Spider-Man has one of the greatest rogues galleries in the entire comic book world, but at the same time, he has often maintained at least three comic book titles a month (and for a while there, he had four monthly titles coming out at the same time, plus a quarterly title!), so with that many titles needing stories to fill them, you’re bound to get some less inspired villains along with all of the great ones.
Helping us choose the worst Spider-Man villains of all-time is Mark Ginocchio, author of the brand-new book, 100 Things Spider-Man Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die (with a foreword by Tom DeFalco!). Mark picked out Spider-Man’s worst villains and we’ll tell you about each one!
Spider-Man is a guy who was bitten by a radioactive spider, gained spider-inspired superpowers and went on to fight crime wearing a blue and red costume (you know, the colors of spiders everywhere), so let’s not act like superhero comic books are not inherently silly at times. However, there’s silly and then there’s Swarm…the dead Nazi made out of bees!
Fritz von Meyer was a top Nazi scientist who escaped to Argentina after World War II. He became a beekeeper, but when a meteor landed near one of his beehives, it mutated the bees and they devoured him. However, his mind merged with the bees and they animated his skeleton, such that he could control the bees to form a sort of human form for himself. Lots of the villains on this list are “so bad that they’re good,” and Swarm is a perfect example of that phenomena.
One of the very first villains that Spider-Man fought against during “Brand New Day” was Overdrive, who has one of the more functional superpowers around, while at the same time, not the most compelling. He has the ability to send nanites into vehicles that can change said vehicle into a souped-up version of the original. For instance, he can turn an ordinary car into a sort of super-car. He uses these powers to be one of the top couriers in the criminal world.
However, the “top courier in the criminal world” is not exactly the description that you would give to one of Spider-Man’s better villains. Overdrive was part of the excellent series spotlighting a new version of the Sinister Six called The Superior Foes of Spider-Man; he may not have been integral, but he sure was fun!
13. JUDAS TRAVELLER
One of the problems with the resolution of the Clone Saga is that it required that most characters involved in the Saga were, in one way or another, pawns of Norman Osborn’s overall control. In some cases, this did a real disservice to the characters in question. With Judas Traveller, though, he was such a mess that revealing he was a pawn of Osborn really didn’t change anything at all.
Like much of the Clone Saga, Traveller (a doctor who wanted to test the true nature of evil) was shrouded with so much mystery that not even the writers really knew what the heck was his real deal. He seemed to be far too powerful of a villain for Spider-Man, though, and in the end, we learned that he really wasn’t as strong as he seemed. Rather, his mutant powers altered people’s perceptions of him. Tricky move, Traveller. And also kinda lame.
It says something about a character when the best remembered story that they were involved in was one in which they were killed off, which was certainly the case with Mirage. A hologram expert, Mirage decided to use his holographic skills to become a supervillain. Decked out in a ridiculous looking costume, he made his debut breaking up Betty Brant and Ned Leeds’ wedding to rob the guests (poor Betty Brant and Ned Leeds — all of the supervillains in the Marvel Universe tried to break up Reed Richards and Sue Storm’s wedding and all these two got was Mirage).
Later on, Mirage was one of the villains to be killed off by the Scourge of the Underworld. Captain America then disguised himself as Mirage and pretended the villain had survived to lure the Scourge into a trap. He was a lot more useful in death than he ever was alive.
11. THE LOOTER
Few supervillains can say that they were inspired by a famous Ayn Rand quote, but that was the case with The Looter, a case of Steve Ditko’s Objectivist views making their way into the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. In Rand’s famous novel, Atlas Shrugged, a character notes, “Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter.”
Well, sure enough, the Looter is a scientist who is obsessed with gaining fame and fortune and when he gains powers from a meteor, that’s just what he uses those abilities to obtain. Spider-Man naturally defeats him, but unlike so many other Ditko creation in the early years of Spider-Man, this Randian villain never caught on with either fans or other writers.
In one of his earliest trips abroad, Spider-Man ends up fighting the rather stereotypical French villain, the Cyclone. The Cyclone was a brilliant NATO scientist who was angry that the United States was not interested in his wind technology, so he decided to work it into a costume for himself and become a supervillain. He made sure to capture J. Jonah Jameson of course (Peter Parker went to Paris in the first place to rescue the captured Jameson), and kept calling Americans stupid pigs throughout his original appearance.
Mark Gruenwald felt that Cyclone was one of those characters who didn’t add anything to the Marvel Universe, so he had him be one of the villains to be killed off by the Scourge of the Underworld, just like Mirage.
9. GREY GOBLIN (GABRIEL STACY)
One of the most disliked Spider-Man stories of all-time is “Sins Past,” an arc that revealed that Norman Osborn had not only had sex with Peter Parker’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, but that Gwen got pregnant and had twins during a point in the series where she had run away to Europe. Now we knew why she left. Not only did she have kids, but they had a medical condition that artificially aged them to adulthood! Nazi bees don’t sound so strange anymore, do they?
They believed that Peter was their father (the original plan for the story) and they hated him for abandoning them. When they learned that Norman Osborn was their dad (you would think Gabriel looking exactly like Harry Osborn would have tipped him off), the male twin, Gabriel, decided to become the Grey Goblin. His tenure as a Goblin did not last very long.
When the Jackal first showed up, he fought against Spider-Man mostly using intermediaries. One of them was a vigilante who the Jackal convinced that Spider-Man was a villain and needed to be killed. You might know that character as the Punisher. Less successful, character-wise, was Grizzly. Grizzly had been a wrestler who was so violent that J. Jonah Jameson got him kicked out of professional wrestling.
The Jackal gave him a bear-exoskeleton and sent him after Jameson to cause havoc in Spider-Man’s life. Spider-Man defeated him easily. The Grizzly later became part of a team called the Legion of Losers, and more recently, had been trying to turn his life around while working for Ant-Man. Interestingly, this is not the first time that the Grizzly tried to give being a hero a chance.
Typeface was a former soldier who lost his brother in battle and when he returned home, his wife left him (and took their son with her). The only thing that gave him any solace was his job as a sign-maker. Then his company was purchased and he was fired. This was the final straw. He began to draw letters all over his body, including an “R” on his forehead for retribution. He became a super-villain, using the giant letters that he once used for signs as weapons.
However, Spider-Man then inspired him into becoming a hero, of sorts. His life as an anti-hero did not go well, though, especially as he was an anti-Superhuman Registration Act activist during Civil War and was beaten severely throughout the crossover.
6. THE GIBBON
The Gibbon has the distinction for being perhaps the last supervillain ever created by Stan Lee and John Romita in their time together on Amazing Spider-Man. Sadly, he also has the distinction of being the worst supervillain ever created by Stan Lee and John Romita in their time together on Amazing Spider-Man. He was a mutant with gibbon-like powers who initially wanted to be partners with Spider-Man. When Spider-Man laughed at him, he turned to a life of crime (he also had his powers enhanced by Kraven the Hunter).
Later on, The Gibbon joined forces with the Grizzly and some other villains to form the Legion of Losers. The Gibbon had a short-lived stint of prominence when he was heavily involved in the Marvel Apes storyline, where he ended up in an alternate reality where everyone was an ape.
Few Spider-Man villains had quite as pathetic of an existence as the Mindworm. A mutant born with grotesque features, his mental abilities surfaced much earlier than most mutants, and was a perfect example of why mutants shouldn’t get powers too young. He did not know how to control his telepathy and ended up getting both of his parents to kill themselves.
Guilty over his choices, he became a recluse, but he fed off of the emotions of the people around his apartment building. When Peter Parker temporarily moved next door, that included Spider-Man! They fought and the Mindworm was defeated. Later on, he tried to move on from the trauma of his life but instead ended up a drunk on the street, where he was beaten to death by some street thugs.
4. HYPNO HUSTLER
It is a generally accepted idea that when you create a supervillain, it is best not to tie them too directly to a specific point in time, as obviously superhero comics are part of a never-ending universe, so something that might have made sense in 1965 would look woefully out of place in 1975 and then especially in, say, 2017. However, if you are going to tie a character to a time period, at least pick something with real relevance from that era, like all of Marvel’s Communist villains.
Or, of course, you can tie your character to the always relevant dance fad, “The Hustle,” like what happened with the villainous Hypno-Hustler, who decided that he would rather hypnotize people and rob them than make money off of his funky disco beats.
If any character perfectly encapsulated the absurdity of the final days of the Clone Saga (it is hard to remember this now, but the Clone Saga opened up as a fairly concise narrative, then it just kept going and going and going and going…), it would be Spidercide. Yet another clone of Peter Parker, Spidercide believed that he was the real thing but instead he had been cloned by the Jackal for the express purpose of killing Peter Parker and Ben Reilly.
With an absurd name and a weird visual (Spidercide had all of the powers of Spider-Man, plus the ability to control his molecules, allowing him to stretch like Mister Fantastic), Spidercide was an apt description about how the end of the Clone Saga was slowly killing the Spider-Man titles.
2. STEGRON THE DINOSAUR MAN
One of Spider-Man’s most famous villains is Carnage, who was essentially a knock-off of Venom (when Venom was becoming more of an anti-hero, so they needed a more villainous replacement for him on the Spider-titles). That’s an example of knocking off a character in a good way. Stegron, though, was just a Lizard knock-off who never made it much past that point.
Here’s an idea of how pointless Stegron is — his power (besides transforming into a dinosaur man, of course) is that he can control dinosaurs. Which is super useful, of course, because there are obviously dinosaurs all over the place, right? Oh, wait, no, they’re extinct You might say, “So, shouldn’t he just spend a lot of time in the Savage Land, then?” Marvel was way ahead of you there.
1. BIG WHEEL
When your name is Victor Von Doom, you know you are destined to become an amazing villain. When your name is Jackson Weele… you are probably not going to become an amazing villain. Jackson Weele was in trouble at work and hired the Rocket Racer (himself not a particularly good Spider-Man villain) to steal some evidence that would have incriminated him. Rocket Racer, though, decided to instead use that evidence to blackmail Weele, who he would mock by calling him a “big wheel.”
An enraged Weele went to the Tinkerer (a Spider-Man villain who builds weapons and other stuff for villains) and asked for him to build him a big wheel… with guns on it. Yep, you read that right. The Big Wheel appeared and disappeared very quickly, but has been brought back many times by writers who just can’t get over how silly he was as a supervillain.
Which of Spider-Man’s lesser-known villains are your favorites? Let us know in the comments section!