For the past fifty years, nerdy Peter Parker has maintained the mantle of the Marvel Comics superhero Spider-Man. And even though this web-slinger's escapades are frequently befuddling and uncomfortable, he's recognized in the public sphere as the Spider-Man (the lyrical content of "Lullaby" by The Cure notwithstanding).
The thing is, another Spider-Man hit the scene 15 years before Peter Parker, and this character — dubbed "Spider Man" (no hyphen) — was a completely unrelated bad guy who showed up in but a single issue. Meet the original, disgusting, and ratty Spider Man of 1947, a fur-suit-wearing crime lord who enjoyed shooting glue into strangers' mouths.
Spider Man's first and only appearance was 65 years ago in Whiz Comics #89 by publisher Fawcett Comics. He was invented by writer Otto Binder and illustrator Kurt Schaffenberger as a nemesis for Captain Marvel, a crime-fighter who would join DC Comics' stable of heroes in the ensuing decades, when DC acquired Fawcett's characters. Does this mean DC could someday resurrect Spider Man?
I certainly hope so, because Spider Man was a total freak. Seriously, his entire modus operandi was squirting adhesive out of a frosting bag and into the faces of innocents. To make matters worse, his body was lubed up with rosin so that he wouldn't stick to his plastic webbing.
Who wouldn't want to see the Justice League battle a greasy vagrant with a big bag of gross-out? That's comic book gold right there!
In his only appearance, scumbag Spider Man robs a plane en route to Fort Knox. He runs afoul of Captain Marvel...
...who gets a face full of "THE SPIDER'S KISS." (Note: This is a catchphrase I just made up, but feel free to use it.)
After being thwarted by Captain Marvel, Spider Man licks his wounds by throwing mud at cops...
...and taunting Captain Marvel with zingers that amount to, "Look! This is an extremely large apartment building."
Finally, Spider Man learns Captain Marvel's alter ego — the plucky kid newscaster Billy Batson — by eavesdropping on children. He blasts Billy in the piehole and sics a tarantula on our hero. Tarantulas aren't poisonous to humans, but such a commitment to realism seems pedantic given that Spider Man was spying on middle schoolers mere panels before.
Behold the downfall of Spider Man. I assume he's been stewing in the hoosegow since 1947. If he returns to the comic page, I'll be gravely disappointed if I don't see Batman wrangling with a slippery, 127-year-old bag of failing organs. You can read Spider Man's unheralded debut here.