Tarantula (DC Comics)
Cover to All-Star Squadron #66.
Star-Spangled Comics #1 (October 1941)
Nightwing #71 (September 2002)
|Alter ego||Jonathan "John" Law
Catalina Marie Flores
|Abilities||Skilled hand-to-hand combatant
Uses several gimmicks, such as suction cups and a "web-gun"
The original Tarantula was a character prominent in the 1940s named John Law. He first appeared in Star-Spangled Comics #1 (October 1941). In his initial Golden Age appearances he wore a yellow-and-purple costume that bore strong resemblance to Wesley Dodds' second Sandman costume. This was later explained in a retcon in the pages of All-Star Squadron as coming from Dodds' associate, Dian Belmont.
Fictional character biography
Tarantula was inspired to be a mystery man by the Crimson Avenger in the days when America entered World War II. The Tarantula possessed no super-abilities, but relied on several gimmicks and his quick wits. He was trained in hand-to-hand combat, as well as some acrobatics, and had a passing interest in stage make-up and stage magic. He used suction cups attached to the soles on his boots to allow him to walk up walls and hang from ceilings. He used a "web-gun" (despite the fact tarantulas don't spin webs) which fired a string of fast-hardening nylon that was used to swing from one anchored point to another. He was even called a "spider man," decades before the "other" Spider-Man made his debut.
He was a member of the All-Star Squadron before retiring to become a writer. He had a best selling novel, Altered Egos: The Mystery Men of World War II, published sometime in the 1970s. He went on to write many other novels, but none as successful as Altered Egos.
In his later years, Law lived in the city of Blüdhaven, in the same building as Dick Grayson, known to some as the vigilante hero Nightwing. Two elderly Nazis, wanting revenge on Law, tracked him down, but were defeated by Nightwing. Law tried to spin this out as a plot for a new story, with him as the major protagonist.
Later, the building was burned down by the villain Blockbuster in an attempt to ruin Nightwing's life. John Law's successor, the new Tarantula, tried to save him, but arrived too late. John Law was presumed to have died, along with 21 other residents. However, his body was never recovered, suggesting that he survived the explosion.
The second Tarantula is Catalina Flores, who first appeared in Nightwing #71 (September 2002), while waiting until issue #75 (January 2003) to appear as Tarantula.
Catalina Marie Flores grew up in Blüdhaven and witnessed many of the injustices that was carried throughout the city. This prompted her to leave Blüdhaven and join the FBI in Quantico. It's unknown how long she was an agent, but she eventually left the bureau and returned to Blüdhaven. Once there, she learned that her older brother, Assistant D.A. Mateo Flores, couldn't turn the tide of corruption that engulfed the city. She seemed to be working for the city herself when she encountered John Law, the first Tarantula, when he visited her office to get his SSI check. She had previously read a book of memoirs featuring the first Tarantula and she wanted him to sign her copy. She then wanted to know everything about John Law during his time as Tarantula.
Catalina first garnered Nightwing while attending a self-defense class taught by him and she was able to deliver a blow to his body. Confident and uninhibited, she was eager to learn other various hand-to-hand defensive moves, as well as getting to know more about Grayson on less formal terms. She next caught his eye during her first outings as the second Tarantula. Nightwing was unimpressed with her extreme vigilante methods and forbade her to operate in Blüdhaven. This angered her and she took off, only to be more of a foil for Grayson down the road. During that time, Grayson was investigating the death of Delmore Redhorn, Blüdhaven's corrupt Chief of Police, and discovers evidence indicting the new Tarantula as his killer.
Working with Tad Ryerstad, (Nite-Wing), Nightwing was able to have Tarantula arrested for the murder of Redhorn, although in the process the wanted vigilante Tad was arrested as well. However, Mateo was determine to have his sister released, angered that Catalina was arrested with the help of a dubious vigilante. After she was released, Tarantula aided Blockbuster in his revenge campaign on Nightwing. When ordered to kill Grayson's girlfriend, Barbara Gordon, she instead manipulated a dinner engagement between the two in such a manner that caused Barbara to break up with Grayson.
Things soon took a turn for the worst when Blockbuster hired other villains to attack those Grayson held dear. Tarantula was devastated as she was unable to stop a bomb explosion in Grayson's building complex that was also the home of John Law. Confronted by Lady Vic and warned not to go against Blockbuster's wishes, she shoots her in the chest. Seeking vengeance for John Law's demise, Tarantula helped Nightwing record Blockbuster's confession, but when she gave the tape to her brother, he crushed it because of a deal he made with Blockbuster to get her out of prison. Tarantula was out on the streets soon enough, and when the battle between Nightwing and Blockbuster heated up, Tarantula involved herself and shot Blockbuster. Nightwing could have prevented the murder, but, driven to the edge of sanity by Blockbuster's calculated assaults on everyone whom Nightwing held dear (Blockbuster knew his secret identity and exploited this), in a moment of absolute misery Nightwing stood aside and let Tarantula kill him. Grayson was overwhelmed by his realization for not stopping Tarantula and was unable to fight off her sexual advances. Not long after the incident, the two leave Blüdhaven, with Tarantula only to face off against Copperhead, who was responsible for killing several local gang leaders. Grayson was able to pull it together long enough for him to save her from Copperhead. Strong feelings for Grayson had them try to know each other better and she persuaded him to buy a marriage license. Before Grayson could sign anything, Batman summoned him to Gotham. After the events of War Games, Nightwing came to his senses and turned in Tarantula and himself for the murder of Blockbuster. He was acquitted of his crimes, however, while Tarantula was imprisoned.
Her fate was unknown during Infinite Crisis when the Secret Society of Supervillains released Chemo, destroying Bludhaven in the process. Later in Secret Six, it is revealed she is alive and well, but is imprisoned at Alcatraz Island. She stole a mysterious card from Junior, a mysterious crime boss who runs all of the West Coast mob. It was later revealed that she in possession of a "Get Out of Hell Free" card, forged by Neron. The card is coveted by Junior, who is revealed to be Ragdoll's insane sister, who sends an army of supervillains after her. She eventually sacrifices herself by pulling Junior and herself in front of a combined attack from the assembled villains, killing them both.
Recently, she made an appearance in Justice Society of America as part of the resistance in an alternative future dominated by Nazis, implying that she may make a possible return.
At the end of Nightwing #93 (July 2004), after Tarantula killed Blockbuster, she and Nightwing had sex on a rooftop. At the time, Nightwing was in shock and undergoing deep emotional trauma; thus there has been debate amongst fans as to his consent, and if Nightwing was in fact raped by Tarantula. Writer Devin Grayson herself has given the contradictory statement, "For the record, I’ve never used the word 'rape', I just said it was non-consensual." This is further confused by the script for the issue specifically mentioning (in parentheses) that this scene was a sex scene and not a rape.
In Other Media
- In the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode Powerless!, Aquaman is seen portraying the John Law Tarantula (brown and black costume).
- All-Star Squadron #18 (February 1983), citing Star-Spangled Comics #1 (October 1941). Referring to how Tarantula mentioned being called "spider man" by radio announcers whilst he is clinging to a ceiling upside down, editor Len Wein states in a footnote, "...and yes, a radio announcer did actually call him 'Spider Man'. Would we lie to you?"
- "Nightwing" 93
- "A specific look at Nightwing #93".
- "Interview with Devin Grayson".