Who's Black Spider?

Who's This? A former addict.

The facts: A costumed vigilante created by Gerry Conway and Ernie Chua in Detective Comics #463 (September 1976), Black Spider was a junkie who turned to crime as a minor, and came out of prison with a mission to kill drug dealers. His methods put him in Batman's crosshairs (who is shocked to hear Eric Needham took him as his inspiration). Black Spider is presumed kill at the end of that first story, but would return, infrequently (Shadow of the Bat #5 was a rare post-Crisis appearance, for example). Neil Gaiman made him date Lyta Hall in Sandman, and he showed up in Underworld Unleashed, Identity Crisis, and Battle for the Cowl. The name has been used by other villains over the years.
How you could have heard of him: In the New52, Black Spider is targeting super-powered criminals rather than drug dealers, and he served on - and betrayed - the Suicide Squad. In Rebirth, he has cybernetic claws and tries to collect Two-Face's bounty by killing Batman. So it seems that he's migrated from anti-hero to generic assassin (à la Bolt or Deadline). Fans of DC's animated series may have caught him on Young Justice.
Example story: Batman #306 (December 1978) "Night of Siege" by Gerry Conway, John Calnan and Dave Hunt
The Black Spider's second story starts with Batman cracking down on Gotham's heroin pipeline. He finds hundreds of millions' worth of "horse" at the marina, with evidence linking it with super-rich drug lord Hannibal Hardwicke, who's eluded the Bat and the GCPD for two years. Batman boards the Golden Girl II, his pleasure cruiser, and confronts the slippery devil. He's going to JAIL! Guess who's back from the dead and has other ideas?
It's tough having ethics, but Batman does his best to save the slimeball's life!
Neither the penal system nor the cops can guarantee Hardwicke's safety, not with a killer like Black Spider out to get him and unconcerned about friendly fire. So the D.A. puts Batman in charge. As they come out of the station, Hardwicke is indeed killed by sniper fire, but Black Spider quickly realizes from the lack of blood that he's been tricked. In fact, a policeman in a bulletproof vest played the part of the drug lord (and let's just be thankful that the Spider didn't go for a head shot). Batman takes Hardwicke to the Wayne Foundation penthouse, which is about to come under siege.

As predicted, Black Spider is soon climbing up that tree in the middle of the building, doing some very spidery maneuvers to get to his target.
Oh man, the old spider-tracer trick (Conway's pulling out all his Spider-Man AND Punisher tropes on this one). Black Spider survives the laser trap and runs right into Batman's arms. Don't know what happened to his shirt, but he sure climbed back up in a hurry.
The Spider crashes through the room where Hardwicke has been secured and... passes out. It was filled with sleep gas, and both Alfred and the drug lord had nose filters. "As I told Commissioner Gordon a few hours ago, PREPARATION is always the key!" Dear readers, an early example of the Bat-God. As postscript, we're also informed that Hardwicke was the financial source behind the Black Spider's original outing, manipulating him into killing off the competition and arming him for the task, not that Eric Needham ever knew. Or maybe he did and didn't care. Such is last-minute irony.

Conway evidently did a little Amalgamating when he created this character, and perhaps it's those similarities that prevented DC Comics from ever going the Punisher route with him and turning him into a late-80s/90s anti-hero. Instead we got Vigilante, though we're quite a ways from asking Who He Is in these pages.

Who's Next? A Chicago Nazi.



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