Preview: The Spider Returns In ‘The Spider: Crime Unlimited’ – Bigger And Better Than Ever!
by Richard Bruton
Having already published The Spider’s Syndicate of Crime in 2021, The Treasury of British Comics returns to the classic pulp adventure tales of the king of the New York underworld with The Spider: Crime Unlimited…
Created by Ted Cowan and artist Reg Bunn, the majority of The Spider’s adventures were written by Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman, including one of the stories reprinted from Fleetway Super Picture Library and collected here. But, as I’m going to show you, it’s the second story here, Crime Unlimited by Donne Avenell and Giorgio Trevisan that’s what makes this a great thing.
Known as ‘The King of Crooks’, the Spider was a wonderfully arrogant and cunning criminal mastermind who swiftly became one of the most popular British comic book villain of the ‘60s – equipped with a razor-sharp mind, superb athletic ability and a vast array of cutting-edge gadgets.
Much the same as the War Picture Library reprints, the source material here were the Fleetway Library editions, smaller than your normal Brit comics, meaning you only get two tiers of panels a page here in the hardback. And again, credit to the archivists and restorers at the Treasury of British Comics for the job they do here to make every page as crisp and fresh as if it were published today.
And inside Crime Unlimited, you’ll have the chance to thrill again to two classic tales written by Siegel and Avenell, drawn by artists Aldo Marculeta and Trevisan.
The first tale, ‘The Professor of Power‘, by Siegel and Marculeta is the weaker of the two, where a scientist, determined to thwart the Spider’s schemes once and for all, invents a new ray to strip evil from anyone’s personality – even the criminal mastermind himself! But, as with all of these things, it doesn’t quite go to plan and instead the scientist brings out his own evil side and becomes the Professor of Power… and puts him on a collision course with The Spider.
Sure, it’s a fun tale and Marculeta’s art isn’t in any way bad… but when compared to the work of Trevisan and the invention of Avenell on the second story, The Spider: Crime Unlimited, this really is a collection where the real joy comes in the second half of the book.
I mean, just look at this first moment we see Trevisan’s version of the Spider…
The darkness, the thicker lines, the perfect use of minimal, almost abstracted backgrounds… its just gorgeous artwork that runs all the way through the story.
Here, the spot of arch-criminal ruler of the city appears up for grabs when Mr Mass appears, applying his mass-production techniques to crime and coming into conflict with The Spider, who’s not all that keen to be usurped.
Everything begins when Mass starts up his miracle magnet, sucking up jewels and gold across the city, including some loot that the Spider’s after. Somewhat annoyed, the Spider reacts, perfectly rationally and absolutely not going over the top at all, by getting Mr Mass to accidentally suction up a nuclear warhead… yes, big boom.
And then things get even more wonderfully weird. Of course Mass escapes, to come back against the Spider with his next application of mass production to crime…
As the stakes get higher and higher, with Mass and the Spider continuing to butt heads, we’re presented with page after page of Trevisan’s simply gorgeously dark and gritty artwork. Initially, it might look loose and almost messy, but the control on display to do so much with so few lines is incredible. And his Spider is just perfect, all angular and unusual, raw and stunning – and with the bigger size of this collection, it’s all captured in crystal-clear reproduction.
The Spider: Crime Unlimited
Includes the stories The Professor of Power – Written by Jerry Siegel, art by Aldo Marculeta, and Crime Unlimited – Written by Donne Avenell, art by Giorgio Trevisan.
Originally published in Fleetway Super Picture Library issues 2 and 4 (1967).
Hardback collection published by The Treasury of British Comics on 3rd February 2022.
Now, preview time, starting with the highlight of the book, Giorgio Trevisan’s art on the second tale here, The Spider: Crime Unlimited…
Following the trail of jewelry, we find that this new remote-controlled robbery is being masterminded not by the Spider, but by a new player in crime in the city… Mr Mass…
And it appears not even the Spider is immune to being robbed by this new usurper… which will inevitably lead to a showdown between the two competing kingpins of crime in the city!
And the other tale now, The Professor of Power…
Later… when Prof Cummings puts his plan into action, determined to bring the King of Crime down using his new invention, a ray to free humanity from its darker side… but of course, not all goes to plan…