If there’s one superhero that will seemingly never die and will be reincarnated again and again, it’s definitely Spider-Man. Spidey has gone through a lot of shows and movies in his life, all of them with varying quality. One of the better efforts was 2008’s The Spectacular Spider-Man.
I decided to check this show out (this was made before Marvel’s disastrous attempt to turn Captain America into a Nazi), and I have to say, it was very addictive. The animation style was cute, the action was great, it’s pretty diverse (and doesn’t shy away from showing interracial relationships) and the villains were magnificent. If you’re sick of the MCU’s villains, I recommend this show just to see supervillains done RIGHT. All of them are compelling and threatening in their own way, and make Spider-Man get pretty creative in order to beat them. Spider-Man himself is a also a really compelling character (though I could’ve done without having to choose between two girls), and the show offers one of the most nuanced portrayals of J Jonah Jameson, who can be aggressive but also caring, especially towards his son. I also liked the character development of Flash Thompson, who gradually becomes less of a jerk as the series goes on. And the voice acting in the show is simply superb.
The first season is one of the finest collection of episodes I’ve seen for any show. It does a good job of gradually building up the roster of villains and the list of Peter’s problems to deliver an explosive finale. This is also one of the best portrayals of the “Spider-Man possessed by the Symbiote” arc as well (and it does a good job of portraying his origin without shoving it down your throat in the first few episodes). It’s well-written, exciting, and, well, spectacular.
The second season doesn’t hold up quite as much. The pacing is more uneven (it introduces a lot of important threads and villains at the last minute), it really shoves romance down the audiences’s throats, and it’s really, really, REALLY sexist. I mean the show had its problems with sexism in the first season (with Gwen being a damsel and having one female character latch on to a boy waaaaay out of her league, Harry and Peter shuddering at a Mary Jane for believing she’s ugly just because “she has a great personality” and Sally Avril is just a shrill character that should never have been in the show), but here it REALLY sticks out. Literally all the female characters only exist in their relationship with men, be it boyfriends/husbands or family members. There is no female character that has no connection to any man, and most of the girls obsess over boys (and most of their dialogue is about men). Whereas Peter and a lot of male antagonists get a lot of character development, almost none of the girls do, except maybe for Liz Allen (who becomes sweeter, but gets screwed over). Seriously, do we really need the main plot point of the second season to be about which girl Peter picks (one of whom, Liz, sort of has a life of her own, whereas Gwen mostly exists just to express her love to Peter)? No we don’t. So that bothered me.
I would complain about unresolved plot threads, but I can’t because, unfortunately, the show was abruptly cancelled. The show was originally supposed to last for at least five seasons, but got cancelled when Disney purchased Marvel (and the TV rights to Spider-Man, returning it from Sony to Marvel). So instead of continuing the show (like when Disney took over Doug, though Sony still owned the rights to Spectacular), they made a new, much-maligned show in the form of Ultimate Spider-Man. Thus a show with a huge fanbase and so much potential got squandered. According to Greg Weisman (who developed the show), if Spectacular had continued, Mary Jane would’ve become Peter’s love interest and new villains would’ve been introduced (and the cliffhanger ending would’ve been resolved) but it looks like this isn’t meant to be.
But then again, now Sony and Marvel are partnering up for their new Spider-Man efforts, so who knows? I’d be much more willing to see this show continue over ANOTHER movie reboot at any rate.