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Obsession Perception #16: Animation Conversation

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Hello everybody, welcome back to another installment of Obsession Perception. Today I want to talk about something I spend a lot of time with and I’m sure many of you do as well, cartoons. More specifically I’m speaking of comic and superhero animated features and series. I’ll preface this by saying that I’m focusing on more recent cartoons, so you won’t be hearing about everyone’s favorites, the universally celebrated Batman: The Animated Series, X-Men, and Spider-Man. We all know the 90’s cartoons were amazing and have spent two decades talking about them so I’ll leave those for another day. So here it is, Obsession Perception 16, the one about cartoons, because I’m an adult!

So after reading a lot of high praise on the internet and reviews on comics sites, I decided to pick up the blu-ray collection of The Spectacular Spider-Man, an animated series that I had missed out on for whatever reason. I feel as if anyone who has read this column before knows that Spider-Man and I are quite fond of one another and the web slinger is my all time favorite superhero. That said, I was a little bummed that I missed such an acclaimed series but was more so excited that I now had some new to me, high quality Spidey adventures to enjoy. So I picked up this series and was incredibly happy with the results. Admittedly, I wasn’t a fan of the art style in the beginning, but like anything of undeniable quality, it grew on me and I really enjoyed everything about the show. This to me, is Spider-Man done right (also with an awesome and catchy theme song). The fun approach to Peter Parker and all his high school friends and acquaintances was well done and genuinely funny. It nailed what makes Spider-Man a compelling hero, his relatable real life problems, balanced with his heroics and his struggle to properly juggle the two. Even if it’s something as silly as maintaining a high school relationship and taking care of Aunt May, it makes for a great, grounded backbone for an on going villain packed adventure. Speaking of the villains, The Spectacular Spider-Man focused on the villains, and I mean nearly ALL of the villains as much as it focused on Spidey himself. The writers really took advantage of the rich and colorful rogues gallery that the Spider-verse has to offer. From major baddies like Green Goblin and Doc Ock, to spotlighting lesser known thugs like Tombstone and Hammerhead. They fit so many villains into their unfortunately small 26 episode run that you’d be hard pressed to think of any they forgot, Morbius comes to mind but I’d be willing to bet they had a plan in the works for him had they been afforded the opportunity. Aside from Spidey and the rogues, the supporting cast around Pete was outstanding. His well known friends and acquaintances  Gwen Stacey, Harry Osbourne, Mary Jane, Flash Thompson and Eddie Brock all have nicely fleshed out story arcs that only would have been better given another season. Even additional faces of Midtown High have some great mini-character arcs that make Peter’s world feel more genuine and sell the high school angle in a really entertaining manner. I know that the cancellation of this series was one of the least positive things to come from Disney’s acquisition of Marvel, but the impact it made will not soon be forgotten. Disney cleaned house and ended TSS to make way for Ultimate Spider-Man. The Disney Channel series does a few things right, the animation quality and art style are great and go for more realistic proportioned character models that leave distance itself from Spectacular. Aesthetics aside, Ultimate leaves the realism and any sense of seriousness aside for a much more (for lack of better terms) wackier, zanier take on Spider-Man than it’s predecessor. The show is packed from opening to ending credits with (kid friendly) Family Guy-esque cut away gags, and a ton of Zack Morris, forth wall breaking, Saved By the Bell dialogue with the audience. Overall, sometimes it works and is genuinely fun, but most times it’s a Spider-Man cartoon for a less focused, Adventure Time demographic. It shares similarities to Teen Titans Go which seems like a more successful application of the style. Not to say it’s completely unenjoyable or total garbage, it just feels like a lesser version than it’s predecessor. 

Spider-Man

I’ve spent time in recent weeks talking (raging like Atrocitus) about Green Lantern: The Animated Series, so I’ll be brief. GL:TAS is one of the best animated superhero series in recent memory and it’s a damn shame that it’s gone. Go watch it on Netflix ASAP and enjoy it’s short but awesome glory. That being said, I’ve recently started Young Justice on Netflix and it’s very good. It takes a group of teenage heroes I didn’t previously have much familiarity with or care about (save for Robin) and built an engaging and entertaining show that made me care a little about Aqualad. That’s a big achievement! It’s too bad that, like Green Lantern, Cartoon Network gave up on another solid entry into superhero television to make space for more Adventure Time clones. 

The untimely and unfortunate cancellation of two great series hasn’t discouraged WB/DC’s animation department from doing great things. As more of a Marvel reader and fan than DC, it’s tough to admit but when it comes to animation, these days, DC has a big lead over the competition. Recently having released Batman and Son, a loose adaptation of the Grant Morrison story, in which we are introduced to Damien Wayne. You guessed it, the offspring of Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul. The direct to video market allows for more mature story adaptations and Son of Batman make that fact very apparent. There is a lot of blood and action to be found here. Though it doesn’t touch greatness of previous films like Batman: Under the Red Hood and both The Dark Knight Returns movies, Son of Batman is a solid well animated entry into DC’s catalog which is growing exponentially it seems. 

There’s a lot currently happening in the world of superhero animation but I’m greedy and want more and more all the time (well, I want SSM and GL:TAS back mainly). I’d love to see some animated versions of characters like Daredevil or Swamp Thing done in a darker fashion to truly reflect the books they’re known for. I’d like to see a fun adventurous version of Guardians of the Galaxy in an animated series that keeps the action and the humor high in a way that can only be achieved by a walking talking raccoon and a group misfit adventurers. 

How about you guys? What are some of your favorite superhero cartoons and animated films? Do you prefer Ultimate Spider-Man over Spectacular? Which comics would you like to see come to live in a colorful cartoon world? Blast the comment section and let me know. Also before I depart I have to mention that www.all-comic.com is running a gofundme campaign to raise some cash for site upgrades. All-Comic is a site self funded out of the pocket of Tyler himself and needs more bandwidth to avoid crashes. So if you read my column or any of the other great content on the site or listen to any of the podcasts, we’d appreciate any help at all. We’re almost there so keep it going and I’ll see you next week for Obsession Perception.

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