Arachnid Adversaries

Arachnid Adversaries

(pop culture)
Fascinating to some, frightening to others, arachnids, named for the Greek mythological weaver Arachne, have captivated writers, artists, and fans. Some readers felt stung when Quality Comics' Golden Age (1938–1954) pulp-like hero the Spider was retroactively remade into a supervillain in the 1990s in the pages of Starman vol. 2, from publisher DC Comics, which had purchased Quality's characters. Starman scribe James Robinson revealed that the Spider's superheroics secretly shielded his behind-the-scenes involvement in Keystone City's underworld. The Shade, a supervillain with unpredictable motivations, ended the Spider's web of deceptions—permanently. Archie Comics' Spider Spry (aka the Spider), created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in The Adventures of the Fly #1 (1959), was a dumpy crook who used his technological wizardry to pull heists with his web-shooting device and giant robotic scorpions. DC's Spider-Girl, aka Sussa Paka from thirtieth-century Earth, could, like Marvel's Medusa, control her malleable hair; her first brush with the Legion of Super-Heroes took place in Adventure Comics #323 (1964). Spider-Woman is an often recycled name for Marvel superheroines, but a 1966 Space Ghost villainess misappropriated that alias for underwater capers, trapping the spectral hero in an aquarium as an intended snack for a three-headed shark. In the Man of Steel's first live-action screen appearance, the Columbia Pictures movie serial Superman (1948), he battled the Spider Lady, a bland crime queen who spent most of the serial's fifteen chapters radioing orders to her lackeys. Spider Lady actress Carol Forman portrayed another arachnid-based femme fatale in the thirteen-chapter serial The Black Widow (1947); there she was a “Yellow Peril” atomic saboteur who became entangled with investigator Steve Colt. Marvel Comics' Black Widow, when first seen in the Iron Man adventure in Tales of Suspense #52 (1964), was a Soviet spy who soon switched camps and signed up as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and later, as a member of the Avengers. Batman's web-swinging enemy Black Spider, who debuted in Detective Comics #463 (1976), was DC Comics' first African- American supervillain. Three Tarantulas have scampered through Spider-Man's life: South American terrorist Anton Miguel Rodriguez was the first, starting his career in The Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 #134 (1974) by taking pleasure cruisers hostage. This spike-booted Tarantula was later mutated into an eight-legged monster-man, and died in a hail of police bullets. He was succeeded by Luis Alvarez in Web of Spider-Man #36 (1988), who took a variation of Captain America's Super-Soldier Serum to become the vengeful Tarantula II, but eventually, like his predecessor, died violently. Then came Argentinan Carlos LaMuerto, aka Black Tarantula, whose crime connections brought him into a Manhattan Mafia gang war in Amazing Spider-Man #419 (1997). Sort of a counterpart to Batman's foe Bane, Black Tarantula is considerably stronger than Spidey and can heal wounds. It should come as no surprise that the amazing Spider-Man has been plagued with enough spidery enemies to give even the wall-crawler a case of arachnophobia. One of his most powerful nemeses is Venom, his dark counterpart, from which Venom's gory offspring Carnage sprung (and from Carnage came the next in this lethal lineage, Toxin). The 1992 crossover Infinity War gave birth to a grotesque, eight-armed distortion of Spider- Man appropriately called Doppelganger. In 1993, superhero wannabe Brian Kornfeld made a pact with Dwarf, an agent of the demon Chthon, for Spider-Man-like powers conjured through the magical book The Darkhold, transmogrifying into the loathsome insectoid Spider-X before being fried in a battle with the electrical beast Zzzax. Clones of Spidey's alter ego, Peter Parker, were altered by the Jackal into the supervillains Kaine (first seen in Web of Spider-Man #119, 1994), an assassin with many of Spidey's powers and the ability to burn “the mark of Kaine” into his victims; and the Venom-esque shapeshifter Spidercide, briefly seen in a 1995 storyline. Alien abductors spliced Peter Parker's DNA with their own to create the monstrous Spider-Hybrid in 2000. One of Spider-Man's most persistent and nastiest foes is the Scorpion, the green-costumed villain with the 7-foot mechanical tail who has frequently attempted to wipe out the web-slinger since 1965's Amazing Spider-Man #20 (and who inspired the short-lived career of DC's Stingaree, in Metamorpho #10, 1967). “The Scorpion” has been a popular name for film and pulp villains, a noted example being the criminal identity of the dastardly Professor Bentley, who, from behind a black hood and robe adorned with white scorpion applications, created malice with his scorpionshaped disintegrator in the twelve-chapter movie serial The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941). Death-Web was the name taken by Dr. Sylvie Yaqua, Theo, and Hashi Noto in Avengers West Coast #82 (1992) when spider-venom injections transformed them into Arachne (able to emit toxins and webs from her wrists), Therak (a six-armed strongman), and Antro (a teleporter). And in 1982, Marvel's original Spider-Woman met the weirdest arachnid supervillain of all: Daddy Longlegs, a dancer whose exposure to Giant-Man's growth formula transformed him into a 13-foot supervillain who was light on his feet.