Jul 9, 2012

Spider-Man's Greatest Villains #170-161

That's some unfortunate tail placement, Scorpion.
(Spider-Man: The Parker Years #1, written by Evan Skolnick, art by Joe St. Pierre and Al Milgrom)
The countdown continues!  Plus, new this instalment (because I forgot to mention it last time): see the whole list so far in one place!

#170: Darter

Unable to find costume materials, Darter had to swipe fabric remnants from the Vision.

First Appearance: Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #29 (1979)

Created By: Bill Mantlo and Jim Mooney

What's His Deal: ESU student Randy Vale stumbled upon the clone coffin containing Carrion, a failed, corpse-like clone of Miles Warren, in Warren's old lab.  Warren promised to give Vale Spider-Man's power (and also not to murder him); Vale agreed, and designed a super-glider suit and laser gun to become Darter! While Carrion tangled with Spider-Man, Darter was relegated to battling his buddy the White Tiger instead, but eventually the two of them got their act together long enough to capture the wall-crawler.  Darter was dismayed to find out that Carrion had given Spider-Man's powers to the horrifying Spider-Amoeba instead.  He turned on Carrion, but Carrion gave him a faceful of his red dust of death, which promptly reduced the pleading Vale to a bleached skeleton.

Why He's Great: So the Human Fruit Roll-Up here doesn't exactly jibe with the eerie Carrion, but I really love this whole arc, and by extension everyone in it.  I was halfway tempted to put the Spider-Amoeba on this list. Darter follows a pretty standard lackey arc - he kind of stumbles into a bad situation, gets a little greedy and goes along with it, gets screwed over, and then gets gruesomely murdered. And man, does he ever.  It's horrifying enough that it alone probably gets him on the list.

What Should I Read?  The whole Mantlo/Miller/Mooney Carrion arc is collected in the Spider-Man: The Original Clone Saga trade.  Buy it, it's great.

#169: Living Pharaoh

Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia.

First Appearance: Sensational Spider-Man #19 (1997)

Created By: Richard Case and Todd DeZago

What's Her Deal: Years ago, stony X-Men villain the Living Monolith was chucked into space; eventually, a chunk of his toe broke off and fell to Earth, where it was discovered by rebellious teenager Akasha Martinez.  Possessed by the Monolith's consciousness (and subjected to hallucinations of Egyptian rappers), she sought out the cosmically-powered Staff of Horus; touching it, she became the Living Pharaoh!  Before she could become Pharaoh of Earth, however, Spider-Man destroyed the Staff, allowing Akasha to overcome the Monolith's malign will.  As a reward, the Gods of Egypt granted her the power of flight.

Why She's Great: Personal biases showing through here - I was a fiend for Egyptology as a kid, and so an Egypt-themed villain who showed up during my formative years was right up my alley.  What is it with ancient megalomaniacs possessing teenage girls, though?  I guess it's because most ancient megalomaniacs (and most comics writers) are male...

What Should I Read?  Todd DeZago's run on Sensational Spider-Man is excellent - just pure fun comics.  While Case's art isn't quite on the same level as Weiringo's, this is still an enjoyable story.

#168: Hardshell

"I ache to smash you out of existence!  To drive your cursed face from my memory forever!"
(Lethal Foes of Spider-Man #4, written by Danny Fingeroth, art by David Boller and Brad Vancata) 

First Appearance: (Davis) Deadly Foes of Spider-Man #1 (1991); (Hardshell) Lethal Foes of Spider-Man #1 (1993); (Beetle) Thunderbolts #48 (2001)

Created By: (Davis) Danny Fingeroth and Al Milgrom; (Hardshell) Danny Fingeroth and Scott McDaniel; (Beetle) Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley

What's Her Deal: The widow of the villainous Ringer, Leila Davis blamed the Beetle for her husband's death; even though he was killed by Scourge, the Beetle had blackmailed him into resuming his life of crime. She began dating Boomerang to infiltrate the Beetle's villain team, the Sinister Syndicate.  She manipulated the team into breaking up, but when she tried to kill the Beetle with her husband's ring weapons, Spider-Man defeated her. Adopting the armored identity of Hardshell, she again assembled a team to kill the Beetle, but she was stopped by the cyborg Strikeback - who was her husband, resurrected by AIM as a cyborg.  She reunited with him for a time, but after his cyborg implants broke down, he died, and Leila joined the US government's Redeemers team as the Beetle, using one of her old enemy's armors.  She was killed in the line of duty when the maniacal Graviton crushed her armor with her inside it.

Why She's Great: It's nice to have a villain with a big, clear motivation - the Beetle more-or-less killed her husband, so Leila Davis is going to mess up his super-team, and then she's gonna kill him.  She's a femme fatale without being a '90s bad-girl kind of femme fatale (okay, she's kind of wearing a metal thong as Hardshell, I guess).  And the Hardshell thing (and Lethal Foes as a whole, really) goes off the rails a little, but Nicieza re-used her in a clever way in his Thunderbolts run...just in time for her to die horribly.  *sniff*

What Should I Read?  The original Deadly Foes of Spider-Man miniseries is a little talky at times, but it's an enjoyable read.  It and its lesser sequel, Lethal Foes of Spider-Man, are available in trade form.

#167: Deadmaker

It doesn't matter what comes, dead goes better in life...

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man '96 Annual (1996)

Created By: Fabian Nicieza and Steve Lightle

What's His Deal: Decades ago, CIA agents Richard and Mary Parker discovered that master KGB assassin the Deadmaker was a Hydra double agent; the US government traded that information with the Russians, and the Deadmaker was sent to prison, where he died.  Years later, his son became the new Deadmaker, and sought revenge on the Parkers' living relatives - their son Peter, his wife Mary Jane, and his aunt May!  After he kidnapped the latter two, Spider-Man rescued them, and convinced the Deadmaker that vengeance was futile.

Why He's Great: Let's get this out of the way.  Making Spider-Man's parents super-awesome spies was a dumb idea.  Peter Parker is the Everyman, and the Everyman is not the son of James Bond and Emma Peel.  But it's there, and Stan Lee put it there, so there's no getting rid of it now.  So sometimes writers run with it.  It does make sense that globe-trotting super-spies would make some enemies, and that, with the Parkers dead, he'd go after their son.  Also, it's fun to see Spider-Man muscle into Iron Man's Communist-fighting territory.  The name is pretty ridiculous, though...

What Should I Read?  This is another one-and-done guy, but the whole annual is enjoyable - the lead feature in the annual is a fun Silver Age DeFalco/Frenz/Romita Sr. Kraven story, and it's worth reading too.

#166: Cyclone

Here I am: rock you like a...cyclone.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #143 (1975)

Created By: Gerry Conway and Ross Andru

What's His Deal: French NATO engineer Andre Gerard created the Cyclone, a tornado-generating superweapon; however, his employers only wanted to buy advanced technology from the Americans.  Angered, Gerard incorporated the weapon into a costume and became the criminal Cyclone!  Working for the Maggia crime syndicate, he battled Spider-Man and Moon Knight, but his plans always ended in failure.  Alongside many other villains, he was killed by Scourge in the Bar With No Name Massacre; in recent years he was resurrected by the Hood's black magic, but he was promptly re-killed by the Punisher.  His technology was later given to French criminal Pierre Fresson, a frequent foe of the Thunderbolts.

Why He's Great: I have a love-hate relationship with phonetic accents.  When it's a main character, someone who's going to get a lot of dialogue and caption boxes and thought balloons (this means you, Rogue and Gambit), it becomes terribly irritating.  But with a villain - even a recurring one?  I'm all for it.  What would Batroc the Leaper be if his appearances weren't peppered with "How can zis be?  Ze incroyable Batroc ze Lepair, defeated by ze Capitan America?"  Even the Deadmaker up there sounds like Lt. Chekov.  So yes, I am totally knocking ze Cyclone down a few spaces for not having a comical French accent.  Still, you know, he's a thoroughly serviceable villain with a gimmick Spider-Man hadn't faced before; unfortunately, he was overshadowed in his own debut story by the much more intriguing mystery of the Gwen Stacy clone.

What Should I Read?  Rick Remender and Tan Eng Huat's Punisher: Dead End storyline, featuring Cyclone and his fellow Scourge-victims, is a lot of fun, and leads right into the even-better Frankencastle story.

#165: Gog

I'm huge!

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #103 (1971)

Created By: Roy Thomas and Gil Kane

What's His Deal: A member of the alien Tsiln, Gog was sent to Earth on a ship that crash-landed in the Savage Land.  Kraven the Hunter found him there, and raised him to assist him in his quest to rule the Savage Land.  They ran afoul of a Daily Bugle-sponsored expedition, and Kraven had Gog kidnap Gwen Stacy (who they brought along because, uh...) to be his queen.  Kraven's queen, not Gog's.  I don't think that would work, physically...anyway, Spider-Man fought Gog, and Gog ended up in a giant pit of quicksand.  He survived, and allied with the Plunderer to battle Ka-Zar, but eventually decided to "go home"...which is where the Sinister Six found him, and recruited him as their new sixth member.  After battling half of the Marvel Universe, Reed Richards finally sent him home.

Why He's Great: Created as part of a King Kong pastiche, Gog is kind of goofy.  But sometimes you just want to see Spider-Man fight a giant monster (which happens surprisingly infrequently), and Gog offers that in spades.  Unfortunately, he doesn't have much in the way of depth, so he's not getting any higher on the list than this.

What Should I Read?  Erik Larsen's Revenge of the Sinister Six is ridiculously entertaining, and it's coming out in trade paperback imminently.

#164: Skinhead

He creeps, and leaps, and glides and heils...

First Appearance: Web of Spider-Man #56 (1989)

Created By: Gerry Conway and Alex Saviuk

What's His Deal: Eddie Cross turned his back on his Jewish heritage to become a racist skinhead.  He earned the ire of the Rocket Racer when he and his Nazi goons made a stink about ESU's Afro-American Studies building.  They went so far as to bomb it; afterwards, Cross and the Racer fought in ESU's labs, where Cross was accidentally doused in a failed, corrosive batch of Peter Parker's web-fluid.  Cross was transformed into the protoplasmic Skinhead, the White Redeemer!  After devouring his compatriots, he attacked his rabbi father and the Racer, but Spider-Man swam through his goopy body and punched his skeleton in the face (really).  He later led a faction of the xenophobic Sons of the Serpent, with whom he battled Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), but was defeated and reverted to human form.

Why He's Great: Nazi-punching is a long-standing tradition in super hero comics.  Spider-Man, by virtue of fighting mostly science freaks and animal guys, does not get into the Nazi action much.  And this guy is racist in the comic-bookiest way possible.  He's got a big swastika tattoo on his face, and he lets loose with a PG-rated racial epithet in practically every panel - even after he becomes a horrible gelatinous blob, which is kind of hilarious.

What Should I Read?  1994's Captain Marvel one-shot is...maybe a little heavy-handed, but it's by Dwayne McDuffie and MD Bright, so it's really good.

#163: Coldheart

She's cold as ice - and willing to sacrifice our love. 

First Appearance: Spider-Man #49 (1994)

Created By: Howard Mackie and Tom Lyle

What's Her Deal: Government agent Kateri Deseronto, alias Coldheart, was crushed when her son died, apparently as a result of superhuman combat.  Judged mentally unfit for duty, she took her equipment and became an anti-superhuman vigilante, clashing with the Hobgoblin (Jason Macendale) and Spider-Man.  Imprisoned at the Raft super-prison, she escaped with several other prisoners to Stamford, Connecticut; discovered there by the New Warriors, Coldheart, most of her fellow escapees, and most of the New Warriors all died when another escapee, Nitro, destroyed the city, kicking off the superhuman Civil War.

Why She's Great: Coldheart has a lot of potential.  With all the super-fights in New York City, there's bound to be collateral damage - she could be like the Punisher for superhumans.  It's a shame her costume is kind of ridiculous (Medea-style sweatshirt, armor, pirate boots, a metal choker, giant hoop earrings). and it's also a shame that Mark Millar blew her up - although how ironic is it that anti-superhuman crusader Coldheart was partially responsible  for the deaths of a ton of civilians at the hands of a superhuman?

What Should I Read?  There's a touching little story with Coldheart in the 2011 Marvel Holiday Special, by Miljenko Horvatic and Andrew Trabbold.  What a story with an obscure (and dead) '90s villain is doing in a Christmas special from last year, I don't know.  But it's good.

#162: Cat

Even the Cat doesn't think he should be fighting Spider-Man.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #30 (1965)

Created By: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

What's His Deal: The burglar known only as the Cat made the mistake of robbing J. Jonah Jameson, prompting the Bugle publisher to put a bounty on his head.  This brought him to the notice of the perpetually cash-strapped Spider-Man, who helped bring him to justice.  Years later, the vengeful Belladonna hired him to frame her rival Roderick Kingsley for a series of attacks on the fashion industry; having stolen Hobie Brown's Prowler gear, the Cat did so, but Spider-Man foiled him again.  The Cat apparently laid low after that, although he was spotted at a super villain wake for the deceased Stilt-Man.

Why He's Great: The Cat is definitely one of Stan and Steve's lesser creations.  I don't get as worked up about non-powered opponents fighting Spider-Man as some people, but come on.  The Cat is a dude with a grappling hook and a gun - he doesn't even have a cool costume.  He's saved from the reject pile by a good Roger Stern story and a cameo in an amusing Matt Fraction Punisher issue.

What Should I Read?  Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #47-48, by Roger Stern and Marie Severin, are very entertaining, and lay the groundwork for Stern's (very) eventual reveal of Kingsley as the Hobgoblin.

#161: Mirage

"The ship was...full."
(Web of Spider-Man Annual #3, art by Greg LaRocque and Frank Giacoia)

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #156 (1976)

Created By: Len Wein and Ross Andru

What's His Deal: Holographics engineer Desmond Charne always wanted to be a super villain, so he designed an illusion-projecting costume and struck out as the mysterious Mirage!  For his first big heist, he robbed several weddings...unfortunately for him, one of those happened to be the wedding of Betty Brant and Ned Leeds, meaning that a certain Peter Parker was in attendance.  Sure enough, Mirage had his ass kicked, and after a later, failed attempt to kill the hospitalized Thing, Mirage was shot and killed by the Scourge of the Underworld (yes, two Scourge victims in one post), although he was later resurrected by the Hood to battle the Punisher.

Why He's Great: You know how Mysterio does that thing where he projects like a dozen holograms of himself and then Spider-Man has to decide which one to punch?  Mirage does that too.  The thing is, Mysterio does other things.  I do like the story he debuts in, but this guy just barely makes it in.  Also, his costume is hideous.  Why does he have a Power Girl-style costume window on his forehead?  Why does he look like a pad of legal paper?

What Should I Read?  ASM #156 is solid old-school Spidey - plus, it features Betty Brant's wedding, so you can see Betty's final moments of happiness before her life became 30 years of dead husbands and misery.

Next: a man made of webbing!  A woman made of spiders!  A Kraven made of X-Men!

1 comment:

  1. I don't know much about this Mark Miller guy, but I want to thank him for blowing up Coldheart's ridiculously over designed costume.