Aug 9, 2012

Spider-Man's Greatest Villains #150-141

"This isn't an anniversary issue or anything!"
(Amazing Spider-Man #19, written by Howard Mackie, art by Erik Larsen and John Beatty)

That's right, it's time again to journey into the dusty back rooms of Spider-Man's rogues gallery.  But hey, we're more than halfway to...the top 100...yeah, let's just start.  Check out the list so far, too.

#150: Rose (Conover)

There is so much a man can tell you, so much he can say.  You remain my power, my pleasure, my pain.
(Amazing Spider-Man #422, written by Tom DeFalco, art by Joe Bennett and Bud LaRosa)

First Appearance: (Conover) Daredevil #131 (1976); (Rose) Amazing Spider-Man #414 (1996)

Created By: (Conover) Marv Wolfman and Bob Brown; (Rose) Tom DeFalco and Mark Bagley

What's His Deal: For years, Jacob Conover's human interest column, Conover's Corner, was a fixture at the Daily Bugle - until the Bugle laid Conover off.  Angered and broke, Conover called in a favour from aged mobster Fortunato, who gave him the dormant identity and territory of the Rose.  Assisted by his enforcer, the nigh-invulnerable Delilah, he made his mark on the criminal underworld, first by super-charging Electro, then by resurrecting the then-deceased Dr. Octopus (with ninja magic). He soon found his patron Fortunato cozying up to the Rose's rival, South American crimelord Black Tarantula; likewise, Fortunato became increasingly frustrated at the Rose's constant failures.  It all came to a head at Fortunato's mansion, where the Rose tried to kill both Fortunato and the Tarantula, but Spider-Man stopped him, unmasked him, and shipped him off to jail.

Why He's Great: The Rose has a great look - I'm a sucker for a villain with the regular clothes/mask thing, and he's got it.  Of course, he lacks the menace and mystery of the original Rose (who we'll get to later), and is actually kind of goofy, given that he's prone to histrionics and monologuing.  But I like goofy too, as should be apparent by now.

What Should I Read?  Tom DeFalco's 1996-98 return to Amazing Spider-Man doesn't reach the heights of his first run on the title, but it's a fun ride all the same, and the Rose and his interplay with his various goons is one of its highlights.

#149: Man-Mountain Marko

John Buscema Punch!

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #73 (1969)

Created By: Stan Lee and John Buscema

What's His Deal: The Maggia crime syndicate gave Michael Marko strength-enhancing treatments, making him into the massive enforcer Man-Mountain Marko! Spider-Man first encountered him when he was working for the aged crimelord Silvermane, but he worked for years as a goon for hire fighting whoever'd have him, running afoul of Power Man and Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and even, during his short-lived singing career, Dazzler.  Plus once he got a king-sized case of roid-rage when he ODed on super-serums and kidnapped a kid, which is about the only thing he ever did on his own initiative.  When Norman Osborn became head of the security agency HAMMER, he had Marko placed into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and sent him to investigate the Atlas Foundation.  Unfortunately for Marko, it proved to be no ordinary crime syndicate, and Marko was promptly devoured by their dragon, Mr. Lao.

Why He's Great: Okay, so he's basically a generic big strong guy.  But he a) has a delightfully euphonious name, b) has a great/ridiculous '60s look,  and c) was eaten by a friggin' dragon.

What Should I Read?  Spider-Man: Lifeline, by Fabian Nicieza and Steve Rude, is a great little miniseries with a fun retro plot and beautiful art from The Dude.

#148: Host

Because what criminal psychologist doesn't travel with a fortune teller, a futuristic biker, an actuary, and an extra from a Poison video? 

First Appearance: Web of Spider-Man #119 (1994)

Created By: Well, that's tricky.  These guys were kind of created by committee, but their first appearance was by Terry Kavanagh and Steven Grant.  However, sketch pages in the back of indicate that Mr. Nacht was created by Tom Lyle, and Boone by Mark Bagley.  To my eyes, Chakra looks like a Bagley design, while Medea just screams Lyle.

What's Their Deal: When noted criminal psychologist Dr. Judas Traveller had a mental breakdown, unleashing his perception-altering mutant powers in the process, Norman Osborn sought him out as an unwitting pawn in his anti-Spider-Man conspiracy.  To aid Traveller, Norman and his Cabal of Scrier provided Traveller with the Host: expert tracker Morgan Boone and fearsome warrior Medea Kovack; the spiritualist Anjali Sridhara, aka Chakra; and the enigmatic Walther Nacht.  They steered Traveller towards Spider-Man and his clone Ben Reilly, who Traveller began testing with illusions to study the nature of good and evil.  Eventually, however, Traveller became aware of the Host's treachery, and together with Chakra, who had become his lover, battled the Host the Scriers and escaped, leaving them for the police.  Mr. Nacht, however, remained to report his findings to Osborn...

Why They're Great: Personal biases at work here again; these guys were in some of the first Spider-Man comics I read, and at age nine, I thought they were the coolest.  Objective analysis reveals that they are not in fact the coolest, but I can't shake it.  They're a perfect '90s stew of mysteriousness and ridiculousness, and I love it.  Also, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't bring noted fashion disaster Medea to your attention again.

What Should I Read?  Power and Responsibility kicks off the Clone Saga, and it is a really solid read.  It's in the first volume of Marvel's Complete Clone Saga Epic trades.

#147: Grim Hunter

"The hunt for MORE BELTS!"

Created By: Howard Mackie and Tom Lyle

First Appearance: (Vlad) Spider-Man #47 (1994); (Grim Hunter) Spider-Man #50 (1994)

What's His Deal: The son of Kraven the Hunter and his wife Sasha, Vladimir Kravinoff was largely raised by his father's retainer, Gregor.  After the Hobgoblin (Jason Macendale) sought him out for access to his father's strength-enhancing potions, he tested the potions on Mecandale, then on himself.  He outfitted himself with high-tech weapons and body armor, dubbed himself the Grim Hunter, and set out to avenge his father by killing Spider-Man; this, as you can imagine, did not go well, especially since Spider-Man, at the time, was in a frenzy due to the recent discovery that his long-lost parents were actually robot spy parents.  He later tried to hunt down the Scarlet Spider, mistaking him for Spider-Man, but had his neck broken by Kaine for his trouble. Years later, Vlad's mother and sister ritually sacrificed Spider-Woman (Mattie Franklin) to resurrect him, but it didn't go so well and he came back as a horrible zombie lion monster.  Eventually, a more-successfully-resurrected Sergei put him out of his misery.

Why He's Great: The concept of Kraven the Hunter having a child who'd follow in his footsteps is a good one.  It's so good, in fact, that it's now been done 3 times.  But Vlad here was the first, so it's too bad he had the misfortune of first appearing in 1994, ensuring that he would have a ridiculous, ridiculous costume.  I'll never quite understand why he was dispatched the way he was; he got a big launch in a holofoil-bedecked anniversary issue, only to be unceremoniously murdered a mere five issues later.  Maybe Mackie and Lyle took a second look at this guy and wondered what they were thinking.  It was a nice touch bringing him back in the Grim Hunt storyline, though.

What Should I Read?  Before the Clone Saga got all bogged down in mysterious guys in trenchcoats, Web of Life, by Terry Kavanagh, Howard Mackie, Steven Butler, Tom Lyle, Mike Manley, and Phil Gosier came out, introducing Kaine and killing off the Grim Hunter.  It's a little clunky in spots, but it's oddly propulsive and builds to a great finale.  It's currently available in the second volume of The Complete Clone Saga Epic.

#146: Mindworm

Don't mention his head.
(Web of Spider-Man Annual #3, art by Greg LaRocque and Frank Giacoia)

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #138 (1974)

Created By: Gerry Conway and Ross Andru

What's His Deal: William Turner was born with both a monstrous appearance and with vampiric psychic abilities.  As he grew, he eventually fatally drained his parents of their mental energies; he was then sent to an orphanage, where he was mercilessly bullied and dubbed the Mindworm.  As an adult he accumulated a legion of mindless followers at the outskirts of New York City, but when Spider-Man droped into the neighborhood, he clapped Mindworm's ears, knocking him out and freeing his slaves.  Later, in hospital, he contacted Spider-Man telepathically and led him though the nightmarish labyrinth of Mindworm's psyche before making his peace with the hero.  After a brief stint working for a super-intelligent Rhino, he fell on hard times, and became an alcoholic vagrant.  He projected his misery over an entire city block, drawing Spider-Man's attention, but the wall-crawler was unable to prevent Mindworm from being assaulted and killed by a group of thugs.

Why He's Great: Mindworm isn't a villain you want to show up all the time, but he's good for a good one-off story with a horror tinge to it, which is largely how he's been used.  He does have a nice creepy look, but he might be a little more threatening if he didn't dress like he was going to a yard sale.  Plus I didn't really care for his final appearance, which seemed to be depressing for the sake of being depressing.

What Should I Read?  Mindworm's first appearance in ASM #138 is off-beat, but his origin is a neat, horrifying little story.

#145: Gibbon

This happens a lot.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #110 (1972)

Created By: Stan Lee and John Romita

What's His Deal: Martin Blank grew up in an orphanage, but was never adopted due to his simian appearance.  When he became too old for the orphanage to keep him, he joined the circus, donning an ape-suit and making use of his inborn ape-like agility.  He couldn't stand the crowd laughing at him, though, so he tried to become Spider-Man's sidekick as the Gibbon...unfortunately, Spider-Man laughed at him too, making him easy prey for Kraven the Hunter, who used him (unsuccessfully, of course) as a pawn against the wall-crawler.  Marty hung up his monkey suit and became the camerman for the TV show On The Trail, briefly resuming his Gibbon identity to track down Spider-Man and battle the Beetle.  Years later, he joined the Spider-Man Revenge Squad with the Grizzly, the Spot, and the Kangaroo, which ended about as well as you'd expect, although it did result in the Gibbon and Grizzly embarking on a rather short career as super heroes.  After surviving the Punisher's attack on Stilt-Man's wake, he married fellow survivor Princess Python, but that didn't last much longer than his partnership with the Grizzly; he finally found his calling exploring another Earth populated by apes.

Why He's Great: Well, he is Stan Lee's last major contribution to the world of Spider-Man, which has to count for something.  The Gibbon is a putz, and was created to be a putz, and he fills that role admirably.  Plus, hey, apes.  Who doesn't like apes?

What Should I Read?  Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #59-60 is a fun Roger Stern/Jim Mooney story featuring the Beetle (in the first appearance of his modern armor), the Gibbon, and a thinly-veiled take-off of In Search Of.

#144: Raptor

"Mr Hammond, after careful consideration, I've decided not to endorse your park."

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #36 (2009)

Created By: Marc Guggenheim and Pat Olliffe

What's His Deal: Scientist Damon Ryder believed that, rather than evolving from apes, humans evolved from dinosaurs (what?).  With the help of his assistant Ben Reilly, he created recombinant human/dinosaur DNA; like all comics scientists, alas, he decided to inject it into himself, becoming a horrible dinosaur man and slaying his own wife and children in an animalistic rage.  He delusionally blamed Reilly for their deaths, and spent the next few years searching for him; he eventually tracked him down in Boston, or at least he thought he did.  He found Peter Parker, who looks exactly like Ben because Ben was his clone. He didn't believe this (because cloning's too far-fetched for the guy who's half-dinosaur, I guess) and enlisted the aid of the deadly Kaine to help him destroy Parker's life.  With the unwitting help of villainous nuisance Screwball, Spider-Man beat both Raptor and Kaine, although not before they burned half of Aunt May's house down; Raptor then made the mistake of telling Kaine that he couldn't cure his cellular degeneration like he promised, prompting Kaine to (probably) throttle him to death.

Why He's Great: Okay, it should be pretty clear by now that I love '90s Spider-Man.  And Guggenheim and Olliffe do a great job of making Raptor seem like he's a Spider-villain plucked from 1995.  He's got the whole Jurassic Park thing going, he's got a machine gun, he's got pouches...maybe he could have used a trenchcoat.  Plus I have to knock some points off for the whole "dinosaurs evolved into man" thing, because that's dumb even for a guy who willingly injected himself with dino-serum.

What Should I Read?  Who Was Ben Reilly?, by Guggenheim, Marco Checchetto, and Luke Ross, which ran in ASM #608-610, is a clever little three-parter, with a satisfying mystery (and also some bad science I can't stop harping on).

#143: Equinox

He could have dumped the whole supervillainy thing and made millions off IcyHot and McDLT ads.
(Avengers the Initiative #28, art by Rafa Sandoval and Roger Bonet)

First Appearance: (shadowed) Giant-Size Spider-Man #1 (1974); (full) Marvel Team-Up #23 (1974)

Created By: Len Wein, Ross Andru, and Gil Kane

What's His Deal: Married scientists Margay and David Sorenson followed two increasingly divergent paths; while she became a great success, David's more crackpot-y thermodynamics theories landed him on the scientific d-list, driving him to alcoholism and spousal abuse.  Neither is a great idea, but the former is really bad when you do it in the lab.  Surprise surprise, he triggered a giant explosion, killing him and mutating his son Terry into Equinox, a being constantly fluctuating between extreme heat and cold!  His mother tried to cure him, but their money ran out, forcing Terry to steal; making matters worse, Terry's fluctuating physiology soon made him super-crazy.  After evading Spider-Man, he battled (appropriately enough) Iceman and the Human Torch.  Escaping them, he fought Spider-Man, Yellowjacket, and the Wasp, who defeated him and helped him get treatment.  Reforming, he married and had a daughter, but when she proved unable to control her inherited powers, he became abusive until the Falcon intervened.  After a brief spell in Skrull captivity, he took his alien double's place in the Initiative's Freedom Force team, but has since returned to crime.

Why He's Great: Equinox has never really hit the big time, but he's got a great look, a tragic backstory, and, most importantly, has largely appeared in good stories.  I don't have a tremendous amount to say about him, but he's cool.  Also hot.

What Should I Read?  Marvel Team-Up #59-60, part of Chris Claremont and John Byrne's great run on MTU.  Marvel's just issued a trade of it.

#142: Videoman

(Spider-Man Family Featuring Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends #1, written by Sean McKeever, art by Nick Dragotta)

First Appearance: (TV) Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends season 1, episode 7 "Videoman" (comics) Spider-Man Family Featuring Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends #1 (2006)

Created By: Christy Marx and an unknown character designer; adapted for comics by Sean McKeever, Pat Olliffe, and Nick Dragotta

What's His Deal: The living manifestation of an '80s video game character, Videoman terrorized an arcade before Spider-Man and Iceman took it down.  Later, it re-emerged, more powerful than ever - it took Spider-Man, Iceman, and Firestar to disrupt its energy form, reducing it to its processor.  Spider-Man tossed it in his freezer for safekeeping.

Why He's Great: Okay, I pretty much got talked into this one by Matt Karpowich and David Henion.  But he's an interesting footnote - DC has a ton of characters who started out in their animated shows and were adapted into comics form, and Marvel has...Videoman.  And I guess X-23.  Videoman started out in Amazing Friends as a mindless creation of Electro, but a later season introduced Francis Byte, a dork who was transformed into Videoman by an exploding arcade console.  The latter was going to appear in a proposed X-Men cartoon, but it never got off the ground.  Anyway, Videoman is fun and goofy and you can read all of his dialogue in an '80s robot voice, so what more do you need?

What Should I Read?  His lone comics appearance is a fun, sweet little story.  Don't bother looking up his appearances on Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, though - they did not age well.

#141: Brainstorm

"Can someone send some biplanes to shut this guy up?"
(Spider-Man #31, written by Ann Nocenti, art by Chris Marrinan and Sam DeLaRosa)

First Appearance: Web of Spider-Man #33 (1987)

Created By: Ann Nocenti and Cindy Martin

What's His Deal: Jimmy spent his whole life in and out of mental institutions.  Eventually he ended up in the Mad Dog Ward, a hospital run by the Kingpin.  The Ward's head doctor, Doctor Hope, mentally conditioned Jimmy to become the deadly Brainstorm, and used him to put down a patient revolt led by Peter Parker (who had been drugged and imprisoned there).  Eventually Peter busted out and had the Ward shut down, but Hope and Brainstorm merely relocated; Hope's further experimentation on Jimmy mutated him into a primitive reptilian monstrosity with bizarre mental powers.  When Bugle reporter Maggie Lorca threatened to expose the new Mad Dog Ward, Hope sent Brainstorm after her, but Spider-Man, with the aid of former Ward resident Captain Zero, defeated him.

Why He's Great: I'm a big fan of Ann Nocenti, and especially the Mad Dog Ward storyline, which had the misfortune of immediately following Kraven's Last Hunt and thus was largely overshadowed by it.  Brainstorm, in particular, is an entertainingly erudite villain with complex (and sometimes unfathomable) motivations, and a rather nice design courtesy of Chris Marrinan.

What Should I Read: The Mad Dog Ward and Return to the Mad Dog Ward storylines encompass a mere six issues, and they're well worth seeking out.

Next: Persuasion!  Vengeance!  Decay!  Plus: I accuse my (robot spy) parents!

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