Wherein unreasonably free time is dedicated to proving Jonah Hill is funnier than you.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Alien Costume: Part 1

Why I Wanted to See it: In anticipation of Spider-Man 3 I rewatched the beginning of the 94 cartoon's alien symbiote saga. Why this series isn't on DVD in its entirety, or why I don't know of a blog devoted to it is beyond me.[1] Granted SM[:TAS?] lacks the groundbreaking seriousness of the Timmverse Batman, the convoluted comics wonkery of FOX's 'X-Men'[2], or the animation fluidity of post-Saturday Morning ghetto superhero shows like 'Teen Titans' but it had its own charm and, in any case, is likely the source text for the movie.[3]

Why I'm Glad I Did: Much like Spider-Man's origin, there's no way to explain his black costume that's not stupid.[4] That doesn't matter, though, because it's simply awesome: shape-shifting, strength augmentation, turning one into a jerk and, I mean, look at it: it's black! How is that not enough?

The best part is the nightmare Spidey has when the not-yet-revealed as a symbiote takes over his body as he sleeps: he envisions the suit and his original red-blue-threads battling it out 怪獣 style. Once the black suit wins by shoving the original on some power lines, it swallows Spidey-as-Peter Parker, and then he wakes up hanging upside down in the "emo" outfit. If that sounds familiar, it's because the movie trailer clearly swipes it. Whichever of the six writers[5] for this episode came up with that, you better get your residuals.

Why I Wish I Hadn't: Every animation misstep in this episode has stuck in my mind for the past 13 years because it vacillates between excellent — Message to Sony Imageworks: this is what Spider-Man looks like swinging webs — and blatantly cost-cutting. No other series so shoddily reused animation: when the super-villain Rhino fights Spidey in a space shuttle teetering on the edge of the GWB[6], they used the same footage of the shuttle tilting back and forth a half-dozen times within two minutes.

'Alien Symbiote' is actually one of the better episodes in that regard, so my main problems are little script issues. Why does Peter Parker just leave his Spider-tracer-locator in his closet? How did transforming the symbiote into a police uniform let Spidey escape, when he did so in the middle of daytime traffic? I don't see how the security guarding "the specially enhanced control rods" the Kingpin was stealing for Alistair Smythe expected to stop The Rhino[7] by (irony of ironies) randomly charging.

Why I'm Ambivalent: Spider-Man's voice actor is really unconvincing as someone with edge, and this approaches ludicrous heights in the next episode. It's very uncomfortable to listen to, but haunting in its own way. Picture Greg Brady maniacally screaming "I'll tear you limb from liiiimb!" and you should get my point.

[1] Given how large the comic sub-blogosphere is, there might be lots, but I'm just not indie enough to get into that set. I do follow a decent blog on the Spider-Man newspaper strip, though.
[2] They revealed that Immortus was the main character behind this huge time/reality traveling story arc...except they never explained who Immortus was.
[3] Simply because there's no space for either the Beyonder or Richard Parker in a movie already packed —
Batman & Robin style, it seems — with three villains.
[4] I don't know what was worse: Todd McFarlane's rationale in Spider-Man #13, or Bendis' rationale post-Civil War.
[5] Stan "The Man (aka The King's Second Banana)" Lee, Avi "Got Out While the Gettin Was Good" Arad, Len "Wolverine" Wein, Meg "I'm Sorry But I've Never Heard of Her" McLaughlin, Stan "Paul Dini Don't Run This" Berkowitz & John "Oh Shoot, He's Black!" Semper
[6] An equally awesome and unreasonable setting
[7] Wow, y'know, the cast list for this episode actually seems to be a lot longer than the movie. There's hope yet.