Original Printing: Lion Annual 1969
More often than not, text stories can be filler in annuals, a second-string piece of speed-written prose you carefully step over on the way to more comic strip action, or exciting pages about ghosts and/or shipwrecks. But this gem, the first Spider text feature, is something of an exception.
The concept is fairly simple - a bunch of Californian gangsters, led by one Skull Adler (! - somehow gangsters with silly names always sound stranger than, say, a dwarf inside a robot declaring itself to be the Mirror Man...), decide to do away with the Spider. Their chosen method is to prick his curiosity by pretending to be a film crew, and secreting guns inside the cameras... Marvellous, Avengers-esque stuff. Despite being betrayed by Ordini (Roy has a spine? That's a new development...), the Spider catches on, and then heads the hoods on a merry chase through his castle, picking them off one at a time.
What really makes it stand out is the way the (sadly uncredited) writer really captures the essence of the Spider, both in the vivid descriptions of his body language, and the detailed look around the castle - which, predictably, includes a gallery of pictures of the owner. "Starring... The Spider" is a simple, effective, novel story (in that the Spider is attacked on his own ground - not that he's ever really on the back foot) which reads very easily, and is enlivened by the flourishes in the prose. Well worth a read, and criminally omitted from King of Crooks, most likely due to the text story format, which is a damn shame.
|"Starring... The Spider!"|