Spider-Man has one of the most recognized rogues galleries in comics. The Lizard and the Green Goblin are just two of his well-known enemies, thanks in large part to the movies. Of course, there are many more villains waiting in the wings — sometimes literally — to be introduced to casual fans. Case in point: The Vulture!
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An old man who has incredible strength and the power of flight, Adrian Toomes has been fighting the Web-Head since the ’60s. Unfortunately, movie audiences have yet to see the Vulture on the big screen. Thankfully, that’s about to change, as it’s been announced that Michael Keaton will be playing the Vulture in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” For those who might be unfamiliar with the supervillain, this is a good chance for CBR to run down the 15 things you need to know about this high-flying criminal.
15. The Vulture Is One of Spider-Man’s Oldest Villains
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created Spider-Man in 1963, and with him a ton of memorable villains for him to fight. One of their earliest creations was the Vulture, who first appeared in “The Amazing Spider-Man” #2 in 1963. That’s right, the second issue. In fact, he was also only the second costumed villain that Spider-Man ever fought, after the master of disguise, the Chameleon.
The Vulture isn’t just old in terms of his history, though; he is also Spider-Man’s oldest villain, physically speaking. Toomes is an old man in a green bodysuit, and looks like he should be hanging out in a retirement home instead of robbing banks. We don’t know exactly how old, but he is often drawn to look ancient. Unfortunately for his nemesis, his age belies a body capable of great evil and ruthlessness.
Since his creation, the Vulture has been one of the Spider-Man’s most persistent threats. He’s returned again and again while some of Spider-Man’s other early enemies have vanished into history. So, much like his old age implies, this is a villain who has serious staying power.
14. The Vulture Flies Fast
Much like Falcon, the Vulture’s main threat is his ability to fly. He can soar through the skies with great speed and maneuvers with incredible skill, executing twists, rolls and swoops that make him hard to track and avoid, even for someone as youthful and with super reflexes like Spidey.
However, the Vulture’s ability doesn’t come from an aerodynamic costume or a jetpack. The first and most recognizable version of the Vulture is the aforementioned Adrian Toomes, who invented a special harness that allows him to fly through electromagnetism and anti-gravity technology. The wings on his costume are mainly for steering. He doesn’t need to flap them to get airborne.
As a result, the Vulture makes almost no sound when he flies. That makes him especially dangerous, because you can’t hear him coming. Sometimes, it’s only Spider-Man’s spider-sense that allows him to know when the Vulture is getting the drop on him. Most recently, Toomes discovered the harness had given him the power to fly without it, so he’s an even bigger threat.
13. The Vulture Is No Bird Brain
Though Toomes is best known for his flight, his more dangerous skill is his sinister genius intellect. Before he became the Vulture, Toomes was a successful electronics engineer who founded a company called B&T Electronics with his partner Greg Bestman. Bestman handled the business, but Toomes was the brains behind the electronics. It was his engineering skill that allowed him to figure how to use electromagnetism to power his flight harness.
There’s no doubt he would have become as rich as Tony Stark through his inventions if it weren’t for Bestman. Toomes discovered his erstwhile partner had been stealing profits from his inventions, and had no legal recourse. He’s an engineering genius, not a business one, remember. Thus, Toomes decided to use his harness and vast intellect to pursue a life of crime. Over the years, he’s enhanced his harness and created new technology for himself and using it to plot crimes for decades. He’s been pretty successful at it, too, which is even more impressive when you consider his age. Time has only made him smarter, if not wiser.
12. The Vulture Is Strong
If you took Toomes at face value, he wouldn’t seem like a real threat. He’s an elderly man and has a scrawny body. Of course, looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to the Vulture.
The electromagnetic harness has done more for Toomes than just let him fly, simultaneously granting him enhanced strength. Through the effects of the anti-gravity generator, the Vultureis able to lift objects far heavier than he should be able to, and exchange blows with some of Marvel’s heaviest hitters.
Over the years, the strength of the Vulture has varied, such that the longer he’s worn it, the stronger he’s become. Like only a few other characters, such as Luke Cage, Vulture also once ripped his way out of Spider-Man’s webbing, which is strong enough to stop a bus. Spider-Man even once postulated that the Vulture was as strong as him, and Spider-Man is strong enough to lift a car! In a dangerous turn, the Vulture has discovered that, much like his flight, he’s kept his strength without the harness.
11. The Vulture Is More Than A Thief
Spider-Man’s collection of villains tend to have varied goals. Some of his baddies, like the Lizard, are dedicated to the destruction of the human race. Others, like Doctor Octopus, are driven to try to conquer the world. Still others, like Sandman, are just looking for some quick cash to solve one of their problems. The Vulture is a villain whose needs are a bit more… complex.
The Vulture started out as a simple thief, stealing so he could save up for his retirement. But that’s not the only future he steals in preparation of; for example, he once went on a crime spree to pay for his own funeral. Sometimes, Toomes has put on his vulture costume out of a sheer desire for revenge, like in “The Amazing Spider-Man” #240 (1983), when he attacked his old partner, Bestman.
The Vulture is really driven by the thrill of the chase. He enjoys outwitting the police and Spider-Man, and using his mind to gather wealth that he couldn’t in business. It’s like a game of chess that he plays with his wings.
10. The Vulture Helped Create The Sinister Six
Like the gnarly animals from which he has derived his villainous inspiration, the Vulture doesn’t always work alone. Thanks to his standing as a foundational member of the Sinister Six, he has become one of Spider-Man’s most legendary enemies.
In 1964’s “The Amazing Spider-Man Annual” #1, Spider-Man’s frequent enemy Doctor Octopus decided he couldn’t defeat the hero alone. Thus, he called in five of Spider-Man’s other enemies to join him, assembling the shape-shifting Sandman, the electrically-powered Electro, the savage Kraven the Hunter, the master of illusion Mysterio and the Vulture, in so doing, bringing together for the first time, the Sinister Six.
The group of supervillains were beaten by Spider-Man many times over, but always return in some form or another to threaten the wall-crawler. While a lot of the members have been swapped out or changed over the years, the Vulture has been a member of almost every version, making him one of Spider-Man’s most stalwart enemies of all time.
9. The Vulture Is Creepy (Like, SUPER Creepy)
Another point to know and remember about the Vulture is that he’s absolutely creepy, not just because of his hunched, feathery appearance, but because he’s 100% ruthless. Even though he enjoys committing crimes where he uses stealth to get away clean, Toomes isn’t above killing anyone who stands in his way. He also has no morals when it comes to his methods.
In “Superior Spider-Man” #3, Spider-Man (with his body controlled by Doc Ock) tracked down the Vulture, who’s been committing crimes with a gang of smaller henchmen. Spider-Ock assumed they were “circus midgets,” but when he finally knocked away one of the henchmen, the mask fell off. He discovered they weren’t little people, but young children. Not only did he command a gang of children, but he also rigged their flying suits with a switch so he could turn them off, leaving them to fall to their death if they disobeyed him. This was enough to even appall his fellow Sinister Sixer, Doctor Octopus, which is really saying something. That’s because Ock realized that The Vulture, just like a real vulture, survives by feeding off of the helpless.
8. The Vulture Killed Aunt May’s Lover
Even by accident, the Vulture can cause unbelievable suffering. In “The Amazing Spider-Man” #336 (1990), Aunt May had gotten engaged to Nathan Lubensky, an older and kind man who had some serious financial problems. Toomes was hired to kill a rival of the Kingpin, but during the attack, he tried to take Aunt May hostage. Lubensky, who was normally confined to a wheelchair, valiantly grabbed onto the Vulture to try to stop him, but couldn’t stop the Vulture from taking off into the air. Clinging to the back of the Vulture, Lubensky became terrified at how high he was flying, until he was forced to let go. He was saved by Spider-Man, but too late, as the elderly Lubensky suffered a fatal heart attack.
Years later, when the Vulture thought he was dying, he stalked Aunt May and broke into her house. She found him in her bedroom, looming there menacingly. As it turned out, he didn’t want to kill her, but rather to apologize for killing Lubensky. It was a rare moment of compassion for the psychotic villain, who showed a new side of himself. Unfortunately, it was fleeting.
7. The Vulture Can Drain Youth
Adrian Toomes has always been an older man, which is of course fitting of the gaunt, wrinkled and bald look of a vulture. At one point, however, technology changed all that.
In “The Amazing Spider-Man” #386-388 (1994), the Vulture got hold of a device called a “juvenator,” which drains the life force from one living being to another when touched with special gauntlets. In the process, it makes the one wearing the juvenator’s gauntlets younger and the victim older. Like Dracula draining blood, the Vulture used the juvenator to drain the youth from Spider-Man into himself.
The Vulture got stronger, faster and more hair, while Spider-Man struggled with old age. He gave himself new weapons and a new suit while Peter Parker struggled to hide his advanced age from his wife and family. Fortunately, the effect wore off quickly, leaving the villain old again and returning Spidey’s youthful vim. The Vulture managed to find a way to get his youth back again, but at a terrible price and it ended up getting reversed again later on. In “Spider-Man: The Animated Series” from the ’90s, the Vulture has this ability built into his costume and uses it frequently to keep himself young.
6. The Vulture Killed Spider-Man’s Parents (Sort Of)
The loss of Spider-Man’s parents has been a major part of his history, something touched on with “The Amazing Spider-Man.” That’s why, at the end of the previously-mentioned “The Amazing Spider-Man” story arc, the Vulture also committed one of his most heinous acts.
In “The Amazing Spider-Man #388 (1994), a complex conspiracy came to an end, thanks to the Vulture. In previous issues, Peter Parker’s parents had seemingly come back into his life. Parker was thrilled with the chance to reconnect with his folks, but it turned out the supervillain Chameleon had created shape-shifting androids to impersonate them, all in hopes of finding out his secret identity. When Parker learned the truth, the Chameleon turned the father-android against him, forcing Spider-Man to destroy it. The mother-android refused to fight, having come to love Parker like she was his real mother.
The effects of draining Spider-Man proved only temporary, and the Vulture wanted to restore his youth. To get a greater effect, he drained the artificial life force from the mother-android, killing it. Spider-Man was left devastated, having lost his parents for a second time.
5. The Vulture Was A Hero
The Vulture hasn’t always been a scumbag. At some points, the Vulture tried to be a hero.
Kraven the Hunter is another persistent enemy of Spider-Man. Obsessed with tracking down big game, he targeted Spider-Man as the ultimate quarry to prove he’s the world’s greatest hunter. After his death, Kraven’s son Alyosha Kravinoff took up the mantle to try to kill Spider-Man as well. But Alyosha eventually had a change of heart and teamed up with the Vulture to briefly fight crime together as vigilantes. That ended in disaster, however, and the Vulture returned to a life of crime.
Later, during the epic “Civil War” storyline, Spider-Man rebelled against his former mentor, Iron Man. To bring him in, the Vulture was hired by the government to track down Spider-Man. Toomes was only too happy to find and kill Spider-Man, be it for the government or for sheer pleasure. He failed, of course, but proved that even when he tried to do good, the Vulture remains pure evil.
4. The Vulture Almost Died
Even though the Vulture has been a strong and powerful enemy, there have been times where he’s felt his age. In fact, he came close to death many times, but has always managed to pull himself back to life.
In “Spectacular Spider-Man” #186, the Vulture revealed he had contracted cancer from the electromagnetic radiation in his flying equipment. The Vulture being who he is, he didn’t go quietly and spend his time trying to make up for his past sins. Instead, he tried to avenge himself by killing all of his enemies. Later, he managed to cure himself by absorbing the life force from Parker’s android parents (as discussed above). The youth it transferred didn’t last, but his cancer cure remained.
In “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” #16 (2007), the Vulture and Spider-Man fought and fell off of a building, causing the Vulture to suffer a stroke in mid-air. At the hospital, the Vulture woke up to see a doctor telling him he was paralyzed on one side of his body. Weakened, the Vulture begged Spider-Man to kill him. When Spider-Man smothered him with a pillow, Toomes fought back, proving he wanted to live after all… a grip on life that still motivates him to persist beyond his years for the sole purpose of wreaking havoc.
3. There Were Other Vultures
Much like Robin, who’s been played by different characters, there have been many Vultures.
Raniero “Blackie” Drago, who first appeared in “The Amazing Spider-Man” #48 (1967), was Toomes’ cellmate in prison. Blackie tricked Toomes into giving him the harness and costume of the Vulture, but Toomes eventually escaped from prison and took over again.
In “The Amazing Spider-Man” #127 (1973), a scientist named Clifton Shallot mutated himself into a new Vulture, but one with genuine wings instead of artificial ones, teeth sharp enough to tear Spider-Man’s webbing and real claws. Spider-Man ended up giving him an antidote, ending his short career.
The strangest Vulture was the Red Vulture, who debuted in “The Amazing Spider-Man” #592 (2009). Jimmy Natale was a low-level mobster chosen to be the subject of an experiment to make a mutant vulture. Natale ended up a bizarre mutation with wings, mandibles and the ability to vomit acid. He began killing and eating mobsters in a twisted form of crime-fighting. As creepy as that sounds, though, there’s just no beating the ick-factor of the original.
2. The Vulture Once Retired
Every time he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in. The Vulture has always claimed he was driven, not by greed, but a desire for a good life. As an older man, he looked forward to retiring and living somewhere quietly with the fruits of his labors (much like Robert Redford). With Bestman’s embezzlement, Toomes wasn’t left with a 401K plan, hence why he began stealing in the first place: to plan for his own retirement.
In some cases, the Vulture really has gotten enough money to quit being a criminal; it’s not easy to be a supervillain at his age, after all. In “The Amazing Spider-Man” #240 (1983), Toomes had turned in his bird suit and lived a quiet life in a retirement home. But when he saw his old partner, Bestman, he became the Vulture again to get revenge. Other times, Toomes has returned to crime when someone else started using his technology or claim the title of Vulture. He may be an older man, but Toomes’ greed and jealousy girds him against the tides of time (not to mention basic human decency).
1. The Vulture Was Almost In Previous Films
Keaton’s appearance will be the first time the Vulture has been in a major motion picture, but not for lack of trying. “Homecoming” is actually the fourth attempt to put the Vulture into a Spider-Man movie.
The first mention of the Vulture as a villain in film came with “Spider-Man 3.” Director Sam Raimi’s original script for the movie including Sandman, the Vulture and Harry Osborn. The studio ultimately forced him to replace the Vulture with Venom. When Raimi began planning the fourth movie in his series, “Spider-Man 4,” he again tried to put the Vulture in as one of the villains. In fact, John Malkovich later confirmed he was even in talks to play the Vulture. When the series was rebooted with “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Raimi’s plans fell by the wayside.
Sony also had plans to create a “Sinister Six” spin-off movie, which would have included the Vulture. In a scene in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” we saw an assortment of equipment in the background that included a familiar pair of wings. With “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” it looks like the Vulture is finally getting his due.
Directed by Jon Watts, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” stars Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Michael Keaton, Zendaya, and Donald Glover. The film is scheduled to open on July 7, 2017.
Are you looking forward to the Vulture in “Spider-Man: Homecoming?” Let us know in the comments!
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