A week ago, I posted a feature in which writer Jerry Siegel and artist Paul Reinman revealed the secret origin of the Web, that 1960s-era costumed crusader who was “hen-pecked” by his wife Rosie and her mother to give up the super hero business and settle down to a regular life.
I mentioned that I wasn’t sure whether the earlier Golden Age incarnation of the character was ever given an origin or if this was something new that Siegel and Reinman came up with. Fortunately, reader Zoomy knew the answer and was willing to share it–that retelling of the Web’s origin was an almost word-for-word pick-up from this issue of ZIP COMICS, #28, published in 1942. So let’s take a look.
The author of this story is lost to the pages of history, but the artwork appears to have been done by Irv Novick, who was MLJ’s star artist during this period. Novick would remain in the industry for decades, drawing a bevy of war tales for editor Robert Kanigher and eventually becoming associated with both Batman and the Flash, both of whose adventures he illustrated for years.
It’s an unfortunate aspect of the Web as a character, especially once you get to the 1960s incarnation, that his eventual wife Rose started out as his student in his civilian identity as Professor John Raymond. Dating one’s students is generally frowned upon, but that didn’t stop the fearless Web!
It’s easy to see the effect the team of Simon & Kirby had had on the industry. They had innovated these sort of irregular panel shapes and borders, with stretching figures in action often breaking right out of the panels, in CAPTAIN AMERICA. At MLJ in particular, Novick and his fellow artists were encouraged to follow that trend.
The origin of the Web only takes up a few pages of this story, so the remainder is devoted to a typical Web adventure of the period. It’s a far cry from the quasi-comedic escapades the hero would engage in throughout the 1960s.
6 thoughts on “ZIP COMICS #28 and the Origin of the Web”
I like some of Novick’s work here better than his 80’s DC on Batman, and others. For the time it seems among the best. Especially some of the more dynamic poses of the Web’s figures. The use of lighting on the green parts of his suit to show how in shape he was. Not having to show every single muscle. That Web costume is God-awful. Yellow should be more of a complimentary color. And never as pants or leggings (personal preference). Count Berlin’s, though, as generic as that outfit is, it’s effective. He looks like a vampire, Baron Blood’s cousin, or some monstrous human hybrid. I’d switch out the briefs for just a belt. But it’s pretty timeless in its simplicity. The drab colors don’t clash with the evil of the swastikas. He’s obviously and rightfully identifiable as the villain. He’s appropriately menacing looking. Sadly, he could appear almost exactly the same today and be taken seriously as a credible threat. I never get tired of seeing Nazis getting punched. I just wish they only existed in our imaginations.
I missed the part where the Web changed from black hair to blond.
This issue of Zip Comics has both a Count Berlin and a Baron Gestapo. It’s kind of an interesting American approach to focus on aristocratic titles for European villains, while in Britain if anything Nazi Germany was seen as an example of what happens if you get rid of the traditional hierarchy and let the common people take over.
Also, what kind of alphabetical order is that directory in? It nearly but not quite works for both first names and last names, but really goes off the rails by the end of the page… 🙂
I see what you mean about the Kirby influence — the redheaded kid looks like Scrapper of the Newsboy Legion.
There’s a Supergirl story from the early 1960s where she almost marries one of her teachers (spoilers: he’s a bad guy!). I’m guessing it worked back then as a romantic fantasy for girl readers (I’ve seen a few in romance comics) but yeah, it’s uncomfortable to read now.
I don’t think professors dating their students was an issue until the 1980’s, i.e. it still wouldn’t have been considered a problem for the 1960’s.
It’s notable how active Rose is in the story. Rescuing the hero from the fire, outrunning the police (in high heels!) – Golden Age girlfriends could be tough themselves.
Shipping arms inside of pianos strikes me that someone just wanted the setup for the wire frame gag. You’d need a lot of pianos. Plus it’s not like nobody would ever look inside of one for smuggled goods. Also, the wire frames don’t work like that.
Overall, it’s pretty standard Golden Age fare. But the “web” bit feels like it’s a hero version of a villian trying to force a caper to have the gimmick/theme (the sort of thing where Two-Face can’t just rob a bank, it has to be on 2nd street, or maybe named Second Savings, or recently ranked #2 somewhere …).
FWIW, I did notice a similar “student dates teacher” trope in Nedor’s feature The Liberator.