Any fan of Spider-Man will tell you: to be a fan of the web-slinger, you’ve got to be a fan of his rogues gallery too. Well, that can be hard to do when a villain’s redesign rocks the boat, changes everything from a power set to a costume and sends the fanbase into a frenzy. Throughout Spider-Man’s history, he’s faced off with more than his fair share of foes. In the early days, villains like Green Goblin, Vulture and Sandman made his every day a living hell as he learned to control his powers for the first time. He would soon encounter many more, from Tombstone and Black Cat to the symbiotic Venom, the murderous Carnage and dozens of riffs and knockoffs of other legacy villains (We’re looking at you, Chameleon Twins).
But for the most part, Spider-Man’s villains have remained constants, reappearing every so often as evolutions of their original designs, not shying too far away from source material. After all, there’s plenty of other universes for that. Unfortunately, (and fortunately for some) redesigns do happen, and when fans refuse to embrace them, things can get pretty wild. Here are 15 Spider-Man villain redesigns that didn’t quite sit right with the fans.
15. DOCTOR OCTOPUS (BRAND NEW DAY)
Doctor Octopus’ appearance during “Brand New Day” may have been the least controversial thing to follow-up the already wildly controversial “One More Day” story arc, but it definitely didn’t help to put out the flames. Of course, Spidey fans were aware by this point that Otto Octavius was dying but they may not have expected this to take such a hit on his costume and appearance. The wildly confident, bombastic Octavius went from bowl-cut to cyborg strait jacket.
Of course, this look would only get more terrifying before he would let that body die and take Peter Parker’s as his own, but it definitely didn’t make the wait any less terrible. With that in mind, this Otto look was easily overshadowed by the marriage-undoing wildness of “One More Day,” which still stung as the Spider-Man series continued.
14. SANDMAN (ENHANCED FORM)
As if Sandman wasn’t already powerful enough, his “enhanced” form saw him amp up his super strength tenfold, all while growing sharp spikes all over his body. Controlled by a neck piece aimed at controlling his abilities, Sandman’s rage allowed him to power through its containment and break free of its dampening, unleashing this “enhanced” version of the Spider-Man villain.
Unfortunately for Flint Marko, he was eventually apprehended via defeat and returned to his original form, but not before freaking fans out with this ghoulish, almost reptile-like new form. But that’s OK, we all like Sandman with his striped long-sleeve shirt and nondescript sand powers anyway. Though this change was brief, it was good to have Marko back to his typical bad guy form soon after.
13. VENOM (SPACE KNIGHT)
OK, so technically Venom wasn’t a villain when this redesign happened. Venom was in a symbiotic relationship with Flash Thompson, following his stint as Agent Venom. He took off into space with the Guardians of the Galaxy and then went solo as Venom: Space Knight, sporting a beefier costume with a more astronaut-like look to it. He dueled in space arenas, saved anthropomorphic alien animals and pissed off a lot of fans.
Why? Well, in terms of Venom’s career as a good guy, Agent Venom was pretty much perfect. To shake up the character for no real discernible reason felt forced to many, and eventually led to fans clamoring for Eddie Brock to return to the pages of Venom. Of course, they absolutely got their wish, and Brock is now back to his morally ambiguous ways.
12. SCARLET SPIDER (THE CLONE CONSPIRACY)
Perhaps the most recent change on this list, the Scarlet Spider to come out of “The Clone Conspiracy” in the pages of Spider-Man was met with intense fan distaste. The fairly popular character, whose original costume screamed ’90s but had a certain nostalgic feel to it, spent much of this event under The Jackal’s persona, and when he escapes at the end he goes on his own, back as the Scarlet Spider.
This led to the creation of Ben Reily’s super creepy new costume, which looked like the original Spider-Man suit with much more blue, a red Spider (get it?) and a blue hoodie? It also made his mouth look very weird. Good news for fans though, as just a few issues into his new solo series, Scarlet Spider returned to his original ripped shirt getup.
11. NEW ELECTRO
Let’s be honest. As cool as Electro was when he dropped his goofy lightning headgear and bright green and yellow suit, it lacked a certain familiarity that fans came to expect. With that in mind, fans weren’t too happy to see this new, bright blue and sort of nude Electro rummaging about in recent Spider-Man stories, including a stint with Doctor Octopus and his Superior Six team.
Comic books fans don’t always like change, and while Electro has had plenty of different iterations over the years, only this one makes him seem more menacing than he really is. It probably didn’t help that this was the depiction chosen to represent Electro in live-action for Amazing Spider-Man 2. Plus, there’s something totally classic about that green and yellow suit.
10. TOXIN (FBI AGENT)
Much like its Klyntar brethren Venom, Toxin took on the role of a special agent in response to Flash Thompson’s Venom becoming Agent Venom, this time working for the FBI. Unfortunately, this meant Toxin’s role as the spawn of Carnage felt disjointed, with the villain now taking on a red and black armored appearance, a not-so-subtle riff on Agent Venom’s new digs.
Brock’s time as a government agent also led to fans wanting him back in the spotlight as Venom, since the idea of symbiotes going good didn’t seem new and fresh anymore. It would take a few years, but eventually Eddie Brock would return to the pages of Venom as the titular character, leaving his past as Toxin behind. Well, we can only hope.
9. YOUNG VULTURE
You’d think that becoming young again would be a good thing, right? Well, not for Vulture apparently. In a not-so-welcome shake-up as part of a storyline called “Lifetheft” the Vulture became young again after trying to steal the life force of Peter Parker. Of course, that didn’t work, so he instead took the life force of an Aunt May android, returning to his youth and also curing his cancer.
While this would give anyone else a new lease on life, the newly rejuvenated Adrian Toomes tried to go on a killing spree, working to take out anyone who knew him as the old, evil Vulture, in hopes of making a new name for himself and starting over. This youthful Toomes didn’t last long, which made fans happy in the long run. Spider-Man has enough youthful villains anyway.
8. HOBGOBLIN TO DEVIL-SPIDER
The Hobgoblin’s resurgence as the aptly named Devil-Spider felt odd. Nestled somewhere between Iron Fist and Deathstroke, this new iteration of Hobgoblin lacked the fear and flare of his predecessor, trading in a glider and bombs for guns and a visible beard. Hobgoblin himself has always been tattered Spidey villain, one that had trouble dealing with the legacy of the Green Goblin while also serving as a solid rival to Spider-Man.
The Devil-Spider was shortlived, and when Hobgoblin returned to New York, he helps to build a business around the villain, working with the other Hobgoblin, Phil Urich, to be in more than one place at once. The two would try and take down Spider-Man, but we all know that never goes as planned. Sorry, Hobgoblins.
7. GREEN GOBLIN TO IRON PATRIOT
Sure, the design of the Iron Patriot was enormously cool in itself, but fans met it with hesitation and confusion as Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers grew to prominence following “Secret Invasion” and throughout “Dark Reign”. Built as a combination of the scientific and mechanical prowess of Iron Man and the prideful beacon of Captain America, Osborn assumed this new leadership role.
Of course, this also meant taking Osborn from a Spider-Man villain to a villain on an earthly scale, something Spidey fans needed time to process. It was a nice little shake-up for a while, but we were all a bit relieved to see the Iron Patriot armor hung up for good and Osborn returned to his Spidey rogue glory. Well, until U.S. Avengers, but that’s a whole different story.
6. LIZARD’S THIRD FORM
Curt Connors has undergone plenty of changes throughout his career as one of Spider-Man’s most well-known baddies. He’s been a scaly man, a full lizardlike creature in a lab coat and crocodile-like monster. But only his third form seemed to really grind peoples’ gears, as The Lizard went full reptilian, grew large horns and spikes all over his body and left whatever humanity he might have had behind. Still, his lab coat held on by a thread.
Fortunately, this appearance didn’t last long, and a back-and-forth between Spidey and Connors in an attempt to heal him of his lizard form led the villain to return to his more well-known appearance, but again with the mind of the “good” Doctor Curtis Connors. Maybe one day, Doc. Maybe one day.
5. DOCTOR OCTOPUS (ENDS OF THE EARTH)
During the main story of “Ends of the Earth,” Spider-Man and his crew of allies, including Black Widow and Silver Sable, battled it out with Doctor Octopus and his Sinister Six. And while the story was wildly intense and led to the death of a major Spidey supporting character, fans were a bit distracted by this new design for Doc Ock, in which he sports a mechanical life-support device with alien-like technology.
While a bit less zombified than his ‘Brand New Day’ appearance, this take on Doc Ock continued to stretch the character thin, as his plan for world domination (or total destruction) lacked any sort of development, other than him wanting to punish the world because of his own illness. While Doc Ock’s more recent appearances are crazy enough on their own, this might have been one robotic step too far.
4. ULTIMATE RHINO
While we can’t say Spider-Man rogue Rhino was ever a truly well-designed characters, fans weren’t too happy to see the Ultimate Universe reinvention of the character take on a mechanical exo-suit. Because of this change, Rhino went from being a goofy mobster with an artificial Rhino skin suit, to a villainous Hulkbuster that looked like a cross between Iron Man and Doomsday.
Of course, the Ultimate Universe take on the character would ultimately (heh) meet its end with the rest of the Ultimate Comics Universe, but this depiction of Rhino continued to prove the forced edginess of this new publishing line. On a positive note, this take on Spider-Man was wildly popular, introducing Spidey and his rogues gallery to a whole new generation of fans.
3. DIRTY SANDMAN
This “dirty” Sandman may be the only take on a villain that led to subsequently worse takes on said villain. Sandman’s appearance after breaking out of prison and attacking the United Nations felt uncontrolled, almost like a melting version of his human form. He was big and hulking, but unable to maintain either a strictly human or strictly sand appearance. It was a far cry from his original costume.
Of course, this would eventually lead to two additional Sandman redesigns that didn’t make fans too happy. The first was a suit of armor that looked awfully awkward, but allowed Flint Marko to control and direct his powers. After this, there was a time when Marko was able to turn his Sand into glass, but that didn’t seem to work too well either.
2. ULTIMATE MYSTERIO
Mysterio is one of those villains that’s hard to do right twice. The original design for Mysterio has mostly held steady over the years. You know it. The goofy reflective globe helmet, the purple cape, the green scaly suit. Well, in typical Mysterio fashion, when designing the villain for the Ultimate Universe, the only one who could do right by Mysterio was… Mysterio.
Ultimate Mysterio is an android, one created by the Mysterio of the main Marvel Universe in hopes he’ll conquer this new universe, which is head-scratching in itself. On top of that, this Mysterio’s appearance is somewhere between ghost astronaut and Electro. It’s an edgy design that lacks a lot of what made Mysterio so goofy to begin with, while also remaining entirely terrifying. This new Mysterio was just plain scary.
1. DOCTOR OCTOPUS TO SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN
Perhaps one of the biggest design shakeups in recent comic book history, Marvel’s decision to turn longtime Spidey villain Doctor Octopus into Spider-Man himself was met with intense fan backlash. After a buck wild plot that saw Doctor Octopus transferring his consciousness into Peter Parker, Ock took on the mantle of the webslinger as the Superior Spider-Man.
While his suit was actually pretty well-designed, this new Spider-Man rubbed many fans the wrong way with his off-kilter moral code and disregard for the mantle of Spider-Man. Oh, and it probably didn’t help that fans thought Peter Parker had been killed off for the first part of this run. While Dan Slott’s Spider-Man run has always been controversial, this may have been the biggest redesign he greenlit that rocked the boat.
Which of these redesigns is your favorite or least favorite? Let us know in the comments!
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