Art: Reg Bunn
Original Printing: Lion 11/09/1965 - 01/01/1966 [17 parts]
Reprints: Lion 22/04/1972 - 12/08/1972; Vulcan 05/04/1975 -
31/05/1975; King of Crooks 2005.
Though the first Spider serial had been a success, Ted Cowan was aware that something needed to be added to the mix to take it to the next level, and to this end we get the first supervillain in the series, the Mirror Man. Sadly, however, Cowan is a bit out of his depth here. The Mirror Man's abilities are basically that he can create illusions - most likely through mass hypnosis, though this isn't made terribly clear. And that's about it. Cowan has lost the whip-crack pace of the first story, and the plot quickly becomes cyclical - the Mirror Man uses an illusion to throw a spanner in the works, and after a brief lapse the Spider realises. It just goes on and on like this.
Nothing about the Mirror Man is explained, beyond his ability to create mirages, hypnotise people and his ambition to depose the Spider. Now, the lack of explanation for the Spider's abilities and goals works - the charisma of the character means it comes across as mystique. Mirror Man doesn't hold the interest as well.
The result is an unfocused, rambling plot - unlike the debut serial, this is a set of disjointed set-pieces, rather than a set of connected set pieces. However, Cowan still knows well enough where the main event is, and thus the Spider isn't overshadowed. It's quite a good character piece, showing how he deals with being (for a short while) outflanked, and he never really gives up - before too long, he's immune to the Mirror Man's powers, and has the upper hand, going along for the ride to find a way to win this with maximum reward.
Trask and Gilmore are involved, but not that heavily - after the initial chase sequence, they fade into the background a bit, which is for the best. However much the Spider/Mirror Man confrontation fizzles at the end, the last thing it needs is these two dragging things down with their complete lack of personality... Ordini and Pelham don't do much better, mainly hanging around to get hypnotised/captured/the plot explained to them by the Spider, though Pelham does at least get to design the iconic Helicar.
Sadly, though, the strip brings an ongoing problem with their elevated position within the Spider's army of crime. Pelham's nowhere near as smart as the Spider, while Ordini does nothing beyond occasionally angering the Spider with his stupidity - so why does he keep them on, let alone take them out on important missions all the time? Overall, it's a bit of a mess, showing that Cowan sadly didn't have the drive or vision to keep the character moving forward. The story is still perfectly readable, but twice as long as the plot warrants. The bad guy (well, the Spider's technically a bad guy, but anyway...) fails to hold the attention, being too annoying to work without the outlandish flavour Jerry Siegel would later add to the strip.