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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Spectacular Spider-Man is an animated series about Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man). In this version of the story, Peter Parker may be the teenage son that every parent wishes for. He's loving, family oriented, respectful, responsible (though he sometimes gets home after curfew), and does well in school. Even when he's beating up bad guys -- which happens pretty frequently, this being a superhero cartoon -- his constant quips make it seem more like a game than a dangerous battle. All of this makes him a pretty good role model for young kids. That said, the show may seem a bit one-dimensional to older Spidey fans.
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What's the story?
Just getting through high school is hard enough for most teenagers, but in addition to homework, a part-time job, avoiding school bullies, and building up the nerve to ask a girl out on date, Peter Parker (voiced by Josh Keaton) also has to battle supervillains and protect his secret identity as the city's newest protector, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN. This version of the Spidey saga focuses on his early years, picking up at the start of his junior year, shortly after he's developed his amazing powers. The city and its resident bad guys are still getting used to having the web-slinger around, and he's still getting used to his new role.
Is it any good?
This series is clearly aimed at a young crowd, and it glosses over many of the more complicated -- and more mature -- themes that have made Spider-Man so popular. Even during fight scenes, Spidey keeps up such a running patter of quips and one-liners that the cartoon seems more like a comedy than a drama. That said, one of the show's executive producers is comic legend/Spidey creator Stan Lee, so the story stays pretty close to the Spider-Man legend. All of Peter's pals, as well as Spidey's supervillain foes, make appearances.
Many of the most successful comic adaptations in recent years have played up the dark side of these often-tormented heroes, notably Batman Begins, which focused on the Caped Crusader's anguish and need for revenge after seeing his parents murdered, and the X-Men films, which center on the brooding Wolverine character. But comics are also for kids, and this entry in the Spidey franchise will offer plenty of fun for young people until they're old enough to learn more about Peter Parker's inner demons.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about responsibility in The Spectacular Spider-Man. Between school, work, helping Aunt May, and his secret Spidey duties, Peter has a busy life -- but he never seems to even consider shirking any of his tasks. Why do Spider-Man, and so many other superheroes, seem to instinctively realize that they have a duty to use their abilities to protect society? Do you believe that with power comes responsibility?
If you had a secret power, what would it be, and what would you do with it?
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