Saturday, July 26, 2008

Maintaining the Path

Those of who have made a study of The Middle Room (and we naturally suspect there are dozens - perhaps hundreds - of researchers and sociologists examining every word) are well aware that we've previously expressed our fondness for the Spectacular Spider-Man. In fact, we've made our opinions known on more than one occasion.

But today we have come to do more than merely celebrate the show's accomplishment. We've come to ask for help.

The Spectacular Spider-Man is more than a show: it is a continuation in a tradition which began in 1992 with Batman: The Animated Series. Until then, cartoons were fundamentally "childish" in construction. This isn't to say, mind you, that they were all necessarily bad; merely that they were aimed exclusively at a younger audience.

Batman changed the equation. The series, while certainly animated, was crafted as if it were a live-action film. The stories were well written, the voice acting was taken seriously, and the concepts were mature.

The path had been forged, and other series followed suit. Shows like Gargoyles, Exosquad, and The Tick were soon released, providing animated entertainment which could be appreciated by older viewers as well.

It isn't that these shows are necessarily darker or more morbid than others: only that they are better written, less juvenile.

We here in The Middle Room look at The Spectacular Spider-Man and see the successor to Batman: The Animated Series. This is particularly important, as it is all but standing alone.

We've been watching the signs for a while now, watching as trends shift and tides change. We've been watching, growing afraid as we saw advertisements for Batman: Brave and the Bold. We raised an eyebrow when we first saw a trailer for Young Avengers.

But none of that could prepare us for Iron Man: Armored Adventures. If appearances are to be believed, it is Iron Man re-imagined as a teenager. We repeat: Tony Stark, a child.

The question that first leaps to our mind is, simply, "Why?" Why would someone believe this a good idea? Why was this show even made?

And, obviously, there can be no answer.

But there is hope. Hope that such short-sighted production demands will not win out. Hope in a future of sophisticated animated programing.

For this to happen, the world needs heroes. The world needs programs which respect their source material and their viewers. Spectacular Spider-Man needs to show them all how it's done. Only when the Spectacular Spider-Man outlasts these upstarts will the producers and executives revise their pathetic equations and realize what any of us could have told them from the start:

Better quality = More money.

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