Friday, June 05, 2015

Number 1744: The Tarantula strikes; the Fly flits

The Tarantula needs silk to operate his special web gun, and the grouchy members of the rationing board aren’t about to give him any, until he proves he can make it work. That was life during World War II, and rationing, as industries were turned to war production. Surely this must be the most uncooperative ration board of all, even turning away leggy showgirls who want silk stockings, not wool. I would say that would be a priority, but that’s just me.

According to Don Markstein’s Toonopedia, the Tarantula is John Law, who was studying the “mystery men” phenomenon. He decided to make it an inside look, so he became one. Toonopedia tells us that Tarantula’s run as a hero was brief, from issue #1 of Star Spangled Comics, to issue #19, after which he disappeared until the 1970s. The origin story was written by Superman editor, Mort Weisinger, and for most of the character’s lifespan he was drawn by Hal Sharp.

This story is from Star Spangled Comics #13 (1942):


Ryan Anthony said...

Hmm. "White and black, good and evil..." That's racist.

Tarantula would've convinced me a lot easier to give him the silk if he didn't waste so much of it wrapping people up like mummies. Couldn't he come up with an alternative, like...web-fluid?

Strange that DC would allow two characters to be costumed so similarly--Tarantula's get-up is very similar to Sandman's second uniform.

Those bits with the hammer in the wall, the static electricity creating fire out of his head, and the sprayed silk protecting against darts? I've gotta call B.S. on those. Oh, wait, I'm reading a golden age comic!

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Great comic, incredibly funny. Smooth as Silk! Dynamic as Dynamite! (you Americans are really into this allitteration thing).

Some philosophic remarks:
The superhero called "the Fly" became silly and campy in the 60's with Mighty Comics. This Tarantula was silly and campy already in the 40's!
The villain here becomes a superhero in the 50's (different character, same name).
The hero here becomes a Spiderman enemy in the 70's (Tarantula, a villain almost as ethnic as the Frito Bandito). Problem with insects: writers always focus on the same ones. As a cat owner, I'd like to see a villain called "The Flea". And by the way wasn't John Law an Eisner's character some years later?

Those poor gals can't work with those "crummy wool stockings". They mention the stage, but... At least now I know why parachutes were so well-guarded.

"You're ruining our business, we gotta have silk!"
"Gentlemen, I'll be brief: I'm Tarantula and I fight crime. I need silk for my web gun!"
Those lines will be remembered and quoted in the Annals, together with the Automatic Clubber Device that knocks off Tarantula. Scrooge has one in his money bin.

TheUUShadow said...

The costume change he got In All-Star Squadron #24 was a superb update to a little known character.

Gene Phillips said...

Good story. I like how the writer bypasses the villain's origin to focus on the comedy of a superhero trying to requisition silk from a wartime board. Given the hero's short life, I imagine this was the only flight of Tarantula's Fly.

7f7f3e2a-4856-11e4-900a-bb8e57f8828f said...

That "Fly" isn't so smart. He could have taken off Mr. Tarantula's mask earlier, when he first trapped him. Like a dream where one cannot stop making dumb mistakes. This sort of story makes the Harvey Comics approach to super heroes more enjoyable. The super hero fantasy turns up in dreams with some tongue-in-cheek. Kind of repetitive but so are super hero comics. And so are a good number of my dreams. =sigh= If only more of my dreams and more comics were tongue-in-cheek.

Pappy said...

Incredible comments, all! Apparently you guys spent more time reading this story than I did.

In follow-up remarks on my original comments, the Tarantula, for me, is just another in a long line of filler superheroes who came and went in the superhero boom of the early forties. It isn't a bad story, and even has a couple of laughs, but when there were dozens of comic books coming out with superheroes that fit the template, it probably didn't stand out, either.

For J D, I was never a fan of the Archie Comics version of the Fly, except for the brief time Jack Kirby spent on the character. Of all the superhero names I think the Fly is the worst ever. Since I spend summers chasing and swatting flies it makes a lot more sense for anyone called the Fly to be a villain.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Yup, we all know where flies love to rest. i guess Mighty Comics was the best approx to cowpies.