Art: Reg Bunn
Original Printing: Lion Annual 1968
The Lion Annual would, from 1967 to 1970, include a self-contained Spider strip story, eight pages long. These short, sharp tales, from the days when annuals were something companies put effort into instead of just doing half-arsed reprints and quiz pages, were among the best adventures, and this is a prime example.
It's got all the best elements of the weekly in it. Firstly, there's the start, with the Spider's ego pricked by an impostor claiming he will steal the world's largest sapphire, the titular Stone of Venus. This, as the Spider's adversaries correctly wager, causes him to try and steal it, as he can't abide the idea that people might think he would fail to do so - brilliant stuff, with the Spider's character a great excuse for throwing him into conflicts. The villain, Mister Mastermind, is rather interesting, and while he's cut from the same cloth as a number of crime-lords, sharp dialogue helps. Unusually, he also has what seem to be a pair of superpowered henchmen - superhumanly strong Bruto, and the morphing Actor.
Aside from a brief moment when Mastermind's antigravity gun causes him bother, the Spider is in control all the way through - it might sound odd to be so excited at a hero (well, anti-hero) whose victory is not going to come from comic conventions, but also from his very character, but the whole thing is done with a fantastic swagger, and the fun is in watching the Spider piece it all together, humiliating heavies along the way. "The Stone of Venus" is a brilliant, exciting story, benefiting from Reg Bunn's pencils at their very best. Much like "The Spider versus the Red Baron", it's a brilliant pilot for those new to the character, distilling the essence and excitement of the serialisations into a neat, effective short story.
|"The Spider and the Stone of Venus"|