Robot 6

Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs | Meet The Spider

The Spider #1

There’s something very attractive about the classic pulp heroes. As cool as superpowers can be, there’s a reason that Batman’s the most popular superhero on the planet and a huge part of that is that he’s a (relatively) normal guy. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.

What I find interesting is this entire pulp heritage that he’s heir to. We don’t have time to dig into why Batman’s more popular than Doc Savage, the Shadow, and the Spider, but it would be fascinating to pull that apart and look at it sometime. For now, let’s concentrate on the similarities. There’s this huge catalog of characters that share some extremely close similarities with the Dark Knight (many of whom predate him in creation) and yet we don’t hear much about them anymore.

Moonstone’s trying to change that with their Return of the Originals event and that makes me happy. I’m also happy about DC’s whole First Wave thing (or was until that previous post) that I’m finally going to get to read when the first collection comes out in a couple of months, but Moonstone’s effort is even wider spread. They’re reintroducing a ton of characters to comics that I’ve heard about most of my life, but until now have never read a single adventure of. One of the most intriguing is The Spider.

The Spider

What I’ve heard about The Spider is that he’s sort of a cross between Batman and the Joker. We’ve all heard the comparisons between those two characters (“I made you?! You made me!”), but The Spider (who beat both of DC’s characters to print by several years) combines them in an interesting way. He puts on a costume and fights crime, but he’s really violent about it and laughs maniacally the entire time. Or so I’ve been told.

The first issue of Martin Powell and Pablo Marcos’ new series is also the first Spider story I’ve ever read, but it certainly reinforces that description. The similarities between The Spider and Batman are huge. The story opens with wealthy playboy Richard Wentworth’s being grilled by his friend Commissioner Kirkpatrick about a subway incident at which witnesses placed both Wentworth and The Spider. Apparently, Kirkpatrick is also a bit of Lois Lane to Wentworth’s Clark Kent in that he suspects the secret identity, but isn’t able to prove it.

Powell doesn’t spend a lot of time on that, but I hope he comes back to it later. I always like Lois and Clark’s relationship best when she was trying to prove that he was Superman, but she was so bad at it (to be fair, the deck was stacked against her) that she was never a real threat. But imagine if Jim Gordon knew – really knew – that Bruce Wayne was Batman and was constantly on his case to prove it. There’s an element of danger there that already makes we want to come back for the next issue.

The real plot of The Spider #1 has to do with the abduction of Wentworth’s girlfriend who does know that he’s The Spider. Even though this is the first issue of an ongoing series, it’s a done-in-one story with a mad scientist and a – well, “army” would be an exaggeration, but certainly a “gang” of undead creatures. Not zombies thankfully. Powell and Marcos’ depiction of them owes more to Mary Shelley than George Romero. They’re not the scariest part of the story though. That would be The Spider himself.

Though Wentworth appears normal enough, when he puts on his wig, mask, cape, and fake fangs he seems to switch personalities. The descriptions of The Spider as violent and maniacal are apt. What’s unclear from this issue is whether that’s an act or a true shift in personality brought on by the change in costume, but I don’t really care to learn the answer to that. Not knowing makes the character more interesting. Just like Kirkpatrick’s investigation of Wentworth, this is something I’d love to see Powell tease out for a long time.

Operator 5

Also in this issue is a back-up story by Gary Phillips and Roberto Castro featuring a character called Operator 5. Unlike the lead story, this one will be continued in the next issue, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Operator 5 is a mysterious agent working for an unseen boss, so there was a lot of potential for him to have been an extremely bland protagonist. That’s not the case though thanks to a couple of things that make him particularly endearing.

First, there’s the way Castro draws him. I love Castro’s work on the whole story, but his depiction of the unnamed hero combines square-jawed toughness with expressive gentleness. There’s no doubt that he’s a capable fighter, but there’s an extremely attractive vulnerability about him too that gets you rooting for him even though you know nothing about him. It’s impressively done and is backed up by Phillips’ script. When the white supremacist that the undercover Operator 5 is investigating asks, “Do you love your country, Joe?” and Operator 5 answers, “That I do, sir. There’s very little I wouldn’t do in that regard,” you know exactly what he’s talking about and you can’t wait for the villain to find out too.

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Comments

12 Comments

I will definitely be adding this to my regular list of comic books. I love the pulp style heroes and it’s absolutely fantastic to see Mr. Marcos’ art ….top of his game and better than ever.

Judging by the cover, it appears that Alice Cooper IS The Spider.

I am a SPIDER fan, and have read some of the pulp reprint novels. The guy is bat-sh*t insane.
From the reading I’ve done, my take is The Spider is an integrated part of Wentworth’s persona; there’s great paragraphs in those old pulp novels where he in monologizing (internally) about his glee at getting to lay waste to all his enemies, and spots where the Wentowrth voice describes the gnawing in his gut, and wanting to unleash The Spider’s vengeance (there’s a lot of these spots, Wentworth is clearly psychotic).
But interestingly, I don’t recall and sections where The Spider refers to Wentowrth as a separate part of him, so I’ve always taken it that there’s no break or wall in the character’s head, he sees The Spider as just an aspect of himself. Which again, is a pretty terrifying idea.
The stories were unusually full of paranoia too, and [possible] betrayal of the the hero by his most trusted friends, described–again–in well written agonizing internal monologue.

I’ve never read the Tim Truman version of the character from those 80s Eclipse comics, but I recall they were well recieved. I have read a couple of the prose stories Moonstone put out, which were okay but didn’t really capture the full bore unhinged action of the old stories. I’ll still be checking these out though, I always have high hopes for Moonstone, and sometimes they come through.

Actually, in the books, it becomes pretty clear that Kirkpatrick knows Wentworth is the Spider, but has no interest in stopping him unless events or politics force him into it. Which is not surprising, considering that Spider villains murder tens to hundreds to thousands of people in a single story. One of the big appeals of the books is their grindhouse-style parade of horrors, including a story which features a yellow peril villain poisoning the population via cigarettes and beauty supplies and threatening NIta with rape by an orangutan. I agree with JRC, though, that Wentworth doesn’t seem to draw lines between himself and the Spider. They’re a single, integrated personality.

Thanks for the background, guys. Martin Powell sent me a note on Facebook too confirming that he’s planning to continue digging into Wentworth’s personality and Kirkpatrick’s investigation as the series progresses. Should be a lot of fun.

After reading the post I really wanted to pick this up. I’m having a hard time finding out when the series came out. I can’t seem to find the issue above at Midtown and the Moonstone website is very much not user friendly. Oh well guess I won’t be buying it.

I too went looking for it on ComiXology and could not find it or its release date. I’ve contacted my comic book shop to see if he can get a copy for me, but with all the various minis and one shots that have been out recently, it seem pretty tough to track down. I hope my local shop can find it for me!

I also agree that the Moonstone web site is not the best resource for info.

Thanks, Matt and Ronn. My review was based on a PDF, but I’ve sent an email to Moonstone asking for more information. I’ll let you know what I learn.

I tried to order this too but my LCS had never heard of it and couldn’t find any mention of it on Diamond or even on Moonstone’s own website. :(

This doesn’t bode well for Moonstones launch of Return Of The Originals.Has anybody else seen anything other than Northern Guard #1 so far? I was trying to cut back on on goings anyway and switch to trades.My LCS has carried Moonstone before but I don’t know what his success rate is with actually getting them in. He is very organised at his end in doing all the paperwork is all I know.

My LCS carries a few of their titles, and seems to get them regularly–though they don’t seem to sell to well, and I don’t even pick them up most of the time.

I don’t know why the trouble tracking their stuff down, at shops, but yes they really should redesign their web storefront.

JRC is right it is hard but okay at vthe same time because i still get exercise that i need trying to find the stuff

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