During the difficult decade encompassed by the years 1933-43, a commanding figure blazed his way through a legion of Depression-era supercriminals, Nazi spies and saboteurs. He was wealthy criminologist Richard Wentworth. He was also secretly the Spider!
Never before or since has there been a hero like the Spider. Driven, hunted, and violently committed to exterminating criminals of all calibers. A self-appointed savior of humanity, driven manic-depressive, and possibly undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, the Spider was known as the Master of Men.
"There's a madness that gets in me when the Spider walks...." Wentworth once admitted.
The most compelling of the classic pulp heroes, Richard Wentworth had a fiancé, a coterie of equally committed aides, and a tense relationship with New York Police Commissioner Stanley Kirkpatrick, Wentworth's best friend, but also a dedicated lawman sworn to send the Spider to the electric chair—no matter who he turns out to be.
These riveting stories ran the gamut of incendiary thrillers to ultra-violent showdowns between an obsessed superhero and his depraved arch-foes. Manhattan is the backdrop for Wentworth's apocalyptic adventures. A new skyline has arisen over the penthouses, nightclubs, breadlines, and ghettos of the Big Apple. With the repeal of Prohibition, wealthy gangsters are in search for new rackets. And standing ready to keep them in check, the dreaded Spider.
Author and former crime reporter Norvell W. Page, who penned the majority of the Spider's exploits as Grant Stockbridge in Popular Publications' infamous pulp magazine, The Spider, once described his hero in gigantic but unflinching terms:
"His exploits had raised him to the proportions of a legendary hero. In ancient times, Rome would have made him an emperor-god. Salem might have burned him as a sorcerer. The modern world—well, the police had offered rewards totaling thousands of dollars for his capture 'dead or alive.' And the Underworld hated him and plotted his destruction with a fierceness bred of abject terror.
"Yes, Richard Wentworth was a murderer in the eyes of the law—a butcher who had slain a hundred, a thousand of his fellow men. They took no account of the fact he killed only those who richly deserved to die, that he alone had prevented a score of master criminals from overwhelming the forces of law and order."
Garbed in a black silk cloak, slouch hat and wearing an assortment of masks and strange disguises to make him look as fierce as his namesake, the Spider ran roughshod over a vicious legion of thugs and hoodlums, leaving behind him a trail of cold corpses branded by his calling card, a scarlet spider burned into their foreheads.
The Spider was the only pulp hero to suffer under a messiah complex of immense proportions. As Norvell Page—the Quentin Tarantino of pulp fiction—related his complicated backstory:
"Wentworth had sworn his crusades of justice long ago solely because of his hatred of injustice, his great altruistic love for mankind.
"Oh, there had been personal reasons behind his initial foray beyond the law—a dear friend was being framed out of life and honor and home. And there had been the example of his father, who had died when Wentworth was scarcely in his teens, a great lawyer murdered by criminals because he had dared defy them to save an innocent man they had made their scapegoat."
A complex man, Wentworth yearned for a normal life, retired from violent crime-fighting often, but the call to duty always drew him back. His exploits impressed a ten year old Stan Lee, who when he launched Marvel Comics in the early 1960s, drew on the idea of a hunted hero to create Spider-Man!
Prince of the Red Looters dates from August, 1934. The Spider has only been at large for a year. But already the law and the underworld are determined to exterminate him. Caught between these two warring factions, he plays a dangerous game of upholding the law while breaking it with impunity.
At his side are Nita van Sloan, who sometimes dons the Spider's black cape and mask to become the Black Widow, Wentworth's loyal chauffeur, Ronald Jackson, and Sikh bodyguard, Ram Singh. All share in his dangerous life, and every one of them knows his fatal secret. If they are exposed, disgrace and the Death House will be their fate.
Up from the underworld emerges a new foe to take on the Master of Men. The Fly! Unlike previous opponents, the Fly issues a public call for the Spider to "Come into my parlor." Never before has an antagonist dared to challenge the Master of Men to a duel to the death. This makes the Fly the most supremely confident egotist ever to take on the Spider.
But is the Fly confident—or overconfident?
Featuring acclaimed voice talent Nick Santa Maria narrating the action, with Robin Riker, who played Patricia Savage in The Adventures of Doc Savage series, as the vivacious Nita van Sloan.