I’ve been reading a bunch of the phone-book thick black and white collections of old Marvel comics called “Essentials”. Most super hero comics today don’t interest me very much. One reason is that modern comics are more cinematic, so that there’s less writing and a 22 page comic feels like 2 minutes worth of bad cop television. If I go back to the 60’s I find there are too many words on the page, with writers basically re-explaining the action drawn in the panel and lying about how earth-shattering, never-to-be-forgotten and most-dangerous-of-all this particular battle it is. The ’70s and ’80s are the sweet zone for me. That’s when they wrote enough text to add flavour to a story, through introspection, back story and a bit of purple prose without it being too overwritten.

Of course these super-hero comics are corny, hilarious, campy, melodramatic and full of action. That means I shouldn’t take them too seriously but I still wanted to do a fun review of the Essential Spider-Woman.


Despite her name, Spider-Woman has nothing to do with Spider-Man. While she can crawl on walls like a spider, which sounds pretty cool, she also secretes human/arachnid pheremones that make almost everybody automatically repulsed by her. Her alter ego, Jessica Drew can’t get a job, and has only one guy who wants to date her. That’s a clever handicap to give her. She can also fire “venom blasts” at criminals, but has a limited supply before she runs out and must use her super strength to punch people in the face bone. With her red and yellow costume she can glide across the skies. They start her off in England and move her to L.A., two places we don’t see a lot of in Marvel books. That isolates her even more from the super hero choked New York. We’re off to a great start! She’s even an enemy spy to start things off! Woot!

There’s a story about Jessica trying a pill that will inhibit her pheremones. Not knowing much about socializing she gets a cabbie to drop her off somwhere people go. At the disco, another girl grabs her purse by accident and finds a crazy costume inside. The tipsy woman puts it on to get people’s attention on the dance floor. This makes Jessica perplexed with how to get her outfit back without ruining her secret identity. Fun!

The next story has the guy she meets at the disco about to kiss her… and his face felts all over her! Gross! Fun and wierd mystery abounds!

Then at issue #21, it jumps the shark. A new writer takes over and ditches any previous unresolved story issues. Instead he makes her as lame as he can. She now has a helper who is a wheel-chair bound almost FBI agent who analyzes soil samples in his wanna-be-crime-lab. There’s also a warehouse full of costumes she dresses up in to gather information and the writer makes her venom blasts (which this trained spy previously almost never missed with) repeatedly not hit the too fast middle-aged fat guys she fights against. What the bananas? Why would someone take a powerful female hero with a fascinating set of circumstances and make her helpless to solve mysteries without the aid of a brilliant man (who only bothers to help her because he can’t physcially go and kick ass himself), a place to play “dress up”and make her completely inept at fighting? Wow. That’s deplorable. I don’t think I’ve ever used that word before in my life, and the first time I do is for a comic book? Now that’s bad.

If that writer has one bright moment is that the fat, aging, wanna-be clown attempts to kill someone with the bendable “snake” found in a can of prank peanut brittle. At least that’s ridiculous enough to be funny.

The book is filled with hacked out, monthly comic art, (apart froma great John Buscema issue). Here’s my favourite picture where the artist doesn’t really have a solid idea of how big the Hollywood sign is.spideywoman.jpg

This would make Spider-Woman a giant. Or maybe she’s sitting on a recreation at a minature golf course?

Over all, it was worth the 10 bucks I paid for it on boxing day but not much more. Anyone else like readind old comics?

4 Awesomes Comments!

  1. Jonathan McNally

    I am! I’m reading old comics!

    I currently have the fourth volume of ESSENTIAL AVENGERS on loan from the library. Some classic work by Roy Thomas, Sal and John Buscema, Neal Adams, and others.

    The content’s unabashed, heartening fun. Also, I’m finally reading some of these oft-referenced stories first-hand (the introduction of the Zodiac, Squadron Supreme, etc). As a kid I knew the stories only through synopses in MARVEL UNIVERSE.

  2. El Santo

    By fat, middle aged guys, are we talking about Angar the Screamer? ‘Cuz that guy ruled.

  3. Spetho

    My dad keeps a suitcase full of “old” comics (circa mid-80s, early 90s–to me, that’s old) in the garage. During the summer, I hijack the suitcase, bring it to my room, and spend about a month working straight through the somewhat haphazard collection. My favorite series are the JLE and X-Men, although the mini-series Justice League: Antarctica is absolutely brilliant.

  4. bobadventures

    Hi! You should definitely check out Spider-Woman volume 2. That has the Chris Claremont / Steve Leialoha issues, and they’re some of my favorite super-hero comics ever. It kind of jumps the shark again after those two leave the title, but the stories they worked on together are terrific.