Alias: Jessica Drew
First Appearance: Marvel Spotlight #32 (February 1977 Marvel Comics)
Created by: Archie Goodwin and Marie Severin
“No…none of you will have the chance! Not once you feel my venom bolts!”
There have been many that have taken the mantle of Spider-Woman over the years, but Jessica Drew is by far the most beloved of all. Even with that, her popularity has teetered since her inception. Beginning her creation as just a trademark placeholder in Marvel Spotlight #32 so that another publisher couldn’t eventually create a character of the same name. Her introduction proved popular enough for her to get her own series which ran through numerous different creators over it’s 50 issue run. After that she popped up here and there until she became the center piece in Brian Bendis’ Avengers run.
Her powers give her several different abilities. She has heightened strength, agility, and speed. Her genetic makeup makes her immune to most poisons, toxins, and radiation, and also has given her a special pheromone that she gives off that attracts men and repels women. She can fire bio energies out of her hands which are her venom blasts. Originally with the extensions on her costume she could simply glide, but more recently she has actually gained the ability of flight.
Her origin as told in Marvel Spotlight #32 was quickly revamped in her second appearance. Originally her origin was that she was created by the High Evolutionary. He used a spider to create her, but adjusted the DNA sequence enough to make her seem human. She didn’t fit in with the High Evolutionary’s other Knights, so she left an went to a small town in Eastern Europe where she fell in love with a man. Unfortunately there was an accident with her venom blasts and she killed her lover. The incident was so traumatic, she began to block what happened, and while being run out of the town, Hydra leader Count Otto Vermis found her. He manipulated her into becoming their weapon and sent her to kill Nick Fury.
In Spider-Woman #1 however, they changed this and said that the memories of being created by the High Evolutionary were actually implanted by Hydra to confuse her so they could bend her to their will. She was born actually born in England. At a young age her father and mother moved her to Transia to a lab they built. She soon became sick from uranium poisoning in the area. To save her life, her father injected her with a form of irradiated spider blood, believing this would save her life. It did eventually work and gave her the powers she now possess, but soon after being cured, Count Otto Vermis found her and brain washed her.
To make things more updated though, and confusing, this origin was again revamped by Bendis recently and did away with that. Now when she was in her mother’s womb, her mother’s stomach was hit with a laser beam that contained the DNA of several different species of spiders during an experiment.
In Marvel Spotlight #32 she is breaking into the Mediterranean branch of S.H.I.E.L.D. where Nick Fury was holding a captured Hydra agent, Jared, who happened to be her boyfriend. She sneaks into the building and easily takes down the guards. She reaches Fury and Jared where Fury was interrogating him. While she fights Fury, Jared tries to grab him so Jessica can hit Fury with her venom blasts at a fatal close range. Fury flips Jared into the blast though. Enraged, Jessica grabs Fury and throws him against a video panel that turns on and shows Jared in the middle of terrorist acts. She releases Fury and goes to Jared to ask what the meaning of this was. With his dying breath he tells her that he was only chosen by Vermis to date her so he could be captured by Fury and have her kill Fury in a rage.
Her rage instead turns to Vermis as she comes crashing back to his headquarters with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents behind her. She decided to help him escape capture under the belief he will tell her about her true origins. He tells her the fake story Hydra implanted in her about being created by the High Evolutionary which triggers the memories to the surface. While she reels from this revelation, he tries to kill her with a gas pellet that he smashes to the ground as he gets into his plane and flies away. The gas has no effect on her though, and she leaps onto his plane and forces it to crash. Distraught over the origin she believes to be true, she escapes into the woods by herself.
For a character created for the sake of a trademark, Jessica Drew has evolved into a excellent superhero. Over the last few years, Brian Bendis is definitely to thank for that, but it also was because Archie Goodwin and Marie Severin used what was otherwise a business decision to still make a great story. Her origin story might be revamped and more convoluted then many, but it doesn’t change the fact that she is a great character, and definitely not just a female Spider-Man as may tend to believe.