Spider Widow + The Raven

Created by Frank M. Borth
spider widow

Spider Widow

NAME + ALIASES:
Dianne Grayton

KNOWN RELATIVES:
John Keller (uncle)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Partner of the Raven

FIRST APPEARANCE: Feature Comics #57 (January 1942)

APPEARANCES:

  • Feature Comics #57–72 (Jan. 1942–Oct. 1943)
  • Police Comics #21–22 (Aug.–Sept. 1943)
Raven

The Raven

NAME + ALIASES:
Tony Grey

KNOWN RELATIVES:
None

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Partner of the Spider Widow

FIRST APPEARANCE:
Feature Comics
#60 (September 1942)

APPEARANCES:

  • Feature Comics #60-71 (Sept. 1942–Sept. 1943)
  • Police Comics #20-22 (July–Sept. 1943)

SEE ALSO:

+ History

From Feature Comics #67 (April 1943)
The Raven and Phantom Lady. From Feature Comics #70 (1942)
Dueling with Phantom Lady. From Police #21 (1943). Art by Frank Borth.
Phantom Lady vs. the Prairie Witch. From Starman v.2 #44. Art by Mike Mayhew

“She weaves a web of justice to trap the insects of corruption!” He? “Mysterious, powerful and terrifying, the Raven is the symbol of fear to all the underworld.” Together the Spider Widow and Raven made for an unusual pair and a unique case among the Quality pantheon of heroes. Not only was this sort of pairing of heroes unparalleled at Quality, but their creator, Frank Borth, teamed them with the Phantom Lady when he was writing both features.

The beautiful, wealthy, and athletic Dianne Grayton could not abide the pervasive apathy she found in her well-to-do friends. In times when the newspaper headlines consistently read of murder, sabotage and injustice, Grayton resolved to do her part. Opportunity literally came knocking at her door when a pair of mobsters visited her home in need of gasoline for their getaway car. Dianne donned an old green rubber mask, gathered some of her gardener’s pet spiders, and hid inside the crooks’ trunk. Back at boss Jake Lardo’s lair the men revealed their allegiance to Hitler; they had blown up a train shipment of oil. At first, Dianne chose stealth, scaring the men with her black widow spiders. Then she pounced, revealing herself as the Spider Widow. In struggling with Lardo, more spiders swarmed over the boss. Thus incapacitated, the cops were called to round them up. They also found a note from the Spider Widow that made the next morning’s headlines. Her friend Bob Ableson (of the idle rich set) ribbed Dianne and suggested that if she’d like to hunt criminals, she could take a few lessons from the Spider Widow. (Feature #57)


[ Read the full profile in the Quality Companion ]

Not long into her career, the Spider Widow answered a call for help in the newspaper—one placed by Axis spies. But the ad also drew the attention of another mystery man who was interested in meeting the Widow. Dianne fell into a trap, but she was pursued by her mystery admirer, who adopted the guise of the Raven. He freed her and together they delivered the menace into the hands of the US Navy. In the dark of the night, Spider Widow thanked him with a kiss, but later they were both left to wonder who was behind the masks. (#60)


[ Read the full profile in the Quality Companion ]

Notes

Dianne did not appear in costume in Feature #70 or Police #21. Her hairdresser must have been very busy. In her early adventures, she regularly sported different hair colors.

Neither hero has been used outright by DC Comics, but the Spider Widow bears striking resemblance to a Starman villain called the Prairie Witch (first appearance Starman Annual #1, 1996), which creator James Robinson said was coincidental (see interview in the Q.C.).

Not long after his debut, the Raven became co-headliner of the feature. His alter ego, Tony Grey, shares a last name with another avian Quality hero, the Black Condor (Richard Grey).

Spider Widow was also the inspiration for a character called the Widow in John Arcudi’s 2002 Elseworlds series, JLA: Destiny (see interview in the Q.C.).

+ Powers

Neither the Spider Widow nor the Raven possessed metahuman powers. However, Dianne was skilled at controlling her black widow spiders, and she also once mesmerized a tiger into submission. (Feature #59)

As the Raven, Grey could fly, but it appeared to be due to his large artificial wings. In his civilian life, Grey knew how to pilot his own monoplane. The Raven’s wings were powerful enough to enable him to carry another person in flight.