Weird Suspense #1, Feb 1975

“Curse of the Tarantula”

Written by Michael Fleisher

Art by Pat Boyette

Weird Suspense was one of Atlas’s “try-out” books — and there were many — the idea being that a new character would be given a showcase for a few issues, and if successful, spun off into its own title. As Weird Suspense only managed a three-issue run before it gasped its last, just a single character emerged: the Taranutla. And what an odd beasty he was…

A storm-lashed nighttime prison break by three lags leads to the bloody demise of numerous guards and pursuing cops. The trio chuckle to themselves over their good fortune as they drive off into the night. Passing a mysterious and rambling old house, they decide they need to stop to find food. Beckoned inside by elderly butler Joseph, the three are confronted by the horror that is Count Lycosa: the Tarantula.

In his Nehru jacket, and with scaly green skin and red compound eyes, Lycosa is quite a fright. That he craves nothing less that to drain the blood of his “guests” merely adds to the nastiness. The trio panic and flee, only to find themselves trapped in a huge sticky web as Lycosa descends upon them, “paralyzing their every nerve…” with his venomous bite.

A flashback then reveals some of the history of the Tarantula. In a moody European village during the Dark Ages, a beautiful priestess leads an attack by a mass of huge — and I mean huge, like ten foot tall!! — tarantulas. Some of the villagers are killed, while others are dragged to a hidden glen where, in a mysterious rite, they are themselves transformed into more huge spiders. Thus they are “bound to serve the Tarantula God and his sordid, blood gorging cult.”

Back in the village, the courageous Count Lycosa regroups. When the spiders attack once more, he leads his volunteers to the hidden glen where they fight back with pitch forks and flaming torches. The priestess is tied to a stake and burned — but not before she has sworn a curse upon all the male descendants of Count Lycosa.

And so it is, as we return the current Count Lycosa, that we discover that he is the eleventh to suffer the curse. Though he has spirited himself away in the ramshackle house, far from “innocent men and women who would otherwise fall victim to [his] unnatural lust”, he now decides that he can no longer live in isolation…

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This is really not very good. It has an almost Golden Age feel to it, a kind of breathless “and then this happened, and then this…” Fleisher did much better work elsewhere; Jonah Hex at DC, for example. The art by Pat Boyette is disappointing. Boyette is something of an acquired taste, and there is a certain European/South America quality to his line, but this is hardly his finest hour. The modern day prison break stuff is quite acomplished and exciting, the “Dark Ages” sequence just inept. And since when do tarantulas have human-shaped heads and compound eyes? Or suck blood?? Very strange.

The cover, by Dick Giordano, is by far the best thing about this comic, and, indeed, one of the best things about Atlas, period.

©2009 Atlas/Seaboard/the respective copyright holder