A Quick Look at ‘The Spectacular Spider-Man’

I’m not one for Saturday morning cartoons. When I was a kid? Sure. At least before I started playing sports and thus never around on Saturday mornings. These days, though, my life of athletic glory has been left behind which means my Saturday mornings are free to be taken up by other things — like sleep. And hangovers.

Thus, when a new cartoon hits I usually miss out. It’s funny, I have had a DVR for years and yet when it comes to cartoons I never think to record them. I tend to associate the DVR with prime time programming. And since I’m never awake early on the weekends I never see any cartoons and so I never think to record them. They just aren’t in my headspace. Hell, it took me until this most recent season for me to start recording The Batman.

The Spectacular Spider-Man hit the airwaves with much fanfare earlier this year and yet, my brain did not say RECORD THIS as it should have. So I didn’t. But then I saw people asking around about what people thought about this show, and we got an e-mail from Cody Anderson asking straight up what we thought of the show and so I fired up the old DVR and set it to record all new episodes of The Spectacular Spider-Man (as well as the rerun airing before this last new one) before heading out on my trip. Here’s what I found from the two episodes I watched, “Natural Selection” and “Persona.”

The show itself seems to be a mix of the traditional Spider-Man and the Ultimate Spider-Man. In fact, there’s a whole lot of Ultimate Spider-Man in here, so much so that I hope Brian Michael Bendis got a check. This is probably the closest we’ll ever get to an Ultimate Spider-Man animated series (which is something we really should have seen years ago, I think).

Here we have a high school Peter Parker who is picked on by Flash Thompson and Kong, and has a (best?) friend in Gwen Stacy who seems even nerdier than he is, which was a bit of a surprise. Mary Jane Watson is in the opening credits but she was no where to be seen in these two episodes so I can’t speak to her characterization. Gwen is dating Eddie Brock who works in the lab at Empire State University with Dr. Curt Conners. Peter lives at home with Aunt May in Queens and works as a photographer for the Daily Bugle. J. Jonah Jameson is an asshole. It’s your standard Spider-Man world that, as I said, mixes together elements from a bunch of different sources.

In “Natural Selection,” Dr. Curt Conners tests out a reptilian formula on himself and grows back his missing arm and then mutates into The Lizard. It’s your basic Lizard origin story that was notable mostly for the last few scenes. When The Lizard makes his escape from the lab, and is eventually subdued by Spider-Man, Peter uses the opportunity to snap some photos for the Daily Bugle. Dr. Conners’ wife and Eddie Brock felt angry and betrayed by Peter and he was fired from his part time job at the lab and lost the trust of his friends. It was a genuinely emotional ending and was really well written. It really hit home who Spider-Man is and what Spider-Man is all about. It elevated the episode in my mind because before that I wasn’t totally loving it, which is probably mostly due to me having seen this particular origin story many, many times. Still, on balance it was a good time.

“Persona” was the first “new” episode that I watched and featured the famous alien symbiote. And that means that Venom is not far away. Ugh. Always with the Venom. But he’s not here yet. First, the symbiote is being studied by Dr. Conners’ team and after the events in “Natural Selection,” Peter is still persona non grata there. It creates a nice level of tension between the characters and adds a believable bit of angst for Peter. The Black Cat shows up to steal the symbiote and thus the complex, sexually charged relationship between her and Spider-Man begins in earnest. The Chameleon also makes an appearance and smears Spider-Man’s reputation (even further) by posing as Spider-Man and robbing his way across New York. J. Jonah Jameson has a good bit of screen time in this one and he’s pretty much straight out of the Spider-Man movies, which is fine because J.K. Simmons is awesome. Peter spends most of this episode trying to clear his name and flirting with Black Cat all the while dealing with his new black suit courtesy of being infected with the symbiote following the botched Black Cat robbery. All-in-all this was a really strong episode and a really fun time. I liked it a lot.

Based on these two episodes of The Spectacular Spider-Man I have decided to stick with the show and keep my DVR set to record. It’s a show that holds a premium on the one thing that Spider-Man must be – fun. It’s a really fun show. The action is smart and exciting. Spider-Man showcases inventive use of his webs. He’s funny, he’s got his personal life angst — Peter’s got a lot of balls in the air and he drops a lot of them, but he also becoming rather adept at juggling.

The animation is fast and very good. The character designs are also quite good (I really love the look of Spider-Man), save for Peter himself. On the surface he looks fine, but really he’s way too hip to ever be the nerd who is picked on by jocks. The flashback to Peter getting bitten in the intro shows a much more traditionally “nerdy” Peter, which may or may not have been shown in the beginning of this show, I don’t know. I guess that’s the price you pay with needing to have a hero the kids can identify with, you don’t want to make him seem too much like a total loser. Another thing I really liked (?) about this show was the scene transitions that were occasionally used – a swarm of spiders crawling across the screen. The sound effects used are terribly effective. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard it. Damned creepy.

The Spectacular Spider-Man is definitely a show worth checking out if you’re a fan of Spider-Man, a fan of cartoons, or just a fan of a fun time in front of the TV.


  1. Yeah, in the first episode they didn’t actually show the whole process, which I think is good, because I’m pretty sure everyone knows what the hell happened to Peter Parker, and if you don’t, there it is in the intro.

    Glad you like it, I’ve been enjoying it too.

  2. Good to hear you enjoyed it Conor, like Ben0Bugenig said they really dont cover the orgin in the first episode and it seems Peter has been Spiderman for atleast a few months, i do agree with that the design of Peter isnt the best, the same with Eddy Brock, Mary Jane is fairly spot on though, im intrested to see if they have the balls to kill off Gwen or not, Spiderman the animated series "killed" off MJ for practly the last season or 2 having her return as a Hydoman clone and then die again, so i wonder if they will. but overall i really like this show and love the witty banter that spidey does

  3. I love Spectatular Spider-man! Sure they tweaked where I wish they wouldn’t, namely in the villain origins and relationships, but I love the West-meets-East-meets-West again art style and the voices were well chosen.

    What I’m even more excited about is that kids are actually being exposed to Marvel Comics in the same way they were back a few decades back.

  4. I saw an ep and I liked it. I, too, had fun and found out that they have the entire first season on Hulu, so I think I might check out the rest of them there…

    Gwen Stacy still makes me giddy, so that insta-sold me… 

  5. I have been recording this from the get-go, much to my delight. I didn’t expect to like it (the MTV series did nothing for me, and the 90s cartoon they rerun on cable make my skin crawl) but it has turned out to be one of my favorite tivo nuggets of the week. Choices made week to week have real consequences, and the arc is true to Peter Parker’s role as the Charlie Brown of superheroes, but the show also has a real playfulness to it that I appreciate. Even the character designs have a loose Al Herschfeld quality to them. There’s even a little bit of fanboy easter egging going on; people who’ve been reading the comics for years enjoy the stories on their own merits while also being able to say, "Hey, he’s going to be the Rhino! Hey, that’s Mysterio!!" and so on. A+!

  6. Much the same w/ my DVR habits, always forget about the cartoons, but I was lucky enough to have a Saturday off not to long ago and caught two episodes. Very enjoyable, if you haven’t seen it, check it out. The animation was definitely something to note, they draw some positive influence from the action sequences in the films, really, it was a lot of fun.

  7. Love this show been watching it from day one.

  8. I watched the first five episodes over a weekend and now I love it.  It also has the best theme song of any cartoon in a long time.

  9. I really think this show has done a great job of blending all the best elements of SM stories, and still bringing its own new touches (even the new theme song kinda rocks). As it’s been noted, they haven’t done the origin story yet – an interesting note is that the original Spidey series (1967-71, with the famous theme song) didn’t get to the origin until the second season (if recent memory of watching the DVDs holds). The best part is sitting my 1.5 year-old next to me to watch ’em.

  10. my two sons (4 & 11) both love it with the youngest being the one reminding me to record it Saturday mornings. We then rewatch that week’s episode over and over during the following week until the youngest decide to pick a new episode by the name of the villain that was in it. Great, great show, and yeah, the theme song sticks in your head. 🙂



  11. I really like this cartoon! At frist i thoght i would’t but it goog better as it went along. I lsten to sone ihterviews form the spidermancrawlspace.com/eand they said that have plans it’s that they are goinf to the seriers for a while then go to dvd movies as peter growes up.

    I don’t think Gelen is dating Eidde is she? unless i missed that.

  12. @cormano & @FrogMan, amen on the theme song. I find myself humming it well into the workweek every time. I think, "I’d download that!"… and then comes the shame.

  13. I think it’s great! Of course, as I’m watching it, it is becoming readily apparent that Peter Parker is a PIMP!! I mean, Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane Watson, Liz Allan, Betty Brant AND Black Cat all as potential love interests…AT THE SAME TIME! Move over Tony Stark…

  14. I still forget to set my DVR. I’ve seen most of the series, and I loved the episode introduction of the Green Gobling. I’m fairly sure who it could be, but is still kind of open. So far it is up there with the original 90’s cartoon if not a little better with less of the 3D animation and some other stuff. Spider-Man Unlimited just sucked, and the one on MTV I personally would have liked to see more of.

  15. This cartoon is great.  Hunter is right, it is very USM in its feel–but in a good way.  Take USM’s Mary Jane and make her blonde and nerdier and you have the Gwen character of Spectacular.

    This, maybe more than the movies, has the potential to introduce a lot of kids to the characters.  I can only hope the new Wolverine and the X-men series is done as well.  My kids and I watch it evey week on the DVR.

  16. i am all about this series..this is my favorite animated version of the character ever.

    the only complaint would be the breakneck pace with which they jump from villian to villian.. it seems like every episode introduces a new villian..they should take their time a bit more…they’re gonna blow their wad too soon..i LOVE that Hammerhead, Tombstone and the like have big roles..

    now all we need is The Brothers Lobo and The Rose to make an appearance!

    I also like the little touches, like Peter is always drawn with his shirt tag always sticking out, to make the character a little bit awkward..

  17. "I also like the little touches, like Peter is always drawn with his shirt tag always sticking out, to make the character a little bit awkward.."

     funny you mention that, now anytime one of us boys of the house has his shirt tag sticking out, there’s a "hey spectacular, your tag’s showing" comment coming real fast 🙂