Looting, maiming, slaughtering, El Gaucho launched his colossal plot to unite the Underworld—to make himself King of America! No torture was too cruel for him to employ; no deed too bloody; no life too precious, except his own. Richard Wentworth—the Spider, who exacts justice when the Law fails—realized he alone could save America from wanton butchery, in spite of the grim reward posted for his head—its own weight in the purest gold!
“King of the Red Killers” is the 24th Spider novel and was originally published in September 1935. Although not a South American cowboy, El Gaucho is the bad guy in this novel, King Carlos of Bethania, apparently a Balkan country. At the beginning of the novel he seems to be just another of Page’s super-criminals bent on taking over all criminal activity in the US; he starts in the western US, but moves east when invited by the New York underworld. El Gaucho brings his army and has the support of Wilhelm Von Hapszollern, Crown Prince of Ruthia, and a neighboring country to Bethania. The prince is betrothed to the king’s niece, Carollota.
(Note: Until the end of World War I, the Habsburgs/Hapsburgs ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which controlled much of the Balkans, and the Hohenzollerns ruled the German Empire and earlier the Prussian Empire. So, it seems that Wilhelm’s name was somehow an amalgamation of the two. Both Carlos and Wilhelm seem to speak German. Of course, neither Ruthia nor Bethania have ever existed as real countries in the Balkans.)
Initially El Gaucho is using the proceeds of his American criminal activities to support retention of his crown and country. After smaller burglaries, El Gaucho forces with battles in the west to take over entire towns, starting with Grand Junction (CO?) between El Gaucho’s troops. The next stop is New York City where Wentworth discovers on arrival in the city that the real plan is to destroy 11 major cities in the US and Canada with bombs with underworld help to establish himself as the king of these two countries. His goal as characterized by Page: “World domination was his crazy dream.”
Of course, no official with a sane mind will believe Wentworth given the oddity of the threat, which leaves it up to the Spider to resolve the issue. El Gaucho had offered a price on the head of the Spider literally, the weight of his head in gold (which seems less monetarily than other rewards that have been offered for the Spider). Wentworth uses the offer to end the invasion of the US.
Prof Brownlee’s grandson, Tom Barker, plays a part, which has the side benefit of regurgitating all the emotions of his death since he died two issues back in “Dragon Lord of the Underworld.” Barker falls in love with Carollota, the niece and bride-to-be of the two royals. Hopeless though their love might seem, the noble Barker wins her in the end!
King Carlos (i.e. El Gaucho) and Prince Wilhelm would have to have been certifiably crazy to attempt the conquest of the US and Canada, which to some degree Page paints them. However, despite this slip in logic, which is not unusual for Page, we have another fast-moving Spider tale. For me, I must admit that my logic circuits were crying “non sequitur” through much of the end of this one!