Wednesday, 27 January 2016
The Spider was a truly great character in British comics, one of the darkest and weirdest heroes of an era where every hero was dark and weird. He was introduced with no backstory or explanation, just sold to us as a master criminal who was so convinced of his own genius, he took to battling other criminals he considered beneath him.
Was he an alien? A mutant? A young Basil Rathbone?
We didn't know, and his mystery was always part of his appeal. But the stories he appeared in have a couple of problems, for me. Firstly, they mostly consisted of The Spider fighting low-rent villians like The Android Emperor, Mr. Mysterioso and The Exterminator, none of whom were a match for the self-appointed King Of Crooks, and secondly each episode consisted basically of he and each bad guy trading boasts as to who was more powerful.
And there was the fact that each tale usually went on way, way too long. But then these stories were never meant to be read en masse, but week by week, and were clearly made up on the fly. Not that I noticed any of this as a kid, of course. All I knew was that The Spider himself was always cool, fun and a little bit scary. Plus, there was some incredibly unsettling imagery in this strip. Like this:
And as if all that wasn't enough, he was mostly written by no less a name than Jerry Seigel.
Here's a done in one tale that sidesteps those issues, from the 1977 Valiant annual, as The Deathmaster unwisely challenges our anti-anti-hero to a duel to the death. The pitiable fool. None can challenge the might of The Spider!