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Wrap it Up – How the Avengers Saved Spider-Woman’s Life

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This is the debut of a brand-new feature. It is a lot like my Provide Some Answers feature, which is about long-running comic book plots finally being resolved. This, though, is a more specific comic book occurrence where the plotlines of a canceled comic book are wrapped up in the pages of another comic book series. This would happen most frequently in Marvel Comics, but other companies did it, as well.

We begin with a story I featured years ago as an Abandoned an’ Forsaked, as well, which is how the Avengers saved Spider-Woman from not only being dead, but also being forgotten!

On the first page of this feature, I’ll show how the series originally ended and on the next page, I’ll show you how another comic book series wrapped it up.

Spider-Woman #50 marked the end of her series, and scripter Ann Nocenti and editor Mark Gruenwald ended the book on a somber note (the issue was drawn by Brian Postman and Sam De La Rosa), where Spider-Woman encounters an old sorcerer friend who is actually a ghost and he convinces her to join him (in astral form) to help him defeat Morgan Le Fey. They succeed, but in the process, Jessica loses her mortal body.

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So now dead, she decides to make everyone forget she ever existed…

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That’s an awfully depressing way to end a comic book series.

Anyhow, so that’s how Spider-Woman ended. But how was it wrapped up? Go to the next page to find out!

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44 Comments

Wow! First Carol Danvers, then Jessica Drew. Female guest stars in Avengers Annual #10 have a terrible history of disappearing with guys from other dimensions who turn out to be complete d**ks.

“Chris Claremont (who had written Spider-Woman before) later made her a supporting character (sans powers) in his Wolverine ongoing series. ”

Actually, as I recall, Jessica DID occasionally use her powers in WOLVERINE. She was shown to have superhuman strength, and when she was possessed by that evil sword, she even did some wall-crawling.

I just love that Milgrom/ Sinnot art. It was a great time to be an Avengers fan.

interesting for always wondered why maybe some one like dr. strange if marvel wanted to bring back spider woman down the road couldn’t just reverse the spell morgan placed on her for surely spider woman might later want to try and someday return to life. if a writter chose.

I think Mark Gruenwald’s first series as a writer was Spider-Woman 9-20. It’s interesting he would choose to erase her from existence and then bring her back. I also want to say one of his final stories was bringing her back with powers in a Spider-Man annual.

“I just love that Milgrom/ Sinnot art.”

Agreed.

The Postman/De La Rosa stuff… maybe not so much.

It is strange what happened to Danvers and Drew. Fortunately, comics can always be corrected except for poor old Uncle Ben.

I recall her using her powers some in “Wolverine” while not wanting to throw on a costume again.

I remember reading the final issue of Spider-Woman and those words–“With profound regret, we must announce that this is the final issue of SPIDER-WOMAN”–haunted me. It was the first and last issue of Spider-Woman I had read and it just seemed so sad.

Also, isn’t Jessica Drew’s resurrection eerily similar to Jessica Jones backstory? From being named Jessica, to being forgotten, to wanting to become a private detective–heck, even Krysten Ritter looks like Jessica Drew! I know Bendis brought Spider-Woman back to prominence and I wonder if he had intended her to originally star in Alias.

Bendis acknowledges the influence, but I tend to believe him when he says that he initially planned on doing a Jessica Drew detective series but then changed the idea so much that what he ended up with was a lot different than just Jessica Drew with a different last name. In other words, I don’t think it is fair to say that Alias originally was going to star Jessica Drew, but yes, clearly Jessica Drew was a major influence on the creation of Jessica Jones.

Marv Wolfman did some good work on Spider-Woman. Gruenwald did some great work. After that came Michael Fleisher’s “bounty hunter” run, Chris Claremont’s okay run, then Ann Nocenti trying to be quirky.
Poor Jessica.

“Actually, as I recall, Jessica DID occasionally use her powers in WOLVERINE.”

She did. I vaguely remember some explanation, possibly in an issue of X-Men, that all she really lost was her bio-electric venom blast (she’d already lost her immunity to disease and poisons in her own series). As I remember it, the explanation (probably from Claremont) said that with the loss of her “major” power, she decided to retire from superheroics. But yes, she was still super-strong. Not sure about wall-crawling (I thought that was a bio-electric magnetic “effect”) but I wouldn’t argue the point. They could have down-graded her powers after Wolverine. Actually, it might have been in the Marvel Handbook that outlined all this. They tended to put a lot more thought into how various powers worked that the regular monthly writers on various titles.

Different strokes and all that, but I don’t think Wolfman and Gruenwald’s runs were more than ok. Wolfman’s was at least weird in an experimental sort of way.

Come to think of it, her whole run was quirky and less than good. My favorite writers during that period are actually Fleisher, who was just adequate, and Nocenti, who reigned in her weird enough to make the character _almost_ work.

But I guess it was just too disjointed a run by that point. Jessica almost seemed to be alergic to her own supporting cast and status quo. She managed to encompass two cities and at least five main writers in just 50 issues of her own book, while fighting Hydra, Morgan Le Fey, lots of one-note Los Angeles characters, evil mutants, odd attractions to uninteresting SHIELD agents, Claremont plots that never went anywhere, a touch of Nocenti oddness and of Wolfman indecisiveness.

Not much space there for a compelling story or character.

This is probably too diffuse for a comic book legend, but I always wondered if Jim Shooter had some particular hatred for Marvel in the 1970s, because a lot of landmark 1970s heroes were killed, depowered, retired, or otherwise abandoned in his stint as E-i-C. Maybe it’s just natural that he wanted a new direction.

There is Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, Nova, Ghost Rider, Iron Fist, Shang-Chi, Captain Mar-Vell, Valkyrie, Moondragon, etc.

That’s a strange way to end a series. Not only killing off a lead character who’s popular enough to sustain a title for 50 issues, but attempting to wipe away all the stories to boot. Subsequently it makes it tough to tell future stories with any of the characters who popped up in the series for no real pay-off for the reader.

Was it just a writer going too far in trying to make a dramatic wrap up to a series or was it an editorial push to eliminate all trace of Spider-woman for some reason? Was there a deep Sentry-level hatred for the character?

Stern sure knows how to glue broken parts back together.

Man, I had forgotten entirely about Poltergeist, Gypsy Moth, and Daddy Long Legs. I wonder when the last time any of them was in a comic was?

But I guess it was just too disjointed a run by that point. Jessica almost seemed to be alergic to her own supporting cast and status quo. She managed to encompass two cities and at least five main writers in just 50 issues of her own book, while fighting Hydra, Morgan Le Fey, lots of one-note Los Angeles characters, evil mutants, odd attractions to uninteresting SHIELD agents, Claremont plots that never went anywhere, a touch of Nocenti oddness and of Wolfman indecisiveness.

This seems to be a big thing in late 60s and 70s Marvel books period. Lots of writer and status quo changes in many books. I am reading Sub-Mariner title and Captain Marvel and it’s obvious no one has any idea what to do with the characters in either one. And every title seems to be shuffling around the same 5 or 6 writers like a game of musical chairs.

–Bendis acknowledges the influence, but I tend to believe him when he says that he initially planned on doing a Jessica Drew detective series but then changed the idea so much that what he ended up with was a lot different than just Jessica Drew with a different last name. In other words, I don’t think it is fair to say that Alias originally was going to star Jessica Drew, but yes, clearly Jessica Drew was a major influence on the creation of Jessica Jones.–

The odd thing is that Bendis, said the story would be too off continuity for Jessica, but he’s the one who changed up her continuity so much enhancing the role of Hydra and all but removing reference to the High Evolutionary, and making it so she never even got around to being a PI (as she said in her latest series she never used her PI office).

She’s one of my favourite Marvel characters and I’m not fond of some of the choices that were made with her after her (or the Skrull Queen’s I wasn’t happy about that either) introduction in New Avengers.

On the other hand, she most certainly would not be headlining a book right now without Bendis bringing her back.

Man, I had forgotten entirely about Poltergeist, Gypsy Moth, and Daddy Long Legs. I wonder when the last time any of them was in a comic was?

Gyspy Moth got a new name and became a fairly notable member of the Thunderbolts supporting cast during Fabian Nicieza’s run on the book. She shows up now and then. She was in the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man following Superior Spider-Man.

T. –

That was Marvel in the 1970s. No editorial direction to speak of and a bunch of six writers handling all the superhero characters, trying to be Stan Lee and mostly failing (Englehart and Thomas excepted, though I know that you don’t like Thomas).

But the lack of direction had its advantages too. Lots of people coming and doing new and wildly creative stuff without too much interference. It was the decade Marvel felt less like a shared superhero universe, and more like a house for cool weirdness.

Did Gruenwald or Nocenti ever explain why they ended the series as they did?

Rene- It’s funny, to me Marvel felt most like a shared universe during that period. To me, a shared universe is a vast place where lots of unconnected things can happen at the same time, but what’s going on with one group of people can sometimes affect other people. If everything has to be connected at all times, to me, that’s a shared story, not a shared universe.

It always bothers me when someone’s soul gets extracted from a body, but the body itself is still okay. If a person is their soul–if the body is just a container for a soul as these sorts of stories seem to suggest–how does the body live? What is the “life essence” that was keeping Spider-Woman’s body alive

I imagine it’s related to Dr. Strange’s astral projection, which had (and presume still has) the stipulation that he had to come back within 24 hours or his body died. Since Strange uses magic, it’s easy to assume that whatever magical process he uses for his astral form maintains his body that long. But Spider-Woman didn’t go through that process. Would this “life essence” have faded eventually anyway without Morgan’s intervention?

The worse crime still is when someone loses their soul and it doesn’t really seem to matter. Like when Pixie lost her soul and it just seemed to give her a harder edge. Her body was in no way affected, unlike how Spider-Woman’s becomes catatonic here.

Count me as a fan of the Milgrom/Sinnott art during that run. Sinnott really was Milgrom‘s best inker; the art on West Coast Avengers took a notable dip in quality once Sinnott left and Mike Machlan took over.

I love Sinnott but I was not a big fan of Al on Avengers or West Coast. I think he’s done some very effective covers and he’s a solid storyteller, but he didn’t do it for me on a team book. The Avengers almost seemed to be existing in a different universe compared to the FF and the X-men just based on their clothing and hair styles.

Alaric –

Your is a good definition, but mine is a little different. To me, if it happens in the same universe, but it didn’t NEED to happen in the same universe, then… well… what should I call it? Under the same umbrella? Killraven and Master of Kung Fu, for instance. Amazing stuff, but it has little connection to anything else in the MU, and it doesn’t have a lot to do with the Marvel Style. Adam Warlock and Man-Thing have stronger links to the rest of the MU, but they could have worked divorced from it.

It’s like Stephen King and Quentin Tarantino sometimes sharing minor characters and many references among works, making it a shared universe of sorts, but that is not what most people think of when they think of a shared universe in fiction.

I think a shared universe is something more connected than just stuff happening in the same place but with little connection, but also stopping way short from the shared story approach that we have in Marvel/DC since the 2000s.

Like this:

Same Umbrella: Some of the MU in the 1970s. Theoretically happens in the same ‘verse, but didn’t really need to.

Shared Universe: MU in the 1960s, 1980s, some of the 1990s. Happens in the same universe, lots of connections, thematic and stylistic links, but you still can follow only certain titles and understand them completely. But the more you read, the more you get the big picture.

Shared Story: MU in some of the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s. Major crossovers form the backbone of the universe, you MUST read the major crossovers and main titles to make sense of it.

Frank Zappa called it “conceptual continuity”, the using of characters and settings and stuff that pop up here and there (Billy the Mountain, the poodle bites, and so forth).

@Rene- I don’t think it’s that Shooter hated the 70s. I think it’s that a lot of ’70s series got cancelled during his tenure due to poor sales and characters often get killed or retired at the end of a series or shortly after. All of your examples either took place at the end of a series or within 2 years after a series’ cancellation.

I happened to read the Drew Wolverine issues recently – she did have her wall-crawling powers for that period.

Rene, a friend of mine made the same point back when it was happening, so I agree with you it was a thing.

Luis, definitely YMMV. I found Fleisher’s run unreadable, but I loved Gruenwald—the Shroud, the showdown with Madame Doll and the Brothers Grimm, etc. But that’s what makes horse races.

Fraser –

You’re refering to my post about lots and lots of 1970s characters being sidelined under Shooter’s reign?

Michael –

Yeah, but what I do find odd is the number of 1970s characters being killed or retired after the cancellation of their series. This was not a thing in the 1960s, for instance. Stan Lee didn’t kill off the X-Men when their comic was cancelled. It also has not been a thing after Shooter’s reign.

“Yeah, but what I do find odd is the number of 1970s characters being killed or retired after the cancellation of their series.”

I completely agree and thought as much back then. Marvel gains nothing by “wasting” a character (in every meaning of the word). Leave them in “limbo” and wait for things to change. Then you don’t need a convoluted resurrection to relaunch. It just seems bitter and pointless, and they did it a LOT.

David Spofforth

January 7, 2016 at 3:55 pm

@Drew Melbourne
“Man, I had forgotten entirely about Poltergeist, Gypsy Moth, and Daddy Long Legs. I wonder when the last time any of them was in a comic was”

Daddy Long Legs had a one-panel appearance in Iron Man Annual 7. He was cured of his abnormal height by mad scientist Karl Malus. Malus used the Pym Particles he removed from DLL to turn Erik Josten/Power Man into the new Goliath (later to become Atlas of Thunderbolts fame).

Rene, yes. It seemed very obvious at the time that for whatever reason, Shooter wanted them gone, not just canceled.

Fraser –

I wonder why. Creative reasons? People talk of Shooter idolizing the 1960s Marvel Universe and wanting to return to that and at the same time moving forward by getting rid of what were, by then, the “dated” seventies characters. Or maybe office politics, as Shooter ended up antagonizing and being antagonized by a lot of the top Marvel dogs of the seventies, the guys that edited their own stories (Wolfman, Thomas, Wein, Conway, etc.), and that created most of the 1970s heroes. Maybe both.

Why is Jessica Drew’s hair so short? did she wear a wig as Spider-Woman? I dunno if that’s a good idea (villain grabs hair, it comes off) or a bad one (like a cape).

That was Marvel in the 1970s. No editorial direction to speak of and a bunch of six writers handling all the superhero characters, trying to be Stan Lee and mostly failing (Englehart and Thomas excepted, though I know that you don’t like Thomas).

Yeah, I disagree with you in that not only do I not think Thomas is the exception to the terribleness of the 70s, but I think he is the poster child for it. I personally think the 70s writers were trying to write like Roy Thomas more than they were trying to write like Stan Lee. That is, tehey were trying to write like a copy of a fanboyish copy of Stan. Kind of like how many of the artists of the 70s were more trying to draw like Romita and the Buscemas more than they were trying to directly emulate Kirby.

T. –

You’re right. Roy Thomas was probably a more direct influence in 1970s Marvel than Stan Lee. I still like the guy’s work, and I think he was almost always head and shoulders above the terrible trio (Conway, Lein, Wolfman). And together with the two Steves (Englehart and Gerber), that were the best of the bunch, they make up the 6 guys that wrote all the superhero comics in 1970s Marvel.

I think there’s a top 5 (or whatever) list in here. What characters that have had their own title have had the most life changing events outside their own title? Brought back in Avengers, turned into a Skrull in Invasion, etc., etc. Ms. Marvel had a title but got raped in another title and lost her powers to Rogue elsewhere too. And so on. These might not even be top two, just topical to this post.

There could also be a list of the top 5 Magnus characters in comics, because that seems to be the same as “John” in the Marvel universe. ;-)

I would rank Englehart and Gerber as the best of the early 70s, then I would rank the Terrible Trio (Conway, Wein, Wolfman), then I would rank at the bottom Roy Thomas. The only Roy Thomas story I ever liked was the Starr Saxon story in Daredevil he did. That was amazing in my opinion.

Everybody seems to be forgetting Doug Moench- his Master of Kung Fu issues were excellent but his horror stories were truly horrible. Does anyone remember the Amazing Doctor Glitternight in Werewolf By Night?

Michael –

True, Doug Moench wrote some horrible stuff. His Fantastic Four immediately before John Byrne was hideous and ranks next to De Falco and Englehart as worst ever, IMO. I think Byrne is really lucky. His run is amazing by itself, but it also benefits from being placed between Moench and Englehart.

But Moench was so good in Master of Kung Fu and Moon Knight that we should all forget his less stellar work.

T. –

You dislike Thomas that much? I know that you don’t like the Kree-Skrull War, but did you read the later stuff, around Avengers #100?

Personally, I would rank them thus: Gerber and Englehart tied at first, then Thomas, then Wolfman, with Wein and Conway tied at the bottom. Wolfman was good in Tomb of Dracula and pretty decent in Daredevil and FF, though he had his writing tics.

That only for the 1970s. Englehart in the 1980s was more miss than hit.

T., Rene- See, I would rank them as Gerber at the top, then Thomas (his CONAN is one of my all-time favorite runs), then Englehart (even in the ’70s, he was a bit uneven- the very early part of his Avengers run wasn’t very good, for example- fortunately, that run got better and better as it went on), then Wein, then Wolfman (his best writing is better than Wein’s best, but his worst is worse than Wein’s worst), then Conway at the bottom. But, then, I actually like them all- except Conway. And even in his case, I think some of his stuff was okay- it wasn’t all as bad as, say, his Avengers run.

And Rene- I agree with you about Byrne’s FF run. I actually think it was somewhat uneven- at its best, it was every bit as good as people remember it being, but it wasn’t always at its best, and I always hated the way he wrote Reed (on the other hand, he was the first writer to give Sue a real personality). Compared to the runs just before and after, though, it was pure genius.

If this feature is looking for ideas on the next installment, how about the Inferno Babies?

Steve-

If memory serves, Gruenwald explained on an Avengers letter page (#235 I think) that he and Ann Nocenti thought the story in Spider-Woman #50 was a good end for the character at the time. Then the hate mail on that issue started pouring in and he realized they couldn’t leave Spider-Woman like they did and that her story would continue in the Avengers.

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