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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – Spider-Woman is an Evolved Spider!

All throughout December, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked.

Today we look at the original origin for Spider-Woman, as suggested by commenter Luis Dantas!


Spider-Woman debuted in the pages of Marvel Spotlight #32 (written by Archie Goodwin). In it, she discovers her origin…

In Marvel Two-In-One #33 (written by Marv Wolfman), however, she encounters Mordred the Mystic, who lets her know that her origin is not what she thinks…

And in Spider-Woman #1 (also written by Wolfman), we get her new origin…

First we meet her father, who was colleagues with the High Evolutionary (before he went by that name) and worked on serums involving spiders…

Then Jessica got sick and her father tried to use his serums…

When that didn’t work, the High Evolutionary stepped in…

Thanks for the suggestion, Luis! If anyone else wants to suggest a story for this feature, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com.


This is great example of good writing.

Instead of rebooting, the original origin, Wolfman worked with what was there to add a new revelation that changed the way readers perceived things. Awesome.

There does seem to be a bit of rebooting going on: consider the two different panels seen above of Jessica Drew emerging from the incubation… They’re clearly meant to depict the same situation, the High Evolutionary even has the same first line, but what he says after that is totally different. So either the guy in green (whoever that is) lied to Jessica about what the HE said for some reason, or Wolfman actually cancelled Goodwin’s explanation and replaced it with his.

interesting for always liked that wolfman kept some of spider woman’s origin like being in the high evoluntiary machine but then manage to make it so she is human like the rest of the mu. heroes.


Spider-Woman was #32 of Marvel Spotlight. Moon Knight was #29…

I am not sure I agree with the idea that this is an example of good writing. The end result is an origin that is so convoluted that it takes a full miniseries to try and make heads or tails of it.


Spider-Woman was #32 of Marvel Spotlight. Moon Knight was #29…

Thanks, Cory!

I never really understood the High Evolutionary. What’s his deal? Is he good, bad, or in-between?

I think he sort of doesn’t care either way, Joe. All he cares about is his research and his work to create new forms of life. That’s why he isolates himself and his creations to Wundagore, so that he can do what he wants outside of the morality of others.

This is more like two abandoned origins.

#1 The High Evolutionary evolves a spider into what looks like a human woman.

#2 Mordred tells her she is as human as regular humans.

#3 While Spider-Woman #1 keeps the “born human” part of Mordred’s claim, but the High Evolutionary describes her as half spider after finishing his treatments. Jessica describes herself as neither human nor spider. Even her father’s description of the formula (before the High Evolutionary treated her for years) was for something that would turn someone beyond “human”.

Yes, in the final version she is “born human”, but she’s certainly not “as human as all thou hast saved this eve”. Admittedly, you could argue that Mordred is lying to her to make her feel better. Like one of those cases where you tell someone that things aren’t really that bad, or that (even though you have scales and eat human corpses) your heart is more human than the murderer you just ate, or whatever. But unless Wolfman already had plans for Spider-Woman #1 when he wrote that team-up story, he might have just been going for a standard “You’re human, just with some extra powers” idea, and made it a bit more spidery when he did her series origin.

. But unless Wolfman already had plans for Spider-Woman #1 when he wrote that team-up story

He did. Spider-Woman #1 is promoted at the end of the issue.

So, all these years she has been dyeing her hair black? Who knew?

Tuomas, don’t forget the three Rs of comic books; reboot, retcon, and revamp.

A reboot is when the publisher, editor, and writer start from scratch, like Man of Steel, Batman: Year One, or Ultimate Spider-Man (i.e. everything you know is invalid now).

A retcon is when a writer sheds new information on a previously established fact that changes the reader’s conceptualization of that fact without deleting said fact from continuity.

A revamp is when a writer replaces an established character with a new one (i.e. Hal/Kyle), or alters an established character with a new direction, and/or new powers/, and/or new location, and/or new identity, etc (i.e. Captain American becomes Nomad, Wonder Woman moves to Gateway City, Captain America becomes a comic book artist that works at Marvels Comics, etc).

Of the three Rs, Wolfman’s story definitely folds in the second one because what he did was alter a previously established fact without deleting that fact.

“So either the guy in green (whoever that is) lied to Jessica about what the HE said for some reason, ”

I’m inclined to believe that was the case.

In version one, a third person who wasn’t even present in the scene of Jessica’s rebirth told her the “facts” of her origin, while in the second version the art seems to depict Jessica remembering the events first hand.

“in the second version the art seems to depict Jessica remembering the events first hand.”

It looks like she is having visions or dreams in Spider-Woman #1, not necessarily remembering the events first hand.

Indeed, in that magical flashback way, she even remembers things that she might not have been present for, like her father putting a flower on her mother’s grave while Jessica is most likely still undergoing treatment in the cabin in the background.

And thinking about it… Jessica was being treated with the genetic accelerator for years, even though Wolfman kept the High Evolutionary saying that he achieved it in mere moments. The High Evolutionary, because of the attempt to keep at least some of the original origin, in general treats it as a much more momentous event than his pre-HE incarnation did.

Honestly, I’m more of a fan of the animated version, and in that things are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay simpler Little girl is bitten by a spider and her father saves her using an experimental serum.

That’s it.

“This is great example of good writing.”

Except for the actual writing, which was really, really, really bad.


Spider-Woman was #32 of Marvel Spotlight. Moon Knight was #29…

Thanks, Cory!

Moon Knight’s first Appearance was Marvel Spotlight #28. #29 was second app.

Andrew, blame it on the era.

It’s good plotting, with bad pre-Watchmen/pre-Dark Knight/pre-Crisis/pre-reinvention of comics execution.

It’s good plotting, with bad pre-Watchmen/pre-Dark Knight/pre-Crisis/pre-reinvention of comics execution.

There was plenty of good superhero comic writing before and during the time this story came out. Good writing didn’t start with Watchmen/Dark Knight/Crisis/reinvention of comics.

It probably started with the death of Gwen Stacy and Hard Travelling Heroes, but it wasn’t wide spread back then.

Thanks, Brian!

Ganky – I have been wondering that myself. From what I gather, Spider-Woman #1 was the last anyone ever saw of Jessica’s hair not being black. It is technically possible that she is diying it obsessively, I suppose, but it looks more like a forgotten detail and a semi-intentional retcon to me.

Suggestion: In the late 80s, the X-Men went through the Siege Perilous and were no longer able to be detected by mechanical devices. This made Dazzler’s return to pop stardom difficult in the psycho fan issue.
With technology as it is now, these X-Men would be lost among iPhones, automatic doors, etc.
I want to say future writers just forgot about this.

Jeremy Aron Patterson

December 11, 2011 at 2:15 pm

One minor quibble: Her hair was short and curly in Marvel Spotlight #32!


Brian from Canada

December 17, 2011 at 6:15 am

Hayes, the Siege Perilous only affects Rogue, Havok, Psylocke, Dazzler and Colossus. They were the only ones that I remember going through.

More importantly to X-Men continuity is the fact that Carol Danvers inserted a virus into the Pentagon computers that would prevent any recognition of The X-Men… which technically should still be operational.

The only way I would accept that High Evolutionary origin is if she actually looked anything like the spider she used to be. The other New Men kept their animal traits, why not her?

I mean besides her “spider powers”.

Wolverine was originally supposed to be an evolved Wolverine. Isn’t that nuts. I’m glad they didn’t go with that.

Purple Hayes – I was just thinking about the X-men’s mechanical invisibility thingy…but it was a result of Roma’s enchantment after she resurrected them at the end of Fall of the Mutants rather than them going through the Siege. Actually, I seem to remember reading somewhere (not sure what book/issue) some throwaway line about the effect getting lost on all the X-men that went through the crystal, or got screwed around with in some way (i.e. Nanny’s de-aging of Storm). But you’re right, that Dazzler bit of post-Australia business negates that. As it stands at the very least I think Longshot and Wolverine should still technically be ghosted on security cameras. I feel like that was mentioned re: Logan in an X-book in the last few years, but I could be wrong on that front.

So where does the recent retcon that Jessica Drew’s parents were agents of Hydra fit into all of this?

Actually, throughout Spider-Woman’soriginal series it’s established her long, flowing black hair is a wig.

I recall from the original series (I remember having read it in digest form as a kid) that she dyes her hair black early on because she is a fugitive from both SHIELD and Hydra– and they know her as a strawberry-blonde.

Spider-Woman might be more interesting if she WAS actually an evolved spider. I don’t get why Stan, or Marvel, or whoever, had a problem with the spider origin…it was a cool idea.

Her origin gets retconned in her second appearance. I think it was more a matter of the fact that she was such a new character that no one was remotely invested in her continuity. Of course, the result is that within the first year of publication she ended up with a backstory more convoluted than most superheroes acquire over a couple of decades!

It’s funny, some writers at Marvel seemed really attached to that “High Evolutionary evolved an animal into a human” bit. That’s the story Len Wein wanted to use for Wolverine before they decided to make him a mutant. Then they tried to do that with Spider-Woman. Then they actually did it for the version of White Tiger they had in the ’90s Heroes for Hire series.

This is why Wolfman included Jessica (but not Spider-Woman) in his court case about Marvel characters he should own, right?

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