Normally for this column, we focus on just the mainstream continuity of a character. But in this case, that would be doing a disservice. There have been two major characters in Marvel Comics to be called Spider-Girl. The current one is Anya Corazon, the first hero to use that alias in the mainstream Marvel universe. But years before she ever appeared, Marvel published stories featuring a different Spider-Girl, one who lived in a possible future where Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker had themselves a super-powered daughter named May "Mayday" Parker.
So first we'll discuss Mayday because even if she didn't exist in the mainstream continuity, she was still the first and, for many years, the only person to wow fans every month in her own comic as the amazing Spider-Girl.
Marvel used to have a regular series entitled WHAT IF…? Each issue depicted a parallel universe stories so readers could see familiar Marvel characters in a reality noticeably different from the mainstream Marvel Universe (which is given the in-story cosmic label of Universe #616). In one story, readers saw a world where the mutant called Wolverine wound up killing the Hulk during their first battle. In another story, we saw a universe where the Fantastic Four never got powers and thus led very different lives. In another issue, Conan the Barbarian operated in modern-day Earth. And so on...
WHAT IF...? (vol. 2) #105 came out in 1998 and presented readers with Universe #982, a version of Marvel where Peter Parker (now retired from being Spider-Man) was several years older and raising a daughter with his wife Mary Jane. Teenage May "Mayday" Parker eventually discovered that she had inherited her father's abilities and circumstances then led to her having to fight evil. Before rushing off to battle, she grabbed a pair of web-shooters and a costume. But she didn't grab her father's famous costume. Instead, she grabbed a spare suit that had belonged to Ben Reilly, a clone of Peter Parker who had operated as Spider-Man for a short time during the 1990s. Amazingly, this costume was able to fit her quite nicely even though it had been tailored for an adult man rather than a teenage girl. Wearing her "Uncle Ben's" costume, Mayday called herself Spider-Girl.
Mayday struck a chord with readers and it wasn't long before Spider-Girl #1 hit the stands. Mayday continued wearing Ben Reilly's version of the Spider-Man outfit. As a Spider-Man outfit, I wasn't terribly crazy about this. But for a Spider-Girl, I think it works. The design is different enough from the classic Spider-Man that it's not a lazy copy. The sharper angle where the shirt meets the trousers definitely works on a female form.
Although it's become standard now for Spider-Man to be depicted as wearing a red and blue costume, in his first stories he was clearly wearing a black and red costume and the blue coloring was used to highlight his musculature and add some texture. Mayday seemed to adopt this style, with a red and black suit decorated by some blue shading here and there (although some comics clearly made her costume blue and red).
The only thing funky about this look to me is that the mask is identical to Spider-Man's and, depending on the drawing, so is the shape of the head. So at times, it seems that Spidey's head has been put onto a girl's body. An easy solution would be to let Mayday's red hair hang loose or to expose the lower half of her face. If you didn't want to go that far, you could at least alter the shape of her eye-lenses to give her a distinctive mask. If there's a close-up only showing Mayday's head while she's masked, I would think it was Spider-Man.
For a few issues, May wore an alternate black costume very reminiscent of the famous black outfit that her father once wore during the 1980s (before it became associated with the villain Venom). This costume works but it's also a bit simplistic. Here's a big white spider with Spider-Man's mask. There's nothing wrong with it, I just wish it had maybe an extra touch. I do, however, like that the shining web-shooters now complement the reflective mask lenses quite nicely.
Eventually, the Spider-Girl series ended with its 100th issue, giving it the record for the longest running title Marvel Comics has ever had that starred a female protagonist and was not a team book. Later on, Mayday got to star in the new series The Amazing Spider-Girl and now her costume was slightly altered. Rather than the webs solidly wrapping around her torso, she now had sloping areas of black/blue extending from her sleeves. It's a nice touch, highlighting her body's shape while also making the suit a bit more slimming (which isn't really a superhero concern but is a nice touch, eh?).
Alas, this series was canceled as well and Mayday just appeared in a few back-up stories before vanishing. A few alternate versions of her showed up in stories taking place in yet other parallel universes, but these alternate Spider-Girls were not as entertaining nor did they get as many fans. Time will tell if we start getting new stories of Mayday again in the future (so to speak).
ANYA "ARAÑA" CORAZON
Anya Sofia Corazon didn't begin her superhero career as the first Spider-Girl of the modern-day Marvel Comics reality. Initially, she was going to go by that name but then the folks at Marvel Comics decided to try a different name with her. In 1962, Spider-Man made his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 and so, fittingly, Anya debuted in 2004 in the first issue of a brand new Amazing Fantasy series.
Anya was an ordinary Mexican-Puerto Rican teenager living in Brooklyn when she wound up caught in the crossfire between two secret societies at war: the Spider Society and the Sisterhood of the Wasps. Anya wound up fatally injured and so a sorcerer who belonged to the Spider Society saved her life by transferring mystic energy to her. She wound up marked with a spider tattoo that apparently symbolized her new status as a "hunter" of the Society, a warrior blessed with superhuman abilities. Anya became the Society's special agent and they offered her a variety of possible costumes. But she turned these down and threw together her own look, arming herself with a spider-disc that could be used as a grappling hook or as a weapon. Rather than call herself Spider-Girl, she went by the alias Araña (Spanish for "spider").
Rather than a costume, Anya went for practicality. Sneakers, work-out pants, wrist-pouches and backpack to carry her stuff, a simple t-shirt with a spider emblem. She also got herself a pair of goggles that were no doubt useful against high winds that one would experience while swinging from rooftop to rooftop. They also act as a mask, disguising her face and her eyes while emulating Spider-Man's mask lenses. It's a simple look but works in emphasizing that this isn't a superhero. Not yet. Nor is she Spider-Man's daughter or younger cousin or sister. She's her own girl.
Sometimes Anya would switch up details of the look, such as wearing a tighter, black shirt. With this outfit, I prefer the loose white shirt. It just gives her a fun, carefree air that really suits the jocular personality of the character.
During this time, Anya also had the interesting ability to summon up an exoskeleton at will. It's not a bad design, but this makes her look more like some kind of lizard than a spider. It also vaguely resembles the armor of the hero Blue Beetle of DC Comics. Having someone look like a bug doesn't automatically translate to "spider" and even with the chest symbol, it's a bid odd that the exoskeleton would guard her limbs and head yet leave her torso mostly unprotected.
After the first few issues of Amazing Fantasy Vol. 2, Anya continued having adventures in her own series Araña: Heart of the Spider. This title didn't last two long though and the storyline concluded in the story Spider-Man/Araña: The Hunter Revealed. In this comic, Anya found out that she actually wasn't the chosen hunter of the Spider Society. No previous hunter had possessed the ability to summon an exo-skeleton. Her fatal wounds and encounter with magic that fateful night had apparently awakened power that was already hidden within. Free of any bond to the Spider Society or their war now, she went to pursue her own fate.
Araña made appearances in various other stories over the next few years, working alongside other heroes such as Julia Carpenter AKA Arachne, who had been the second hero called Spider-Woman. She also underwent combat training when the government temporarily required all superhumans to register as official law enforcement agents. During this time, one battle resulted in Anya losing her exo-skeleton.
Later on, a story called Grim Hunt left Anya without any powers whatsoever, though she was still incredibly athletic and coordinated for a girl her age thanks in part to her training and fighting experience. Spider-Man and Julia Carpenter were on hand when this happened and the same story gave Julia new powers and a new direction in life. Since she was no longer going to operate as a costumed adventurer, she turned her Arachne costume over to Anya, believing the teenage girl was skilled and talented enough to still be a superhero even if she no longer had powers.
OFFICIALLY INTRODUCING SPIDER-GIRL
With a new costume, Anya Corazon officially became Spider-Girl (though her friend Rikki Barnes jokingly called her "Venomette" on occasion). Initially she just wore the same outfit Julia Carpenter had worn as Arache, which we discussed in detail in our previous column focusing on the <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/agent-of-style-spider-woman-110812.html>many characters called Spider-Woman</a>.
On Julia, the line work of the spider legs going down her limbs definitely added to her sex appeal. Anya's a younger and less sexual character, so now the spider legs are an element that don't work on the same level and might actually make this costume too busy. What's more, the shoulder spots are a little odd and seem to be an extra element that doesn't need to be there except to distract.
When Anya got her own Spider-Girl series though, things changed. The covers mainly stuck with the Arachne design, but the interior art now showed a simplified outfit. The bottom set of spider legs now end halfway down Anya's thighs and the second top set of spider legs now don't extend past the shoulders.
This definitely improves the legs, eliminating unnecessary elements (which also makes it easier for the artist, frankly). Now that the costume is less busy all around, the shoulder spots don't seem as distracting. If there's one danger, it might be that this costume is now too simplistic. But fortunately, by showing Anya's very expressive face for the most part, there's still a sense of action and emotion in her scenes that wouldn't be there if her mask completely hid her features.
Despite a loyal fanbase, the Spider-Girl series was recently canceled. But with lots of readers in love with Anya Corazon and with her new mini-series that ties into Marvel's Spider-Island crossover story, the new Spider-Girl is definitely still making her presence felt. Perhaps in time, Marvel will give her a title again. I certainly hope so.
So go pick up her comics and check out her new mini-series. If you dig Anya, let Marvel know (comic book companies do listen to fans, as long as you're not just hatefully yelling). Until next time, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off.