SPIDER-WOMAN: HER EARLY STORIES

This weekend’s light-hearted and escapist superhero blog post will look at Marvel’s original run of the Jessica Drew version of Spider-Woman.

marv sp 32MARVEL SPOTLIGHT Vol 1 #32 (February 1977)

Title: Dark Destiny

Villains: Hydra

NOTE: The origin of the Jessica Drew character presented in this issue, which claimed she was a creation of Marvel’s hero-villain the High Evolutionary, was soon retconned. In the new version, her father was a scientist working with the High Evolutionary, who injected her with experimental chemicals and spider DNA to save her life from radiation poisoning, and that was how she gained her super-powers.

           Those powers: Spider-Man level strength, bioenergy “venom blasts” that she shot from her hands, wall-crawling abilities and limited flight through her web-wings.

spider-woman picSynopsis: Misled into working for Hydra, Spider-Woman is sent on a mission to assassinate S.H.I.E.L.D. chief Nick Fury on the Riviera. Nick survives her initial assault and then uses news and intelligence reports to show her how she was deceived into thinking that Hydra was a revolutionary organization rather than a criminal cabal.

Jessica, furious over the way she was used, leads a S.H.I.E.L.D. assault on the Hydra base from which she was sent to kill Nick Fury. After the base is shut down and all the Hydra agents are captured, the heroine declines to join S.H.I.E.L.D. and goes off to contemplate what she wants to do with her life.

mtio 30MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE Vol 1 #29-33 (July – November 1977)

NOTE: This run of issues of Marvel Two-in-One presented Spider-Woman teaming up with the Thing and Invisible Woman in London to take on Hydra in order to foil its latest plans.

After that, she and Modred the Mystic helped the Thing fight elemental demons which struck at Stonehenge.

After these guest appearances, Spider-Woman moved on to her own series.

sw 1SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #1 (April 1978)

Title: A Future Uncertain

Villain: Still living in a London apartment, Spider-Woman casually encounters S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jerry Hunt, who is convinced he has met her before. He begins investigating the costumed heroine. The next day he approaches her again, and, thinking he means her harm, Spider-Woman fights back, nearly killing him.

Later, she sees Jerry fighting criminals in the streets, and saves his life before capturing them for the police. They were stealing printing plates as part of their plot to counterfeit British money. 

Later, as Jerry recovers in the hospital, his fascination with Spider-Woman increases.

sw 2SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #2 (May 1978)

Title: A Sword in Hand

Villains: Excalibur and Morgan le Fay

Synopsis: Spider-Woman foolishly breaks into the museum of history in London and even more foolishly, starts to pull Excalibur from the stone in which it is embedded.

NOTE: This story depicts Excalibur as a creation of Morgan le Fay.

Security guards stop her as she is doing it, so she flees. Professional thief Jason “Slapper” Struthers sees this and pulls the sword the tiny length more that was needed to bring it free of the stone. With Excalibur loose, Morgan le Fay’s spell transforms Struthers into a supervillain called Excalibur.

sw on wallSpider-Woman spends that night and the next day battling Excalibur around London. At length, the villain finds and attacks the occult shoppe of a gray-haired sorcerer named Magnus, who is really hundreds of years old and possesses a book of spells which Morgan le Fay wants to obtain.

Our heroine defeats Excalibur, but Magnus’ shoppe is wrecked in the process. Magnus foresees a future for Spider-Woman in America and decides to tag along with her as a father figure.   

sw 3SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #3 (June 1978)

Title: The Peril of Brother Grimm

Villain: Brother Grimm

Synopsis: Jessica Drew and the elderly Magnus arrive in Los Angeles, CA and begin looking for a place to live. Meanwhile, a costumed supervillain calling himself Brother Grimm has been on a crime spree by way of his physical and energy powers.

Jessica and Magnus rent out rooms at a boardinghouse run by an older woman named Priscilla Dolly. Her two 20-something sons Jake and Willy run the boardinghouse with her. Jessica and Magnus visit the grave of Jessica’s father, and, as Spider-Woman, she starts looking into her father’s murder and its ties to Pyrotechnics, Inc. and Senator James T. Wyatt.

sw faceWhile investigating, she comes across the latest crime being committed by Brother Grimm. After defeating him and seeing him taken off by the police, she flies home to the boardinghouse and clashes with the villain once again. Later that night she hears a news report that Brother Grimm escaped jail – but an hour AFTER her second fight with him.

NOTE: This somewhat obvious situation is a reminder that comic books are basically for kids. Any adult or person in their mid to late teens would immediately have figured out that there are TWO Brothers Grimm, and that Priscilla’s sons Jake (Jacob) and Willy (Wilhelm) are the civilian identities of the Brothers Grimm supervillains. This series acts like it’s all a mystery for several issues.   

sw 4SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #4 (July 1978)

Title: Hell is the Hangman

Villains: Brother Grimm and the Hangman

Synopsis: The following night, Spider-Woman is on patrol around Los Angeles and interrupts Brother Grimm as he is pulling off a robbery of diamonds. The two fight it out once again, and he blasts her off a cliff with one of his energy blasts and escapes before she can return.

Elsewhere, an underling of Brother Grimm is captured, interrogated and hanged by the crazed vigilante called the Hangman, a former foe of Werewolf by Night. With the underling dead, the Hangman vows to kill Brother Grimm next.

sw shootingThe next evening, Jerry Hunt arrives in Los Angeles in response to reports of our heroine. Meanwhile, Spider-Woman investigates her father’s murder at Pyrotechnics, Inc, where she once again clashes with Brother Grimm. After surviving Grimm’s death-trap and another battle with him, Spider-Woman is too exhausted to overcome the Hangman, who uses his enhanced ropes and nooses to capture her.

NOTE: The Hangman’s m.o. in his previous appearance was to kill criminals and abduct women to “protect” them from the violence of modern society. 

sw 5SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #5 (August 1978)

Title: Nightmare

Villains: Hangman and Morgan le Fay

Synopsis: The Hangman leaves the bound Spider-Woman in the sprawling, abandoned mansion where he hides out now. He departs to abduct another prisoner for the mansion’s mysterious “owner” and the now-rested Spider-Woman bursts free of her bonds.

Our heroine’s attempts to leave the mansion are thwarted by the supernatural, haunted nature of the place. After surviving several horrific menaces, Spider-Woman comes across the Hangman’s newest prisoner – Magnus – unconscious and tied to a chair.

The true power behind the mansion reveals itself – an astral projection of Morgan le Fay manifests before Spider-Woman, flanked by her two weapon-wielding Doomslayer beings.

sw 6SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #6 (September 1978)

Title: End of a Nightmare

Villains: Morgan le Fay and the Doomslayers

Synopsis: Spider-Woman battles the Doomslayers to keep them from killing Magnus, who eventually regains consciousness. Just to stay the hands of the Doomslayers, Spider-Woman complies with Morgan’s demand that she capture the Jack Russell werewolf, who lives in Los Angeles.

morgan le fay and the doomslayersThis is part of a plan by Morgan le Fay which involves obtaining the book of the Darkhold (which Jack Russell possessed for a time) and transferring her spirit form into her surviving corpse, which has been lying in state since the 12th century. That will allow Morgan to live again and unleash her powers on the 20th Century.

She will then kill Magnus as revenge.  

While Spider-Woman finds and captures the Werewolf, Magnus mystically leads Jerry Hunt to his and Spider-Woman’s location at the abadoned mansion. Spider-Woman saves Magnus and Jerry Hunt from Morgan le Fay, and defeats the sorceress and the Doomslayers, thus transporting them back to medieval times.

Jerry confesses his “love” for Spider-Woman and the two share a lengthy kiss. 

sw 7SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #7 (October 1978)

Title: July 4th

Villains: Senator Wyatt, Brother Grimm and Pyrotechnics, Inc.

Jessica Drew and Jerry Hunt have been losing themselves in each other for several days and going on dates all around the Los Angeles area. After an afternoon at the zoo, Jerry escorts Jessica in her civilian clothing into the Los Angeles field office of S.H.I.E.L.D. to help her investigate her father’s murder.

That leads to Spider-Woman and Jerry uncovering the fact that the company Pyrotechnics, Inc. and Senator James T. Wyatt were working together in a conspiracy to take over the United States. Long ago they had captured and imprisoned Jessica Drew’s father and forced him to develop an immunity to neutron radiation poisoning. 

sw pictureAfter he succeeded, they killed him and on the approaching July 4th – the next day – Senator Wyatt and Pyrotechnics, Inc. will explode a neutron bomb in Washington D.C. Since neutron bombs kill people but don’t destroy buildings, the conspirators’ army can occupy Washington and hold it thanks to their radiation immunity provided by Jessica’s father. Similar bombs set off at NORAD and elsewhere will let the Senator and his fellows take over the country.

Brother Grimm, who has been blackmailing the senator, attacks Spider-Woman while she and Jerry are investigating, but the villain escapes. As our heroine, Jerry and various S.H.I.E.L.D. agents defeat the Senator, Pyrotechnics and some of their soldiers, Wyatt confesses to having murdered Jessica’s father as he dies.

Epilogue: Though Brother Grimm is still at large, Nick Fury commends Spider-Woman and Jerry Hunt for exposing and thwarting the Pyrotechnics, Inc conspiracy.   

sw 8SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #8 (November 1978)

NOTE: This issue features two stories. 

Title: The Man Who Could Not Die?

Villain: Samuel Davis

Synopsis: Spider-Woman first fights, then helps, a man who was cursed to live until he found courage after showing cowardice during the Revolutionary War.

Title: The Suit

Villain: The Suit

Synopsis: When a salesman buys and wears a suit that previously belonged to a powerful gangster, the dead criminal’s spirit possesses the man. The Suit then tracks down the dead gangster’s hidden loot while killing his former partners in crime. Spider-Woman sets things right without punishing the innocent salesman.   

sw 9SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #9 (December 1978)

Title: Eye of the Needle

Villain: The Needle

Synopsis: A psychotic but mystically powered mute supervillain called the Needle – who has only one good eye – has been preying on victims by literally and bloodily impaling their mouths and sewing their lips shut.

After her boyfriend Jerry Hunt suffers that fate at the hands of the Needle, Spider-Woman sets out to track down the villain and learn his origin. In the end, she battles the Needle, defeats him and turns him over to the authorities.

The unspeaking villain winds up in an insane asylum.   

sw 10SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #10 (January 1979)

Title: Things That Go Flit in the Night

Villain: Gypsy Moth

Synopsis: This issue picks up an unknown number of weeks after the previous story. Jessica and Jerry are enjoying a moonlit night at the beach when a costumed woman is spotted flying overhead. Jessica dons her Spider-Woman costume and flies off after the woman, angering Jerry.

After the mysterious woman, whom Spider-Woman learns is a mutant supervillainess called Gypsy Moth, gets away, our heroine returns to Jerry and the two argue about her interrupting another date to chase off after danger.

spider woman in webThe next night, Jessica goes alone to see Magnus perform. He has gotten a gig as a stage magician and is wowing the Los Angeles audiences. Magnus invites Jessica to attend a Beverly Hills party with him after his show is over.

At that party, Gypsy Moth strikes, proving to have violent criminal intentions, so Jessica becomes Spider-Woman and fights it out with her. Gypsy Moth nearly kills our heroine in the battle, but in the end Spider-Woman saves herself and fights on. Ultimately, Gypsy Moth flies off.

sw 11SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #11 (February 1979)

Title: And Dolly Makes Three

Villains: The Brothers Grimm

Synopsis: We pick up an unknown amount of time after the previous issue. Jessica and Jerry are still dating, but still argue with increasing frequency. When Jerry picks up Jessica at the boardinghouse, Priscilla Dolly sinisterly thinks to herself that Jerry may be the subject she has been waiting for.

She has her doll collection come to life and overcome the sleeping Magnus in his bed.

sw to the sideA bit later that night, Jerry and Jessica are dining at a fancy restaurant, when they are attacked by Brother Grimm. Jessica becomes Spider-Woman and drives off the costumed villain, then flies after him. Jerry Hunt gets to his car and drives off, trying to follow the two.

Both Spider-Woman and Jerry wind up defeated by Brother Grimm and abducted. When they come to, they are both bound and captive at an abandoned theater by what we are supposed to be surprised to see are TWO Brothers Grimm. Yes, it’s pure cringe but the writers were still treating it like a mystery that was just now being revealed. Magnus is held captive as well.

Anyway, commanding the Brothers Grimm is their mother Priscilla Dolly, calling herself Madam Doll. She enigmatically threatens Spider-Woman, Magnus and Jerry as this issue comes to an end.   

sw 12SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #12 (March 1979)

Title: The Last Tale of the Brothers Grimm

Villains: The Brothers Grimm and Madam Doll

Synopsis: Priscilla Dolly aka Madam Doll, does a Villain Rant for the bound Spider-Woman, Jerry Hunt and Magnus. Her late husband, Nathan Dolly, was Iron Man’s old foe Mister Doll. Before dying in prison, he had obtained two life-sized dolls and passed his spirit into the two of them upon dying. The pair pretended to be Priscilla Dolly’s “sons” William and Jacob.

The two donned costumes and became the Brothers Grimm, villains powered by advanced technology stolen from Pyrotechnics, Inc. where they worked like their father had before them. Priscilla has wanted her husband’s soul back in one body so they can remarry.

sw upwardDeciding that Jerry Hunt is a perfect enough man for her to want to marry, Priscilla plans to kill Spider-Woman unless Magnus performs a magical ritual to withdraw Nathan’s spirit from the two life-sized Brothers Grimm dolls and place it in Jerry Hunt’s body, thus snuffing out Jerry’s mind and soul in the process.

Magnus pretends to play along to give Spider-Woman time to free herself and take on the villains. In the end, the late Nathan Dolly’s spirit is drawn forth from the Brothers Grimm’s bodies, and with Spider-Woman saving Jerry, that spirit has no new body to take up residence in and fades to the afterlife.

Priscilla, devastated at the final loss of her husband and her make-believe sons, collapses into insanity. 

sw 13SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #13 (April 1979)

Title: Suddenly … the Shroud

Villains: The Cult of Kali

Synopsis: Jessica and Jerry say goodbye to Magnus, who is going off to his new gig performing in Las Vegas. Jerry is assigned to work with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Laura Brown to investigate the disappearance of two other agents in the Los Angeles area. They vanished while investigating the Cult of Kali.

NOTE: Laura Brown had been a recurring character in Marvel Comics going all the way back to 1960s issues of Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. In the pages of Captain America and elsewhere, she had had a fling with Nick Fury.

Through comic book coincidence, Spider-Woman also gets caught up in investigating the Cult of Kali, which is using the Hatros Institute for Emotional Research as a front. Also investigating the Hatros Institute’s ties to the cult is the superhero called the Shroud.

svtu 7NOTE: The Shroud had learned deadly martial arts and the mystic ability to summon darkness from the Cult of Kali in the past and had once tried to take down Doctor Doom. That effort failed, so he has targeted his former mentors in the Cult of Kali.

Spider-Woman and the Shroud fight it out, not knowing which side the other is on. Our heroine defeats the Shroud, then finds herself surrounded by weapon-wielding members of the Cult of Kali.

sw 14SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #14 (May 1979)

Title: Cults and Robbers

Villains: The Cult of Kali

Synopsis: Spider-Woman battles the attacking members of the Cult of Kali. After defeating all of them, she notices that the Shroud regained consciousness and has slipped away.

The cult members likewise recover and flee before the police can arrest them. Spider-Woman further investigates the cult’s activities and its involvement in a series of abductions and murders. Meanwhile, Jerry Hunt and Laura Brown continue their own investigation while bickering and flirting.

Jessica Drew is back at her new apartment, having run out of clues regarding the cult. Suddenly, the Shroud reveals his presence and states that he has followed Spider-Woman home. 

sw 15SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #15 (June 1979)

Title: Into the Heart of Darkness

Villains: Nekra and the Cult of Kali

Synopsis: The Shroud placates Jessica Drew by explaining his full origin to her and his former ties to the cult. He wants to destroy them to make amends for having relied on them to gain his martial arts abilities and super-powers.

Spider-Woman and the Shroud pursue further leads regarding the Cult of Kali and the Hatros Institute. Jerry Hunt and Laura Brown, still working independently of our heroine and the Shroud, are also investigating the institute and the cult.

sw action figure Jerry and Laura are captured and are about to be sacrificed to Kali, when Spider-Woman and the Shroud show up to save them. They also defeat all of the cult members and turn them over to the authorities, then the Shroud leaves the city. Jerry is embarrassed at having to once again be saved by Spider-Woman.

Meanwhile, the reclusive Adrienne Hatros, founder of the institute that the cult was using as a front, reveals to us readers that she is really the mutant super villainess Nekra, an old foe of Shanna the She-Devil and Daredevil. She vows revenge on Spider-Woman. 

sw 16SPIDER-WOMAN Vol 1 #16 (July 1979)

Title: All You Need is Hate

Villain: Nekra

Synopsis: Nekra, using her cover identity of Adrienne Hatros, lures Spider-Woman into a trap at the former’s mansion, where she intends to kill our heroine in a one-on-one battle.

Before starting the fight, Nekra does a Villain Rant, telling Spider-Woman about her past. She is a mutant able to turn hatred into physical strength that is far above what human beings possess. Nekra recounts how she and her mutant partner in crime, the Mandrill, were thwarted in their crimes by Shanna the She-Devil, Daredevil and the Black Widow.

nekra againThe villainess also tells our heroine how she escaped custody long ago. She then found the remnants of the Cult of Kara-Kai in New York City, where they had once fought Iron Fist, and combined them with the remnants of the Cult of Kali in California, which was once led by Shanna the She-Devil’s foe Raga-Shah.

After that, she adopted the secret identity of Adrienne Hatros and founded the Hatros Institute for Emotional Research as a front for the cult. Finally, Nekra attacks Spider-Woman and after a long, knock-down, drag-out fight, our heroine wins.

Epilogue: Jerry Brown visits Jessica at her apartment and tells her he is breaking up with her and going back to London with Laura Brown. Jessica is sad but realizes it’s over between them.    

*** Spider-Woman’s initial run continued all the way until her 50th issue. After that the character was brought back as a guest star or in her own new series a few times here and there all the way up to the present day.

FOR MY LOOK AT THE EARLY STORIES OF THE BLACK ORCHID CLICK HERE.  

FOR MY LOOK AT THE VERY FIRST APPEARANCE OF GAMORA CLICK HERE.

FOR MY LOOK AT THE EARLY STORIES OF SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL CLICK HERE.

FOR MY LOOK AT THE EARLY STORIES OF THE SUPERHEROINE TIGRA CLICK HERE.

FOR MY LOOK AT THE EARY STORIES OF SHE-HULK CLICK HERE.

FOR MY LOOK AT SATANA THE DEVIL’S DAUGHTER CLICK HERE

2 Comments

Filed under Superheroes

2 responses to “SPIDER-WOMAN: HER EARLY STORIES

  1. This is an interesting detailed history of Spider Woman, I enjoyed reading this.

    I agree with you that the Brother Grimm story is simple but it is an improvement when compared with some of the much earlier superhero comics.

    They were in the early stages of creating characters and stories with more depth.

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