The Spectacular Spider-Man

The Spectacular Spider-Man Opening Date: March 2003
Created by: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Developed by: Greg Weisman, Victor Cook
Written by: Greg Weisman, Kevin Hopps, Matt Wayne. Andrew Robinson, Randy Jandt, Nicole Dubac
Directed by: Victor Cook, Jennifer Coyle, Dave Bullock, Troy Adomitis, Dan Fausett, Kevin Altieri, Michael Goguen
Starring: Josh Keaton, Lacey Chabert, Joshua LeBar, Grey DeLisle, James Arnold Taylor, Alanna Ubach, Vanessa Marshall

Grade Sheet

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The Spectacular Spider-Man follows Peter Parker in high school as he struggles to balance spending time with his friends, fumbling with romance, and fighting crime as Spider-Man. It’s a pretty standard formula, but this contemporary take still manages to shine.

What makes this show stand out from other cartoons/adaptations of Spider-Man is the excellent writing and variety of creative narration styles. Taking full advantage of the flexibility of the animated medium, the show uses nonlinear narration, flashbacks, and juxtaposition of certain scenes to express the depth of the characters and their storylines. The voice work is solid (no pointlessly cartoonish voices except for the Green Goblin, for whom it makes sense), and the animation is pretty seamless. The show did an excellent job of making each episode self-contained, while still maintaining multiple-episode-long arcs. The Green Goblin mystery BLEW MY MIND, and all the gang war stuff was really great, too. And wow, the fight choreography was really fantastic. I also really liked that it didn’t waste any time on the origin, instead using the theme song footage to explain the premise of Spider-Man.

The romance between characters was a large part of the show as well, but in a way that made sense. I liked how the high school politics were portrayed, with Sally insistent on social hierarchies, Liz wiling to bend them, and Mary Jane transcending them. Best of all, there was a good balance between showing Peter’s high school life and his life as Spider-Man — and I was equally invested in both.

The Verdict

This is definitely one of my favorite cartoons, as well as all-around favorite television shows. The drawings are simple but clean and pleasant, the stories are fun, the action is animated wonderfully, and best of all, this feels like a Spider-Man show.