Spider-Woman vs. the deadly Daddy Longlegs. Artist: Brian Postman.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1977
Creators: Archie Goodwin (writer), Sal Buscema and Jim Mooney (artists)
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Spider-Woman was created by writer Archie Goodwin (Manhunter) and artists Sal Buscema (The Hulk) and Jim Mooney (Dial H for Hero), in the sense that Archie was created by writer Vic …

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… Bloom and artist Bob Montana — they put flesh on a character whose existence had been mandated by the company they worked for. The impetus for the introduction of Spider-Woman didn't come from a creator's vision but, like that of She-Hulk and Supergirl, the desire to publish and trademark a female version of a popular male character. Marvel Comics was less interested in promoting her, per se, than in keeping anyone else (such as Filmation's upcoming Web Woman) from using such a character name to latch onto the coat-tails of Spider-Man.

Not surprisingly, she showed a certain lack of focus. When she first appeared, in Marvel Spotlight #32 (February, 1977) (the title had previously been used to introduce Werewolf by Night, The Son of Satan and others), she was depicted as an actual spider, transformed by The High Evolutionary (an extremely hubristic scientist seen here and there in the Marvel Universe, who also figured in the back-story of Adam Warlock) into a near-duplicate of a human being.

But when she moved out into her own title (April, 1978), writer Marv Wolfman (Dial H for Hero, Tomb of Dracula) threw that out the window. She'd been human all along, a young girl named Jessica Drew, the daughter of a scientist working with the man who made her what she was. To save her from radiation poisoning, she'd had spider DNA grafted onto her genes, and was placed in a sealed capsule, where she grew up, educated by tapes. When she got out, cured and imbued with super powers such as strength, immunity from most poisons, and ability to project bolts of electricity (which she called her "venom blast"), she got involved with H.Y.D.R.A., the bad guy organization that antagonizes S.H.I.E.L.D. Once she gained a bit more experience with the outside world, she distanced herself from them and became like most other Marvel superheroes.

That set the pattern. When a new writer came aboard, it was "Everything you know is wrong" time. Not all of them retconned her back-story, but most made radical changes in her situation. She suddenly moved from Eastern Europe to Los Angeles, where she became a private detective. She got de-powered and powered up again — more than once. She enlisted the aid of a magic-wielder to make the world forget she existed, but that didn't take. She died and came back, not that that's so unusual at Marvel. And stuff.

In the midst of all this, she appeared in an animated TV series which began September 22, 1979 on ABC. Her voice was done by Joan Van Ark, also heard in Thundarr the Barbarian and Tarzan & the Super Seven. It was produced by DePatie-Freleng (Super President). The show lasted one season of 16 episodes.

Back in comic books, readers eventually grew tired of all the shifting around, and of her. After 50 issues (the last dated June, 1983), she retired from superheroing and was published no more. A couple of years later, Marvel used Secret Wars, its first company-wide crossover series, as an opportunity to protect its trademark by bringing out a new Spider-Woman. When that one went relatively inactive, they made a third.

The original Spider-Woman is currently living in New York, doing things nobody could ever have predicted from her published adventures.


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Text ©2006-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.