SPIDER-GIRL (ARANA) 2014
It’s a pretty common practice in comics to create the female equivalent of an already popular male character. Some of the better known female spin-offs are Supergirl, Batgirl, and She-Hulk. However, you’d be hard pressed to find any male super hero who hasn’t had a female counterpart at one point or another. Spider-Man is no different. But unlike Supergirl and Batgirl, who became popular characters in their own right, the lady Spider-Men haven’t met with great success.
I’m somewhat of a Spider-Man expert but I won’t claim to know all of the female variations of Spider-Man we’ve seen over the years. New ones pop up all the time. Just in the past couple of months we’ve learned that Spider-Man might have a secret sister and that there was a female student also bitten by a radioactive spider at the same time Peter was. Future spider-ladies I imagine.
The first spider of the fairer sex that I knew of was the Jessica Drew Spider-Woman created in the 1970s. Her costume didn’t resemble Spidey’s and she didn’t even have the same super powers. She made for a decent original character but as far as female knock-offs go her creators kind of missed the point. She was mildly popular and had her own book for 50 issues but by the time I got into comics in the 80s she was all but forgotten. I think she died, or retired or something. Don’t worry; she’s back now.
The second Spider-Woman was a redhead name Julia Carpenter. Again, her costume and powers were quite different than Spider-Man’s; at least at first. Spider-Man had been wearing blue and red his whole career and then Julie showed up in a striking black and white costume. Soon after the Julia Spider-Woman made her first appearance in 1984, Spider-Man aped her costume design (well technically it was the Beyonder) and the infamous black spidey suit was born. That is pretty much the most significant thing Julia ever did; inspired a costume change in Spider-Man. She never had her own ongoing series though she was a regular in team books.
The next Spider-Woman was Mattie Franklin. She gained her powers through some botched ritual that Norman Osborne was trying to pull off. It was a dumb storyline and Mattie was a dumb character. She was a bubbly teen with an awful haircut that brought nothing to the table. She actually got her on ongoing series for a while but it was short lived. I bought the first couple issues out of my loyalty to the Spider-Man family of books but it was so god awful I had to stop. It seemed Marvel had no idea what to do with her. She changed her costume almost every single issue and each one sucked. She left no impression on fans and when her series ended with issue 18 she faded into obscurity. I was actually happy when they brought her back a few years later to kill her off. She went out the same way she came in, in some stupid voodoo ritual; this one performed by the Kravinoff family to resurrect their dead patriarch, Kraven the Hunter.
The next and perhaps most significant spider lady was May Parker, the first Spider-Girl. Her storyline took place in an alternate future universe known as MC2. She was the daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane and she had genetically inherited her father’s spider powers. This Spider-Girl struggled to catch on with readers, her book was cancelled and rebooted a couple of times, but she had a very loyal fanbase. Long after all of the other MC2 books had disappeared Spider-Girl kept plugging away and her series lasted over 100 issues which is an impressive run for any book.
And then finally we have the Spider-Girl who is the subject of this review, Anya Corazon. She first appeared in 2004 in a relaunched Amazing Fantasy, the same anthology book where Spider-Man got his start. I liked the art on the book but the storyline never impressed me. Her origin spun out of a Spider-Man storyline which suggested that Spider-Man was one of many Spider totems who were locked in an eternal battle with wasp people or some such nonsense. Luckily that angle was dropped in the Spider-Man books but writer, Fiona Avery, took that ball and ran with it in Amazing Fantasy. Anya was drafted into the “Spider Society” where she was mentored by some D-bag in a trench coat named Miguel. She took the name Arana and her costume consisted of track pants, sneakers, a t-shirt, a knapsack, and goggles. It was a very “un-costume” design, like the hoodie-wearing Scarlet Spider. It was an awful look for a super hero but artist, Mark Brooks managed to make it work. I collected her full run on Amazing Fantasy and then I collected her self-titled spin-off series which lasted another 12 issues. It was all pretty forgettable but I still kind of like the character for some reason.
After her series ended Arana faded away for a while but eventually resurfaced in a smattering of guest appearances. When Julia Carpenter stepped into the role of Madam Web and no longer needed her black and white attire Arana inherited the costume and took the name of Spider-Girl. Marvel released the first issue of their new Anya Corazon Spider-Girl book with some fanfare in 2010 but it didn’t catch on with readers and got cancelled a few months later.
This Marvel Legends figure was a tough one to find; it was the Black Cat chase figure (a toy released in limited amounts relative to the rest of an assortment-Spider-Girl took Black Cat’s spot in a limited amount of cases). You might expect a chase figure to be constructed of reused parts but this is a wholly original figure. The body is shorter and slimmer than Black Cat’s which makes sense since Spider-Girl is supposed to be a teenager. The head sculpt is feminine and pretty and has a nice flowing ponytail. There are plenty of articulation points which allow for a number of poses yet the joints don’t hurt the visual appeal of the figure. I’m always happy to add another obscure Marvel character to my toy collection. However, I actually would have preferred an Anya Corazon as Arana figure. This costume looks too much like Julia’s and it detracts from Anya’s uniqueness. I think the track pants and goggled look could have made for a really neat action figure. Other than the Green Goblin “build-a-figure” component Spider-Girl did not come with any accessories. That’s fine with me since most super heroes don’t require accessories but it does piss me off to pay over $20 for a slim figure such as this with no accessories to justify the cost. That complaint aside, it’s a nice toy. 7 out of 10.