REVIEW: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN

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MAIN CAST (VOICES)
Drake Bell (Sueprhero Movie)
Ogie Banks (Superman vs The Elite)
Greg Cipes (Teen Titans)
Clark Gregg (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants)
Matt Lanter (Heroes)
Chi McBride (Human Target)
Caitlyn Taylor Love (I’m With The Band)
Logan Miller (Deep Powder)
J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man)
Steven Weber (Izombie)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Misty Lee (Killer Kids)
Jonathan Adams (Bones)
Tara Strong (The New Batman Adventures)
Eric Bauza (Batman: Assault on Arkam)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Kevin Michael richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Stan Lee (Spider-Man)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Troy Baker (Lego Batman: The Movie)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Rob Paulsen (Teenae Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterpise)
Travis Willingham (Shelf Life)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Roger Craig Smith (Wreck-it Ralph)
Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave and The Bold)
Christopher Daniel Barnes (The Little Mermaid)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Jack Coleman (Heroes)
Robin Atkin Downes (Babylon 5)
Rose McGowan (Planet Terror)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Stan Lee (Avengers Aseesmble)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Oded Fehr (The Mummy)
Freddy Rodriguez (Ugly Betty)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes)
Cameron Boyce (The Descendants)
Maria Canals-Barrera (Justice League)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Michael Clarke Duncan (The Finder)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Iain De Caestecker (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Elizabeth Henstridge (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
James Marsters (Caprica)
Keith Szarabajka (Angel)
Billy West (Futurama)

I recently watched  Ultimate Spider-Man and I can honestly say that I have never wanted to stop watching a Spider-Man cartoon before in my life… until now. I have been a big fan of the Spider-Man comic series for many years and have liked almost all of the cartoon iterations of him, but this one just hurts to watch. I understand that Spider-Man is supposed to be a smart-mouthed teen who likes to make jokes while fighting crime, which is my favorite part about the character, but this show just takes it to an extreme.


I think one of the biggest problems for me was how much the stories are broken up by all of the “cut away” scenes.  I understand that Spider-Man is a show made for children and I get that the characters aren’t going to be nearly as serious as they are in the comics, but I feel like this was just too far from the source material for me to enjoy it. Another thing that bothered me was how just a few years ago we had, in my opinion, one of the best Spider-Man shows to date, Spectacular Spider-Man, and it was canceled in only it’s second season. I had really high hopes for Ultimate Spider-Man to fill the void that Spectacular Spider-Man left, but it just didn’t deliver at all.

As far as the voice acting on the show goes, they all seem to have done a really good job… with what they were given to read. So much of the writing in this show just seems so forced.why was Spectacular Spider-Man so much better and the most honest answer that I can give you is that it seems as though Marvel actually put a lot of work into Spectacular Spider-Man. I’m not saying that they didn’t put a lot of work into Ultimate Spider-Man, but it’s much harder to see in this one. The character designs in Spectacular Spider-Man may not have hit all of the right points for some people, but I really enjoyed it. The action in the show looked really good and it was easy to follow exactly what was happening, because you didn’t have a bunch of blur that you had to try and see everything through. The story for Spectacular Spider-Man was your standard Spider-Man fare, but while it was a show essentially for kids, it also appealed to many adults as well.


I really wanted to like Ultimate Spider-Man, but I just didn’t. I feel like if this show was about just another teen superhero other than Spider-Man it would have been much more forgivable, but for it to take such a dump on such a beloved character, it is just really sad to see. Now all that I can do is hope that the new Spider-Man movie can really bring something good to the table.

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REVIEW: FANTASTIC FOUR (1994): THE COMPLETE SERIES

CAST
Beau Weaver (Transformers)
Lori Alan (Family Guy)
Chuck McCann (Ducktales)
Brian Austin Green (Anger Management)
Quinton Flynn (Digimon)
Neil Ross (Being John Malkovich)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Clyde Kusatsu (Alias)
Robin Sachs (Buffy)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Robin Sachs (Buffy)
John Rhys-Davies (Lord of The Rings)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Jane Carr (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
John Vernon (Batman: TAS)
Simon Templeman (The Neighbours)
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Launched in 1994 as part of Marvel’s Action Hour in the USA (alongside Iron Man), this then new cartoon attempted to bring Marvel’s First Family  to the attention of a new generation. The main US comic book of the time included a free ‘animation cel’ with #394 to promote the series and later a spin off comic book of the cartoon was launched. In its first season, the show is disappointing. Reduced to a crude sitcom, the show is creaky, toe curling and cheesy beyond belief.  Worst of all, Sue Richards is reduced to mere ‘damsel in distress’ for the entirety of the season, functioning only as a simpering wife and mother to the men on the team. Compared to the superior Batman: The Animated Series of the time and even Marvel’s other cartoons of the period Spider-man, X-Men and Iron Man, its not hard to feel disappointed with the translation of the Fantastic Four to the small screen.

Thankfully, the approach of Season One , with its comedy landlord and irksome stereotypes don’t seemed to have found favour with audiences either and the show was given a serious overhaul for Season Two. The improvement in storytelling is immense and does a much better job of servicing the characters and situations they find thermselves in. The theme tune and accompanying score are still pretty naff though, all synthesized fanfares and flat sounding parps.
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The Inhumans three parter is my favourite, giving all its key characters a chance to shine and the romance between Johnny Storm and Crystal is nicely done, There’s also some neat guest appearances for The Avengers, Black Panther and even Ego – The Living Planet. As with all of Clear Vision’s Marvel releases, the set is attractively packaged with some nice artwork by Simon Williams and the picture is pin sharp and vibrant. The sound is superb as well, being dolby 5.1 stereo. There’s nothing in the way of any extras though, just the usual language and episode selections.

REVIEW: THE FANTASTIC FOUR (1978): THE COMPLETE SERIES

CAST (VOICES)

Mike Road (Captain Caveman)
Ginny Tyler (Doctor Dolittle 1967)
Ted Cassidy (The Addams Family)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Hal Smith (Beauty and The Beast 1991)
John Stephenson (Charlottes Web 1973)
Dick Tufeld (Lost In Space)
Don Messick (Tiny Toon Adventures)
Through no fault of DePatie-Freleng, the character of the Human Torch couldn’t be included in this series because he’d already been optioned for a film project which, at the time, didn’t come to fruition. Instead, marvel legend Stan Lee created Herbie the Robot, voiced by the multi-talented Frank Welker, Megatron in the original Transformers. Although some fans reacted badly to the new character, for those who were just small children at the time, Herbie was perfect for us. His longevity has since been assured in Marvel Comics where he now serves as a sidekick to Franklin Richards, son of Mr & Mrs Fantastic.

As a small child many years ago, this series was a great introduction for me to the World of Marvel Comics. Guest characters include Magneto, Blastarr, Doctor Doom, The Inhumans, and Skrulls to name but a few. The stories and characters have an innocence about them which is missing from modern television, and the emphasis is always on fun… even when Herbie and Ben are squabbling the way best friends tend to.

And if the cell-animation seems simple and basic by today’s standards, where cgi seems to rule the roost, then let us not forget that DePatie-Freleng actually helped out with the special effects on the original legendary Star wars film.  In short, Fantastic Four (1978) is fantastic for kids… and also for grown-ups who want to remember the good ol’ days!

REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN (1981)

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CAST (VOICES)

Ted Schwartz (Transformers)
William Woodson (The Naked Gun 2 1/2)
Mona Marshall (South Park)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
Stan Jones (Little Shop of Horrors)

UntitledWhen I sat down to watch Spider-Man 5000 I was expecting some futuristic Batman Of The Future-type deal, with Spidey zooming into space decked out in weblined silver, led by a computerised spider-sense. In fact, the 5000 refers to an episode numbering system, not a time period. This 1981 animated series is set straight after the ‘60s Spider-Man show, with Peter Parker now attending Empire State University. The villains are contemporary and familiar – The Lizard, Sandman, Dr. Octopus.

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The series does a great job of capturing the ethos of the comic book. Peter Parker is a teenager juggling his love life with work and webswinging. Aunt May fusses over him and there’s a running gag about him slipping into the house without her noticing. Peter’s impatient date Betty Brant gets stood up on a regular basis. Spider-Man’s quips and interior monologues ring true. For example, he calls Magneto “Bucket Head” and “Turret Top”.The series adds its own quirks as well. Peter acts clumsy and cowardly a la Clark Kent. We learn that he prefers The Beatles to disco music, can make armpit web wings to glide from buildings, and isn’t above taking money to guard a million dollar artifact. These all come across more as plot devices than attempts to develop character or build continuity.

Spider-Man 5000 retains the child-friendly, uncluttered look of the ‘60s show but adds texture to its art and storytelling. There are detailed touches like the underwater ripples when Spidey treads water, and sight gags such as a billboard for Spritz Bug Spray. In each 20 minute tale, the hero has time to discover the villain’s plan, get knocked down and get back up again for a rousing finale. The villains come across as greedy, bellowing buffoons who thrive on thievery rather than any grand master plans. Even the Black Cat is a plain burglar here, more Catwoman than Felicia Hardy. This being the early ‘80s, Spider-Man relies on the miracle power of microwaves on more than one occasion to battle the bad guys. Who knew that those reheating waves could turn sand to dust and amplify magnetic power, bouncing it back to its source?  Spidey isn’t the only character who harnesses technology in unusual ways. In the first episode Bubble, Bubble, Oil And Trouble, classic villain Doctor Octopus modifies his terrible tentacles, adding a diamond sawblade and a vibrator. That’s a sonic quartz vibrator, which zaps walls to rubble around Spider-Man. Ock wants to get his protuberances on the world’s oil supply, but before he can thwart the tanker snatcher Peter has to do his homework and compete with rival photographer Mortimer (J. Jonah Jameson’s wonderfully sniveling nephew).16174889_1836004673347908_6687458020023952722_nIn Dr. Doom, Master Of The World, the Latverian dictator forgoes a typical destructive scheme for something more polite. He brainwashes UN representatives so they’ll vote him into absolute power. Questionable tactics aside, this is the Doom we all want to see – creepy and menacing with a Darth Vader voice. Sadly, he’s defeated too easily and he just runs away at the end. Above all, 5000 has some great visual ideas even if they’re not always executed effectively. They’re the kind of ideas that get kids talking in the playground, looking forward to their next Saturday morning episode. We get Doc Ock striding over the skyline with his tentacles extended, The Lizard breeding giant monitors and other zoo lizards in the subway, blocking off the exits with crashed trains, the Black Cat tightrope walking across power lines, and Spidey wrestling a gator in the Everglades, getting magnetized to a satellite and finding himself in other imaginative scrapes.

On the downside, true believers have been up in all eight arms about the transfer quality of these discs. Clear Vision blames it on the age of the material, but the color isn’t so much faded as flickering, as if an old digital generation has been used as the source footage. Cleaning up video frames can be painstaking, but if Clear Vision wants a loyal fan base then it’s going to have to put more work into the other volumes in this series. If you don’t mind the bad flicker and odd black and white frames, this early Marvel Production will surprise you with its joie de vivre, if not its sophistication. As the missing link between the original cartoon and Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends, this is a rare gem.