This Spider-Man Cartoon Shines a Light on Underrated Villains

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While following Marvel movies can be a bit daunting to some, each new release is an event and fans will speak both positively and negatively. Unfortunately, that level of cultural attention just isn’t given to the countless anime series that feature the same characters, often with great results.

Spider-Man is still the first or second most popular superhero in the world, and that level of fame buys a character an almost constant stream of projects. It seems like there’s always a movie or two going around, but anime series come and go with much less fanfare, even when they gather a fan base.

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The spectacular Spider-Man premiered in 2008 on The CW’s Kids’ WB block before moving to its oldest home on Disney XD. It was created by Greg Weisman and Victor Cook, who both have solid work in the long-suffering medium of action cartoons before and after the series. Weisman is best known for his work on the groundbreaking 90s Disney series Gargoylesbut then went on to co-develop the beloved DC Comics series, young justice. Cook worked on the underrated western space cartoon Brave Starr in the 80s and directed many episodes of Scooby-Doo! Mystery incorporated. They were brought together by Sony to create the series as a direct-to-DVD project, but it gained popularity on Kids’ TV. The show has been highly praised since its release for its handling of mature themes, action, high school drama, and comedy.


The spectacular Spider-Man draws inspiration from numerous comic book series, as well as a huge dose of Sam Raimi’s take on the franchise, and blends them into a stellar distillation of the character. The show sees Peter Parker attending Manhattan High School, taking a freelance photography gig at the Daily Bugle, and balancing his career as Spider-Man. He takes a smart approach to the character by opening the series with Spidey a few months into his hero work, not bothering to skim through the origin story for several episodes. Like Parker himself, the series ambitiously takes on a ton of different challenges and pulls them all off at the end. It initially follows a villain-of-the-week format, but, once its rogues gallery is established, the show begins to let them work together to create a new villainous dynamic. Even the high school drama is largely handled well, balancing several evolving relationships that feel both organic and earned.


Villains are given a unique spotlight in this series. Some are portrayed with captivating likability, while others are good old-fashioned cartoon villains. The series features Electro early on as a science experiment gone wrong and struggling to live with his newfound superpowers. When Spider-Man sees the power Electro wields, he attacks, driving him into evil. A later episode features Shocker, who is given a distinctive southern drawl for his limited appearance. Shocker is a must-have d-lister, but he gave this cartoon more personality than almost any other iteration. A pair of helpless goons appear throughout the early episodes, but each gets their own transformation sequence and a standalone episode as one becomes Sandman and the other becomes Rhino. The show outdoes itself with each new extended transformation scene. In its first season, the series even manages what the movies never could, by assembling the Sinister Six.


The first season’s big bad looks like The Kingpin at first, but turns out to be Tombstone. His right-hand man is Hammerhead, and despite these villains’ low status, both bring an impressive threat to the series. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the series’ villains is that they don’t all work together. Some villains team up, but others oppose each other, and still, others find themselves favoring Spidey over the alternative. There is a rather complex web of relationships, allies and enemies that goes beyond the traditional “good versus bad” dichotomy. The second season brings out Master Planner and the Silvermane family to act as the second final boss, resulting in a gang war between the main villains. It’s one of the best showcases of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery and supporting cast in the long history of comic book adaptations.


Even Spider-Man’s most popular villain gets pride of place on the show. Eddie Brock appears as a friend of Peter whose relationship gradually deteriorates, and Spider-Man embarks on a few adventures with the symbiote. Both halves of Venom are well established before the beloved villain makes his first appearance. The series handles each of its villains with a deft hand, whether they’re the most beloved of the bunch or a barely-known d-lister.

The spectacular Spider-Man was tragically canceled after Disney acquired the TV rights to the character in 2009. It sparked a social media campaign and years of fan outcry from people who loved the show and didn’t want it she is finishing. Weisman and Cook had planned three more seasons of quality content. Disney crashed the series when they could to make smaller cartoons so they wouldn’t have to split the profits. One of many victims of Disney’s monopoly control over beloved characters. Fans can finally see all 26 episodes of The spectacular Spider-Man on Netflix, and they absolutely should.


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