Friday, April 16, 2010

Animated Spider-Man is dead, long live animated Spider-Man?

SpecSpiderMan I am a huge fan of the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series.  It probably shouldn’t be a surprise, since Greg Weisman, the Supervising Producer of the show, was the creator of the immensely popular Gargoyles series.

Perhaps even more importantly, Greg Weisman was a lifelong Spider-Man fan.  Weisman was interviewed more than once on the Spider-Man Crawlspace Podcast, and his enthusiasm and respect for the character never failed to shine through.  He was dedicated to creating the best Spider-Man animated series he could and it showed.

Spectacular Spider-Man managed to be contemporary while maintaining the excitement of the Lee-Ditko and Lee-Romita days.  It was accessible to kids while rewarding the long-time fan with subtle references.  Frankly, I consider Spectacular Spider-Man the platonic ideal of what a Spider-Man animated series should be.

Nevertheless, the series was troubled nearly from its inception.  The series originally aired on Kids’ WB, but was not renewed due to the merger of WB with CW.  The second season of the show, which was already produced, was eventually picked up by Disney XD. 

By the terms of the contract Disney XD had to wait a year before they could broadcast Spectacular Spider-Man.  Once they could, they decided to run the first season before airing the second.

The net result was that there was an unusually long gap in production which would make a third season unlikely at best.  After all, the people involved with the show have to eat and many had moved on to other projects. 

Nevertheless, I held out hope that Spectacular Spider-Man was the little show that could and that we would see a third season materialize.  Then Disney bought Marvel.

At first glance, this might seem like a good thing for the show.  After all, Spectacular Spider-Man was airing on Disney XD.  The problem is that the series was originally produced by a subsidiary of Sony Pictures.  While the rights had reverted to Marvel in the interim, it seemed likely that Disney would like to create their own Spider-Man project rather than revive someone else's take on the franchise.

On April 13, 2010, this is exactly what happen.  Marvel announced a new animated series called Ultimate Spider-Man would be added to the Disney XD.  Tom Brevoort confirmed that this was the final nail in the coffin for the Spectacular Spider-Man series.

So what do I think of the prospect of a new Spider-Man animated series?  I am trying not to judge Ultimate Spider-Man before I see it, but I have a hard time believing it will be an improvement over Spectacular Spider-Man.

One strike against it is that it will be based off of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic series, which is a series I have mixed feelings about.  Many of the best elements of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic series had already been incorporated into Spectacular Spider-Man anyway. Making a series that is even more like the Ultimate Spider-Man comic simply doesn’t add to the appeal for me.

Another concern is that Marvel has announced that this series will feature Spider-Man teaming up with various other Marvel characters.   I really enjoyed the self-contained nature of the “Spider-Verse” in Spectacular Spider-Man.  It allowed the stories to focus on Peter Parker’s character development, rather than spending half the episode explaining who Doctor Voodoo is.

I wish Marvel the best of luck with the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series.  I love the character of Spider-Man and I want him to gain a brand new generation of fans.  To be honest, good or bad, a new animated series is probably the best way to ensure this happens.

I just hope Ultimate Spider-Man is something I will want to watch as well.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

TSR Worlds Annual 1 (Chapter 5)

The full cast of the Spelljammer comic has finally been assembled.  Now we finally get a preview of what kind of exciting adventures they are going to have together.

This one is going to be a doozy.

Things start with the crew boarding the mini-me Spelljammer and deciding to fly to Waterdeep in order to pick up some new crewmen.  There is some concern that Meredith will be unable to find her way back there despite having no trouble finding the Realms’ Master off of a vague description of where it was or her ability to navigate interstellar space.  To make sure stay on course, they decide to look out the window for landmarks.

Of course the real reason for this is so that they can notice an unusual formation of standing stones.

As always, Tember is wrong 

Before we continue with the plot, isn’t it a little odd that Jasmine seems to know so much about space culture?  She understands immediately what an asteroid is and knows to call them “spacers”.  Now, her parents were friends with Meredith, so it is possible she heard stories about people from beyond the stars.  Nevertheless, it seems a bit off.

Back to the story.  Have you seen the Empire Strikes Back?  Remember the part where the Millennium Falcon is in the asteroid field and they hide in a cave?  Except it is not a cave, it is a giant space slug that eats spaceships?

So does the author of this segment. 

I wonder if it has mynoks in its stomach

Apparently the Spelljammer crew flew too close the space slug which, as we know from Empire Strikes Back, lies around all day in wait for flying ships to eat.  The mini-me Spelljammer takes off into space against Meredith’s will.  The space slug is equally capable of space travel and follows it.

Meredith begins to panic when it looks like the ship is about to ram into the crystal sphere that surrounds planetary systems in Spelljamming space.  Fortunately, like the full-sized version of the Spelljammer, the ship is  capable of creating its own portals.

Unfortunately, they fail to lose the space slug.

That is one determined slug

So what does this tense chase scene need?  Maybe an interlude where Jasmine’s wings randomly change shape?

Those barely look like wings anymore!


Back to the chase.  Meredith notes that at this point it will be easier to keep going to Unipaxala rather than return to Toril.  She tells Jasmine that after she returns Pax and Tember to their world that she will take Jasmine home.

Wait.  Didn’t Jasmine tell Ishi that Meredith had offered her a spot on her crew?  If she is part of the crew, why would Meredith take her home?

I think this book needs a better editor.

Around this point the space slug reveals that it has the ability to breathe fire.  This normally wouldn’t be a big problem, but they are in the highly flammable Phlogiston between crystal spheres!  The slug goes up in a big fireball.

It breathes fire? 

I must admit, I didn’t see that one coming.

Despite having survived the slug, the mini-me Spelljammer was traumatized and refuses to relinquish control to Meredith.  She decides to attempt to land on the nearest planet, but believes it will be a rough landing.  Pax decides to put the rest of the crew in suspended animation.

Heh heh... Softwood Heh heh...

When Meredith is at the end of her endurance, she sees the planet Vulcan come up on the viewscreen.

Unfortunately, the Prime Directive will prevent the Vulcans from helping you

And they all lived happily ever after.

Can you say cliffhanger?

OK, maybe not.  This is the end of the TSR Worlds Annual though, and there is no way I am following this group to the Spelljammer comic to find out what happens.

You can expect my regular Forgotten Realms comic reviews to resume though, at least once I have recovered from this 70 page slog.


  • My cousin once mused that adventurers must all have a big glowing red “A” on their chest, considering how often they are attacked by wandering monsters.  I can only assume Meredith has a big glowing red “A”, wears monster attracting perfume, and posts her location on
  • Was the space slug supposed to be an actual monster or was it just a Deus ex machina?  If anyone recognizes it from a D&D supplement, please post it to the comments.
  • It seems as if there was a lot of controversy over what Jasmine’s wings should look like.  In the Forgotten Realms comic they were black but often referred to as being white.  They then were briefly colored pink.  In this issue, they randomly turned into pterodactyl looking wings, although I believe they are supposed to be butterfly wings in the actual Spelljammer comic.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

TSR Worlds Annual 1 (Chapter 4)

A wonderful awful idea... This chapter continues the storyline of both the annual itself and of Forgotten Realms Issue 14.  As you may recall, Jasmine had been captured by “Bluebeard” the lich and his sassy demilich sidekick.  The Realms’ Master crew is preparing to assault the lich in his lair, but the lich wants a little private time his new bride.

Luckily, the appearance of the mini-me Spelljammer gives him an idea.  Having read comics himself in his youth, the lich realizes that when two groups of heroes meet for the first time, they must have a misunderstanding that leads to a fight.

The demilich leaves to put the plan into action while the lich plays out his bondage fantasies with Jasmine.


Anyway, the demilich teleports to the mini-me Spelljammer and uses an Alter Self spell to take on Jasmine’s appearance.  More properly, he tales on the appearance of Jasmine’s ghost.

Jasmine as a ghost apparently lacks eye liner

When “Jasmine” appears to the crew and relates her tale of murder and betrayal, Meredith is understandably skeptical of this convenient haunting.  The demilich is an accomplished liar though, and with the help of an ESP spell manages to win over the crew.

Someone has ranks in Bluff 

(As an aside, look at how Rags Morales uses body language to sell this scene.  This is what separates good art from mediocre art)

Back to the story, Captain Omen and Minder are discussing how to begin their assault on the lich’s lair when the mini-me Spelljammer swoops down from on high and demands they prepare to be boarded.

I love how  nonchalant Captain Omen is about this

Just to ensure there is no chance of cooler heads prevailing, Tember immediately sprints from the ship to shout accusations of murder at the first person he sees.  Luckily for us, this turns out to be Vartan.  Vartan then opens up a can of whup-ass and does what we have all wanted to do since Tember first appeared.

This may be Vartan's Crowning Moment of Awesome! 

Thank you Vartan, I feel better now.

That looks like a homerun The two crews fight it out in pretty stereotypical comic book fashion.  First one crew has the advantage, then vice-versa. Notably though, Agrivar shows some of that paladin wisdom by ignoring the fracas below and ambushing the demilich lurking above.

Despite Agrivar and Ishi’s best efforts, the demilich recovers before they can strike a killing blow.  Deciding he is having too much fun watching the battle below to be distracted by a couple of fighter types, the demilich gates them to his master’s castle.  After all, he figures his master can dispatch them without much trouble.

Ah, hubris.

While the demilich was distracted, the fight below has cooled down from a all-out brawl to a shouting match between Captain Omen and Meredith.  Meredith continues to accuse Captain Omen of murdering Jasmine while Captain Omen protests his innocence.  Minder notices the demilich lurking and the combined group decides to deal with him once and for all.

Minder has been trying to make that spot check for eleven rounds

Inside the castle, Agrivar and Ishi pick themselves up of the ground after being unceremoniously teleported there.  Ishi sees a light ahead and they attempt to sneak their way into the liches chamber.  Before they get to the door though, the lich tells them they can stop whispering because he heard them when they landed in the hallway.

Got to love a snarky lich.

Yet another May December Hollywood romance

This pose is learned in paladin school Agrivar demands the lich release Jasmine while striking a heroic pose.  Not surprisingly, the lich decides to respond with a lightning bolt.  He is kind enough to thank them for standing so close together before doing so though.

Ishi recovers first and kicks the lich in the face.  The only effect this seems to have is to turn the lich on (eww… again).  The lich starts to talk about how when he is done with Jasmine that Ishi might be next in line.

This enrages Ishi who screams that he would have to kill her before she would submit. 

Unfortunately, the lich decides this is a sound suggestion and summons a fiend from one of the “nastier lower planes” to drag Ishi and Jasmine off.  The lich promises that the fiend will “return with your corpses when he is finished showing you his home”.

Man that lich is one twisted guy.

By this time Agrivar has recovered, but realizes he only has time to save one of his companions from the beast before it retreats through the gate.  Acting on instinct he leaps forward and saves Ishi.

And we have a winner!

And thus Jasmine is cosigned to a fate worse than death.  Well, she would be if not for the combined Realms’ Master and Spelljammer crews arriving just in the nick of time to save her.

Facing the combined crew alone, the lich decides discretion is the better part of valor and runs down the hallway (after conjuring a Wall of Fog to cover his escape).  He ultimately decides to hide in the ice cavern where he keeps his dead wives, but ends up getting a bit of a surprise.

That is what you get for ignoring them for so long

After the lich buries himself under several tons of rubble, it is revealed that Captain Omen created an illusion that the lich’s wives had come to life in order to unnerve him. 

With Jasmine rescued and the lich situation resolved, the two crews say their farewells and prepare to part ways.  Jasmine reveals that Meredith offered her a spot on her crew and that she plans to take it.  She also congratulates Ishi on winning the “Duel of Hearts”, leaving the swordswoman with a satisfied smile on her face.

I miss Jasmine already

Goodbye Jasmine, you are already missed.

Well, tune in next time for the final chapter of the TSR Worlds Annual 1, or as I like to call it “the horror continues”.


  • This seventeen page story is the only reason I am reviewing this 70 page comic book annual.  As always, Rags Morales delivers on the art.  Jim Lowder is the writer of this segment and he does an a admirable job.
  • I enjoyed both the demilich and the lich a whole lot.  The demilich was both intelligent and had a sardonic wit, while the lich was believably creepy and insane.  I really enjoyed how the two played off one another.
  • I grabbed a lot more scans than I normally do for this kind of post.  I was just so grateful that there was decent art in this book that I just couldn’t help myself.
  • I will admit that the conclusion of the “duel of hearts” seems both rushed and a little contrived.  I am glad they tied up that plot thread though.
  • I was very sad to see Jasmine go.  I feel she really added something to the Realms’ Master crew.  I did pick up a few issues of Spelljammer after she crossed over, but I was pretty unhappy with her portrayal in that book.

Monday, April 12, 2010

TSR Worlds Annual 1 (Chapter 3)

Why didn't she do this the first time? When we left off, Meredith had flown the mini-me Spelljammer into Toril’s crystal sphere.  Meredith is originally from the Forgotten Realms, and is looking to pick up some items she left with her old friends Rose and Michael.  This time, she (smartly) decides to leave Mullet Boy with Pax and seek out her friends by herself.

Meredith makes her way to Selune’s Smile, the bar where the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons comic takes place.  Talking with the bartender Luna, she finds out that her friends died five years ago.  They continue to talk about the fate of Meredith’s friends and their daughter, even though the entire cast of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons comic comes by one by one to interrupt the conversation.

So a centaur, a dwarf, and a half-elf walk into a bar...

When she learns Jasmine is still alive, Meredith quite bluntly asks if Jasmine inherited all of her parents possessions.   Luna realizes Meredith is fishing for information about her magic key and simply tells her that Jasmine still possesses it.

So now Meredith just has to hunt down Jasmine.  As a powerful wizard, perhaps she should cast a simple divination spell to locate the girl?  Maybe a Locate Object on her magic key?

Nah, lets follow some out of date information that she left town with an adventurer named “Chaos Carter”. 

The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons crew decides, in typical adventuring party fashion, to assist Meredith in locating Jasmine.  Onyx the dwarf notes that this won’t be easy, since Chaos Carter is the type of guy who topples empires through treachery and keeps his identity secret.

Not that Conan would ever say retreat. The scene abruptly shifts to Conan Blacker and assorted other caravan guards fighting off a griffon attack.  After they repel the attack, Blacker argues over tactics with the Gold Grain’s caravan master Gorm about the attack. Gorm is not the type of guy to be interested in listening to a mere hirelings suggestions though.

Translation: "I appreaciate you whoring yourself out for me" The importance of this scene becomes obvious when the half-elven wizard Kyriani reveals to Meredith that some guy she blew her contacts told her that Chaos Carter is currently targeting the Golden Grain Caravan and is disguised as one of the guards.  The group decides the best way to locate Chaos Carter is to infiltrate the caravan.

Meredith uses her illusions to fake a dragon attack on the party.  They then send Kyriani running in the direction of the caravan crying for help.  Despite Gorm’s initial reluctance to get involved, Kyriani’s “assets” prove to be to be sufficient incentive for Gorm to invite Kyriani and her “guards” to join the caravan.

Hint: He has a name, he must be important. As the party integrates with the remaining guards, they hear some griping from a somewhat skinny blonde guard named Raymond about how poorly the guards are treated by the merchants.  He insinuates that the merchants withhold healing potions from their guards.

Isn’t that always the way?  Big Business feels the crunch so the first thing they do is cut back on benefits for the little guy. 

Can Kyriana talk without holding a finger to her mouth? Meanwhile, Gorm expresses his concern that Blacker, who we saw fighting griffons earlier, is actually the infamous Chaos Carter.  Apparently the griffons had some kind of extortion gig going on.  Rather than pay the griffons their “reasonable tribute”, Blacker insisted on fighting them instead.  This is enough to convince Gorm that Blacker is out to ruin him.

Wait a second, the griffons were running an extortion gig?

OK, I know griffons are smarter than mere animals, but does a group of griffons running an extortion gig make any sense?  Aren’t there a ton of monsters that this kind of activity would be a more natural fit for?  Since Griffons can’t speak common, how do they make their demands?  Do they hold up a sign saying “I can has ur Gold Peezes” or just hope someone in the group they are shaking down has a Tongues spell handy?

In any case, while Gorm is talking, the caravan is attacked again, this time by giant bats!  Things aren’t going well for the guards until Meredith casts a sleep spell to take them down.

I love the guy who says they are easier to kill when on the ground... and asleep

Gorm then disappears, never to appear in the story again.

Speaking of sleep, the next scene you see has Meredith waking up Vajra to tell her all the guards have gone.  Vajra wonders if they have pulled a Wisp (quit without warning). Meredith overheard them discussing it.  Apparently Blacker is arguing that they do, but Raymond is arguing that they don’t.  Their musings are interrupted by a purple worm attack.

I think the DM may be flipping to random pages of the Monster Manual

OK, this is starting to get ridiculous.  I know the Forgotten Realms are a dangerous place, but when you are attacked by greedy griffons, giant bats, and purple worms in the space of 24 hours, I assume you must be wearing monster attracting perfume.

The guards return in time to help defeat the purple worm, but Blacker is now suspicious that the newcomers are a bunch of company spies.  Meredith blithely admits to this, much to Kyriani’s utter confusion.  Blacker and his men quit in disgust over the company’s double-dealing ways.

Because all spies reveal themselves when asked nicely.

Kyriani rubs her two brain cells together and realizes they never asked Blacker where Jasmine is.  Meredith tells her to go find out, so she marches after the mercenary.

Well, her Intelligence has to be at least 9

Of course the reason Meredith let Blacker go is because he isn’t Chaos Carter.  Who could it be?  Maybe Raymond, the only other guard with a name?  Meredith asks him where Jasmine is, and he gives the incredibly vague, “I left her last month in the city of Saerloon” before leaving.

He also admitted to being the King of Cormyr. 

Back at Selune’s Smile, Kyriani expresses surprise that Blacker isn’t Chaos Carter, especially since he admitted it during pillow talk.  Onyx simply notes that “Girl, once you get a man worked up, He’d admit to being Elminster if you asked him to”.


Anyway, now that they know Jasmine is in Saerloon, Luna was able to scry her and saw her boarding a ship that then teleported away.  This somehow gives her the information she needs to find Jasmine, so Meredith then decides to head back to the mini-me Spelljammer.

What happens next?  Well, you will just have to return for TSR Worlds Annual 1 (Chapter 4).  This time with decent art!


  • This plot was extremely contrived.  Especially when you consider that the group had multiple powerful wizards who should have been able to clear this up rather quickly.
  • I am amazed by how badly mischaracterized Kyriani is in this one.  As I recall, in the AD&D comic she was portrayed as sexy but smart (she is a wizard after all).  In this comic she is simply a vapid bimbo.
  • You would think that when Luna saw Jasmine boarding the ship, she would say something like “Oh good, she is with Agrivar.  You can trust him, he is Kyriani’s brother and a paladin”.  Of course, then they couldn’t have a misunderstanding and get into a fight.

Monday, April 5, 2010

TSR Worlds Annual 1 (Chapter 1 & 2)

Regular readers are aware that I have been recapping the Forgotten Realms comic book put out by DC and TSR in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  The last issue I recapped was Forgotten Realms Issue 14, which ended with Jasmine being captured by a lich version of Bluebeard.

The story is continued in the truly atrocious TSR Annual 1.  The annual was an attempt to cross-pollinate readers of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Dragonlance, and Forgotten Realms comics, as well as launch the Spelljammer comic book.  At the time, all it did was convince me that the other books were not worth reading.

Technobabble!  Or is that Spellobabble? The comic begins on Unipaxala, the peace asteroid (no, seriously).  Several of the Unipaxalain priests are attempting to negotiate with Meredith, the captain of a spelljamming vessel, to rescue a priest named Pax Ahlmuhn from the neogi.  She is reluctant until they throw in a Crown of Stars spacefaring helm.  They also convince her to take Pax Ahlmuhn’s nephew Tember with her so that Pax will know they sent her.

If you understood any of the above paragraph, you obviously played Spelljammer in the 80’s. 

Meredith, Tember, and her disposable crew take off in one of those neat dragonfly ships and mount a rescue attempt.  Much like Han Solo in the Empire Strikes Back, Meredith avoids their “sensors” by floating in a debris field until they are close, then following one of the larger neogi spider ships into the base.

Where is Boba Fett? Once there, Meredith sends her commando crew to find the priest while Tember and her guard the ship.  Things seem to be going well until Tember basically waves at some umber hulks, which causes them to destroy the ship.  The two rendezvous with her crew and Pax Ahlmuhn.  With their own transport destroyed, they set out looking for a new one.

Luckily for them, they stumble upon the legendary Spelljammer almost immediately.  More accurately, they stumble upon a mini-me version of the Spelljammer.  They make their way towards it when the neogi and their umber hulk slaves arrive and try to stop their departure.  The three characters who have been given names make it aboard the ship while the rest of the crew dies “heroically”.

That's what she said

Realizing they can’t outrun the neogi spider ships pursuing them, Meredith uses a phase door spell to duck into the nearest crystal sphere.  At this point the neogi conveniently disappear, never to be seen in the story again. 

Still, they need supplies so they land mini-me Spelljammer on nearby Krynn.  Meredith claims to be familiar with Krynn, so she inexplicably decides to stay behind and send young Tember out with a pocket full of jewels to buy provisions from town. 

While walking in a random direction through the jungle, Tember sees a bunch of goblins who have apparently run down a gazelle and killed it with their axes.  Seeing as he is supposed to buy provisions, Tember decides to hail the goblins. 

No, seriously. 

Tember is an idiot 

This goes about as well as you would expect, especially when he trips over his own feet and spills jewels everywhere.  Luckily for him, a bunch of elves with a furry fetish ambush the goblins.  Unfortunately, these elves don’t seem too keen on humans either, until an underdressed elf sorceress named Sulia shows up to stay the hand of the furries.

I didn't see that one coming

Apparently Sulia’s blind brother received a vision from the great pumpkin tiger spirit that they would find a stranger in the belly of “a great winged beast”.  Tember realizes they are talking about the mini-me Spelljammer and immediately agrees to take the heavily armed savages back to the ship.

Tember is obviously an idiot.

Along the way, the furry elves ambush a trio of goblins on a cart.  Luckily, the cart contains exactly the type of supplies Tember is looking for, so he exchanges the jewels for the contents.  Honestly, I wish that the furry elves had simply traded Tember some “magic beans” for the jewels, as that would make more sense and be in keeping with the characterizations so far.

Be werry quiet. We are hunting rabbits.

On the trip to the ship, Sulia reveals the reason she wants to see the ship is to prove that her brother’s visions are true prophesy.  Once this is proven, her brother Maraghiz will be able to take over as the shaman of the clan.  Well, at least according to her.  The furry elves seem to support the incumbent shaman.

Arriving at the ship, the natives are suitably impressed.  Even the furry elves have to admit that Maraghiz is the real deal.  Unfortunately, the furry elves decide they have to kill Sulia and Maraghiz in order to keep the incumbent shaman in office.

Never trust a furry elf

Ah, just like Chicago politics.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright Before the battle can get interesting, Meredith surrounds the furry warriors with a wall of flame.  They then disappear from the story, never to be seen again.  Meredith does take some time to talk with Sulia and Maraghiz though.  Although Sulia and Maraghiz realize they can never return home, Maraghiz conveniently states he has had other visions of people who can help him.  The brother and sister team then wander into the woods, practically begging the reader to follow their further adventures in the Dragonlance comic book.

The group then decides to go to leave Krynn and travel to the Forgotten Realms.  If you want to know why, you will have to return for Chapter 3.


  • Reading this makes me appreciate Jeff Grubb and Rags Morales’ work on Forgotten Realms even more.
  • This pacifist light religion is boring in the way only a made up religion can be.
  • Tember is really, really annoying.  With apologies to Will Wheaton, Tember combines all the worst attributes of Wesley Crusher with the added bonus of being an idiot.  At least Wesley was smart enough to save the Enterprise when he needed to.
  • Is there some crossover between furries and Dungeons & Dragons fans that TSR felt was being underserved in the 80’s?  Because that is the only excuse for this story I can think of.