“First, do no harm” is the mantra many doctors pledge to follow throughout their careers. But it’s a maxim many villains don’t care to follow, especially when it comes to Spider-Man. These doctors don’t practice the healing arts, but instead engage in the arts of mayhem and destruction. We’re not just talking about property, but Spider-Man’s life and the lives of his friends, family and loved ones.
even though some bear the word “Doctor” in their names and some don’t, most aren not physicians. But they are bonafide degree holders in the various sciences of electromagnetism, robotics, cybernetics, psychiatry, biochemistry, cloning and more — well, except for one well-known megalomaniac, who was expelled for dabbling in mystic forces after he blew up his face. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here are 15 Spider-Man supervillains who are doctors.
15. DOCTOR DOOM
Victor Von Doom has been the foremost antagonist for the Fantastic Four. But he showed up in “Amazing Spider-Man” #5 (October 1963) by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, with an offer for Spider-Man to team up with him. Of course, Spider-Man refuses, and of course Doom doesn’t take it well, triggering deathtraps in his hideout that Spider-Man has to evade. Doom being Doom, he doesn’t let it go, seeking Spider-Man with a device that monitors a spider’s impulses. He winds up capturing Peter Parker’s frenemy Flash Thompson, wearing a Spider-Man costume as a gag. Doom makes a TV broadcast threatening to kill Spider-Man unless the Fantastic Four disband. Spider-Man goes to the rescue, as do the Fantastic Four.
Spider-Man and Doom have faced off several times, including in the second DC/Marvel “Superman vs. Spider-Man” crossover (July 1981), co-written by Jim Shooter and Marv Wolfman, and pencilled by John Buscema with main figures inked by Joe Sinott and backgrounds by a cast of thousands.
14. WILL O’ THE WISP
Will o’ the Wisp first appeared in “Amazing Spider-Man” #167 (April 1977), in a story written by Len Wein and drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. He was Jackson Arvad, lead scientist for the Brand Corp on its research team studying electromagnetism. He was constantly being hounded for results by his boss, James Melvin. Overtired, he fell asleep on the job, and an energy surge destroyed the magno-chamber housing his experiments and pulled him into an electromagnetic field. Being within the field caused his body to lose its molecular cohesion.
Instead of helping him, Melvin demanded Arvad tell him how the device could be used, and then left him to die. Arvad later gained some control over his physical form, but made the mistake of going to Jonas Harrow for help. Instead, Harrow implanted a device in Arvad that would kill him if triggered and demanded Arvad commit crimes on his behalf. Calling himself the Will o’ the Wisp, Arvad fought Spider-Man, who blocked him from killing Harrow, and enticed Melvin to confess to his dirty dealings.
13. MENDEL STROMM
Mendel Stromm was an early Spider-Man antagonist, first appearing in “Amazing Spider-Man” #37 (June 1966), written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko. Stromm was a business partner of Norman Osborn, who sent him to prison for embezzlement — the better for Osborn to use Stromm’s formula for enhanced strength, which he eventually uses to become the Green Goblin. In this issue, Stromm is released from prison and uses robots to get revenge on Osborn. He has a heart attack moments after Osborn tries to shoot him and seemingly dies. But Stromm had built a robot body and transferred his consciousness into it, although Spider-Man destroyed it.
Years later, Osborn exhumes Stromm’s body and finds the Goblin serum had kept Stromm alive, but barely. Osborn makes a deal with Stromm to take out Spider-Man, but their relationship sours after multiple attempts fail. Stromm works further at becoming a machine, developing the ability to control robots and computers at a distance. But Stromm’s machines rebel against him, severing his head and trying to overpower New York City’s electrical grid. Stromm contends with Spider-Man even up to “Civil War II.”
Karla Sofen is a psychiatrist by training, but one with a stunted sense of ethics: She has no qualms about manipulating people to get what she wants. She first appeared in “Captain America” #192 (December 1975), as a henchwoman for Doctor Faustus, in a story written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Frank Robbins and D. Bruce Berry. But Sofen got superpowers in “Incredible Hulk” #228 (November 1978) in a story written by Roger Stern and drawn by Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito. In the story, Sofen finagled her way into being psychiatrist to the first Moonstone, Lloyd Bloch. Sofen, with hypnosis, led Bloch to believe that the moonstone gem that gave him his powers was poisoning him and making him into a monster — and stole the moonstone for herself.
After some solo defeats and time posing as a superhero with the original Thunderbolts, Moonstone battled Spider-Man in “Spectacular Spider-Man” #61 (December 1981), when she stole a device called the Enervator to boost her powers. The story was plotted by Roger Stern, scripted by Bill Mantlo, penciled by Ed Hannigan and inked by Jim Mooney.
Elias Wertham became a surgeon in the memory of his elder brother, who died from a rare, incurable disease. More than that, Wertham built a biological research firm that acquired a medicine manufacturer that had developed a cure for his brother’s disease. But as he examined the books, he learned the company kept the drug off the market for competitive reasons instead of making it available while his brother was alive. This spurred Wertham to battle corporate greed by becoming a vigilante. He subjected himself to processes that toughened his skin with a vibranium-weave mesh, and replaced his heart with a beta particle reactor that generated energy for power blasts and also enhanced his strength, speed and reflexes.
Taking the name Cardiac, Wertham encountered Spider-Man several times while battling corrupt corporations such as divisions of Stane International and Hammer Industries. Later, he contended with the Superior Spider-Man. Wertham first appeared in “Amazing Spider-Man” #342 (December 1990) and appeared in costume as Cardiac in issue #344 (February 1991), written by David Michelinie, penciled by Erik Larsen and inked by Randy Emberlin.
10. JUDAS TRAVELER
Judas Traveler first came into Spider-Man’s life during the Clone Saga, in “Web of Spider-Man” #117 (October 1994), in a story written by Terry Kavanagh, penciled by Steven Butler and inked by Randy Emberlin. Initially, he was presented as being hundreds of years old, traveling the globe in the study of the nature of evil in humanity. This led him to the Ravencroft Institute for the Criminally Insane, which housed many of Spider-Man’s villains, including the Chameleon, Shriek, Carnage, a depowered Venom and others. Traveler opted to learn all he could about Peter Parker and his dogged pursuit of justice.
Accompanied by the villain Scrier and a group of students, Traveler took over Ravencroft and put Spider-Man through a test: defeat him and the hostages would be freed, lose and they would die. Traveler subsequently learned of Spider-Man’s clone, Ben Reilly, and offered Reilly the chance to replace Spider-Man. He continues to antagonize them both, although it is later revealed he is not an ancient, but a mutant whose powers include psionic manipulation of people’s perceptions.
9. FARLEY STILLWELL
Over the years, J. Jonah Jameson has been one of Spider-Man’s fiercest opponents, using the power of the press to discredit him at every turn. But from time to time, Jameson has taken more direct methods; more than once, in fact, he covertly used his fortune to bankroll shady scientists to create antagonists to battle Spider-Man. One example is Farley Stillwell, who first appeared in “Amazing Spider-Man” #45 (January 1965), in a story by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
Jameson hired private investigator Mac Gargan to shadow Peter Parker and learn how he gets photos of Spider-Man. Stillwell was a biologist who was working on physical mutations, so Jameson had the not-so-bright idea to make Gargan be Stillwell’s guinea pig. The deal struck, Gargan received enhanced strength and an exoskeleton with a prehensile tail, becoming the classic villain known as the Scorpion. After the fact, Stillwell determined his enhancements weren’t stable and developed an antidote, but the Scorpion didn’t want it and fled, climbing up a tall building and skittering away. Stillwell went after him, but fell to his death.
8. HARLAN STILWELL
With the Daily Bugle in a circulation slump, J. Jonah Jameson gets another not-so-bright idea: boosting sales by creating someone for Spider-Man to fight. With Stillwell dead, Jameson goes to his equally shady brother Harlan Stillwell, who also is a biologist experimenting on ways to alter human physiology. As it happened, Stillwell was working on ways to implant the genetic coding of common houseflies into humans, so he took Jameson’s money.
Petty crook Richard Deacon, wounded and on the run from the police after Spider-Man thwarted a hostage situation, comes across Stillwell’s lab. He overhears the conversation between Jameson and Stillwell and pressures Stillwell into performing the experiment on him — he then murders Stillwell. With enhanced strength, the ability to see in all directions, and membranous wings, Deacon becomes the Human Fly. Unfortunately, this process also proved unstable. Stillwell and the Human Fly first appeared in “Amazing Spider-Man Annual” #10 (1976), in a story co-plotted by Len Wein and Bill Mantlo, drawn by Gil Kane and inked by Frank Giacoia and Mike Esposito.
Thunderball is one of the Wrecking Crew, who first appeared in “Defenders” #17 (November 1974), written by Len Wein and drawn by Sal Buscema. Behind the mask, he is Eliot Franklin, a brilliant physicist who surpassed Bruce Banner with his invention of a miniaturized gamma bomb for Richmond Enterprises. Informed that Richmond Enterprises owned all rights to his invention, Franklin argued with a Richmond manager and was fired. He tried to steal back the plans for the device, which landed him in prison.
There, he met Dirk Garthwaite — the supervillain the Wrecker — and other cons Henry Camp and Brian Philip Galusky. They break out of prison, and Garthwaite retrieves his enchanted crowbar. All four share the enchantment when they grip the bar when it is struck by lightning during a storm, and become the Wrecking Crew. Franklin becomes Thunderball, whose primary weapon is a ball and chain. Thunderball has fought Spider-Man with the team and had a solo battle with him in “Amazing Spider-Man” #248 (January 1984), written by Roger Stern, and drawn by John Romita Jr. and Brett Breeding.
6. SPENCER SMYTHE
Spencer Smythe is an expert in both robotics and arachnids, who is persuaded by Daily Bugle editorials that Spider-Man is a menace. He gives a demonstration of his robot to J. Jonah Jameson in “Amazing Spider-Man” #25 (June 1965), co-plotted by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, scripted by Lee and drawn by Ditko. The demonstration is encouraged by Peter Parker, who thinks the robot, dubbed the Spider-Slayer, will be easy to beat while he takes pictures. It proves harder than he thought. Infuriated, Smythe creates other Spider-Slayers, but Spider-Man manages to prevail each time out, frustrating Smythe all the more.
In “Amazing Spider-Man” #192 (May 1979), Smythe has his final battle with Spider-Man — because he’s dying of radiation poisoning. He shackles Jameson and Spider-Man to each other with a bomb, set to blow after 24 hours. Spider-Man rushes off to seek help from Curt Connors, having to lug a whining, squealing Jameson around and fending off attacks from The Fly. Returning to Smythe’s lab, they find him dead, but Spider-Man figures out how to use the lab equipment to remove the shackle before it explodes.
5. DOCTOR TRAMMA
Doctor Tramma, whose given name is unrevealed, first appeared in “Amazing Spider-Man Extra” #1 (2008), in a story written by Joe Kelly and drawn by Chris Bachalo and inked by Tim Townsend. Government agents in her homeland of North Korea noticed her at a young age and trained her as a spy. Sent on a mission to Tokyo, she guarded a prisoner who regaled her with stories about the wonderfulness of Japanese culture. Seeing the city in person, however, disappointed her, and she later defected.
As a bio-surgeon, Doctor Tramma established “bodyshops” where she would install cybernetic enhancements in people who paid for them. Working with crimelord Mr. Negative, Doctor Tramma established a bodyshop in New York. In “Amazing Spider-Man” #575, by Kelly, Bachalo and Townsend, Mr. Negative delivered wounded Spider-Man foe Hammerhead to her, and she rebuilt him with an adamantium skeleton. In “Amazing Spider-Man” #617, she also approached the Rhino about upgrading his armor, but he chose to retire from crime, so she made it for someone else. She also restored the Black Cat’s lost “bad luck” powers in “Web of Spider-Man” #11-12 (October-November 2010).
Scientist and physician Michael Morbius earned a Nobel Prize for his work research into blood diseases, but the prize was little consolation for his failure to find a cure for his own affliction, which was causing his own blood cells to dissolve. Morbius experimented further with vampire bats and electroshock therapy. A once-and-for-all attempt to cure him finally worked, but had horrible side effects, making him crave blood for sustenance like an undead vampire.
Morbius first appeared in “Amazing Spider-Man” #101, in a story written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Gil Kane, at a time when Spider-Man’s own experiment to get rid of his power had backfired, giving him four extra arms! He consults with Curt Connors, who gives permission for Spider-Man to use his beachfront lab. However, Morbius was hiding there, and they fought. Worse, Connors came there and turned into the Lizard, causing all three to fight each other. In the end, Connors and Spider-Man developed cures from Morbius’ blood. Morbius would, in future, flip between hero and villain, but mostly tried to stay on the side of good.
3. THE LIZARD
A longtime opponent of Spider-Man, the Lizard first appeared in “Amazing Spider-Man” #6 (November 1963), created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Curt Connors was a surgeon in the U.S. Army who practiced emergency trauma surgery on wounded soldiers in the field. Because of an explosion, his right arm had to be amputated. Returning to civilian life, Connors began researching reptiles and their ability to regenerate missing limbs. He developed a serum to regrow limbs from reptile DNA, and successfully tested it on a rabbit. H then made the mistake of trying it on himself.
He was able to regrow the missing arm, but the serum transformed his entire body him into that of a giant humanoid reptile. Spider-Man traveled to Florida to defeat the Lizard, concocting a cure based on Connors’ notes. However, the original serum changed Connors too much for the cure to be permanent. Connors has reverted to the Lizard many times, and Spider-man has cured him many times. He currently exists physically as the lizard, but with the mind of Connors, and once again lives with his previously deceased wife and son, who are now mindless lizard zombie clones. It’s… complicated.
2. THE JACKAL
Miles Warren was a biology teacher and mentor of Peter Parker’s at Empire State University, first appearing in “Amazing Spider-Man” #31 (December 1965) by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and occasionally in cameos in other stories. Warren was revealed to be the Jackal in “Amazing Spider-Man” #148, written by Gerry Conway and drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, although the Jackal had appeared in the title since issue #129, teaming up with the Punisher in the first appearance for both.
Warren developed an obsession with Gwen Stacy, and became unhinged after she died in issue #121. Thus, he created clones of Stacy and Parker, which spurred the original “Clone Saga,” which ended with the Jackal and the Parker clone seemingly killed in an explosion, in “Amazing Spider-Man” #149. This was revisited in the sequel Clone Saga, which ran from 1994 to 1996 across multiple Spider-Man titles, revealing that the Jackal and the clone both survived the explosion, with the latter living under the name Ben Reilly. The Jackal was an ongoing antagonist to Spider-Man throughout that adventure, and through “Spider Island” and the more recent “Clone Conspiracy.”
1. DOCTOR OCTOPUS
Doctor Octopus, arguably Spider-Man’s fiercest enemy, was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and first appeared in “Amazing Spider-Man” #3 (July 1963). One of the world’s foremost experts in atomic research, Octavius devised a powerful harness with four mechanical tentacles to allow him to safely handle volatile chemicals. But when an explosion unhinged his mind, he took hostages at the hospital where he recovered from the accident, and clobbered Spider-Man when he tried to rescue them. he would go on to beat Otto later.
Over the years, Doctor Octopus has battled Spider-Man, nearly married his Aunt May, and even taken over his life. A fight with Spider-Man in “Amazing Spider-Man” #90 caused the death of George Stacy, putting Spider-Man under suspicion of murder for a long time. The cumulative effects of battles caused Doctor Octopus’ body to break down, so he engineered a mindswap with Parker. With his consciousness in Parker’s body, Octavius resolved to be the Superior Spider-Man, but ultimately sacrificed himself to save his love, Anna Maria Marconi in “Superior Spider-Man” #30. Octopus was restored, after a fashion, in “Amazing Spider-Man” (Vol. 4) #20, written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage, and drawn by Guiseppe Camuncoli and Cam Smith.
Which smarty-pants do you think gives SPidey the most grief? Let us know in the comments!
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