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Review: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN: SEASON ONE - 'Survival of the Fittest'

Finally a Spider-man cartoon that's for all ages and ranges

Grade: A
Stars: Josh Keaton, Robert Englund, Peter MacNicol
Writer(s): Greg Weisman
Release Date: March 8th, 2008
Rating: NR

By SEAN ELLIOTT, Senior Editor
Published 3/7/2008



This is the latest in a long line of Spider-man cartoons that I have lived through and I honestly think it is quite possibly the only one that has really captured the essence, storytelling, and thrills of reading the Spider-man comic books or seeing (for a more contemporary audience) Spider-man swing through the steel and concrete canyons of New York on the big screen.

THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN premieres this Saturday on Kids WB! @ 10am PST with two back-to-back episodes.

"Survival of the Fittest" which introduces the viewer to this newly revamped, but extremely familiar and comfortable world for a younger, more inexperienced webhead. This episode features so many Spider-man characters and villains and sets up villains for future episodes that I had to watch it twice just to make sure I caught them all (of course I’ll watch it live on Saturday as well because I’m that kind of geek). In the first episode the major villains are The Vulture and The Enforcers. Then you have cameos by Dr. Otto Octavius, Eddie Brock, Dr. Curtis Connors, Norman Osborn, Flint Marko, and of course the voice of the Big Man.
 
Now a lot of newer Spider-man fans may not recognize the Enforcers even though they appeared in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, but Ox, Fancy Dan, and Montana have been giving Spidey trouble since his earliest issues of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN in the 1960’s and were even hired by the Green Goblin in his first comic book appearance. The Big Man (who long time readers will know the secret identity of) also is one of those old school villains that even though the original character was gunned down, that particular crime boss identity rarely gets used; so it’s really nice that this new series has chosen to mine not only contemporary material for its stories, but also less well-known and underused villains.
 
While the Vulture has never been one of my favorite villains, he actually seems pretty cool in this cartoon version. His costume is a blend of traditional Vultchy and classic, and the attention to detail (such as his wings being for steering and not the source of actual flight) was nice. Plus, he’s voiced by Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) so how can you go wrong?

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Speaking of voices, this cast is dead on in what you would think each character should sound like. Josh Keaton, who is someone that while I am not all that familiar with (and who has done voices for SPIDER-MAN video games in the past), is the perfect Peter Parker. I don’t know how to explain it, but his voice just sounds right.
 
The animation on this show is far superior to previous animated work done on Spidey as well. This is a stylized animation that is reminiscent of THE BATMAN (another Kids WB! Series) and it captures the feel of Spider-man, creating a whole new style, and gives the characters fluidity that they haven’t really had before. Granted, there were moments of fluid movement in the MTV Spider-man series, but that was CGI and this is traditional painted animation and I think it moves a little more like you would expect to see Spidey move.
 
Look for Spider-man’s trademarked snappy banter during the fight sequences, which was something that came and went in the last incarnations, and even in Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN trilogy, the snappy banter fell by the wayside a lot of the time during fighting.
 
There’s not only nods to older fans in the excellent writing and story of this cartoon, but people that remember Steve Ditko’s classic work on Spider-man should keep their eyes peeled for the use of some of Ditko’s conventions. In Ditko’s work, the Spider-man mask appearing on half of Peter’s face was a wink to the reader when someone was making comments about how boring Peter’s life must be, so look for that same sort of wink to the audience in the cartoon. The closing shots of the episode feel like a 1960’s comic with the looming Spider-man mask in the sky over May’s house in Forest Hills. Aunt May by the way is a stronger, more modern woman and while still having the loving and doting traits of the frail Aunt May of bygone days, she’s a bit tougher and more "in touch" shall we say with teenagers and their world.
 
The theme song and opening credits on this are great, and it is as if the makers of the cartoon had one goal: to remind us of the 1967 Spider-man cartoon theme that always gets stuck in people’s heads. The credits both in style and song composition are a great update to that idea and a nod to that instantly recognizable tune.
 
I think this series can go for a long time. It’s obvious that the people making it love this character and have the good sense to absorb and use the width and breadth of the various incarnations of Spider-man in the comic world over the last few decades to their advantage. This series will appeal to kids, teens, twenty-somethings, and adults from my age to 100. It’s got a bit for every level of Spider-man fan as well, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for every subtle hint and tip of the hat to the vast history of our favorite webhead.
 
CLICK HERE FOR iF'S EXCLUSIVE PROFILE ON GREG WEISMAN, WRITER-PRODUCER OF THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN 


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