Friday, October 7, 2011

Dougie Houser is Spider-Man?

   I love movie adaptations of comic books, the animated series’ that are based on comic books are also good, but more often than not they are aimed a bit more at kid's than the general nerd population. These days,  they usually evolve out of a way to cash in on the success of a movie adaptation, and they seem rushed.  That is fine, but as the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim and Spike TV’s The Strip has proven, there is a market for cartoons that appeal to an older demographic.
   I think Stan Lee has always known this, and that is why MTV’s version of Lee’s Spider-Man is probably one of the most adult animated comic book adaptations I’ve ever seen.

   “Spider-Man: The Animated Series” picked up where the movie left off (I know what you are thinking…cash-in.  But Lee was developing this series before the movie came out, it took the success of the movie to get the ball rolling on it.)  Peter Parker (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris) has gotten comfortable with being Spider-Man, but he now has to make adjustments in his real life.  He is attending Empire State University and freelancing as a photographer at the Daily Bugle.  He still pines over Mary Jane Watson (voiced by Lisa Loeb), and wonders if turning her away at the end of the movie was a good idea.  They both hang out with Harry Osborn (voiced by Ian Ziering), who still hates Spider-Man for killing his father.  Even though he is a hero, he is considered a fugitive to the law, and is constantly being chased by the police, led by Officer Barr (voiced by Ed Asner.)

   In the first episode, called “The Party,” a nerdy friend of Peter named Max Dillon (voiced by Ethan Embry) tries to become part of the cool crowd by pledging a fraternity.  They haze Max, but do not intend to let him in.  When the joke of hazing him ticks him off, he runs out in embarrassment and is electrocuted by a neon sign.  Instead of killing him, it turns him into Electro, a villain who can electrocute people with his hands.  He immediately decides to take his revenge out on the kids on campus.  His targets are mainly his tormentors, but there are a few innocent victims as well.  Spider-Man comes in and saves the day, which unfortunately includes killing his old friend to save the people.  The last shot is at Max’s grave, but a street lantern lights up, which means we probably haven’t seen the last of Electro.

   In the second episode, called “Sword of Shikata,” an eccentric animal collector hires a hunter to capture Spider-Man for his collection.  The wealthy businessman Richard Damien (voiced by John C. McGinley) pays $2.5 million to Shikata (voiced by Gina Gershon), a martial artist/swordswoman who is so fast that she can deflect bullets.  Damien wants Spider-Man alive, but after she fights the web-slinger the first time, she decides she wants to kill him.  She turns down Damien’s money, and Damien sends his thugs (the lead thug Raymond is voiced by Clancy Brown) to kill Shikata.  With a little help from Spider-Man, Shikata defeats the thugs and is more than ever determined to fight Spider-Man to the death.  Just so Damien doesn’t get in the way again, she kills Raymond and decapitates Damien.  Mary Jane, who had been cast in an independent movie that Damien was producing, comes into his office to talk about her role.  She sees his severed head on the floor and calls the police.  At that time, she discovers that Shikata’s sword is the source of her power.  When MJ sees Spider-Man and Shikata later fighting on the street, she tells Spider-Man the sword secret.  He destroys the sword, which makes Shikata turn old and die.  Spider-Man and MJ kiss right before he once again has to avoid the police, prompting possible sparks between the two in the future.

   The show is not your kiddie Spider-Man series (see my last blog posting).  People actually are killed (it’s not graphic though), there is blood, and there is adult language.  It’s very action-packed, and the voice work is good.

   The action is cool and exciting, but I did have one problem with the animation.  It was computer animated, and even though Pixar seems to have mastered it, the animation by Mainframe Entertainment, the company that animated this show, looked a little stiff to me.  I would have rather had it be hand-drawn than animated the way it was.  I actually started getting a little used to it by the second episode, but that may have been because the second episode was better than the first one all around. Those are the only two episodes I've re-watched in the last 5 years or so, so I'll have to save comments on the series as a whole for a later date. The series however was never given enough of a chance to find it's audience, it's a shame as it was growing on me.


  1. Wait, the first episode is The Party? That can't be right, Max Dillon appeared in a third episode (my fave of the series, Head Over Heels) and he's not Electro in that one. I'm assuming you're going on air date order and not the intended order?

  2. I do believe that is what I was referring to. I didn't realize they were different.

  3. The DVD order makes a little more sense, the first episode was Heroes And Villains. OK, it sucked but at least we got the worst out of the way early on.

  4. I'll have to rewatch in DVD order after I finish the rest of the 94 series.