dochermes (dochermes) wrote,

The SPIDER WIDOW will make her spiders crawl all over you

The SPIDER WIDOW orders spiders to crawl all over you

"The Grandmother of Terror!"

Ick, eww and Oh No! What an unsettling super-power. Yes, the Spider Widow carried a horde of Black Widow spiders with her (inside her dress as far as I can tell). When it was time for action, she released them to scuttle out and swarm all over crooks and Axis spies and the like, crawling and biting and freaking them out big time. *Ack!* I don't care how tough a gangster or Nazi was, having a dozen big ol' spiders running around under your clothes would distract you. The venomous bite was also something hard to ignore. You can imagine the bad guys saying, "To Hell with this, I'd rather get punched out by Spy Smasher any day!"

(Where would you go to obtain a dozen Black Widow spiders, anyway..?)

Dianne Grayton was yet another bored wealthy member of the top 1% who discovered her weird ability to control spiders and figured here was the excitement she was looking for. Instead of a colorful skin-tight masquerade costume, though, she dressed up as the classic Old Witch in a long black dress with a pointed brimmed hat. Dianne also put on an rubber mask that gave her the green hag face. (This was "ugly mask" gimmick was also used by the Face, a more successful vigilante over in BIG SHOT COMICS.) The Spider Witch strip debuted in Quality's FEATURE COMICS# 57 in June 1942. It was created by Frank Borth, and to be honest neither the writing nor the art was anything to get excited about. Quality was known for some of the best art in comics, including Jack Cole (PLASTIC MAN), Reed Crandall (BLACKHAWK), Lou Fine and Paul Gustavson. But the Spider Queen strip had a cluttered, unattractive look.

Almost immediately, Spider Queen acquired a partner. In the third story, she was rescued by a guy in a black bird costume (complete with working wings), the Raven, and the two started working together. (The Raven was another Golden Age hero with bare legs, I need to keep a list.) Just to complicate things, neither the Spider Queen nor the Raven knew the other's true identity, so there was a good deal of sneaking off to get into costume and many lame explanations as to what they had been up to during the fighting. The strip ran in FEATURE COMICS until # 72, June 1943.

Aside from her creepy super-power, the Spider Queen had one distinction very rare in Golden Age comics, a multiple-part cross-over with another strip. FEATURE COMICS# 69-71 and POLICE COMICS# 20-22 had the Spider Queen and the Phantom Lady team up, with the Raven caught between them. (Frank Borth was writing and drawing both strips.) By this time, Dianne and the Raven had some Unresolved Romantic Tension going on between them and seeing him paired up with the Phantom Lady (of all people) made her understandably insecure but it all worked out. This featured that surreal Golden Age touch where the characters mentioned to each other the comic books they appeared in ("I'll come over to POLICE COMICS next month to give you a hand"). I always liked this, it's so metaphysical. It would be as if there was a cross-over between two TV crime programs and one of the detectives remarked, "Well, next Tuesday I'll visit CBS and help you." Viewers would fall off their couches. It was great that the two crime-fighters did not get along at all ("Just remember this is MY strip, so just stay in the background where you belong!" actual dialogue). They had a raging feud that made the papers before the Raven convinced them to try and get along.

Right after this, SPIDER QUEEN ended as a strip. DC Comics (the "Engulf and Devour" company) bought the rights to the Quality characters when that publisher folded. In fact, BLACKHAWK continued as a DC comic without even missing an issue and made it to issue #243 in 1968, quite a feat. Along with Uncle Sam, Plastic Man, Phantom Lady and several others, Spider Queen presumably is now the property of DC. I don't think they have ever used her, but my cut-off date is around 1976 or so, I would have missed it if Spider Queen got a mini-series or anything. Very likely, she popped up in one or two panels during one of those huge genoicidal slaughters like CRISIS ON INFINITE WORLDS that DC runs every now and then to reboot things.
Tags: comics, golden age

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