Art: Reg Bunn
Original Printing: Lion 24/09/1966 -28/01/1967 [19 parts]
Reprints: Lion 21/04/1973 - 25/08/1973; Vulcan 03/01/1976 -
03/04/1976 [first 14 parts only due to cancellation]
For the Spider's first story as a crimefighter rather than a criminal, Jerry Siegel dosed up on all the Mental Pills he could find and came up with the Crook from Outer Space as a villain. Even by Siegel Spider standards, this one is insane. The Crook is an alien who decides to go on a crime spree on Earth, drawing inspiration from great bastards of the human race and beyond. He can basically do anything he damn well likes, with the ability to morph into anything he can think of just the start of it.
Thus we have appearances from Jesse James (giant-sized, no less), Genghis Khan, Hercules and the strangely unblemished Scarface Al O'Brien, not to mention that the Crook isn't adverse to turning his bottom half into a rocket or his limbs into springs. If you haven't worked it out, the visuals are utterly, utterly insane.
And yet, for something with so much going on it's a bit repetitive - the Crook cooks up some mad disguise, descends to Earth, is eventually driven off by the Spider and then starts all over again... It certainly feels desperately overlong, even if the whip-crack pace is unrelenting. The opening sequence is also worth noting - the Infernal Gadgeteer would later lead the titular outfit in "The Spider versus the Sinister Seven", and is another sign of Siegel cramming the Spider's universe with weird and whacky villains.