Spider-Verse Week concludes with The Spider, yet another bored millionaire who decides to battle crime with his super-human athleticism. (Today’s protagonist, playboy Tom Hallaway, is a ridiculously accurate archer.)
Created by Golden Age great Paul Gustavson, The Spider proved popular enough to make 30 appearances in Quality’s Crack Comics. And that would be that, if it weren’t for a little thing called Crisis On Infinite Earths.
In the revised continuity, DC dipped into the Quality library to reinvent the Spider as a criminal who used the guise of heroism to cover nefarious activities. Our old friend Geoff Johns then inserted The Spider into the second-tier Golden-Age super-team, The Seven Soldiers Of Victory, as a replacement for the retconned ’40s versions of the Green Arrow and Speedy. The villainous archer eventually betrayed his teammates before their apocalyptic confrontation with The Nebula Man.
(And yes, that is one convoluted story that encompassed not only Johns’ Stars And S.T.R.I.P.E. series but also an old Justice League tale from my Bronze Age youth. Thanks, Wikipedia…)
The Post-Crisis Spider did receive a more nuanced treatment in Starman, but a more faithful version ultimately appeared in Erik Larsen’s Next Issue Project that remains a better postscript to the Spider’s career.
From Crack Comics #13 (Quality, June 1941), here’s “The Phony Resurrectionist” by Paul Gustavson.
MLJ Comics’ spider-themed vigilante, The Web, bears a certain resemblance to The Tarantula, DC’s own Golden Age entry in the arachnid avenger sweepstakes.
Both come from primarily scholarly interests in crime-busting, one a criminologist and the other a successful crime writer. Both, obviously, also happen upon the spider as an effective totem to intimidate lawbreakers.
The difference – other than the fact that The Tarantula debuted months before The Web, is due to the house styles of the two publishers. DC’s Tarantula, co-created by Mort Weisinger and Harold Sharp, relied upon gimmicks like web guns and suction cups to corral his enemies while the more sensational MLJ tended toward action-packed, blood-soaked melodrama.
(And to think the same ruffians behind such mayhem later published Archie … )
Surprisingly, The Web also may be better remembered than his DC counterpart as MLJ/Archie has revived the character from time to time while The Tarantula mostly appeared in the odd Roy Thomas Earth-2 story. Such is the curse of a second-tier super-hero who existed in the same publishing universe as Green Lantern and The Flash.
Without further ado, here’s today’s entry in our Spider-Verse Week. Illustrated by Irv Novick, here’s “The Web And The Book” from Zip Comics #35 (MLJ, March 1943).
Coming tomorrow: Spider-Verse Week concludes with The Spider! Not the pulp guy, but a Quality Comics archer that was turned into a super-villain by the geniuses who run present day DC!!!
On paper, the Spider Widow differed little from other super-heroines of the Golden Age era. Wealthy socialite – and sportswoman – Dianne Grayton is unfulfilled by her silver-spoon existence and decides to use her considerable physical and mental skills to fight crime.
Unlike such fellow members of the not-so-idle rich as Lady Luck or the Phantom Lady, Grayton took her crusade in a decidedly different direction when she adopted the guise of a green-skinned witch and demonstrated an uncanny ability to control poisonous spiders.
Although the character sounds ideal for rather dark adventures, Quality characters weren’t quite as bloodthirsty as some of their competitors (I’m looking at you, Ace and MLJ … ) and the Spider Widow soon developed a will-they or won’t-they relationship with a fellow crime-fighter known as The Raven.
She even developed a rivalry/alliance with the Quality Comics Phantom lady that crossed over two different titles, a rarity at that time.
Spider-Widow and Raven also took down a villain known as Spider Man, who was basically a lunatic who rode a giant robot spider.
For the purposes of Spider-Verse Week, however, we’ll turn to the bizarre heroine’s first – and creepiest – appearance in Feature Comics #57 (Quality, June 1942). The story was written and drawn by the Spider Widow’s creator, Frank Borth, who also penned the Phantom Lady’s adventures in Police Comics and undoubtedly cooked up the inter-title crossover.
Coming tomorrow: MLJ’s The Web! He’s a pretty intense guy!!!
Spider-Verse Week continues with The Black Spider, a killer vigilante who bore a great resemblance to such pulp fiction stars as The Shadow, Black Bat and – natch – The Spider … only with one crucial difference.
While The Black Spider – secretly District Attorney Ralph Nelson, a crime-buster frustrated by red tape – had no compunction against shooting down criminals he generally preferred to intimidate that particular cowardly lot by covering them with poisonous spiders.
To be honest, I find that a lot more intimidating than a guy dressed up like a giant bat.
Although never a headliner, The Black Spider did make 10 appearances as a back-up feature in Ace Periodical’s Super-Mystery Comics. That’s about as much as the Spider-Mobile got, right?
From Super-Mystery Comics vol. 1 #3 (October, 1940), here’s “The Black Spider.” Story and art are uncredited.
Pretty bad-a$$, but the Black Spider is about as good at hiding his secret identity as Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.
Coming tomorrow: The Spider Widow! She’s not what you expect …
Sorry for the long absence but real life and all that …
To make amends with the remaining Time Bulleteers out there, we’ll celebrate the conclusion of Dan Slott’s surprisingly fun “Spider-Verse” cross-over (and this is coming from a guy who hates modern comic-book crossovers) with a week of posts dedicated to the arachnid-themed heroes and heroines of the Golden Age.
First up: Fox’s Spider-Queen, funny books’ first honest-to-gosh web-slinger. Like most of the characters in the Fox stable, the Queen only appeared in three issues of The Eagle, itself one of the publisher’s more obscure titles.
As everyone knows, however, super-heroes never truly die and Spider-Queen returned as a villain in a ’90s revival of Marvel’s Invaders super-team. Roy Thomas, who seemingly knows of and wishes to write every Golden Age character ever, reintroduced the character and other public-domain heroes as American Nazi sympathizers who viewed Hitler as the world’s best weapon against Communism.
She also adopted a rather bad ’90s hairdo about 50 years ahead of its time but the less said about that the better.
So let’s focus on happier times when the Spider Queen contented herself on beating the living daylights out of petty criminals. From The Eagle #3 (Fox, November 1941), here’s the thrillingly titled “The Torture Racketeers” as drawn by Elsa Lisau.
I would watch out for The Gladiator if this wasn’t Spider-Verse Week. So instead, come back tomorrow for the fearsome Black Spider! He’s scary because he throws poisonous black spiders at criminals!!