Amazing Spider-Friends is a twice-monthly column, written by contributor Tyler Barlass, that highlights the rich and complex relationships that Spider-Man has built with just about every character in the Marvel Universe through the years.
So now that Silk has made her triumphant debut within the pages of the newest volume of Amazing Spider-Man, it’s time to start wrapping up my Spider-Woman features here at Superior Spider-Talk. By my calculation Silk is the sixth spider powered woman to be featured in Marvel’s 616 continuity. Though we’ll get to the fifth soon, the fourth Spider-Woman is the last to actually use the moniker “Spider-Woman” and she’s by far the most obscure. She debuted around the same time as Mattie Franklin (the third Spider-Woman whom I wrote about in my last Amazing Spider-Friends feature) and quickly became Franklin’s main antagonist. Her name is Charlotte Witter and unlike every other character I’ve ever featured on this column, she has never actually ever teamed up with Spider-Man and is not what you would necessarily call a “friend.” None the less, my tireless mission of profiling every single Spider-Woman ever forces me to cast a rare spotlight on Ms. Witter, the evil Spider-Woman.
Charlotte debuted, like Mattie, during the Howard Mackie and John Byrne led reboot of the Amazing Spider-Man book in 1999. She first appeared as a mysterious character that absorbed the powers of the first two spider women (Jessica Drew and Julia Carpenter). Her next target was Mattie Franklin but, with the help of Spider-Man, Mattie was able to escape the battle with her powers intact.
It was during the first fight between Mattie, Charlotte and Peter that we finally got to see the garish fourth Spider-Woman in all her glory. In what may be one of the most tragic costume designs in the history of comics, John Byrne depicts Witter in a green leotard with a green mask and long knee-high boots. From behind her glowing red eyes flows long blonde locks of hair and four peculiar spider-like tendrils that extend from her back. The irony of Witter’s horrific outfit is that before turning to crime, Charlotte was a fashion designer by trade.
We soon learn that Charlotte had a connection to both Dr. Octopus and the original Madame Web. As it turns out, Charlotte is the granddaughter of Casandra Webb (who had just been given the gift of youth from the Gathering of Five ritual). It’s not Charlotte’s connection with the mystical Webb that gave her the extraordinary powers that she possessed though. Instead it was an encounter with the devious Doctor Octopus who kidnapped her and ran genetic experiments on her. Splicing her DNA with that of a spider and then brainwashing her into obeying his demands, Octavius set Witter out on a mission to absorb the powers of every living Spider-Woman and then kill Spider-Man.
Mattie was the hero who originally stopped Charlotte. She used her powers to absorb Witter’s abilities and, in the process, those of all the other spider women. Come to find out though, Witter’s psychic link with all of the super-powered wall-crawlers would not only allow her to regain her powers but would also give her the knowledge of Peter’s secret identity. Shortly after the supposed death of Mary Jane in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 2) #13, a mourning Peter is attacked by a revived Charlotte at his apartment. After another drawn out battle, it finally took the abilities of Madame Web to ultimately defeat Charlotte and set her free from Doc Ock’s control.
Although Charlotte Witter is little more than footnote in the history of the Spider-Man mythos, the damage she did as the evil Spider-Woman would linger long after her character was forgotten. While Jessica Drew would recover rather quickly from her encounter with Charlotte, it would take Julia Carpenter some time to not only regain her powers but to be able to even walk again. Her road to normality was a long and painful one that began the moment she was ambushed by Witter in her home.
The current whereabouts of Charlotte is a bit of mystery. In the pages of the Spider-Woman #10, Charlotte is seen recovering in a psychiatric institute. Mattie, Jessica and Madame Web even take time to check in on Charlotte to see how she is doing. Whether Charlotte ever fully recovered from her final defeat is anyone’s guess though. She hasn’t made an appearance in a Marvel comic book since.