We recently had a chat with modern pulp authority and writer Will Murray regarding his revival of the vintage character The Spider (a previous piece on his King Kong/Tarzan crossover may be found here). Enjoy!
Q: How many books have you previously written about The Spider?
A: I'm currently writing my first Spider novel. But I've been reading the character since I first discovered him in paperback back in 1969. Almost 50 years ago. Hard to imagine. I've written about him extensively. Prior to acquiring the license to The Spider from Argosy Communications, I wrote three Spider stories for various anthologies. But this is the first time I get to put the Master of Men through his paces in a full-blown novel. I'm very excited!
Q: What interests you in this character?
A: The Spider belongs to that legion of 1930s pulp heroes that I love so well. He's a lot like The Shadow, but painted in more vivid strokes. Like The Shadow, The Spider is a two-gun vigilante sworn to eradicate crime and criminals by brutal force, if necessary.
Where The Shadow is a cold, impersonal sleuth, The Spider is a driven avenger. He seems to be a psychic prediction projection of his chief writer, Norvell W. Page. Page was a highly emotional individual and a great pulp writer. But he seems to been beset by demons. Some of these demons inhabited Richard Wentworth, alias The Spider. If you read enough Spider novels its abundantly clear that the character is at least bipolar, if not a paranoid-schizophrenic. Wentworth possesses a messiah complex and is motivated by some deep inner conviction that he and he alone can save humanity from the encroaching forces of lawlessness.
It might not be too much to assert that The Spider is the first pulp superhero consumed by a mental illness––if not several of them!
That's why I love The Spider. He's completely over the top. Also, he's a passionate, flesh- and-blood character with an actual fiancee, and more human emotions than most pulp heroes of his time displayed.
I could go on and on. But The Spider is unique.
Q: What is the plot of the forthcoming book?
A: The Doom Legion opens on Halloween eve. Wentworth and Nita van Sloan are attending a costume ball at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Wentworth is dressed as Robin Hood and Nita as Maid Marian. An enigmatic individual dressed as a medieval executioner enters, followed by a sinister figure attired as The Spider. Both of these attendees arouse Wentworth’s suspicions. Before he can investigate, a weird glowing meteorite slams into Central Park, and a new kind of Halloween horror ensues. Radiation-created zombies! Mindless monsters whose eyes emit destruction rays.
Q: Are you planning any crossovers?
A: The Doom Legion is a crossover! As the story progresses, the distraction wrought by the meteor-maddened zombies attract the attention of Jimmy Christopher, better known as Operator 5. As well as of a pilot from military intelligence who goes by the name of Captain George Gate. His last name contains a clue as to his true identity. Beyond that, I will say nothing more….
The meteorite attracts the attention of two villains from the past of our heroes. Before long, all three have their hands full of rampaging horror. But they don't team up exactly. Wentworth is suspected of being The Spider and the others are official government agents. So they go their separate ways to battle for the survival of New York City, each according to his mandates, official or otherwise. And the struggle for control of the Green Meteorite commences…
Our hardcover edition will include a bonus novelette featuring The Secret 6 battling the same menace in a different locality, apart from the main novel.
Q: Do you think there is an inherent statement in the character's blood-thirsty nature?
A: Popular Publications publisher Harry Steeger once said that he tried to improve upon The Shadow in creating The Spider. The Shadow was hell on criminals. The Spider took it to an even greater extreme. In order to understand both characters, you also have to understand the times in which they were created. Organized crime at virtually taken over certain cities, such as Chicago. Lawlessness was approaching a peak. The American people felt helpless.
The reading public had an appetite for hardboiled heroes who paid big-city gangsters back in their own coin—hot lead. The Shadow showed what kind of crime-crushing hero America wanted to see during the Great Depression. The Spider was simply The Shadow squared, and written for a slightly more adult audience. He met violence with even more ferocious violence. It wasn't any more complicated than that.
For my new Wild Adventures of The Spider series, I’m keeping The Spider and his cohorts in their original time period. I have the rights to about a dozen separate characters. In the coming years, I hope to revive them all….