The real Spider

As mentioned previously, The Spider was first simply a nickname for detective Richard Wentworth. But by March 1934, four issues after Norvell Page took over the writing, Wentworth began using his makeup talents to transform himself into a hideous crimefighter.

Here are two examples of how the new Spider was described:

 Suddenly a strange, blood-curdling sound echoed through the room — a sound that caused all those men to stand as if petrified. It was the sound of a man’s laughter; but such weird hilarity as might have been expressed by some robust god of the pagans upon viewing the antics of the silly little human beings upon this earth. It was laughter that reached into the marrow of men’s bones, and froze it.

Involuntarily, all eyes swung toward the little door alongside the platfore, from which the strange laughter had come. The door was now swinging wide open, and in the entrance stood the twisted, ugly, caped figure of a man whom many of them recalled having seen once before.

An awed whisper went up from those men in the room. “The Spider! It’s The Spider!”

– from “The Mill-Town Massacres” (February 1937)

The Spider stepped quickly into the smoking room and glanced around to make sure that he was alone.

Then he took the cape and hat out of the briefcase and slipped them on. In another moment he had inserted those long, protruding fanglike teeth which made The Spider recognizable wherever he went.

– from “Dictator of the Damned” (January 1937)

Though that was the way the writers portrayed The Spider in text, such was not the case on the magazine’s cover. Instead, most of the covers showed Wentworth as a masked man in black hat and cape with automatics blazing.

“The Spider was so weird that his publishers refused to showcase him on their covers as he really was,” Will Murray is quoted as saying in Don Hutchison’s The Great Pulp Heroes. “For a four-issue stretch in 1940, the editors bowed to reader pressure and The Spider swooped across his own covers, long hair flowing, white fangs gleaming. Then abruptly, their better sense reasserted itself. Some sights are just too strong for the light of day.”

That’s not correct. The Spider — fangs and all — appeared on the pulp’s cover seven times: from March through September 1940. The October 1940 number returned to the masked variation of the Master of Men.

The real Spider gallery

Here’s a look at the seven covers that featured the full-fanged Spider. (Click an image to see a larger version.)