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Been meaning to thank you for putting my letter into Bad Guys #3. I don't always post issue rambles because by the time the comics cross the pond you usually have a lot queued up (and I don't always have time to read them through to make sure I'm not saying the same old things). Until the trade, suffice to say I've been having a blast with 'Bad Guys'.
But I wanted to talk about 'Spectacular Spider-Man' Season One. Which I adore. It is, again, old news, so I've tried to boil down a season's worth of rambles into eight specific, personal observations/comments/questions/recollections/gripes/quips/geek-outs.
1. THE BIG MAN
Whisper it, but in a way I'm sort of glad the show is "limited" (ha) to the Spidey cast. Kingpin -- despite being born to ASM -- never felt to me ideal as a Spidey villain. The best Spidey villains are weird, lurid, misshapen, often animalistic and generally have some kind of duality. Kingpin's great but he's... a big man who's a big man. But Tombstone? He looks unusual, but he's smart, he's collected, he's got great lines and conveys a real sense of power. I love the "I've already peeked under the mask" discussion in "The Uncertainty Principle". And he has a terrific voice actor (with a nice warm-up by Keith David too). I'm sure if Kingpin had been on the table this show would have delivered up a great iteration, but Tombstone as The Big Man just has a real electricity to me. Alongside Green Goblin, he may be my favourite of the villains.
2. "MARKET FORCES"
The episode I fell in love with the show. It just encompasses all the spheres of Peter's life. His troubles at school, his money troubles, the Bugle, his relationship with Harry and Gwen and May; plus lots of Norman and the Hammerhead. The conspiracy to create supervillains reminded me of the kind of interconnectedness we'd see on 'Gargoyles'. Along the way, we get Shocker, a villain I'd no recollection of at all but who has such fun lines, and Marko and O'Hirn who are a hoot. There are plenty of great banner episodes this season, but I want to single this out because it's not such an obvious candidate but is still jam-packed with tiny, human stories, with emotion and humour and a bit of a moral lesson too. (For the same reason, "Economics 101" is my favourite arc all told.)
3. THE SYMBIOTE ARC
I love all the episodes individually in this arc, especially the last two which get me misty-eyed in places (which isn't too hard cos I'm a huge sap, but still). But my vague problem with the arc for a long time was that it feels like a zero sum game where Peter is the object of the story and not the subject.
Through a sequence of terrific luck the symbiote smashes into John's ship, ends up in the ESU lab (which has been trashed twice in two months) and when Spidey arrives just in time to foil Black Cat and Chameleon, it hitches a ride. Dicey, but I'm in there. Then the symbiote makes Peter think things he'd never normally think (but are amplifications of his id?) and wins fights for him. Pete realises the thoughts aren't his and, duh, removes the symbiote. A valuable lesson learnt? Well, he was grateful for "this amazing woman" looking out for him in episode 1, and doesn't seem especially more clued into where his friends are at in episode 13. He embraces his spider-side at arc's end too when he sees May in the hospital and asks the fantastic question, "shouldn't my first responsibilities be to the people who rely on Peter Parker?"
I appreciate playing the symbiote as kind of lubricant for a host's id makes sense in light of Venom. It's much better executed than the last film (which I hated), and produces a slew of amazing scenes. But it still feels a bit of a cheat somehow...
It does work for me though as a contrast to Eddie who has all Peter's knocks -- lost parents, lost job, lost 'bro' -- and makes the wrong choices. (I was a bit sad we didn't get a chance to see Eddie's memories like we saw Pete.) And as I say, the episodes individually are brimming with wonderful moments.
4. THE CHARACTER DESIGNS
When this Venom was revealed at the end of 'Intervention' my brother wowed. It took me until next episode to get on board 100% because the tongue action felt extreme even for Venom but I love Cheeks' version of the character. I love that he's chunkier, wider, that the horror trappings are used to interesting effect (such as the chest-mouth) rather than just being lots of icky goo and slimy teeth. Cheeks and all the character designers really rock their subjects in this show. Electro is just genius, taking a silly-looking design, preserving what makes it classic and rendering it utterly cool. Betty feels really fresh. And I'm a big fan of the ethnicity-switches -- just in terms of distinguishing the cast at a glance, making Liz Hispanic is great sense, and Ned Lee has a memorable look whereas I just plain don't recall what Ned Leeds looked like, despite having read issues with him not so long ago.
5. MARTHA CONNORS
Another quiet triumph of the show. I've not read that much Spider-Man but I don't really recall the original Martha doing much except crying (and dying, apparently). But this one's a smart, professional woman and mother with a tough love attitude and a bit of cynicism next to Curt's dreamer. I particularly like her scenes with Gwen.
I was delighted they put all the episodes on UK Itunes. Less delighted that two had the sound a second out of sync and a handful more have occasional colour glitches. More delighted that they refunded me for the faulty episodes. Less delighted that several months on, they still haven't been fixed. Bleh. But episodes 4, 6 and 8-13 look stunning...
I have mixed feelings about the idea of the edited-together movies. Granted, I LOVE the way the arcs play... but week-to-week. A climax and a new arc always just around the corner. And the end-of-episode mask is one of my favourite staples of the show. And the titles! I remember a bunch of words and phrases I first heard on cartoons or comics as a kid. "Frozen assets" I first came across as the title of a 'Ducktales' episode for example. "Introspective" was a word I first heard on 'Gargoyles'. I hope today's kids carry these titles with them like I did. "The Uncertainty Principle" is a particularly clever one if you buy into "it was Norman all along" theory: in the process of looking for something ("I know you're Norman Osborn!") it changes. And "The Invisible Hand" -- genius!
I hope the box set has some cool extras. I'm keeping my fingers crossed especially for commentaries and the audio/storyboards for cut scenes which weren't animated.
8. THE BACKGROUND PEOPLE
One thing I love most about the 'Gargoyles' universe is that these tiny little background characters turned out not just to be footnotes but rounded, interesting people just waiting to step into the spotlight. People like Vinnie and the Jogger and Sarah. SSM has a bunch of these that have caught my attention:
- The family with the fair-haired comic-reading boy and purple-dress girl who appear repeatedly, not least in the title sequence. Spidey rescues the mother in "The Invisible Hand" (the music and direction on that scene are excellent, btw -- I got a real adrenaline buzz from it!)
- Norman's bald heavies with dark glasses.
- The couple Spidey webs together in "Reaction"; the guy at least turns up in "Nature vs Nurture".
- Tombstone's bodyguards.
- Hammerhead's driver!
Plus, characters I don't think have recurred but who I think were pretty nifty:
- Gobby's goon in "Catalyst".
- Aunty Em's nephew who'll rob the piggy bank but won't touch the cookie jar (hilarious!).
- The Big Man's goon with the binoculars who follows Spidey in "Market Forces".
- John's space shuttle crew -- one of them looks like she could be related to Glory.
- The kid who videos Spidey in "Interactions".
I know you've declared an intention not to make any new "named" characters though. So will these guys be nameless wonders until a precedent crops up, or the Blue Fairy puts them in ASM; or is there a chance for any of them to break out if the show survives long-term?
For that matter, do they ALREADY have names from the canon? I know a couple more of the school's background characters get names and identities in Season 2, I've seen plausible speculation for someone on the second list, and I have my own Big Theory for someone on the first list.
Also, is Benny at the Bugle from somewhere or is he a tribute to your son?
Thanks for a great, great series Greg (and to everyone else involved). I really hope the show gets picked up and as many of the team as possible can come back.
1. I still hope to do Kingpin some day, but I'm very glad things worked out the way they did. Now, if we ever do get Kingpin, we'll have TWO great characters.
2. Thanks. It's all part of a whole to me.
3. Well, without the symbiote, we'd be missing two VERY significant revelations for Peter, i.e. Peter would not have learned without it. 1. His decision to pour the gene cleanser down the drain is a revelation. 2. His own feelings for Gwen is a revelation.
4. Thanks. We're beyon happy with Cheeks' stuff. And I'm feeling pretty good about the choices we all made.
5. Thanks, we like Martha too. Of course, much credit should go to the wonderful Kath Soucie, who provides her voice.
7. Well, the business plan for the DVDs changed at some point, so the second and third releases contained only the as-aired episodes, despite the fact that we edited movies for the first five arcs. They also plan to release a season set this summer.
8. Keep your eyes peeled for the couple he webbed up in "Reaction". Their story is NOT over. And the kid who tried to get the picture of Spidey in episode 2 has been revealed in episode 17 as: THE MANAGER OF THE SILVER SPOON!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Anyway, some of them have or will get names from the canon. Some never will. But I do think having recognizable faces and unexpected connections are fun for the audience. Well, in any case, they're fun for me, so I'm gonna keep doing it. As for Benny... well, Benny and Erin (and Vic's kids Hannah and Jack) are, uh, from the canon, of course. Really Marvel, they are! Honest! Put the paddle away!!