Art: R. David Harwood
Original Printing: Lion Holiday Special 1980
A bit of a weird one, this... After five years without original material, and four years since Vulcan had been cancelled, the Spider resurfaced in the Lion Holiday Special in 1980. However, it's perhaps not as bizarre as it might sound, as he shares the title card with Robot Archie.
Archie was probably Lion's most enduring character, having appeared in the first edition in 1952. He would disappear after 26 issues, but a few years' later would come back and be a fixture until Lion finally ended in 1974. It wasn't quite the end for Robot Archie, though - as well as being a member of the Vulcan pantheon, Archie usually made some sort of appearance in the Lion Annuals and Specials that ran until 1983, even if it was just a reprint or a text story. This is really a Robot Archie strip where they've used a bit of imagination for the adversary. I suppose the idea was there as well that if it really, really went down well they could throw out some more Spider reprints or whatever.
It's interesting for a few reasons, though - firstly it's one of the precious few vintage strips to imply the Fleetway stories might, just might inhabit the same universe (one of the few other examples also featured Robot Archie, who battled mid-1960s entity The Sludge at one stage), while secondly also continues the theme of the Spider working for high-level government organisations. These things combined with him facing another Fleetway hero are interesting precursors to Alan Moore's Daughter's Wildstorm series Albion. Also, Archie makes one of his occasional digs about the Steel Commando (an attempt to combine Archie with the Valiant's Captain Hurricane that was pushed to the hilt by Lion for about two years until they finally admitted everyone hated the thing), despite his erstwhile rival being long gone.
The story is strangely wooden, sadly - R. David Harwood's pencils are somewhat turgid and sparse, while the Spider is a bit hammy when he's playing the villain instead of being one, but it's still great fun to see Ted Cowan's two greatest creations knocking lumps out of each other.
Full credit to the original scanner, and to Browse Comics for bringing the scans to my attention =) The original scans were all huge Bitmap files, so I've switched them to JPEG to cut down the file size.
|"Robot Archie vs. The Spider"|