Sunday, 15 March 2020

Spider-Woman #1. A Future Uncertain!

Mere weeks ago, I took a look at the pulse-pounding debut of The Savage She-Hulk, the comic which proved women could smash things up too.

But She-Hulk wasn't the only female imitation of a male Marvel superstar to receive a comic of her own in that era.

We also got the start of a brand new series for Spider-Woman, brought to us by the dream team of Carmine Infantino and Marv Wolfman.

As the cover blurb informed us, to know her is to fear her! And, let's be honest, there are some who fear the writing of Marv Wolfman and the art of Carmine Infantino.

But what of me? Can I survive such three-sided terror, with my sanity intact?

We start with Spider-Woman hanging from a ceiling in a deserted London supermarket, at night, contemplating whether to steal from it, having not eaten in days.

No sooner has she decided not to lower herself to such robbery, than an agent of SHIELD, called Jerry, tries to arrest her for shoplifting, on behalf of Scotland Yard.

She gives him the slip - but not before he's seen her face and declared that he recognises her.

Actually, he says something along the lines of, "Your lovely, lovely, beautiful, gorgeous, magnificent face! I've seen it somewhere before!" I am paraphrasing there but it gives you an idea of the sort of thing Jerry from SHIELD likes to blurt out.

She declares it to be impossible for him to recognise her and rapidly returns to her rented hovel to bemoan her lot as an unemployed super-heroine who no one likes because, being half spider, they find her disturbing.

A lengthy flashback then tells us she's Jessica Drew, daughter of a scientist who wanted to inject us all with spider serum so we can survive the pollution and radiation the future's guaranteed to bring us.

Happily for the story, he wasn't a lone lunatic because his best friend was the man who'd go on to become the High Evolutionary and, when little Jessica started to die from radiation sickness, thanks to the massive quantities of uranium that lay beneath their base in Wundagore, her father injected her with his spider serum while the High Evolutionary started super-evolving her until, after several years, she became half-woman and half-spider.

Now living in London, she spends her time agonising over her life, failing to get a job and repulsing everyone, with her latent air of spideryness.

But, as it happens, roaming around the city again, she sees Jerry fighting a bunch of criminals armed with laser guns and she quickly puts a halt to their activities.

But it's all too late for Jerry who's been lasered, good and proper.

So, she rushes him to the hospital, gives him a transfusion of her blood and flies off, leaving him to lie in his bed and, not at all creepily, declare that he wants her as he's wanted no other woman!

I thought issue #1 of Black Goliath was depressing but it's nothing compared to this. Our heroine really is in a wretched situation and it seems to be getting worse with every moment. She has no family, no friends, no sense of identity, no sense of purpose, no food, no money, everyone hates her for reasons they don't seem to know, and the law is after her.

There are strangenesses to all this.

For instance, just why is a SHIELD operative guarding a supermarket while on secondment to Scotland Yard? I can only assume Hydra's been a bit quiet lately.

Also, Jessica decides to dye her hair black, so Jerry won't recognise her if he sees her again but, at the same time, she alters her mask, making her hair visible. Thanks to this, if Jerry ever does see her again, he'll be able to spot, at once, that she's changed her hair colour, ruining the whole point of her changing it.

Also, how exactly is she paying her rent?

I have to say it, Marv Wolfman's script is terrible. No one talks like the people in this comic talk and Jerry, who I assume we're supposed to like, comes across as a weird, stalkerish madman. Try as I might, I think I'm going to have serious trouble accepting him as Spider-Woman's Steve Trevor.

Carmine Infantino's art is fairly heavily buried beneath Tony DeZuniga's inks, so it looks noticeably more stylish than it often did during this phase of his career.

So, has knowing Spider-Woman caused me to fear her?

Well, not really.

I just feel a sense of hopelessness for her.

And that's probably my problem with the book. It's certainly more interesting than that first issue of She-Hulk but it's such a downer that I'm not sure I'd want to read any more issues of it.

Then again, there is a part of me that's curious to see just how it goes from here and whether this aura of misery and depression is maintained or if it's quickly abandoned for something less offputting.

Items of possible further interest:


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Steve - love the review!

So I was reading something or another in a comic magazine and Carmine I and Stan L were "long time" friends?

Did they work together back in the golden age?

Steve W. said...

I'm afraid I know nothing of Stan and Carmine's relationship with each other, beyond them declaring themselves to be old friends in the intro to the Superman vs Spider-Man Treasury Edition.

Killdumpster said...

Personally, I always liked Infantino's art. His run on Daredevil was visually enjoyable, even with generic villains like the Smasher.

Speaking of villains, the Spider-Woman series had a few interesting ones. As had been talked about before, the Brothers Grimm are favorites of mine.

Jessica looks better with her hair showing, than with the covered-head mask. Just my opinion.

ColinBray said...

Great review Steve. I don't think many (or any) or the original creators were into the Spider-Woman concept. Marvel executives pushed her onto the creatives for rights reasons only I believe. And it took an inspired-by-nostalgia Brian Bendis to finally make her relevant within the wider MCU about 15 years ago.

I always liked her gothic air to be honest. Or maybe it was just her goth hair.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Wait... Colin B and KD, are you nostalgic for the wild hair, red uniform look vs. when her Spiderman uniform?

If so, I must agree that the free-flowing hair serves for great flair as would a cape. I really don't care for the "spidey with breasts" look.

ColinBray said...

I hadn't thought about the hair as a proxy cape but by golly, you're into something Charlie!

As for the 'Spidey with breasts' angle, Frank Cho thought the same when he drew a panel of Spider-Woman unconscious, being prepared for an operation. On the table by her bedside were a pair of breast implants in their natural state. It's comics but not as we knew them.

Killdumpster said...

Yeah, Charlie, Give me the red suit & black hair any day.

Hey UK brothers, did you get the Spider Woman cartoon? It was kinda goofy, but went good with reefer & beer or wine.

ColinBray said...

No Killdumpster, I had no idea a Spider-Woman cartoon existed. I'll check it out - sans reefer and wine - and report back.

Anonymous said...

I thought Spider-Woman's original deal was the she was evolved up from an actual spider by the High Evolutionary in the same way he messed around with pigs, goats, lions, etc.
Understandably she was dismayed by this news. Sorta like me when I found out I was half Dutch.
Anyhoo, they retconned it a bit to make her more palatable. She was a human woman who got injected with, I dunno, spider serum or DNA. I think this was maybe a mistake. Like the Swamp Thing who was a vegetable walking around thinking he's a human, she coulda been a spider walking (or crawling) around thinking she's human.
Lotta potential for stories there, but this was years before Vertigo and other such envelope-pushing mags.
Charlie, it wouldn't surprise me if Infantino and Stan were long time buddies. Those guys from Marvel and D.C. used to have lunch together, play golf together, booze it up together...heck, maybe they even swapped wives. I know there was a lotta weed smoking going on.
It didn't take long in that shared environment for Stan to hear about the creation of the Justice League, and he lost no time in jumping on the bandwagon and creating (or co-creating) the F.F. and the Avengers.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Colin Bray is back! Yea!

Anonymous said...

Eh? You mean the baseball player, Charlie? I thought they cancelled the baseball season.
Everything is gonna slow to a crawl.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Well, here in Illinois they have closed every restaurant, school, and bar until at least April now, by mandate of the guverner!

My library is closed until April 6.

I can't get no toilet paper.

W.t.h... This is no way to run a Hoax!

MP - I found this site b/c Steve, Colin J, and Colin B, contributed a remarkable column to "Back in the Bronze Age" blog on UK Marvel Comics. I printed it out even, and keep it tucked under my mattress!

Anonymous said...

A toilet paper shortage is dire. I guess it's every sucker for himself.
We'll get through it. I heard this relatively young woman talking on NPR who catched it, and it don't sound like very much fun. But we'll get through it.
They ain't figured out a way to kill M.P. or Charlie.


Redartz said...

Thank goodness for comic books in times like these. I can spend some quarantine time reading great stories and looking at great art. And if I run out of toilet paper, I still have some pretty lame comics that would fill the need...

Anonymous said...

I was in my local Tesco supermarket this morning and they hadn't run out of anything but they were low on pasta, toilet paper and long-life milk. For some reason bottled water is rationed - only 5 bottles allowed per person but the shelves of bottled water were completely full so nobody is panic-buying bottled water. I'm mystified why Tesco thinks shoppers would be desperate to stock up on bottled water when water is freely available from a tap. We are getting a taste of what the last days of civilisation will look like when that time inevitably comes...assuming it isn't here already :D

Steve W. said...

Thanks for all your comments, so far. I hope you and your loved ones are all well.

KD, I really liked Infantino's 1960s work but, by the late 1970s, all his figures had become strangely wide, as though he was working with his drawing board held at an odd angle.

KD, Colin B and Charlie, I agree, Jessica definitely looked better with the long black hair.

KD, like Colin B, I was previously completely unaware of the existence of the Spider-Woman cartoon.

MP, I think I prefer the idea of her being a human injected with spider serum, rather than her being a super-evolved spider, if only because there was nothing at all spidery about her appearance.

Redartz, I'm now tempted to ask everyone just which comics they'd use first if the worst came to the worst and the world ran out of toilet paper, but I feel it'd be too harsh on the creators of those comics, were I to do so.

Colin J, all those post-apocalytical films I sat through in the 1970s and 80s and not one of them successfully predicted that riots over toilet paper were going to lead to the breakdown of civilisation. How did Hollywood not see it coming?

ColinBray said...

I'm on the Leadership team managing 54 public libraries in the south west of the UK. As it stands libraries they remain open to the public. However, I can see that changing in the next week or so. My priority right now is how we can ramp up our virtual/digital/eBook offer while offering any community support we can. It's a complex "web" of challenges* that's for sure.

*Note the incredibly weak attempt to stay on topic.

ColinBray said...

MP - I Google my own name daily and am constantly shocked to find I'm actually a black baseball player.

Anonymous said...

Great review Steve. Not that I'm familiar with the comic, but I have read the terrible Marv Wolfman issues of Marvel Two-in-One with Spider-Woman - and Spider-Alicia(!) - that preceded it, which is where the old money printing plate plot came from.
As if making decimalisation a twist wasn't enough, they also cause demons to appear at Stonehenge in possibly the most "British" Marvel story ever (Chris Claremont eat your heart out).

Still, to be fair to Wolfman, maybe he was just a bit ahead of the curve.
Back in '77 someone who injected his daughter with spider serum to survive future pollution seemed like too much of a one dimensional wacko cliche even for a comic book; but in our modern era of rampant right-wing idiocy it just sounds like the kind of "out of the box" thinking that qualifies someone to be a special advisor for the government...


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Colin Bray - when you walked off the airplane in Chicago, in 2019, to go to C2E2 in Chicago,only once you came out of the dim glow of Customs, could I tell you were not 6'3 and 200 lbs, LOL!

Our library, and many others, are now closed until at least April! No fines for past due books and DVDs! Which is good b/c "A French Village" is 9 seasons!!!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Okay- the subject has been breached and none of us foul mouthed, uncouth regulars did it! It was the ever gracious, humble Redartz and Steve who did it!

So, should I wake up in time tomorrow, to post the question on it will be.

"We are out of toilet paper because of the Corona Virus hoarders! But our venerable BitBA host Redartz posted on that we could use a lame comic as a substitute! (Why not? My grandmother told me that they used the Sears Catalogue, then leaves, back in the 1920s in her outhouse in Winthrop Harbor, Illinois.) So, list your favorite lame comic that you would sacrifice!

Also, list a lame song, TV show, Movie, or whatever that actually makes you want to sh@t!"

But I think we could start this poll here, just as well!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Can someone tell me what the hell Captain Glory, Bombast, NIghtahwk and all the Kirby stuff published by Topps Comics in 1993 is? Is this Kirby's 4th World I heard about?

I was just looking at Cpt Glory (the long boxes are out!) and this gem by Roy the Boy and Steve Ditko (plotted by Jack Kirby?) is my nominee for lame comic that will serve honorably if the hoarders don't let off the toilet paper hoarding!

Anonymous said...

Colin, I recently filled out my census form whilst I was drunk and I think I may have accidently described myself as a 103-year old Lithuanian woman.

This is the first time I ever heard of any Captain Glory. That is one cheesy name.


Anonymous said...

They were comics based on unrealized old ideas in Kirby's files Charlie. Basically Topps licensed some of his doodles, and paid people like Houseroy and Ditko to turn them into comics.

Kirby's Fourth World was something else. Which first appeared around the same time as the Dingbats...


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Thanks Sean!

Captain Glory and Satan's Six, Kamandi, 4th World.. Mr. Kirby was quite inventive.

(But that art in Cpt Glory by Ditko... ain't easy on the eyes.)

Anonymous said...

I've got a couple issues of Silver Star, which was a Kirby comic put out by Pacific Comics in the early '80's.
It was pretty gosh-darn strange, but it had this rather compelling arch-villain named Darius Drumm. He seemed to have a large amount of control over matter, and he was apparently a rather jovial psychopath. I mean, one disturbed bird. After he offed himself the comic came to an abrupt end.


Killdumpster said...

M.P., I also remember Spider-Woman's initial origin, before her self-titled book. The High Evolutionary origin was kinda in line with a hilariously horrible film, MESA OF LOST WOMEN.

A scientist evolves taratulas into women to take over the world! It stars a 30-40ish Jackie Coogahn, pre-Uncle Fester/Addams Family fame!! Riff Traxx do an excellent job tearing into this masterpiece.

Oh,my unenlightened brothers. Viewing at least one episode of Spider-Woman's cartoon is almost a requirement for any comics fan. Be amazed, a'la Linda Carter's tv Wonder Woman, as she spins and becomes our heroine! Lmao!

We're experiencing a small about of what socialism would be like here in the US. Shortages of bread, TP, and hand-sanitizer.

All the bars and liquor stores in my area are closed. Arrggghhh! Luckily a few years ago our PA government FINALLY let convienance stores & supermarkets sell beer & wine. Hooray!!!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Gents, chaps, blokes, mates... Everyone! Please weigh in at with you lamest comic, song, movie, tv show... it would mean a lot to Charlie!

Killdumpster said...

Ok, I'll try. Have a few brews in me, though.

Steve W. said...

I have now done just that, Charlie.

Killdumpster said...

Wow, Steve, hope Bronze Age didn't steal the thunder from your blog.

So, how's the family? Isn't that a typical "small talk" conversation starter? I always abhorred that. I'm a mostly get-to-the-point & speak-when-there's- something- to -say kinda guy.Lol.

Seriously, though, how you folks holding up with this damn virus thing?

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Steve and all the UK "bros,"

I second KD's question: How is life in the UK with the virus?

Also Steve, that was the most cogent and concise reply to a comic blog I've ever seen (at Truly.

You have to wonder if anyone is still getting any "Afternoon Delight" with this virus, LOL!

Killdumpster said...

Charlie, oh my brother, my "Afternoon Delight" has been re-reading the care-packages that you sent me.

A salute to you, for letting me finally realize the complete Avengers/Defenders War!! You da man!!!

Killdumpster said...

There's a bit of anticipation and dread at my workplace right now.

A Italian-American broad at work has a brother-in-law (who is " off the boat") that got out of Italy one day before they shut down travel.

The stubborn imbecile refuses to be tested. Its been a couple weeks, and my daygo co-worker now has a sickly daughter. I'm relatively freaking out.

The broad is an insane shrieker. She screams & yells nonstop, all day long. If she's carrying the virus, the shop is filled with it.

With my potential diminished immune system, still recovering from my buzzsaw-to-the-brain insodent, I'm a little concerned. Plus many of my other co-workers are older & have health issues also.

Killdumpster said...

Meant "incident". Damn Corona freak-out.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should correct "daygo co-worker" too Kd. Ffs...


Killdumpster said...

I'm part italian so l can spout that, but you're right. It's spelled "dago".

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Italian car tires: Dago through mud, dago through sand, dago through snow. And when dago flat dago wop, wop, wop... There! Charlie said it! His system has been cleansed of this lunacy! Let's move on! Boy was that nostalgic!

Redartz said...

Charlie- thanks for the 'recruitment'. And thanks Steve, for chiming in, and for sharing another bronze age topic. I've certainly borrowed some inspiration from you here, and I'd be honored if you've ever been inspired by our humble posts! Aaaah, we should all just meet together someday at a pub of your choice, Steve (that would give me an excuse to take my wife across the pond for a lark). Invite all your regulars, all our regulars, and raise a bunch of glasses to , well, everything...

Hope you all are getting along ok through this crazy time. If this was a film, it would be too far-fetched to believe. At the store today; no milk, no bread, no soup, no tp. Did find the last bottle of pasta sauce and a lonely box of spaghetti, so we have that...

Anonymous said...

I suppose that kind of bollocks (not you Redartz) is inevitable when you have a moron running your country going on about a "foreign virus", but ignorance is no excuse. Grow up.


Steve W. said...

I agree with Sean. I think it's best we don't use ethnically abusive terms for people. Remember, the Internet is global and the readership of this blog hails from all quarters of that globe.

Charlie, the UK has had a spectacular lack of leadership. Once the government was told its initial plan of encouraging "Herd Immunity" would kill over a quarter of a million people, it just started making its policy up as it went along. Rumours are that London will be put into lockdown at the weekend.

Redartz, British supermarkets have finally got round to limiting the number of items people can buy. I've not been to the shops in about two weeks, so I don't have a clue how things are locally. I plan to make a grocery trip at the weekend. Only then shall I find out how Night of the Living Dead it is out there.

Anonymous said...

I was in my local Tesco supermarket this morning and there were lots of empty shelves - no long-life milk, hardly any tinned food, almost no bread. And the store was so crowded it felt like Christmas Eve but without Slade and Boney M playing in the background. I completely forgot to check on the bottled water situation!!

Killdumpster said...

Sorry. Too much beer & paranoia last night.