Real Name: Clay Riley (or Rider)

Identity/Class: Human (Old West Era), Owlhoot

Occupation: Unlawful Copper miner; criminal, racketeer, Owlhoot, Ranny, Polecat

Group Membership: Owner of Riley Mining and Manufacturing Company

Affiliations: Nightriders (employees); Kid Cassidy (employee); Natalie Brooks (former fiancÚ), Ben Brooks, Jamie Jacobs, Carter Slade (former friends)

Enemies: sheriff Ben Brooks, Ghost Rider (John Blaze/Zarathos), Gunhawk, Caleb Hammer, Kid Colt, Mountain Man, Outlaw Kid, Phantom Rider (Carter Slade), Phantom Rider (Reno Jones), Rawhide Kid, Red Wolf, Sting-Ray, Two-Gun Kid; citizens of the towns of Wonderment, Montana and Bison Bend.

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: Clay Riley; Clay Rider

Base of Operations: Wonderment, Montana
Anaconda, Montana;
formerly Bison Bend, Colorado
Old West era

First Appearance: Ghost Rider I#2 ( April, 1967)

Powers: None. The Tarantula carried a cat-o-nine-tails type whip, with which he was extremely proficient. Aside from a painful lash of the whip (the Tarantula's sting, naturally), he could ensnare small objects, and bind others. He was quick enough with his whip that in almost every case, he could disarm an opponent before they could get a single shot off. He was aware that his skill was only useful at a close distance and made every effort to stay near his foes while struggling. He was also a proficient horseman and gunslinger.
Initially, Riley suffered from some sort of multiple personality disorder (or whatever the proper term is). He had no memory of his actions as the Tarantula once his mission was complete. He took on a completely different persona, and even changed his speech. Clay Riley was the perfect gentleman, while the Tarantula was one ornery cuss. Later, he either merged the personalities or otherwise resolved this problem, but ended up as the nastier version--minus the Mexican accent.



History: The exact origins of the Tarantula are unknown. Based on some of the events from his stories, it may be inferred that his subconscious need for funds, perhaps combined with some traumatic event, caused him to develop a second personality--one willing to steal to get the money he needed. A desire to pay for a fancy wedding for his fiancÚ, Natalie Brooks, may have been involved, and the town doctor thought a blow to the head was likely. In this identity, as the Tarantula, he became highly proficient with the use of a whip.



(Ghost Rider I#2) - The Tarantula recruited a group of criminals (who had just fled from the Phantom Rider/Carter Slade) to become his gang. The next day, in the evening, the Tarantula and his gang headed into the town of Bison Bend, where they demanded protection money for its residents. Anyone who refused soon met with the Tarantula's sting. Pretty soon everyone had caved in to him, except one man, Ben Brooks, who stood up to them. Brooks was easily defeated by the Tarantula and his men, and everyone else agreed to pay the money rather than take the punishment that Brooks had.
As they began to ride out of Bison Bend, they were confronted by the Phantom Rider. After narrowly dodging several whippings, the Phantom Rider successfully shot the Tarantula's whip from its handle. In response, the Tarantula took Natalie Brooks hostage, but the Phantom Rider managed to lasso her and pull her to safety. Unnerved by the Phantom Rider's spook show, the Tarantula and his gang fled, vowing vengeance.
As a result of his bravery against the Tarantula, Ben Brooks was elected sheriff of Bison Bend.

(Ghost Rider II#50) - The Native American god Manitou brought John Blaze/Ghost Rider back through time to the Old West era. Blaze was injured by a band of Commanche Indians, but rescued by the Phantom Rider and taken to Bison Bend to recover. The Tarantula and his gang again assaulted the town, setting fire to buildings and harassing the residents before taking off into the night. Ghost Rider and Phantom Rider went after the Tarantula and were making short work of he and his gang, until the Tarantula threw a batch of dynamite at that. Ghost Rider shielded Phantom Rider from the blast, but the Tarantula and his men escaped while Blaze made sure the Phantom Rider was alright.
Meanwhile, Flaming Star's daughter, Spotted Doe, had a vision of Ghost Rider/Blaze, and mistook his intent to be evil. Under the guidance of Flaming Star, she summoned Manitou to battle Ghost Rider/Blaze. Manitou had defeated him, but the Tarantula and his men saw Spotted Doe and attempted to kidnap her to ransom money or materials from Flaming Star. By grabbing Spotted Doe, they disrupted the spell, dispelled Manitou, and allowed Ghost Rider/Blaze to recover. The Ghost Rider attacked the criminals, giving them a taste of hellfire before they surrendered to him.

(Ghost Rider I#3) - Clay attended a circus performance with Natalie, Carter, and Jamie Jacobs.

(Ghost Rider I#4-5) - Clay took Natalie to a barn dance, where all present were threatened by Sting-Ray. Clay attempted to resist, and was immobilized by one of his Sting-Ray's pellets. Clay recovered several minutes later, but by then the Sting-Ray was gone. Later, the Phantom Rider defeated the Sting-Ray. However, Ben Brooks attempted to bring in the Phantom Rider, believing him to be a criminal. Suddenly, the Tarantula whipped the gun from Brooks' hand, claiming to be the Phantom Rider's ally (and further cementing the belief that the Phantom Rider was an outlaw).
The Tarantula renewed his series of crimes in Bison Bend, and the Phantom Rider was incorrectly implicated in these crimes as well. With the law unable to stop them, the townspeople put in a collection to bring in a bounty hunter--Lance Sterling. The Phantom Rider appeared to Ben Brooks to attempt to argue his innocence, but Brooks fired on the Phantom Rider. Natalie Brooks attempted to prevent Ben from shooting by stepping between he and the Phantom Rider, but was too late, and took the bullet herself. The bullet lodged near her spine, paralyzing her below the waist.
Meanwhile, the Tarantula set a series of fires in Bison Bend, trying to punish the townspeople for calling in a bounty hunter. After calling the town doctor for Natalie, the Phantom Rider pursued the Tarantula. This time the Phantom Rider used a flaming lariat to tear the whip from his hand. The Rider kept him off balance with a series of his spectral tricks, but became overconfident, and the Tarantula managed to knock him out with a single punch. The Tarantula then thought to bring the Phantom Rider, so he would be imprisoned, leaving the Tarantula free to act with impunity. However, he was then swept by a wave of dizziness, and returned to his Clay Riley personality, with no memory of his recent actions. Wondering why he was in the strange costume, he wandered off, eventually discarding the costume and returning to Bison Bend.

(Ghost Rider I#6) - Clay sat by Natalie's bedside, where she was in agony from her wound.

(Ghost Rider I#7) - Clay accompanied Natalie and Ben on a wagon trip to find a doctor who could operate on her and enable her to walk again. They were struck by a powerful blizzard and had to take cover in a cave. While sleeping they were assaulted by the deranged Mountain Man, who kidnapped Natalie to replace his own dead wife. The Mountain Man knocked out Ben Brooks before leaving, and when Clay heard Natalie's scream and went after her, the Mountain Man knocked him out, too. Clay remained the Mountain Man's prisoner until the Phantom Rider, who had been following to watch over them, arrived to save them. The Mountain Man was killed when a beam collapsed, and he threw himself under it to save Natalie. Clay attempted to colecock the Phantom Rider, but the Rider kicked out his foot, and then took Natalie to Denver for the surgery himself.

(Western Gunfighters#1/6, 2) - Desperate to find the money to pay for Natalie's surgery, Clay again became the Tarantula. Carter Slade bumped into and tried to stop him, but was easily overcome. Returning as the Phantom Rider, Slade attacked the Tarantula in the darkness of his own cabin. The Tarantula lit a lantern, countering the Phantom Rider's gimmicks, and lashed him several times. The Rider managed to shoot out the lantern, regained the advantage, defeated, and unmasked the Tarantula.
Just then Ben Brooks arrived. Believing the Phantom Rider to be framing Clay, he attacked him. The Rider knocked out Brooks and carried the Tarantula off, but Riley woke up, broke free, and renewed the conflict. As they fought, Riley shifted back and forth between personalities, but ultimately slipped into a state of amnesia, where he failed to remember anything from either identity. Brooks caught up with them, drove off the Rider, and took Clay back with him.

(Western Gunfighters#4) - Clay returned to Bison Bend, still suffering from complete amnesia.


(Blaze of Glory#1-BTS, 2-4) - <1885> Riley, now retired from his Tarantula identity, headed up Riley mining, which made a profit from copper mining in Anaconda, Montana. Seeking to gain further wealth from similar mines in the town of Wonderment, Riley hired Kid Cassidy and outfitted a bunch of owlhoots as the Nightriders to drive out the residents of the town. The Two-Gun Kid, in the guise of Clay Harder, confronted Riley about his involvement, and Riley threatened to crush him if he interfered.



A group of cowboy heroes gathered to help defend the town, and they in turn were assisted by some local tribes, convinced to help by Red Wolf. One of the natives of Wonderment, Reno Jones, was recruited to become the next incarnation of the Phantom Rider (Carter Slade had died years before, as had his two successors). When Riley heard of the Phantom Rider's involvement, he personally joined the conflict. However, during the final confrontation between the Nightriders and the western heroes, Riley was paralyzed with fear when the Phantom Rider appeared before him, and was quickly shot and killed.



Comments: Created by Gary Friedrich and Dick Ayers.

Ghost Rider I#2 referred to Clay by the last name Rider. It became Riley in Ghost Rider I#3, so I assume that's where the error came in, and I think it just stayed that way.

Bison Bend was named as being in Nevada in OHotMU Update '89#5 Data Corrections, but was later identified as being located in Colorado in Original Ghost Rider #13.

As the Tarantula, he used this OUTRAGEOUS ACCENTE' which made it appear as EEF he was Mexican. I'd chalk it up to part of his other personality.

While most Westerns are pretty hokey (but still lots of fun), I really, really liked the Blaze of Glory limited series. I'm anxiously awaiting Apache Skies.
In addition, the Blaze of Glory series suggested that all of the western comics from the past were watered-down retellings of real events (in the MU).

No known connections to:

Ghost Rider I#2-7 (April-October, 1967) - Gary Friedrich & Dick Ayers (#2-4, 6) (writers), Dick Ayers (pencils), Vince Colletta (#2-5), George Roussos (#6) & Herb Trimpe (#7) (inks), Stan Lee (editor)
Western Gunfighters#1 (August, 1970) - Gary Friedrich (writer), Dick Ayers (pencils), Tom Sutton (inks), Stan Lee (editor)
Western Gunfighters#2 (October, 1970) - Gary Friedrich (writer), Dick Ayers (pencils), Tom Sutton (inks), Stan Lee (editor)
Western Gunfighters#4 (February, 1971) - Gary Friedrich (writer), Dick Ayers (artist), Stan Lee (editor)
Ghost Rider II#50 (November, 1980) - Michael Fleisher (writer), Don Perlin (artist), Denny O'Neil (editor)
Blaze of Glory#1-4 (February - March, 2000) - John Ostrander (writer), Leonardo Manco (artist), Mark Bernardo & Tom Brevoorts (editor)

First Posted: 07/08/2002
Last updated: 11/28/2004

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

All characters mentioned or pictured are ™  and © 1941-2099 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved. If you like this stuff, you should check out the real thing!
Please visit The Marvel Official Site at:

Special Thanks to www.g-mart.com for hosting the Appendix, Master List, etc.!

Back to Characters