Gerry Conway Watches Over the Spider-Man Villain, the Tarantula

This is “I’ve Been Here Before,” a feature that deals with a term that I coined called “nepotistic continuity,” which refers to the way that comic book writers sometimes bring back minor characters that they themselves created in the past as characters in their current work.

In every installment of this feature, I’ll spotlight an example of a character that did not appear in a comic for at least two years before then showing up in a comic written or drawn by the creator of the character.

The Tarantula showed up for the first time in 1974’s Amazing Spider-Man #134 by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru and Frank Giacoia (with Dave Hunt), with a cool costume presumably designed by John Romita Sr.

spider-man tarantula gerry conway

The Tarantula was, in many ways, a sign of how Gerry Conway often liked to write Spider-Man. In Conway’s comics, Spider-Man was intentionally a bit of an underdog. He wasn’t an overly powerful character (heck, even his Spider-Sense wasn’t all that helpful during Conway’s run, as Conway added in an added bit that Spidey’s Spider-Sense sort of works on a level where it won’t protect him from danger from people that Spider-Man considers friends, which left Spidey open to Aunt May cracking a vase over his head one time). Therefore, it made perfect sense for someone like the Tarantula, someone who did not have any sort of super powers, would still be able to hold his own against Spider-Man just by virtue of his superior training.

Conway brought the Tarantula back during the Clone Saga, where he once again more than held his own in battle with Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #147 (by Conway, Andru and Mike Esposito – with Dave Hunt)…

Conway left Amazing Spider-Man soon after this and left Marvel entirely for DC Comics. However, he was pretty quickly brought back and even became Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief briefly in 1976. That same year, he helped launch a brand-new second ongoing title for Spider-Man (three if you count Marvel Team-Up as a Spider-Man series). The new series, Spectacular Spider-Man, debuted with a story by Conway and Sal Buscema that involved, of course, Spider-Man fighting against the Tatantula!

And once again, the Tarantula more than held his own…

Conway then left Marvel again for DC Comics, only this time he stayed put for a decade. During the next few years, no one else was really rushing to use Tarantula in their comics. He made only one or two more appearances throughout the 1970s until Roger Stern brought him back in Amazing Spider-Man #233 (by Stern, John Romita Jr. and Jim Mooney), where Stern (in what I believe was a piece of meta-commentary by Stern about the general treatment of Spider-Man throughout most of the 1970s as a guy who would be on par with street level villains) used Tarantula as an example to show just how strong and fast Spider-Man should really be…

The next issue, the Tarantula is then mutated into an ACTUAL giant tarantula!

In #236, a distraught Tarantula decides that he’d rather be dead than be a giant tarantula and so he makes it so…

And so, the Tarantula was done as a Spider-Man villain. The only way this could have changed would be if Gerry Conway would have returned to Marvel Comics…

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