The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Spectacular" vs "TAS"

Let me preface this. I grew up reading "Spider-Man" comic books. I was born in 1981, and I started on Spidey in 1983... I learned to read with Spidey comics. This character has been a part of my life for that long. Mostly, they were Lee/Ditko or Lee/Romita reprints, but I was also reading current comics off the stand at the time.

So, I was already a life long Spider-Man fan well before the 90s cartoon came out. It was a cartoon that I remember being hyped about. Unfortunately, it was a very underwhelming disappointment. I know Spider-Man, and for me, that was not Spider-Man.

I think what it comes down to is that it was aping the 90's comics of the time to a tee. I mean, look at what they did with Vulture!

I like Mary Jane a lot as a character, but I hated her in that show. I didn't like her design. I didn't like her voice. I didn't like the way they wrote her. And I didn't like that they essentially made her the Lois Lane of the show. Yes, Mary Jane is THE ONE. I am more than cool with that. What I am not cool is that she was THE ONE, THE ONLY, THE ALWAYS. Felicia Hardy was around, but honestly, never even seriously interested in Pete.

But, more than that, there was stuff in that show that outright angered me.

It's a huge stretch that they had Peter Parker accept the Kingpin financing his wedding. How many people gave their kneecaps for his wedding? That's certainly not very responsible, and, in my eyes, almost as bad as making a deal with Mephisto.

Actually, it's worse. At least with Mephisto, he saved his Aunt's life. With Kingpin, he just got free cake.

That, and Norman Osborn was a wuss in the series, living in fear of Fisk. Um... no. Norman Osborn was not a good man gone bad. Norman Osborn was a bad man gone nuts. "The Spectacular Spider-Man" got him right. Semper... didn't.

Take both Normans' reactions to the Vulture. Semper's Norman runs away screaming, crying, and begging for his life. Weisman's Norman is being held by the Vulture hundreds of feet above the streets, and what does Norman say to him? "I called you a buzzard. You can't even get the name right." The difference is as clear as night and day.

And Doc Ock being one of Kingpin's flunkies. No, just no. I mean, if they have a shared interest, sure, he would work WITH Fisk. But Doc Ock is a megalomaniac. He wouldn't cow-tow to Fisk.

"Spectacular" was able to have Tombstone as the Big Man without EVERYONE working for him. Some started out that way but then went off on their own. That and Tombstone was treated like a ganglord and not 1980's Shredder. I really hated Kingpin's Technodrome disguised as the Chrysler Building lair (how come no one ever noticed the giant robots flying in and out?) and he's a mobster, why would he want to rule the world?

Not to mention that the 90's series treatment of old people was downright offensive. Aunt May was a moron. Aunt Anna was an evil shrew for no reason. Silvermane was just... they joked about adult diapers for crying out loud. Vulture... must I go on?

And then of course, there was Walter Hardy being around in WW2... and him not realizing that Project Rebirth WASN'T a Nazi operation until AFTER HE'D REPORTED BACK TO HIS OBVIOUSLY GERMAN... EMPLOYER... PEOPLE... GUYS! Why did the Nazis hire a ten year old American boy to spy on Project Rebirth again?

The 90's series just had animation that was painful to look at, and the dialogue was so melodramatic and over the top. And the voice acting, my god, the voice acting. I already mentioned the casting abortion that was Sara Ballantine as Mary Jane Watson. But almost everyone else was painful. I HATED Neil Ross as the Green Goblin. HATED the performance. He sounded like he inhaled helium before he went on.

As for Christopher Daniel Barnes as our hero?

Now, they did have some great talent on that show, but the voice directing was so incompetent that they were ultimately wasted. Tony Pastor was the voice director, and if you check out his IMDB resume, it's both very thin and very unimpressive.

The pacing is absolutely wretched. There's one episode where MJ gets engaged to Harry and breaks it off, all in the same episode. Most of this subplot is conveyed via loooong internal monologues.

There's never a moment of silence, scenes last a single minute in each setting and that minute is crammed with both expository dialogue and the internal narration piecing things together for the audience. There's nothing wrong with making the audience work a little too.

Anna Watson is another thing I didn't like about TAS. Did she ever have any moments where she wasn't being a miserable shrew? Any? She was so one dimensional. Even SSM's Sally Avril had her human moments. Anna Watson... nope.

I'll let this video sum up what someone else found wrong with the series. Be sure to turn the Annotations on, please.

Now, as for why I like "Spectacular"? Well, let's say this. I don't grade on a curve. But, watching this, I feel like I am seeing the spirit of those Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and John Romita stories being brought to life. While also cherry picking the great stuff that came later on.

The dialogue is natural and flows, and is genuinely funny when it wants to be. The characterizations are spot on, and the characters are three dimensional. I care just as much about Peter and his world out of the costume as I do when he's in the costume.

The animation is fluid and gorgeous. No stock footage at all.

The stories are a rich tapestry that continues to flow very organically. And, it's well thought out. Something in episode one will resonate in episode twenty-six. It just flows as naturally as a river.

The voice acting is also just top notch. No one has been miscast. Jamie Thomason is a genius.

It's just a terrific show. Before it came out, people were comparing it to "The Batman" and now, two seasons later, it's being compared to "Batman the Animated Series." I think there's a reason for that.


  1. Lot of good points, I'm not quite as harsh on the 90s series as you are Greg. Mainly because my previous experiance with the web-head was mostly confined to an old battered VHS of the 60s toon and the odd episode of "Amazing Friends". It was actually those 90s toons that served as my first real introduction to the Marvel Universe.

    Looking back in hindsight though, I agree that this show got about as much wrong about as it did right.

    One thing that really bugged me was how the show kept emphasising stuff that had nothing to do with Spidey and his world.

    Peter's often cited as being one of comicdom's most down to earth heroes, Facing of against everyday perils like relationships and money worries just as often as he did super powered psychopaths. Yet towards the end Semper had him going on mystical journeys and battling evil across the multiverse. Something's gone very wrong when the Dread Dormammu is one of Spidey's regular rogues.

  2. I grew up on the 90s series it was my real introduction to Spidey’s world and characters before I got into the comics. Now I can’t watch an episode without seeing all the plotholes, extremely bad and toy-like character designs, and wondering how someone could write the stupid crap that got on there.

    I want to know why some people feel threatened by SSM’s presence enough to completely deny any good the show has in order to put it down to make the 90s show ‘better’. It’s like they’re covering the faults of their favourite show by attacking the new, more popular, and quite frankly vastly improved one.

  3. I think we're totally in agreement that "Spectacular" is the far superior show. But I still think it had the occasional good idea, even if they were few an far between. And I still do like Christopher Daniel Barnes when he's not being directed to read lines louder and more over the top. While I could live a very happy life without ever hearing him say "Mary Jane, the woman I love, is gone" again, I do think he has the right sort of voice for Peter. Check out the 60s cartoon on YouTube. Compared to Spidey's voice there, CDB seems like ingenious casting.

  4. Well, I guess I can play devil's advocate a little.

    As bad as TAS show was, it wasn't nearly as bad the MTV 2003 CGI show with Neil Patrick Harris. *shudder*

    It was probably one of the better Marvel cartoons on TV at the time, after X-Men. Although I have bone to pick with X-Men story editor Eric Lewald for ruining The Goliath Chronicles. Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Silver Surfer and the God awful Avengers: United They Stand were great disappointments. A heroic effort was made by Tom Tataranowicz to save the second season of Fantastic Four after Ron Friedman ruined it, but the patient was DOA.

    The TAS did introduce me to the Marvel Universe and got me interested in reading the comics. And even when they had to tone down the characters like Blade, Morbius or the Punisher.

    Does the TAS hold up well like Gargoyles? Certainly not. I have my gripes with its overwrought dialogue, re-used footage, and lackluster battle sequences. Spider-Man almost never threw a punch, he would usually swing into someone or toss them around. This was painfully obvious in the X-Men crossover where he keeps tossing Wolverine away.

    I don't consider Spectacular Spider-Man a replacement for TAS. It's the nature of the beast that every time a new movie is in the theater, there will be an animated series tie in.

  5. Speedy ulnar was great but Norman surviving was horseshit. He should have died in the explosion and in my head canon he did

    1. Are you that same retarded asshole who has been saying as much on my YouTube and on twitter.

      Your opinion has been noted. Now fuck off and die.

  6. I did like the "how many people gave their kneecaps for that wedding." That was pretty funny