Well I liberated this blog from my geekery for long enough. I think it is time enough for me to immerse myself back in my tormential chains.

So a site I frequent had been heaping high praise on a TV show that has been airing the past couple years. I had seen promos for the show before its release and just shrugged it off. I didn't especially care for the look and the feel I thought they were trying. Due to the property they were making a show out of, I was still willing to give it a look but as with any TV show nowadays, I don't schedule to watch it and thus they pass me by and I generally am left unconcerned with the loss. But then I started seeing praise for this series I had let pass by me and I actually started to somewhat regret not following the show, but not enough to really make an impression. Then the previously-mentioned site dropped a fact about the show that really spiked my interest. The creator for the show was responsible for a show I highly enjoyed in the early to mid 90s. So now I was given a stronger kick to pursue some means to watch the show. What show? The Spectacular Spider-Man. (Hey, why's everyone leaving?)

Yes, yes, I am that guy. I watch cartoons. Or at least I would. If I watched much TV anymore.

Anyways, Spider-Man is an interesting property for me. Personally I think he is almost the perfect superhero ideal for me. Which actually isn't saying that he is my favorite character. He is an ideal, a model of the genre. My most memorable experience with the Webhead was around 6th grade, in the height of the comic craze of the early 90s. I didn't buy many comics, though I ate up any story/card/show/book I could get with especially the Marvel characters. My best source was the library which had collections of the Silver Age origins of many of the Marvel characters. I enjoyed these immensely but none more so than Spider-Man's. Whereas the Fantastic Four may have best exemplified the Silver Age growth in comics, and put Jack Kirby on the map, Amazing Fantasy #15 and then Amazing Spider-Man I feel actually reached beyond the Silver Age and began the movement to the Modern Age all the way back in 1961. I could talk about this topic for far too long a time so I will leave it as a statement with no evidence. The best way to write. All that to say, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee made an impression on me with the (not-so) merry adventures of Peter Parker.

3 points if you can name the artist(s)

I have since read up to just shy of the death of Gwen Stacy. I have read other snippets here and there and am aware of some of the happenings of the Webbed One, but have never especially gotten back into reading Spider-Man. I think the task seems daunting, and I am not sure how to fill out some of my reading gaps, or how to construct the continuity when there were 4+ series going in tandem. Or perhaps it is the knowledge that the series can in no way keep up the Ditko-Romita glory days in my estimations. I also have to have something stir up one of my personal binge periods.

My Spidey background poorly explained: check. Onto the show.

I found a means to watch some of the episodes of Spectacular Spider-Man and have made it through the first season and a little ways into the second. The most enjoyable thing about the first episode was that they drop, by my count, 13 villains in the first episode. Not all are villains yet, and not all are the main conflict of the episode, but they show you what you are in for right off the bat. (My count: Norman Osborn, Harry Osborn, Octavius, Clint Marko, Eddie Brock, Hammerhead, The Enforcers (that's 3 people), the Vulture, the Rhino, Curt Connors, and a shadowy figure who gets revealed later so I won't spoil it.) And then of course the supporting cast, Aunt May, Gwen, Harry, Flash, Kong (from the Ultimate line), JJJ, the Robertsons, Betty, Liz Allen, etc. Yes, Mary Jane is absent at first (thank you). They take the approach that Lee-Ditko-Romita took for her introduction.

I hesitate to add this... Don't judge the show on the intro.

The show is able to execute a lot of what makes the Spider-Man property so fun. But I think the biggest drawback is their scheduling. The first season is 13 episodes, and I think they felt they needed to fit so many different things in that amount of time that it hindered their exploration of the characters they do have. Don't misunderstand me though, they are doing a good job with the characters, and using each episode to build the characters for the next, but with a new villain each episode and pushing for key moments, etc., they don't have time to sit back and grow these characters properly. Eddie Brock for example: they draw from Bendis' approach in Ultimate Spider-Man for Eddie and Peter's relationship (which I think is a good idea). But his character arc seems to stumble through a few steps to get him to his more venomous moments (or I missed an episode...). I think it could have been built up much better if they gave him more time.

This is also a problem of any re-envisioning of classic stories. People push so hard for the classic stories that you bypass the years of buildup that made those classic stories work so well. It is a problem with comic book movies, the Ultimates line, the cartoons, etc. Anyways, there is a few other ways this shows up in the series, but Brock is probably the best example.

Then of course there's Peter's love life. Stan Lee always loved his love triangles, and Peter's had a few. But they were always triangles. The cartoon has introduced all of the classic Spidey love interests all at once... Which is a bit excessive. A few of these characters have been tweaked as well. Gwen got the Mary Jane Ultimate Spidey treatment for example. They are finally starting to step back on some of these and focus more on a triangle, which helps them progress things more smoothly.

There's also some of the eye-rolling high school moments. But I still think it is the right setting for the cartoon. There's just some stupid moments I have to persist through because of it.

There is also the art style. It is almost a funnies style look when you first see it. I don't mind cartoony stylization but this looked like The Batman series again. However seeing it in motion has been a different experience. It actually has a bit of a Humberto Ramos look to some of the designs. They do some great storyboarding as well for the action especially. Well except for the football scenes. I have only two annoyances now with the style. The pupil-less eyes and the look of Venom. Peter's eyes are the most distracting with their nonpupils because his iris pretty much fills his eye thus making him look like he has button eyes. As for Venom, there's just something about his look that doesn't work for me when it is in motion. I have yet to put my finger on what it is. He just doesn't look fluid, he looks like a block.

Humberto Ramos

But overall the series captures a bit of the Spidey magic from my youth. Well actually from someone else's youth, but I stole it for my youth, too. It is far from perfect, but I would say it is a more inspired take than the movies have been for me. Though in the movies defense, it can't produce the serialized storytelling that a show can. And Spider-Man can only truly be told that way for my tastes. Here's hoping the establishment of most of the big name villains will allow the series to start growing in more freedom and invention. I have already been seeing this freedom in the second season.

And of course as I am getting into the series I learn that it is a bit of limbo right now. Sony lost the Spider-Man TV rights and DisneyMarvel hasn't yet given them the go ahead on another season. It would seem like a slam dunk with the quality reviews that are coming in, but I don't know the ratings or if there could be political hangups. I also learned that being under Sony limited the characters they could use in the cartoon. So if they do get renewed they could have more freedom in the Marvel universe. Hopefully they would handle an expansion like that carefully.

Or I can just wait for the musical!

Peter: A bit of a jerk at times, but I look at it as he's still learning his Uncle's lesson.
Aunt May: Better than the comics so far.
Gwen: Not the same to me. Like I said earlier, Mary Jane from Ultimate Spidey.
Harry: Annoying as always.
Norman: I'm looking forward to exploring his machinations.
Green Goblin: Not sure yet. I'm sure we'll see more.
Flash: Too over the top.
Kong: Umm, needed but still over the top.
JJJ: Movie inspired. That's fine.
Betty: Dealt with and done. Good.
Randy: Now that's a man's voice.
Robbie: Or his father's voice... that's weird.
MJ: Not as annoying as she was originally in the comics, still says tiger too much, heh.
Liz: Hmm, Allen does not make me think ethnic.
Eddie: Ultimates approach: good; full exploring his motivations: bad.
The Conners: They do a good job of bringing them into the picture. Works for me.
Vulture: Beyond an odd color choice, good.
Enforcers: Decent modernization.
Sandman: Wait, he didn't kill Uncle Ben?! They did fine with Marko.
Rhino: Fine.
Chameleon: Nice take on a classic story.
Doc Ock: Fine. Made better in the second season. Movie-inspired look.
Electro: Zappity zap. Good redesign, though the tubes are odd.
Shocker: Origin switch. That's fine.
Black Cat: Done right.
Mysterio: Yep.
Kraven: Felt like those fellows from Gargoyles. Didn't like the post-op Kraven.
Captain Stacy: Happy to see him included.

Gotta give Skottie Young some love.

1 comment:

Stuart said...

What fellows from Gargoyles? And post-op just sounds wrong. Is he female now? Cool review, your justifications for your writing and lack thereof crack me up. And I agree on the Spidey analysis but havent seen the show so cant say on that.