I grew up watching Spider-Man cartoons. I have vivid memories of watching reruns of the 1967 cartoon and of eagerly awaiting new installments of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends on Saturday mornings. Unfortunately, I didn't catch any of the series that aired on MTV a few years ago, but now have a Tivo set to record The Spectacular Spider-Man, which airs on WB Kids on Saturday mornings. My four year old daughter and I have been watching it for a couple of months now. Does it live up to the excitement of Spidey's other animated series?
My daughter Cassie and I have watched the first ten episodes so far, and the creators are not wasting any time introducing characters. As far as villains go, we've seen The Enforcers, Hammerhead, Lizard, Vulture, Dr. Octopus, Electro, Shocker, Sandman, Rhino, Tombstone, Green Goblin, Quentin Beck (who is not yet Mysterio), and Chameleon. Plus we've heard from John Jameson, who is on his way to becoming Man-Wolf, and Eddie Brock, a friend of Peter's. He's not anywhere close to becoming Venom yet, but we have seen the symbiote/black costume. Black Cat has made an appearance and was excellently played by Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica fame.
Luckily for Spider-Man, the other characters aren't all villains. They nailed Mary Jane's first appearance, and I was grinning like an idiot fanboy when we were treated to that famous phrase when Peter opened the door. The expected supporting cast is there as well: Aunt May, Gwen and George Stacy, Harry and Norman Osborn, Flash Thompson, Glory Grant, Liz Allan, J. Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robertson, and Betty Brant. Jean DeWolff has even made an appearance.
There's also an investigative reporter named Ned Lee, who may just be an Asian version of Ned Leeds, but we'll see where they take him. Could he become the Hobgoblin?
The voice acting is very good all around, with each actor adding personality to the characters. The dialogue is well written, so the character interactions all ring true. The stories are interesting and the action scenes are, with a very few exceptions, well done and exciting. There's also an excellent sub-plot with Peter struggling to use his photography gig to pay the bills, balancing that with the need to be responsible to those who depend on him in other ways (he was let go from an internship at Dr. Connors' lab because he disappeared and took pictures of a fight with the Lizard, for example).
I do have a few complaints, though. Spidey's origin has not been told. In fact, when I was watching the first episode, it felt like the second. When we first see Peter Parker, he's been Spider-Man for an entire summer. I suppose the writers chose to skip over this since the show is kind of geared towards younger children and it might be too dark for them, but as an avid Spider-Man fan, I was disappointed. My other complaint is the changing of the villains' origins. Some of them have been a pretty drastic and the people involved were never there in the comics, but that's just me being nitpicky.
My daughter loves the show. "Daddy, who's that?" "Why is he fighting Spider-Man?" "Is Black Cat a good guy or a bad guy?" It's awesome! I think I'm enjoying the show more just because she likes it so much.
My two minor complaints above aside, I think the show is really well done. The animation style doesn't really do much for me, but it's starting to grow on me. As a long-time reader of the comic (though no longer due to the travesty that was Brand New Day), I look forward each week to see what new characters and storylines they introduce. I'm also curious to see if they add any significant stories to the mythos that haven't been covered in the comics. And I love spending the time with my daughter, indoctrinating her in the mythos of my favorite superhero.