Art: Reg Bunn
Original Printing: Lion 08/01/1966 - 26/03/1966 [12 parts]
Reprints: Lion 19/08/1972 - 21/10/1972; Vulcan 07/06/1975 -
02/08/1975; King of Crooks 2005
The Spider is often referred to as an 'American style' comic. It is, in some ways, but certainly ahead of its' time - this story, for example, is roughly contemporaneous to the start of the Avengers and the X-Men, and it's smarter than both those books combined at the time. Only Batman really compares from the period. The mix of a traditional British quasi-realistic style with the larger-than-life US fashion created something quite different. This marvellous fusion hit critical mass when Jerry Siegel, creator of minor American character Superman, took over scripting the title.
The key component is the very American supervillain, Dr. Mysterioso, which gives the whole thing a weird culture-clash theme - the Spider representing British comics, being odd and not exactly realistic, but grounded in the real world at least, against Dr. Mysterioso, a supervillain who would be right at home in an American comic. And he's a great villain, the first in a line of brilliant Siegel creations. His list of abilities is massive, and the Spider becomes more unpredictable in response - one of the Siegel's trademarks on his run is that a character will suddenly reveal a device or ability to get them out of a tight spot (such as when the Spider falls into a river - thankfully, it's a river he's left a miniature submarine in...), but for the Spider at least this doesn't cause as much damage as it might - the Spider's that sort of guy.
The story begins oddly, with the Spider busting rival Dr. Mysterioso almost straight away, evading Gilmore and Trask at the same time. The latter duo, while much less interesting than Mysterioso, at least get some intelligence for once, coming up with an elaborate plan to draw the Spider out. It also brings gangsters into the mix for the first time, with a group planning to kill the Spider getting dealt with shortly. There's a brilliant confrontation with the police in the middle of New York before Mysterioso comes back into the mix.
It's fantastic to see the Spider one-on-one with a supervillain at last, even if it does turn out to be an android double - which leads to an absolutely fantastic little conclusion, where his army of crime, presuming him dead, try to open the Spider's vault to take his loot, only to find the Spider himself inside. This one, to coin a cliché, has it all. Mysterioso might represent more of a challenge to the Spider than Trask and Gilmore, but our anti-hero is still always ahead. The escalating abilities and resources of both the Spider and his adversary result in an exciting, twist-packed narrative, and Siegel's dialogue is great pulpy fun, meshing perfectly with Reg Bunn's detailed, dark frames. A terrific, fast paced story.