Last week I wrote about my little personal adventure during our stay-at-home orders: reading the entire original Spider-Woman series one issue per day. As of today, I am on issue 25. Over the past several issues, a lot has changed for Jessica Drew, in-universe and out. Here are my thoughts:
- The writing duties changed from Mark Gruenwald to Michael Fleisher plus the art changed hands from Carmine Infantino to…a few others including Frank Springer.
- Jessica is still in L.A., and she’s encountered a serial killer clown, a mutant, a melting man, a crime boss called the Gamesman (to whom she is attracted), and the Werewolf by Night again (to whom she is attracted)…
- Speaking of attractions, Jessica has experienced a couple since Jerry Hunt walked out of her life, and they are…weird. Not weird by Spider-Woman standards, though, just possibly due to poor writing of women in the ’70s. For instance, Jessica spends a day, ONE DAY, with a man at a picnic and seems to fall completely in love with him. The man is revealed (the next night) to be the villain the Gamesman who kidnaps her, and she visits him in prison and seems very hung up on him…again, after ONE DAY. His attraction to her could be explained by her pheromone powers, but her attraction to him seems incredibly gullible even juvenile.
- Jessica has a best friend named Lindsay now, so our girl isn’t as lonely and isolated.
- In that same issue, Spider-Woman is bested by four simple thugs and needs rescued by the man who turns out to be the Gamesman, so that was weird too. In past issues, Jessica has been tough and capable of taking on far greater threats. Meh.
- Writer Fleisher has drastically weakened the effect of Jessica’s venom blasts, specifically making her wait to recharge for an hour after just one blast. She might as well not even have them?
- Speaking of powers, her gliding ability seems entirely reliant upon her suit now. In her earlier appearances, it was suggested that she had the ability to glide on her own but the Hydra-invented suit simply aided her.
- She’s also on pills now that help control her pheromone ability.
- Jessica has grown out her hair and no longer needs a wig when in Spider-Woman costume.
- Jessica has lost her job as a receptionist and has become a bounty hunter instead, which is kinda cool and certainly sets her apart from most other Marvel costumed heroes of the time.
- As well as the leap into bounty hunting, Fleisher does a major jump when his run begins, dropping Jessica and the reader into a new status quo with promises of explanations to come. Beginning with issue 21, Jessica somehow owns a costume warehouse and has become a master of disguise, has a crime-fighting partner named Scotty (who, surprise, has a crush on her and will later become the Hornet), and has an arrangement with the police captain to turn in criminals and discreetly collect the bounty.
- How Jessica is described within universe and out-of-universe has changed, and it really bothers me. Earlier issues presented her as a strange and fearsome creature who frightened others, especially innocent onlookers (much of this due to her pheromone powers, but not all). Descriptions like “to know her is to fear her,” and “beware the Spider-Woman” headlined her book. But now…criminals see her and comment on her curves before attacking her…innocent bystanders describe her costume as kinky…she’s frequently called an “angel”…the fear seems to be gone, and I hate that.
Even though some of the changes in the book I love and some I hate, I’m still overall enjoying this experience, and it’s interesting to note the kinds of directions that the different writers thought to take the character.