Meta-Messages - Roger Stern: Not Tarantula's Biggest Fan

All October long I will be exploring the context behind (using reader danjack's term) "meta-messages." A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator in their comic. Each time around, I'll give you the context behind one such "meta-message." Here is an archive of the past installments!

Today, based on a suggestion by commenter trajan23, we look at how Roger Stern expressed some slight dissatisfaction with how previous encounters with the Tarantula turned out (which can, itself, be read as a broader critique of the general level of Spider-Man villains during the 1970s).


The Tarantula debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #134, written by Gerry Conway. The Tarantula was just a very athletic and agile fellow with poisoned-tipped boots. In #134, he manages to hit Spider-Man with his boot...

But the Tarantula is eventually captured (the Punisher showed up).

They next tangled in Amazing Spider-Man #147 (also by Conway), where the Tarantula handles himself well...

Later, in Spectacular Spider-Man #1 (also by Gerry Conway), the Tarantula and Spider-Man once again fight, with the Tarantula giving Spider-Man all that he can handle...

They have a rematch later in the issue...

That takes us up to 1976.


So in 1982, Roger Stern brought the Tarantula back...

I think you could make an argument that Stern is commenting on Spider-Man's 1970s battles in general, as Conway and then Marv Wolfman would often have Spider-Man lose battles against various opponents (presumably to stress the "every man" nature of Spider-Man - Lee and Ditko did it, too, but generally against stronger opponents like Doctor Octopus. It's one thing for the Green Goblin to take you down, it's another thing for Tarantula to do it). I am not sure about that, though. It is pretty clear, though, that Stern did not like how well a non-powered opponent like Tarantula did against Spidey.


In the story, Stern has Tarantula given powers. He ultimately dies, though. Later, a new Tarantula showed up. He was experimented on to give him enhanced abilities so he would be closer to Spider-Man's level. The new Tarantula was also invented by Gerry Conway.

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