There have been many adaptations of everyone’s favorite web-head over the years, when I was a kid it was the 1967 Spider-Man series, which even had a couple seasons produced by Ralph Bakshi, and it still has one of the best theme songs as it asked that eternal question, “Can he swing from a thread? Take a look overhead.” Then the 70s gave us a live action series starring Nicholas Hammond but sadly the effects of the time and the fairly low budget pretty much made this an impossible venture. After that several more animated attempts were made, some better than others, and then we got Sam Raimi’s live action trilogy which had at least two good installments. Enter Greg Weisman and Victor Cook who together developed what I believe to be the most faithful adaptation to date, The Spectacular Spider-Man.Now I’m not saying this show was slavishly accurate to how the stories were depicted in the comics but these two managed to capture the pure joy of Spider-Man. Sure Peter Parker (Josh Keaton) has his teen-age angst filled moments but when he puts on that costume to swing through the canyons of New York, he explodes with the fun and excitement that one would hope to have if they were given the proportionate powers of a spider.
One can’t expect any producer to stick to the canon of a comic book character that has run several decades, in various titles with countless changes to characters and origins. So in 2008 The Spectacular Spider-Man aired with a slew of recognizable characters but with some nice tweeks to their origin to make them fit into this animated world. Gwen Stacey (Lacey Chabert) is one of Pete’s best friends but who would really like to be more than that. Harry Osborn (James Arnold Taylor) is Peter’s other close friend and in a nod to the comics has a drug problem, but this time out it’s an Oscorp performance enhancing drug that turns him into the Green Goblin.
Of course Venom, a fan favorite, has to make an appearance but now he’s not a disgraced journalist that wishes Peter harm, now Eddie Brock (Ben Diskin) is an older brother figure to Peter but who feels betrayed when Spider-Man’s actions cause problems for the people around him.
Two other key villains in the series are of course Norman Osborn (Alan Rachins), who is secretly supplying the criminal underworld with Oscorp tech to create super villains such as the Sandman and Rhino, and the other major player is known as “The Big Man” who uses these created super villains to keep Spider-Man busy and away from his criminal enterprises. The reveal as to whom “The Big Man” is (for me) the only disappointing element in the entire run of the series, and I’m betting it is a rights issue. For any fan of the comic knows that a large shadowy figure that runs a criminal empire while keeping an honest business façade is Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin, as Fox owns the rights to Daredevil and through him Kingpin, I’m guessing that’s why he doesn’t appear in this Sony series. Who did they chose to replace him? *No Spoilers here go and watch it yourself* Let’s just say it’s an odd choice as he would really have a hard time pulling off the nice philanthropist act.
That this show got cancelled after just two seasons is a crime and that The Avengers: Earth Mightiest Heroes, my other favorite super-hero cartoon, also got cancelled after two seasons I’m crying, “Conspiracy!”
So for those who loved it, and for those that missed it during its original run, the complete series is now available on Blu-ray, and it simply looks gorgeous.
The Spectacular Spider-Man
Simply my favorite animated comic book adaptation to date, it captures the joy and fun one would expect a person to have if he suddenly had awesome proportionate powers of a spider, and in just a single 23 minute episode there is more witty banter and quips than in the entire Sam Raimi trilogy. This is a must see for fans of Spidey.