The Spider in The Bubbles of Doom
Story: Ted Cowan
Art: Ogeras
Original Printing: Fleetway Super Library - Stupendous Series #6 1967

The Spider rages at his disloyal henchmenYep, that's a really poor title. But it's about the only downside to this imaginative offering from the character's creator, Ted Cowan, who briefly returned to script this story. After the previous issue's run-in with a businessman with improbable resources (in the largely enjoyable "Crime Unlimited"), we have an honest-to-God supervillain threatening here, Obero, capable of trapping anything within his bubble-like constructs.

Obero turns up largely without explanation, with the main thought being given to a tricky villain than to any background, and to be honest this works, much as it does with the Spider itself - origins weren't exactly Fleetway's strongest suit, and it means the action is largely uninterrupted. Cowan also makes the smart move of only really bringing Obero into the mix at about a quarter distance, meaning we get some quality Spider preening beforehand as he plans a train hijack. Another great touch is that both 'Prof' Pelham and Roy Ordini get some of the spotlight, here being shown as willing to stick the knife in to the Spider at every opportunity. It adds an unpredictable element to the plot, and finally gives the pair some characterisation. We also get to see the Spider lose his cool on a couple of occasions, but the ending, where it's revealed he had their machinations well in hand all along, reasserts his dominance.

Also thrown in are Trask and Gilmore (the early Stupendous Series issues were produced ahead or alongside Siegel's "The Spider vs. The Exterminator" serial, and all featured a brief explanation stating they happened before he renounced crime), but as with "Crime Unlimited" they largely only appear to assert their lack of success (seriously, how did these two stay assigned to the Spider for so long?) and to get shown up from time to time. It's something of a relief, to be honest - I rather expected Cowan to up their frame-time. On the downside, that Obero goes unexplained is a little frustrating at first - it takes a little while to click that he actually is the bubbles, and his defeat seems to fly in the face of logic a little, though his boisterous personality ("Skinny little emperor of crime!") is fun, as are the latter stages where Obero, the Spider and Prof/Roy are all trying to stiff one another over.

Ogeras' (I'm not 100% convinced Titan did the right research for the King of Crooks checklist here... that's presumably a pseudonym, but it is very close to Obero, and Google seems to have nothing related on 'Ogeras'...) art is well-done, even if backgrounds are once again at a premium. The characters all look great, though, and the more I look at it, the more it seems that Aldo Marculetta put in a very bad showing on "The Professor of Power". It all adds up to a fun, larger-than-life story, with Cowan's slick characterisation keeping the reader interested on the rare occasions the plot goes a bit flat. A good place to start reading the Super Library series.