The Spider Widow in the comics predated "The Scarlet Widow" of the Superman radio show.
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From the front page of a Spider Widow story in Feature Comics #60
|First appearance||Feature Comics #57|
|Created by||Frank Borth|
|Alter ego||Dianne Grayton|
|Abilities||Can control black widow spiders|
Spider Widow is a fictional superhero character that was published by Quality Comics during the Golden Age of Comic Books. The character was created by Frank Borth and debuted in Feature Comics #57, which bore a cover date of June, 1942. Borth continued to write and draw the Spider Widow feature until the end of its run in Feature Comics #72 (June, 1943).
Spider Widow is the secret identity of Dianne Grayton, a bored and wealthy athlete who decides to fight crime and foreign saboteurs after discovering she has the ability to control deadly black widow spiders. She disguises herself in a costume very similar to a stereotypical Hallowe'en witch, wearing a green-faced old crone mask, a floppy black hat, and a long black dress.
In Feature Comics #60, Nazi agents set a trap for Spider Widow by posting an advertisement in the newspaper that requests her assistance, and then knock her out when she shows up. She is rescued from a boat bound for Germany by the bird-costumed Raven on his first heroic outing, and the two reveal a hidden U-boat to the U.S. Navy. She becomes romantically involved with the Raven (who is later revealed to be Tony Grey); however, neither initially knows what the other looks like without their mask on because they shared their first kiss in the dark. The two later team up with Phantom Lady in a multi-part crossover that spanned between Feature Comics #69-71 and Police Comics #20-22. Though Spider Widow initially worries that Phantom Lady is a potential rival for the Raven's affections, they nevertheless became allies.
DC Comics is believed to have acquired the copyright to Spider Widow when it purchased Quality Comics' holdings, though that claim may be in doubt because most Quality properties lapsed into public domain prior to the purchase. To date, DC Comics has yet to use the character.
Powers and abilities
Spider Widow has the ability to psychically control black widow spiders; the reason for her gaining this power is never explained. Spider Widow is also a trained athlete.
The comic book "Spider Widow" first appeared in 1942, while the "Scarlet Widow" of the Superman radio show did not appear until 1945. It is possible that any similarities could be coincidental. The Spider Widow was really a beautiful girl who only used a horrible disguise, while the Scarlet Widow really was horrible-looking.
The Spider Woman in the Carol Superman serial was really another version of "The Black Widow" she had played in the previous serial, rather than the radio character. Similar villianesses can also be seen in comic books from that period, such as the one who shot Bucky in CAPTAIN AMERICA #66.
The Phantom Lady could be seen as physically similar to The Spider Lady, but was one of the good guys. The crossover of comic book characters Phantom Lady, Spider Widow, and The Raven was less common at this time than it would be in modern comics.
As our story begins, Spider Widow appears without her disguise:
In this one, Spider Widow is in her witch disguise:
The story end with the former foes on the same side, a satisfying conclusion that might have helped the kiddies learn by example. The Spider Widow's own story ends in obscurity as few people are interested in that character today.
Phantom Lady Club ( Lady of Quality ):
Phantom Lady vs. Spider Widow ( the same story ):
Scarlet Widow ( Radio Version ):
Spider Widow ( Comic Vine ):
Spider Widow: ( Toonpedia ):
Spider Widow vs. Phantom Lady, and Prarie Witch: