Well, most recently, I’ve been devouring old pulp stories from the 1930s about The Spider, one of the Shadow’s vigilante competitors.
The Spider was really New York millionaire Richard Wentworth, who battled criminal warlords by donning a black cape, slouch hat, and vampiric makeup or a face mask.
Before costumed super-villains were a mainstay in comic books, The Spider fought bad guys like The Red Mandarin, The Brain, The Bloody Serpent, The Silencer, Judge Torture, and The Emperor of Vermin.
If you like chaotic gunplay and heroes willing to kill their enemies, you’ll love The Spider stories (particularly those written by Norvell Page). The Spider’s weapons of choice were Browning .45 M1911 automatic pistols, and the death count in a single Spider novel usually ran into the hundreds, sometimes the thousands.
Very, very cool (if you’re into this kinda thing, like I am).
The Spider also had a distinct “brand” that terrorized the criminal underworld. Wentworth would leave a red-ink “spider” image on the foreheads of the criminals he slaughtered. This seal was hidden in the base of his cigarette lighter.
Even in his peculiar business, The Spider recognized the importance of good “branding.”