The guiding tenant of Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man character is, “With great power comes great responsibility.” One of those responsibilities is protecting people from those who abuse their own power. Over his 50-year history Spider-Man has taken on a number of villains who have abused their super abilities and talents by trying to rob, murder, and conquer their fellow man. This has made him a lot of enemies.
Many of these colorful enemies are just as fascinating and compelling as Spider-Man himself. So for part two of HAPPY BIRTHDAY SPIDEY, our multi-part feature celebrating the Wall-Crawler’s 50th anniversary, editor Steve Wacker joins us for a discussion about Spider-Man’s foes.
CBR News: Steve, let’s start very generally. What makes a character a good villain? And what makes them a good villain for Spider-Man?
Steve Wacker: The best villains that come to mind all have a very dedicated singular hate for the lead character. It’s personal and they’re often the hero’s complete opposite in terms of personality and sometimes power set. When I think of the really great villains I think of Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, and Lex Luthor over at DC. The grudges are very personal for these characters. Also sometimes what makes a villain great is that they’re so cosmic and powerful like Thanos. Flat out kicking ass always works.
In terms of a good Spider-Man villain though for me they’ve got to be someone who has a personal dislike of Spider-Man for whatever reason; he foiled one of their crimes, or he did something to them. Like right now Doc Ock blames Spider-Man for the fact that he’s living under a death sentence. He only has a short time to live thanks to his various battles with Spider-Man. Doc doesn’t take responsibility for that. He blames Spider-Man.
In the end though, if we knew the precise chemical equation for always making a lasting villains we’d execute it every time.
It’s interesting you mention Doctor Octopus. For years Norman Osborn was Spider-Man’s arch-enemy, but now that Norman has set his sights on the Avengers Doc Ock has really stepped up in a big way, especially in the current “Amazing Spider-Man” storyline, “Ends of the Earth.” So is Doc Ock now Spidey’s arch-enemy? Or is that position still up for grabs?
I don’t think there’s any shortage of people looking to take down Spider-Man, and Norman Osborn still wants to as well. We saw that play out over the past few years in the “Avengers” comic. Norman’s hate for Spider-Man still takes him over once and awhile.
Right now though, the big focus is on Ock and paying off what we set up back in Spidey #600 with where Doc is, and really the rest of the year is about the demise of Doc Ock and how that’s going to affect Spider-Man.
Doctor Octopus has become a lot more dangerous and cunning now that he has nothing to lose, and that makes him pretty scary. However his scariness is amplified by the fact that visually he’s becoming more and more mechanical and less human. Was altering Doc Ock’s appearance part of the plan to make him more menacing?
Yeah, [“Amazing Spider-Man”] writer Dan Slott specifically asked for that. Again, we set it up with issue #600. Not to keep going back to that, but we always saw this as sort of a long term play for Doc Ock. As we get to the end of the year and see the results of what happens to Doc Ock during “Ends of the Earth,” it’s going to be a real, disgusting tragedy I think. Like [Tom] Brevoort eating a tuna sandwich through that beard.
In “Ends of the Earth” Doctor Octopus is being assisted by the members of the Sinister Six and this has to be one of the most effective incarnations of the team ever. They’ve taken down Iron Man, the Future Foundation, Hank Pym and his Avengers Academy students, and most recently the Intelligentsia. Why do these guys work so well together?
They’re being led by Doc Ock and there have been many different iterations of the group. I think right now we’re more or less dealing with the classic iteration of the team — with small adjustments. One thing we’ve stripped away is the bickering that leads to their downfall. They’re being led by Doc Ock and they have no problem following him. They all have different motivations and Doc has promised them each something different. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be a very dangerous, threatening group to anyone they come across.
Doc Ock and the Sinister Six are currently in the spotlight, but another villain that’s been causing Spidey lots of trouble recently is the revamped Hobgoblin, Phil Urich. Urich has a job with the Daily Bugle and he’s using his powers for personal gain. Was it your intention to have the new Hobgoblin become the dark mirror of Peter Parker?
Absolutely. That’s exactly what Dan wanted to do with that character. We haven’t seen him for awhile now, but that is going to change soon enough. And the idea was very purposefully to create a “dark mirror” of Spider-Man as you suggest.
Phil’s employer, Wilson Fisk AKA the Kingpin, has also been lying low. Is that because of the beating he recently took at the hands of the Black Panther in the final arc of his most recent series?
Kingpin is slowly reestablishing himself. He runs Shadowland. He’s got the Hand and we’ve got tentative plans for the character for later in the year.
I sort of felt over the past few years he’s been at the center of so much that it might be okay to catch our breath a little bit with the Kingpin. He’s another one of those fantastic villains though and he has a personal beef with a lot of our characters. Kingpin can easily fit into the lives of characters like Punisher, Spider-Man, and Daredevil and you’ll get some good stories out of it
So the Kingpin isn’t just a Spider-Man or a Daredevil villain? He’s a Marvel New York villain?
That’s the way I see him.
The new Vulture also became a Marvel New York villain in that he made his debut in the pages of “Amazing Spider-Man” and was killed off in the pages of “The Punisher.” And recently the old Vulture, Adrian Toomes, resurfaced in “Amazing Spider-Man” in a major way. What led to the decision to kill off the new Vulture and bring back the old one?
We had a lot of discussions about the new Vulture before we decided to kill him off in “Punisher.” [Writer] Greg Rucka had spoken with [“Daredevil” writer] Mark Waid to make sure everybody was cool. And Dan had separately pitched a new Adrian Toomes story, which I liked but it led to a lot of discussions about whether or not we’d have a fight between him and the new Vulture where they battle for the name, which isn’t a story that’s terribly interesting to me. I hate name fights.
So we threw out the idea of taking care of “Red Vulture” for good and all the writers chimed in. If Dan hadn’t had a plan for Adrian I don’t know if we would have offed the new guy, but he did. Plus Greg had a beat that was better than your average “Punisher kills a bad guy” routine. That battle between Frank and Vulture left its mark and affected where that book went over the first year.
We’ve talked quite a bit about the classic Spidey villains that have been brought back and polished up. Are there any classic Spider-Man rogues that haven’t been given that treatment yet that you would like to reintroduce? Like perhaps, say, the Tarantula?
The Tarantula is a great one. I definitely want to do something with the Tarantula. I love animal based villains. So characters like Grizzly, Kangaroo, and those kinds of guys would be interesting. I always like WHO also, though I don’t know that WHO classifies strictly as a villain.
We’ve talked pretty extensively about Spider-Man’s classic villains so let’s finish up with a question about some of his newer foes that were introduced during the “Brand New Day” era. Are there plans for characters like Mister Negative, Paper Doll, or Overdrive?
Yes to Mister Negative and Paper Doll. There are no plans for Overdrive that I can recall right now. I don’t know that people are yelling for his return, but we have to stock the book with a lot of antagonists and sometimes we need some bench players for Spidey to beat up on. So I don’t know if we’re going to have a five-part Overdrive story any time soon, but again what makes a good villain is someone who makes things very personal for the character, even if they don’t know who the hero is in their secret identity. Making the hero’s life as difficult and overwhelming as possible is what really resonates with readers.
Check back with CBR News soon for the next installment of HAPPY BIRTHDAY SPIDEY, where we’ll examine Spider-Man’s supporting cast.