PULP COVER FRIDAY PRESENTS: THE MASTER OF MEN!
Richard Wentworth, a.k.a. The Spider, Master Of Men!, may have been the third most popular pulp hero of the 1930’s, but he tried harder than any of the others. My God, did he ever try harder.
If you’re looking for sheer, balls to the wall crazy-eyed devastation and destruction, then you’ve found your man. And your woman, as well, for his well-bred fiancÃ©, Nita Van Sloan, was not adverse to emptying a couple of clips from her smoking .45s (pistols) if the plot called for it.
Richard Wentworth, millionaire man-about-town (But weren’t they all in the ‘30s?), was created in 1933 as competition to that other man-about-town who lurked in the shadows with his own lead-spewing gats, and, actually, makes him look like something of a milksop. Wentworth, who wore a black cloak and hideous mask, was a major in World War I, and continued his violent proclivities in 118 issues of The Spider pulp from 1933 -1943, many (if not most) of which have been reissued by one of the numerous revivals which started in the 1970s and continue on until today.
Wentworth probably slew more villains and feckless henchman than any other pulp hero (and placed his Spider stamp on their foreheads as his charming calling card), but then the average Spider villain also slew more innocent bystanders and luckless civilians than other pulp villains. It was not uncommon for the death toll in a single Spider novel to reach into the tens of thousands, and once, in the climax of his four-book epic battle with the Living Pharaoh, the entire city of Cincinnati perished. But what would you expect from guys named the Bloody Serpent, the Wreck, Judge Torture, or the Emperor of Vermin? There was also the Bat Man and the Iron Man, well before those names appeared in venues more familiar to today’s readers.
As you shall see, the Spider covers were generally pretty solid, but most had similar lay-out: the Spider shooting it out with some hideous villain or another, usually with lots of civilians (many of them comely maidens) fleeing their various death traps. It’s notable that a damsel in red is almost always among them. I’m guessing that’s the aforementioned Nita, his ever-suffering (literally) fiancÃ©, whom Richard could never marry because of his secret life as the Spider, which she knew about. Though (unsurprisingly, giving the mores of the times) they never really came out and said it, I suspect that a little co-habiting was going on on the side.
The Spider novels were written by a handful of pulp authors, but all the best ones, the crazy — I mean colorful — ones, were penned by Norvell Paige.
Below is a selection of covers. I chose some of the best (be sure to check out the titles), but more are worthy of inspection. Call out if you’d like to see them. Certain themes seem common (no girls in glass, though): giant griping hands, cultists (Yes, dressed in red. It must have been a rule.), and evil-looking foreigners of all stripes, particularly Asian. But, the Spider was clearly an equal-opportunity slayer of evil, because he also battled plenty of your run-or-the-mill-white-guy criminal masterminds.
And pretty much killed them all.
First cover: 10-33. Atypical design.
From 4-34, a couple of months later. Still haven’t nailed down the design, but there’s the girl in red.
6-34. Knowing the Spider, I suspect that that’s not some guy in a costume, but actually Satan. And Wentworth probably killed him.
3-35. Now we see the common design type utilized on almost all the remainig covers.
11-35. Nita? Shopping at the same store as the cultists?
4-36. If that’s the Cholera King and his minions, I don’t want to know what’s coming out of that pipe.
5-36. Big hand!
8-36. Okay, where’d they get the green robes?
I can’t even guess what’s going on here, but where are the snake men?
Heads in glass, if not entire girls. Not too creepy. Also, docs with gats.
Watch out, Dick!
Don’t get caught in the Food Mill!