After catching up on Young Justice and watching the first 3 seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I needed a show to check out that would fill empty space in my soul where a great super-hero show used to reside. Plus, we kind of want something to review for the next podcast that we record. So, I was given the choice between The Batman and The Spectacular Spider-Man and watched the first episodes of both. Why not write an article comparing the two? Pit them against each other in a battle to the death….or to be watched for an abnormal amount of time. Let’s see which show packed a more powerful punch! (Yeah, I couldn’t think of anything wittier so I went with a generic tag-line. Give me a break.)
So, I guess to differentiate itself from Batman: The Animated series and Batman Beyond as well as all the other thousands of Batman shows out there, they went with a title that had the least amount of adjectives or descriptives. I can dig that.
The Batman is set in the younger years of Bruce Wayne, not too long after he has donned the cowl of justice. We first see him in action taking out some random thugs doing what they do best, thuggin’ it out. Of course, Batman stops them in their tracks, but he is still being seen in the public eye as either an urban legend or a vigilante. I guess to Bruce, this is fine since they would never suspect him to be the Dark Knight. He gets a visit from an old friend who works in the police department, Ethan. He informs Bruce that he and his partner, Ellen, have been tasked to track down Batman and has come to him to talk about it. But, he believes that Batman is on their side despite his vigilante tactics.
Meanwhile, trouble stirs in Gotham’s insane asylum as The Joker finds his way in and decides to use it as base of operations. He proceeds to use his laughing gas to clear out the prison and claim it for himself, revealing that his ultimate goal is to put a “permanent smile” on Gotham City. Now, I have to say that I really like the design of The Joker here. It’s not the usual purple and green suit that has been traditionally used. He actually looks like an insane clown in this one. He has a green vest and purple pants, but with ridiculously long sleeves that scream creepy clown. His hair is long, out-of-control and green, giving him a very goblin-esque look to him. They really made The Joker out to be more of a creature that matches his insane personality than a lanky nut-job, which is a very interesting take.
Well, Batman is alerted of the disturbance at the prison and confronts The Joker for the first time, which is rare to see nowadays. He proves to be a lot more agile than Batman expects and gets away. Batman takes one of the prison guards in hopes to figure out what was used to contaminate the prison. He remembers Joker saying that he was looking for a new pad and decides to look for the old one, finding him in an abandoned warehouse. Joker reveals that his hot-air balloon filled with the poisonous laughing gas and steers it straight to a statue in the middle of the city, in hopes of it bursting and spreading the gas. Of course, Batman thwarts his plan and captures him. But, you know The Joker, always vowing revenge. And we end with his creepy mug staring us down.
The Spectacular Spider-Man
From my understanding, the producer for this show, Greg Weisman, is the same producer behind Young Justice. So, that automatically gives this show a few points in its favor. Thankfully, this show doesn’t start with the origin of Spider-Man. (lord knows we’ve been bludgeoned over the head with it many times, especially after seeing The Amazing Spider-Man this past weekend.) We catch Peter Parker right as his school year is about to start, with the events of him becoming Spider-Man happening the summer prior. That sequence is basically only shown in the intro to the episode and a very brief flashback halfway through, which I’m totally cool with. It lets us get straight to the action.
Obviously, with his newfound abilities, Peter has an insane boost of confidence. Being constantly bullied at school by folks like Flash Thompson, Peter feels as though he can stand up to them now. And that….pretty much falls flat from the get-go. He may have super powers, but he’s still Peter Parker. At least he has his friends Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy on his side to bring him back to reality.
Peter and Gwen are offered spots in an internship program under the Dr. Connors. This is a good opportunity for Parker but he is worried about it not being a paid internship. See, Parker overheard his Aunt May talking to a friend about how they are going through financial troubles. So, obviously, Parker wants to help. He goes to the Daily Bugle to ask for a job as a freelance photographer focusing on getting pictures of Spider-Man. Of course, he runs into J. Jonah Jameson and, well, that doesn’t end quite as espected.
On the way there, he crashes at Harry’s place for a bit to kill time. While chatting with Harry and his father, Norman, a winged-creature swoops down and takes Norman away. This is Adrian Toomes, also known as The Vulture. Now, Adrian used to work for Norman, until Norman stole his plans for a new device and claimed it as his own creation. This obviously pissed Toomes off and the logical next step was to use a flight suit to kidnap Osborn. Don’t worry though, Spider-Man is on the scene. He saves Osborn and goes after the Vulture. He seemed to have things under control, until a third party, the Enforcers who were employed by an unknown individual, shows up to capture Spider-Man. This results in an interesting 3-way battle that results in the Enforcers captured and The Vulture defeated.
I think both series had a very strong first episode. The Batman started off on the right foot by not being just another series that starts with him in mid battle with all of these villains. It seems like he will be meeting all of them for the first time and figuring out how to defeat them as the show progresses. The art style is pretty cool for what it is. It’s not something that I’m necessarily blown away with, but it’s better than the standard DC show of the time. But, there is something about the faces that bug me. The animators draw it in a way that the foreheads of all of the characters are jutting out and have oddly angled noses. I’m not sure why, but that bugged the hell out of me throughout. But I guess it’s one of those things that you just get used to as long as the plot and action hold up. And so far, it has all kept me interested.
Now, The Spectacular Spider-Man isn’t too different from what I remember in the original show from the 90’s. He’s a bit younger here but a lot more sarcastic and wise-cracking. His one liners throughout his fights as Spider-Man were actually pretty funny and gave him that extra edge as a character. There seems to be a lot going on at one time which may or may not be a good thing, depending on how it’s handled. But, I have faith in the people behind the scenes of the show and I think it adds to Peter’s struggles of balancing his high school life, his home life, and his super-hero life. The animation in this is also about average for me. The action scenes look really cool and the civilian scenes are passable. And again, the animators did something with the faces to make them seems just a tad odd to me. This time it’s both the foreheads and the weird eyes with the super huge pupils. I wonder if they used the same animation studio for both? Anyone know?
Well, we’ve come down to the decision. Which series had the strongest first episode? For me, I think it was The Spectacular Spider-Man. The Batman was also very strong in the deliverance of its story and characters. And both shows started fairly soon after they assumed their alter egos. But, Spider-Man had this extra charm to it that grabbed me from the beginning. The dialogue felt a lot more alive and brought the characters out a bit more. I’m a bit more interested in seeing how Peter Parker juggles his multiple lives seeing as he’s just a kid as opposed to a multi-billionaire with an underground base. Also, who the eff are The Enforcers? And who hired them? I gotta know, man! I’ll eventually come back and watch The Batman seeing as I actually really liked it as well. But, Spider-Man wins this round. Expect to hear Kurenai and me review this in the near future on the RST podcast!