Character designs to some of the main characters in The Spectacular Spider-Man. Left to right: Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacy, Harry Osborn, Spider-Man, Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson, Dr. Curt Connors and Eddie Brock.
Character designs to some of the main characters in The Spectacular Spider-Man. Left to right: Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacy, Harry Osborn, Spider-Man, Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson, Dr. Curt Connors and Eddie Brock.

The animated television series The Spectacular Spider-Man features an extensive cast of characters originally created by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and other comic book creators.[1] Greg Weisman and Victor Cook and the rest of the crew redesigned these classic characters in the series to be more modern but still be very truly faithful to its characters in the comics.[2] Most of these characters are based on the characters in the original mainstream universe but there have been characters that have been introduced from the Ultimate Marvel universe such as Kenny "King" Kong and characters from Sam Raimi's film series such as Bernard Houseman as well. The majority of the villains that have debuted in the show have started out as supporting characters before becoming villains.[3] The character's portrayals in the shows have mainly gained positive reviews from TV critics.

Role in The Spectacular Spider-Man

The main protagonist of the series is Peter Parker, a young teenager who attends midtown high school and is an extremely bright honors student. Peter is also secretly a superhero called Spider-Man.[4] In school, his two best friends are Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn.[3] Peter is constantly being bullied and taunted by his shallow, more popular peers—particularly football star Flash Thompson (due to the fact that Peter is a shy science nerd who has a scholastic interest toward science) —and, as Spider-Man, engenders the editorial wrath of newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson. Ironically enough, much to Peter's dismay, Flash Thompson is also one of Spider-Man's biggest fans.[3] Also at school, Peter's feelings wrestle between Gwen Stacy and Liz Allan.[5] Peter Parker soon finds himself getting a job at the Daily Bugle as a freelance photographer working with characters such as J. Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robertson, Betty Brant, Ned Lee and Frederick Foswell. Parker as Spider-Man fights a lot of villains in the series as the majority of his rogues gallery in the comics are introduced in this series. Season one introduces supervillains such as Vulture, Electro, Lizard, Shocker, Sandman, Rhino, Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus and Venom.[3] It also introduces crime lords such as Hammerhead and Tombstone who are partly responsible for the supervillains. Season two expanded on the villains already introduced (excluding the Lizard) and also introduces the supervillains Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter, and Molten Man.[3][5] It also introduced another crime lord called Silvermane. The role of the antagonists in the series shifts and changes as the series progresses.[4]

Creation and concept

We're retooling and redesigning things for the modern day but we want the characters to still be iconic. We want you to see our updated version of the Vulture and still say "yep, that's the Vulture" and "yeah, that's the Green Goblin." It's a contemporary version but the changes aren't there just for the sake of making changes. It's still true to what Lee, Ditko and Romita did.

Greg Weisman"[2]

As story editor, Greg Weisman approached the character by going and buying the first seven volumes of The Essential Spider-Man and reread them. The creator Greg Weisman originally grew up on Stan Lee and John Romita Sr., the comic book writers who created the characters and he later went back and read the original Stan Lee and Steve Ditko stories. He then re-read them and took copious notes and tried to get the voice of those early stories, put his own spin on some of the origins and the costume designs and wanted to create something that was coherent, cohesive, contemporary and classic.[2]

Greg Weisman stated:

"Peter’s life has a lot of interesting characters and we wanted to bring them in -- the important ones and the most obscure."[2]

Because Sally Avril's character was later developed in Untold Tales of Spider-Man the creators used her. In Season 2, he used Bernard Houseman from the movie. The creators didn't want to wait several seasons to introduce Gwen Stacy, Harry Osborn and Mary Jane Watson, all of whom met Peter when he was in college in the comics. The creators wanted to stay true to the characters and tried to figure out what they would have been like in high school. "What kind of guy would Harry Osborn have been back in high school?" Greg Weisman stated that. "It doesn’t mean taking his college character and just sticking it in high school, it means extrapolating what he may have been like back then. Same thing with Gwen Stacy, and later with Mary Jane. We included those characters because they meant a lot in Peter’s life and were iconic."[2] As for having guest stars in the show, the creators didn't want the show to be guest star of the week. The creators felt that if they started bringing people in too early, viewers would keep asking "well, who’s gonna show up next?" and it would be a distraction from their main characters who are so interesting. Greg Weisman stated:

The Marvel Universe was basically built on the fly. Since we’re starting this cartoon from scratch, we have the luxury of building a more cohesive universe from day one because we know where we’re going to go with these characters and who’s going to come later.[2]

The characters that the creators decided to put on the show came from some kind of source and were never intended to be original characters. The characters either came from the mainstream comics, the Ultimate Spider-Man comics or in the Spider-Man films.[6]

Main characters

The main characters featured in the opening credits:

Peter Parker/Spider-Man

Main article: Spider-Man

Peter Parker / Spider-Man (voiced by Josh Keaton[7][8]) is the titular protagonist of the series. Bitten on the hand by a radioactive spider during a field trip to Empire State University, Peter gained superhuman spider-powers including superhuman speed, strength, agility, durability, stamina, reflexes, coordination and balance, as well as the ability to cling to solid surfaces. His most notable ability however is his "spider sense," which allows him to sense danger and react quickly. He would also design his own equipment to supplement his powers, such as his web-shooters, which he can use to shoot artificial webbing at his foes, and swing through the city. One day, Peter donned a spider costume and sought to fight crime after allowing a burglar to escape, only for that same criminal to kill his Uncle Ben in a mugging. He learned that "with great power there must also come great responsibility", a phrase that now drives him to act as Spider-Man. The series focuses on the character's struggles while leading a double life as Parker in Midtown High, maintaining a job at the Daily Bugle, and as the superhero Spider-Man, with his friendships often being damaged by his need to head off to deal with the next super-villain incident. He gets a job as a photographer at the Daily Bugle so he can support his Aunt May with financial troubles. Despite their financial troubles, the 16-year-old and his Aunt May have a great relationship. His best friends in school are mainly Gwen Stacy, Harry Osborn and gradually Mary Jane Watson. Peter is extremely bright, and became an honors student at Midtown High School. Although, Peter's shyness and scholastic interest, especially in science, often make him a social outcast and he is often bullied and called names like "Puny Parker" by his shallow popular peers. Although his powers have given him confidence, he often has to take the taunts to stop anyone suspecting his secret.[4][9] Josh Keaton stated "I grew up reading comic books and Spider-Man was always one of my favorites. I felt that I always identified with him. Spider-Man is awesome. I definitely was a huge Spider-Man fan growing up and still am."[10] Before he was chosen for Spider-Man, he auditioned for the role of Harry Osborn and Eddie Brock as well.[10]

Gwen Stacy

Main article: Gwen Stacy

Gwen Stacy (voiced by Lacey Chabert) is the main love interest of Peter Parker in the show. Gwen is the daughter of police captain George Stacy, and is one of Peter Parker's best friends and intellectual equal; they are both recommended by their teacher to work in the lab of Doctor Connors. Although initially strong willed, kind, harboring deep feelings for her best friend Peter and unconcerned with her appearance, she gradually evolves into a more confident and attractive character more closely resembling and truly faithful to her comic book counterpart. She is always supportive of Peter, and also shows well-meaning concern for Harry Osborn. Although she is Peter's best friend, her weakness is that she has a colossal crush on Peter.[11]

Harry Osborn

Main article: Harry Osborn

Harry Osborn (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) is portrayed as Peter Parker's best friend and is Norman Osborn's son. While being true to his comic counterpart, He constantly lives in his father's shadow and considers Peter a good friend, though at times also resents him for earning Norman's approval, which Harry has never been able to do. Being ignored and neglected by his father and overprotective of his mother and just like Peter, he is an unpopular kid at school. With his lack of approval, he is prone to do anything to get it.[11]

J. Jonah Jameson

Main article: J. Jonah Jameson

J. Jonah Jameson (voiced by Daran Norris) is portrayed as a loudmouth, irascible, egotistical, and gruff publisher of the Daily Bugle, One of New York's leading newspapers. Showing excessive pride in his son John Jameson, he is obsessed with exposing fraudulent claims to heroism, and is therefore always demanding pictures of Spider-Man so that he can continue his smear campaign against the vigilante that has, at least temporarily, turned much of the gullible city against the hero. Even though he loves to sell newspapers of Spider-Man and takes delight in anything that might discredit or defame him, he feels that the real heroes are ones that have nothing to hide such as his son and will do anything to get him on the spotlight instead of Spider-Man. he is shown as a foolishly stubborn and pompous skinflint who micromanages his employees and resents Spider-Man out of jealousy.[11] However, he reluctantly will give Spider-Man credit where it is due, and will always print retractions for unfair allegations. Aside from that, he retains his dislike for Spider-Man from the comics, and takes delight in anything that might discredit or defame him and considers Spider-Man a menace (if at least a photo-worthy one) and a vigilante. He also retains much of his cynical, avuncular attitude and brusque manner with his staff and he shares a resemblance to his mainstream comics counterpart from the 1970s comics.

Mary Jane Watson

Main article: Mary Jane Watson

Mary Jane Watson (voiced by Vanessa Marshall[12]) is portrayed as the niece of Anna Watson. She attends the Fall Formal as Peter Parker's date before ultimately switching schools to be at Midtown. Mary Jane befriends Peter and Gwen Stacy, and is initially determined to stay single, desiring to be a "free agent". Vanessa Marshall states "I always make sure my choices for Mary Jane are that of an independent thinker, that she's not concerned with what the people around her think, which is an uncommon trait in teenage girls, there's a distinct confidence about her that I try to emulate".[12] She also explained about the character she played "Mary Jane's character is incredibly complex, Her strength plays a major part in Peter’s growth and maturation she really keeps him on the straight and narrow. Even though our characters are still only in high school during this cartoon, and you're not going to get a lot of that character development at this point of the series, I know it's going to be there in the future and so that has an effect on how I play her now".[12]

Flash Thompson

Main article: Flash Thompson

Flash Thompson (voiced by Joshua LeBar[13]) is a high school student, the star quarterback of the Midtown High football team, and a prominent school bully. While he idolizes Spider-Man, he frequently bullies and harasses the high school bookworm Peter Parker, believing him to be a "stuck-up egghead",[14] despite the fact that they had originally been friends when they were much younger.[15] He nevertheless idolizes the superhero Spider-Man, being one of his biggest and most loyal fans.[16] Joshua LeBar said this about the character he played. "I think Flash has a certain brashness, but he also has a likeability, so he's not a complete doof that you hate. He's a dichotomy – he's got a few different sides, and he surprises people. I was both a theatre guy and a football guy in high school, and people tried to stick me into that one-note category, depending on how they knew me – and I didn't like being stereotyped. So when the (Spider-Man) show gives me the opportunity to represent his other sides, like this week when you see Flash's compassion rather than just all that testosterone, I really enjoy showcasing that part of his character because I can relate to his situation".[13]

Liz Allan

Main article: Liz Allan

Liz Allan (voiced by Alanna Ubach[17]) is depicted as a popular girl and cheerleader at Midtown High. Unlike her comic book counterpart version who's White and a blonde, she is depicted as a Latina in this series. She is initially Flash Thompson's girlfriend and shows great resentment towards Peter Parker.[18] As the series progresses, her true feelings become apparent as she demonstrates a much more open and accepting side. She commonly refers to Peter as "Petey". Peter and her begin to date for some time until Peter gets honest with himself about who he really wants to be with.[19]

Captain George Stacy

Main article: George Stacy

Captain George Stacy (voiced by Clancy Brown[20]) is Gwen Stacy's protective father and a police captain. He is open-minded, and truly believes Spider-Man to be a hero, while J. Jonah Jameson accuses Spider-Man of being a menace. Just like in the comics, it seems apparent that he knows that Peter Parker is Spider-Man by giving him strong signals and helping him out with rough situations.[21]

Supporting characters

See also: List of Spider-Man supporting characters

The series 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 film series (such as Bernard Houseman).

Minor characters

Cameos of real people

Villains

See also: List of Spider-Man enemies

The series incorporates numerous villains from different eras of the Spider-Man mythology, almost all of whom are introduced as regular characters before they adopt their established villain identities in later episodes.

Reception

Goldman wrote that Electro's redesigned costume retained "some nice visual nods to the Electro many of us grew up with." Liz Allan's characterization, though, he found confusing, with the character's accent and background unclear.[24] Goldman also praised the Lizard's design, calling it "the most visually familiar villain the show had introduced yet".[25] Goldman enjoyed the design of Shocker which he felt stayed true to his original design and was "intrigued" by changing his secret identity.[26] Goldman also praised the unveiling of Tombstone and Mary Jane Watson.[27] Goldman gave a mixed response about Green Goblin — noting that he is "perhaps a bit hyper sensitive on how he's portrayed" — considering the design, while similar to the comics, be more of an exact version of it; Goldman considered the character's personality was "a bit too evocative of the Joker," the iconic villain from DC's Batman comics, but believed that his "malice side" worked. Goldman also praised Mary Jane Watson for being "much like Stan Lee created her – a quick witted, fun loving girl." He also applauded the mysterious factors of Green Goblin's true identity.[28] Goldman opted that Jonah's hatred of Spider-Man that was formed in the episode was "perhaps the most understandable and best way it's ever been portrayed before."[29]

Season Elliot, senior editor of iF Magazine, wrote "The Lizard himself was a nice update of the original Lizard and he was still in his torn pants, shirt, and lab coat." Elliot praised the design for differentiating itself from that used for Spider-Man or Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, and that he "can't wait for the action figure of this guy!"[30] He also stated "Even the Shocker was more interesting on this show, so I continue to have high hopes for future episodes, characters, and villains." When talking about the change of Shocker's secret identity, he quoted that it "saves the writers from having to come up with a completely different origin for a character that pretty much is a second tier villain anyways."[31] Elliot was "pleased" with the portrayal of Rhino as an unintelligent brute; he also enjoyed the change of the "Big Man's" identity from that of the comics - where he was a Bugle reporter named Frederic Foswell - and found it humorous to have Foswell be the reporter to tell Peter who the "Big Man" is rumored to be.[32][33] Similar to Goldman,[29] Elliot applauded the mystery of Goblin's true identity, which he described as a "bait and switch."[33]

Rob M. Worley of Mania described Dr. Octopus' introduction as "explosive," while praising MacNicol for balancing such a heavy workload between both the episode and other series.[34]

References

  1. ^ Lowry, Brian (2008-03-05). "The Spectacular Spider-Man at Variety". Variety. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Interview: Greg Weisman on The Spectacular Spider-Man Animated Series". comixmix.com. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e "The Spectacular Spider-Man review in comicmix". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  4. ^ a b c "The Spectacular Spider-Man summary". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Spectacular Spider-Man season 2 review". 30 June 2009. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  6. ^ "The Spectacular Spider-Man's Past and Future". IGN. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  7. ^ a b "Josh Keaton as Spider-Man and Tricia Helfer as the Black Cat".
  8. ^ "Josh Keaton voicing Spider-Man". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  9. ^ "Spectacular Spider-Man characters". Archived from the original on 27 November 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  10. ^ a b "Josh Keaton speaks for Spidey". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  11. ^ a b c "The Spectacular Spider-Man website at Disney Xd". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  12. ^ a b c "vanessa-marshall-brings-mary-jane-watson-to-life". majorspoilers.com. 25 April 2008. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  13. ^ a b "Interview with Joshua Lebar". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  14. ^ Director: Dave Bullock; Writer: Greg Weisman (June 7, 2008). ""Intervention""". The Spectacular Spider-Man.
  15. ^ Director: Kevin Altieri; Writer: Kevin Hopps (June 22, 2009). """First Steps""". The Spectacular Spider-Man. Season 2.
  16. ^ Director: Jennifer Coyle; Writer: Andrew Robinson (July 27, 2009). "Identity Crisis". The Spectacular Spider-Man. He's my biggest fan. Which is sad really.
  17. ^ "The voice of Liz Allan". Voicechasers.com. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  18. ^ Director: Troy Adomitis; Writer:Kevin Hopps (March 8, 2008). "Interactions". The Spectacular Spider-Man.
  19. ^ Director:Victor Cook; Writer:Kevin Hopps (November 18, 2009). "Final Curtain". The Spectacular Spider-Man.
  20. ^ "Clancy Brown on TV.com". TV.com. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  21. ^ Director: Mike Gogue; Writer: Nicole Dubuc (July 13, 2009). ""Growing Pains"". The Spectacular Spider-Man. Season 2.
  22. ^ "The Spectacular Spider-Man Past and Future part one". IGN. Retrieved 27 June 2008.
  23. ^ Crispin Freeman as Electro Archived 2012-10-05 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Goldman, Eric (2008-04-16). "Interactions Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
  25. ^ Goldman, Eric (2008-04-16). "Spectacular Spider-Man: "Natural Selection" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
  26. ^ Goldman, Eric (2008-04-15). "Market Forces Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
  27. ^ Goldman, Eric (2008-08-14). ""The Invisible Hand" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-09-25.
  28. ^ Goldman, Eric (2008-04-28). ""Catalysts" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-11-30.
  29. ^ a b Goldman, Eric (2008-05-12). ""The Uncertainty Principle" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-11-30.
  30. ^ Elliot, Sean (2008-03-17). "The Spectacular Spider-Man: Season One - 'Natural Selection'". iF Magazine. Archived from the original on 2008-03-18. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
  31. ^ Elliot, Sean (2008-03-26). "The Spectacular Spider-Man - Season One - 'Market Forces'". iF Magazine. Archived from the original on 2008-03-28. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
  32. ^ Elliot, Sean (2008-04-17). "Review: The Spectacular Spider-Man - Season 1 - 'The Invisible Hand'". iF Magazine. Archived from the original on 2008-04-20. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  33. ^ a b Elliot, Sean (2008-04-30). "Review: The Spectacular Spider-Man - Season One - 'Catalysts'". iF Magazine. Archived from the original on 2010-02-10. Retrieved 2009-11-29.
  34. ^ Worley, Robert M. (2008-05-01). "Ock-ward! Peter MacNicol on 'Spectacular Spider-Man'". Mania. Archived from the original on 2012-10-06. Retrieved 2009-12-25.