Not all villains are created equally. For every Magneto, Dr. Doom, or Thanos, you have an army of lower tier antagonists who don't really make as much of an impact. Whether it's The Living Eraser or Big Wheel, they can't all be winners.
But from time to time, usually under the command of a very creative writer, some of those B-list villains can make the jump to major threat territory. When handled well, it can be a major turning point for both the villain and the hero. Nothing catches a hero (or the reader) off guard more than a formerly laughable adversary suddenly becoming a force to be reckoned with.
So let's take a look at a few Marvel villains who made the transition to A-list, and a few whose time has probably come.
10. Villains Who Made The Leap: Kingpin
Before he was crushing skulls in car doors on Netflix's Daredevil, Wilson Fisk—The Kingpin of Crime—got his start in Amazing Spider-Man #50. Created by Stan Lee and artist John Romita, the early Kingpin didn't have quite the bloodthirsty savagery he's known for today. He was still a major problem for Spider-Man and controlled all of the crime in New York, but he fit more into the trope of the classic "mustache twirling" villain.
In his third appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #53, Kingpin goes full Dr. Evil to Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson, locking them in an "easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death." But in Daredevil #170, newcomer Frank Miller brought Kingpin to the world of The Man Without Fear, and things would never be the same. It was in the pages of Daredevil under Miller's direction that we saw the evolution of the savage, heartless crime boss that we all recognize now as The Kingpin.
Moonstone got her start as another villain of the month in Incredible Hulk #228. She was a psychiatrist named Karla Sofen who used her credentials to get access to the original Moonstone. A man named Lloyd Bloch dosed him up on hallucinogens and managed to steal the "moonstone" from Bloch, which gave him his powers. As the new Moonstone, she bounced back and forth between evil organizations, never really gaining any real traction. Eventually, she crashed into a mountain and broke her neck in an escape.
Years later when Norman Osborn took over S.H.I.E.L.D.—renaming it H.A.M.M.E.R.—he demanded many superheroes who didn't work with him as fugitives, formed his own Dark Avengers, and staffed it with supervillains loyal to him in the roles of heroes.
Bullseye was brought in as Hawkeye, Venom was Spider-Man, and Moonstone was rebranded as the new Ms. Marvel (these were the days before Carol Danvers took the promotion from Ms. Marvel to Captain Marvel). Moonstone/Ms. Marvel became a standout member of the Dark Avengers, eventually fighting multiple members of the X-Men, including Rogue who had no choice but to run rather than fight.
8. Kraven The Hunter
Though a mainstay in Spider-Man's rogues gallery since Steve Ditko's original run on Amazing Spider-Man, Kraven The Hunter never really reached the levels of Doctor Octopus or the Green Goblin. But things finally changed in the story "Kraven's Last Hunt." Driven mad after years of being unable to beat Spider-Man, Kraven put together a plan to finally bring down the web-slinger.
After trapping Spidey, Kraven pulled out a rifle and actually shot him. It wasn't until later that Peter Parker woke up and realized that Kraven had shot him with a tranquilizer, but his problems were far from over.
Kraven had trapped the unconscious Spider-Man in a coffin and buried him alive! Meanwhile, Kraven put on a Spider-Man suit and assumed the identity of the Webhead, patrolling New York and savagely beating criminals. Eventually, Spider-Man managed to claw his way out of his grave. However, when he confronted Kraven, the deranged hunter felt that he had finally defeated his greatest enemy, and turned his own rifle (now loaded with actual ammunition) on himself.
7. Purple Man
With one of the least threatening names in comic book history, it's no wonder that the Purple Man, aka Zebediah Killgrave, makes this list. Making his first appearance in Daredevil #4, Killgrave has the power of super-suggestion. He can make you do anything he wants simply by telling you to do so. Starting in Daredevil and carrying into other books like The Avengers, his goals were always along the lines of "rob banks and build a criminal empire." While he was able to rob banks easily, building a criminal empire did not work well for him.
But in Alias #24, writer Brian Michael Bendis finally brought Killgrave into his own. As a comic book intended for mature readers, Alias got to go to really dark places and introduced the world to Jessica Jones.
In issue #24 it is revealed that at one time, Purple Man took control of Jessica's life for a period of eight months, in which time he forced her to use her powers to do his dirty work for him. But he also made her witness him mind control other women into sleeping with him. Though Killgrave would force Jones to strip for him, he never forced himself on her intimately, which almost seems somehow creepier. It wasn't until he sent Jones to kill Daredevil when she accidentally happened upon the Avengers who knocked her out. Thankfully, they then got Jean Grey of the X-Men to break Jessica from the mind control.
At one point, Killgrave killed an entire restaurant full of people simply by telling them all to stop breathing. The dude's messed up. Killgrave was eventually adapted for the Jessica Jones TV show on Netflix, where he was played to sinister perfection by former Doctor Who star, David Tennant.
Another one of Spider-Man's rogues gallery, Mysterio also hails from the early Ditko days of Amazing Spider-Man. First appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #13, Mysterio, real name Quentin Beck, was never really a heavy hitter in the world of super-villainy.
His original goal as a villain was to defeat Spider-Man so that he could get widespread fame, thereby furthering his fledgling career as a special effects artist in the film industry. After multiple defeats by Spidey, Mysterio teamed up with other villains, forming the Sinister Six, but even they were no match for the Wall Crawler. This proved to be a pattern for Mysterio's career as a villain.
But, in 1998 in the pages of Daredevil, writer and filmmaker Kevin Smith crafted a story called "Guardian Devil" that showed the Man Without Fear's life absolutely falling apart. Initially, a baby is dropped on Matt Murdock/Daredevil's doorstep and Matt is told that the baby is going to grow up to be the Antichrist. Murdock struggles with what to do with the baby: let the child live to possibly grow to destroy the world, or end the life of a baby, potentially saving millions. Matt was torn, to say the least.
Along the way Matt's law partner Foggy Nelson is framed for murder, Karen Page learns that she has HIV, and eventually Bullseye is hired to kill Daredevil and the baby — accidentally killing Page in the process. When all was said and done, it turned out that the whole thing was a sadistic, elaborate hoax perpetrated by Mysterio. The baby wasn't the Antichrist, and Karen didn't have HIV... Although she was killed by Bullseye, who was also hired by Mysterio. The reason behind Mysterio's sudden, cruel turn was because he had recently received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Because of that, he wanted his final act to be the complete destruction of a superhero. Harsh.
5. Ready For An Upgrade: The Spot
So, the Spot is hardly one of the more threatening looking villains in comic book history. The dude looks like an evil Dalmatian.
Making his first appearance in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #98, the Spot was originally Dr. Jonathan Ohnn, who created a mysterious black portal in his laboratory. After entering the portal and being mutated by the energies coursing through the alternate dimension within it, he became the super-criminal The Spot. Things did not go well for him. When he first confronted Spider-Man, the Webslinger literally fell over laughing at him. From attempted bank robberies, prison breaks, and kidnappings, Spot never gained much traction. But, his power set is actually a huge threat if you think about it.
Not only are the spots on his body portals that can teleport people or objects anywhere he chooses, but he can also remove the spots, grow them as big as he likes, and place them anywhere. There's no reason why, while in a fight with someone, he couldn't slip a spot off, swallow a building into it, and then drop the entire building on his enemy. With enough focus, the guy could effectively teleport cities! He could hold entire cities hostage, "Give me what I want, or I'll drop New York into the Atlantic."
As an example of how disturbing his powers can be, at one point he was kidnapped by a villain named Coyote. Coyote created a process to restrain Spot and duplicate his powers, which Coyote used in a collar that he would put around a person's neck; this created a portal in that physically disconnected their head from their body, but still maintained air and blood flow through the portal. This then kept both the body and the head alive even when separated. He would then keep the bodies locked in one part of his lair and literally toss all the heads, still awake and alert, in a closet! If Spot had the kind of creativity that Coyote did, he could be a major threat.
FIND OUT MORE HERE: Who Was the First Superhero Co-Created by Stan Lee?
4. The Kangaroo
So, Spider-Man has some seriously incredible villains, but clearly, he's had more than his share of stinkers. One of the all-time greats in that category is The Kangaroo, who debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #81.
An angry kid turned boxer from Australia, Frank Oliver grew up fascinated by kangaroos. Sure, why not? He ended up killing someone in the boxing ring, then fled to America to start a life of crime. He was less than successful. His greatest criminal achievement was nearly releasing a deadly bacteria that would have killed scores of people. The problem though, he did it on accident.
Kangaroo was never much of a threat to anybody, so what better place to start than someone who has absolutely nothing to lose? Kangaroo is kind of a poor man's Kraven, and if Kraven can be redeemed, why not Frank Oliver? Kangaroo's big problem is that he's not very bright. Put him in a situation where he finally has enough clarity to recognize his problem, finds a mentor in the criminal world, and patiently learns how to be an effective criminal and a serious threat. A man with knowledge, nothing to lose, and a grudge from being scorned for his entire career could cause some serious problems. Just imagine him ditching the Kangaroo theme and sticking to brutal mob style crime tactics. It could work.
It's been said that if you aspire to greatness, surround yourself with greatness. By that metric, Toad should already be a major villain.
After being abandoned as a child and spending his childhood lonely in an orphanage, Mortimer "Toad" Toynbee was taken in by Magneto and was an early member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Toad has never been much more than a lackey, he tried organizing his own versions of the Brotherhood in the past, but with little success.
But Toad spent a significant amount of his life following Magneto (one of the greatest supervillains EVER) around like a lap dog. There's no way you spend that much time in the presence of greatness without absorbing something. It's well past time for Toad to show everyone how much he learned from the Master of Magnetism and become a leader in his own right in the mutant community.
Another mutant under-achiever, Avalanche is a longstanding henchman for the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. While not quite the brightest bulb, Avalanche makes this list because of the sheer potential his powers give him. Avalanche creates vibrations that emanate from his hands, but when channeled into the ground he creates potentially massive earthquakes. This is a crazy power! He could hold entire cities hostage. He could cause mega-tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, destroy dams— there's almost no limit to the kind of destruction Avalanche could cause! Seriously, dude, step your game up!
The best villain is an intelligent villain and Egghead, real name Elihas Starr, is certainly intelligent. Unfortunately, his high intelligence has never seemed to lend itself to super-villainy that well. Egghead got his start in Tales To Astonish #38, where he was attempting to defeat Ant-Man... And that's pretty much where he settled in his career as a supervillain. There were alliances with other supervillains, an Earth-destroying laser, but Egghead would always fall back on going after Hank Pym. Look, Egghead is a legitimate super-scientist. He's just not that great at crime and villainy. What he needs to do is team up with someone who can fill in the gaps in his criminal skills, leaving him to the evil super-science. Maybe he teams up with Hydra, A.I.M., Kingpin, The Owl, SOMEBODY. Seriously Eggy, stick to what you're good at.