about Norvell's Great-Niece, your Host

Roots Country and Blues artist Lonesome Liz was dubbed 'The Female Robert Johnson' by 'Southern Fried Magazine'; honoring both her sultry contralto and the Hellhound on her trail. Her performances are heavy with Southern Gothic undertones. A natural storyteller, her words shift to expose the seamy underbelly of the South, which she translates through a mystic veil of mojo; often drawing on history along with Hoodoo and other Folk traditions.

Her performances have included Drive-by Truckers artist Wes Freed, art revolutionary Molly Crabapple, Jesco the Dancing Outlaw and she's shared a stage with Timbuk III's Pat MacDonald, The Goddamn Gallows and the .357 String Band.

Featured in the upcoming Hasil Adkins documentary, 'My Blue Star' by Ron Thomas Smith, she has she has also appeared in and directed dozens of plays as well as in an award-winning independent film, 'Leon's Aspirations'. Also a playwright, she has written and produced adaptations of both 'Faust' and Sartre's 'No Exit'.

A multi-disciplinary artist, she is also a music and fine art journalist, published primarily in 'Outlaw Magazine', 'Fine Art Magazine' and GratefulWeb.net. She was the last writer to interview Mike Seeger before his death and her Levon Helm retrospective received praise from Bob Dylan himself.

She has also been tarot, astrology and mythology editor for BellaOnline.com and Suite101.com. Her writing and photography are featured in the best-selling 'Everything Ghost Hunting Guide'. She began writing in Chicago, when Slam was first emerging and her poetry as well as her lyrics have received praise from Beat Poets Charles Plymell and Robert Brannan.

Her strong, sultry voice and powerful lyrics are captivating. Though unquestionably feminine and alluring, she describes hangings, hauntings, reckonings and shoot-outs in a way that makes you think she was not only there but participated. One of Country's true Outlaw Women, Liz blasted the boundaries of Alt Country. However it's delivered, her sultry Southern vision takes you far from the expected. It's hard to resist the spell Lonesome Liz casts when her mojo's rising...

Submissions, Press, Etc: elizabeth.bissette@gmail.com

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Shroud of Thoughts: The Spider Turns 75, by Terry Canote

The first issue of The Spider was dated October, 1933. Since most pulp publishers would get their titles to newsstands about a half a month or only a little less than that before their cover dates, I imagine Popular Publications had The Spider October, 1933 on newsstands by September 13 to 15, although I can't be certain of that. Regardless, this month The Spider has turned 75 years old.

For those of you who have no idea who The Spider is, he is perhaps the third most popular pulp magazine hero after The Shadow and Doc Savage. His adventures were published by Popular Publications, a company that also published G-8 and His Battle Aces, (which also turns 75 this month--it was perhaps Popular's second most popular title) and Operator #5. The Spider would evolve into a character who was practically compelled to fight crime, as well as the most violent pulp hero. It was rare that he did not shoot to kill.

But then, if The Spider was overly violent, it was perhaps because he had to be. He fought such menaces as a madman who drugged all the tobacco, liquor and cotffee in the city, a villain who caused mass suicides across the United States, and a villain who killed with song. No one in pulp magazines faced as outré opponents as The Spider.
The Spider was initially created by Henry "Harry" Steeger, co-founder and publisher of Popular Publications, as competition for rival Street and Smith's The Shadow. To develop the character he hired writer R. T. M. Scott. Scott was most famous for having created Secret Service Smith, the hero of five novels and several stories. Smith was an American detective with a Hindu assistant who was deadly with a knife.

Coincidentally, there is a very strong resemblance between Scott's version of The Spider and Secret Service Smith. For Scott The Spider was little more than a psuedonym adopted by Richard Wentworth as he fought crime as an amateur criminologist. Like Smith, Wentworth was assisted by Ram Singh, a Hindu deadly with a knife.

A big difference between Smith and Wentworth was that Wentworth was a bit more bloodthirsty. While Smith always shot to wound, Wentworth would shoot to kill. Wentworth would also brand his victims with the seal of The Spider using a specially made cigarette lighter.

Scott left The Spider after only two issues, whereupon Norvell Page took over as the magazine's writer. Page was a newspaper writer turned pulp writer, who belonged to one of the First Families of Virginia and a rather famous one.

Those familiar with Virginia's history might recall that there was a John Page who was governor of the state and a U.S. Congressman. Novelist, lawyer, and one time United States Ambassador to Italy, Thomas Nelson Page was also a member of Norvell Page's family.

Page had written the Ken Carter stories for Ten Detective Aces and would later write two sword and sorcery novels featuring Prester John, also known as "Hurricane John" or Wan-Tengri. He  transformed the basic concept of The Spider as created by Steeger and Scott into something entirely different.

In fact, in some respects it is hard to say that Page didn't simply create a whole new character. While The Spider began simply as a nom de guerre for Richard Wentworth under R. T. M. Scott, Norvell Page would soon make The Spider a distinct identity from Richard Wentworth.
In at least one early novel written by Page, Wentworth would go out as The Spider wearing a cloth mask that covered his whole face except for his eyes. It was in the March, 1934 issue that Wentwoth would don the costume that would later be The Spider's look.

In that issue he took the alias of Tito Caliepi, a hunchbacked violinist who wears a cape and a felt hat. It would not be long before Wentworth would stop using the Tito Caliepi alias and adapt Caliepi's for The Spider.

It was in that same issue that the first mention was made of The Spider's ring, (which was offered as a premium in the same issue).
Eventually Wentworth as The Spider would dress in a sallow fright mask complete with fangs, a black felt hat, and a black cape, giving him what was perhaps the most frightening appearance of any pulp hero (curiously, the covers featured The Spider in a simple mask of the sort The Lone Ranger wore--only seven issues published from March through September, 1940 had covers featuring the fanged Spider).

And while Wentworth was a bit bloodthirsty under Scott's tenure as writer, he became even more so when Norvell Page wrote him. As The Spider, Richard Wentworth was wholly obsessed with fighting crime--one might say he was even compelled to do so. And in his war against evil, he showed absolutely no mercy.

Norvell Page changed The Spider in other ways as well. While Ram Singh was originally portrayed as Wentworth's Hindu assistant under Scott, Page made him a Sikh who was not Wentworth's assistant, but his friend and equal. Richard Wentworth's girlfriend Nita Van Sloan played a more prominent role, becoming his partner in fighting crime.

In fact, Nita Van Sloan would even sometimes become The Spider herself! Another change Norvell Page made to The Spider was in the aforementioned nature of the enemies he faced. In the two novels by R. T. M. Scott, (The Spider Strikes and Wheel of Death), Richard Wentworth faced rather ordinary criminal masterminds.

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