|Peter Parker's greatest foe: the necktie.
(Amazing Spider-Man #546, written by Dan Slott, art by Steve McNiven and Dexter Vines)
#160: Femme Fatales
|Here they come. You better watch your step. They're gonna break your heart in two - it's true.
First Appearance: (Bloodlust and Whiplash) Marvel Comics Presents #49 (1990); (Knockout, Mindblast, Femme Fatales as a team) Amazing Spider-Man #340 (1990)
Created By: (Bloodlust and Whiplash) Erik Larsen; (Knockout, Mindblast, Femme Fatales as a team) David Michelinie and Erik Larsen
What's Their Deal: The feral Beatta Dubiel and the whip-wielding Leann Foreman, alias Bloodlust and Whiplash respectively, joined the obese mutant Critical Mass in his scheme to kidnap a young mutant; Spider-Man defeated all of them and freed the girl. Soon afterwards, they united with the powerhouse Elizabeth Rawson, aka Knockout, and the telekinetic Danielle Forte, alias Mindblast, as the mercenary Femme Fatales. The Chameleon hired them to attack JFK Airport to make Spider-Man doubt himself as part of a scheme to remove his super powers. When the now-powerless Spider-Man got wise to the Chameleon's scheme, he and the Black Cat took down the Femmes, the Scorpion, and the Tarantula to get his powers back. They've since been spotted at several super villain gatherings, joining Superia's Femizon army of female villains and attending the Tinkerer's auction of the Venom symbiote.
Why They're Great: These guys don't have a tremendous amount of depth, but they're colourful, visually interesting, and Spider-Man doesn't have a ton of female adversaries. I'd like to see them turn up again.
What Should I Read? The Powerless storyline that runs through ASM #340-343 is a good showcase of Michelinie and Larsen at the height of their powers - it's fun, action-movie Spider-Man.
|Sinister's early experiments with the Xulture, Xenom, and Xoctor Xoctopus didn't work out.
First Appearance: (partial) X-Men/Spider-Man #3 (2009); (full) X-Men/Spider-Man #4 (2009)
Created By: Christos Gage and Mario Alberti
What's His Deal: Years ago, fanatical geneticist Mister Sinister hired Kraven the Hunter to bring him DNA samples from the original 5 X-Men; Sinister also paid Kraven for genetic samples from himself. Sinister brewed those DNA samples into the superhuman mutant hunter known as Xraven! As Xraven culled "inferior" mutants, Spider-Man and the X-Men started to realize that Sinister had been working towards this during several of their past encounters; the hybrid clone eventually invaded the X-Mansion, but turned on his creator when he used his telepathy to read Cyclops' mind and learn what a dick Sinister is.
Why He's Great: I really have to give Gage and Alberti credit for taking an idea that is, let's be honest, completely ridiculous, and giving him a little depth. That said, I love how ridiculous he is.
What Should I Read? Gage and Alberti's X-Men/Spider-Man miniseries is well-written and gorgeous to look at. Check out their Fantastic Four/Spider-Man mini too.
Special Note: A couple years ago, I had the privilege of writing a Marvel Handbook profile for Xraven; as is customary, I asked a couple questions about the character to Christos Gage, who was extremely helpful, but couldn't answer my most pressing question - how do you pronounce "Xraven"? He directed me to Spider-Man editor Stephen Wacker, who came up with the name; he told us that it was pronounced like "Kilg%re" Wacker, you nut.
|He looks like he stole his costume off the set of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.
First Appearance: Spider-Man Unlimited #2 (1993)
Created By: Kurt Busiek and Steven Butler
What's His Deal: Dirk Leyden's worldview was shaped almost almost exclusively by the movies...much to his detriment. When he was spotted shoplifting a pack of gum cards as a child, he became convinced that there was a huge manhunt for him, so he ran away from home and began a life of petty crime. This brought him into contact with underworld surgeon Jonas Harrow, who gave him the ability to store electrical energy in his body as the costumed criminal Megawatt! Unfortunately, his first battle, with Daredevil, began - and ended - with Megawatt getting a billy club to the damn face. He fled to Australia, where he became a stuntman, and eventually an actor, but when he was given a starring role, he made the mistake of coming to America to promote it. When the feds tried to arrest him at a press conference, he went berzerk; Spider-Man tried to stop him and/or help him, but Leyden's delusions were too strong, and he escaped and hightailed it back to Australia. At least his movie was a hit.
Why He's Great: Megawatt's electric powers are a little generic, but what really makes the character is Busiek's delightfully unhinged character work. Leyden is completely out of touch with reality, and is so engrossed with his own self-made fictional world that even Spider-Man (who is, after all, a fictional character) can't reason with him. It's a good little story, as one would expect from Kurt Busiek.
What Should I Read? He's only in the one issue, and I assure you this backup is way better than the Maximum Carnage lead feature.
|I'd rag on Shathra for being an ancient insect creature with the body shape of a human woman, but it's only appropriate that she's wasp-waisted, innit?
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #46 (2002)
Created By: J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita, Jr.
What's Her Deal: While battling the villainous Shade on the astral plane, Spider-Man unwisely strayed off the path Dr. Strange had made for him, alerting the ancient predator Shathra, the Spider Wasp, to his whereabouts. After losing their first battle, she assumed human form and took to the media, claiming to be Spider-Man's lover. Enraged, he lost focus and attacked her, falling prey to her paralyzing sting. All he could do was crawl away and wait to die until his mysterious benefactor, Ezekiel Sims, whisked him away to Ghana, where he battled Shathra in a temple devoted to the spider-god Anansi. There, Spider-Man defeated Shathra; she was subsequently killed and eaten by thousands of spiders summoned by the temple's power.
Why She's Great: I'm a sucker for insect-based villains, and the spider/spider wasp thing is so cool it's amazing nobody did anything with it until JMS came along. The whole "publicly accuse Spider-Man of being an adulterous pervert" tactic wins some points, too. She loses points for talking like Elmo, though.
What Should I Read? ASM #46-48 come at a high point of the JMS run, back when his stuff was new and fresh, and John Romita Jr. was doing some of the best work of his career.
#156: Carrion (William Allen)
|"Soon, only the disembodied head of Lou Reed and the talking dog on my postal route will stand in my way!"
First Appearance: Spider-Man: Dead Man's Hand #1 (1997)
Created By: Roger Stern, Joe Edkin, Darick Robertson, and Dan Lawlis
What's His Deal: While examining the corpse of the Jackal (or a clone thereof), SHIELD scientist William Allen stumbled across and was infected by the Carrion virus, transforming him into the new Carrion! Unlike the previous Carrion, Malcolm McBride, his strong personality wasn't wholly overwritten by Warren's, but instead left him with two personalities battling for control of his body. Allen reverse-engineered Carrion's red dust of death to create a zombie plague in the hopes of drawing out and killing Spider-Man, believing that Spider-Man's death would silence Warren; instead, Spider-Man, with some help from the Tinkerer and the High Evolutionary, beat him up. Later, the demonic Hive used him as a pawn against Nightcrawler. He was recently imprisoned in the Negative Zone's Prison 42, where Star-Lord used him as a very unwilling human fax machine.
Why He's Great: As the last entry mentioned, I really dig Carrion. So this guy, the least of the three Carrions, still gets on the list, even though he's really only fought Spider-Man the once. Given that he's more-or-less in control of his own faculties, he could totally turn up as a science villain somewhere.
What Should I Read? Spider-Man: Dead Man's Hand is a good one-shot, with enough continuity tidbits to satisfy lunatics like me, while also providing some enjoyably horrific moments and visuals to creep out the casual reader.
#155: Vulture (Blackie Drago)
|He has all the powers of the original Vulture...plus a new hat!
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #48 (1968)
Created By: Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr.
What's His Deal: Small-time crook Raniero "Blackie" Drago befriended Adrian Toomes in prison, and learned that he'd hidden a spare set of his Vulture wings; he then arranged an accident in the prison workshop to kill Toomes, got the old man to reveal the wings' location on his deathbed, and then bragged of his treachery. Drago busted out of jail, dug up the wings, and embarked on a life of crime as the new Vulture! When he tried to team with Kraven to take down Spider-Man, however, the two villains got in each others' way, and Drago was defeated. Making matters worse for Drago, his anger at being betrayed gave Toomes a new lease on life, and he busted Drago out of jail and made him put on a Vulture suit solely so he could beat him up, proving that Toomes was the one, true Vulture. Years later, while visiting Riker's Island prison, Spider-Man passed by Drago's cell.
Why He's Great: Another in the long line of dudes who stole Adrian Toomes' shtick, I'm giving Drago the nod over Shallot because his origin is considerably less ridiculous. Also, he gets bonus points for being the Vulture they used in the '60s Spider-Man cartoon.
What Should I Read? ASM #63 is an excellent primer on the #1 rule of Spider-villainy: do not f*** with Adrian Toomes.
|He's mysterious. Terribly mysterious.
First Appearance: Spectacular Spider-Man #257 (1998)
Created By: J.M. DeMatteis and Luke Ross
What's His Deal: The man known only as Conundrum knows little of his past; he has forgotten his true name, his true face, and, perhaps most importantly, why that true face is hidden beneath an ever-shifting facade of puzzle boxes. What is known is that he, along with his rival Daniel Berkhart, was a student of Quentin Beck, the original Mysterio, who passed on his mastery of illusions. In recent years both he and Berkhart (in the guise of the pumpkin-headed Mad Jack) sought out the mystical Hand of Mumthazi; they put aside their differences to seek it, and clashed with the golden-garbed hero Prodigy (secretly Peter Parker, in disguise for reasons that are too convoluted to get into here). Ultimately, Prodigy foiled both evil illusionists and sent Conundrum to jail.
Why He's Great: J.M. DeMatteis can always be counted on to write a good, eerie, mysterious yarn. Unfortunately, he only got to start this one. As Conundrum debuted in his last issue of Spectacular, it's likely he had more plans for Conundrum at one time, but never had a chance to write them, meaning that Conundrum was just left as enigmatic for the sake of being enigmatic. Conundrum still has a cool look and an interesting (if somewhat difficult to get one's mind around - how does he eat?) gimmick.
What Should I Read? Identity Crisis as a whole is a fun storyline, and it's all been recently collected.
|Me and my Ero, straighter than narrow...
(Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #20, written by Peter David, art by Todd Nauck and Robert Campanella)
First Appearance: Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #4 (2006)
Created By: Peter David and Mike Weiringo
What's Her Deal: When Spider-Man died from a combination of a mysterious terminal disease and a severe beating at the hands of Morlun, his spirit rejected death and returned to life. This somehow caused an imbalance in the web of life, causing his antithesis, Ero, to be born. Manifesting itself as a humanoid composed of spiders of the genus Ero (also known as pirate spiders, they're spiders that eat other spiders), Ero devoured the skin Peter had shed during his rebirth (ew) and fled. Eventually she resurfaced as Miss Arrow, the school nurse at Midtown High, where Peter taught science. She set her sights on gym teacher Flash Thompson, due to the tantric energy he'd built up during his recent coma; she intended to mate with him (given that she's made of spiders, how she planned to do so is best left unexamined), and then eat him. Things went awry when Flash's girlfriend Betty Brant destroyed her egg-sac; Spider-Man then lured the despondent Ero into the Central Park Zoo's aviary, where she was promptly devoured by a horde of birds.
Why She's Great: The Other, the big Spider-storyline of 2006, was a misfire on almost every level. It featured a completely unexplained villain revival, it gave Peter a new set of largely nonsensical new powers, it dragged on for four damn months, and, worst of all, a third of it was drawn by Pat Lee and/or Pat Lee's uncredited/probably unpaid ghost-penciler. Ugh. I do kind of like Ero, though. I will admit I have a weakness for characters who are made of tinier things - see also my appreciation for Swarm. A mystical entity/school nurse made of pirate spiders is perhaps not as immediately engrossing as a Nazi made of bees, but it's still a cool visual. They totally missed the boat by not making her a pirate made of pirate spiders, though.
What Should I Read? Avoid The Other at all costs, but Peter David and Todd Nauck's follow-up in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man is entertaining. I mean, how many times are you going to see a super villain eaten by birds?
|"Been there, done that, fought a vampire."
First Appearance: Spider-Man: The Final Adventure #1 (1996)
Created By: Fabian Nicieza and Darick Robertson
What's His Deal: Life dealt River Verys a pretty rough hand. His mother committed suicide when he was a child, leaving him to be raised by his drug-addicted father and a series of indifferent foster parents. This led him to a life of crime as an adult, but in a further stroke of terrible luck, he contracted necrotizing fascitis, a flesh-eating disease. In the hopes of finding a cure, Verys became a test subject at Portland's GARID Laboratories, where Dr. Monica Staphos, in a last-ditch effort, treated Verys with a serum which, unbeknownst to her, was derived from the radioactive blood of new GARID employee Peter Parker! This unsurprisingly mutated Verys into Tendril, a creature with a body made of living webbing, who made Staphos the first in a series of victims. Eventually a reluctantly un-retired Spider-Man and fellow GARID test subject Dryrot trapped Verys in a chamber where he was bombarded with radiation meant to reverse his mutation; Verys rejected the cure and perished, while Spider-Man had his spider-powers suppressed...forever!
Why He's Great: You may have figured out by now that this was, in fact, not Spider-Man's final adventure. It was totally planned to be, but even as Nicieza was writing the damn thing, plans were changing, with the ultimate aim of bringing Peter Parker back into the role of Spider-Man, having given it up for his clone Ben Reilly. It's a miracle that Nicieza and Robertson produced a book this entertaining under these circumstaces, and Tendril is a really cool little villain.
What Should I Read? Although its title is a blatant lie, Spider-Man: The Final Adventure is a good solid read by two good solid creators.
#151: Black Dragon
|This guy actually wears a considerably less-embarrassing costume now, but I had to show you guys this thing.
(Web of Spider-Man Annual #3, written by Roger Stern, art by Jim Mooney)
First Appearance: (White Dragon) Amazing Spider-Man #184 (1978); (Black Dragon) Web of Spider-Man #9 (2010)
Created By: (White Dragon) Marv Wolfman and Ross Andru; (Black Dragon) Marc Guggenheim and Sana Takeda
What's His Deal: Leader of the Chinatown gang the Dragon Lords, the White Dragon protects his turf with his martial arts mastery, his steel claws, and his costume's fiery breath! When he tried to forcibly recruit recent ESU grad Philip Chang into his gang, he brought the wrath of Spider-Man down on him and his gang; despite almost killing Spider-Man in a giant vat of burning oil, the Dragon went down in defeat. Even though he subsequently allied himself with the Kingpin, he was bested again and again by the likes of Spider-Man, Moon Knight, and the Prowler. Finally, he partnered with the Hood to muscle out upstart Chinatown crimelord Mr. Negative, but Negative subjected him to his corrupting touch, transforming him into his loyal servant, the Black Dragon! In Negative's service, he's taken on his old boss the Hood and the super heroine Jackpot.
Why He's Great: The White/Black Dragon belongs to a certain class of villain that we just don't see much of anymore - villains in animal suits whose faces poke out of the animal's mouth. It's a really old-school villain thing that you used to see all the time, but it's fallen out of favour because, well, it looks really goofy. Anyway, the White Dragon is a rare non-white Spider-foe, and while he's dripping with Chinese stereotypes, he thankfully avoids the whole inscrutable Asian mastermind thing comics used to be so fond of.
What Should I Read? The White Dragon is a small part of Fred Van Lente and Gianluca Gugliotta's Dark Reign: Mr. Negative miniseries, but it's loads of fun, features a ton of d-list villains, and even tosses in some Eastern philosophy. It's a good read.
Next: An incredibly '80s guy! An incredibly '90s guy! Another incredibly '90s guy who was created in 2009!