Utter madness, I know!
What I’ve decided for my Classic Comic Friday from my collection is no-other-than Spider-Woman #1 from April of 1978!
Spider-Woman #1 was written/edited by Marv Wolfman who would have just stepped down as Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, allowing Jim Shooter to take over. Wolfman would only write up to issue #8, allowing other writers like Marc Gruenwald and Chris Claremont to take over the series. Spider-Woman was also penciled by a Marvel great, Carmine Infantino, who has drawn comics from Captain America, to Ghost Rider, to Star Wars, Nova, and Iron Man. He would draw up to Spider-Woman #19, setting up the next issues for later artists.
From what I know, Spider-Woman was not really a popular character as of yet either. She made a few appearances in other comics, but never held her own until she was given her own monthly title. I am not entirely sure about where her popularity grew from, but it definitely was an interesting time for female heroes, as Ms. Marvel #1 appeared a little more than a year before Spider-Woman. The Dark Phoenix Saga was about to begin in the Uncanny X-Men storyline, while Kitty Pryde was also about making her debut in the series. Also, one of Spider-Man’s most interesting female “heroines,” the Black Cat would also appear a year later. Clearly this was a big push for women in Marvel.
So where does Spider-Woman stand?
If anything, from knowing what I do now about Jessica Drew, reading back on the origin of Spider-Woman and seeing Drew with her original blonde hair, it is a bit of a refresher to dabble back in the past. Nowadays, she’s just known for being ex-Hydra, ex-SHIELD, now Avengers, etc. Little is brought up – if ever – about her solo work.
Admittedly, there isn’t much to pull from. The story itself opens up with Spider-Woman with a full mask covering her hair. She is robbing a grocery store when a man, Jerry Hunt prevents her from stealing. As she tries to escape, he pulls of her mask (amateur mistake on her behalf) and sees her face. He recognizes her from somewhere, but leaves it at that. Jessica escapes home and stays in for the night, reflecting on almost getting caught.
Going to sleep, she has a nightmare, so-to-speak, about gaining her powers on Wundagore Mountain – sparing the mumbo-jumbo – she goes into suspended animation and comes out as Spider-Woman. Why did I do that? You didn’t miss much.
She awakes from sleep the next day and decides to go out job hunting. There, Jerry Hunt sees her again and tries to stop her. Quickly, she changes into Spider-Woman and escapes.
At the end of the book (we’re there already?!), Drew decides to make a new mask and dye her hair black to give her a bit more of a disguise. While out, she would encounter Mr. Hunt yet again (must be a small city) who is under attack by some crooks with lasers. She knocks them all out, but Jerry is wounded. She takes Jerry to the hospital and puts some of her blood in him to promote faster healing. Spider-Woman then leaves Jerry in the hospital to wonder who she was.
Marv Wolfman is credited for creating up some of Marvel’s finest characters such as Blade, Terrax, and the Black Cat. However, the dud with the introduction to Spider-Woman really left me at a loss for words.
Great dialogue was the only forward momentum this story carried with it. Realistic dialogue between Spider-Woman and Hunt, and even in the dream world with Jessica’s father, Johnathan Drew and the High Evolutionary (named Herbert Wyndam in the comic) felt real. But the execution for how dialogue in the story progressed was not as exciting. There was too little interest in Jessica’s development as a character because it was shrouded by her origin story.
What I will recognize is the nice art from Carmine Infantino and inks by Tony DeZuniga. True body movements mixed in with delicate shading flooded the pages with depth and realism. A particular page after the failed grocery store robbery, Drew walks home through a park and into her apartment. Great care was taken with the various characters she walks past in the story with brilliant shading placed where it needed to be in a daylight scene. Art held what the plot could not – a story.
I mentioned earlier that this was a time where women in Marvel really made a push for popularity. Although I am familiar with everyone else I mentioned but Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman, I feel as if Spider-Woman was thrown under a bus for the women of Marvel. Although she may be a bigger character now, her storyline fell flat in this first issue. Had it been 1978, I would not have picked up the second issue. Also, I wouldn’t have because it somehow involved Merlin the Wizard. Yup.
But great art by Infantino and a gorgeous cover page done by Joe Sinnott definitely makes the comic score higher than it should have.
I’m also sure some of you are asking yourself, “What about Spider-Woman Origin from 2006?”
Well, that story is pretty inconsistent with the one I just reviewed. To make Bendis’ Secret Invasion work, he had to create a new Spider-Woman origin. I am not 100% sold on the story, but apparently Marvel is just forgetting Spider-Woman #1 from 1978 even existed. Then again, if you just read my review, we all probably should.
Keep on Space Truckin’!