Spider-Woman was born Jessica Miriam Drew, daughter of Jonathan Drew and Merriam Drew, in London, England. At a young age, her family moves to a lab built by her father and Herbert Wyndham near Mount Wundagore in Transia, where she becomes gravely ill from months of uranium exposure. To save her life, her father injects her with an experimental serum based on irradiated spiders’ blood. Because the serum requires a month’s incubation, Wyndham places her in a genetic accelerator. Shortly after, her mother dies and her father leaves for the U.S.A., leaving Wyndham to care for her. While in the accelerator, she ages at a decelerated rate. When she is finally released, decades later, Drew is only 17 years old.
Drew is ostracized by the other residents of Mount Wundagore, the High Evolutionary’s New Men, since she was originally human while they were animals. Because of this, she eventually leaves to seek human civilization. She is captured by a HYDRA reserve unit under Count Otto Vermis’s leadership who erases her memories, brainwashes her, and recruits her as a HYDRA agent under the codename Arachne. One of HYDRA’s top agents, Jared, is assigned to train her in combat and espionage, and to seduce her. Once Jessica has become his lover, he allows himself to be captured by S.H.I.E.L.D., so that she can be goaded into assassinating S.H.I.E.L.D. commander Nick Fury.
While battling Fury, Jessica accidentally kills Jared and learns HYDRA’s true nature. She quits HYDRA and assaults the unit’s base, sending Count Vermis into a fatal crash, but not before he unlocks memory implants that she was actually an evolved spider and had killed a man before her association with HYDRA. Despondent from these revelations, she wanders the woods where Vermis crashed until being recaptured and hypnotised by HYDRA.
Origin does away with the spider-blood serum and genetic accelerator elements of the character’s previous origin story. Instead, Jessica’s powers derive from her mother’s womb being hit by a laser beam containing the DNA traits of several different species of spiders while she was carrying Jessica (the Drews were trying to splice and harness spiders’ environmental adaptive capabilities, in order to graft them into the human genome).
After Jessica’s parents disappear under mysterious circumstances, Jessica is recruited into HYDRA (under false pretenses), where she is made into a formidable fighter and assassin. She is trained and mentored by Taskmaster, who schools her in many martial disciplines and more than seven different fighting styles out of his own “arsenal”.
In this re-telling, Otto Vermis, originally recruiting her into HYDRA, is rather an old, retired HYDRA agent who Jessica seduces in order to gain information that will lead her to her mother.
In addition, Origin made the following modifications:
- Merriem Drew was now Miriam Drew.
- The Drews moved to Wundagore Mountain prior to Jessica’s conception, establishing without a doubt that she was born on the European landmark. Afterwards, she was raised by her nanny Bova (human in appearance), as well as her mother.
- Jessica’s father, Jonathan, never found uranium on their land. Instead, their research was funded by HYDRA, and their direct liaison/financier from the group was General Wyndham. It is not clear what connection, if any, he had with Edgar Wyndham (who in the original Spider-Woman books was Jonathan’s best friend and research partner), nor with the High Evolutionary.
- Jessica’s father worked in large part with Miles Warren who later left the project because he felt that there was more potential in experimenting with the cloning of human cells.
Going by the “Spider-Woman” name, Jessica Drew is ordered to abduct Alicia Masters vacationing in London. During the resultant conflict with Ben Grimm, she recovers from her brainwashing and joins him in saving Masters. She and Grimm then encounter Modred the Mystic, who removes HYDRA’s memory implants and restores her memories.
Jessica moves into an apartment in London, but finds it impossible to get a job due to her complete lack of background and her tendency to inspire dislike and even fear in other people. Following an aborted break-in she is unmasked by Scotland Yard officer (and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent) Jerry Hunt who becomes obsessed with her. During this troubled time she is approached by the mysterious sorcerer Magnus, who offers help. After defending him from Excaliber who was sent by Morgan Le Fay to recover the Darkhold, he suggests she relocate with him to Los Angeles. Magnus tutors her in the ways of civilization and informs her that her father was murdered, leading her on a hunt for his killer. She is distracted from this hunt when Morgan Le Fey’s ghost again seeks the Darkhold, this time in person. During the battle, Hunt catches up with Jessica, and they begin a romantic relationship. With his help, she identifies her father’s murderer who dies immediately after confessing.
For the time, Jessica chooses to keep her doings as Spider-Woman a secret. Her relationship with Hunt sours, and following a final battle with the Brothers Grimm, he and Magnus part ways with her. For the next three months she makes a hand-to-mouth living by working as a receptionist at the Hatros Institute while undergoing group therapy there. Though she ultimately loses the position due to a change in management, during her time there she received medication to suppress her pheromones so that she could move effectively among people without producing any unwanted side-effects, formed a strong friendship with fellow patient and aspiring actress Lindsay McCabe, and developed acquaintances with several other superheroes.
The next few months of Jessica’s life are not covered by published stories. During this time, she goes public as Spider-Woman, becomes a bounty hunter working in partnership with parapalegic criminologist Scotty McDowell, acquires a full wardrobe of disguises for use in her work, and finds a police liaison in Captain Walsh. This situation lasts for several months. When her working relationship with Scotty fails, Jessica accepts an offer from Lindsay to move into an apartment with her in San Francisco, where she begins a romantic relationship with their landlord David Ishima, and sets up a practice as a licensed private investigator. Her move there allows Lindsay to deduce her secret identity; she is unbothered by the danger involved in being Spider-Woman’s friend, and the shared secret deepens the friendship between them.
While working as a P.I., she battles Morgan once again. Not long after that, Jessica gives up her immunity powers to save Giant-Man. Her relationship with David Ishima develops to the point where she reveals her Spider-Woman identity to him, only to have him break up with her because he wants to be with an ordinary woman.
Jessica travels in astral form with Magnus to Sixth Century England to free her friends’ souls in a showdown with Morgan le Fey in the 6th century. She manages to vanquish Morgan, but her human body dies while her spirit was gone. At her request, Magnus places a spell over humanity to remove all memory of Jessica’s existence. This spell is faulty; when Tigra and the Shroud discover Jessica’s dead body, they contact the Avengers and Doctor Strange. The Avengers and Strange travel to the astral plane to battle Morgan Le Fay, who was trying to claim Jessica’s body so she could return to the physical realm. Eventually, Doctor Strange and Magnus reunite Jessica’s spirit with her human body, though Magnus’s life and Jessica’s powers are sacrificed to do so. She thus abandons her Spider-Woman identity and continues her life as a private investigator in San Francisco, assisted by Lindsay McCabe and, for a time, by Tigra.
Jessica and Lindsay take a job delivering the Black Blade to Japan, but while passing through Madripoor she is ensorcelled by the blade. By this time her superhuman strength and agility, and ability to cling to walls, have returned. She is freed from the blade’s power by Lindsay and an underworld figure called Patch, who she immediately recognizes as the X-Man Wolverine. Following the incident, she and Lindsay set up new business lodgings in Madripoor, with Patch as a frequent ally and information source.
Jessica Drew’s life settles down until Charlotte Witter, a villainess going by the Spider-Woman name, steals her powers and leaves her near death. Jessica is taken from the hospital to New York City by Madame Web who directs her and Mattie Franklin (yet another woman who has assumed the Spider-Woman name) to track down Witter. Under Madame Web’s guidance, Franklin absorbs from Witter the powers of all four Spider-Women. Afterwards, Jessica remains with Madame Web for a time, helping her to watch over Mattie. Jessica’s powers gradually return to her during this time, but are now unreliable, failing her unexpectedly on occasion.
For untold reasons, Jessica moves back to San Francisco, resuming her private investigator practice there. When she hears that Mattie Franklin has gone missing, she goes to New York to find her. With the help of local P.I. Jessica Jones, she rescues Mattie from a drug dealer who had abducted her and was cannibalizing her tissue to make the Mutant Growth Hormone.
Powers and abilities
After her mother was struck with a beam of radiation containing the DNA of several different types of spiders while she was in-utero, Jessica Drew developed superhuman powers patterned after several different types of spiders when she was born. Jessica is superhumanly strong and is able to lift around seven tons at her peak. She also possesses superhuman speed, stamina, agility, and reflexes. Jessica’s body is more resistant to injury than an ordinary person, allowing her to take far more physical punishment compared to an ordinary human. Jessica also possesses superhuman hearing and smell, the latter of which allowed her to distinguish a life model decoy from the real Nick Fury. Jessica’s palms and soles secrete a special fluid that allows her to cling to solid objects, like a true spider. Jessica’s physical makeup also makes her highly resistant to all terrestrial poisons, toxins, and completely immune to radiation. While she is typically rendered dizzy by the initial dose, she is completely immune to it after being exposed again. She also exudes a high concentration of pheromones that elicit pleasure and attraction in men and revulsion in women, although she typically uses a chemical “perfume” that renders these pheromones inert. Jessica’s body also produces an inordinate amount of bio-energy, which she can discharge from her hands. She refers to these discharges as “venom blasts” although they actually have nothing to do with poison and typically cause pain and unconsciousness, and Jessica can kill a man in the same way that a lightning bolt would and can pierce solid metals like steel by using her blasts at their greatest intensity. Jessica was also able to glide through unknown means using the web-like extensions of her costume, but seems to have gained the power to fly after being replaced by the Skrull Queen Veranke. Jessica has lost her powers in numerous ways and on several occasions, but after returning to Earth at the end of the Secret Invasion, Jessica’s powers were restored and are greater than ever.
In addition to her powers, she is also a superb hand-to-hand combat fighter, and has trained in several styles of fighting including boxing, judo, karate, and capoeira, learned under the training of the Taskmaster. She has also had training in fencing and the use of many other weapons. Jessica was trained by HYDRA (and later on by S.H.I.E.L.D.) in covert operations, stealth, espionage, and information gathering and is a superb athlete. She speaks several foreign languages, including Korean, Russian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German. Jessica also received vocational training in undercover detective work and sometimes carried a Walther PPK handgun.