Spiderwoman # 10 (Marvel Comics, January, 1979).

The main reason I liked the first Spiderwoman series was the Carmine Infantino art. The second thing I liked, reading it back then, was the fact that Jessica (Spiderwoman) Drew was unpopular with people. Not like Peter Parker who was (I thought) initially meant (in the Steve Ditko days) to be unpopular  – but ended up being everyone’s best mate as well as boyfriend of all the best-looking girls in his college etc. No, Jessica was really actually not likeable, as in, when people met her, they did not like her. She gave off a particular chemical, we were told, to which people reacted negatively.

Issue 10 starts with Jessica and her boyfriend Jerry Hunt (moon?)bathing on a Los Angeles beach at night. After checking that Jerry’s mouth has healed as his lips had recently been sewn together by a super-villain, they kiss, but while they are kissing Jessica sees a beautiful, winged and costumed, female figure in the sky, illuminated against the full moon. Breaking away from Jerry, Jessica quickly dons her Spiderwoman costume and jumps into the air in order to ride the wind currents so that she can approach the flying woman and speak to her. Jessica has this thing about being different and she thinks she and this mysterious woman might have something in common. But the winged woman just flies away.

When Jessica alights, Jerry is furious. He complains that she has ruined a special moment.  He drives her home then leaves in a pet. Jessica asks her creepy landlady Priscilla where her friend Magnus is. He has got a new job as a stage magician, explains Priscilla. Jessica is surprised to hear that her old friend, who is a centuries-old descendant of the famous magician Merlin, should condescend to being a stage performer, but perhaps, she reflects, when you’ve been alive so long you learn to have fun. In her bedroom, Jessica finds a present left for her by Magnus. It’s a gorgeous, and rather risqué, satin dress. Putting on the dress, Jessica goes to the place where Magnus is doing his stage act but the last show is in progress when she arrives and she is not allowed to enter.

When Jessica finally finds Magnus, the old fellow is sitting between two attractive young ladies. One of the ladies is hosting a party that night at her luxurious apartment. Magnus is invited and he tells Jessica that she can come along too. At the party, lots of unusual people have odd exchanges. ‘Do you play backgammon?’ one man asks a woman. ‘No,’ she replies, ‘I am into decadence.’ This is one difference between West Coast America and the UK, I feel, as I consider backgammon to be a very decadent game.

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Boldly stylized late-phase Carmine Infantino artwork.

As usually happens to her at parties, Jessica finds herself ignored. At last a man approaches her with a drink and compliments her on her unusual hair-style. Managing to get away from him, Jessica walks outside where there is a swimming pool. At this point the beautiful costumed flying woman returns. Her name is Gypsy Moth and she has power over clothing so she causes the swimming costumes worn by the women around the pool to turn into cocoons. Jessica asks Magnus to put her into costume magically. The magician complies and also causes everyone present at the party to forget that she was there as Jessica. Spiderwoman rises on the winds again to speak with Gypsy Moth, saying that she does not want to fight her. She does not care about her wrapping those women up in cocoons. She only wants to talk with her. Jessica thinks that Gypsy Moth might be, like herself, a product of the High Evolutionary’s genetic experiments.

 

Gypsy Moth, however, insists that she does not want any friends and she causes Spiderwoman’s costume to begin to unravel. Then she ties Spiderwoman up in threads and makes her plunge to the bottom of the swimming pool. Jessica manages to wriggle out of the threads and get out of the water just as her lungs feel like they are bursting. As Spiderwoman confronts Gypsy Moth again, Jerry Hunt arrives on the scene, having tracked Jessica to the party because he wants to apologise for his earlier behaviour. Thinking that Jessica is in danger, he pulls out his gun and shoots Gypsy Moth in the shoulder. Angered, Jessica zaps him with a venom blast and Gypsy Moth flies away. Jessica is now furious with Jerry for shooting someone with whom she thought she might have been able to form a friendship. She feels that she has more in common with someone like Gypsy Moth than with, for example, anyone else who was at that party.

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