Spectacular Spider-Man

Pretty much any time I talk about Spider-Man on this blog, I use one of two points of reference. The first is the original comics themselves (the Silver Age comics of the 60's and 70's). The second point of reference is a short-lived children's cartoon from 2008 to 2009 called The Spectacular Spider-Man. Its first season aired on The CW network (part of Warner Bros. network), and the second season aired on Disney XD. The series was developed primarily by Greg Weisman and Victor Cook, and was produced by Sony.

Despite referring back to this series repeatedly, I've never actually written a review of it. Recently, however, I re-watched the series (by introducing it to my 8-year-old daughter and her friends), and thought maybe I should actually write a review of. Put simply, Spectacular Spider-Man is probably the single best adaptation of Spider-Man that has ever been put on a screen. It's not only the best Spidey animated series, but it might even be better than any of the Spider-Man movies, including Sam Raimi's movies and Marvel's recent Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Spectacular Spider-Man is a better adaptation than any of the Spider-Man movies.

High school drama for all audiences

The show is a children's cartoon and its high school setting is definitely targeting younger kids. But it is surprisingly well-planned, well-written, and well-executed for a children's cartoon, and the teenage drama suits Spider-Man exceptionally well. Any Spidey fan, regardless of age, should be able to enjoy this show.

On the surface, the series seems to take a lot of inspiration from the Ultimate Spider-Man line of comics. This was a little bit off-putting for me at first because I don't particularly care for the Ultimate Spider-Man storylines or aesthetics. However, Spectacular won me over by remaining very faithful to the original comics as well. Spectacular manages to take the best elements from every incarnation of Spider-Man, combines them, and modernizes them into a 21st century setting while delightfully capturing the spirit of the original 60's and 70's comics. Plot elements and themes are pulled from the original comics, from the Ultimate comics, and also (being produced by Sony) from the Sam Raimi movies. It even makes a few successful homages to the 1990's Spider-Man: the Animated Series that ran on Fox and had been, up till this point, the gold standard for Spidey on TV (at least, up until the last couple seasons go completely off the rails).

Spectacular takes the best elements from every incarnation of Spider-Man,
while remaining spectacularly faithful to the original 60's and 70's comics.

Spectacular even replicates some scenes straight from the panels of the comics. The infamous "Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot." scene is transferred verbatim. Other scenes such as Spider-Man removing the Venom symbiote in the church tower, and channeling the thoughts of his friends and loved ones to help him lift himself out from under collapsing metal beams are also faithfully replicated.


Spectacular [BOTTOM ROW] replicates panels from the original comics [TOP ROW] almost verbatim.

Other adaptations have also replicated (or paid homage to) specific comic book panels. For instance, The Animated Series of the 90's also had the "Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot!" scene, and the symbiote bell tower scene, and so forth, and many of its episodes are loosely based on issues of the comics. Homecoming had the "trapped under rubble" scene. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movie had the Green Goblin being impaled by his glider. And so forth.

What separates Spectacular from these other adaptations is that Spectacular manages to maintain more of the nuance and texture of those original comic panels.

And it isn't just the faithfullness to the source material that I like. The show is also generally well-written, with some clever (and not-so-clever) uses of things like symbolism and foreshadowing. The characters are all well-written and well-performed. The animation may have exaggerated body proportions, but it's very fluid, expressive, and is full of nuances in facial expressions and body language. There are some parts of the show that have some cheesy dialogue that reminds me that it's a children's show, but overall, the show is immensely watchable by adults and children alike.

There's some quality writing, including foreshadowing, symbolism, and misdirection.

If I haven't made it clear already, this show is fantastic, and I absolutely adore it! The next section will contain minor spoilers, and the sections after that will contain major spoilers! So if you haven't seen the show yet, then I highly recommend that you buy the DVDs and watch it, then come back to finish reading the review. You can maybe get through the next section ("Friends and Lovers") without too much spoilers, but sections after that will be spoiling major story threads, including what I consider to be the single biggest spoiler in the entire series. Suffice it to say: I love what the show does with Gwen Stacy, I love what it does with Mary Jane, I love what it does with Harry Osborne, and I love the depictions of most of the villains! If you haven't watched the show yet, then read on at your own risk!

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XFL logo

Slumping ratings and controversy around concussions and national anthem protests aren't the only problems facing the NFL now. The NFL is going to have some competition in the form of at least two new professional football leagues!

The XFL wants to be no joke

A few days ago, the new XFL released a list of the cities that will host its inaugural teams, and I have to say, I'm a bit confused by the decisions. The cities that made the final cut are:

  • Dallas, Texas: Globe Life Park in Arlington
  • Houston, Texas: TDECU Stadium
  • Los Angeles, California: StubHub Center in Carson
  • New York, New York: MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford
  • Seattle, Washington: CenturyLink Field
  • St. Louis, Missouri: The Dome at America's Center
  • Tampa Bay, Florida: Raymond James Stadium
  • Washington, D.C.: Audi Field
XFL teams will be sharing cities (and in some cases, stadiums) with NFL teams.

I understand that the XFL would want its teams to be in large markets, but I'm surprised that every single one (except for St. Louis) is a city that already has an NFL team. So the XFL's teams will be competing with a firmly-established NFL team for fans and ticket sales in all but one of the XFL's inaugural cities. In fact, three of these teams will have to share a stadium with an NFL team. Metlife will be split between the New York XFL team, and the Jets and Giants of the NFL. CenturyLink Field will be shared with the Seahawks, and Raymond James will be shared with the Buccaneers. I was expecting the XFL to go after the largest markets that didn't already have NFL teams. Cities like St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland were shoe-in destinations, in my mind, since they recently lost NFL teams, and so have empty, NFL-caliber (sort of) stadiums waiting for a new tenant.

Other than that, I was expecting to see the XFL go to places like Milwuake, Oklahoma City, Portland, Albuquerque, Boise, Honolulu, and other midsize markets. Las Vegas would also be a prime target, if not for the Raiders moving here in a year or two. The XFL also could have tried to beat the NFL to some foreign markets, such as Toronto, Vancuever (Canada), Mexico City, or London.

And if it were absolutely necessary to go into cities that already have NFL teams, I would have expected them go after cities that have historically bad or under-performing teams in the hopes of stealing away some disenfranchised fans. Tampa Bay certainly fits this bill. I was also thinking of places like Cleveland, Detroit, Pheonix, and Jacksonville.

Bully politics

I'll admit that I was actually excited by Vince McMahon's announcement of an XFL revival. McMahon's statements so far have indicated that he is taking the league much more seriously this time around, and that it won't be as much of a gimmicky joke. According to early reports, McMahon wants the league to be faster. He wants to reduce the game time from three-or-more hours to about two hours. How he plans to accomplish this is still not entirely known, but my guess would be that he could achieve it through a combination of shortening quarter lengths (to 10 or 12 minutes), reducing the play clock from 40 seconds (in the NFL) to 25 or 30 seconds (closer to NCAA rules), eliminating some clock stoppages (by not stopping the clock for incomplete passes, for instance), or by slowing down the game by making the rules favor running the ball rather than throwing the ball. This last one seems unlikely, as I'm sure McMahon wants the game to be more exciting, and most fans are not like me, and do not enjoy seeing long, methodical, ground-and-pound drives.

The new XFL will be devoid of some of the original's excess and theatrics.

McMahon will own and finance the league this time around, rather than the World Wrestling Federation (now the WWE). This new XFL is expected to eliminate a lot of the silly, pro-wrestling-inspired theatrics that plagued the original XFL and turned that league into a joke. Players with criminal records will not be allowed to play, and they won't be able to create silly names for the backs of their jerseys (no "He Hate Me" as a player name).

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A perfect microcosm of UNLV's 2018 season existed in the first possessions of that game against Nevada. On its first drive, UNLV had a 3rd down and 4, and a 4th down and 4, that they failed to convert. Both failures were off of 50/50 balls that were thrown deep along the sideline.

On its first drive, Nevada had a similar situation, in which it had to convert a 3rd and 3 (or 4) and later a 4th and 2. They succeeded on both conversions by throwing short drag routes to wide open tight ends. In both cases, the tight end broke the play for a big gain, and the 4th down wasn't just converted for a first, it was converted for a touchdown.

Now, we could chalk all this up to poor execution by UNLV. But it's not just poor execution; it's bad play-calling. UNLV is one of the best rushing teams in the nation (they are ranked 22nd now, but I think they were 30-somethingth going into the game), but they couldn't trust their running game to convert a 3rd and short/medium? Worse yet, instead of calling a safe drag route, or quick out, or getting the running back open in the flats, they threw up two 50/50 balls down the sideline? I could understand trying to take the shot play on 3rd down if you are already expecting to go for it on 4th. A good stop-and-go route could catch the defense biting on the short pass and leave a receiver open for a big play. But why would you try the same failed concept again on 4th down?

Sanchez routinely squanders convertible 3rd downs by calling 50/50 passes down the field.

This is typical of UNLV this season. I can't count how many times I've watched UNLV squander a convertable 3rd down on a failed jump ball along the sideline, or on the QB overthrowing a receiver running a post route down the middle of the field. Drive after drive, game after game, they just refused to call a play designed to get 4, 5, or 6 yards and the first down, and instead called plays down the field.

Is the coach calling plays on 3rd and short/medium that are intended to go down the field? Or is the QB just making bad reads and not throwing to the underneath receivers? Either the coaches are calling the wrong plays, or the QB isn't being coached to be aware of the situation. That's bad coaching, either way. Get the first down first, then you'll have three more plays to take shots down the field.

Excuses, excuses

Somehow, UNLV managed to pull off an upset, come-from-behind victory to beat Nevada 34-29, after having been down 23-0 early in the second quarter. The team is currently celebrating by painting the Fremont Cannon red, while coach Tony Sanchez gets ready to start hitting the recruiting trail.

UNLV came back from a 23-0 2nd quarter deficit to beat Nevada and bring home the Fremont Cannon.

In the meantime, however, UNLV's higher-ups are mulling over whether or not to keep Sanchez on for the 2019 season. UNLV was expected to win six or seven games in 2018 and make a bowl bid, but they ended the season with only four wins.

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Friday, November 23, 2018 10:00 AM

New house, new pet

in Pets and Animals by MegaBearsFan

Yesterday, I wrote about how I took in my parents' pet tortoise, and then moved into a new house and had to build a burrow for him. However, that's not the only pet that we took in when we moved into the new house.

We took in one of my parents' tortoises when we moved to the new house.

Several years ago, shortly after my girlfriend and her daughter moved in with me, the little girl started asking us to get a dog. At the time, we were living in a relatively small house that was filled to the brim with our stuff. Board games, video games, costumes, kitchen appliances, kid's toys, furniture ... the house was starting to feel awfully cramped. So I told the kid that we would get a dog after we moved into a bigger house.

That's the sort of promise that young kids don't forget!

Well, this summer, we finally found that larger home. Before we had even moved in, the kid was asking to get a dog, but we had to get settled in and furnish the house first. We also gave her the chore of having to pick up the tortoise's poop as practice for a dog. We told her that if she wants a dog, she needs to get better at cleaning up. If she continues to leave toys laying around, then the dog is going to chew them up, especially if we get a puppy.

I didn't want to get a puppy, however, as I wanted to try to get a dog that was already house trained. We started looking at pet stores, but I wasn't really fond of the idea of buying from a pet store, especially one that is supplied by a puppy mill. I wanted to try looking for a rescue or getting a dog from the shelter.

We visited the local animal shelter, which was full of very depressed-looking pit bulls.

We went to the local shelter to look around, but that place might as well be called the "Sad Pit Bull Prison". It was so depressing to see all those poor dogs in those cages. We saw probably 250 dogs. Of those 250, maybe 10 of them were not pit bulls. Of the 10 or so that weren't pit bulls, about half were chihuahuas. Of the remaining four or five dogs that weren't pit bulls or chihuahas, every single one of them had a sign on the cage saying that the dog had already been adopted.

I wasn't opposed to getting a pit bull. They have a reputation as being dangerous, but I know that the reputation is somewhat unfounded. They are very strong dogs, but they aren't disproportionately more likely to attack someone than any other breed. In fact, my understanding is that they have much lower incident rates of bites and attacks than German shepherds, huskies, golden retrievers, and other popular dog breeds. Like with many other dog breeds, it all comes down to the individual dog's temperament, and the manner in which the dog was raised. In fact, one of my co-workers has a pit bull, and she's one of the sweetest dogs I've ever met. I had to go to his house to troubleshoot some hardware / software that we had installed there, and his dog sat calmly by my side the whole time looking up at me with a big doggy smile waiting for me to pet her.

However, all the dogs that we asked about at the shelter had unknown histories. The workers there didn't know if the dogs were good with kids or with other pets, and I didn't want to risk bringing any animal into my home that might be a risk to our kid or pet tortoise, regardless of breed. So our plans to get a dog fell on the wayside for the time being.

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Thursday, November 22, 2018 12:01 AM

New house, old pet

in Pets and Animals by MegaBearsFan

It's been a few years since the untimely death of my baby tortoise, Koopa. I loved that little critter, and was devastated by her death.

It took a while, but time heals all wounds, and I was eventually ready to take on another pet. The fact that I was taking in a pet that I already knew made it a lot easier for me to feel ready. Last summer, I took charge over one of my parents' pet tortoises, named Bubbles. He is the first child of Nipper, a tortoise that I had as a pet since I was about 9 years old. Nipper, sadly, also died a few years ago in another tragic incident, but she still has several surviving children.

Bubbles [RIGHT] is the first child of my childhood pet, Nipper [LEFT].

Bubbles is 14 years old, and was starting to become aggressive and territorial -- and a little incestuous -- with his younger sisters, so we decided that it was best that we separate him. Last summer, we relocated him to my home, and I had to build a large, above ground burrow for him on the side of the house. Koopa's old burrow wasn't big enough, so I had to do a whole new one from scratch.

House-shopping hesitation

I had to build a large, above-ground burrow for Bubbles.

I was hesitant to take him in at the time because my girlfriend and I were also in the process of shopping for a new house. We were starting to outgrow the small, two-bedroom house that I owned, were running out of space to store our stuff, and barely had the space to entertain more than just a handful of guests. We wanted to try to find a place that would give us the space to have large dinner parties and board game parties, and which would provide us with enough space to hopefully expand out family a little bit more. However, we were conflicted about the process. We wanted to try to stay in the same area because our kid was right across the street from one of the better elementary schools in the city, and would also be very close to a good middle school when she gets older. The new build homes that we liked (and which were affordable) were all very far away at the edge of town.

We were about to give up, when we finally found a place that was somewhat close to our old home, put in an offer, and started going through the inspection and escrow process. However, the inspection revealed some annoying defects and some shoddy work that was done by the people who had flipped the house. The sellers were unwilling to make the requested fixes or bring down the asking price, so that home fell through.

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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