The Spider takes on the Empire State in comics — and this time he’s bringing some friends!
Today Dynamite Comics releases Masks, an eight-part mini-series teaming the company’s Pulp-era licensed characters for one epic battle. What menace could be big enough to draw together The Spider, The Shadow, The Green Hornet, Kato and Zorro? Writer Chris Roberson (iZombie, Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love) explains in an interview with Newsarama:
The genesis of the idea was a well-known storyline that ran in The Spider pulp magazines in the 1930s, over the course of three novels: The City That Paid To Die, The Spider At Bay, and Scourge of the Black Legions. In the original story, written by Norvell Page (as Grant Stockbridge), a political organization called the Party of Justice takes over New York State, and quickly institutes a fascist police state. It was an allegory for what was happening in Europe at the time, and saw the Spider go from being a vigilante who fought crime to being a full-blown freedom-fighter protecting the citizenry from an oppressive government.
Yes, the Spider’s “Black Police Trilogy,” which Age of Aces Books had the privilege of putting back into print (as The Spider Vs. The Empire State), is coming to comic shops! And the New York Rebellion of 1938 is bigger than ever: In addition to The Spider, The Green Hornet, The Shadow and (a 1930s-era) Zorro, the struggle against the Party of Justice will see the rise of “new” heroes too — The Black Bat, Miss Fury, Black Terror and The Green Lama. With so many 1930s vigilantes sharing the spotlight, the narrative necessarily deviates from Norvell Page’s 1938 tale, yet — judging from the capsule descriptions of future issues — The Spider thread of the story remains pretty much unchanged. As Roberson told Check Point Interviews:
The idea was that, while the Spider was off having his adventure, the other vigilante characters who were operating at the time would have also had to deal with this fascist police state.
So who could possibly visualize such a monumental saga? Only Alex Ross, of course. Ross rose to prominence painting the Marvel universe in Marvels; then brought the DC universe to vivid life in Kingdom Come; now he does the same for the Pulp universe with the first issue of Masks! Actually, he’s been itching to do a pulp crossover for a while:
For years now, Dynamite Entertainment and I have desired to unite all of the varied pulp characters they’ve been publishing into one big crossover event. … I always thought that illustrating the first hero archetypes like The Shadow would be a milestone in my career. I’m thrilled to touch upon the legends that began the very concept of the superhero in Masks with a crossover that is literally the longest overdue.
I’ve read the first issue, and while there isn’t nearly enough Spider (it is “his” story, after all), it totally delivers the Black Police goods and authentically recreates Novell Page’s nightmarish, fascist New York. This is one comic I can safely say I will be breathlessly following every month, rather than waiting for the inevitable trade paperback.
Read more about this Blockbuster event:
- Preview of Masks Issue #1
- Newsarama interview with Alex Ross
- Comic Book Resources interview with Chris Roberson