In a cross-promotional comic series with The Electric Company, Marvel Comics gave readers their first Spider-Woman three years before Jessica Drew made her debut, with a Black woman taking the mantle.
Marvel Comics has established dozens of spider-like heroes, beginning with Peter Parker’s Spider-Man and expanding to include everything from a cosmic being who oversees all spider-kind, a spider bitten by a radioactive pig, and every significant woman in Peter’s life getting an iteration of Spider-Hero. Spider-Woman, however, stands out as one of the longest-lasting Spider-Man counterparts, establishing herself as a hero all her own separate of Spider-Man’s adventures. The first Spider-Woman, however, made a big impact on Peter in her brief time with the mantle.
In issue #11 of the comic series Spidey Super Stories, a cross-promotional comic produced by Marvel and the PBS TV series The Electric Company, written by Jean Thomas and penciled by Win Mortimer, the first Spider-Woman made her debut. Known as Valerie the Librarian, she was inspired by Spider-Man to defend her library from several low-level villains, including the Vanisher and the April Fool. After these experiences and witnessing Spider-Man take down other villains, she sought the opportunity to become a superhero all her own. Little did she know, her chance to do just that would literally fall into her lap.
Valerie’s time as Spider-Woman was, admittedly, short-lived, but in her only mission in the suit she managed to take down one of Spider-Man’s oldest foes. After managing to stop the Vulture from robbing a jewelry store, Peter decided to take a rooftop sunbath, unknowingly dropping his suit into Valerie’s lap — which she outfitted with suction cups on the hands and feet to let her climb walls — giving her the opportunity to become the superhero she longed to be.
Taking the mantle Super-Woman, Valerie hit the streets to defend New York alongside the Friendly Neighborhood Web-Slinger. With Spider-Man struggling to deal with a second assault from the Vulture due to a sunburn, Valerie took the opportunity to strike. Swinging in at the perfect moment, Spider-Woman managed to take down the Vulture and free Spidey from his trap. Thwarting his last-second escape attempt with a double-web takedown (and a quip worthy of Spider-Man’s Pun Hall of Fame), the two Spider-Heroes hand the Vulture over to the police.