"Spectacular Spider-Man" Debuts at WonderCon

Hundreds of fans, with their kids in tow, attended the premiere of the new animated series "The Spectacular Spider-Man" at WonderCon in San Francisco on Saturday, a full two weeks before it's set to air on Kids' WB! on The CW network. Following the screening, Sony Pictures Television's Michael Vogel moderated a discussion that included supervising producer Greg Wiseman, supervising director Victor Cook, character designer Sean "Cheeks" Galloway, voice actors Josh Keaton (Spider-man/Peter Parker) and Ben Diskin (Eddie Brock). The panelists discussed the pleasures of bringing the Spider-Man characters back to television and their hopes for the series.

Set sometime after the spider bite that gave Peter Parker his powers and the death of his uncle -- which gave him his purpose-- the TV series places Spider-Man at the start of his junior year in high school. There he is pushed around by jocks, but has friends in the form of Harry Osborne and Gwen Stacy. While Harry is played in a fashion similar to his feature film counterpart, Stacy is conceived as Peter's intellectual equal. In fact, both receive an internship at the local university, working for Professor Connors. There they find Eddie Brock, a friend who graduated from their high school the previous year. Peter hopes the internship will help him make some money to help out Aunt May -- until Eddie tells him the job pays nothing.

Meanwhile, Harry's father, Norman Osborne, has made an enemy in the form of the Vulture, who attempts to kidnap Norman. His plan is thwarted by Spider-man. While the two clash above New York, Spider-man is chased by mercenaries working for a shadowy figure.

While Spider-man defeats the mercenaries and the Vulture, he returns home with no money for Aunt May and his scolded for breaking his curfew. It's just another day in the life of the Spectacular Spider-man.

In planning the series, Wiseman said the creators' intent was to "start from scratch" and "play out the early days of Spider-Man." He said the theme of the series is "The Education of Peter Parker." He added, "We're going to take him to school, so to speak."

They also want a Spider-Man who moves with quick action and fluid animation. Cook said they wanted "A Spider-man who could be drawn from any angle." He also said he wanted to replicate the "fun feel" of the original 1960s animated series. Each episode is intended to stand alone, but is also a part of an ongoing saga.

In designing the look of the series, Galloway said, "nothing was ever easy." Spider-man underwent twenty design revisions while Peter took thirty attempts to perfect a look Cheeks said is "more urban." That modern feel applies to all the characters, and even the Vulture was revamped to reflect the character's age and given a new red color scheme. That change, Wiseman said, was at Marvel's request. "They want to veer away from making everybody green," he said.

Vogel called Keaton "the biggest geek in [the] voice-over [business]." Keaton agreed and said he relates well to Peter Parker because he was a geek in high school. He said, "I was a lot like him. I just couldn't climb walls." Keaton also said he doesn't want to let people down and did his homework on the character.

As for Diskin, he said "It's a dream come true," to play Eddie Brock, adding "I've wanted to play him since I was twelve."

During the Q&A, the panel was asked about the series' future, as the Kids'WB! programming block is being discontinued. Vogel said they are already in production of a second block of thirteen episodes and Sony is looking for a venue to air the series. "You guys will definitely be seeing more than thirteen episodes of 'Spider-Man," he confirmed.

Wiseman was asked if "Ultimate Spider-man" was a big influence on the series. He answered, "I'm not shy about stealing from Bendis."

When asked what the hardest aspect of working on the series was, the panel agreed the tight timeframe to produce episodes. Wiseman said producing television is "very fast paced." It was also revealed the production team does not have access to Marvel characters outside the Spider-Man stable, but said this hardly limits them as Spider-Man comes with a diverse range of friends and enemies. Cook said, "It's a pretty big sandbox."

The team played coy about Eddie Brock's eventual place in the series, but Vogel said of Venom, "If he were in the series, he would probably be a pretty big problem for Spidey."

When a young fan asked which of the three characters he liked most, Doctor Octopus, The Vulture, or Venom, Cook responded, "Octavius." The child then said, emphatically, "Also known as Ock."

"The Spectacular Spider-man" premieres March 8 in America, on The CW network.

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