The Spectacular Spider-Man is an American animated television series based on the superhero character published by Marvel Comics and developed for television by Greg Weisman and Victor Cook. In terms of overall tone and style, the series is based principally on the original stories by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, with a similar balance of action, drama and comedy as well as a high school setting. However, it also tends to use material from all eras of the comic's run and other sources such as the Sam Raimi, Spider-Man film series and the Ultimate Spider-Man comics.
The Spectacular Spider-Man premiered on March 8, 2008 during the Kids' WB programming block of The CW, and received positive acclaim. The series aired it's second season on Marvel's sister network Disney XD in the United States and ended it's run on November 18, 2009, also receiving positive critical attention. The entire series was broadcast in Canada on Teletoon. Although a third season was planned, the series was cancelled before production could begin due to legal problems between Disney (who purchased Marvel during the show's run) and Sony Pictures Television (who created the series).
The two seasons of the series are each set during a semester of Peter's high school years, with season one running from September to November and season two from December to March.
Producer Greg Weisman has stated that the show's theme is "The Education of Peter Parker." In keeping with this theme, each of the series arcs is named after a course of study: season one's arcs are Biology 101, Economics 101, Chemistry 101 and Psychology 101, and season two's arcs are Engineering 101, Human Development 101, Criminology 101 and Drama 101.
The first season features a shy bookworm named Peter Parker beginning his junior year at Midtown Manhattan Magnet High School, having only being bitten by the radioactive spider and acquired his powers and alias as Spider-Man in recent months. While harassed at school, particularly by football star Flash Thompson, he is close friends with classmates Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn. In order to help support his Aunt May after the death of his Uncle Ben, Peter is able to get a job as a freelance photographer at the Daily Bugle, owned by the loudmouth, irascible, egotistical, and gruff publisher named J. Jonah Jameson, by obtaining pictures of his alter-ego in action so he could carry out a smear campaign against Spider-Man that has, at least temporarily, turned much of the gullible city against the hero. Peter and Gwen are also given junior lab assistant positions under Dr. Curt Connors at Empire State University, where they join their friend and mentor Eddie Brock. As Spider-Man uses his powers to fight against petty crime, he gains the attention of the Big Man who orchestrates crime in New York City, with attention initially drawn to his fights with the Vulture, the Enforcers, Electro and the Lizard. With the help of Norman Osborn, his chief scientist Dr. Otto Octavius and criminal Hammerhead, the Big Man (alias of crime lord Tombstone) oversees the development of a project to create "supervillains" designed to distract Spider-Man from other crimes and stop damaging his profits. These new enemies include Sandman and Rhino, both petty criminals who regularly fell victim to Spider-Man. However, the Big Man's plans become greatly complicated when the mysterious Green Goblin enters the picture. Throughout the first season, the other opponents introduced are Black Cat who has a crush on him, Shocker, and Chameleon. Quentin Beck and Phineas Mason appear as Chameleon's associates. After the Green Goblin is vanquished, Spider-Man's symbiote black suit makes an appearance, eventually leading to Eddie Brock's transformation into Venom.
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 "Master Planner". When the Master Planner's first scheme fails, Spider-Man is faced with a three-way gang war between Planner's supervillain 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 dentity 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.
Other 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.
The Spectacular Spider-Man was announced by Kids' WB Senior Vice President and General Manager Betsy McGowen and Sony Pictures Television Co-President Zack Van Amburg in March 2007. The series was produced by Sony Pictures' direct-to-video label Culver Entertainment and it's television animation studio, Adelaide Productions (due to Sony's holding of the Spider-Man film franchise rights).
The series developed by supervising producers Victor Cook and Greg Weisman; Cook as supervising director and Weisman as story editor. The lead character designs for the series is Sean Galloway. The art style of the series is more simplified than in previous incarnations but retain their iconic elements. This choice was made to ensure Spider-Man would move as he should and replicate the fluidity from Sam Raimi's movie incarnation. The title sequence for the show was directed by Victor Cook with the theme song written and performed by The Tender Box.
Weisman has stated that it adapted the comics for the show, the producers "tried to follow what [they] came to call "The Five Cs": Contemporary, Cohesive, Coherent, Classic and iConic." "The advantage of hindsight" allowed the show to be "more coherent and cohesive then the original" comic continuity, which contains "considerable duplication, a false start here and there, [and] conflicting interpretations." Weisman studied all of the characters to find their "core essence," and the show often combined characters and storylines when necessary for the sake of coherence. For example, Flash Thompson was found to be "a bully, who deep down is actually and honorable guy," while Shocker was found to be an "iconic costume" with no character, so he was combined with Montana.
The show's creators were striving to reach 65 episodes. 26 episodes of The Spectacular Spider-Man were produced in total.
The series stopped production with a renewal dependent upon the ratings for season 2 on the U.S. Disney XD channel and the sales of the DVDs. If the third season were to have gone ahead, producer Greg Weisman stated that Carnage, Hobgoblin, Hydro-Man, and Scorpion would have made their appearances as well as planning to cast Maria Sirtis as Emily Osborn's voice. On September 1, 2009, the television rights for Spider-Man were returned to Marvel by Sony. At the time, President of Marvel Animation Eric Rollman further stated that "no decisions have been made either way" regarding to the fate of the series. Newsarama reported that the series's cancellation occurred just after The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment in December 2009.
On April 13, 2010, Marvel announced that a new series loosely based on the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book storyline would air on Disney XD in the fall of 2011, which actually aired on April 1, 2012. The same day the new series was announced, Weisman told IGN: "I've heard nothing directly from Marvel, but I think the Ultimate Spider-Man announcement makes it fairly clear the Spectacular Spider-Man is over. Marvel Animation and Sony also commented on this to Marvel Animation Age, confirming that the series had ceased production.
Weisman would later write in 2009, in exchange for concessions on the movie rights, Sony had relinquished to Marvel it's license to produce television works that used Spider-Man and associated characters, but had retained ownership of The Spectacular Spider-Man series and all of the production elements created specifically for it, such as character designs and storylines. Therefor, neither Sony nor Marvel could continue production of the series, as each lacked some of the essential rights to do so. Additionally, at approximately the same time that Sony returned the Spider-Man television rights to Marvel, Marvel was acquired by The Walt Disney Company.
The timeline of the original Spider-Man story-arcs has been condensed and reconfigured in order to include classic and important characters who originally appeared much later. Characters such as Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn are depicted not completely as direct equivalents to their older counterparts from the comics, but rather as characters who evolve into their established roles from the comics. The series also sports a very wide supporting cast. Every named character who appears in the series, even very minor characters, is based on a character who appeared in the original comics Ultimate Spider-Man series (such as Kenny Kong) or the film series (such as Bernard Houseman). The series also incorporates a number of villains from different eras of the Spider-Man universe, almost all of whom are introduced are regular characters in first episodes before they transform into established villain identities (an example is Eddie Brock, who was introduced at the very beginning of the series, but only became Venom in the season 1 finale).
|Josh Keaton||Spider-Man / Peter Parker|
|Benjamin Diskin||Venom / Eddie Brock|
|James Arnold Taylor||Harry Osborn|
|Lacey Chabert||Gwen Stacy|
|Alanna Ubach||Liz Allan|
|Kevin Michael Richardson||Tombstone / Big Man / L. Thompson Lincoln|
|Daran Norris||J. Jonah Jameson|
|Vanessa Marshall||Mary Jane Watson|
|Steve Blum||Green Goblin|
|Joshua LeBar||Flash Thompson|
|Andrew Kishino||Kenny Kong|
|Clancy Brown||Rhino / Alex O'Hirn|
Ox (First episode)
|Alan Rachins||Norman Osborn|
|Thom Adcox||Tinkerer / Phineas Mason|
|Ed Asner||Ben Parker|
|Dee Bradley Baker||Lizard / Curt Connors|
|Irene Bedard||Jean DeWolff|
|Jeff Bennett||Shocker / Montana|
St. John Devereaux
|Xander Berkeley||Mysterio / Quentin Beck|
|Max Burkholder||Billy Connors|
|Robert Costanzo||Sillivan Edwards|
|Nikki Cox||Silver Sable|
|Jim Cummings||Crusher Hogan|
|Keith David||Tombstone / Bigman / L. Thompson Lincoln|
|Grey DeLisle||Betty Brant|
|John DiMaggio||Sandman / Flint Marko|
|Charles Duckworth||Hobie Brown|
|Robert Englund||Vulture / Adrian Toomes|
|Bill Fagerbakke||Morris Bench|
|Miguel Ferrer||Silvermane / Silvio Manfredi|
|Crispin Freeman||Electro / Maxwell Dillon|
|Elisa Gabrielli||Ashley Kafka|
|Brian George||Aaron Warren|
|Dorian Harewood||Dr. Bromwell|
|Tricia Helfer||Black Cat / Felicia Hardy|
|Kelly Hu||Sha Shan Nguyen|
|Clyde Kusatsu||Ted Twaki|
|Phil LaMarr||Fancy Dan / Ricochet|
|Eric Lopez||Molten Man / Mark Allan|
|Jane Lynch||Joan Jameson|
|Peter MacNicol||Doctor Octopus / Otto Octavius|
|James Remar||Walter Hardy|
|Kath Soucie||Martha Connors|
|Cree Summer||Glory Grant|
|Courtney B. Vance||Roderick Kingsley|
|Eric Vesbit||Kraven the Hunter / Sergei Kravinoff|
|B.J. Ward||Mayor Waters|
|Greg Weisman||Donald Menken|
|Thomas F. Wilson||Stan Carter|
- Supervising Producer/Story Editor/Writer: Greg Weisman
- Supervising Producer/Supervising Director: Victor Cook
- Producer: Diane A. Crea
- Associate Producer: Eric Vesbit
- Associate Producer: Wade Wisninski
- Director: Dave Bullock (four episodes)
- Director: Kevin Altieri (four episodes)
- Production Manager: John Diaz
- Writer: Kevin Hopps
- Writer: Matt Wayne
- Writer: Andrew Robinson
- Script Coorinator/Writer's Apprentice/Writer: Randy Jandt
- Director: Jennifer Coyle (six episodes)
- Lead Character Designer/Character Supervisor: Sean "Cheeks" Galloway
- Voice Director: Jamie Thomason
- Production Art Supervisor: Meagan Healy
- Production Art Supervisor: Brian G. Smith
- Production Assistant: Ben Maloney
- Production Coordinator: Sherrian Felix
- Post Production Assistant: Jennifer L. Anderson
- Animation Clerk: Sean Herbert
- Survival of the Fittest
- Natural Selection
- Market Forces
- The Invisible Hand
- The Uncertainty Principle
- Group Therapy
- Nature vs. Nurture
- Destructive Testing
- Shear Strength
- First Steps
- Growing Pains
- Identity Crisis
- Probable Cause
- Opening Night
- Final Curtain
The series was released to critical acclaim. Before the series premiere, Matt Semaker of ComicsOnline interviewed some of the Spectacular Spider-Man development team at WonderCon 2008 after a preview screening and stated: "This new Spider-Man series truly is SPECTACULAR. . . surpasses all of the previous incarnations with ease. If you are a Spidey fan you will not want to miss this.
Early in the series' run, Alan Kistler of ComicMix called the series "one of the best superhero adaptations I've ever seen (and trust me, I've watched more than anyone will probably consider reasonable). It's fun, it's smart, it's mature, it's witty and every episode leaves me wanting more.
An article entitled "8 Reasons to Watch Spectacular Spider-Man", Reggie White, Jr. from Spiderfan wrote: "If you aren't watching The Spectacular Spider-Man on CW Kids' WB, you are missing out on what is quickly becoming one of the greatest Spidey cartoons of all time."
Stu from Marvel Animation Age writes in his review of the series: "At time of writing, The Spectacular Spider-Man stands as Marvel's finest animated effort and surpasses most of DC's finest efforts - the only shows in Spectacular's league really is, Batman: The Animated Series itself. With more episodes, it may just surpass it."
IGN stated that Greg Weisman "has only cemented his reputation for quality television animation with his work on Spider-Man." IGN also named The Spectacular Spider-Man the 30th in the Top 100 Best Animation TV Shows in January 2009, outranking both the the 1990's Spider-Man cartoon and Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. The Spectacular Spider-Man was awarded Best Animated Series in both 2008 and 2009 with the series' version of the main character being named TV's Best Hero in 2008. Subsequently, it was placed second in the Top 25 Comic Book TV Shows in 2011.
Outside of the comic resources, Variety highlighted that "although seemingly conceived largely to push a new line of Hasbro toys. . . the soon-to-fadeout Kids' WB (on the CW!) delivers a credible new version of Spider-Man, emphasizing his relatable headaches as a 16-year-old superhero.
TV Guide listed the series as one of the sixty greatest animated series of all time.