This week on Saturday Morning Cartoon we’re leaving the hallowed halls of the 80s and 90s for the distant future of 2008 when Marvel Studios gave us the short lived-
"The Spectacular Spider-Man" episode 1.1, "Survival of the Fittest" (8 out of 10); Starring Josh Keaton, Dee Bradley Baker, Lacey Chabert, John DiMaggio, Robert Englund, Deborah Strang, and Alan Rachins; Written by Greg Weisman; Based on characters created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; Directed by Victor Cook.
This incarnation of Spider-Man skirts the origin story, alluding to the spider bite happening during a school field trip to the laboratory of Dr. Connors last year, and gets right into the action. Peter has spent the summer honing his skills and is now returning as a Junior to Midtown High.
When Peter thwarts a jewel heist by Flint Marko he unknowingly confirms his existence to an unknown entity who sends The Enforcers to deal with him. In the meantime Peter returns home for his last night of summer before returning to school in the morning.
Meanwhile Aunt May talks with a friend about the financial hardships she is facing since the death of Uncle Ben and a beak-nosed man confronts an Oscorp scientist about stolen magnetic flight technology.
Peter makes his way to school feeling rejuvenated with his new spider abilities and confident that this year things will be different. He approaches a girl but she rejects his advances resulting in Flash pushing him around and stealing his lunch, so much for things being different.
While Peter may not be very well liked at school, he is becoming increasingly popular with The Enforcers and the anonymous voice who gives orders in no uncertain terms to kill Spider-Man. Later at school, Peter is offered an internship with Dr. Connors, he accepts, thinking this will be the solution to he and Aunt May’s money problems. He goes to visit the Osborne’s when The Vulture appears swooping away with Norman into the sky. Peter sends Harry to call the police and makes chase.
Peter soon finds he may have bitten off more than he can chew when he finds himself between The Vulture and The Enforcers.
In a single episode “Spectacular Spider-Man” is able to introduce viewers to many of the core characters, set the stage for Peter’s every day woes in addition to his super problems. We’re introduced to two sets of villains, Gwen Stacey, Harry and Norman Osborne, Eddie Brock, Dr. Connors, and J. Jonah Jameson. The storytelling is tight, the pacing is fluid, and the Peter maintains his signature sense of humor with some pretty decent jokes.
I’m familiar with every “Spider-Man” animated series going back to the sixties and to my mind “Spectacular” is the undiscovered and underappreciated gem of the lot. Critics and those close to the source material seemed to agree, but the masses didn’t show and the series was ultimately cancelled after 26 episodes had been produced, out of the planned 65. The final blow came with the announcement of “Ultimate Spider-Man” in 2012.
Season three of “Spectacular Spider-Man” would have seen the introduction of Carnage, and while I have quite enjoyed “Ultimate” so far, I can’t help but wonder where this series could have gone if it had been given the chance.