Marvel Spotlight #32: Spider-Woman (1977)

As the story goes, in 1977, an animation studio was developing a new cartoon series featuring a character named Spider-Woman. Fearing that they would lose their copyright to a distaff version of their most popular character, Marvel rushed out their own version of Spider-Woman in an issue of Marvel Spotlight, a try-out series for Marvel’s second-raters. Marvel protected their copyright, and the cartoon character was called Web Woman or something. Spider-Woman went on to a very indistinguished series that somehow managed to run for fifty issues, while the cartoon came and went.
 
My favorite thing about this comic (which, I should say, I read in its original form but which is available in the recently-published Essential Spider-Woman) is the blurb on the cover: "Positively the most shocking ending you’ll read this month." Cool, thought I, pulling the comic out of its stack and preparing for the shock ending, a Marvel comic with a zing to it. So I read the issue and… umm… there is no shock ending.
 
Spider-Woman thinks she’s a girl, but the High Evolutionary, a kind of extraterrestrial mutant-creator who creates people out of animals. From a spider he created this woman. Somehow the evil spy organization Hydra brainwashes Spider-Woman and convinces her to fight the good spy organization SHIELD. How a mutated spider has brains and emotions (she’s a good cryer) was retroactively explained by having the fake spider thingy be a dream or a hoax or something – comics r dumb – but anyway, Spider-Woman lived in an alpine village, happy, until she killed someone. When that is revealed to her, our heroine cries (for the second time in two pages), betrays Hydra, and wanders off into the woods, seeking her true identity.
 
I wonder what was meant by the shock ending here. Her betrayal of her friend? Her betraying Hydra? Her ugly costume that made her look bald? Or maybe it was the return of Deathlok the Demolosher in the next issue of Marvel Spotlight. I just don’t get it.
 
I do really like the art by Sal Buscema, inked by Jim Mooney. For some reason I’ve always had a weak spot for Our Pal Sal. Many fans don’t like his style, complaining that it’s bland, but I’ve always liked the clean and solid way he tells stories. Under Buscema, the story is always told in a solidly clear way, and is easy to follow.
 
This comic has all the makings of a rushed story, without a lot of internal consistency and with a misleading covre blurb. But heck, Marvel kept that copyright and doesn’t that make you happy?
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