THE WEBMedium: Comic Books
Published by: MLJ/Archie Comics
First Appeared: 1942
Creator: John Cassone
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Like practically every other comic book publisher, MLJ Comics, the company that later named itself after its most popular character, Archie, published a lot of superheroes during the early 1940s. But compared with how well they've been remembered, most of them didn't last very long. One of the shortest-lived yet best-remembered was The Web, who made only a dozen
appearances in his original incarnation but since then has turned up practically every time those old characters have been trotted out.
The Web was college professor John Raymond, whose field was criminology. Tho he merely theorized about criminals by day, at night, in his green and yellow costume, he dealt with them in a more practical manner — trapping them, as he put it, in a web of their own making. His interest in the subject went back to childhood, when his brother, Tom, ran afoul of the law. He wondered what would lead a person to take such a destructive path in life, and made a career of trying to find out.
He first appeared in the 27th issue (July, 1942) of Zip Comics, where Steel Sterling was well established as the main star. The artist was John Cassone, who had credits at Quality Comics and Hillman Periodicals, but the writer's name is unknown. According to house ads, the story had originally been intended for Top-Notch Comics, which starred The Wizard and The Black Hood, but was transferred because of a decision to emphasize humorous features in that title.
His origin wasn't given in that story, which was about his rescue of a young woman named Rose Wayne from a Japanese saboteur named The Black Dragon of Death. She learned his identity in that story; and in the next, he told her how he'd come to take up superheroing. He and Rose later married.
The Web became a regular feature of Zip Comics, and even shared the covers with Steel Sterling for several months. But his final appearance was in #38 (July, 1943). The next issue introduced a less serious superhero called Red Rube, who soon became the main cover feature, and The Web wasn't seen again for more than 20 years.
Superheroes made a comeback in the 1960s, and Archie Comics hopped on the bandwagon once again. They didn't devote as great a percent of their output to the genre as DC or Marvel; but as before, their efforts are better remembered than one would expect, given their relative prominence at the time. In Fly-Man #36 (March, 1966), The Web, now middle-aged and domestic, came out of retirement in a story written by Jerry Siegel (co-creator of Superman) and drawn by Paul Reinman (Sargon the Sorcerer; John Force, Magic Agent). He was on hand a month later, in Mighty Crusaders #4, when, in a story very appropriately named "Too Many Superheroes", practically every costumed character the company had ever published made at least a brief walk-on. In the following issue, he joined Captain Flag and The Fox to form a competing group, The Ultra-Men, which was never seen again.
A few months later, The Web was the cover feature in Mighty Comics #40 (November, 1966). By that time, Rose, who had known he was a superhero when she married him, had changed her mind about the honorableness of that avocation, and treated his attempts to practice it like Maggie treated Jiggs's visits to Dinty Moore's. It was supposed to be funny, but it's remembered mostly as an oddity — like the rest of the superhero comics Archie Comics was putting out at the time, which were strongly influenced by the Batman TV show. The Henpecked Hero made several more appearances during the next few months, but Archie got back out of the superhero business in 1967.
The Web was part of another revival of the MLJ/Archie superheroes in the 1980s, and was treated with a little more dignity. He's gotten at least a nod whenever they've appeared since then. It's not exactly the limelight, but he's been keeping up this level of activity for a long time and there's every indication he can keep it up for a long time to come.