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Spectacular Spider-Man Cartoon
Reviewed by Joe Crowe, © 2008

Format: TV
By:   Victor Cook (director)
Genre:   Superhero cartoon
Review Date:   April 25, 2008
RevSF Rating:   7/10 (What Is This?)

"The dictionary defines defenestration as the act of throwing a person or thing through a window. It's reeeeeeeeally not my favorite word." -- Spider-Man, being defenestrated

In the cartoon Spectacular Spider-Man Peter Parker is in high school, like when he first appeared in comics. The show is good for today's Spider-consumers.

It's aimed at the young'uns, but it's not childproofed: there is good old fashioned violence and threats of death. Previous Spidey cartoons combined angst and silliness and a dog with ribbons in her hair defeating Magneto. Here, there is no dog.

The cast is enormous. In the first episode, after the first few characters appeared, I started counting. In one episode alone, there were nineteen speaking parts. Most of those characters are in every episode.

The show nicely crams in Spidey lore from every time period. Flash, Gwen, J. Jonah, the Osborns, and perennial Spidey villains are all around. Mary Jane, just like the comics, is a running joke with Aunt May and Peter for a few episodes, until she appears with her signature "Face it, tiger" line.

The show doesn't plummet into the abyss that inflicted the Spider-comics, by having MJ as his one forever true love. She just gets in line with the other 3 dozen cast members.

The creators know their Spider-stuff. I expect this from DC cartoons. But the Spider-nerds step up to the plate here. Just one example: A snooty cheerleader is Sally Avril, who was in a short-lived 1995 Spidey spinoff comic by Kurt Busiek, Untold Tales of Spider-Man.

The only radical difference from the comics is in Gwen Stacy. Here Gwen is a science nerd who Pete ignores, but this is a fine use for her until Green Goblin drops her off a bridge.

For fans, every character name that gets dropped is a springboard for some story that we know. In the early episodes, Eddie Brock works in Curt Conners' lab. Spider-fans know that won't end well.

But the reason to watch a superhero cartoon is for superhero stuff. The banter between Spidey and the villains is funny, and there is no skimping on the flipping and jumping and web-slinging.

Every character has huge round eyes, and their bodies have sharp edges. It's similar to original Spidey artist Steve Ditko. Spidey's tiny frame, his blinking masked eyes, and the webs under his armpits are callbacks to Ditko.

Respect for Ditko is at the end of every episode. The perspective pulls back and the Spider-mask symbol appears over the horizon, like in the last panel of nearly every Spider-Man issue Ditko drew.

If you're new to Spidey, or you want to introduce him to your kids, this is a top notch gateway drug. The series is on DVD, which is convenient. Start buying right here.

The show gets the characters right, and dials back the angst. More than one episode ends with Pete and Aunt May having cake in their kitchen. That's just sweet.

RevSF senior editor Joe Crowe wishes he had eight arms. No reason.

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