REVIEW: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN – SEASON 1-2

CAST (VOICES)

Josh Keaton (Green Lantern:TAS)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)
Grey Delisle (The Replacements)
James Arnold Taylor (Batman: The Brave and The Bold)
Alanna Ubach (Legally Blonde)
Vanessa Marshall (Star Wars Rebels)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters 2)
Daran Norris (Veronica Mars)
Alan Rachins (LA Law)
Kath soucie (Rugrats)
Crispin Freeman (Digimon)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)
Elisa Gabrielli (Mulan)
Kelly Hu (Arrow)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Courtney B. Vance (Flashforward)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Nikki Cox (Las Vegas)

It would be hard to argue that any comic book superhero has enjoyed a more sustained popularity over the last five decades than Spider-Man. The Marvel Comics character, the mainstay of that company’s flagship publication The Amazing Spider-Man, has been spun off  into numerous other venues, from cartoon and live action television shows to a rock album, a series of wildly popular theatrical movies, and even a recurring part in the old PBS series The Electric Company.

The Spectacular Spider-Man is a current incarnation of this comics legend that takes its name from a now-defunct spin-off comic book title. It’s a half-hour cartoon series, aimed primarily at kids but with some postmodern nods to adults, and basically offers an early 21st century update of the original Spider-Man comic books. Here, Peter Parker (voiced by Josh Keaton) attends high school with Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacey. Bully Flash Thompson is also around, and Parker’s future wife Mary Jane Watson transfers to his school midway in the series. Parker lives at home with his Aunt May, and moonlights as the crimefighting Spider-Man whenever he can. As he battles colorful super-villains, he’s taking snapshots of himself for the newspaper Daily Bugle. Several of the classic characters from that fictional periodical are here, including Betty Brant and the obnoxious J. Jonah Jameson (voiced hilariously by Daran Norris).spidey_wp-01

The series is light and fun, with a nice sense of humor. As such, it captures the essence of Spider-Man fairly well. Each episode is relatively self-contained, although certain plot points connect the episodes into a larger whole. The animation strikes me as bright and colorful – and certainly competent for a weekly television program. The characters are presented with some awkward angularity at times, but at least it’s consistent and uniform in presentation. As an old comics fan, I enjoyed this updating of the Spider-Man mythos, and I certainly imagine that it will entertain its core audience: adolescents.ranking-the-spider-man-animated-series_cgbj

In season 2 Peter Parker’s life becomes significantly more complicated as he finds himself torn between Gwen Stacy and Liz Allan, both of whom have confessed their feelings for him; he eventually chooses Liz. Norman Osborn takes on the role of Peter’s mentor, pulling strings to re-establish his job as Dr. Connors’ lab assistant, as well as overseeing the installment of the conniving Dr. Miles Warren into the ESU Labs. Meanwhile, as Spider-Man, Peter encounters new villains Mysterio and Kraven the Hunter, leading him to investigate the activities of a mysterious new crime lord known as the “Master Planner”.fe109-spiderman-animatedWhen the Master Planner’s first scheme fails, Spider-Man is faced with a three-way gang war between the Planner’s super-villain forces, the Big Man’s established order, and the old guard of Silvio “Silvermane” Manfredi’s family. Peter’s search for Eddie Brock also leads to the return of Venom, who attempts to expose Spider-Man’s secret identity and remove his powers. Finally, when the three major crime lords are arrested, Spider-Man once again goes up against the Green Goblin, who is once again bent on eliminating the wall-crawler once and for all.

ranking-the-spider-man-animated-series_cgbjOther new characters introduced in the second season include Calypso, Sha Shan Nguyen, Silver Sable, Roderick Kingsley and Molten Man. Quentin Beck and Phineas Mason return as Mysterio and the Tinkerer respectively.fe109-spiderman-animatedIt appears that the episodes in this eighth volume of The Spectacular Spider-Man are the swan song of the series. That’s a shame as this was a fun and energetic cartoon take on the classic Marvel superhero. Based upon content, The show was cancelled to make way for the Ultimate Spider-man cartoon which as we all know is just a train wreck.spidey_wp-01

Advertisements

REVIEW: THE INCREDIBLE HULK (1966)

CAST (VOICES)

Max Ferguson (Spider-Man 60s)
Paul Soles (The Score)
Peg Dixon (Strange Paradise)
John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Bernard Cowan (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea)
Paul Kligman (Spider-Man 60s)

1280x720-6ImThe Incredible Hulk. Initially aired as three seven-minute segments in the (weekly) animated Marvel Superheroes hour in 1966, this two-disc box set compiles all 39 Hulk episodes into one fantastic collection and provides a fascinating window into the cartoons of old. Lifted directly from the early Marvel comics in which he first appeared, most of what we know and love about the Hulk is already here. Following the classic origin story to a tee, Dr Bruce Banner, missile expert and genius scientist, runs out onto a missile test range to rescue wayward teenager Rick Jones. But in doing so, Banner is caught in a detonation of his own making and blasted with gamma rays. Waking in the infirmary sometime later, Banner feels a change coming on and is soon busting through clothes and turning a darker shade of green.hqdefaultCreated by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby four years earlier, it’s fair to say the character was still in development at this point and, playing more into the monster myth on which the Hulk was originally based, Banner’s transformations are initially triggered more by the sun going down rather than losing control of his emotions. Nevertheless, all the other character traits we associate with the green-skinned one are here – the lack of intelligence, the uncontrollable rage, and the complete disregard for his or anyone else’s safety (with the exception of constant love interest Betty Ross). Other familiar faces play their part, General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross, Betty’s father, continues his life-long mission to capture and control Banner’s monster, while other Marvel characters, including Iron Man, Thor, The Wasp and Captain America, also make a guest appearance as The Avengers. It’s a shame The Avengers don’t feature more heavily, although a few of them do return individually in later episodes. That being said, this is Hulk’s show and it’s only right that he takes the starring role, and that he does.nick-furyAnd it’s not just the Marvel heroes who turn up, classic villains like the Gorgon, Leader and the Metal Master also take their respective turns as enemies of the Hulk and do their best to enrage the muscle-bound giant. Each of the villain’s are brilliantly voiced, lovingly drawn and serve as suitable adversaries for the Hulk, doing their best to either thwart, capture or kill our favorite beast. Another character to feature heavily, and of some annoyance, is the already mentioned Rick Jones, the Hulk’s guilt-ridden sidekick who blames himself for Banner getting caught in the radiation blast. And while, at first, Rick seems a welcome addition to the Hulk origin story, he soon begins to grate and becomes something of a boy wonder, and proves just as annoying. That aside, the characters, friend and foe alike, really make the journey from page to screen and make these episodes all the more enjoyable for being there. And at only seven minutes long, each episode is easy to watch and doesn’t ask too much of the viewer in terms of investment and commitment, making the stories easy to follow and extremely watchable.untitledIt’s also worth mentioning that while these episodes will hold fond memories for most Marvel fans, the series has received criticism in the past for it’s almost entirely static animation, save for the movement of mouths, eyes and the occasional arm or leg. But such criticism is unfair and unwarranted, especially when you consider the limitations of the time and the quick turnaround required for the weekly episodes. It goes without saying that, when compared to the animation standards of today, that the artwork here seems crude and almost basic, but again it was fitting with the times and served as an accurate representation of what many consider to be Marvel’s Silver Age of comics. So accurate, in fact, that the artwork was directly lifted from the comic books themselves and, through a process known as xerography, printed directly onto the animation cells. This process allowed for the series to act as something of a showcase for the wonderfully nostalgic artwork of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Don Heck, Marvel luminaries themselves and just as deserving of our adoration as Stan the Man himself.

 

 

REVIEW: IRON MAN (1966)

untitled

CAST (VOICES)

John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Bernard Cowan (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea)
Peg Dixon (Strange Paradise)

Thirteen episodes of the animated Marvel Comics’ tough-as-steel superhero – Iron Man. In ‘The Mandarin’s Revenge’ when military missiles begin disappearing, Iron Man allows himself to be captures by the Mandarin. He fights the Mandarin and stops missile from exploding.

In ‘The Moleman Strikes’ the Mole Man captures Iron Man and steals an earth digging device. Iron Man frees himself and must face a fire-breathing Dragon. He defeats the monster and tricks the Mole Man into destroying the digging device. In ‘The Death of Tony Stark’ Happy Hogan and Pepper think that the Mandarin killed Tony Stark, but the Iron Man is alive and facing a series of death traps.

The Mandarin tells Iron Man his origin, battles him and Iron Man escapes, returning as Stark to his relieved friends. In ‘If I Die, Let It Be With Honor’ Iron Man faces death if Happy doesn’t bring him a needed component in time. Happy is wounded but saves Iron Man’s life. In ‘The Crimson Dynamo’ when the Crimson Dynamo battles Iron Man and defects, the Black Widow’s partner dons the Dynamo armour. The original Dynamo sacrifices his life so that Iron Man can defeat his evil counterpart.

In ‘Double Disaster’ Tony Stark discovers that a trusted employee is stealing from him and fires him. The ex-employee becomes Jack Frost and vows revenge, but Iron Man heats him up before he can do more damage. In ‘Enter Hawkeye’ Hawkeye decides to become a super hero but falls prey to the Black Widow. Hawkeye and Widow fight Iron Man but flee before Iron Man can stop them. In ‘Ultimo’ Tony Stark is captured by the Mandarin and the giant Ultimo. He must stop them before getting back to a congressional hearing or the Senate will cancel all of Stark’s industry contracts.

In ‘The Dream Master’ Count Nefaria causes Iron Man to believe he is fighting the Unicorn and the Crimson Dynamo in his nightmares. Iron Man must defeat Aliens from outer space to stop Nefaria. In ‘My Life For Yours’ Iron Man loses power when trying to rescue Happy from the Black Knight’s mysterious castle. Happy is turned into a monster and Iron Man must save his own life and that of his friend. In ‘Beauty And The Armour’ the evil Countess is behind the Mad Thinker, who kidnaps Tony Stark.

The Countess steals Iron Man’s armour to defeat Titanium Man. In ‘The Other Iron Man’ Hogan takes on the Guise of Iron Man when Stark collapses and is captured by the Mandarin. Tony builds a new suit of armour and comes to Happy’s aid. In ‘Cliffs Of Doom’ The Chameleon and Kraven the Hunter battle Iron Man to get a new laser gun. The Chameleon convinces Iron Man that he is the real Captain America. The two heroes do battle until they realize the dupe. Crude animation, but a fun show, out of all the 66 animated shows this one has to one of my favorites.