It strikes me that it’s been a while since we checked in on the doings of my favorite of the Archie/Mighty Comics campy super heroes of the mid-1960s, the Web! As you already know if you’ve read our earlier features on this line of comics, at teh height of Batmania in America and the huge super hero boom that it set off, all sorts of other companies quickly rushed into teh super hero business. One was that stalwart publisher Archie, who inaugurated an imprint alternately known as Radio Comics (for some obscure reason) and then later the Mighty Comics Group. Any idea which outfit they were attempting to emulate? Anyway, Archie brought back a number of characters they had last published during the Golden Age, and remade them into argumentative, egotistical super heroes patterned not after the Marvel book, but rather what they thought that Marvel books were like. These comics have often been described, not incorrectly, as being so bad that they’re good.
As with most of the Mighty Comics output this second Web story that first saw print in MIGHTY COMICS #40 was written by Jerry Siegel, the creator of Superman and thus the progenitor for practically the entire super hero field. Siegel had fallen on some hard times by 1966–he had been ousted from DC yet again for daring to attempt to regain the rights to his famous creation, and so he was making the rounds of available companies looking for work. For a year or two, he found it at Arche, who put him to work on their super hero revival. Siegel’s disdain for the Marvel approach is pretty obvious from these books, although one wonders how seriously he was taking any of this stuff by this point. These stories tried to exist in a space between the camp style of the Batman television show and the self-deprecating and bombastic approach of Marvel. And they didn’t really succeed at either.
The artist for most of these stories was Paul Reinman, who had been in the field for a long while and who had some experience inking over the work of Jack Kirby at Marvel early on in the Marvel days. At Mighty Comics, Reinman attempted his best simulation of Kirby’s patented action formula, but his figures were often stiff and wooden, his faces harsh and stony. It wasn’t very attractive work–but honestly, the same could be said at least of the surface finish of much of Marvels early output before the company started to employ more polished inkers such as Joe Sinnott and Frank Giacoia. As it turns out, Giacoia apparently inked this particular tale, illustrating that even he couldn’t do much to improve on Reinman’s rough finish.
The better to emulate the Marvel characters who were beginning to get press notices as “hip heroes with super-problems!”, many of the Mighty Comics revived heroes were similarly saddled with–not quite personal problems, more like a shtick. In the case of the Web, he was a middle aged super hero, now happily married and retired, who feels a pull to resume his costumed crime-fighting career despite the fact that his wife wants nothing less. “Hen-pecked” was the oft-used description. This made most WEB adventures less straight super hero stories and more akin to a gimmick television situation comedy. and approached on that level, they can actually be very entertaining.
This page is either an incredibly subtle satire of the Marvel approach to super heroes or else a completely tone-deaf emulation of that selfsame source material. You decide how self-aware it really is.
He only ever appeared in this one flashback, but I would give cash money to read a full-length story of the Web battling the evil Vegetable!
The Web’s wife Rosie is, of course, a better crime-fighter than he is. In a later story, she’ll wind up adopting the identity of–I swear this is true–Pow Girl in an attempt to persuade John to give up his career as the Web, but will find that she likes the adventure and danger.
This entire page is brilliant in its way–from the Web’s “End of fight!” balloon to teh fact that Uglyman is unmasked as a character who was never previously introduced in the story, to John’s comeuppance once he gets home. Seriously, this strip is dopey as all get-out, but I genuinely adore it.