Who was the Spider?
In the 1930s and the 1940s, The Spider was toughest and most ruthless pulp action hero around. His real name was Richard Wentworth and he was a millionaire who, having served in World War I, was determined to wage war on crime back home. What distinguished the Spider from the other pulp heroes of the day was his brand of justice. He was just as willing to kill as his opponents and a typical issue of The Spider featured thousands of casualties. Though each story may have been different, all ended with Wentworth killing the villain and stamping the body with his “spider mark.”
Published on a monthly basis by Popular Press, The Spider ran for 10 years, from 1933 to 1943. If not for World War II and the resulting paper shortage, his adventures probably could have run for another decade.
The majority of The Spider‘s covers were done by either John Newton Howitt or Rafael DeSoto and they were often as violent as the stories found within. This first group of covers were done by John Newton Howitt:
This next batch of covers were all done by Rafael DeSoto, who brought his own unique style to the Shadow’s violent adventures:
The covers below have never officially been credited to either Howitt or DeSoto. They look like they were done by DeSoto to me but I don’t know for sure:
In the 1970s, Pocket Books reprinted four of The Spider’s adventures. The covers of those paperbacks were done by Robert Maguire and, as you can tell by looking below, they attempted to bring The Spider into the “modern” age. Steve Holland served as the model for Maguire’s version of The Spider:
New Spider novels are still being written to do this day and publishers continue to still occasionally reprint The Spider’s adventures. Meanwhile, original issues are widely-sought after by collectors. The Spider lives on!
Hard Case Crime has been keeping pulp fiction alive with both reprints and new works. They’ve also been keeping the art of the good pulp cover alive with retro artwork by some of the best artists around. I’ve shared many Hard Case covers in the past. Here are some of the more recent covers to come out of Hard Case Crime: