he’d jump off a building to grab Spidey, there was nothing else he could do other than go splat after that. Though with a name like Ox I doubt he’s thinking far in advance. Maybe he’s just really pissed off about Spidey tugging on his moustache.

Whatever the reason Spidey just sticks to the side of the building and webs Ox up to a flag pole recommending he not rip through that webbing. Spidey then swings away after the Vulture and Montana follows says he’s making the Enforcers look bad. He’s certainly one for protecting his rep, he must know Sportsmaster from Young Justice.

As Vulture has ripped off most of the roof, and still demanding Osborn apologise no less, Spidey joins in again. We get Spidey’s thoughts about never having fought anyone like this before, either the Enforcers or the Vulture, but he’s not going to let Harry lose his did like Peter lost Uncle Ben. What this nicely demonstrates is the duality of what Spider-Man is saying and what he is thinking. He may be quipping constantly and running his mouth off, but that’s to keep himself sane and confident while he does these crazy things. Inside his head he’s serious, thinking about the situation, who he’s fighting, how to deal with them, and why he can’t fail. He uses his mouth to unbalance his foes and give himself confidence. While he may act the fool he never stops taking the situation seriously.

Back to the episode, Spidey suitably distracts the Vulture long enough for Osborn to spot a multi-storey car park and tells his driver to head into it. Now with them out of reach the Vulture directs his anger at Spider-Man. Wanting to take him out before he can get another shot at Osborn. So with just Montana and Vulture to worry about Spidey leads them around an empty office building and thinks the cliché “two birds, one stone.” First he gets Vulture to punch his arm through a window.

TSSMSotF20
He seriously needs to think about gloves. That must’ve hurt

Then he sticks to the bottom of the helicopter and as Vulture pulls his arm free, somehow not getting cut on the glass, he thinks Spidey is hiding form him down there. Instead Spidey pulls Vulture’s wing into the rear rotor of the chopper, destroying both. Montana takes the helicopter down and Spidey sits on top of Vulture wondering how he’s still airborne. He then notices Vulture’s backpack, which has been humming whenever he’s on screen, and smashes the thing causing them to fall. This is what’s great about Spidey, he uses his head to win fights. He’s always against people faster, stronger, better armed, but he wins by out thinking them.

As they’re falling the Vulture screams out that they’re both doomed, to which Spidey quips that he really hasn’t been paying attention and webswings them away. We cut to see Vulture, Fancy Dan, and Ox, webbed up with Spidey looking over Montana’s empty helicopter saying three out of four isn’t bad. Then he wonders if he could get his shoes.

We then move to the Parker house as Peter’s getting home at night and notices Aunt May is still up, waiting for him, as he’s crawling on the house as Spidey. Commenting that it’s a perfect end to a perfect day he walks in the back door as Peter, carrying his shoes. I’m curious where his shoes, bag, and clothes came from since we didn’t see him carrying any of that when he was in costume. Obviously they can’t animate all the little things but sometimes it is bit weird seeing Spidey swing to some place and change to Peter without carrying a change of clothes with him.

As he comes in he tries his best to act surprised May is up as she comes downstairs to greet him. She says they need to talk. That’s he’s growing up to be a fine young man of the house, but he’s still her responsibility so he can’t be out till midnight. So she introduces a curfew, that he has to be home by ten and that if he’s going to be late he has to call before ten. It’s done in this sweet caring parenting way that you just can’t help empathising with May.

Peter agrees and she gives him a slice of banana cream pie. As he eats he thinks to himself how nothing’s gone the way he hoped, but he’s still Spider-Man and he still has an amazing person looking out for him. “Tell me there’s something better, try.” This is part of the core of Peter Parker’s life. He may get some horrible things dumped on him, nothing can go his way, but he can come home to someone who loves him no matter what and some days that’s what matters the most.

We end on another stable of the classic Spidey comics that will be used, or a variation on it, to end every episode of the show:

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Final Thoughts

This was a great first episode, not one of the show’s best mind you. It didn’t have the excellent character interaction, development, and the effective one-two punch of actions being built-up over previous episodes, but that’s because it’s the first episode and its job was to set-up those things. Oh boy did it ever set things up. To say exactly how would be far too long and spoil some of the amazing things that’ll come down the line. But to give an example, there were 14 villains or future villains shown in this episode, 15 if you count Sally Avril. And the show will keep introducing characters that will have a payoff down the line.

The main antagonist was a marked improvement over the original Vulture. He had a real motivation, a reason for putting on the wings and being the world’s first supervillain, at least in this show. Definitely a step up from an old man who invented anti-gravity technology in order to rob jewellery stores. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Vulture and I have no idea why but I’m a bit more enthusiastic to see him than some other villains. Maybe it’s the wings.

The animation was gorgeous, as always in this show, and it’s down to the streamlined artstyle. The show’s budget wasn’t as big as others so the producers, Weisman and Cook, decided to go for a simplified style that would animate well. They did this so they could show a Spider-Man that moved like he should, and he really does here. He’s bouncing around everywhere and the action feels very dynamic. Because of this the common complaint about the show is its style and how the characters look because of that. I don’t see the problem since I’ve always liked the style since they showed that first lot of character designs back in the summer of 2007 and I think it provides the character with a lot of personality. That’s all down to the great work of Sean ‘Cheeks’ Galloway, and I can’t imagine what the show would be like without him.

Overall this episode was the start of the definitive version of Spider-Man much like the 90s Batman The Animated Series did for Batman. Everything worked excellently and I’d recommend watching the entire show if you haven’t already.

Hopefully this review isn’t too long and I hope to do more in the future, at the very least the first story arc to get a full sense of the series.

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About Reaf

I'm Reaf. I run the Reaf Debrief. I'm from England so I spell things with a U and a sarcastic sense of humour.

Posted on March 19, 2013, in Animation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. “It’s not everyday a nut in a costume and his own flying machine pops by the Osborn household.”

    Like

  2. I’d like to see you continue to post more of these Reaf, as you didn’t ignore any possible errors, despite the praise.

    I’ve said this before but I still think it’s true, I think Spectacular Spider-Man is Greg Weisman’s best work he’s ever done in Animation. Yes I think it’s better than Gargoyles.

    Through it’s 26 episode run, I don’t think I saw a single character in this series that made me say, “this character is not worth my time.” Most if not all of them, were used very well and never outstayed their welcome IMO.

    Like I said above, I hope you do more of these. I would certainly read them.

    Like

    • Thank you. I’ll be doing more but in the immediate future I’ll be going back to Spidey TAS episodes. I’m hoping to do all 26 episodes, even if it takes a while.

      If I see something bad I will call it out. Every series has problems and even though I love the show I’m not going to ignore those problems.

      I still think Gargoyles was better, but if Spectacular got 65 episodes I might think differently.

      Like

    • “Yes I think it’s better than Gargoyles.”

      Three words: City of Stone.

      Like

      • “Three words: City of Stone.”

        An argument could certainly be made on THAT being the best story Greg Weisman’s ever done. BUT I don’t think it means THAT should represent an entire show as a whole. As there are some episodes and characters of Gargoyles that I really didn’t care for, same goes for Young Justice. With Spectacular Spider-Man I never found myself having that problem throughout its short 26 episode run.

        Like

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