The Spider is continuing his war on crime. He may have finally defeated one of his foes but it looks like a new one has surfaced. The latest issue looks at how far he's willing to go to accomplish his mission.
Writer David Liss has been in control of the Spider's adventures throughout this entire series and we got the chance to find out his thoughts as he wrote the latest issue as he heads towards the end of the run. Here's his commentary on THE SPIDER #15, now on sale.
THE SPIDER #14 was the first issue I wrote in which I knew for a fact that #18 was going to be the final issue. That meant I needed to start thinking seriously about how I wanted to wrap things up. I’ve always been attracted to stories about strong characters who are brought low and who have to try to build themselves back up, and it seemed like a good way to end up the last arc was to strip away Wentworth’s wealth and his network. In both the original pulps and in our reboot, Wentworth’s seemingly bottomless resources were a big part of what allowed him to function as the Spider, so it like an interesting challenge to remove those resources. Without the wealth, can he still be the Spider? I try to establish early on that some of the rules have changed, but it’s still pretty much the same game.
I wanted to strike a couple of notes here. First, to let the reader see that, despite his setbacks, the Spider was still on the job. The other is to show the crime wave that the Spider is confronting. This is where I talk about the new villain he’ll be facing, the Red Hand. I also wanted to underscore the Spider’s extreme violence. He is, of course, always a very violent hero, but he’s not holding anything back here.
Now we see how far Wentworth has fallen. He’s living in a dump, he is drinking too much, he’s on edge. Hopefully readers will link the extreme violence of the previous page with the crumminess of his new life here.
This was meant to feel like a replay of the Spider’s last major scene with Hilt, when he finds him in bed, and decides not to kill him because he can be of use against the Fly. Hilt becomes something of an alley, and maybe even thinks he’s safe, but the fact is that Hilt killed a lot of people and that isn’t going to sit well with Wentworth. Scenes like this are one of the reasons I like writing the Spider. Hilt has been a part of the story since I began working on the series. He’s a major player in the new Spider universe, but when there’s no reason to keep him alive, the Spider goes ahead and takes him down. It’s not like Batman forever circling the Joker. The Spider is willing to carry out executions, and that can make for some powerful character moments. The murder of this major character has an almost incidental feel to it, which is what I was going for.
I wanted this issue to feel like a great deal had changed for the Spider, so his rampage continues with the Fly. Again, this is a character who has been around a while – even longer than Hilt since he goes back to the pulps – and he’s eluded the Spider before. Not this time. The Spider wants to set things in order, and he doesn’t pull any punches. Like with Hilt, it’s a different sort of thing when you kill off a regular character in the middle of an issue. It messes with the usual pacing of a comic, and it also sends a message – that this is how the Spider operates. He’s going to toss a bad guy off a roof and not think about it again.
Here, however, we see that there are other consequences. Nita is the only character from the Spider’s network with whom he now has any real contact. She doesn’t much care for the wholesale killing of baddies, so it seems like Wentworth’s isolation is only growing. I also had fun with the idea that Wentworth likes the show Archer. Wentworth drinks too much and goes around killing people, so of course he likes Archer.
And then we get one more nail in the coffin. Kirk is recruited by the mayor to catch the Spider, and he has to choose between his friend, Wentworth, and his job. He chooses his job. This felt like a human and very believable decision to me, but I also felt like I was taking some liberties with a long-standing original character. I like that I’ve been able to make this characters grow and evolve.
There’s always a certain amount of back and forth in these kinds of narratives, as the hero and villain test one another. So here we get a more detailed analysis of how the Red Hand works – by making his victims afraid to talk to the police.
Then we have the Spider’s reaction – rescuing a couple who was going to be executed for reporting the Red Hand’s activities. By the end of this page, I wanted it to be clear that both sides mean business.
Now it’s time to start setting up the major players. First, with the Fly dead, Wentworth Industries is in the hands of his former right-hand-woman Norma, whom we see as being very aggressive, both in business and with her sexuality. Always a fun combo.
And, at last, we meet the Red Hand. I love how Ivan renders him here. In the script, I described his as being overweight and non-threatening in appearance. I always like to push back a little against the way everyone in superhero comics is amazingly fit. The Red hand comes off looking like a homeless guy in a nice suit, which I tend to think only makes him seem creepier. Also, I wanted his mode of speaking to seem a little strange. Bottom line: writing weirdos is fun. Also, what I wanted to get started here is the idea that the Spider is now going to be directly opposed to what was formerly his own company.
More escalation with the Spider and the Red Hand. This is a classic sending-a-message confrontation in which the Spider lets one of the bad guys get away to make sure the Red Hand knows it’s personal. Also, we get a reminder that the Spider is drinking too much, because a deadly vigilante is even more fun when he’s a drunk deadly vigilante. Right?
Wentworth mends fences with Nita. This is moving toward a big plot point, so the main thing I wanted to emphasize here is that, despite her reservations, Nita really wants to help Wentworth. Indeed, as we’ve seen, she can’t, or at least won’t, say no to him. These two crazy kids are in love, and while her pesky marriage may be getting in the way, Nita is still there for Wentworth.
But, of course, it does have consequences for her marriage. I think anyone who has followed this run knows that I love to inject real character elements into my pulp stories. These characters are only interesting if they have real problems, and those problems can only seem real if there are consequences to their actions. With Nita helping Wentworth, and Kirk trying to hunt down the Spider, I’ve got some good emotional clay to work with.
We now see the fruit of the meeting between the Red Hand and Norma. The Red Hand has got some high grade weaponry, which can’t be good. The observant reader will note that this is the same bar where the Spider stood up for the owner earlier in the issue.
And we end with what I felt was a nice twist. The place the Spider saved has been utterly destroyed, and a sign has been left, blaming the Spider for this outcome. It’s a slap in the face, and it’s exactly the kind of note with which I love to end an issue. I hate issues that end with Hero X seemingly about to be defeated or killed by Villain Y. Who cares? Hero X isn’t going to die. We all know it, so there’s no real tension. When I can end an issue so that the reader will think, “I have no idea how this is going to play out, but I sure want to see it,” then I’ve done my job.
THE SPIDER #15 is now on sale.