It was pure serendipity that I caught the premiere of the new Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon on Kids WB. I was getting ready for a late afternoon shift when Nick told me it was on. So I parked myself in front of the boob tube to watch the latest animated incarnation of Spidey before heading off to work.
He’s the latest superhero to get a Saturday Morning upgrade joining Superman and Batman and the Legion of Superheroes and you know what? It doesn’t suck! The animation takes a little getting used to where everyone looks more cartoony than in previous versions but the writing is very good, even if they make adjustments to the classic tales penned by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko so long ago.
Yet, even these changes make sense and go along way in advancing the story. For example, figuring that not many people would enjoy seeing another retelling of Spidey’s origin, instead it is only alluded to as a science trip to Dr. Curt Connor’s lab. Some changes are more drastic: Gwen Stacy is less the glamorous girl and more a geeky peer of Peter and Harry’s group, working along Peter in Connor’s lab. Not sure the change is necessary, other than to highlight how much they are all excluded from Flash Thompson’s clique of insensitive jocks and vapid cheerleaders.
Others serve to advance the plot, turning Eddie Brock into a lab tech and assistant to Connors while other more familiar elements remain unchanged: Pete’s looking to shooting photos of Spider-Man as a means to supplement his income and Norman Osborn’s strained relationship with his son Harry.
In the pilot episode we are also introduced to other members of Spidey’s supporting cast: His doting Aunt May who following uncle Ben’s murder is faced with financial problems which she does not share with young Peter Parker. One glaring omission to Spidey’s supporting cast is Mary Jane Watson. Now, Spidey doesn’t meet Mary Jane until later in the narratives, so it could be they are biding their time to introduce her in future episodes, but it could also be a carryover from Joe Quesada and the Marvel brass’ apprehension at the red head’s prior adult connection with Pete which in their view threatens the teen version of Spidey seen in Ultimate Spiderman which led to poor Mary Jane being written out of continuity in the comics. The drastic change in Gwen’s characterization also bodes badly for MJ’s inclusion in the series since it eliminates the love triangle between Peter, MJ and Gwen made famous in the early comics.
With the exception of the X-Men who were born as mutants, in the 60s when the classic Marvel heroes were created, there was widespread paranoia about radiation and its side-effects. Not surprising for artists who had grown up with the specter of the atomic bomb and the possibility of living in a post atomic fallout. A lot of the heroes were crated through accidents or radiation: Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Daredevil. The same goes for a lot of the webhead’s most famous adversaries and we are treated to one this week: Electro. Adrian Tooms, a.k.a the Vulture also makes an appearance. This was one action packed premiere and I will be looking forward to future installments of this cool new cartoon.