The female version of the male hero is not something Marvel Comics has done as often as some of its competitors, at least until recently. Yes, of late we’ve seen Jane Foster take on the power of Thor, Riri Williams replace Iron Man as Iron Heart, and X-23 become Wolverine. There’s also the occasional female Captain America from the future in different stories. Prior to that, there was just the She-Hulk and Spider-Woman.
But wait, there have actually been a couple different Spider-Women. One of them used to be an Avenger. Now, she’s something else, overshadowed by a different version of the same character. I am referring to Julia Carpenter.
So, what was Julia’s deal? Well, she wasn’t the first Spider-Woman. That was Jessica Drew. Jessica’s currently Spider-Woman again, and she didn’t gain her powers from a radioactive spider bite. Actually, I don’t think any of the female spiders in Marvel’s main universe got their powers from any sort of spider bite. Julia Carpenter certainly didn’t.
First appearing during the Secret Wars story, Julia was a single mom living in Denver. Her good friend Val Cooper was a government liaison type who occasionally acted as a go-between for different superhero teams. Val asked Julia if she’d like to participate in a government study on athletic-type stuff. Julia agreed, not knowing the government agency in question was meant to produce superheroes, and when Julia was “accidentally” injected with a variety of plant enzymes and spider toxins, she gained powers similar to Spider-Man. She was stronger, more agile, able to stick to walls, and she could shoot psionic webs. Julia soon found herself on Battleworld where she teamed up with the heroes, and when she returned to Earth, she joined the U.S. government sponsored superhero team Freedom Force.
Um, one problem there: Freedom Force was mostly made up of former members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. After a fight with the X-Men, Julia got suspicious when she saw how violent and brutal her new teammates were. She got even more suspicious when Freedom Force somehow managed to subdue both Avengers teams and lock them up in the Vault, one of Marvel’s supervillain prisons, without a trial. Julia basically busted the Avengers out of the joint and went on the run as a fugitive. A few team-ups with Spidey and Iron Man eventually got her a pardon, and after a mission in California, she joined the West Coast Avengers and later Force Works.
So, uh, what happened to her? Being an Avenger for a while would normally not make a character more or less vanish.
My guess? Someone brought back Jessica Drew, the original Spider-Woman, and having another one hanging around was deemed “confusing”.
Or maybe she remembered she was a single mom.
Well, near as I can make out, these days she mostly bounces around. During the first Civil War, she went undercover for Captain America. That forced her to go to Canada and join Alpha Flight or Omega Flight or some kind of Greek Letter Flight. She changed her superhero name to Arachne, and later while undercover, she found the psychic Madame Web dead and took her powers and place. So, if you can’t be Spider-Woman, be Madame Web.
Now, I don’t much read Spider-Man regular adventures these days, but I don’t think Madame Web appeared all that much to begin with, so maybe if she has these psychic powers, she can use them to know when something big will happen and appear accordingly if only to give cryptic hints.
That is how those sorts of characters are generally used if at all.