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The Untold Truth Of The Spectacular Spider-Man

There have been some amazing and superior adaptations of the web-head, but nothing quite like "The Spectacular Spider-Man." For fans, it was a show that disappeared from our screens far too soon as it got caught up in the messy web of Sony and Disney's legal battle for the rights to our friendly neighborhood superhero. Yet, over two seasons, it still managed to crawl into all our hearts and come to be remembered as one of the finest animated series of all time.

The quest to create what many people refer to as the definitive version of Spider-Man wasn't without incident, though. From tricky rights issues around a specific villain to a voice actor rocking up to a recording session in character on a Harley-Davidson, the behind-the-scenes stories are just as riveting as the scintillating action on screen. So, let's take a leap into the unknown and discover the untold truth of "The Spectacular Spider-Man."

The Hong Kong action style sold the concept

If there's one thing about the show that stands out from every other series about the web-head, it's the heavily stylized nature of the production. It looks and feels different, while its action sequences rival the live-action films in both intensity and aesthetics. Turns out this was the original plan all along, as the creative team wanted to do something to live up to the cinematic Spidey's high bar of web-swinging wonder.

Supervising producer Victor Cook explained to Marvel Animation Age that Sony specifically asked him how he would approach the show. "When I met with the Sony Executives, I pitched over-the-top Hong Kong-style action choreography for how Spidey would use his abilities and that we would do it with squash and stretch animation," he said. The executives were sold on the concept, and the creative team jumped right in and put together a Comic-Con promo (featuring a heart-stopping rooftop fight) that served as a showcase of what the action choreography would look like for the series. Needless to say, it dazzled.

No Avengers, thanks

While the MCU successfully created a shared universe for all its heroes and villains to come together, it wasn't the first of its kind to do this. In fact, "Spider-Man: The Animated Series" brought many Marvel characters into the mix by including the likes of the X-Men, Captain America, and Doctor Strange in essential storylines throughout its five-season run. Many fans expected "The Spectacular Spider-Man" to follow suit and feature the Avengers and have other popular characters pop in for occasional appearances — but it didn't.

"We don't want the show to be guest-star of the week," supervising producer Greg Weisman explained to ComicMix. "Spider-Man doesn't need Wolverine to make sure the show's a success. We wanted the first two seasons in particular to stay in the Spider-Man corner of the Marvel Universe." Weisman added that he would've entertained the possibility of doing crossovers with other Marvel characters down the road, but Spidey and his main peeps were always meant to be the core focus of this show.

The main villains for Season 3

Sadly, "The Spectacular Spider-Man" was grounded before it could take flight for Season 3. Many people still wonder what that would've looked like and which popular storylines it would've incorporated. While the creators often discussed how Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.'s run shaped the direction of the series, they also mentioned how they weren't afraid to pull from other eras.

Due to the uncertainty of whether the show would be picked up or not, no work had actually commenced on the new season, making it difficult to predict what would've happened. However, the team did have ideas of which villains they'd like to introduce, as revealed by Greg Weisman. "The only two villains I'm confirming are Hobgoblin and Scorpion," he said. "But obviously there will be more." Considering how Cletus Kasady made the briefest of appearances in Season 2, he could be the "more" that Weisman refers to here. Perhaps Season 3 of the show might've turned up the villainy to maximum carnage.

The one voice actor who got in character

We've all heard the wild stories of method acting and the intense preparations that some actors undertake to get into the proverbial zone. Someone like Daniel Day-Lewis will go without sleep for days to prepare for roles, while others like Jared Leto will send odd gifts to the cast and crew to get into character. However, there are also voice actors who go the extra mile to deliver a next-level performance.

For Josh Keaton, who voiced the web-slinger in "The Spectacular Spider-Man," one of his co-stars ensured that his "Spidey senses were tingling" when they showed up. While discussing the show's 10-year anniversary with Comic Online, Keaton mentioned that "seeing Trish Helfer pull up to the session to record her role as Black Cat on her Harley completely decked out in black motorcycle leather" was the biggest surprise he experienced. Hopefully, he was inspired to dress up as the web-head for some of his sessions as well.

The Gargoyles influence

Greg Weisman is no stranger to animation fans. Apart from being one of the big cheeses on "The Spectacular Spider-Man," he's also the brains behind the highly acclaimed "Young Justice" and "Gargoyles." Expectedly, his work on the latter played a part in shaping the Spidey show (but not in the way that the web-head sometimes likes to speak to the stony structures).

The biggest trace of "Gargoyles" can be found in Electro's new origin story, which sees Max Dillon develop electrical powers after he gets electrocuted and falls into an eel tank. (Fun fact: It ended up being the same angle that "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" used for the character's transformation in the film.) Answering a fan's question about the inspiration for the idea, Weisman said: "We came up with it — probably inspired to some degree from the origin of the mutates in 'Gargoyles' — to fit our Biology 101 theme for that particular arc." Much like rock 'n' roll, it worked because it's electric.

Why The Spectacular Spider-Man Season 3 won't ever happen

Considering how Greg Weisman's other series, "Young Justice," was revived six years after its cancellation, there's hope in the hearts of the fandom that "The Spectacular Spider-Man" receives a revival and thwips onto screens for Season 3. Taking into account that Disney and Sony are now working together on the films, surely this should be a possibility, right? Weisman doesn't think so.

As recently as 2020, he told a fan on Twitter that he "sadly" doesn't see it happening. Obviously, Weisman knows more than us about the situation, but it's more likely that Disney's current focus will remain on creating new "Spider-Man" content that it owns fully rather than rehashing the past and splitting the profits. Unlike with "Young Justice," the rights issues are a little more complex than someone just greenlighting another season. That said, it hasn't stopped the fans from petitioning and even creating the #SaveSpectacularSpiderMan hashtag, but are the execs paying attention?

Where's the Kingpin?

"The Spectacular Spider-Man" featured many characters that played pivotal parts in shaping the titular hero's life — for better or worse. However, there was one notable absentee: Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin. The ruthless villain is nowhere to be found in the series, and it's highly unlikely that he would've featured in Season 3 had that gone ahead in the first place. So, where was the crime boss with an inexplicable love for white suits and introspective monologues?

As revealed by Greg Weisman to IGN, the character was a "part of the Daredevil license" and off-limits due to being contractually reserved for shows or movies that starred the Man Without Fear at the time. Though, this situation did open the door of opportunity for another villain to shine in his stead. In fact, this character became something of a hard pillar of the series. "I think Tombstone's turned out really cool, and we wouldn't have had this Tombstone, frankly, if we had Kingpin," Weisman explained.

Josh Keaton's spectacular kiss

The show chucked Peter Parker into a love triangle with Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson. At this point in his life, though, the triangle was more of an isosceles since Gwen was always meant to be his first love. And as expected, the two locked lips in an "aww!" moment. With animated shows using a lot of sound effects, one would think that the kiss was something pulled straight from the sound library, but it wasn't.

In a chat with Marvel Animation Age, Josh Keaton revealed that he and his co-star actually kissed on mic. "Greg Weisman and/or voice director Jaime Thomason (I can't remember who) apparently has a tradition where when two characters kiss on screen, they have the actors kiss on mic," he said. "Y'know for authenticity. So I got to share a smooch with the lovely Lacey Chabert." For added effect, though, they could've had them share a kiss with Keaton upside down to replicate the infamous scene from 2002's "Spider-Man" movie.

The real-life influence of Doc Ock

A name like Doctor Octopus is incredibly on the nose. It's obvious what the influence for the character is, and one only needs to look at his mechanical arms to get the gist of it. When portraying Doc Ock, though, it might be a little difficult to channel an actual octopus, so actor Peter MacNicol found inspiration in a slightly different place.

Discussing the chosen voice for the character in an interview, MacNicol revealed that he used it as a tribute to the late Hollywood actor Laird Cregar. "Throughout his brief 1940s career, Cregar waged a war to the death against his own obesity, ultimately losing too many pounds too quickly; he was barely 30 when he died," he said. "In his two greatest movies, 'Hangover Square' and 'The Lodger,' he seemed so haunted and hulking, and I loved that soft, menacing voice of his." MacNicol added that he didn't try to imitate Cregar's performances, per se, but found inspiration in their "quality."

Spidey runs in the family

By the time when Vanessa Marshall voiced Mary Jane Watson in "The Spectacular Spider-Man," she was an established voice actress with quite the resume. Indeed, she'd provided her talents to numerous animated films, video games, and cartoons such as "Johnny Bravo," "Justice League," and "Wolverine and the X-Men." But her run as MJ wasn't the first time that someone in her family had swung into a Spidey production.

Marshall's mother is actress Joan Van Ark. While Van Ark is most recognizable as Valene Ewing on "Dallas" and "Knots Landing," she actually joined the Spidey family in 1979 when she voiced Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman in the "Spider-Woman" animated series. The show only lasted for 16 episodes, but it developed a cult following in the years that followed. Perhaps a future "Spider-Verse" film could bridge the worlds of "The Spectacular Spider-Man" and "Spider-Woman," allowing for mother and daughter to reprise their roles at the same time. Now, that would be truly spectacular.