THE SPIDER >> WHO IS THE SPIDER?
Who is The Spider?
By Chris Kalb
If I was pitching The Spider franchise in Hollywood I might say: He's a superhero. Trapped in a horror film. Directed by John Woo.
Let's break it down.
Superhero. 1930's Pulp vigilantes were really the precursors of 1940's comic book heroes. The Spider didn't take down common gangsters—he only got involved when the criminal had a crazy name for himself like The Living Pharoah, The Death Fiddler, or The Cholera King.
Horror Film. Things get pretty hairy in these stories, and downright creepy. The Spider borrowed heavily from the "weird menace" pulps that were inspired by the Grand Guignol theater. We're talking people roasted on spits in store windows, art made of human bodies, oragnutans threatening rape, bat-men, lepers, and miles and miles of dark caverns and spooky oriental passageways.
John Woo. The gunplay in The Spider magazine is at an operatic level. It can only call to mind the slow-motion ballets of violence composed by John Woo in his Hong Kong days or earliest Hollywood films. If you liked the "bags of guns" ending of The Killer you will like The Spider.
So, Batman, with guns, vs. the Army of Darkness kind of gives you the proper visual. But underneath the surface of apocalypse is a searing emotional story too! In and around the toppling buildings of New York, and the Death Rays and the Black Plagues, are people who feel love, loss, and betrayal—not just the stabbing heartbreak of a .45 caliber bullet. Richard Wentworth and his friends pay an emotional price for their service to the ideal of justice; And some pay the ultimate price.
This "emotional urgency" is what sets The Spider apart from other Hero Pulps, and makes the novels so readable today. While heroes like The Shadow and Doc Savage would glide through their adventures unmoved and untouched by the madness around them, The Spider tried to show—for all its breakneck, fantastical plotting—the real impact that a violent life of service has on the justice figure.
And there were guns. Lots of guns.
And the occasional leper.
Chris Kalb is the creator of spiderreturns.com and the award-winning cartoonist behind 'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy And Other Misheard Lyrics (Fireside), Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals For Kids (Lake Isle Press) and Breakup Girl
Background art by Rafael DeSoto
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