Afficionados of 1930's pulp will know that the idea of a "Spider" Man vigilante appeared long before Stan Lee's 1962 creation. Author Reginald Thomas Maitland Scott created "The Spider" in 1933. With hints of Batman to come, the character Richard Wentworth was by day one of the wealthiest men in the world. By night he was a merciless vigilante that would ruthlessly hunt and kill those in the underworld whom the police could not touch.
The subject of two serialised movies, and over a hundred prose stories, the Spider was a major success. In "Origins of Marvel Comics", Stan credits "The Spider" as having been a key factor in his creation of Spider-Man. Having heard that rumour, I felt obliged to pick up a little more knowledge about the roots of Spidey, and for that reason, I picked up this TPB when I stumbled across it.
Rather than being the original, this is a 48 TPB from 1991. It consists of 41 pages of comic and 7 pages of 1930's back-history (mostly about the "Spider" movie serials rather than the actual character or the stories). Set in the 1930's, there is a definite air of "homage" around the tale, which in no way attempts to update or change the basic ideals of the character.
We see Richard Wentworth in action, saving young books from sacrifice cults, killing all and sundry in the process. Yet this is merely part of a deeper plot involving a one-eyed commandant wearing leather lingerie and smoking through a cigarette holder. Asian man-servant Ram Singh is there to help Wentworth, as ever. Wentworth, I should mention, has very pointy teeth - a topic which must be awkward at high-level board meetings.
To a devotee of the original tales, this story may hold some interest, but I must confess that as an introduction to the character I struggled to see the appeal. Some claim that modern audiences are dumber than their predecessors, but I like to think that 1933's pulp is basically as dumb as 2005's pulp, give or take. I don't like shallow, one-dimensional characters from any era, and this one offered very little to catch my interest.
When placed next to, for example, Leslie Charteris' "Saint" (who debuted in 1929), the "Spider" comes up rather short of the mark. While Stan may credit the Spider with helping originate Peter Parker, that sadly counts for little in terms of adding interest to the original character. This modern continuation adds nothing either. Perhaps the original "Spider" stories are exceptionally well written. Maybe one day I'll track one down and find out. In any case, I won't be bothering to track down parts two and three of this Truman/Alcatena/Parsons update.
Meanwhile, if you're interested, here's a site with more info about The Spider pulp fiction.
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