Jun 23, 2012

Spider-Man's Greatest Villains #180-171

These are always the guys sitting behind me when I go to a baseball game.
(Sensational Spider-Man #32 (2007), written by Robert Aguirre-Sacasa, art by (despite the credits) Sean Chen and Scott Hanna)
We continue to creep ever so slowly towards Spider-Man's greatest foe - but until then, enjoy these guys.

#180: Yith

"Naga, please."

First Appearance: Spider-Man: Quality of Life #1 (2002)

Created By: Greg Rucka and Scott Christian Sava

What's Her Deal: A descendant of the Elder God Set, the serpentine Yith was hired as an assassin by Clifton Arliss, head of the Monnanno Corporation, to deal with Curt Connors, whose wife had been given cancer by Monnano's waste products.  Things got complicated when Connors' reptilian alter ego the Lizard showed up - not to mention Spider-Man.  Yith had a change of heart and killed Arliss instead, but she's since shown up at a couple gatherings of villains, most recently as a new recruit into the DOA.

Why She's Great: Quality of Life is...an interesting story.  Originally, it wasn't entirely clear if it was even in-continuity, but later stories picked up where it left off, and Martha Connors' death in this story put the Lizard on the path that ended in Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo's superlative Shed.  The computer-generated art doesn't quite have the gravitas required for the seriousness of the story, but Yith looks great.

What Should I Read? Quality of Life is still interesting, despite a disconnect between the art and the writing, but it's worth checking out, even if you just want to read a rare instance of Greg Rucka writing Spider-Man.

#179: Gauntlet

Still more entertaining than that Clint Eastwood/Sondra Locke movie.
(Web of Spider-Man #100, written by Terry Kavanagh, art by Alex Saviuk and Joe Rubinstein)

First Appearance: (Morelli) Amazing Spider-Man #282 (1986); (Kingpin) Web of Spider-Man #84 (1992); (Gauntlet) Web of Spider-Man #99 (1993)

Created By: (Morelli) Tom DeFalco and Rick Leonardi; (Kingpin) Howard Mackie and Alex Saviuk; (Gauntlet) Terry Kavanagh and Derek Yaniger

What's His Deal: A college friend of Richard Fisk (who is of course the son of Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin), Alfredo Morelli helped Richard establish himself as the masked crimelord the Rose. When Alfredo was apparently killed during a New York-wide gang war, Richard chose to become his father's subordinate; Alfredo had secretly survived, and plotted with Richard to seize control again.  As part of their plan, Alfredo (who was the superior combatant) had plastic surgery to transform himself into a duplicate of Richard. He betrayed Richard, however, and seized control over New York's underworld as the new Kingpin; bizarrely, Alfredo gained a ton of weight and had to shave his head, making him resemble Wilson Fisk.  Eventually, he was shot by the real Richard, who had become the lethal vigilante Blood Rose.  He survived and escaped by sea, but was shipwrecked on an island inhabited by Kevin Trench, who allowed him to live there with him.  He stole the glove of Trench's mysterious costume, dubbing himself Gauntlet; Trench followed him to New York in the guise of Nightwatch, defeated him, and reclaimed his glove.  He later acquired a duplicate glove, but was promptly imprisoned.

Why He's Great: As you may have guessed, this guy is a retcon nightmare.  The Richard Fisk in the Mackie/Saviuk issues was, as far as I can tell, intended to be the real deal, but then Terry Kavanagh retconned him into the long-dead Alfredo, I guess because he wanted Richard to be the Blood Rose?  Ugh, what a mess.  I do kind of have a soft spot for the Mackie/Saviuk Name of the Rose storyline, which is really the only reason he's on this list.  Plus, he gave us all Nightwatch, so shouldn't we be thankful for that?


What Should I Read? May I suggest my fabulously entertaining Who Watches the Nightwatch articles?

#178: Polestar

Despite the name, not a stripper.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #409 (1996)

Created By: Tom DeFalco and Mark Bagley

What's His Deal: Thomas Duffy was a participant in the Great Game, a series of staged superhuman fights done for the benefit of rich people, who would bet on them with other rich people.  Polestar first encountered Spider-Man while battling reluctant Game player Kaine; Spider-Man made short work of him.  Later, while trying to acquire Nolan Morelle, a young boy who had been designated a prize by the Game, he teamed with fellow player el Toro Negro to kill Nightwatch, the boy's defender.  El Toro Negro was unwilling to share the prize, however, so he promptly shot Polestar dead.

Why He's Great: Okay, so he's a vaguely generic '90s armored guy with magnetic powers.  But I like the Bagley design, the Great Game storyline was fun, and DeFalco does a great job selling this guy as a total tool.  I dig him.

What Should I Read?  Spider-Man Unlimited #14 is an entertaining wrap-up to the whole Great Game plot, and it features the final fate of Nightwatch!  What's not to like?

#177: Captain Power

Earth, 2147.  The legacy of the Metal Wars, when man fought machine...and machines won.
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #9 (2000)

Created By: Howard Mackie and John Byrne

What's Her Deal: The nuclear accident that transformed Otto Octavius into Dr. Octopus left a number of survivors in its wake; among them Dr. Christina Carr, who was left horribly disfigured and dying of radiation poisoning.  The radiation, however, also gave her the ability to transform into the superhuman (and, uh, male) Captain Power!  She was also left super-crazy, so she systematically killed off the other survivors of the accident.  She nearly killed Octavius and his old supervisor, Dr. Ted Twaki, before Spider-Man stopped her and reverted her to her human form.

Why She's Great: Well, she's certainly interesting, isn't she?  I mean, there's "guy in an animal suit" weird, and there's "vengeance-crazed transsexual Superman" weird.  She also presents a continuity conundrum - Peter Parker was one of the people she was seeking out, because at the time, John Byrne had retconned Peter into being present at the Octavius explosion - it's where he was bitten by the radioactive spider!  Since then, though, that retcon has been quashed.  So we have to just ignore those parts of the story, or figure that Carr just had some bad information.

What Should I Read?  Have I mentioned the handsome Spider-Man: The Next Chapter trades yet?  Because Captain Power here is in volume 2, in stores now.

#176: Disruptor

"Brainless bunglers", "costumed interloper"...I'm an "accursed webslinger" away from a bingo!

First Appearance: (Raleigh) Daredevil #42 (1968); (Disruptor) Amazing Spider-Man #117 (1973)

Created By: (Raleigh) Stan Lee and Gene Colan; (Disruptor) Gerry Conway and John Romita, Sr.

What's His Deal: In order to create sympathy for his campaign, New York City mayoral candidate Richard Raleigh, in the guise of the costumed criminal Disruptor, funded the creation of the Smasher, a monstrous supervillain he commanded to attack his own campaign events. Learning that Joe Robertson was investigating his shady past, the Disruptor also sent the Smasher after him; when Spider-Man intervened, however, the tormented Smasher killed Raleigh before dying himself. Spider-Man destroyed the Disruptor's costume to keep Raleigh's reputation, and the ideals he professed to hold, intact.

Why He's Great: Well, this is the post for continuity nightmare villains, isn't it?  See, after his first appearance in Daredevil, Raleigh is the main villain of Spectacular Spider-Man#1, a black-and-white magazine - not to be confused with the Spider-Man spinoff comic of the same name that came along several years later.  For whatever reason, it didn't catch on and was cancelled with #2, which featured a full-colour Green Goblin story.  Then, five years later, new Amazing Spider-Man writer Gerry Conway reused the story  and much of the art from SSM in three issues of Amazing Spider-Man, which stretched out the story, modernized it (the since-deceased George Stacy was replaced with Joe Robertson), and gave Raliegh a costumed identity, the Disruptor.  Both issues can't be in continuity, given that Spider-Man discovers Raleigh is an evil mastermind in both issues, after which Raleigh dies.  Until the issue is clarified by the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, I am inclined to accept the version of events from ASM, given that a) it's in Amazing Spider-Man, the flagship book, as opposed to a magazine, b) the extra space gives Conway more time to flesh the story out and make Raleigh less of a cackling stereotype, and c) guy in a ridiculous costume > guy not in a ridiculous costume.

What Should I Read?  Well, Amazing Spider-Man #116-118 are quite entertaining, and are reprinted in various Essentials and Masterworks.

#175: Living Brain

After the whole Living Brain thing went pear-shaped, noted roboticist John Waters took up film-making instead.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #8 (1964)

Created By: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

What's Its Deal: A highly-advanced, super-intelligent robot, the Living Brain was brought to Midtown High by ICM roboticist Mr. Petty for a demonstration. Unfortunately, the two guys they hired to wheel it in overheard the presentation and tried to steal the Brain to predict the outcomes of horse races and elections; while stealing it, they accidentally bumped into its control panel, jamming it in "kill all humans" mode.  Luckily, Spider-Man halted its terrifying rampage, which mostly consisted of rolling around on its ball-caster legs and flailing its arms wildly.  The Brain was later rebuilt by Petty's son, Steve (later the Phreak), who used it to exact revenge on the popular students at his school, before Spider-Man destroyed it.

Why It's Great: This was not Stan and Steve's finest hour.  In fact, the best part of the book comes in the second story, where Spider-Man frightens the Human Torch's girlfriend with web-bats.  The Brain isn't even the second-best part, because that's when Peter punches Flash Thompson right in his stupid face.  But the Living Brain has an awesome, albeit incredibly dated, Ditko design - and it reappeared in Web of Spider-Man #35, the first Spider-Man back-issue I ever bought.  So it gives me the warm fuzzies.

What Should I Read?  Several Living Brains show up in Warren Ellis and Stuart Immomen's Nextwave.  Go read Nextwave - like, now.

#174: Vulture (Clifton Shallot)

"The doggone girl is mine!"

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #127 (1973)

Created By: Gerry Conway and Ross Andru

What's His Deal: When Empire State University cancelled his organic mutation course, professor Clifton Shallot snapped and used the original Vulture's costume and wings to mutate himself (somehow) into a monstrous version of Adrian Toomes, complete with taloned hands and sharp teeth.  To preserve his secret, he tried to kill his assistant, Christine Murrow, but accidentally killed her roommate instead.  Mary Jane Watson witnessed the murder, putting the new Vulture on her tail and Spider-Man on his.  Spider-Man eventually deduced Shallot's identity and formulated a serum to reverse the transformation.  The cured Shallot was sent to jail.

Why He's Great: The least of the various guys to steal Adrian Toomes' shtick, Clifton Shallot's origin kind of makes no sense, and he doesn't do anything amazing, but he does appear in an interesting murder mystery. Also, seriously, what's the deal with all the replacement Vultures?  Some of it probably comes from the inherent awkwardness of Spider-Man beating up an octogenarian like Toomes, but what makes Toomes so great (which we will discuss at length when we get to him) is that he is old as hell, but he can still mess up guys a quarter his age.

What Should I Read?  Well, again, only the one appearance, but you can't go wrong with Conway and Andru.  Not even with this guy.

#173: Basilisk

Today in brave fashion choices: the toilet seat collar.
(Fantastic Four #289, written and drawn by John Byrne)

First Appearance: Marvel Team-Up #16 (1973)

Created By: Len Wein and Gil Kane

What's His Deal: Petty crook Basil Elks (sigh), eager to prove his worth, stole the Alpha Stone, a giant emerald, from a museum.  Unbeknownst to Elks, it was actually a powerful Kree artifact, and when a security guard shot the stone, its shards embedded into Elks' body, transforming him into the reptilian Basilisk!  Now able to warp matter with his eyes, the Basilisk menaced Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Mr. Fantastic and the Thing before being killed by the deadly Scourge vigilante organization.  Returned to life by the dark magics of the Hood, he's gone on to battle the Punisher and Hercules.

Why He's Great: Well, you know, Scourge didn't kill a lot of good villains.  (I will vouch for Death Adder and the Human Fly, though.)  The Basilisk is just kinda nothing special - punny name, not-so-great costume, stories in kinda-bland Marvel Team-Up issues, generic villain-y plots.  The eye-beams are kinda neat, though.

What Should I Read?  Basilisk, along with fellow mythology-based villains Griffin and Man-Bull, turns up in the amusing Fear Itself arc in the underrated Herc.

#172: Terrier

Mr. Savinski's suits provided by Napier's of Gotham.

First Appearance: (Savinski) Untold Tales of Spider-Man #12 (1996); (Terrier) Untold Tales of Spider-Man #15 (1996)

Created By: Kurt Busiek and Pat Olliffe

What's His Deal: The callow Gordon Savinski lured Bennett Brant into a life of crime, a life that eventually led to Bennett's death at the hands of gangster Blackie Gaxton.  He also dated Bennett's sister Betty, making him...like, her second-worst boyfriend at best.  Eventually, Savinski became an enforcer for mobster Nick "Lucky" Lewis, and underwent treatments to make him superhumanly strong and tough.  Now known as the Terrier, due to his tenacity, he tried to blackmail J. Jonah Jameson, but Spider-Man defeated him at the Bugle's printing facility, trapping him under giant rolls of newsprint.

Why He's Great: He's not the best villain to come out of Untold Tales, but I also dig a guy who wears nothing fancier than a Grape-Ape-purple suit while throwing down with Spider-Man.  He's also part of the unending train of misery that is Betty Brant's life.

What Should I Read? You should read the entirety of Untold Tales of Spider-Man.

#171: Spidercide

Spidercide: Life on the Streets
(Amazing Spider-Man #404, written by J.M. DeMatteis and Todd DeZago, art by Mark Bagley, Larry Mahlstedt, Randy Emberlin, and Joe Rubinstein)

First Appearance: (Parker clone) Amazing Spider-Man #399 (1995); (Spidercide) Spider-Man: The Jackal Files #1 (1995)

Created By: (Parker clone) J.M. DeMatteis and Mark Bagley (Spidercide) Todd DeZago and Michael Bair

What's His Deal: In the aftermath of a battle in the Jackal's lab, a Peter Parker clone was released from a stasis pod.  He believed himself to be the real Parker, but when he was confronted by Spider-Man, the Scarlet Spider, and Kaine, he went insane, started mutating, and apparently died.  Recovering him, the Jackal sped him through a hundred centuries of evolution into Spidercide, a being capable of controlling his body's structure at the molecular level. He served as the Jackal's lackey in his plot to kill humanity and replace them with clones until one of Norman Osborn's Scrier agents manipulated him into turning on his master.  While battling him atop the Daily Bugle building, Spidercide plummeted to his death.

Why He's Great: Well, there's no question that Spidercide has the worst name on this list.  And, while comics are guilty of innumerable crimes against the theory of evolution, the concept that Peter Parker plus ten-thousand years of evolution will result in the T-1000 seems particularly egregious.  I still kind of like this guy, though.  Chalk it up to foolish childhood nostalgia.

What Should I Read?  The Jackal Files one-shot that gave us Spidercide is really just a bunch of pin-ups of Spider-Man's friends and foes, with commentary from the Jackal's twisted perspective.  Todd DeZago really gets the Jackal's goofy sense of humour, though, so it's a hoot.  Check it out in The Complete Clone Saga Epic volume 3.

Next: Cold as Ice!  Walk Like an Egyptian!  And an Invitation to the Jellicle Ball!

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