Secret Origins Redux 5: Tarantula

Secret Origins Month concludes with Rob and Max discussing ALL-STAR SQUADRON #66, featuring the secret origin of Tarantula!

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17 responses to “Secret Origins Redux 5: Tarantula

  1. Great ending episode for Secret Origins … although I am going to request more and even suggest issues to do at the end.

    I find the Tarantula a but derivative of so many others. But I appreciated him being in the A.S.S. as a sort of Batman derivative. I didn’t have this issue and only knew his origin from Who’s Who so I was glad you reviewed this.

    In the celebrity panel, I agree about Humphrey Bogart, Lucy and Desi, Jimmy Durante, and Edward G Robinson. I think that I also see Jimmy Cagney (the red headed man) and maybe Basil Rathbone (top left tall gent).

    As for Secret Origins, I’d love to see the Supergirl story from the 1970s Secret Origin comic renewed. While it was a reprint of Action 252, some key edits were made to the story so some details were new. I’d also like to see the Harley Quinn story from the short lived 2000s Secret Origins reviewed if only to hear some of the F&W crew give their thoughts on Quinn. I have plenty and volunteer to be a guest if needed.

    Anyways, thanks for giving us more S.O. !

    1. I only know George Burns from when he was older, but I wondered if the non-Lucy and Desi couple at centre left might be Burns and Gracie Allen; looking at old pics, that could well be a young George Burns, but I can’t see that as Gracie Allen, the hair is too smooth… still, throwing it out there!

  2. Clark Gable is the only other celebrity I can positively identify in the shot. No tour of the Perisphere for me.

    Anyway, MY first issue of All-Star Squadron WAS #24 featuring the first appearance of the Tarantula 1200% better new costume, so like the other All-Stars who Roy Thomas rescued from obscurity, I have a soft spot in my heart for him.

    Loved your ideas for the character, Rob, and this completes the audition process for Who’s Editing.

    As to your question of whether John Law had supervillains, there were three that appeared early and then teamed up as the “Trio of Terror” in Star-Spangled #8. They come closest to being “supervillains”, though perhaps more in the Dick Tracy sense of the word. The Candle did have a crime candle that shot out gas and stuff. “Bandana” Bardon was a sort of masked cowboy type, and Sting was just a crook with a knife. Still, recurring high-concept threats, better than just mobster of the month.

    And thanks for running that clip (I washed my mouth out with soap since then), it made me laugh a lot too. Then and now. Truth was, while I played my part for the bit, I would have been very happy to cover the character. I’m a Golden Age nut!

    1. Siskoid,
      I’m far from fluent, but thanks to bilingualism and working with some French Immersion schools, I can pick up a lot and I was on the floor laughing at your diatribe! I, too, once let a ‘tabernac’ drop once, and caught a bit of purgatory from the teacher. I hope Rob doesn’t have to put the explicit tag up!

  3. Great show for this round of Secret Origins catch ups, and hope you do it again. I’m sure there are a lot of opportunities left to hit up stories with that immortal title.

    Tarantula was one of those ‘fall through the cracks’ Golden Age characters, but I always felt that Roy very skillfully scooped up those types in order to build a All-Star Squadron core to focus on , and carry the narrative beyond JSA stories and appearances from the big guns. At its centre, Liberty Belle, Johnny Quick, Robotman, Firebrand, Commander Steel, and Tarantula provided a base around which the numerous side characters and better-known heroes could revolve. That among other things, was its genius, and I miss that title badly. To invent a term, All-Star Squadron does need to Omnibize.

    The constant Hawkman presence, if Siskoid didn’t say it the first time, was Roy’s nod to the 1940s run of All-Star Comics, in which he was the only member of the JSA to appear in every issue from #3 on.

    Sooner or later, I know that DC is going to have to cave in fear of the powerful Fire & Water lobby and once again bring the Earth-2 reality back into a respectful title, and I urge the Network to continue reminding its followers about this wonderful pantheon of characters and its rightful place in comics history.

  4. I’ve really enjoyed the SO podcasts. I appreciate Roy Thomas’ dedication to golden age continuity but too often it became an impediment to the storytelling. Stories such as this make it clear why Crisis became necessary. These are imaginary stories & not sacred texts. Constant reinvention & updating/discarding characters & plot points is essential for evolving the genre. Did I like all the changes Crisis wrought? No, but it was an exciting time to try new things. Flash, Supergirl, & the JSA were sacrificed but eventually returned to prominence.

    I think this hobgoblin of continuity is already starting to sour the MCU movies. Of course Captain America, Iron Man & even Black Panther will be recast as they should be. A younger generation of fans shouldn’t be tied down by comics, TV shows, or blockbuster movies made years previously. Superman Returns was linked to movies made nearly 30 years earlier. Ultimately, that was a mistake.

    As a new DC reader in the 1980s, I had no interest in plot points from the WW2 era. End of rant.

    Finally, I’d love for you all to highlight other “secret origins “ issues featuring debut appearances of supporting characters, villains, & the like.

  5. Ok, so it’s not entirely true that tarantulas don’t spin webs. While they are not an orb-weaver what we think of as spider webs. However many tarantulas line their homes with webs and unlike most other spiders they “shoot” spider silk from their feet and not their abdomen for help in climbing.

    There actually are spiders that shoot “webs” to catch prey the Gnaphosids but they are actually a ground spider and actually hun prey not one that sits and waits on a web.

  6. Great episode fellas. Add me to the chorus of folks who loved Ordway’s Tarantula redesign. The only thing I can add is that Sandman’s yellow and purple suit DID have a cape in the earliest stories, which were drawn not by Simon and Kirby as most people assume, but by Aquaman co-creator, Paul Norris!

    Oh, and Jonathan Law was a recurring character in the Nightwing title, living in Dick Grayson’s apartment building. I assume original writer Chuck Dixon had some long term plans for him, but then Devin Grayson “killed” him off, and introduced his rather nasty successor. Blech.

    I will never read a story with him again without hearing that suction/flip flop sound. Thanks guys!


  7. Great coverage of a great character’s origin! And I always appreciate when Max and/or Rob are hosting, especially when it doesn’t morph into a Gemsercast. (This is one of the rare issues on which Shag and I agree.)

    As Sontaron noted above, tarantulas do make webs, according to this website ( – for a variety of reasons that do not include trapping their prey in it, which I imagine leads to the misperception.

    These are my wild guesses at the party crowd (y’all got all the sure things, the probablies, and the maybes already): Tyrone Power is above Lucille Ball. Mickey Rooney and – Norma Shearer? Betty Grable? Lana Turner? – are at Ronald Reagan’s seven o’clock. The Mickster got around back in the day, especially for a short guy. Anj already noted that Jimmy Cagney is at Ron’s five o’clock, with someone whose identity is a mystery to me. I think Bogey is talking with his buddy, British actor Leslie Howard.

    That is NOT Radio City in the panel, although it is part of Rockefeller Center. Atlas faces St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue. The building directly behind him is the International Building, and the big one behind that was the RCA Building (now the Comcast Building, AKA 30 Rock; wave to Tina Fey, everyone!). Radio City Music Hall is on the other side of that, facing 6th Avenue. Also, the Atlas is supposed to have one knee half-bent as he holds the heavens, genuflecting to the cross on the front of St. Paddy’s. According to the tour guide, that’s why the Archbishop decided it was okay to have a statue of a pagan god across the street. And yes, we had a wonderful time visiting the city. I can’t wait to go back.

    You missed one reason that Tarantula’s costume is so awesome: It looks like clothes. I mean, weird clothes, for sure, but it never looked like body paint or armor when artists drew it. You could wear this, and you would look boss if you did. You can definitely see the Chaykin influence, as that’s a quality it shared with the tactical togs of Dominic Fortune and many other Chaykin characters.

    I don’t think we should fault Jon Law at all for having mixed motives to fight crime as a mystery man. People join the military to serve their country – and have adventures, and learn a trade or get money for college. Young doctors go on medical missions in the developing world to save lives – and get experience it would take them ten times as long to get in the developed world. People go into teaching to mold young minds – and get the same holidays their kids do. Motives are almost always mixed for any major life decision. Tarantula still put himself in harm’s way on others’ behalf and lived a much more dangerous and difficult life than he easily could have. I applaud him for not living his whole life as the sports reporter of crimefighting, but actually getting in the game.

    The Dixon-McDaniel run on Nightwing was OUTSTANDING, and it was still enjoyable under Devin Grayson, although obviously problematic. I was thrilled to see Jon Law in it when it came out on the stands.

    This is a fine finish to the Secret Origins Redux. I’m not finished with the podcast yet, so I may have more to say later. Keep up the great work!

  8. Impressive podcast. Most impressive. I always liked the Tarantula. Yeah his old costume was lame. Still the 80s one was great. The book titles are funny. Play on popular books. Him being a novelist is pretty fun. I can’t see Jim Butcher , Anne Rice,. or R. A. Salvatore running out to fight crime. Who would they fight any way…. JK Rolling? Cool that he was inspired by the Sand Man. Who did have a better old school costume than his 40s one. Pour Jack Kirby and Joe having to use that thing in their run on Sand Man. Though Sand Man ultres his slightly in their run just not enough. Any way Tarachula seemed cool to me. When I first found him in Who’s Who.

    And liked Jerry O’s art on him. This is a desent hero. Though yeah he needed better villain’s. Though he rinds me a bit of John Sable. Save with a web gun. So maybe the gangster fits. Hey Bats started with The Case of the Chemical Syndicate, Alfred Stryker not a big time villain. So a hero can start with humble origins. Roy could have built him up a great villain if he wanted to. A rival writer. A nazi spy. Maybe some one from Olga’s past. Out to kill her because she escaped from Germany and he was left behind and was put in a concentration camp. He blames her for escaping while he was stuck. He’s torched.

    Maybe the resistance attacks the camp. He escapes. joins the restiance for a bit, but still blames Olga. Learns a lot of skills. But, what’s pay back. He sneaks aboard a sub or ship. rides to the Us looks up Olga. Creates a costume and plots revange. Though it was a she died or tried to help him bit. And there were to many B]Nazi’s so she couldn’t fight back. Or some one else stopped her from helping , but he doesn’t know. Tarantula gets involved to save his friend and they have good battle now he wants pay back against the hero.

    Something like that. Yeah they may not spin webs, but can’t really have him using posion dats as weapons. Or stings like Black Widow has. So they bend the rules. Hey Coyote can never catch the road runner in the cartoons. Even though a Coyote is faster than a Road runner in real life. Ah the gests. I see Clark Gable. Ron Ragen. Boogie. Lucy and Dezi talking to Bob Hope. Fatty Arbukle I think. Bing Crosby. I think that Fred Astaire . Edward G. Robinson I think that’s him near the woman in the pink dress . Jimmy Durante near the water. The woman in pink maybe Doris Day. I think that’s Rock Hudson behind her.

    The blond heard guy 3 people across from Doris is probly James Cagney. Don’t know who he’s with. Or the guy with Doris. Ah well Que Sera, Sera . Still cool episode sorry to hear their won’t be more of these.

  9. The same thing people love about Roy Thomas is what they hate about him… he’s a fanboy, just like us. Objectively, you tell a fresh story about this otherwise lame Tarantula character in his excellent revised Jerry Ordway costume while incorporating sparse flashbacks to his limp origin wearing the derivative old costume. Tarantula is nobody’s favorite, so you can just pay a few panels of lip service to the “classic” handful of tales in the back of a lesser DC title where he was eclipsed in fame and quality by the Star-Spangled Kid and The Guardian, who are themselves unlikely to be anyone’s actual favorites. So Roy is basically me filling Martian Manhunter stories with Zook and Professor Arnold Hugo like anybody but me gives a damn, except worse because it’s a direct word-for-word Golden Age lift with Boss Wearsahat and Ma Wienerschnitzel and a Jimmy frickin’ Durante cameo.

    And because it’s me, Devin Grayson deciding comics needed another Latinx antagonist named Tarantula and took it a step further by making them an actual rapist (Dick was literally begging her to stop) is something something white feminism I’m so tired of this country bleeding heart me.

  10. Well, that was bittersweet – another great episode but the last one for now. Come back in 2021, if possible.

    I liked Tarantula in A-SS too, that costume was such an upgrade. Too stylish for the proper Golden Age, but what the heck, I’d wear that outfit. I’m not saying where, mind…

    As for the original costume’s similarity to Sandman, the situation reminds me of the later business with Booster Gold and Javelin… hey, maybe they’re cross-Earth equivalents?

    As for the actual story, yes, it was a tad pedestrian but I’m always glad to see Alan Kupperberg art, it’s so sad he died young. That opening page with the raised, angled panels is just wonderful.

  11. Okay, so the whole discussion of D. Grayson writing D. Grayson started me on a “What was she thinking?” trail in my head that I hadn’t been stuck on for at least ten years. In an attempt to get out of it and get back to the work I’m supposed to be doing, I searched for an answer. I found a 2014 interview here:

    It’s some explanation and a lot of pretty good apology. I’ll quote the best part here: “I was wrong. I messed that one up and I apologize. My interview comments were uninformed and ignorant and I’m grateful for the chance to revisit the issue.” She talks about a lot of other things that went wrong with her run, but she never backs away from her responsibility for that decision.

    The interview covers a lot of other interesting ground if you’re a Nightwing fan or if you’re interested in the inner workings of the factories that produce some of the things wherein we find joy. I think for some people that kills the magic, especially when the factory isn’t treating characters or real people like it should, so be warned.

    1. Yeah, that scene was a mistake. There’s really no question about it, Nightwing was raped. He had his ability to refuse, either in words or action, taken away from him. I’m glad that Ms. Grayson realized how bad it was later.

      And in case anyone still has any question about it, here are the two pages. Everything is in shadow, but it’s pretty obvious what’s going on,

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