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Glossary and Character Taxonomy Breakdown by Country of Origin Bibliography Table of Contents The Best of the Encyclopedia
The Spider (II). The Spider (II) was created by Henry Steeger, the Canadian author R.T.M. Scott (Aurelius Smith) and Norvell Page (Dick Barrett, Bill Carter, Ken Carter, Death Angel, Dunne, Octopus (II), Feargod Peace, Scorpion (II), Jules Tremaine, Wan Tengri) and appeared in The Spider #1-118 (1933-1943) and in film serials in 1938 and 1941.
The Spider (II) is one of the two or three greatest heroes of the American pulps. The Spider is a Costumed Avenger Killer Vigilante. Richard Wentworth, a millionaire playboy and philanthropist. Wentworth is a veteran of World War One and has a great hatred for evil. He hates it so much that every night he puts on a frightening outfit, with long white hair, sallow skin, a hunchback and fangs, and prowls the city, “ruthless and terrible,” guns in hand, killing all those who broke the law. His trademark is the brand left by his cigarette lighter on the foreheads of murdered criminals; the brand is a red spider with tensed legs and poison fangs, and was instantly recognizable. The Spider makes use of a few gadgets to fight crime, among them “the web,” a long cord, which he uses both to tie up criminals and to swing through the city. If need be, the Spider disguises himself as Blinky McQuade, Rupert Barton, Dan Tewkes, or Limpy McGee.
The Spider is aided by a crew of devoted and talented assistants. His manservant is the Hindu (later Sikh) Ram Singh. The Spider’s chauffeur is Ronald Jackson, who served under Wentworth in World War One. Professor Brownlee, an aging inventor, creates the Spider’s gadgets. Police Commissioner Stanley Kirkpatrick is the sworn enemy of the Spider, but is Wentworth’s best friend. The Spider’s love interest is Nita van Sloan, a beautiful society playgirl who also happens to be a crack shot and a skilled hand-to-hand combatant.
The Spider’s enemies are among the most violent and destructive in the American pulps. There is the Black Death, who sets the Plague loose in Manhattan. There is the Eye of Flame, who burns thousands in New York. There is The Wreck, an Evil Surgeon who transforms Nita into a cripple. There is the Vampire King, who commands hordes of vampire bats. There is the City Destroyer, who targets New York City and begins by destroying the Empire State Building. There is the Tarantula, the head of a crime syndicate. There is the Devil, a cloaked supercriminal who can “atomize” people with a super-explosive. There is the Fly, the Spider’s opposite. And there is Ssu Hsi Tze, the hypnotic Yellow Peril "Ruler of Vermin."
* I'm including The Spider in the Best of the Encyclopedia list because the stories are fun to read and the Spider (II) is archetypal. The Spider (II) is the archetypal Costumed Avenger Killer Vigilante, the character that eventually gave rise to the Punisher in the comic books and Mack Pendleton and all the rest of them in the 1960s and 1970s men's paperbacks. The Spider, on the other hand, while popular and long-lasting, didn't exactly inspire imitators, because other pulp writers recognized that Steeger, Scott, and Page were writing something divinely or perhaps infernally inspired, and the other writers couldn't compete with that. There's a divine or infernal lunacy at work in the Spider (II) stories. The stories have a nightmarish feel and present a world of malign cruelty in which death could strike at any time to anyone thanks to the schemes of merciless supervillains. The Spider (II) is a creation out of a bad dream, a nightmare stalking nightmares through a city in which collateral damage is not something for the Spider (II) to be concerned about. The Spider is unlike other pulps in its thoroughgoing insanity; it reads as though it was sent to our universe from a much darker and vicious place.
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