‘Heroes and Villains’ (TV)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

It’s time for the underrated Spider-Man!

Over the years, I’ve seen various versions of Spider-Man. My top three favourites have to be the 1990s animated TV series; the original ‘Spider-Man’ film trilogy by director Sam Raimi with Tobey Maguire and of course the ‘Spider-Man’ PS4 game. There are of course other incarnations of Spidey.

As well as being in movies, Spidey has had a variety of cartoon TV shows. As well as the 1990s series, there’s also the 1960s TV show; ‘Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends’ from the 1980s; ‘Spider-Man Unlimited’, ‘The Spectacular Spider-Man’ and ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’. I’ve yet to see those TV shows.

A particular ‘Spider-Man’ TV series I don’t find many people talking about is ‘Spider-Man: The New Animated Series’ from 2003. I saw this when it came out on DVD for my birthday in May 2004 before I saw ‘Spider-Man 2’ at the cinemas. It lasted for one season, which is a shame. I hoped to see more.

‘Spider-Man: The New Animated Series’ is rather unique. It’s a computer cartoon show with quite a mature atmosphere. It’s still colourful but the themes featured in its 13 episodes are more grown-up compared to kid-friendly in the 1990s TV series. I found it very fascinating as I saw this show on DVD.

The show came from the mind of comic book writer/artist Brain Michael Bendis. It has the combination of Spidey from the ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ comics and elements of the first ‘Spider-Man’ movie with Tobey Maguire. So, this TV show is set after the first ‘Spider-Man’ movie…but not really.

Yeah, that puzzled me when I watched the show on DVD back in 2004. It features Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson and Harry Osborn as the main cast who go to Empire State University as students. Yet elements of this ‘Spider-Man’ series don’t get reflected in ‘Spider-Man 2’ afterwards in my opinion.

I wouldn’t mind that so much if this ‘Spider-Man’ series had its own continuity in parallel to the original ‘Spider-Man’ films. But it would’ve been fantastic to have had Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco voicing their characters to make the show a part of the original movies’ continuity.

But that’s not what it is here. Instead we have Peter Parker/Spider-Man voiced by Neil Patrick Harris; Mary Jane voiced by Lisa Loeb and Harry Osborn voiced by Ian Ziering. They’re decent actors to voice these characters and I like them enough in this TV series. But I prefer the ones in the original movies.

Also, in watching the series again, whilst I have fond nostalgic memories for the episodes and the characters featured in them, it doesn’t mean the show hasn’t got any flaws. It’s easy to see the show having its inconsistencies with characters and story as well as the animation being somewhat dated.

I’ll do my best to illustrate what’s good and bad about this ‘Spider-Man’ TV series in each review I do for each episode as I still have a soft spot for it. It’ll also be intriguing to find out whether the new animated TV show has had its impact over the years. For now, let’s check out each episode in turn. 🙂

First things first, the episode order is different in the 2-disc DVD set for this series compared to when the episodes were transmitted on TV. The episodes were out of order when on TV, creating more inconsistencies. For the sake of argument, I’m going to go by how the DVD chronicles the episodes here.

In the first episode of the series called ‘Heroes and Villains’, we’re introduced to Peter, MJ and Harry as ESU students. I like how these three are introduced. I give the show credit for helping viewers to identify with who we’re meant to root for. And it’s good Peter, MJ and Harry are really good friends.

The romance between Peter and MJ is…fascinatingly inconsistent. Yeah, I like Peter and MJ being together, but I’m confused why MJ kept hitting on Peter whereas he tried to keep his distance. I know this is meant to be after the first ‘Spider-Man’ movie and Peter tries not to get too close to MJ.

But at the end of the episode, Peter and MJ kiss each other. Yet they don’t end up as a couple in the next episode. I don’t get it. Are they together or not? This is one of the reoccurring themes of the ‘Spider-Man’ 2003 animated series that makes it inconsistent. I’ll share this more in future episodes.

Anyway, the plot of this episode has Spidey tackling a Robin Hood-like figure who gets claimed to be a hero by the New York public. He’s called Turbo-Jet. His true identity is Lewis Wyler (voiced by Harold Perinneau). Spidey discovers that Turbo-Jet isn’t a hero as he steals and almost hurts people.

I like how the series introduces some villains for Spider-Man to fight against that weren’t in the comics. It allows the series to have its own unique identity. There are villains from the comics that appear in the series, but it’s really fascinating how the series tries to be brave to include new ones. 🙂

The series doesn’t feature Aunt May sadly, but we do get a glimpse of Peter’s parents as well as Uncle Ben and Aunt May in framed photographs in his room at his and Harry’s flat. Yeah, Peter and Harry still share a flat together in the series, even though it looks different. MJ pops by their flat too.

The villain’s motives are intriguing. Lewis Wyler steals things with his Turbo-Jet technology to raise money and to prevent Villeroy Towers, a student home, from being demolished. Not much is known about Lewis Wyler’s character as he does seem to be moody and not friendly once Peter meets him.

The animation, whilst dated, does look impressive in terms of the Spider-Man webslinging scenes as well as the Spider-Man costume in general, looking a lot like the ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ in the comics. ‘Heroes and Villains’ is a good introductory episode in the ‘Spider-Man’ series for the DVD. 🙂

The DVD special features for this episode are as follows. On Disc 1 of ‘Spider-Man: The New Animated Series’, there’s a DVD audio commentary with director/executive producer Audu Paden; director Tim Eldred; production executive Grace Benn and co-executive producer Brian Michael Bendis. There’s also an ‘Amazing Spider-Facts’ info-text commentary option to enjoy.

‘Heroes and Villains’ rating – 8/10

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