I was going to finally get around to Amazing Spider-Man 2 today, but that movie has proven too great a challenge to watch, so I’ll get around to that later. Instead, let’s talk about the best Spider-Man cartoon!
Spectacular Spider-Man is one of those cartoons that was canceled just as it started to hit its stride. It’s a genuine tragedy; in terms of Spider-Man cartoons, this one truly was a cut above the rest. It managed to present some of the most well-written and fleshed out versions of iconic Spidey characters. Not to mention that it had some genuinely really impressive animation!
You know the drill. Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes Spider-Man, protector of New York. In response, crime escalates, creating new super-powered enemies for the web-head to fight. From experiments gone wrong to evil parasitic aliens, Spidey has to contend with all manner of foes. Including the most difficult and dangerous of them all: high school.
This show creates the perfect balance between Peter Parker’s life as a high schooler and as a super hero. The actions he takes in one almost always effect the other in some way or another. His success in one may just mark a failure in the other; sure, he beat the big bad of the week, but he had to ditch his date to do it. He got those Spider-Man pictures to sell, but he accidentally pissed off all his friends to do it.
All of this combines to make one of the best versions of Peter Parker. The kid constantly struggles with what he wants. Not just in putting his responsibilities over his desires, but with actually choosing what he wants. He’s a teenager filled with raging hormones that makes him often make incredibly stupid decisions.
Not to mention that he is one of the most charismatic and funny versions of Spider-Man. Seriously, some of his quips still make me laugh. Like his dumb cone gag with Rhino!
The side characters are also surprisingly well-written! Gwen is an awesome nerd who takes no sass, MJ is a free spirit with a heart of gold, Harry Osborn is a spoiled rich kid with a drug problem (not a joke), Eddy Brock’s fall to evil is remarkably well-handled, and Flash has a perfect love-hate relationship with Peter. Hell, even the extra bully characters are really good; some of them are actually really cool dudes.
However, one thing that can be pretty annoying is the romantic dynamics between all these characters. Just like in real high school, everyone is dating everyone and the constant drama is often meaningless and obnoxious. Seeing Peter struggle with his love triangle BS can often get more annoying than entertaining.
It doesn’t help that the dialogue is either amazing or downright cheesy. Like the scene where Peter drives the symbiote off with the power of friendship like it’s an episode of Yu-Gi-Oh.
As for the villains, they’re fun, but not compelling. From Vulture to Doctor Octopus to the Green Goblin and several other iconic Spider-Man baddies, this show has plenty to choose from. But none of them are especially sympathetic, as other incarnations of the characters are. Many of them quickly become one-dimensional baddies with one set goal. The only one with any actual depth to him is Venom.
Although Sandman does get a great scene where he makes a bullied little girl feel better. Love that.
Don’t get me wrong, though, they aren’t bad. While they may lack depth, they’re wildly entertaining to watch! Whether it’s a quip-off battle against Green Goblin or a tricksy duel with Mysterio or an all-out brawl against the Sinister Six, the battles against these bad guys are always a treat.
This is helped in large part by the animation. Spectacular Spider-Man is bright and colorful, with simple yet distinct character designs and environments. In motion, it’s surprisingly smooth and consistent! Sure, it’ll never make your jaw drop. But it looks really good for a mid-2000s weekly cartoon!
It certainly helps that the choreography is a ton of fun. Whether Peter is simply dodging a water balloon or Spidey is fighting a baddie with the environment, each bit of action, no matter how small, is a delight to look at. It’s pure Spider-Man fun each and every time.
Music-wise, this isn’t a particularly memorable show. The opening theme song is delightfully cheesy and catchy, but that’s pretty much it. The rest of the score fits the scene, but it doesn’t really stand out.
What does stand out is the voice cast. Seriously, all of these guys did a killer job! Josh Keaton has the perfect voice for Peter Parker, same with Joshua LeBar as Flash. Steve Blum as the Green Goblin is easily one of the best, being a highlight in every scene he’s in. And of course, I’d be loathed to leave out Daran Norris as J. Jonah Jameson, one of the best actors to take up the character.
God, I’d kill for a conversation between his J.J.J. and J.K. Simmons’ versions.
It breaks my heart that this show got discontinued. Spectacular Spider-Man is a phenomenal cartoon! It’s one of the most underrated superhero shows of all time! At the very least, it’s the best Spider-Man show to ever exist.
Although that classic Japanese Spider-Man show was pretty badass.