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.