The Marvel character The Tarantula has gone through various incarnations but for our purposes we will concentrate on the tragic, comical, and racially offensive Hispanic; Anton Miguel Rodriguez. Anton was the second go around for the Tarantula, the first being a character named Clay Riley who with such non-Hispanic sounding name, had a heavy Mexican accent. He was dressed as a modern day Zorro type character. Riley was introduced in the Ghost Rider series back in 1967 and was just as quickly phased out.
Anton Miguel Rodriguez was introduced in the Amazing Spider-Man #134 in July of 1974, a super-villain who wore a red costume with a black tarantula across his chest and poisonous stingers attached to his boots. Rodriguez was a revolutionary terrorist in the small South American republic of Delvadia. Think of Pancho Villa in tights. Rodriguez was kicked out of the organization after murdering a guard for no reason and then promptly went over to the side of the fascist and oppressive government of Delvadia. He became an enforcer, an assassin and Delvadia’s own super powered being. But he couldn’t do this very well either and soon found himself out of another job due to his violent insubordination. With nothing left to do, he became a criminal and it is here that he comes in contact with others in the Marvel world, namely Peter Parker as Spider-man.
In Spider-man #134, the Tarantula hijacks a River cruise ship and tries to rob and hold the passengers for ransom. With the Punisher helping out, Spidey promptly kicks his ass. He escapes from prison with the help of the Jackal (another Spidey foe) and goes to work for the Lightmaster as an assistant to Kraven the Hunter. They attempt to carry out several murders and kidnappings only to have Spidey thwart them and give them both, a good ass kicking. Rodriguez then signs up with a character call Senor Suerteto and steals explosives to hold for extortion, only to get an ass kicking from Captain America.
Why was he getting so many ass kickings and not really giving out none? Let’s check his ability. He is the Tarantula whose poison spikes are in the front of his boots. He must kick you with these boots to inject the poison. He cannot shoot you from a distance. He cannot use magic or lasers. No he has to kick you like some crazed flamenco dancer! Yes that is what he had to do. So let the ass kickings ensue.
The Tarantula was then hired by the Brand Corporation with the order to kill the Spider-man. To aid him in this, he was given a serum that would mutate him. Unfortunately the experiment was interrupted and the process was not properly completed. The Tarantula transformed into a gigantic spider-like being. Finally over time Rodriguez mutated completely and horrified at what he had become, leaped off a building into a group of police officers below. They opened fire and the Tarantula died. Suicide by cop.
As a fan of comics all my left, I could not as a young boy notice the lack of Hispanic superheroes. Or Hispanic characters at all. So when the caricature of a Mexican revolutionary updated into the 1970s in the form of the Tarantula came along I was dismayed. Rodriguez embodied every negative aspect of my heritage as it is viewed by the those that have no real idea what my culture is.
Then add on to it, how he was treated by Marvel. Seriously, when he finally turned into a giant ridiculous spider, unlike Spider-Man, Rodriguez had his webbing come out of his ass. Seriously.