There have been plenty of fantastic Spider-Man stories since he appeared back in the early 60s, thanks in part by the incredible cast of villains he's had to fight along the way. With almost every confrontation, the webcrawler has been successful, but we don't always get to see their reasoning for being the bad guy or what drove them to a lifetime of crime.
Whether it's a bombastic issue filled with explosions and grandeur, or a tale of subtlety and psychological evaluation, there have been some excellently written stories that delve into Spider-Man's enemies, including the likes of Venom, Green Goblin, and Rhino. We look at 10 greatest Spider-Man villain tales ever written.
10 Kraven's Last Hunt
With Spider-Man now out of the way, Kraven dons a black version of Spidey's suit and attempts to become a better version of the hero, beating villains to a pulp in an effort to prove his superiority. However, once Spider-Man digs himself out of the grave Kraven buries him in, he returns to stop the hunter once and for all.
The story is made up of reminiscing and reflection on Kraven's part, and culminates in one of the darkest moments ever seen in Marvel comics. After letting his final prey free, Kraven lets Spider-Man go after Vermin. Returning to his home, Kraven puts a rifle to his head and commits suicide. It is a tale of obsession, redemption, and fear, told perfectly by J.M. DeMatteis.
9 Maximum Carnage
Taking place over 14 Spider-Man comics, Maximum Carnage tells the tale of Cletus Cassidy escaping Ravenscroft Asylum and becoming Carnage once again. Managing to harness the powers of the alien symbiote, he frees fellow inmate Shriek, and sets about wreaking havoc on New York.
The story has plenty of superheroes getting involved to stop Carnage, Shriek, and their accomplices, but not before Shriek uses her psychic abilities to turn the population of New York into savage murderers. Venom's anti-hero character is in full effect, teaming with Spider-Man to take them down, and throughout the series we're treated to some fantastic storytelling and artwork.
Perhaps one of the most gruesome and controversial stories of all, Shed sees Doctor Curt Conners fully embrace the Lizard in both mind and physical form. There's insinuated rape, plenty of killing, and the murder of Conner's son by the Lizard leaves readers feeling hugely uncomfortable due to the sensitive subject matter.
He eats his son Billy alive as Ana Kravinoff watches, then connects to the people of New York telepathically, turning them into savages. Although Spider-Man manages to stop him, the damage done is too much for Peter Parker and Conners. It was part of the incredible The Gauntlet series, and has some phenomenal artwork that is gritty and detailed, adding to the maturity of the story.
7 Flowers For Rhino
When it comes to supervillains, Rhino's rarely the first name that comes to mind, but in Spider-Man's Tangled Web #5 and #6 we get an interesting look into the mind of the thick-skinned brute. Growing tired of everyone seeing him as a stupid and useless villain, he has his mind altered to become super intelligent.
A month after the operation, he has written a novel, become romantically involved with a woman called Stella, and formed a successful crime syndicate. After his brain becomes too intelligent for him and he loses the woman he loves, Rhino returns to being the same super strong and dumb villain, happier to be oblivious rather than too aware.
6 The Madness of Mysterio
Back in Spider-Man's heyday, we got to read plenty of wholesome stories featuring some of Spider-Man's more legendary foes. Mysterio recently featured in Spider-Man: Far From Home, and there's a reason why the MCU chose him to finally end up on the silver screen.
In Amazing Spider-Man #66, Mysterio breaks out of prison and issues a challenge to Spider-Man, and without much of a choice he accepts. After Mysterio's appearance on television upsets Aunt May, Spidey heads out to fight him, but is defeated and seemingly shrunk down, as a threatening giant-sized version of the illusionist stands over him in an amusement park.
5 A Death In The Family
Norman Osborn has been a hideously evil human being, punishing Spider-Man in ways no other villain has ever managed to do. He's buried Aunt May alive AND faked her death, killed Ben Reilly, and stolen Mary Jane's stillborn baby. In A Death in the Family, we get a unique character dissection that bares Osborn's psyche to the world.
It shows his obsession for Parker - or more so his need for Spider-Man's destruction - and takes the Green Goblin's desire to kill him to new levels. Gwen Stacy's death is brought up, with Spider-Man seeing it from a different side and that is may have been him who killed her, and the scene where Flash Thompson is forced to consume alcohol becomes unbearable to read.
4 An Obituary For Octopus
Tom DeFalco's An Obituary for Octopus was the third issue from 1993's Spider-Man Unlimited, and although it doesn't get as much recognition as it deserves, it's one of Doc Ock's best. When Octavius escapes imprisonment, the obituary writer for the Daily Bugle is asked to write one for him in case he dies.
What follows is a compelling look into Octavius' past, showing how he was bullied as a child, how his father was a bully, and how his mother's hold over him led to him breaking off an engagement to the love of his life. It presents a parallel to Peter Parker's upbringing, and shows how things may have been different had Otto had the love and support from his family.
3 The Original Hobgoblin Saga
With Green Goblin already an established Spider-Man villain, it was left to Robert Stern and artist John Romita Jr. to give a new spin on the villain, creating a goblin character that wasn't a loose wire like Osborn, but more calculated and cerebral. His identity was kept a secret for much of the saga, giving more than one character a motive to be under the mask.
Whist Roderick Kinsey wasn't the shocking twist everyone was expecting, it was a well-written mystery bringing new life to the villain, and with Spider-Man being the one responsible for him finding Green Goblin's lair in the sewers, it added more layers onto their rivalry.
2 Venom: Dead Meat
There's no denying Venom is one of Spider-Man's greatest enemies, but over the years the character has achieved anti-hero status due to his complex relationship his host and with the alien symbiote that has taken over his mind. Eddie Brock is perhaps the most notable Venom, and in Dead Meat, he reached truly evil proportions.
He is out for Spider-Man's blood, breaking Black Cat's nose whilst out searching for him. He also beats the hell out of Spider-Man and proves just how strong he can be. Throughout Dead Meat, Peter Parker is terrified that something bad may happen to Aunt May and Mary Jane, whilst Venom/Eddie Brock is highlighted as a bonafide Spider-Man villain.
1 Return of the Sinister Six
The Sinister Six first appeared back in the 1960s, with each member fighting Spider-Man individually. He managed to defeat each one with relative ease, and the supervillain sextet didn't reappear for another 25 years. When they came back in Amazing Spider-Man #334, Doctor Octopus meant business and wouldn't just try to defeat the webcrawler, but take over the world.
It was constructed beautifully, and featured an interesting story with Doc Ock's devious ways at the forefront. Sandman's handling as a villain turned straight is well done, and the battle where Spider-Man finally gets to fight each member of the Sinister Six at once is a big highlight of David Michelinie's great story.