When my fellow ScienceFiction.com comic writer Jason wrote up the top villains for Batman and Superman, I figured it was about time to post up some for my favorite superhero and everyone’s favorite wall-crawler… Spider-Man. So, without futher ado, here are my picks for the top 10 Spidey villains of all-time!
10. Kraven the Hunter
Sergei “Kraven” Kravinoff is a hunter that’s hunted all of the most dangerous animals on Earth. After catching them all, he turns his attention to hunting humans. And what better human to hunt than one that can actually give a good chase? Spider-Man! Combine that with the story of ‘Kraven’s Last Hunt’ and you’ve got one heck of a character. If only the rest of Kraven’s outings were as good as ‘Last Hunt’ or if he didn’t wear that ridiculous lion-head costume, he’d have earned a higher spot on this list.
Through the years, there have been several Marvel villains (and heroes) calling themselves the Vulture, but the greatest of these is Adrian Toomes. The elderly villain has plagued Spider-Man off and on since his first appearance way back in ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #2. The Toomes Vulture was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1963. He was originally an electronics engineer hired to create a flight harness for one of New York’s industrialists before he turned to a life of crime. Most recently, the Vulture was seen recruiting new forces in ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #675.
Another Lee/Ditko creation, the Jackal first made his appearance in ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #129 in 1974. Later, his identity was revealed to be Professor Miles Warren, a scientist friend of Peter Parker’s who’d been around since 1963. When Gwen Stacy was killed by the Green Goblin, Miles blamed her death on Spider-Man and devoted his life to destroying the wall-crawler. The Jackal was the mastermind behind the Clone Saga in the ‘90s and the recent Spider-Island.
Like the Vulture (above), there have been several men behind the trademark fishbowl helmet of Mysterio. The original was a man named Quentin Beck. Beck was a special FX guru who decided to use his skills for villainy instead. The FX theme of Mysterio allowed for some great mind-warping comic stories, including making Spider-Man believe he was only six-inches tall and faking the death of Aunt May. Since Beck died in the pages of ‘Daredevil’ in 1999, he was briefly replaced by ex-Jack O’Lantern Daniel Berkhart and mutant Francis Klum. But you can’t keep a good villain down. The original Mysterio has recently returned from the grave and is sure to haunt Spider-Man for years to come.
Dmitri Smerdyakov, the half-brother to Kraven the Hunter, was trained as a Russian master of disguise. He is the first “super” villain to appear in the pages of Spider-Man comics. In ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #1 by Lee/Ditko, the Chameleon impersonated the web-slinger himself to frame him for crimes. Since then, the Chameleon has been the go-to villain whenever writers want to explore some of the darker psychological aspects of Spider-Man. The villain is even the creator of another on this list since Chameleon was the man responsible for convincing Kraven to take up his hunt against Spider-Man.
First appearing the pages of ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #4 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (Are we seeing a trend here?), the Sandman began as a small-time hood who was given his sand powers by a radioactive accident. Since then, Spider-Man has clashed with Sandman time and again with the villain slowly getting more powerful with age. The Sandman can now not only turn into sand, but he can harden parts of his body into weapons, turn into glass, and even make multiple copies of himself. Because of his powers, Sandman is nearly invulnerable and hard to imprison. He is currently with Doc Ock and the Sinister Six.
When you think of The Kingpin of Crime, Wilson Fisk, the first character that pops to mind is usually Daredevil and not the wall-crawler. But his first appearance was in the pages of ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #50 (1967) and he has been in conflict with Spider-Man through the years since then. Fisk was a young poor boy on the streets of NYC. Harassed because of his obesity, Fisk took it upon himself to train in combat so that he could stand up for himself. Because of his size and physical prowess, Fisk eventually was hired by criminal families as a bodyguard. From that lowly status, he worked his way up the criminal ladder, eventually attaining his current title as the Kingpin of all crime in NYC. In addition to being a huge man and great martial artist, Fisk is a genius level intellect, a shrewd businessman, and a first-class tactician.
Of all the villains on this list, Venom is the most recent. Based on an idea submitted by Marvel comics fan Randy Schueller and designed by Todd McFarlane in 1988, Venom has only been around for 24 years. But, right out of the gate, it was clear that Venom was something special. When Spider-Man abandoned the alien symbiote costume that he acquired in the pages of ‘Secret Wars’, the creature began to resent Parker. When it found a new host in Eddie Brock, a reporter who had his own reasons for hating the wall-crawler, a perfect storm came together and Venom was born. In his original incarnation, Venom was the perfect antithesis for Spider-Man. In later years, he became the “lethal protector” and tried to become a hero (of sorts). The symbiote has since changed hosts several times and currently is bonded with Peter Parker’s old friend Flash Thompson in the pages of the latest ‘Venom’ series. The character is so popular that Hollywood is considering the idea of giving Venom his own stand-alone movie.
2. Doctor Octopus
First appearing in the pages of ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #3 (1963), Dr. Otto Octavius has been a thorn in Spider-Man’s side ever since. Octavius was as a brilliant and promising scientist that had invented a set of mechanical arms to safely work with radioactive substances. But, when a lab accident fused the mechanical arms to Octavius’ body and affected his brain so that he could control the arms with his mind, Octavius, now calling himself Doctor Octopus, began his career in crime. After being thwarted by the web-head in his first outing, Doctor Octopus devoted his life to battling Spider-Man. He was the original founder of the Sinister Six. In the current comics, Doctor Octopus’ body has been mostly destroyed and the near-death villain is conducting his “final” plan in the pages of ‘Amazing Spider-Man’. But, like Mysterio, I highly doubt that Doc Ock will stay gone for long.
1. Green Goblin
When I sat down to write this list, I knew who would take the top spot before it even began. I even tried to tweak my criteria so that it wouldn’t be so predictable, but no one… no one of Spidey’s villains has been a bigger influence on the history of Spider-Man than the original Green Goblin, Norman Osborn. Another creation of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the Green Goblin first appeared in ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #14 (1964). When the Halloween masked villain first appeared, his identity was unknown. He was later revealed to be Norman Osborn, the industrialist father of Peter Parker’s friend Harry. Osborn had tested one of his company’s serums, which was supposed to give a person superhuman strength, on himself. The serum worked. But in addition to enhanced strength, the serum also affected Osborn’s mind and the Green Goblin was born. The Goblin continued to battle Spider-Man for the better part of the next decade. Then, in 1973, a battle with the Goblin resulted in the death of Peter Parker’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy. This was the first time in comic history that a hero had failed to save one of their loved ones. Many comic fans consider that singular event as the end of comics’ “silver age”. After Gwen’s death, Osborn was seemingly killed when he was impaled on his own Goblin Glider. After his death, his son Harry temporarily took up the Green Goblin mantle and a new Goblin (the Hobgoblin) replaced the Green Goblin for a while. Then in the ‘90s clone saga, it was revealed that Norman Osborn was alive and well, after having been absent from ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ for two decades. Since his return, Osborn has been transformed into more of a corrupt business man genius along the lines of Lex Luthor. His Goblin side may have been downplayed recently but I have no doubt that the grinning monster is hiding inside Osborn and just waiting for the right time to resurface!
Wow! I knew that the Stan Lee and Steve Ditko creations would monopolize the list but, until I wrote it, I didn’t realize how much so. Eight out of the ten villains on this list were created by that dynamic duo and, if you count the Kingpin (and I do), Stan has nine of the ten! (Kingpin was co-created by John Romita, Sr.) So, if you’re reading this Mr. Lee, thank you from the bottom of my heart for creating so many memorable villains for Spidey to battle. And thanks to all the creators and artists that have kept those diabolical creations alive and viable for all these many years. Make mine Marvel! What would your list look like? Do you agree with mine or would you add and change some of the characters? Comment below and let me know.