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Spider-Woman (Marvel Comics) (Earliest version)

Spider-Woman

(Proto-Jessica Drew) (Profile #1 - Goodwin version)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game
Positively the most shocking ending you’ll read this month!
– cover blurb

Context

Spider-Woman was an off-the-cuff 1977 creation to stake a claim to the name before another firm could use it. As it happens, this issue of Marvel Spotlight sold well (the costume designed by mighty Marie Severin certainly helped), and Marvel decided to do more with the character.

Spider-Woman’s career has been unusually chaotic, so we’ll go with step-by-step emergent history profiles to keep it simple.

This profile is the very first version of the character, as written by Archie Goodwin. By her second appearances, the retcons  have begun – as we’ll explain in the Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) (Profile #2 – Wolfman version) profile.

Oh, and there are S P O I L E R S about Marvel Spotlight #32 (1978).


Background

  • Real Name: Arachne.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: Former agent of Hydra.
  • Base of Operations: A Hydra base in a supposedly abandoned monastery in the Carnic Alps .
  • Height: 5’7″ Weight: 120 lbs.
  • Eyes: Unrevealed Hair: Light brown


Powers & Abilities

Spider-Woman has a collection of powers that evoke arachnids :

  • The proportional strength of a spider, sufficient to punch a steel door out of its hinges in one blow (about “Class 5” strength)
  • The ability to adhere to surfaces, just like Spider-Man (Peter Parker), and occasionally to claw into them with her super-strength. She’s also fully used to operating upside down.
  • The power to make manifestly superhuman leaps.
  • Superior but not superhuman agility and speed.
  • Superhuman resilience toward toxins.

Spider-Woman can also project bolts from her hands. These look like standard, yellow energy blasts that go “zdat !”, which evokes bio-electric bolts. However, the captions always refer to them as “venom blasts”, which seems to be meant literally (as high-pressure jets of liquid poison) rather than as a fancy name for energy rays.

Furthermore she can glide in the air, though that ability seems enhanced by her costume. It might in fact be completely artificial, much like with the S.H.I.E.L.D. “flying squirrel suits”.

The costume’s gloves also contain involuntary venom discharges, and may help with other aspects of her powers such as adhesion.

Skills

Arachne is a highly-trained Hydra field agent and assassin. In particular she excels at breaking and entering, combining her powers with excellent training in stealth, security systems neutralisation, ambushes, etc.

She is also trained in vehicles operation and the martial arts, and likely has various espionage skills.


History

(Again, this doesn’t take any later facts into account unless noted.)

Arachne is one of the New Men created by the High Evolutionary in his science citadel on Mount Wundagore. The New Men are various animals who underwent a four-colour  process of super-evolution making them fully sapient  uplifts . New Men are usually humanoids, but with an animalistic head and body.

Arachne was different.

  1. it was the first time that the High Evolutionary uplifted a female subject. The White Tiger or Lady Vermin were still years in the future, though how this statement reconciles with Bova’s existence is a mystery for the ages.
  2. the super-evolution process was cranked to 11 and, unlike with the Man-Beast, it remained under the H.E.’s complete control until the end.

The process was run on a spider of an unspecified species. When it was complete the subject was indistinguishable (barring advanced medical examination) from a young human woman. She also had full-bore super-powers, which isn’t the case of most New Men (the Man-Beast being the main exception).

However, the New Men felt instinctive aversion toward the lass – so strong that they couldn’t overcome it.

Do you see what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps ?

Lonely and tired of being rejected, the young woman left the science citadel and joined a human village. One assumes that it took place in Transia, not too far from the area where the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver lived as youths.

She successfully joined the village’s life, though what she did for a living is unrevealed. However, a nearby Hydra cell heard about her, so it is probable that she used her abilities (a low level of enhanced strength bolstering her endurance for farm work ?) in public.

Spider-Woman (Marvel Comics) (Earliest version) shooting venom

In time, she even found a lover. However, while the couple was making out, some local pranksters gave them a scare. Startled, Arachne involuntarily released a poison bolt that killed her lover.

Scared, the locals followed an important Transian cultural tradition and chased her away with torches and pitchforks. In shock, the young lady developed instant amnesia so she would not remember the accidental killing of her lover with a power she didn’t know she had.

Arachne ran into a limousine – Hydra commander Count Otto Vermis had come to observe the village based on rumours about her. The opportunity for recruitment was too good to pass up, especially when Vermis saw that the lass was amnesiac and utterly confused.

Arachne, agent of Hydra

Arachne was easily recruited, and Hydra scientists soon discovered the truth about her. Vermis didn’t tell her anything, but invested heavily to make her into a super-agent trained to be a combat and assassination machine. She was code-named Spider-Woman and given a distinctive costume.

The lass was abundantly lied to. She was convinced that Hydra were good guys, unjustly persecuted by a world that feared and hated them. An handsome senior agent named Jared was also ordered to seduce her and become her lover. He did, though he was secretly disgusted as he knew that she was really a spider.

The next step of the plan was for Jared to be captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. and taken to Nick Fury. Spider-Woman was then sent after him – her powers would allow her to reach Fury, and she would kill to defend Jared. She had been told that Fury was a fanatic who tortured captured Hydra agents.

Mama Fury’s boy ain’t no fool

The powerful, stealthy and well-trained Spider-Woman did reach Fury and Jared, avoiding or taking out all S.H.I.E.L.D. security. Wrongly thinking that Jared had been tortured she tried to kill Colonel Fury, whom Jared held in a bear hug. However, Fury thew Jared over his shoulder, and Spider-Woman’s killing blow hit Jared.

Furthermore, Fury intuited that something was off and dodged her attacks long enough to activate some recorded archives. Coming from S.H.I.E.L.D.’s dossier on Jared, it showed him conducted terrorist operations in Hydra garb.

Spider-Woman (Marvel Comics) (Earliest version) gliding in the night

Arachne apparently suspected something, as she accepted that the footage was real. Jared, apparently dying, also reflexively recoiled from her and dropped his act, confessing his disgust of her.

In tears, Arachne fled before S.H.I.E.L.D. could stop her, and mounted a one-woman assault on her Hydra base to get Count Vermis. She wrecked half the base and cornered Vermis. He told her what he knew, but almost escaped – until Spider-Woman was forced to crash the aircraft he was on to save her own life.

Meanwhile, Fury and his troops stormed the Hydra nest.

Having recovered her memories and again dodging S.H.I.E.L.D. troops, Spider-Woman hesitantly walked away from the wreckage.


Crazy Continuity Corner

Atavistic animal aversion

Why did the New Men felt such instinctive aversion toward young Arachne ? We don’t know. Three possibilities :

  • Spiders are somehow bad. After all, Arachne reacted with horror upon discovering she was one, and wolves were considered inherently evil and uncontrollable (??) when it came to the Man-Beast. But that didn’t seem to be a factor with a later female spider New Man (namely Spinneret).
  • Spider-Woman was already emitting subtle pheromones affecting others. In this case they could be picked up by New Men, but not humans. It’s simple, but it relies on a retcon that is out of scope for this article.
  • Arachne had “girl cooties”. At this point the New Men were still very young and 98+% male, so it is possible. And it is what comes to mind when reading the story, honestly.

That’s what happens when you feed a stoner scrambled eggs !

Some have noted that, while Mount Wundagore is in Transia, Arachne is recruited by a man based in the Carnic Alps. Transia and Carnic Alps aren’t in the same area at all – there’s about a 900 miles difference. In Europe that’s a *lot*.

We’d suggest it’s not a problem. The Hydra base Spider-Woman was deployed from is indeed in the Carnic Alps. But the village she lives in after leaving Wundagore is simply described as “an Alpine village”. And, with comic book lettering, it could easily be “an alpine village” (small case “a”).

“An alpine village” is a cromulent description for a village located in the Osogovo area , which is roughly where Transia lies in the Marvel Universe. So Arachne did live in Transia, then moved to the Carnic Alps along with her handler some time after she was recruited. No problem here.


Description

A slim, young brunette with curly hair and an amazingly fine waist. Arachne looks completely human, to the point where her lovers didn’t realize that anything about her was off.

Though the colouring tech of the day wasn’t up to it, the “wings” on Spider-Woman’s costume are made of glistening filaments similar to spider silk.


Personality

Impossible to say at this stage, really. She knows very little about the world and was fully manipulated by Hydra. Howbeit she seems to be a naturally moral woman who wants to do just deeds and find a place where she can belong.

She was full of anger when she attacked Fury and then Vermis, and might have actually killed Fury for what he supposedly had done to Jared. However, recovering her memories about accidentally killing her Transian lover likely changed her willingness to kill.

Still, Arachne is an angry person, especially after she discovered how she had been manipulated by Count Vermis. Her assault on Hydra likely left multiple enemies dead.

She also seemed to think that her nature as a spider was monstrous.


Quotes

“VERMIS ! You’re *not* escaping ! Not when you hold the secret of who I am ! You’re going to tell me… then you’re going to pay for what you’ve *done* !”

“[A] ‘different species’ ?! B-but… with the spider-like powers I possess that could only mean…”

“Finally I know who — and what — I am ! The only thing I don’t know is if there’s any way I can live or survive with that knowledge !”


DC Universe History

Arachne could come from Kamandi’s future on a time travel mission, which accidentally made her an amnesiac.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Spider-Woman (Arachne)

Dex: 07 Str: 08 Bod: 05 Motivation: Seeking Justice
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 04 Occupation: Ex-agent
Inf: 05 Aur: 04 Spi: 05 Wealth: Unrevealed
Init: 019 HP: 030

Powers:
Cling: 02, Gliding: 01, Jumping: 03, Mental blast: 07, Poison touch: 06, Systemic Antidote: 03

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Mental Blast has Multi-Attack 1.
  • Poison touch can be Combined with Mental Blast, and will ride its Range. However, the APS drop off with Range. The full 6 APs are useable with a 0 APs Range, but only 3 APs at a Range of 1 and none beyond that.
  • Poison touch can also be Combined with her punches. There will also be an energy manifestation, but for game purposes Mental Blast isn’t a significant part of the combo.
  • Poison Touch is Lethal.
  • Neither Mental Blast nor Poison touch can be used with her gloves on.

Skills:
Acrobatics: 06, Martial Artist (w/Techniques): 05, Thief (Stealth, Security systems): 07, Vehicles: 05

Advantages:
Familiarity (Crawling around in ventilation shafts, Espionage, probably some type(s) of farm work), Language (Unspecified Transian language).

Connections:
None.

Drawbacks:
MPR (being startled may result in involuntary venom discharges. This is just a MPR since wearing her gloves prevents that), Misc.: Amnesia, Misc.: the Attitude of animals (and perhaps people with animalistic senses) toward her is automatically lowered by one step.

Equipment:
COSTUME [BODY 06, Power Reserve (Cling, Gliding): 03, Misc.: the gloves reliably contain her poison blasts].


Design Notes

The Power Reserve approach for the COSTUME is arbitrary, and based on a caption. But it seems reasonable.

Likewise the venom blasts are set to have the dual nature observed between the captions and the panel. The Range differential is based on a remark wherein her blasts are lethal if delivered from too short a distance.

Arachne may have other agent-style Skills – you could check the generic S.H.I.E.L.D. agents stats in the Nick Fury entry for ideas. The profile for Bob, Agent of Hydra is probably less useful in that regard.


Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Spotlight #32.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 24th of May, 2016.

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