Now, there’s an image to start this month off with!
I’ve mentioned Timely/Marvel’s horror aesthetic in some of my past posts, but man, this story here displays it better than my words ever could. Imagine being a parent back in the day, and discovering this comic in junior’s drawer! A nude Satan manipulating the world around him with no God in sight, the creepy woodcut-style artwork that looks like it could have come from some medieval grimoire, séances, a succubus for a “heroine”, and an upstanding young man goaded into murder just so he can be “punished” for it!
Turning back the clock to 1940, here’s the debut of The Black Widow from Mystic Comics #4! All © Marvel:
Although Black Widow’s whole “death and rebirth with powers from a supernatural entity” origin obviously owes a debt to DC’s Spectre, and her habit of burning a spider symbol into her victim’s foreheads was swiped from pulp hero The Spider; Black Widow was a surprisingly influential character for one whose original run was so short. For example:
- Debate rages, but many peg her as the first superheroine in comics. Personally, I’d give that distinction to Centaur publishing’s Magician from Mars, since, as we’ve seen, Miss Claire Voyant here is hardly what anyone could call “heroic”.
- MLJ/Archie comics would launch a blatant rip-off series called “Madam Satan” in Pep Comics. The big difference was that she was straight-up evil rather than punishing sinners. More on her later this month.
- Michael Fleischer would create a short-lived but memorable anti-hero called Grim Ghost over at Atlas/Seaboard publishing in the 70’s. This guy was a highwayman who also got killed and then brought back to life by the devil to collect the souls of evildoers. It was cheesy at times, but I liked it. Too bad it wasn’t much of a success.
Of course, Todd McFarlane would achieve quite a big success in the 90’s with a “superhero” of his own whose origin involved being killed and then revived by the devil:
-And of course, Claire Voyant was far from the last spider-themed character published by Marvel, or even one called “Black Widow”.
Also, I can't resist:
The eventual fate of most Amazon.com reviewers. Repent!