They say that in any fictional story, that a protagonist is only as good as the antagonist that gives them grief. British super-spy James Bond has taken on an impressive slew of villains over the course of the nearly 60 years he’s been on the silver screen. in comic book-related media, The Dark Knight himself, Batman, has a sizeable reputation for having the biggest rogues gallery in all of comics…
Well, almost the biggest.
Out of every major character in all of fiction, let alone comics, one hero undeniably has more villains and cunning rogues that give them many levels of hell to go through more than any other: Peter Parker aka Spider-Man.
From childhood to adulthood, I’ve always been the most fascinated with many of the bad guys in Spidey’s adventures, especially given the circumstances that developed them, like tragic accidents, or quests for more corporate power. i have a lot favorite baddies from the Wall-crawler’s world, however, there are 6– that’s right, 6 of them that have always appealed to me the most. In celebration of the newest Marvel Cinematic Universe installment Spider-Man: No Way Home, I’ll list each villain below:
6. Grizzly (Maxwell “Max” Marsham)
Though there are four different characters that have had the moniker of “Grizzly”, however, Maxwell Marsham is my favorite. Marsham started out as a professional wrestler who was way too violent for performing in the ring. This was exposed by everyone’s favorite news editor with the funky haircut, the Daily Bugle’s J. Jonah Jameson, which resulted in him being banned from the pro wrestling business. Years later, he would link up with scientist Miles Warren (aka The Jackal), who would make him a bear suit along with an exoskeleton harness that amplified his strength and durability. Grizzly would eventually team up with his benefactor to try and kill J. Jonah Jameson, however, they would be thwarted by Spider-Man.
The first Spider-Man comic I ever remember picking up as a child, had this guy on the cover. I remember Grizzly just towering over Spider-Man and imagined him being scared shitless… just like I was.
5. Mister Negative (Martin Li)
Originally a human trafficker and a member of a Chinese Triad, whose real name was never revealed, the man who would become Mr. Negative was captured by crime boss Silvermane to serve as a test subject, alongside the future Cloak & Dagger, for an experimental procedure involving a synthetic drug created by Simon Marshall. The experiment gave the character control over both the Darkforce and Lightforce, and led to the creation of two polar opposite personalities: Martin Li, a benevolent and kind philanthropist, who would go on to found the F.E.A.S.T. Project as a means to help homeless people; and the ruthless crime lord Mister Negative, who leads the Inner Demons gang in an attempt to take over New York’s criminal underworld. At first, the character was depicted as suffering from dissociative identity disorder, with one personality not maintaining the other’s memories, but both personas were later shown to be fully aware of each other’s existence. As Mister Negative, his powers include healing, mind-controlling others through “corruption”, and charging regular weapons with his energy.
My first exposure to this villain is also my favorite– Playstation’s Spider-Man video game for Playstation 4 (now available remastered on Playstation 5). Clearly, when you have Spider-Man facing this guy, the stakes are automatically raised.
Debuting in The Amazing Spider-Man #1, Chameleon was the first villain that Spider-Man ever encountered. Real Dmitri Smerdyakov, Chameleon is usually showcased as a master of disguise with the ability to impersonate virtually anyone. He spent a short time impersonating Spider-Man, until of course, the web-head shut him down. (fun fact: He’s also the half brother of Sergei Kravinoff, aka Kraven the Hunter)
The best use of Chameleon I’ve ever seen, came from the 90’s Spider-Man animated series (1994)
3. The Kingpin (Wilson Fisk)
Stronger, strategic, and more intelligent than any fictional mafioso you could imagine, Wilson Fisk spent his younger days working from being a small-time crook to literally ruling New York City’s infrastructure from the shadows, via his vast crime syndicate. Outside of his tussles with Daredevil (aka Matt Murdock), There are few times where he has to get his hands dirty and rest assured, one of those instances is includes a certain Wall-Crawler. Though Fisk outmatches Spider-Man in every single way, Spidey always manages to escape before he can squash him.
It is my dream, that my favorite version of Kingpin– Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of him in the Netflix corner of the MCU will one day toe to toe with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man.
2. Doctor Octopus (Dr. Otto “Doc Ock” Octavius)
Anybody who has ever seen the name Spider-Man on anything has at least heard of, arguably, his most intelligent foe. No matter what version of Spider-Man you read or watch, Octavius’ origin is more or less the same; Brilliant scientist that has an unfortunate involving his own invention: those four extending metal tentacles that could your standard anime monster a run for its money. The thing that makes his interactions with Peter Parker so compelling is the fact that they are so similar to one another (especially with the character starting out as a mentor to Peter in recent iterations) when it comes to their passion for engineering. had things gone different in Peter’s life, he might have gone down a path not too different from Octavius.
1. The Green Goblin (Norman Osborn)
Peter Parker’s rogues gallery is full of mad scientists, symbiotic alien goo, and people who turn to crime after being down on their luck, Osborn is different than all of that thanks to his position as founder and CEO of Oscorp industries, a company known for scientific breakthroughs in the Marvel Comics universe. unfortunately, he is also the living embodiment of corporate corruption that extends even beyond the reach of the aforementioned Wilson Fisk. To make matters worse, he exposed himself to a experimental chemical formula which greatly enhanced his abilities and intellect but also drove him mentally insane. Out of all of Spider-Man’s villains, The Green Goblin, has given him the most stress. From following Spidey home to discover his identity as Parker, to causing rifts between Parker and his best friend Harry (Norman’s own son!) and killing Parker’s one time love, Gwen Stacy, Norman Osborn, The Green Goblin is the deadliest and most dangerous foe in Spider-Man’s world.
Even scarier, I think there at least a few real-life CEO’s that may fit Osborn’s profile, such as Jeff Bezos or even Elon Musk, which gives more verisimilitude to a character like Norman Osborn.
images: Marvel/Insomniac Games/Alex Ross
Video: Marvel Entertainment/Sony/Insomniac Games/Marvel Studios/Netflix