Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ted Cowan & Reg Bunn's...The Spider

"I do not allow failure in my army of crime. Should we fail, I promise you a most unhealthy future." Those few lines just about sum up the delightfully creepy British strip The Spider that sprang from the boys' anthology title Lion on June 26, 1965. This strange new anti-hero, similar in ways to Italy's master criminal Diabolique, was created by writer Ted Cowan and artist Reg Bunn who spun yarns of terror and adventure for the brilliant megalomaniac 'King of all Crooks". An evil scientist who turned to crime, the mysterious Spider sported a black bulletproof high-tech suit, and wielded two spectacular guns, one shooting a paralysing gas, while the other a sticky web making mesh. This boastful Shakespearean spouting thief had a sleek helicar that looked like an overgrown French coffee press which whisked him away from the boys in blue or other crime lords that wanted to see the despicable fiend dead. With the help of his two main cronies, Professor Pelham and Roy Ordini, this trio waged all out war in their quest to take over the underworld from their secret castle hideout transplanted stone by stone from Scotland. The earlier Cowan stories were cast in a darker tone, before writer Jerry Seigel of Superman fame took over the feature adding more pulpy aspects like spacemen, sorcerers, and making the character more heroic.

But give me the early Spider thwarting New York's finest, namely Detectives Bob Gilmore and Pete Trask at every bizarre twist and turn. But if the Spider was tough on cops, he acted the same to crooks, or even his own men, who could get a shot of deforming face spray if they disappointed him in his conquest of crime. Reg Bunn created a startling figure that resembled a sinister Mr. Spock with his jet black hair and Vulcan ears that would often defy the laws of gravity with his acrobatic prowess on the Big Apple's skyscrapers. Bunn's moody imagery coupled with Cowan's zany stories had our anti-hero fighting monster arachnids, wild bears, giant pythons, and even Mirror Man projected hypnotising dinosaurs! Too bad The Shadow never caught up with his wild bombastic character, The Spider would have given him a run for his money.

No comments: