When I was a kid I loved Saturday morning cartoons. I watched all the incarnations of the Super Friends and one of my favorites was Spider-man and his Amazing Friends. His amazing friends were, of course, Iceman and Firestar and I dug their adventures being the dumb middle schooler that I was.
Since then, I had pretty much cooled toward the cartoon adventures of my favorite super heroes. Consequently, I missed the joy of Batman the Animated Series when it was first on TV (I have the DVD box sets now). I never really got into Superman the Animated Series, but I did follow the Justice League cartoons (I own those box sets too). I took a pass on the new Batman cartoon for the most part, but I did watch it here and there. My love for the Legion of Super Heroes made me watch the two seasons and I liked it a lot more than I ever thought I would.
Recently, a new Spider-Man cartoon hit the airwaves and I’m glad I got in on the ground floor.
When I saw the initial designs of Spectacular Spider-Man, I was underwhelmed. Spidey looked good, but the rest was a resounding thud. After watching the first few episodes, my initial problems with the designs went away. I had a similar thought with the look of the Legion cartoon, but I was wrong then too.
This version of Spider-man is pretty much Ultimate Spider-Man Lite. He’s in high school and living with Aunt May. Gwen Stacey and Harry Osborne are Pete’s best friends. Flash Thompson picks on him and there’s a Kong analogy character in there as well. J. Jonah Jameson is spot on and I liked the addition of Betty Brant.
For most of the season I was waiting for Mary Jane to show up. They teased it nicely and they smartly used “Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot” line perfectly. I was firmly convinced Harry Sr. was the Green Goblin, but I was wrong and a cartoon fooling me was a nice change of pace.
Spectacular Spider-Man does the one thing I don’t believe any of the other incarnations of Spider-Man cartoons has ever done – be fun, smart and exciting. A wise-cracking Spider-Man is exactly what the comics gave us and the cartoon carries that through probably better than the movies. None of the main characters are one-dimensional which is the reason I’m watching. I can get cardboard characterization anywhere.
Some of the touches I really liked included the end Spider-Man mask skylines which is a pick-up from the Ditko comics days. I’m waiting for a spider-sense scene with Peter when half his face is covered in his Spider-Man mask. Also, the transitions are inventive (and a wee bit creepy) with black spiders skittering across my screen. I wasn’t sure I liked it at first, but it has since grown on me.
Take a look at Spectacular Spider-Man this Saturday morning, I don’t think you will be disappointed.