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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!

Friends and lovers

First and foremost, this show doesn't fall into the trap that many adaptations of Spider-Man fall into: which is to immediately hook Peter up with Mary Jane. In fact, Mary Jane doesn't even appear in the show until mid-way through the first season. Much like in the original comics, Peter's first flings are with Betty Brant and Liz Allen, each of which has its own interesting and entertaining dynamics.

Peter dates (or attempts to date) both Betty Brant and Liz Allen.

Gwen Stacy (voiced by Lacy Chabert) is established as a close friend of Peter from the start, and there is immediate romantic tension between them. However, in classic teenage fashion, the two are oblivious to each other's affections, and the "Will they? Won't they?" tension is played up throughout the entire series. Like in the original comics, Peter and Mary Jane go on a few dates, but unlike the comics, Peter doesn't break up with her because she's too superficial and ego-centric. Instead, Peter wants her to be his girlfriend, but she says that she doesn't want to be tied down, especially considering that she just moved to the neighborhood and hasn't even met anybody else yet. This gives MJ much more agency, and is an overall improvement (and modernization) to the original comic story.

Also, like in the comics, Mary Jane and Gwen do eventually develop a friendship, and and Mary Jane (just like in the comics) tries to play match-maker between Gwen and Peter. This was a move that both did fantastic service to Gwen and MJ's characters from the comics, and told a good story within this series. It's all surprisingly authentic to the original comics, but adapted to the 20th century high school setting.

There's romantic tension between Peter and Gwen, and Mary Jane tries to play match-maker.

I do think that the writers may have gone a bit overboard with how strongly Gwen pines for Peter. It's true that she was smitten by him in the original comics (even dating Harry Osborn to make Peter jealous), but I feel like this always made Gwen feel a bit more like a trophy for Peter instead of a genuine character. Spectacular does improve this slightly by having Gwen insist that she will not be Peter's "second choice" in a heart-wrenching, but completely fair scene in which she explodes on him after he and Liz break up. I'm not sure if an equivalent scene is included in the original comics, but this helps to make her feel a bit stronger and more independent. If it's not in the original comics, then this is positive change, but I still feel like she (as a character) is still too defined by her relationship to Peter.

I do, however, really like how she acts as a moral compass for Peter throughout the series. This is, without a doubt, my favorite incarnation of the classic Gwen Stacy character. I'll also admit that I have a particular soft spot for this version of Gwen because she reminds me a lot of my first girlfriend, with whom -- breakup aside -- I have very fond memories.

Gwen insists that she will not be Peter's "second choice".

I especially like how Captain Stacy gradually pieces together that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. I've always maintained that virtually everyone in the comics who knows Peter closely eventually figures out that he's Spider-Man (and Captain Stacy is one of the few who explicitly says as much in the comics). I argue that everyone from Aunt May to Flash Thompson to Captain Stacy to Gwen Stacy and even Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson eventually come to realize that Peter is Spider-Man.

I would propose that this is why Gwen and Peter's relationship in the original comics became so rocky that Gwen had to leave for Europe (it's absolutely NOT because she was having an affair with Norman Osborne, despite what the stupid "Revalations" comic book tries to tell you!). She blames Spider-Man for her father's death, and has trouble reconciling that with her love for Peter. People like Aunt May and Jameson, who profess a dislike (or outright hatred) for Spider-Man, were probably doing so as a way of trying to convince Peter to give up before he gets hurt or killed.

Harry becomes addicted to performance enhancers.

I also really like the treatment that Spectacular gives to Harry Osborn. Spectacular even mirrors Harry's drug addiction sub plot from the comics, which is a story decision that I was surprised to see in a Saturday morning children's cartoon. Instead of drugs, however, Spectacular's Harry becomes addicted to an experimental performance-enhancing drug developed by Oscorp -- which, of course turns out to be the Green Goblin formula, because of course it is! To the show's credit, it provides a mature and nuanced take of drug addiction, even highlighting some of the long-term consequences that it can have on a person's life.

What's important about these characters (Gwen, Harry, Liz, and MJ) is that they are genuine characters. Peter's friends aren't just there to be obstacles or rewards for him. They have their own stories and arcs, and are strongly characterized. This is one of the advantages of having a TV series to tell a long-form story, rather than being confined to a two-hour movie. There's a lot more substance to these characters than we see in film adaptations.

Super villain factory

The villains don't get as fair a shake, since they are rarely (if ever) the focus of a narrative. Venom, in particular, is one of the tougher Spider-Man storylines to handle well, as it was never a particularly compelling story to begin with. Yet, people eagerly anticipate and speculate regarding the appearance of the black suit and Venom in any new adaptation of Spider-Man. I feel like part of this is the public wanting (and hoping) for a version of this story that is good. Spectacular does a decent job with it, but it is definitely one of the weaker aspects of the series.

I would say that Spider-Man: the Animated Series probably has the best reveal for the symbiotic black suit in the form of the space shuttle crash. Spectacular homages that intro in the second-best introduction of the black suit storyline by also bringing the symbiote to Earth in a space shuttle crash -- though a much less spectacular one than presented in the 90's series.

The 90's animated series has (I think) the best introduction of the alien suit.

Pretty much every other villain is handled exceptionally well. The writers even managed to make a one-on-one fight between Spider-Man and the Rhino into an interesting episode! Sure, they could have fallen back on the "lure him into smashing his head against a wall" trope that every Spider-Man video game falls back on when it comes time for the inevitable Rhino boss fight, but they went with something a bit more clever here, and it works well. It does kind of create a glaring weakness with the Rhino character, however, which kind of serves as a minor plot hole in his future appearances. I also like this adaptation of Mysterio, as an explicit trickster and magician. I also really like that the writers pair him up with the Tinkerer, who makes all his robotic tools and minions.

Other villains have similarly well-constructed episodes, and each villain has a fairly clear (but very simple) motivation. Some are just two-bit criminals, while the others are science experiments gone wrong (as is typical for Spider-Man). Some have personal connections to Peter (sometimes with a degree of separation through Norman Osborn), but others have no connection at all. I would prefer that Oscorp not be treated like a super villain factory (like Arkham in the second season of Gotham), and Spider-Man adaptations need to outgrow this fad.

I'm getting sick of seeing Oscorp treated like a super villain factory.

The confrontations with villains are all unique, with quick, but fluid and understandably-well-animated action. Spider-Man has to get creative regarding how to defeat them, rather than just punching them till they give up, as you might see in other, lazier adaptations. We also get to hear both Spidey's outer dialogue, and his inner monologue, which provides insight into his thought process and mimics the thought bubbles of the comics. It highlights Peter's power of observation, intelligence, and empathy.

There are a few occasions in which he does take down a villain in a method that probably would have killed the villain, which definitely feels out of character, but the show always has some excuse for why the villain doesn't die. For example, Spidey pours a bunch of concrete on the Sandman in order to stop him, without having any idea if Sandman needs to breath, or if having his silicate cells fused with concrete would effectively kill him.

Spider-Man acts somewhat out of character when he defeats villains in a way that should have killed said villain.

Spidey similarly brings a whole building down on the Shocker. Shocker doesn't have any super powers. He doesn't have super strength or durability or healing, so collapsing a building on his head is probably not something that Spider-Man should do if he is actually does not intend to kill the villain. Of course, Shocker creates a force field bubble to protect himself, but there's no way that Spidey should have known that Shocker could do that, since he hadn't (at this point) seen the Shocker create a force field. And then he has the nerve to joke about having "brought down the house".

Egh...

It's cringe-worthy, but more of an annoyance than a major deal-breaker.

The villains all have understandable motivations, and the action is fluidly animated.

An unexpectedly twisted web

Despite the faithfulness to the source material, Spectacular Spider-Man is also full of some fun surprises. At first, a lot of these deviations from the source annoyed me, but Greg Weisman and his writers managed to turn all of them around with delightfully subversive -- and unexpected -- twists that always paid excellent service to the spirit of the original comics, while also telling compelling storylines on their own. There were a handful of times during the course of my first viewing of the series that I thought I was going to hate some of these creative decisions, but every time Weisman and co. managed to turn it around and hit the resolution out of the park!

I already talked about how Spectacular manages to come in second place behind the Animated Series with regard to the introduction of the symbiotic black suit. The Venom storylines, in general, are one of the weaker elements of Spectacular (but still works well enough). When Spectacular first introduces the black suit (which actually happens in the opening credits of every episode of the series), it looks similar to the suit in Spider-Man 3: a boring, black version of the regular Spidey suit with white logo and webbing. I was disappointed.

The black suit's outer appearance mirrors its internal corruption of Peter's mind and personality.

Over the course of the three episode story arc, however, the suit gradually changes into the traditional comic book black suit. That visible transformation symbolically coincides with the suit's corruption and take-over of Peter's mind and will, and the end effect is quite spectacular.

I wish it had happened a bit slower over the course of more episodes (maybe even the majority of a whole season). This would allow the change to be more gradual and subtle, and hopefully not immediately noticeable. You'd get two or three episodes in, and be like, "Wait, did the suit always look like that?". The rushed pacing of many storylines, including the black suit / Venom arc, is one of my few consistent complaints with Spectacular as a series (more on that later).

The other major twist in the series (and perhaps its best twist) is the identity of the Green Goblin. At the end of season 1, Spidey discovers that Harry Osborne is the first Green Goblin, rather than Norman Osborne. This deviation annoyed me at first, but in a second season twist, it is revealed that Norman had framed his son Harry (using Harry's performance enhancer addiction as a clever cover) so that he could divert suspicion away from his own Goblin activities. This clever twist completely redeemed the original deviation from the comics and made for a fun and intriguing storyline in itself. It goes to show just how twisted and selfish Norman had become, and just how little he cared for Harry's well-being.

In a clever twist, Norman Osborn framed Harry to divert attention away from himself as the Green Goblin.

This is a near-perfect representation of Norman's character from the comics. This is a despicable, selfish, and devious Norman Osborn, who neglects Harry and has little regard for his son. It's certainly not the Norman Osborn of Insomniac's Marvel's Spider-Man, who will put his life and career on the line to try to save Harry from a terminal illness.

Norman and Harry are different heights and builds.

It is a little bit of a cheap twist, considering that Harry and Norman are completely different heights and builds, so Peter should not have been able to confuse the two with each other, even in costume, and there's no way that Peter should have been fooled by simply dressing Harry up in the Goblin suit. But it's a children's cartoon, and the result is some pretty compelling characterization for both Norman and Harry, so I'm willing to let something like that slide. I do wonder if framing Harry was the original plan, or if the whole "Chameleon was posing as Norman" gag was a retcon?

Like a streak of light

I do have one major complaint with this series as a whole: it's pacing is a bit rushed. It seems as though Greg Weisman had intended to adapt pretty much the entire 50-plus-year history of Spider-Man stories into just three or four seasons of television. That's a lot to tackle, and not a whole lot of time to tackle it. I get that you're trying to make a kid's cartoon, and there's certain limitations that you have to deal with. For one thing, you have the notoriously short attention span of children, but you also don't want to run such a serialized series too long, as the audience may out-grow it before it's finished. However, given the overall quality of the series as a whole, it is thoroughly enjoyable by fans of all ages, so outgrowing the story turned out to not be an issue here.

The series progresses a little more rapidly than I would have preferred, which doesn't leave much time for certain storylines or characters to develop as fully as they could. For example, by the end of the first season, we've already seen the black suit and Venom storylines, have gone through the first iteration of the Sinister Six, and have resolved the first Green Goblin story arc. Those are some of the most significant and influential storylines in Spider-Man canon, and they are doled out rapid-fire through the first season.

Eddie's resentment of Peter feels rushed and contrived.

Heck, the second Sinister Six is introduced only three episodes into the second season!

To be fair, the 90's Animated Series had similarly rushed pacing, introducing Mary Jane in episode 3, the black suit and Venom in episodes 8 through 10, and its version of the Sinister Six (called the "Insidious Six" for -- I guess -- copyright issues?) in episode 14 (first episode of season 2). So Spectacular actually lines up pretty closely with the 90's series, and isn't really elevating itself above its predecessor in this regard.

In the case of Spectacular, the end result is that Eddie Brock, in particular, feels underdeveloped and the development of his hatred for Peter feels contrived (especially compared to that 90's series). I really feel that this hatred needed more time to fester, and for Peter (or Spider-Man) to do more to insult or injure Eddie in particular. All of Peter's other friends seem to understand that he's very conflicted with his desire to make money to support himself and Aunt May, but Eddie (who is ostensibly supposed to be Peter's childhood friend, and should understand Peter and May's financial struggles better than anybody else) comes off as too pig-headed and unforgiving. Eddie (and also Gwen, for that matter) disappears from the show for a large chunk of season 1, only to become prominent players again when the symbiote is introduced.

I probably would have saved the black suit / Venom
storyline for the the second season.

There's nothing structurally wrong here -- no plot holes or broken logic. It's just very rushed, and that rush-job makes it feel unnatural and contrived.

Had I planned out this series (and was stuck with the "Peter and Eddie are childhood friends" concept, as opposed to them being rival photographers), I probably would have saved the black suit and Sinister Six plot threads for the second season, and would have made the black suit / Venom thread be a season-long arc. I probably would have introduced Eddie mid-way through season one, and made a bigger deal of his and Peter's friendship, so that Eddie feeling betrayed by Peter would have been more impactful.

While the general storyline is progressing at a rapid pace, the Peter and Gwen "will-they-won't-they?" romance subplot gets dragged along for the entire run of the series, and in fact, is never resolved. This leads me to the next biggest problem with Spectacular Spider-Man...

Gwen and Peter's "will-they-won't-they?" arc is dragged out for the entire series, and never resolved.

Premature Final Curtain

Unfortunately, the show was canceled after only two seasons, concluding with an episode appropriately titled "Final Curtain". Spectacular Spider-Man was produced by Sony and distribute on WB networks. When Disney bought Marvel, they canned the series (despite having previously promised to renew it for a third season if the second season was successful). Disney replaced Spectacular Spider-Man with the abysmal Ultimate Spider-Man TV series. I watched one episode of it, and couldn't stand it.

It's tempting to blame Marvel and Disney for the show's cancellation, but it's not entirely their fault. Well, it mostly is. While Marvel and Disney had obtained the license to produce Spider-Man TV content, Sony had retained the rights to Spectacular Spider-Man specifically (and all its associated character designs, story concepts, distribution rights, and so forth), and so the series fell into a limbo of un-produceability with neither company wanting to spend money on a project that would promote its competitor, even though that project was a creative and artistic masterpiece.

Copyright ownership complications between Disney / Marvel and Sony put a premature end to the series.

Disney moved it to a less-favorable time slot on a less familiar cable network that was less accessible than the CW, and they refused to spend money to advertise or promote the show. Sony and Warner Brothers also weren't going to bother promoting a show on a rival network. The result is that fans who would have happily watched it on the new network either didn't have access to that network, or simply didn't know where the show had gone. Sony could have picked up the bill for the third season, but didn't want to because it would have remained on Disney's network, and Disney would have gotten most (if not all) of the profits from toy and merchandise sales.

There's plenty of blame to go around. It's an absolute tragedy for Spidey fans.

Since Sony and Disney/Marvel were able put aside their differences to cooperate for Spider-Man: Homecoming, I had hoped that they might team up to produce a third (and maybe fourth) season of Spectacular Spider-Man. So far, no news of a revival has surfaced, but there are online petitions.

Maybe if people keep buying the DVDs, Disney and Sony will eventually catch on and work out a deal to bring the show back before all the cast and crew behind it lose interest. Hey, it worked for Family Guy and Futurama! Hopefully, a Spectacular Spider-Man revival would turn out better than those two.

Hey, a guy can hope...

Showrunner Greg Weisman had planned out approximately 65 episodes of the series, and many of the ideas for season 3 storylines have been leaked onto the internet. While some ideas sound promising, I admit that I'm skeptical about a lot of them. That being said, I probably would have been skeptical of the outlines for the first two seasons as well (especially with regard to Venom, the Green Goblin, and Mary Jane). It's the execution that matters, and this creative group has certainly earned my trust and respect.

Plans for the third season included introducing villains like Scorpion, Hydro Man, and Morbuis.

Introducing characters like Scorpion, Hydro Man, Hobgoblin, Morbius, and Mister Negative assuredly would have gone without a hitch. Further fleshing out characters like Flash Thompson, Betty Brant, Robbie Robertson, and others would have been welcome. Casting Star Trek alum Marina Sirtis to play Norman Osborne's wife, Emily Osborne, would probably have been an interesting development. I wouldn't be surprised if Weisman were planning on having Emily become an iteration of the Green Goblin. Even though that would have no precedent in the comics, the idea is intriguing.

Other developments seem like outright silly ideas, such as introducing the Spider-Mobile. That's the sort of thing that sounds more like it's intended to sell toys than to actually tell a good story, especially if you're talking about a teenage Peter Parker who's still in school while Aunt May is struggling just to make ends meet. Where would Peter get the resources for something like that? How would he conceal it? I guess it could be given to him by Oscorp or S.H.I.E.L.D. or Stark or the Fantastic Four or something.

Yet other ideas would likely have been a problematic tough order to fulfill. The second-to-last episode of season 2 revealed (pretty much unequivocally) that Black Cat's father murdered Uncle Ben. This sounds like repeating a mistake made by Spider-Man 3, and further pursuing the idea doesn't really appeal to me. Turning Miles Warren into the Jackal and going through the clone saga could get unwieldy, and these stories aren't really particularly good to begin with anyway. Telling stories about Peter's parents is also a rabbit hole that I feel uncomfortable with the series going down (especially after the Amazing Spider-Man movies tried to play that up). Any plot line involving Carnage opens up a whole carton of cans of worms that I doubt a Disney-operated kids network would have been willing to deal with. Lastly, marrying Peter and Mary Jane might have felt rather sudden considering how much of the series had built up to Peter and Gwen finally expressing their affection for one another, and the fact that Gwen's storyline is never ... shall we say "fully resolved"...

Storylines involving Carnage, the Jackal, and the clone saga might have gotten unwieldy.

Justice to Gwen

Perhaps, in the long run, it might be for the best that the show ended early. Had it run for longer, it may have eventually had to tackle subjects too difficult for a kids show. The deaths of Captain George Stacy, Gwen Stacy herself, and possibly other characters like Norman and/or Harry Osborne, and maybe Aunt May, might have been beyond the range of what the network would allow. It's difficult to imagine a children's cartoon (produced by Disney, no less) having the guts to go through with such storylines. But then again, they did tackle teenage drug addiction, so who knows? And this is, after all, the studio that, once upon a time, brought us Bambi and Old Yeller.

Spider-Man: the Animated Series, produced in the 90's, completely copped out with such topics due to Fox's strict censorship rules. Carnage didn't kill people; he just absorbed their souls, which were released back to the victims after Carnage was defeated. Gwen Stacy didn't appear in that series at all (except as a cameo in a parallel timeline), but the show attempted to reproduce her iconic death by having the Green Goblin kidnap Mary Jane to lure Spider-Man onto the Brooklyn Bridge (similar to what Raimi did with his first Spider-Man movie). Since the show couldn't get away with showing death on-screen, and since Mary Jane isn't Gwen Stacy anyway, that show copped out by having the Goblin push Mary Jane off the bridge and into an inter-dimensional portal. To the show's credit, Mary Jane remained in that portal for the remainder of the series' run, and the series finale ended with Madam Web taking Spider-Man on an inter-dimensional journey to find MJ. It was really lame, and a bit disrespectful to the source material.

The 90's Animated Series had silly storylines involving Carnage stealing souls and Mary Jane disappearing.

Would Spectacular Spider-Man have similarly copped out with regard to Gwen? How would Weisman have planned to write her out?

Oddly enough, it was a good thing that I rewatched the series before publishing this, because I had completely mis-remembered the final episode. I could have sworn that the first time I watched the series, the final episode had Gwen tell Peter that her and her dad were moving to Europe. Of course, after re-watching the series for this review, I was incredibly confused by the final episode that has Harry guilt-tripping Gwen into staying with him after his father's funeral, and no indication that Gwen and her father were moving to Europe.

Like, I vividly remember a scene in which Gwen shows up at Peter's house in a cab or a police car, Peter tells her that he loves her, and then Gwen breaks the bad news that she's moving to Europe with her dad. She says she loves Peter too, and she doesn't want to go, but her dad is making her. She gets back into the car and drives away, the camera pans up -- past Peter's heartbroken face -- to one of those Spidey-face backdrops in the sky, and then credits roll. Was I confusing Spectacular with another Spider-Man adaptation? Did I perhaps conflate a similar conversation from Amazing Spider-Man 2 with the scene of the kiss from the end of season 1? Did I read this somewhere as a leaked or potential story concept for the cancelled season three? Whatever the reason, I was all ready to write a section about how this scene cleverly inverted the final scene from the first season, and how Gwen's reluctant rejection of Peter in order to move to Europe would have been an appropriate "full circle" ending.

Geez, how was my memory so wrong? Let this be a lesson to you all about the fallibility of human memory!

Would Spectacular have had the guts to go through with killing Gwen?

My faulty memory aside, the question stands: how would Spectacular Spider-Man have resolved Gwen Stacy's sotryline? Were I in charge, and I had to write Gwen out without killing her, the "reluctantly moving to Europe" thing probably would be what I'd have done. Would Spectacular's writers have made my erroneous memory prophetic by simply writing Gwen out by sending her to Europe? She did spend a year in the comic studying abroad and "taking a break" from Peter after her father's death, so this would not have been completely out-of-line with the comics. Would the writers (and network) have had the guts to actually kill off Gwen? Would they have been able to handle that story arc with the same respect and love for the source material that they had shown with previous story arcs? Would it even be possible to do that without killing her?

It's hard to say, as no information about such a storyline plan has (to my knowledge) surfaced, and Weisman may be keeping a tight lip regarding any plans for Gwen in the hopes that he'll eventually get to tell it. With Sony going forward with the Into the Spider-Verse animated feature, it seems unlikely that they'd want competition from a cartoon partially owned by a rival company. ...Unless that movie will somehow tie into the Spectacular series?

Maybe Weisman and company would have found a way to pull it all off. After all, almost all their other ideas and deviations from original comic canon worked out well, by using clever subversions of expectations to execute a genius twist that ended up remaining incredibly faithful to the original comics and telling compelling stories on their own. The introduction of Mary Jane, the introduction of Eddie Brock, the look of Spider-Man's black suit, and the identity of the Green Goblin were all things that looked like they might go off the rails, only to be cleverly twisted in creative and unexpected ways that told really good stories!

Gwen and Peter's relationship is the emotional and narrative through-line of the entire series.

Instead, the overarching storyline of Spectacular Spider-Man is, in a way, the story of Peter and Gwen: the love that would never be. Peter not returning Gwen's affection ends up being the through-line of the entire series, and her eventual reluctant rejection of him in favor of Harry does still sort of bring the story full circle, even if it does not provide concrete closure -- let alone the closure that we expect from a Gwen Stacy storyline.

In any case, it breaks my heart that we may never know where this show would have gone. Like I said earlier, it's a damn travesty that this show got canceled.

At the top of the comic adaptation pantheon

Spectacular Spider-Man is easily the best TV adaptation of Spider-Man. It might be the best media adaptation of Spider-Man, period! Better than Spider-Man: Homecoming. Better than Insomniac's Marvel's Spider-Man video game. Certainly better than the unfinished dud that was the Amazing Spider-Man movies. It might even top the classic first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man films!

It's also a testament to how much better comic book stories work when they are adapted to serialized TV formats rather than movies. There's no way that any movie (or trilogy of movies) could tell a story with as much detail, nuance, and texture, and in a way that is this faithful to the source material. The twists and turns of Spider-Man's life -- perhaps even moreso than other comic characters -- is so much better suited to TV than to movies, and Spectacular illustrates that with spectacular clarity!

Spectacular does a decent job with its villains, but it doesn't quite succeed at transcending them the way that the Batman: the Animated Series did with Mr. Freeze, Two-Face, and Harley Quinn. Spectacular Spider-Man does, however, deserves a place alongside Batman as one of the best animated series based on a comic book. Josh Keaton deserves to be an iconic voice of Spider-Man, just as Kevin Conroy is for the voice of Batman.

Let me put it this way, if Spectacular Spider-Man were on the air now, I (a 33-year-old man) would be the one carving out time in my day, and bringing the 8-year-old kid to the TV and saying "Hey, the new Spider-Man episode is on. Let's watch it!".

Spectacular Spider-Man is the hands-down best TV adaptation of Spider-Man.

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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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Featured Post

EA's Madden design philosophy, and why we can't have nice thingsEA's Madden design philosophy, and why we can't have nice things10/25/2018 I think I've finally decided to take a stab at some long-form video analysis and critique on Youtube. My first go at this came in the form of a nearly-hour-long breakdown of my frustrations with the Madden NFL video game series (broken up into 2 parts). For the benefit of my readers, I'm also transcribing the video onto this...

Random Post

Microsoft and Capcom to release a new "Steel Battalion" game for Kinect; NOT reusing the cockpit controller from 2002 game, even though it would probably sell nowadays...Microsoft and Capcom to release a new "Steel Battalion" game for Kinect; NOT reusing the cockpit controller from 2002 game, even though it would probably sell nowadays...09/24/2011 In my previous blog, I discussed my experience with the 2002 XBox game Steel Battalion. At the end of that blog, I mentioned that I had read that Microsoft and Capcom are developing a new Steel Battalion game, and that I would give my opinions on such a game in a future blog. Well, I didn't wait long to write that "future blog"....

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