THE SPIDER WIDOWMedium: Comic books
Published by: Quality Comics
First Appeared: 1942
Creator: Frank Borth
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The Spider Widow, a Quality Comics character, didn't look much like one of those moneyed idlers who take to superheroing to add meaning to an otherwise bland and banal existence, such as Lady Luck, Miss Fury and Miss Masque, to name
only a few female ones. But she was close enough. At least, unlike those, she had the added excuse of an actual super power. She didn't acquire it in a dangerous accident, like most, but was what would nowadays be called a mutant, i.e., she was simply born with it. It was when she discovered she could use the force of her mind to control black widow spiders that she took it into her head to join the popular trend, and put on a costume to fight crime.
But she eschewed the usual gaudy skin-tights in favor of the less attractive look of a Halloween-style witch, complete with a mask making her look like a green-skinned crone. She may not have been as pretty as earlier superhero women, but she did, like Batman and The Face before her, manage to scare the heck out of evildoers.
It was in Quality's Feature Comics #57 (June, 1942), where the usual cover features at the time were Doll Man and Lala Palooza, that she joined the ranks of back-page superheroes (including Manhunter and Quicksilver, who, like her, never appeared on a cover). Her six-page introductory story briefly dealt with young, athletic, bored (but beautiful, at least in her undisguised state) Diane Grayton's discovery of her unusual ability, and her decision to use the costume, and still had room for her to put an end to a gang of crooks.
The story was drawn and probably written by cartoonist Frank Borth. His greatest fame came from the newspaper comic, There Oughta Be a Law!, which had been inspired by Jimmy Hatlo's They'll Do It Every Time. He's also known for his work on Treasure Chest, which was distributed through parochial schools. Borth handled The Spider Widow almost (but not quite) to the end of her run in Feature Comics.
Three issues after her introduction, The Spider Widow hooked up with The Raven (no relation), a winged superhero like Hawkman or Bird Man, but one who lacked a feature of his own (and no had relation to the minor T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent of that name). They remained partners for the duration of her series, an early example of a superhero having another superhero as a supporting character (like Elongated Man was to The Flash). She later hooked up with The Phantom Lady, whose own fairly brief run in Quality's Police Comics (Plastic Man, Firebrand) was winding up.
As did The Spider Widow's own, as of Feature Comics #72 (October, 1943), only a month after The Phantom Lady moved back out. Quality Comics was then through with what was possibly the world's ugliest female superhero (Fantomah may or may not have taken the cake, depending on whether or not she was a superhero), but in 1956 DC Comics acquired many of the company's properties.
There is an "urban legend" among comic book fans that many of Quality's characters had fallen out of copyright, and were therefore no longer owned by anyone at all, by the time DC came along. In reality, copyrights lasted 28 years before renewal back then, so Quality didn't last long enough for any of its properties to lapse into the public domain (tho DC's claim to her may be somewhat clouded for other reasons). In any case, DC never did make actual use of her.