Aug 31, 2012

Spider-Man's Greatest Villains #140-131

Pictured: the worst possible time to split a seam.
(Spectacular Spider-Man #217, art by Mike McKone and Mark McKenna)
Join me, won't you, as we inch ever closer to learning the identity of Spider-Man's greatest villain? To find out who it won't be, here's a handy list of every villain covered so far!

#140 - Vulturions

You're next, Tippi Hedren. 

First Appearance: Web of Spider-Man #1 (1985)

Created By: Louise Simonson and Greg LaRocque

What's Their Deal: Heroin dealer Honcho befriended Adrian Toomes in prison, and eventually convinced the old man to tell him the secrets of his Vulture costume.  Once he was released, he recruited three other ex-cons (Gripes, Sugar Face, and Pigeon), armed them with flying suits and poisoned blowdarts, and joined them in making their mark on New York's underworld as the Vulturions!  Or at least they tried to; Spider-Man beat them twice, and in their third encounter, he had to save them from an incredibly pissed-off Vulture.  Years later, Honcho recruited two new Vulturions, having ditched his old crew, and stole a briefcase of gamma radiation secrets from the Initiative, only to be defeated by Spider-Man and the Initiative's Scarlet Spiders.

Why They're Great: I like that these guys take the whole "some guy steals Adrian Toomes' stuff" thing, which had already been done twice by this point, and does something new with it.  Of course, one of those things is to give them the '80s-est possible costumes.  They kind of look like the old "flying V" Vancouver Canucks jerseys, no?  Anyway, it's an interesting look and I dig it.

What Should I Read?  Their initial appearances in Web of Spider-Man #1-3 are good, solid reads - and, nicely, each book reads just fine on its own and has its own hook.  The first issue has Spider-Man struggling with his own living costume, the second has him battling the Vulturions over a women's hat, and the third is just Adrian Toomes kicking the Vulturions' asses all over town.

#139 - Big Wheel

He'd like to buy a vowel, and also a clue.
(Web of Spider-Man Annual #3, art by Jim Mooney)

First Appearance: (Weele) Amazing Spider-Man #182 (1978); (Big Wheel) Amazing Spider-Man #183 (1978)

Created By: Marv Wolfman and Ross Andru

What's His Deal: Crooked businessman Jackson Weele was ripped off by the Rocket Racer, who he'd hired to steal some documents for him; desiring revenge, he hired the Tinkerer to make a device capable of defeating and humiliating the Racer.  The Tinkerer based his design on the Racer's unflattering nickname for Weele, and built him a giant wheel-shaped vehicle, allowing Weele to become the treaded terror known as the Big Wheel!  His reign of terror was cut short when he forgot how the brakes worked and plunged into the Hudson River, however.  Weele survived, and joined Vil-Anon, a support group for ex-villains; he tried to fight crime, but he was as bad as fighting crime as he was at committing it.  After a brief sojourn in the monster truck circuit, he once more turned to crime, running afoul of Iron Man, Ghost Rider, and Gravity.

Why He's Great: Well, for starters he's hilarious.  This guy picks the nickname someone uses to make fun of him - which happens to also be the name of a conveyance favoured by toddlers - and bases his whole supervillainous identity around it.  He gets a giant, heavily armed (by which I mean it actually has robot arms on it) wheel, which he then immediately drives into the river.  That said, I really do like the visual, and it's especially well-used in the Ghost Rider: Heavens on Fire mini and (of all things) an episode of the '90s Spider-Man cartoon - it's a giant damn wheel rolling down the street!

What Should I Read?  The Big Wheel story in Spider-Man Unlimited #12, by Christos Gage and Mike McKone, is both poignant and hilarious.

#138 - Master of Vengeance


First Appearance: Spider-Man #32 (1993)

Created By: Steven Grant and Bob McLeod

What's His Deal: Hard up for cash, chemist Dwight Faron was talked into manufacturing designer drugs; however, he was busted by Spider-Man and his cronies sold him up the river.  He swore vengeance on them...he swore that he'd be the Master of Vengeance!  Released from jail, he dosed himself up with a homemade super-serum, donned an electric suit, and started killing people while dressed as Spider-Man.  This not only brought him to Spider-Man's attention, but the Punisher's, too; luckily for him, the former got to him first.  He soon broke out of a mental hospital and ran into an incredibly pissed-off Spider-Man, who mopped the floor with him.  Later, believing the Steel Spider to be Spider-Man in a different guise, he attacked him, only to be handed another humiliating defeat.

Why He's Great: I like a lot of weird things.  Animal-themed guys.  Bad puns.  The '90s.  And yes, guys with overly-complicated names, like Deathstroke the Terminator, Stegron the Dinosaur Man, and this guy.  He couldn't just be the Revenger, or even the Vengeance-Master - he had to be the Master of Vengeance.  He's just that kind of guy.  I'm also a sucker for the "guy swears vengeance on a guy who has no idea who he is" plot.  Also, kudos to Bob McLeod for a snazzy, memorable costume.

What Should I Read?  The MoV's introductory arc in Spider-Man #32-34 is a nice, engaging story.

#137 - Persuader

Sure, the Punisher can murder guys all day long, but god forbid he says "Hell".
(Spectacular Spider-Man #142, written by Gerry Conway, art by Sal Buscema)

First Appearance: (Rayburn) Web of Spider-Man #35 (1988); (Persuader) Spectacular Spider-Man #141 (1988)

Created By: (Rayburn) Gerry Conway and Alex Saviuk; (Persuader) Gerry Conway and Sal Buscema

What's His Deal: Roland Rayburn lived a charmed life as a stockbroker, unaware that he had the mutant ability to mentally influence others into doing his bidding.  Unfortunately for him, the Kingpin's right-hand man the Arranger was aware of this, and he wanted Rayburn's talent for himself.  After being beaten and drugged, he agreed to work for the Arranger, clad in a power-enhancing costume as the Persuader!  For his first mission, he mind-controlled the Punisher in an attempt to assassinate the Kingpin's Texas-based rivals, the Lobo Brothers.  When the Persuader tried to make the Punisher kill Spider-Man first, however, he broke the Persuader's control and shot him to death.

Why He's Great: The Persuader's mostly around to facilitate a Spider-Man/Punisher fight, but I like him all the same.  The costume looks a little silly, but Sal really makes it work, taking full advantage of the Persuader's exposed eyes.  It is kind of a shame that the Persuader didn't stick around, but his death was a good, shocking reminder that the Punisher does, you know, kill people.  All the time.

What Should I Read?  Spectacular #139-143 is a good arc that continues Conway's excellent Tombstone storyline and has some kickass Buscema-drawn action.  Plus, it kicks off the highly-entertaining Lobo Brothers Gang War.

#136 - Supercharger

Supercharger is filmed before a live studio audience.

First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #17 (1995)

Created By: Kurt Busiek and Paul Lee

What's His Deal: When an experiment meant to study superhumans went awry, scientist Lyman Hilliard was killed, and his son Ronnie was mutated, given the ability to absorb and discharge energy.  Convinced that superhumans were responsible for his father's death and many of the world's ills, he attacked a TV studio as the costumed Supercharger, planning to kill the entire audience to demonstrate that superhumans were evil, but Spider-Man foiled him. Years later, Supercharger joined the Crimson Cowl's Masters of Evil in their plot to blackmail the world with a weather dominator; they were defeated by the Thunderbolts.

Why He's Great: Well, he does have the retroactive honour of being Spider-Man's first true costumed villain, and that's worth something.  The powerset is a little bit Electro, but Busiek does a great job of giving him his own unique motivation - given the surge in anti-superhuman sentiment in recent years, he's due for a comeback.

What Should I Read?  Busiek's Amazing Fantasy series is great, and it's available in the Untold Tales of Spider-Man Omnibus.

#135 - Hobgoblin 2211

Amazingly, she's only one of three Goblin-type villains who are chicks disguised as dudes.
(Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #8, written by Peter David, art by Mike Wieringo and Karl Kesel)

First Appearance: Spider-Man 2099 Meets Spider-Man (1995)

Created By: Peter David and Rick Leonardi

What's Her Deal: Born in an alternate future, Robin "Hob" Borne was the daughter of that era's Spider-Man; when her father found that she'd be guilty of disrupting the timestream in the future, he arrested her and had her put into a virtual reality prison.  Her lover Lar Nyven (oh, Peter David...) tried to release a nanovirus into the system to free her, but instead it supercharged her metabolism and drove her completely insane; she then embarked on a time-spanning rampage as the Hobgoblin of the year 2211!  Armed with retcon bombs, devices capable of erasing people completely from reality, she destroyed Spider-Men across the multiverse; she finally set her sights on Earth-616's Spidey, and tried to throw him off balance by importing a Ben Parker from an alternate universe into his.  When her father entered the fray, the Hobgoblin almost slew him, but 616-Spidey hit her with one of her own retcon bombs, wiping her - and all memory of her - from existence.

Why She's Great: As you can tell, this is a weird, weird character.  I'm generally not a huge time-travel fan, at least in regards to Spider-Man, but Hobby here is entertainingly bizarre.  I'm still not sure why she's purple and green, given that she's the Hobgoblin, though...

What Should I Read?  Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #8-10 is a good, highly Peter David-y read.

#134 - Kangaroo (Oliver)

Australian for suck.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #81 (1970)

Created By: Stan Lee and John Buscema

What's His Deal: Australian Frank Oliver was fascinated by kangaroos, and lived amongst them, learning their ways - possibly, his exposure to kangaroos activated his latent mutant powers.  He used his newfound ability to jump hella high to become a kickboxer, but after he nearly killed an opponent in the ring, he fled to the United States.  He was busted for entering the country illegally, but he escaped and stole the first briefcase he saw...which, unfortunately, contained a deadly experimental bacteria.     He refused to believe this, of course.  Spider-Man tried to get the big galoot to surrender before he could turn Manhattan into the Hot Zone, but all he could do was snag the briefcase from the Kangaroo before the Australian escaped.  Some time later, he was surgically enhanced by criminal surgeon Jonas Harrow to possess superhuman strength and jet-enhanced leaping ability, and sent to steal a rare isotope.  He once again encountered Spider-Man, but overcame him and reached the isotope...and then was immediately killed by radiation.  Amazingly, Oliver's dubious legacy lived on in Brian Hibbs, a delusional individual who took up the Kangaroo's mantle.

Why He's Great: Oh, Stan.  I know it's hard coming up with new villains all the time.  But you know, if the best you can come up with is "guy in a fur vest who is really good at jumping", we'd forgive you if you just used the Lizard again.  The Kangaroo is so lame he crosses over into being awesome, though.  Not only are his origins and costume ridiculous, but as you can see, he was also tragically, tragically stupid.

What Should I Read?  The Kangaroo's hilarious death in ASM #126, by Gerry Conway and Ross Andru, washes away all sins of lameness.

#133 - Robot Spy Parents

Nothing I say here can explain this.
(Amazing Spider-Man #388, written by David Michelinie, art by Mark Bagley and Randy Emberlin)

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #363 (1992)

Created By: David Michelinie and Mark Bagley

What's Their Deal: After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Peter Parker received an amazing bit of news - his parents, American spies Richard and Mary Parker, long thought dead in a plane crash, were alive and well, and were being released from a Soviet prison after more than two decades in captivity.  But it was all a lie.  They weren't his real parents: they were robot spy parents, built by the Chameleon on Harry Osborn's orders.  When he revealed his identity to them, their robot spy programming activated, and they went into Kill Spider-Man Mode.  "Mary" managed to overcome her programming, stopping "Richard" from killing Spider-Man by destroying him with a severed electrical cable.  Immediately afterwards, however, the Vulture drained her robot lifeforce to restore his own youth.  Yeah, that happened.

Why They're Great: A lot of dumb things have happened to Spider-Man.  He's been cloned.  He grew four extra arms.  But the time his parents came back from the dead only to be revealed as evil robots has got to make the top ten at least.  So for the sheer audacity of this story, welcome to Spider-Man's Greatest Villains, Robot Spy Parents.

What Should I Read?  The ridiculousness comes to a head in Lifetheft, running through ASM #386-388.  It must be read to be believed.

#132 - Man-Killer

It's the next best thing to the cancelled Spider-Man vs. Valerie Solanas one-shot.
(Marvel Team-Up #107, written by Tom DeFalco and Jim Shooter, art by Herb Trimpe and Mike Esposito)

First Appearance: Marvel Team-Up #8 (1973)

Created By: Gerry Conway and Jim Mooney

What's Her Deal: Champion skier Katrina van Horn was challenged to a race by a male chauvinist rival; in the resulting crash, her rival was killed, and she was crippled for life.  However, a group of militant feminists provided her with a strength-enhancing exo-skeleton, and she became their operative - the murderous misandrist Man-Killer!  In this guise she encountered Spider-Man and the Cat, who bested her when they pointed out that her exoskeleton was designed by male AIM scientists.  After stints with Hydra and Justin Hammer, she battled Spider-Man and She-Hulk, then laid low for years until resurfacing with the Crimson Cowl's Masters of Evil.  With them, she clashed with the Thunderbolts, but she eventually developed sympathy for the reformed villains and joined them herself.  She drifted back into crime, however, joining the Spider-Man Revenge League and the Norman Osborn-controlled Initiative.

Why She's Great: Her early appearances are a little...well, cartoonish, and she's a pretty rote man-hating feminist.  She gets a lot more development and characterization in Thunderbolts, though.  And those early appearances aren't just cartoonish, they're hilariously cartoonish.  They're amusing to read just to see how far comics - and American society in general, really - have come.

What Should I Read?  Have you read Busiek and Bagley's Thunderbolts?  Go do that.

#131 - D.K.


First Appearance: Spectacular Spider-Man #230 (1996)

Created By: Todd DeZago and Sal Buscema

What's His Deal: Environmental consultants David and Hank Kalen were lured into a booby-trapped toxic waste dump by a crooked chemical manufacturer; when it exploded, Hank was killed and David was mutated into a shambling slime monster with the ability to decay anything he touched.  He decided that nothing was left of David Kalen except his initials and became D.K.!  He tracked down his brother's killer, but Spider-Man (Ben Reilly) talked him out of committing murder.  Later, however, he sank into a deep depression over his survivor's guilt, and began turning his power inward, slowly killing himself.  He broke out of Ravencroft to thank Spider-Man (Peter Parker this time) and then died; a dip in his melted remains then returned the then-rejuvenated Vulture to his aged state.

Why He's Great: Well, I love puns, for one (see above).  Also, Sal Buscema draws great goop-monsters. D.K. also has some great pathos, and by the time he dies, you really do feel badly for him.

What Should I Read?  Spectacular Spider-Man #231 is available in volume 2 of Spider-Man: The Complete Ben Reilly Epic, and it's well-worth checking out.

Next: Villains from two of the most-hated Spider-Man stories of all time!  Also, a villain from one of the most-beloved Spider-Man stories of recent years!  Also also, Humbug!

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