Black Spider is a really intriguing character who is a part of the DC universe. The name is actually used to refer to several villains, but most fans will think of Eric Needham. For the longest time, this vigilante was a thorn in Batman’s backside. Although he was seemingly a good guy, preventing drug trafficking all over Gotham, his ruthless methods made him a criminal.
Like many characters in this comic book, Black Spider is quite a tragic character. He was addicted to drugs that eventually caused him to kill his own father. This completely altered the trajectory of the antihero’s life. He is a person who would stop at nothing to accomplish his goals, like many characters in Batman comics. As a result, we would often team up with villains but also superheroes.
Unfortunately, Black Spider DC never got the love he deserved. Whenever I read comics featuring Eric Needham, I’m enthralled by the complexity of the character. Among others, it feels like a very relatable story.
Key Info Up Front
Black Spider is a name referring to several villains in the Batman comics. However, it is mainly associated with Eric Needham, a former drug addict that turned to a life of crime. Although he is a vigilante sworn to rid the streets of the drugs, his methods are often quite dubious. In fact, he often goes to such extremes that he can no longer be called a good person.
I always liked the character due to his complexity, relatable story, and great set of abilities. All of this makes him a perfect fit for Gotham and Batman’s universe.
In many ways, Needham is a very potent combatant. He has incredible discipline, focus, the strength of will, and physical power. He is also proficient with various weapons and martial arts. Unfortunately, the thing that separates this character from Bruce Wayne is his lack of moral values.
Writers made sure to put emphasis on Needham’s killing habits. He has no problem taking out criminals but also other threats that could compromise his vigilante mission. As a result, he was often at odds with Batman. The reason why he’s so relentless is that he has no confidence in the US prison system. As someone who went to jail and returned from it to commit more crimes, he knows that these structures will not protect anyone but only delay wrongdoers.
Needham is not the best planner. He goes into action headfirst, thinking about consequences later on. This would eventually result in his “first death.” Although he doesn’t like to plan, he is still very resourceful on the battlefield and knows how to maximize his surroundings.
Black Spider’s Personality
Given everything that Black Spider has gone through, it makes sense he would be somewhat unstable. The biggest turning point in his life came after killing his father. The events had such a profound impact on the character, completely changing his life’s trajectory.
Once he became a vigilante, Eric started believing that his cause was just and that it was his sacred duty to kill all criminals. Black Spider sees himself as justice incarnate and the only person who can bring peace to the streets of Gotham. He believes that Batman’s methods are inefficient and would only cause more suffering to the citizens.
The reason why Black Spider can kill so easily is because of how he perceives criminals. Unlike ordinary people, he sees them as sub-human and, as such, as unworthy of living. He often uses the phrase “They had it coming” to justify his actions.
As the issues continued, we saw Needham spiraling more and more out of control. Another breaking point came when Black Spider discovered the identity of his benefactor. You see, in order to become this merciless vigilante, the character had to go through special training. He didn’t have any money after getting out of prison, but luckily, he had a mysterious benefactor.
For a while, Needham suspected there was a criminal element sponsoring his equipment and training. However, Black Spider was most likely in denial all this time and couldn’t mentally accept that the same criminals he sought to destroy were the reason for his existence. In the end, he decided to uncover the truth. Learning the harsh truth changed the character once again, turning him into a directionless thug.
Not knowing who to hate, his negative emotions turned toward Batman. Somehow, he decided to focus on Caped Crusader as his next target, although Batman wasn’t necessarily the reason behind his misery. In the following appearances, he would team up with Joker and Killer Croc in an attempt to take down Bruce Wayne. His attacks against Batman were somewhat reluctant. Deep down, he knew that Bruce Wayne wasn’t the real cause of his misery. As the issues went on, he became less and less intimidating, no longer believing that he was justice incarnate.
The first portrayals of Black Spider were kind of lame. Like many other characters of the era, he had a goofy spandex outfit that covered his whole body. In time, he got a much more badass costume. In the New 52 issues, he received an incredible cyber ninja outfit. Black Spider also got numerous knives as primary weapons.
Black Spider’s Appearances in Comics
Although not as famous as some other Batman characters, Eric Needham was intriguing enough to keep alive. Later on, he even made an appearance as a member of the Suicide Squad.
This comic book antihero was introduced back in September 1976. It was a creation of Gerry Conway, and as I mentioned, it was published by DC (back then, it was called Detective Comics).
In his first appearance, Eric Needham was depicted as an insignificant criminal who was constantly on heroin. Like most DC villains, he had a rather rough childhood. He was quickly introduced to the prison system; after almost killing an older woman, he was forced to spend three years in jail.
It seems as if things picked up for Eric after leaving prison. Not only did he find a great woman in Linda Morrel, but he also got a son. Unfortunately, the demons from the past continued haunting Eric. Despite everything, he continued doing drugs. This expensive habit forces him to commit a crime once again.
During a small liquor store job, he accidentally killed the owner. After taking a closer look, Eric realized that the store was owned by his own father. He was once again arrested, but this time around, he didn’t receive the lenient treatment that he had as a minor.
Birth of Black Spider
During his time in prison, Needham had a lot of time to ponder his misfortunes. He was eaten alive by the feeling of guilt and would relatively quickly stop doing drugs. In fact, the killing of his father had such a major impact on his psyche that he would go to a completely opposite side. Instead of being the wrongdoer, he dedicated himself to eliminating the crime from the streets of Gotham.
Like many other comic book characters, he created a costume for himself. After putting it on, Eric became a completely new person known as Black Spider. As a vigilante, he killed numerous criminals who would eventually put him on a collision course with Batman. Despite his vicious methods, Needham sees Batman as a natural ally and someone who could help him rid the streets of criminals. However, the Dark Knight could never embrace this because of his approach.
Clashing with Batman
Batman simultaneously wanted to stop and help Black Spider. The two of them had one of the biggest conflicts at Gotham’s International Airport. Black Spider was totally out of control, killing criminals all over the place. He had a gun with deadly projectiles mounted on his hand.
With some meticulous investigative work, Batman eventually managed to discover the Black Spider’s true identity. The two of them would once again clash on a commuter train. In this particular instance, Eric was trying to bomb the whole section of a train.
He told Batman that the drug dealer needs to die no matter what, and if that means taking down numerous innocent civilians, so be it. As the train swerved, Black Spider was sent flying together with the bomb. The device went off, making it look as if the vigilante was caught in the explosion.
See also: Batman Characters Guide
Discovering mysterious benefactor
Luckily for Black Spider, the device went off a bit too soon, allowing him to barely survive. After the explosion, it took a while for Eric Needham to completely recover. As the antihero said it himself, the hate helped him recover mentally and physically.
During these episodes, Needham slowly started exploring the origin of his equipment. All this time, the readers knew that the character had a mysterious helper, but it was never revealed who this individual was. After some digging, Black Spider learned that this person was Hannibal Hardwicke. He was one of Gotham’s largest drug suppliers.
This truth shook Black Spider to his core. Supposedly, Hardwicke is meant to support Eric until he eliminates all the competition. When that was over, the drug lord wanted to kill off the vigilante, thus removing all traces of his involvement. Once Black Spider learned the truth, he attacked the drug lord. Batman’s timely reaction was the only reason why the villain survived.
The best way to describe Eric Needham is as a gray character. His cause is just, but the tools he utilizes are not. Similarly, he is willing to ally with both villains and heroes if it serves his cause. For example, he joined several bad guys in Batman issue 400 and Detective Comics issue 526.
In these episodes, he wants to get revenge on Batman. He is often at odds with the Caped Crusaders, which allowed the writers to create several compelling storylines featuring the two of them. It is sometimes hard for the readers to pick sides as Needham has valid reasons why he became a vigilante, and his methods are often portrayed as the most reasonable course of action.
Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths
Eventually, Black Spider faced his demise in Secret Origins issue 28. In this comic, he went against Nightshade and King Faraday.
Over the years, Needham accumulated numerous enemies. Despite everything he was doing at night, Black Spider managed to have a somewhat normal family life. This would all change when the villains discovered his true identity. The information allowed them to track down Needham’s son and wife, killing them off during Secret Origins.
The sad events left Eric empty and directionless. No longer having a reason to live, he decides to take desperate measures in an attempt to eliminate as many drug lords as possible. He recklessly invades the enemy headquarters. Not having any regard for his life, Black Spider gets shot several times.
Just as the drug dealers surrounded his motionless body, Needham made a last-ditch effort to activate a bomb strapped to his back. Black Spider’s sacrifice was not in vain as he managed to kill off all the surrounding villains.
Despite dying in Secret Origins, the character made an appearance in a few other comics. He was in a relationship with Lyta Hall in The Sandman comic. His appearance came out of the blue, and the writer didn’t explain why he was alive.
One of the popular fan theories is that Black Spider managed to escape from hell during a massive turmoil in previous Sandman issues. The next time he was used in comics, Eric Needham became a savvy businessman. The writer didn’t provide any reference as to what kind of a business he’s doing, but there is a good chance it is connected to criminal activities.
Later on, he would make another appearance in Underworld Unleashed and Identity Crisis. In these comics, he became a full-time member of The Society and also an ally of Merlyn, Monocle, and Deadshot. From this point onward, the villain was no longer the focal point of comics. Instead, he was often paired with other criminals in various mash-ups.
Secret Six Appearance
Eric had another notable role in Secret Six comics. He teamed up with other villains to get the “Get Out of the Hell Card.” They went to Nocturne hotel, which is an elite resort in Las Vegas that also serves as a casino. The team of criminals busted onto the scene, and they started shooting everyone in their sight. They focused on taking down Secret Six just as they were dining. While Secret Six gave villains a run for their money, the tide turned once Cheshire came onto the scene.
In these comics, Eric is once again shown as a vigilante but with a slightly altered role. He is still going after criminals, but this time around, his focus is on antagonists with superpowers. The creators didn’t give us any explanation as to why he is going after them. Although he doesn’t have any special powers that would allow him to go toe-to-toe with these characters, he did receive special ninja training that he utilized on several occasions in comics.
Black Spider and Suicide Squad
Like many other DC criminals, Black Spider would eventually make an appearance as a member of Suicide Squad. Once again, he had an unfavorable role, being portrayed as a group’s traitor.
In many of the newer comics, it is not clear whether Eric Needham is alive or if someone else is playing the role of Black Spider. The creators haven’t shown the vigilante’s face, so it is up to readers to figure out who is beneath the mask.
In one specific comic, he is given four spider legs and automatic guns, making him look like a mechanical entity. Later on, he would once again clash with his old nemesis, Batman. Once again, Bruce Wayne managed to defeat the vigilante, this time by using a chainsaw.
Besides Batman, the character fought some other superheroes. At one point, he worked as a proxy for Copperhead, another major supervillain. He went to Kansas, where he was supposed to work as one of her mercenaries. Black Spider was apprehended by Flash during a diamond store heist.
Black Spider Abilities
Like many DC antagonists, Black Spider doesn’t have any supernatural powers. The character is very proficient with various firearms and has above-average strength and conditioning.
As a part of his basic training, Black Spider learned how to fight with his bare hands. He was always a tough character but wasn’t necessarily proficient. All of this changed once he got out of prison. He can take down small crooks with ease but can also present a threat to someone like Batman.
Eric Needham is well-conditioned, flexible, and agile. He has above-average strength, although he is presumably weaker than Batman. He can move through various environments with ease and unnoticed. Once he received ninja training, he became even deadlier.
The third iteration of the character even had superhuman endurance. Like many other characters in comics, his powers progressively grew over time, so he would look like a legitimate threat to the likes of Batman.
Although he has good physical skills, the villain is mostly known for his ability to handle firearms. He is an excellent shooter and can take targets from a long distance with sniper rifles. He often wields semi-automatic weapons and would, later on, receive mechanical attachments for his wrists.
One thing common for many DC characters is their mental resolve. Although Eric Needham is not portrayed as deranged, like some Batman villains, he has the utmost confidence that his cause is just and that he has full right to kill criminals.
He never sways in his resolve and is willing to go to extreme measures to execute his plans.
Awesome or lame?
In my opinion, Black Spider is somewhere between awesome and lame. His backstory is pretty solid, focusing on regret and redemption. However, there are major story flaws that leave a poor taste in my mouth. For example, the writers should’ve provided a better explanation as to how he came back to life. It is also confounding how he never questioned the mysterious supporter who provided him with all these gadgets and training.
The thing I like about the character is that he wasn’t necessarily Batman’s adversary. Instead, he was introduced in a roundabout way battling the same opponents as the superhero. On the other hand, I can’t stand that writers showed him as someone who could easily change allegiance and turn to villains, although he despised them.
I feel that the writers could’ve done some other cool things with the character. You don’t necessarily have to create a story around Black Spider, but you could introduce him as a secondary antagonist/protagonist. In that regard, he could’ve had a much longer shelf life.
Question: Does DC Black Spider have powers?
Answer: Like many other characters in DC comics, Black Spider doesn’t have any particular powers. He is very athletic, agile, strong, and well-conditioned. However, all these abilities are within normal human limits. The vigilante is very precise with firearms and usually comes on top during gun fights.
Question: Is Black Spider a hero or a villain?
Answer: The best way to describe Black Spider is as a tweener. His primary goal is to eliminate criminals from Gotham and to help the citizens. At the same time, he has no problem killing just about anyone, including citizens he’s sworn to protect.
Although initially portrayed as a gray character, he would slowly turn to the dark side. His methods became more and more malicious, and he would eventually become Batman’s opponent. In later comics, he teamed up with numerous villains and even served as a henchman for some of them.
Question: Can Black Spider shoot web?
Answer: When first introduced, Black Spider couldn’t shoot the web from his hands. Later on, when he joined the League of Shadows, he received new devices that allowed him to shoot a red sticky substance. Black Spider wore this equipment attached to his wrist, and he mainly used it for disarming opponents.
Although not as potent as Spiderman’s web, this weapon was still very powerful.
Question: Why did Black Spider turn evil?
Answer: Black Spider was never a nice guy, to begin with. From the very start, he was a petty criminal connected to all sorts of shady activities. Even when he started hunting down criminals, he did so because of his bad experience, not necessarily because of his sense of justice (although he thought of himself as a paragon of justice).
His disposition turned worse after the death of his son and wife. Soon after, Eric Needham blew himself up, killing numerous drug dealers in the process. Upon being resurrected, he was openly hostile toward Batman.
I always liked tweener characters such as Black Spider. The reason being is that you can do all sorts of things with him. Eventually, DC writers decided to turn him fully evil, and he would go on to join various criminal groups, teaming up with the same people he fought against.
I think that he has an interesting story, although not necessarily a great one. There are certain flaws that feel a bit ludicrous. For example, we weren’t given a good explanation as to how he came back to life. As the comics went on, Black Spider became more and more irrelevant and was eventually downgraded to other villains’ henchman.