May 30, 2012

Spider-Man's Greatest Villains #190-181

WARNING: Foes within may be less lethal than advertised.
(Lethal Foes of Spider-Man #3, art by David Boller)
Continuing our countdown of Spider-Man's fiercest foes!  Who can lay claim to being Spider-Man's 186th best villain?  Find out after the jump!

#190: Sandstorm

Yeah, I'm pretty horrified by Sandman's man-cleavage too...

First Appearance: Web of Spider-Man #107 (1993)

Created By: Terry Kavanagh and Alex Saviuk

What's His Deal: Empire State University grad student Tony Trainer was caught in an explosion during an experiment with samples from sandy villains Sandman and Quicksand, transforming him into Sandstorm!  Encased in hardened grit-armor, Sandstorm rampaged across the campus, manipulated into battling Sandman and Spider-Man by his other progenitor, Quicksand, until Spider-Man reversed his armor's polarity (really) and rendered him powerless.

Why He's Great: Okay, listen.  At this point in the list, the rankings don't mean a whole lot.  Sandstorm shouldn't even be this high, but I've got to aim for variety here.  Nobody wants to read about ten Howard Mackie villains in a row.  Even the always-dependable Alex Saviuk can't save this guy - why is he blue?  Why is he wearing Jim Lee castoffs?  Why does he have sweet David Lee Roth hair?

What Should I Read?  Maybe a book.  Or the newspaper.

#189: Scarlet Spider (Joe Wade)

Yeah, the bullets are also virtual reality...listen, don't think about this too hard, okay?

First Appearance: (Joe Wade) Amazing Scarlet Spider #1 (1995); (Scarlet Spider) Scarlet Spider #2 (1995)

Created By: (Joe Wade) Tom DeFalco and Mark Bagley; (Scarlet Spider) Howard Mackie and John Romita, Jr.

What's His Deal: FBI agent Joe Wade infiltrated Dr. Octopus (Carolyn Trainer)'s criminal organization, but got caught red-handed; instead of killing him, the deadly doctor used him as a guinea pig, transforming him into a virtual reality/solid-light holographic/whatever duplicate of the Scarlet Spider!  He rampaged across New York City, making the real Scarlet Spider seem like a maniacal criminal.  It got bad enough that Reilly abandoned his Scarlet Spider identity and became Spider-Man once more!  It took Reilly, the New Warriors, and Wade's partner Stephanie Briggs to finally bring Wade into custody for treatment.

Why He's Great: This poor guy's more plot device than man; the original plan was for Peter just to hand the Spider-Man identity over to the then-thought-to-be-the-real-deal Ben Reilly, but Marvel's bean-counters wanted to milk the Scarlet Spider thing for a few months more, so they needed a reason for Reilly to give up being the Scarlet Spider that wasn't "Peter said I could".  So they relaunched every book with a new #1 (like, Amazing Spider-Man became Amazing Scarlet Spider and so forth), then had Joe Wade here ruin Reilly's reputation, switching the books back to their original numbering after a mere two months.  Still, I kind of like him because he seemed cool when I was ten.

What Should I Read?  Man, I like the Clone Saga, but I have trouble defending poor old Joe Wade here.  If you must, grab The Complete Ben Reilly Epic volumes 1 and 2 for the whole story.

#188: FACADE

Just imagine two guys in butterfly suits doing an a capella version of Mars, Bringer of War over this.

First Appearance: Web of Spider-Man #113 (1994)

Created By: Terry Kavanagh and Alex Saviuk

What's His Deal: A mysterious man (possibly John Jameson, rookie photographer Cole Cooper, enigmatic industrialist Archer Bryce, Bryce's sinister manservant Victor, or who knows, me) stole the experimental Full Acclimation Combat And Defence Explo-skeleton (FACADE) armor for some nefarious purpose.  Unfortunately, Bugle photographer Lance Bannon snapped some pictures of the man inside the armor, so FACADE snapped his neck.  He tried to kill Lance's colleague Betty Brant, too, but Spider-Man showed up and trashed his armor - unfortunately, the mystery man escaped before Spider-Man could uncover his identity.

Why He's Great: Well, he really isn't.  I love his stupid acronym (what is an explo-skeleton, anyway?), and he's important, given that he killed longtime supporting character Lance Bannon and all.  Also, Alex Saviuk came up with a pretty cool-looking design for him.  But like Joe Wade, he was a plot device masquerading as a character - he killed a supporting character to angry up the readers' blood, and left them clamoring for more FACADE so they could learn the killer's true identity.  Unfortunately (well, unfortunately in this respect, at least), Kavanagh left the Spider-books soon after, meaning that FACADE's identity was never revealed, and remains a mystery to this day.

What Should I Read?  Hey, FACADE actually has been in a good story!  Grab Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos' ASM #678-9, a clever, exciting time-travel story with a hilariously mean one-panel FACADE appearance.

#187: Lady Stilt-Man

I guess stilts are handy for breaking glass ceilings.
(Villains for Hire #0.1, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, art by Renato Arlem)

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #611 (2010)

Created By: Joe Kelly and Eric Canete

What's Her Deal: After longtime Daredevil foe Stilt-Man was slain by the Punisher, his mantle was taken up by Lady Stilt-Man, who used her powers of...stilts to strike fear into the hearts of New Yorkers.  This didn't work out so well, as Spider-Man beat her twice and also made fun of her.  Undaunted, she decided to just go by Stilt-Man, and got caught up in a turf war between the Puppet Master and the Purple Man.  People still laughed at her.

Why She's Great: Sometimes, villains are created to suck.  Lady Stilt-Man was, and she's pretty good at it.  She's also a play on the current propensity of comics writers to create distaff counterparts of male villains - the results of which we'll see later on in the list.  She's amusing, and that's enough to get her on the list.

What Should I Read?  Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Roberto de la Torre's Villains For Hire miniseries was criminally overlooked, but it's a fun ride.

#186: Warrant

Most high-tech bounty hunters don't shill out for the Baby Bjorn accessory, but Warrant plans ahead.  

First Appearance: Web of Spider-Man #110 (1994)

Created By: Terry Kavanagh and Alex Saviuk

What's His Deal: Grey Garrison (seriously) is Warrant, a high-tech bounty hunter employed by the government.  He'll go to any length to get his man - even going so far as to kidnap Billy Connors, the son of the Lizard, in order to lure the reptilian creature out of hiding.  Understandably, this didn't sit very well with Spider-Man.  He went on to help found Ravencroft Asylum, and also clashed with 80-Page Giant favourite Nightwatch.

Why He's Great: Seriously, look at this guy.  Giant shoulderpads, a cyborg eye thing, a ponytail...he is the '90siest.  Also, he shares a name with a bad hair-metal band.  Sadly, he never teamed up with Poison.  He's pretty generic, really, but he's almost the platonic example of the kind of character Marvel was cranking out at the time.

What Should I Read?  Warrant makes a small appearance in the Web of Spider-Man issue of the Pursuit crossover, which also features a rather good J.M. DeMatteis issue of Amazing Spider-Man...which Warrant doesn't appear in, but you'll need to read that issue of Web to understand what's going on, so you might as well read it.  A ringing endorsement, I know.

#185: Spider-Woman (Charlotte Witter)

The secret origin of Lady Gaga revealed!

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #5 (1999)

Created By: Howard Mackie and John Byrne

What's Her Deal: While dabbling in the black market, fashion designer Charlotte Witter encountered Dr. Octopus, who was looking for a superhuman operative.  Octavius captured her and mutated her into the power-draining Spider-Woman; she attacked original Spider-Women Jessica Drew and Julia Carpenter, but fared poorly against neophyte Spider-Woman Mattie Franklin, probably because she was hanging around Spider-Man at the time.  Eventually, after clashing with Franklin and Spider-Man several more times, Witter's grandmother Madame Web had her committed to an asylum.

Why She's Great: Man, she's just kind of a mess, isn't she?  In addition to the power-draining, she had psionic spider-legs that came out of her back, she fed on human blood, she could hypnotize people, she was Madame Web's granddaughter for some reason...she almost manages to be as much of a mess as her predecessor Jessica Drew, who took like fifty issues to earn her continuity clusterf*** of a backstory.  Also, what fashion designer would be caught dead in that costume?

What Should I Read?  None of her stories are great, but Amazing Spider-Man #5 has a nicely-drawn John Byrne monster fight.

#184: Synario

From radio, to the video, to Arsenio - tell me, yo, what's the Synario?

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #438 (1998)

Created By: Tom DeFalco and Scott Kolins

What's Her Deal: Office drone Angela Bradford created the Mobile Virtual Reality Inducer, a device that allowed her to generate virtual reality illusions wherever she went.  Planning to create her own media empire, she ran afoul of Spider-Man and Daredevil while committing robberies to finance it; she also crossed paths with her own employer, Bert Gilmore, who wanted the MVRI for himself.  After carefully considering both viewpoints, Spider-Man smashed it.

Why She's Great: Synario is one of Tom DeFalco's many virtual reality villainesses.  Seriously, this dude loves virtual reality.  Anyway, it's impossible to dislike a Tom DeFalco story - even his lesser work has an affability to it that's fun to read.  Thus, while Synario is kind of a poor man's Mysterio (with a way uglier costume), I still kinda like her.

What Should I Read?  She only appears once, but it's a fun done-in-one story with a snappy DeFalco script and good Kolins art.  To the dollar bins with thee!

#183: Senator Stewart Ward

Get this man some Valtrex, stat.
(Amazing Spider-Man #23, written by Howard Mackie, art by John Romita, Jr. and Scott Hanna)

First Appearance: Peter Parker: Spider-Man #1 (1998)

Created By: Howard Mackie and John Romita, Jr.

What's His Deal: A government agent codenamed "Sentry" betrayed his team to Hydra; while in a shootout over a stolen vial of pathogen derived from the alien Z'Nox, Sentry was infected with it.  Years later, Sentry, now known as Stewart Ward, became a US Senator, and masterminded an elaborate conspiracy to infect the world with the pathogen, allowing him to rule it with the cure.  Also, he got all pink and goopy.  Anyway, Spider-Man, allied with Gwen Stacy's uncle, blew him up.

Why He's Great: Senator Ward was the villain of the late-'90s Spider-Man relaunch.  He was set up as this big mystery (because the Spider-books, especially, thrive on mystery villains), with his hands in everything from Hydra to the Maggia to secret vampire research.  Unfortunately, it seems that Senator Ward's secret wasn't actually planned out from the beginning, as half of Ward's appearances contradict the other half. In the end, it turned out to be...highly underwhelming, with the alien plot seemingly thrown in to tie-in with the Marvel-wide Maximum Security crossover.

What Should I Read?  As is probably clear by now, the Mackie/Byrne Spider-Man relaunch was not exactly a high point in either man's career.  That said, you can read much of Stewart Ward's crazy-ass story in the attractive Spider-Man: The Next Chapter trades being put out by the good people in Marvel's trades department.  I researched them!

#182: Shadowforce

How much Aquanet is Airborne using to keep her hair like that in flight?

First Appearance: Spider-Man/X-Factor: Shadowgames #1 (1994)

Created By: Kurt Busiek and Pat Broderick

What's Their Deal: As part of a shadowy government program to duplicate superpowers, six convicts were given special harnesses to give them special abilities; Jeannette Voleroux became the flying Airborne, Ava Pelosa the feral Ambush, Albert Wanton the gun-having Firefight, Thomas Fink the air-solidifying leader Hardtime, Aron Nora the power-duplicating Mirrorshade, and Efrain Normas the size-changing Oversize.  A chance encounter with Spider-Man set Mirrorshade after Flash Thompson; not-as-shadowy government super-team X-Factor soon became involved as well.  Ultimately, Mirrorshade tried to copy Multiple Man's powers and died when his harness broke; the others were taken into custody.

Why They're Great: Okay, once we get to some Untold Tales of Spider-Man villains, I'm going to have a ton of nice things to say about Kurt Busiek.  But...well, nobody hits a home run every time, and Shadowforce here doesn't get much in the way of characterization.  Still, even as a lesser Busiek creation, there are some interesting ideas in here.  I like the concept of the harnesses, and Mirrorshade's death is memorably gruesome.  But seriously, what's with Firefight?  Does his harness give him the ability to have a gun?

(Fun fact: if given this book to sign at a convention, Kurt Busiek will apologize.)

What Should I Read?  You should probably just read Untold Tales of Spider-Man instead.

#181: Mr. Brownstone

I used to do a little, but the little wouldn't do it, so the little got more and more.

First Appearance: (voice only) Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do #1 (2002); (full) Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do #2 (2002)

Created By: Kevin Smith and Terry Dodson

What's His Deal: The descendant of the victims of WWII-era Nazi experiments, Garrison Klum discovered he had the mutant ability to teleport small volumes of liquid when he sent a mouthful of mouthwash into his mother's heart, killing her.  He used this ability to become Mr Brownstone, a drug dealer catering to celebrities who didn't want track marks.  He also sexually abused his brother Francis, who had stronger teleportation powers and mind-control abilities, cowing him into helping him.  When Garrison overdosed a friend of Felicia Hardy's, however, that set the Black Cat and Spider-Man on his tail.  He captured Felicia and drugged her, but before he could rape her, Francis teleported inside him, exploding him from the inside out.

Why He's Great: You know, Mr. Brownstone is actually a really clever concept for a villain, and in a vacuum he'd be higher up on the list, but oh my god, there is so much rape in this comic.  There are oceans of ink to be spilled on the topic of rape in superhero comics, but I'll sum up my thoughts on the topic: if you're going to use rape as a plot point in a superhero comic, that comic had better be goddamn great.  And this book isn't, and Mr. Brownstone isn't.  Sorry, Silent Bob.

What Should I Read?  To best replicate the original experience of reading Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do, read the first three issues.  Then read the next three issues four years later.  Or maybe never.

Next time: #180-171!  Dogs, birds, and serpents!  First-degree Spidercide!  Captain Power, but no Soldiers of the Future!


  1. Man, now *I* want an explo-skeleton!!

    --Andrew S.
    (I think...)

  2. This has been a a really fun feature. Will Clown-9 from the current newspaper comics make the cut? Are we going to be counting villains from Spider-Man spin-off books? (I can 't be the only one who loves Amun from AraƱa can I?) Looking forward to seeing Brainstorm and Doctor Hope from the two Mad Dog Ward story-arcs.

  3. I can't say I pay much attention to the Spider-Man newspaper strip outside of what runs at the Comics Curmudgeon site, because it is so very bad. I'm glad to see Alex Saviuk getting work, at least...

    Spin-offs sadly do not count - I didn't want too much crossover with the occasionally-updated Spider-Man Spinoff Showcase series, but my love for the Prowler's nemesis, the Nightcreeper, will surely surface somewhere on this blog.

    Huh, I thought I was the only person who liked Mad Dog Ward. Expect to see Brainstorm, at least, later in the countdown.