Spectacular Spider-Man: the animated series #1-“Survival of the Fittest” Review

 It’s the Amazing, Spectacular, Sensational, Web of the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man!!!




Fans of the Amazing Spider-Man will all undoubtedly be aware of the wall crawler’s history with animation. I say all considering the character’s most popular and enduring theme song came from one of the first cartoons he appeared in. Spider-Man has had many various shows throughout his career, some good, some bad. The most lauded of these is the 1994 animated series simply titled Spider-Man starring Christopher Daniel Barnes, voicing a Nick Hammond inspired designed Peter Parker. If nothing else, what people take away from that show is the fact that we got to hear Spider-Man’s ever present internal monologue that the comic book is known for. We always heard the characters thoughts, wether he was getting beaten up by a half red/half black Venom, or nagged at by an annoying Madam Web doing her best Yoda impressions. The shows that followed from then on also included Spidey’s internal monologuing, despite the presentations of the character being radically different. On the one hand we got a show rife with Spider-Man 2099 homages while Spider-Man battled a Rob Liefeld designed Carnage on Counter-Earth. On the other hand, we got a show directed to the MTV audience, with a conspicuously blonde Harry Osborn instructing college students to, and I quote: “Stay home, and watch R-RATED dvds”….yeah. So with that in mind, why is it that basic idea of Spider-Man (a young man trying to atone for a fatal mistake by getting involved with megalomaniacal science projects and wacky love triangles) seems to be lost in the many attempts there have been to bring the character to the television screen?



  Separated at birth?


That brings us to the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series. If you’re a fan of the website then you’ve no doubt listened to the TWO podcast reviews our pal Brad has done with Producer Greg Weisman and Puny Parker VA Josh Keaton. So I’ll forgo the background as to the intentions of the many men and women behind the product, and allow the work to speak for itself.
 This dude is always angry!

Survival Of The Fittest

Written by Greg Weisman
Directed by Victor Cook
Music by Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion
Animation By Dongwoo animation


After spending the summer making a name for himself in the criminal underworld, Spider-Man a.k.a. Peter Parker starts his junior year in High School with three things in mind. He must get a job to help his recently widowed and always worrying Aunt May, make a date with typical cheerleader snob Sally Avril, and defeat New York’s first in a long line of supervillains in the Vulture. Unbeknownst to the web-head, mercenaries called the Enforcers have been hired by the mysterious Big Man of crime to eliminate the Spider-Man problem that has been disturbing the machinations of the criminal underworld.




Spider-Man manages to take down the Vulture, capture two-thirds of the Enforcers and save Norman Osborn’s life. Unfortunately, Peter finds out that his new after-school job doesn’t pay and that he suddenly has a 10:00 curfew. Despite all this, with Spider-Man being undefeated and Aunt May still as sweet as her Banana-Cream pie, Peter remains as optimistic about his life as he did when the day began. Ho, thats going to last.

 “Rollin’ in da club, wit my Escalade….”



Tell me there’s something better. Go ahead. Try. These are the first words we hear in the entire series, and its certainly true for me seeing as how I completley forgot the show was premiering the day it did and only caught that last line. Luckily the show was quickly re-run and I saw the whole thing, but I digress. The words spoken by Peter are very much prophetic and meta-textual in how effective this show is at portraying the true Spider-Man and his world. Right away, we are shown the dynamic and creative ways that Spider-Man gets around New York as he swings and leaps and jumps from building to building. Thats the first in a long line of things that this episode does right in terms of presentation, set-up and storytelling. The whole episode goes by very quickly, but we are entertained by the quick jumps from character to character in nearly each and every scene. There’s about twenty-five plus characters that appear throughout the series that premiere here, and this isn’t even the full cast. Of course we go through the usual suspects of Aunt May, Flash Thompson, Jonah Jameson and Norman Osborn. But the way several mainstays are portrayed here in quick succession without it feeling too fast is a talent that this show will exploit again and again throughout the (as of this writing) two seasons.


 The plot worked itself out fine with themes of revenge, power, misfortune and greed all playing out with half of the characters, yet the subtlety of it fully fleshes them out. Peter Parker in some ways has always been a short-sighted character, and thats an aspect of him that we see time and again in this episode alone. It’d be annoying if it weren’t for the fact that he’s a teenager. A teenager with super powers. Its a personality trait, but its also a curse of his age that we hope to see disolve as the show continues and the character matures.




For the villains, there were many to enjoy and I had virtually no complaints. As Shadow116 on the boards can attest to, I’ve never been warm to the Vulture. He’s always been a cranky old guy who flies and yells at Spider-Man. Sure his strength is increased from time to time, and every now and then he can suck up your youth like a straw. But the guy’s still annoying. In this incarnation..I still find him annoying. But not so annoying that I can’t watch him. Freddy Kruger does a solid job voicing Adrian Toomes, and I do like the switch-up from the comics that Toomes was the guy that Norman sold out to, not Gaunt. Thats one thing you’ll see in this show, constant villain interactions. They all know each other, which is very Venture Brothers-esque. But its fine. The Enforcers were shown to be pretty cool too, although as slick as Montana’s lines were (and always are in the show) he does get a tad being annoying after a while just because of his hackneyed accent. I don’t dislike him at all, but by the end of every episode I find myself think “Shut up!” Luckily, Spidey always shuts him up in the end.



Overall this was an very effective and solid start to the series. The animation was very good, the dialogue was great, the plot was solid, and the action delivered. This show really reminded me why I’m a Spider-Man fan, by making me care again for Peter Parker.

4.5/5 webheads

*Best Line contender: “Ah, look. Beaky. I admire anyone who dresses up as their favorite animal. Better still, you can fly! So I gotta ask, you heard the one about great power coming with great responsibility?”

Images taken from toonzone.net