Webhead Done Right?

Kids WB recently started airing a brand-new Spider-man series–The Spectacular Spider-man.

There certainly has been no shortage of Spider-man cartoons, but if this one stays the course, it might be the best. The original 60s ‘toon, despite a certain nostalgic charm, wasn’t that great (yes, it had a kick-ass theme song, but did it have anything else?). Spider-man and His Amazing Friends was downright laughable most of the time. The 90s Fox revamp had promise, until lackluster animation and unnecessarily convoluted multi-part story arcs did it in (but what a voice cast: Martin Landau as the Scorpion?! Now that’s brilliant!). I don’t even want to talk about that CGI mess that was on MTV for that three-day weekend a few years back.

This brings us to The Spectacular Spider-man. The producers of this new series realized that the only way to focus on Peter Parker having a crap life is to set their show during his high school years. Think about it.  If Peter was a twenty-year-old college student, moaning about money and getting picked on by bullies, we’d think he was a complete loser.  No disrespect to cinema classic Revenge of the Nerds, but people don’t get picked on by bullies in college…there’s just no effing time to pick on anyone.

So, in this new series, Peter’s sixteen years old and he’s only been Spider-man for a few months.  It’s not an origin show, but we still get to watch Pete’s learning curve. The audience gets to watch him discover the balance between keeping his alter ego a secret and standing up to bully Flash Thompson. Helping Pete along the way are best friends Harry Osborn (once again the pointy-headed little dweeb he’s supposed to be, sorry James Franco) and Gwen Stacy (shifted from Pete’s college years to his high school years and geeked-up slightly, but still secretly carrying a torch for our hero). The show also casts Eddie Brock as an older student who befriended and protected Pete from bullies until graduating and moving on to Empire State University. Normally, I wouldn’t care about a change like that, except that it means that at least three people that Pete considers his friends will become his enemies–Dr. Connors, Harry, and now Eddie.

The animation of The Spectacular Spider-man is clean and fluid. It’s neither overly complex (like the X-Men ‘toon of the 90s) nor is it overly simplified (like the juvenile Teen Titans). Also, unlike the recent Fantastic Four series, there isn’t a fetid stench of anime coming off the new Webhead. Were I forced to choose something to compare the design of The Spectacular Spider-man to, I would say that it is a mix of X-Men: Evolution and Ben 10. Is it really so hard to capture the essence of a character in just a few lines? No, I don’t think so. And this show is the proof.

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