Why Dynamite's "The Spider" Deserves Your Support
- by Señor Editor, 29 March 2013
It's a fact: fedoras and guns are cooler than tights and flight. Even so, the "pulp revival" that's been going on at Dynamite Comics for a while now doesn't seem to get nearly as much attention as it deserves. Classic pulp magazine characters like The Shadow, Green Hornet or The Spider are all making a comeback in a line of comics helmed by some of the industry's top talent (Mark Waid, Garth Ennis, Alex Ross & Francesco Francavilla, to name a few), but securing their place on the market may not be an easy task. "The Spider", written by David Liss, currently needs all the support it can get to avoid cancellation.
I admit, when Dynamite started their "pulp revival" line last year with brand new "Shadow" and "Spider" comics it slipped under my radar. It wasn't until recently that I really turned my focus to the (now much larger) line and instantly became a fan. One of my favorites was the brand new version of The Spider.
"The Spider", unlike "The Shadow" or Mark Waid's "Green Hornet" book that just started this month, takes place in the modern times. Or at least a version of the modern times where people still wear hats.
The first six issues of the series (one complete story arc and one standalone issue - that's right: standalone still exist in comics!) were drawn by Colton Worley, and since the 7th issue the book's regular artist has been Ivan Rodriguez. Every issue is scripted by novelist David Liss, and so far it's been a hell of a ride.
If you're familiar with the original pulp Spider character, then you already know the gist of things, but if you're a new reader then here's the entire (updated) premise: Richard Wentworth is an Iraq war veteran and the son of a rich and shady businessman. Before leaving for the war, he dumped his girlfriend (Nita Van Sloan) because he thought this would make things easier for her in case he won't make it back alive. He survived the war, though, and when he came back Nita was already married to his best friend, police commissioner Stanley Kirkpatrick. His chances for a happy family now gone, he decided to use his talents as a police consultant by day, and a vigilante by night. He wears a fedora, a cape, shoots people to death with very cool guns and most often leaves his mark on their foreheads. He's the type of badass your grandpa wanted to grow up to be, and you'll soon find out your grandpa had great taste.
People may think that the fedoras, guns and noir style of it all is everything a book like "The Spider" has to offer. They couldn't be further away from the truth.
In case you didn't notice yet, the series looks spectacular. From the covers to the interior art (I prefered Worley on the book, but Rodriguez is no slouch, by any means), it's a great looking book. But what about the writing?
Liss manages to make the book much more than just a pulp cliche fest. The initial 5-issue story takes the reader right into The Spider's world and gives you everything you need to know in the very first issue. The pacing is perfect.
The first arc may be a little more serious in tone then what follows, but it all works together perfectly - when Rodriguez came on the book, Liss switched the tone of the book a little bit, possibly to suit the new artist's style better. The comic is still dark and brutal, but now features some of the best snappy dialogues and dark humour I've read in ages. There are several scenes in the last 2 or 3 issues (won't be spoiling them here) that made me laugh or at least put a smirk on my face. Liss writes The Spider perfectly and makes him a "hero" we want to see more of.
The love triangle between Wentworth, Nita and Kirkpatrick is also worth mentioning as it is played in a pretty original way. It's not all black and white, each of the characters is likeable and the things that happen between them are interesting and help push the stories forward.
All that aside: how many vigilante heroes ARE there nowadays, anyway? Everything is government-sanctioned this, registered hero that. There's Batman vigilanting around as usual, and a few others, but there's no reason why these forefathers of the superhero genre, like the Shadow or the Spider, shouldn't be around and enjoying similar success. Especially when these comics are absolutely fantastic. If you've been on the fence about checking them out, then you should just give them a try, and start with "The Spider".
Apparently because the license to use the character is quite pricey, the sales of "The Spider" need to be better for the series to not get cancelled. The fans of the comic have been making their voices heard on Twitter, and so far the death sentence for this great book has at least been delayed (the 12th issue apparently won't be the last one, contrary to what was reported a while ago), but the threat is not over yet. Maybe it's because Dynamite isn't exactly a giant like Marvel or DC, and so promotion hasn't been all that it could be, but the comic needs your support.
Pick it up. See if you enjoy it. If you do, make sure to let Dynamite know about it (tweeting with the hashtag #SaveTheSpider seems to be the popular way to do that). Skip the 40th tie-in to the latest crossover and spend that money on a Spider book, give "the Master of Men" a chance. You may be surprised to see how much you enjoy it.
Reading "The Spider" or any of Dynamite Entertainment's great pulp revival titles? Let us know in the comments!