Friday, April 6, 2012

Ultimate Spider-man OR Why I Love Sugar Gliders.

I love my sugar glider.

For those of you who don't know; THIS:

Is a Sugar Glider.  They're cute, furry, and they like to climb on you.  It's kind of like having a pet 5 year old.  They're extremely intelligent and curious.

"How intelligent are they?"  You might ask.

Well, the other day, when I watched Ultimate Spider-man for the purposes of this review, mine started crabbing.  Crabbing is a gurgling sound that Sugar Gliders make when they're annoyed or irritated.  It sounds much louder than you'd expect from a creature so small.  It's a defense mechanism that gliders use to make predators go away.

And boy did my little Hypolita want this show to go away.

When Disney Purchased Marvel in 2009, it caused a lot of changes in both companies.

The one that affected me the most, was the cancellation of one of my favorite shows

Which I mentioned before in my "Top 9 favorite Non-Disney Shows."

This was...Disappointing to say the least.  I understand the whole complex story behind what went down, (which I won't get into here, because that's not what this blog is about) but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

The simplified version: Once Disney had Marvel in their pocket (much like Warner Brothers has had DC for years) they wanted their own Spider-man show.  So instead of wrestling with Sony to get full control of SpecSpidey...Or Licensing it, they decided to start from scratch.

The result:

Ultimate Spider-Man.

This show sucks big time.

Now, I'm the first to admit that I'm not a comic book fan.  I've approached Young Justice and The Spectacular Spider-man from an outsiders perspective.  But I've enjoyed both so immensely that they--combined with Linkara, one of my favorite internet reviewers--Has definitely intrigued me, and made me consider picking up a few issues of some comics.

Now...I wanted to approach this show with fresh eyes.  I didn't want the fantastic SpecSpidey to color my perceptions about what makes a good Spider-man show.

Well, I fear that I failed in that regard.  Because...I really wanted SpecSpidey back after this...


Imagine for a moment, that someone decided that Spider-man should be more like Family Guy.

Let me repeat that because it bears repeating.

Imagine for a moment that someone decided that Spider-man should be more like Family Guy.

"With Great Power comes Great Responsibility" and Family Guy.  Let it sink in...

I've given the briefest hints on how I feel about Family Guy in a previous post...But for those of you too lazy to go back and look it up...The answer is "Not favorably".   Perhaps I'd be a lot more forgiving of Family Guy, if people of my generation didn't use it as their ONLY source of information about politics, religion, history, etc...You know...Important stuff.  (I am not joking, I know at least two people who have openly admitted that they rely on Family Guy for their opinions on politics...We live in this world people)

Family Guy (For those geckos in my audience who have decided to peek out from underneath their rocks) basically runs like a ADHD kid, jumping randomly to cutaway gags.

And...That's what Ultimate Spider-man does.  That's EXACTLY what it does.

There is no Fourth Wall.  Spider-man addresses the audience all the time.  Often to get people up to speed on what's happening in the episode.  

Yes...It IS a bad sign.

The words "Show Don't Tell" are utterly lost on the writers of this show.   Every thirty seconds Spider-man (or Peter Parker) turns to the audience to explain something that could just have easily been shown to us.

But by far, the WORST example was when the Frightful Four was attacking his school cafeteria.

Spider-man begins explaining who each member was...And this quote happened:  "And Thundra, Genetically altered human from an alternate future timeline.  Don' ask".


NO.  NO YOU DON'T GET TO DO THAT!!!  I am NOT a comic fan, and I don't understand these backstories.  You CANNOT MAKE A NON-SEQUITUR STATEMENT LIKE THAT, and NOT EXPLAIN IT!!!!

I'm just appalled that he said something like that, and then went "Don't ask"  You CANNOT do that to a NON-COMIC geek in the FIRST EPISODE!!!

And she's from the future, then why the HELL is she (SPOILER ALERT) working with Norman Osborn? She has FUTURE technology and knowledge.  Why would she use that to be a super-villain?  Why not, oh I don't know, exploit that knowledge and get rich that way?  Maybe I'm just too used to SpecSpidey and their logical progression of events that even explained how something as ridiculous as the super-criminal even came into existence.

But damn it, things like that RAISE so many questions and give us NO goddamn answers.  It's like watching Lost or Alcatraz.  On the surface, the writers look like they know what they're doing.  But they're really just making crap up as they go along.

But I am digressing as much as an episode of Family Guy.

Episode One was appalling enough...

But then...

Then there was episode two...And the BAD just got worse.

(Yes, this actually happened in the episode...And yes, the Emperor's New Groove Jokes are impossible to resist)

Nick Fury (Voiced by Chi McBride an actor I'm actually quite fond of from his "Pushing Daisies" days) informs Spider-man that he's putting together a group of young Super-Heroes his own age.

AFTER meeting a two-armed Dr. Connors (even a non-comic guy like ME knows THAT'S WRONG) and being presented with his own "Spider-Cycle".

Ah...The first of what I can only assume will be many Toys that USM tries to shill.

After Fury stupidly allows Spider-man to try out the cycle (Seriously, he figured out that Spider-man was Peter Parker, but he didn't know that he didn't have a driver's license?)

We are introduced to the other four heroes Nova (Or as I shall now call him "Nova Creep" the ONE joke in 44 minutes of USM that made me laugh) Power-man, Iron Fist (Oh Voice Actor of Caleb of W.I.T.C.H. how the mighty have FALLEN) and White Tiger.

Being a non-comic guy, I didn't know who any of those characters were.

Okay, that's not true.

I did know who White Tiger was.

Sort of.

A random googling I did a while ago (for reasons I shan't explain here) brought up White Tiger.  And...I was intrigued.  This character--Or at least what I read--Interested me.  There have been four--apparently--The version of White Tiger that I was interested in was an actual White Tiger that was transformed (BY SCIENCE!!!) into an indian woman.

In a serious show, (Like say...The Spectacular Spider-man or Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes) this could be very interesting, a simple animal having to learn to deal with complex human emotions.  Something that I believe was a big part of her comic persona.

But this is Ultimate Spider-man.

If this version of White Tiger is the one that was once a big cat, then it will be played as a gag, undoubtably.

Or perhaps not...

The biggest problem I have with this show is that it doesn't know what it wants to be.  At times it's played Ultra-Serious.  Like Spider-man should be.  (Yes, I know the irony of playing a ridiculous concept like super-heroes as serious, but the thing is, the source material is often quite serious.  Spider-man is who he is because he made a mistake that cost his Uncle's (father-figure) life.)  But at other times, it is played exactly like an episode of Family Guy.  Complete with cutaway gags and asides to the audience.

There is a fight sequence in the second episode.  It's a pretty good fight sequence too.  I was actually getting into it.  Then, about four minutes into the fight--BAM-Another Family Guy cutaway.  It was so jarring, that it took me completely out of the moment.  I couldn't suspend any disbelief after that.

Now, before I finish up.

Let's take a brief look at Spider-man's supporting cast.  The people who surround his life.  They were the important part of his life in the Spectacular Spider-man, so I want to do a little comparison to see how they hold up.

First up:  Aunt May

She's apparently very busy, and out most of the time, allowing Spider-man the ability to come and go from the house as he pleases.

This actually made me cry...Because Spider-man himself said this.

A far cry from the responsible Aunt May from SpecSpidey who wanted her teenage nephew to be home by 9:00pm.  Note that neither one knows that Peter is Spider-man.

J. Jonah Jameson.

You'd think that J.J. would be a fairly one dimensional character.   And in most versions that's true.  Most writers simply don't have the chops to give him MORE than just his "I hate Spider-man" rants.  SpecSpidey did.  Ultimate...

Well we've only seen him on gigantic jumbotrons throughout the city, so that's a "Time will tell" type of deal.  But SpecSpidey actually built J.J. UP into hating Spider-man, instead of just starting there.

Mary Jane Watson.

Let me be clear.

Mary Jane Watson has only appeared in ONE medium outside of the comics.

The Spectacular Spider-man.

All other versions of MJ have been the soft-spoken quiet, girl-next door type of Mary Jane.

Only that's NOT who MJ actually IS.

That's Gwen Stacy.  Peter Parker's first love.  MJ's name and body.  But Gwen's personality.

And...Ultimate Spider-man is no different.

Only USMMJ is interested in being a photographer (Instead of an actress) and is a Journalism student.  But this doesn't stop her from being Gwen Stacy.  She is.  Exactly Gwen's personality.

The other members of the supporting cast are Nick Fury (as I previously mentioned) and the Super-hero team that Spider-man is being placed on.  As well as Agent Coulson (Of the Marvel Cinematic Universe fame) as Spider-man's principal.  Since there has never been a team up like this before, time will only tell what that lead to, but, odds are, I won't be watching.  These first two episodes were so bad, and so jarring, that I have lost any desire at all to continue watching.

The end of the second episode (where Peter goes into the principal's office to ask for a transfer away from the school--Because Fury's super-hero team has shown up there as students) was...Actually kind of amusing.  But it was far too late to really make me chuckle.  And far, far, too little in the grand scheme of things.  Too, little, too late.

So next time, folks, if a Sugar Glider tries to warn you that a show isn't worth watching, listen to her will you?  The sanity you save, could be your own.

This is the Disney Wizard,
Signing off.


  1. If any other show had tried introducing a two armed Curt Connors, I might have just assumed they were setting him up to lose his arm later in the series.

    Frankly, I don't think this show deserves that much credit.

  2. Hate to agree because I wanted this show to get better but it hasn't and really they have no impetus to since kids really like and it has good ratings. Oh well, farethee well Spectacular Spidey, I'll miss ya!