Marvel’s Original Spider-Woman Was One of Its First Dark Heroes

In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, find out how Marvel’s first Spider-Woman was actually a black character.

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and twenty-ninth episode where we examine three comic book legends and determine if they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three captions. Click here for the first part of this episode’s captions.

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COMIC CAPTION:

Marvel’s first comic, Spider-Woman, was a dark hero.

STATUS:

True

With February ending and March beginning, I thought it would be fun to post this as a sort of bridge between Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

In 1971, Children’s Television Workshop, the creators of sesame streetdebuted as a Sesame Street partner with The electricity companywhich was created by actor/writer Paul Dooley (the father of Sixteen Candles and still active to this day, at 94) as a show for sesame street fans as they aged a bit, helping them learn like the original sesame street series. The show ran until 1977, but like many other shows on PBS, it remained on the air via reruns for many years after its ostensible end.


Perhaps the most famous character on the show was Morgan Freeman’s Easy Reader. There was also Hattie Winston, who played Valerie the librarian, seen here with Freeman’s Easy Reader…


Winston is a longtime actress who you may know from her regular gig on the sitcom Ted Danson, Becker. Morgan Freeman, you may have known him for becoming a very big movie star later in his life.

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One of the interesting aspects of The electronic society was that he was doing live-action Spider-Man stories, with comic book-like captions to help kids read…



Naturally, in 1974, Marvel began releasing an ongoing series called Super Spidey Stories to tie in with the TV series.

Originally written by Jean Thomas (Jim Salicrup eventually took over) and drawn by veteran comics artists Win Mortimer and Mike Esposito, the series was a mix between quirky stores designed for young audiences and adaptations of the super simple electric company Sketch of Spider-Man.

On the cover of the first issue we see a number of electric company characters, including Easy Reader and Valerie.


Valerie, however, would soon take on a much larger role on the show.


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In Spidey Superstories #11 in 1975 (Thomas was still writing the book), Valérie discovers Spider-Man’s suit while Spidey accidentally lost one of his suits…


She decides to modify the suit so she can wear it, but she also needs to figure out how Spider-Man sticks to walls, and she decides it has to involve suction cups of some sort (close, Valerie, but not true!). ..


After figuring out how to use Spider-Man’s webshooters, she springs into action as the new Spier-Woman….


Spider-Man sees her in his new outfit and he’s a little condescending about it, but he’s not TOO dumb, really…



In the end, she helps Spider-Man defeat the Vulture, but her suckers are ruined and she realizes it’s not a realistic way to emulate Spider-Man’s powers, so she decides to give up. as Spider Woman…


Still, the timing of this story meant that Valerie’s stint as Spider-Woman actually predated Jessica Drew’s introduction to Marvel. Drew, of course, was created by Marvel for a problem that this issue kind of hinted at. You know what that story is like, “Hey, why not make a Spider-WOMAN?” Well, with the proliferation of animated and live-action superheroes of the late 1970s, Marvel began to fear that this was precisely what other companies were going to do and in one case, they were absolutely right.

In 1978, Filmation expanded its hour-long combo of Batman and Tarzan adventures to create Tarzan and the Super 7

The new characters (who each got their own 10 minute feature) were:

The Freedom Force – Isis, Super-Samurai, Sinbad, Merlin and Hercules

Jason from Star Command (live action)

Manta and Moray

Superstretch and Microwoman

Web Woman

(Batman and Tarzan were part of the Super 7, although it’s called Tarzan AND the Super 7)


Web Woman was originally going to be called Spider-Woman, but when Marvel heard of Filmation’s plans (in 1976) to feature her, Marvel rushed her own Spider-Woman in Marvel Spotlight #32 (using a concept original by Archie Goodwin of Jessica Drew being a mutated spider who was considered so bizarre that she was dropped when she next appeared), Jessica Drew and trademarked the name in late 1976 (the comics having a lot less time than cartoons, of course)…


Filmation was therefore forced to change the name of their hero to Web-Woman. However, as we can see here, Valerie was Spider-Woman a year before Jessica Drew came on the scene.

In fact, Valerie/Spider-Woman was almost Marvel’s FIRST black superheroine, but she was beaten to market by Storm earlier in the same year, 1975, as part of the all-new, all-different X-Men in Giant Size X-Men #1…


Still, Valerie as Spider-Woman remains an important part of Marvel comics history. I imagine the fact that they based the character on a real person made it difficult for Marvel to do much more with the characters in the years since, which is a shame, because that’s the kind of thing that you would think a company would want to talk about it more often.

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