Sunday, March 9, 2008

A day of great upheaval

Sometimes, when the world changes, the ground quakes. Some things can be felt the world over. Other things are quiet. Other things can only be seen in retrospect, save by those who were there.

Yesterday, at 10 a.m. (9 central), the world changed. Few saw it, fewer still realized that anything had taken place. But make no mistake: a 9:59 the world was one way; at 10:01 it was another. Something happened between those instants, something that cannot be overlooked.

At 10:00 a.m., eastern standard time, the guard changed. For the first time since 1992, Marvel comics were better represented on animated television than DC. Yes, at 10 a.m., The Spectacular Spider-Man aired for the first time.

And I was there to see it.

The music, the images, the stories... all were good. There were echoes of Stan Lee's classic run, elements from the movies, and, yes, ideas from Ultimate Spider-Man, as well. These were blended with the eloquence and skill of a master smoothie-maker: not the sort you're likely to find in a mall, believe you me.

The vulture was introduced in the first episode, his back-story cleverly tied to Osborn (and the technology he invented is destined to create the Goblin's glider). His ideas were stolen, he was humiliated, and he was laughed at. He sought justice first; revenge was an afterthought. The actions he took against Norman Osborn were fair and, dare I say, just. And yet, it was not to be.

Because, in his darkest moment, in his most desperate of times, a punk kid shows up in a spider suit cracking jokes. Is it any wonder he will hate that kid forever?

This isn't Batman: that needs to be stated. No one animating superheroes for television has the touch that Bruce Timm and Paul Dini had. But Timm and Dini are animating for TV no longer. Dini is off writing for DC, while Timm keeps pumping out the animated movies (if you haven't seen New Frontier yet, by the way, you'll want to do so).

No, this isn't as good as Timm and Dini's work. But it's better than anything else on. The CW wasted no time in illustrating this point, following up their hour of Spider-Man with the conclusion of The Batman. Though not awful, it was not worthy to follow The Spectacular Spider-Man. You almost felt bad for The Batman's producers: there was simply no comparison.

And Legion of Superheroes, whose first season truly impressed me, likewise came up short. For the time being, Marvel has bested DC with a superior animated television program.

That leaves DC only currently producing better comics, better toys, and better direct-to-video animated films. As to who's holding the live action title, well, that won't be clear until the summer is over.

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