08 March 2008

The Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon


I love cartoons. But just not any cartoons. My true love is a specific type of cartoon. Sure, I like anime. I don't follow it as much as I used to because I don't have time or discretionary income. I like the Adult Swim stuff but I'm a rickety old man and can't stay up that late. I'm a big fan of Disney and Miyazaki of course. There are even some good cartoons on the introweb. But the kind of cartoon I really love is the Saturday morning cartoon. When I was a kid, Saturday mornings were a holy time. Kids all across America were locked into the the same three channels watching the same cartoons eating the same multi-colored high sugar cereal. The Super Friends, Thundar, Scooby, Transformers, Johnny Quest, the Warner Brother's regulars, the Hannah Barbara lineup, The Smurfs, The Hulk, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends... I could go on. Those were some good times but to tell the truth, the Saturday lineups of today are even better. There are more great shows on Saturday now than ever before. This may really be the golden age of the TV cartoon and I don't think anyone notices. The reason it does not have the magic of the Saturday mornings of my time is there are too many distractions. Now kids have 200 plus channels of garbage to distract them from the quality cartoons. They also have round the clock cartoons on dish and cable seven days a week so there is nothing special about sitting down and watching cartoons on Saturday. It's a shame because Saturdays have a lot of good cartoons right now. The Kids WB has some great shows; Johnny Test, Shaggy and Scooby Doo Get a Clue and Legion of Super Heroes are great cartoons. The Batman is a great show with a fantastic theme song. (Water comes out my eye a little over the news that there will be no new episodes. Surely Warner Brothers is not stupid enough to have a new Batman movie coming out with no new cartoon to cash in on it so maybe there will be a new Batman cartoon. Even so, I'll miss the theme song. But I digress...) CBS's Kewlopolis has a lot of good stuff for the girlies. And now, Spider-Man is back in the mix.


I'm a pretty big Spider-Man nerd so I've been kind of anxious for this new Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon. I really find it inconceivable that during the past several years that the geniuses that be at Marvel could find the time to stop counting their movie cash long enough to get a new Spidey cartoon on Saturday mornings. Yeah, there was that MTV thing but my stomach hurts just thinking of the idea of watching MTV. You would have thought the Marvel geniuses that be would have wanted exploit the movie's popularity in every genre and format and that a new cartoon would be a no-brainer. But what do I know? They wear Italian shoes and Rolex watches. I wear Chucks and a two dollar Star Wars watch I got from Burger King. They win.

But at last, the geniuses that be have delivered a new Spidey cartoon. It's pretty good. Not quite gosh wow. Not quite up to the quality of the Warner/AOL/DC cartoons. But still pretty good. There are not enough numbers on my keyboard to express percentage by which this new cartoon exceeds the quality of that horrible, horrible Spider-Man 3 disaster. But, don't' get me started on that.

So, about this new Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon....

The good:
  • The title. I was a fan of Peter-Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man back in the day. Good title. Does Marvel make a comic by that title these days? You would think they would what with the cartoon and all but they have an amazing track record of not cashing in on TV and movie success with their comics. Speaking of those movies. After the success of Spider-Man I hoped they would call the sequel The Amazing-Spider-Man and follow-up with The Spectacular Spider-Man. I mean, "2"? "3"? How boring. But, what do I know? Two dollar Star Wars watch etc.
  • Spidey looks like Spidey. Way ta go geniuses! High five! They even got the eyes right instead of that horrible, horrible costume from the movies. And the underarm webs! Underarm webs are where it's at people! I've sewn underarm webs into all my shirts. You should see the way people stop and stare when I walk by. Fashion gold people!

  • Web shooters. I loves me some web shooters. I like the idea of Peter as a boy genius. A kid that can invent web shooters is improbable but possible. A kid that shoots 'organic' webs out of his wrists like in the movies is not only impossible but gross. I like that Spidey has gadgets, or at least the Spider Signal. Maybe the Spider Tracers will show up in an episode.

  • The supporting cast. Hey, the gangs all here. In just the first two episodes there is a huge supporting cast from Spidey's life. All those you would expect and a few I never expected like...

  • Liz Allan. I always think of Liz Allan and Betty Brant as Pete's first girlfriends but I don't' think we've ever seen Liz outside of the comics. It's cool that she's there, even if she looks nothing like Liz Allan. Which is kind of weird because, in the first episode there is this slow dreamy close up of Pete's dream girl and as it closes in on her, I'm thinking, "That's Liz Allan. Blond, preppy, out of Pete's league. That's Liz Allen." But it wasn't. It was some girl named Sally. Umm, okay. The geniuses that be put in the Liz Allan character and gave her a different name. We've seen weirder things. But what's crazy is that, a character named Liz Allan that looks nothing like Liz Allan is also in the same scene. But wait, it gets even weirder. In the same scene we also get a character who fulfills the Flash Thompson role by being Pete's dream girl's jock boyfriend but he's not Flash Thompson. He is a 7 foot tall 400 pound African American high school student with the voice as deep as Michael Clark Duncan. My high school had zero giant deep voiced kids but, what do I know. So, back on subject, in one scene, you have the Liz Allan preppy girl character and the Flash Thompson jock boyfriend character but both of them are new characters with new names because....? But wait again! It gets weirder, another Flash Thompson character that is actually named Flash Thompson is also in the scene. What what what?!? I just think it is weird that the geniuses that be would devise a scene so similar to the standard Peter/Liz/Flash scenes from the Lee/Ditko/Romita Spidey comics but change the the Liz and Flash characters to new characters and then still decide to put another set of Liz and Flash characters in the same scene and actually call them Liz and Flash. This is exactly the type of thing that keeps me up at night. Like I said, two dollar Star Wars watch.

  • Betty Brant. I'm a big Betty Brant fan. I like her character design here too. I hope we see a lot of her.

  • I like that Norman Osborn drops out of the sky and barks orders to cops and that the obey him. That's funny to me.

  • Internal monologue. I like that Pete is always talking to himself. If reading Spider-Man comics for around 30 years had taught me anything it is that Peter Parker is freaking nuts.

  • The Lizard's family. I always remember that first Lizard story from the comics and about the dram with his wife. It set him a part a bit. His wife made him more of a real person as opposed to the Green Goblin or Doc Oc who were apparently just born jerks.

  • That closing shot with the Spidey mask in the background behind Aunt May's house. Classic

The bad:

  • Character design. I'm kind of torn on this. I think Spidey looks great. The girls look fine. Most of the characters look good from the neck down but what is up with those eyes? It's all iris and no pupil. Well, except Peter who is all pupil and no iris. I get. It's not a terrible design style. I reall like the Kim Possible design style and you see that look in a lot of other cartoons so it makes sense to go that route but I have a preconceived idea of what the Spider-Man cast should look like and that idea includes both pupils and irises. And what is up with Peter's nose? I've never noticed that Peter had a big triangular shaped chunks missing out of either side of his nose. He's horribly deformed. I feel pain looking at him. All the guys in the cartoon have unfortunate noses. Maybe it's just me. I too have an unfortunate nose.

  • That mole. What is up with that mole on Peter's face? To disfigure the poor guy's nose is one thing but the mole is just plain distracting.

  • The theme song. This is the thing that most disappoints me about the show. The song isn't bad. It's catchy enough but the performance by the musicians and vocalist is a snoonzer. There isn't any life to it. The same song in the hands of OK Go or The Hives would probably be awesome buy this version is a bore. It just does not hold up to good theme songs like the one from the new Scooby show, Johnny Test or The Batman. (No, not that boring one the Edge recorded but the new one.)
The undecided: There are a few things I'm on the fence about with the show.
  • Mary Jane. Okay, where is she? From what I've seen on the introweb it looks like she will show up in the show at some point but unlike the movies, she is not one of the stars. Oh, the geniuses that be decided to stay "true to the comics". You see, this a cartoon about high school Peter Parker and in the comics Mary Jane did not go to high school with Peter. That's cool. My nerdometer approves. I give the geniuses that be a lot of credit there. I mean, you've got these three blockbuster movies where the core story is about Peter, Mary Jane and Harry. Seems like the safe way to go in the cartoon would be to make it about Peter, Mary Jane and Harry. But not these geniuses, these guys can't be bothered with the temptation of cashing in on proven success. No, these geniuses are "true to the comics" so MJ can't be around. Not much love for MJ in 2008. Dunst in rehab. Peter sells his soul to Satan to end his marriag to MJ in the comics. But wait, you gotta have a girl in the show and since we are being "true to the comics" we could use Liz or Betty... no wait, we'll use Gwen Stacey. We love Gwen Stacy! Uh oh. Spider-sense is tingling...

  • Gwen Stacey. Um... Gwen Stacey didn't' go to high school with Peter Parker. (And neither did Harry Osborne or Eddie Brock.) Yeah, I know. I'm being a nerd who cares what happened in the comics? This is a cartoon, not a comic and it has to be it's own thing and you can't blame them from taking all the best parts from Spider-Man's rich multimedia history. And, to tell the truth, I like this Gwen character in the cartoon. I like her design and she fills a nice counterpoint to Peter's goof-ball-iness. My main beef with the cartoon Gwen Stacey is that it ain't Gwen Stacey. If it's not Gwen Stacey then who is it? I'll tell you who that character is, that character is Chloe from Smallville. It really couldn't be anymore obvious. Looks like Chloe, acts like Chloe, serves the same purpose in the story as Chloe. That's Chloe. But, on the upside, I like Chloe. Probably the least annoying character on that show.

  • Harry Osborn. Not sure to make of this character. He looks a little like Harry from the comics but he also has an unfortunate nose and what is up with that sweater vest? Do high school kids wear sweater vests? I'm not sure what role they are looking for him to play in this series. His character is nerdier than Peter. Nothing at all like the Harry in those blockbuster movies. Not much like the Harry who didn't go to high school with Peter in the comics. I don't know what he is supposed to be other than Norman Osborn's son.

All in all, it's good to see Spidey back on Saturday mornings and the show is entertaining enough. It just raises some questions about the choices the geniuses that be make. Why these things keep me up at night, I have no idea.

Your best pal ever,

Shannon 'cares way too much about Saturday morning' Smith


p.s. Have I mentioned how awesome the theme song from The Batman is?
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