Spider-Woman is not in any way a Spider-Man rip-off. Marvel basically took the idea of a spider-powered superhero, spun it around, and shot it off on a tangent, resulting in few similarities beyond wall-crawling and the word “spider” in the name.
But among those few similarities…Jessica Drew, like Peter Parker, does not start off heroically at all. We meet her as she’s contemplating robbing a food store because money is so tight. She doesn’t go through with it, of course, but she’s clearly not thinking about the greater good.
And while people tended to distrust Spider-Man, particularly in those early issues, they’re utterly repulsed by Spider-Woman, even when she’s in her civilian identity. It has nothing to do with angry newspaper editorials, though. With her, it’s chemical. Despite that she’s a beautiful woman, they instinctively distrust her, feel she’s odd. The spider-blood coursing through her veins sets off their alarm bells, and they don’t know why. They don’t like spiders; they don’t like her.
It’s an interesting approach, and one very much in the mighty Marvel tradition of hard-luck heroes. It’s also appropriate—back in the 1960s, Marvel’s publisher initially rejected the idea of Spider-Man because he believed people found spiders far too repulsive to want to read about a spider-based character.
Spider-Woman is not yet a full-fledged superhero by the end of #1, but the seeds are planted. There’s clearly a good person within trying to find her way out. Definitely more dramatically interesting than having a ready-made hero.
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciler: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Tony Dezuniga
Cover: Joe Sinnott
Publisher: Marvel Comics
How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Essential Spider-Woman vol. 1 (TPB)
Appropriate For: ages 10 and up