Nov 24, 2012

Spider-Man's Greatest Villains #120-111

Gee, I wonder if this is some kind of elaborate illusion...nah.
(Amazing Spider-Man #141, art by John Romita Sr.)

Still reeling from the shock of Amazing Spider-Man #698?  Well, unjangle your nerves with a soothing dose of villainy!  And as always, check out the full list here!

#120 - Big Man

He's not small, no no no.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #10 (1964)

Created By: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

What's His Deal: Timid Daily Bugle reporter Frederick Foswell, tired of being dominated by J. Jonah Jameson, decided to strike out on his own; so, with a padded suit and a mask, the diminutive Foswell became the crimelord Big Man, using the underworld knowledge he'd accrued to make himself a force in New York's criminal landscape.  When his heavies, the Enforcers, ran afoul of Spider-Man, Foswell was defeated and unmasked.  After a stint in jail, a surprisingly-forgiving J. Jonah Jameson rehired Foswell, who turned over a new leaf, aiding Spider-Man and the police against the Crime-Master, the Green Goblin, and Mendel Stromm as the disguised stoolie Patch.  When he learned of the rise of Wilson Fisk, however, Foswell tried to join his organization, believing he could supplant Fisk as the Kingpin of Crime.  Fisk soon  targeted J. Jonah Jameson for his anti-crime editorials, and Foswell's loyalty to his boss won out; he took a bullet meant for Jameson and died a hero.  Foswell's daughter Janice later took up the mantle as the new Big Man, but was accidentally shot by her lover, the new Crime-Master (Nick Lewis, Jr.)

Why He's Great: Stan Lee crafted a great little redemption narrative with Foswell that unfolded over fifty issues, which was no mean feat back in the '60s.  The Big Man was also the first of Spider-Man's many mystery villains, and while his unmasking is a little too Scooby-Doo for my liking, and the Big Man isn't terribly visually arresting, it's not a bad first start.

What Should I Read? You can't go wrong with Smilin' Stan and Jazzy Johnny, so read ASM #50-52.

#119 - Professor Power

Man, it's always weird to see Sal Buscema drawing Jim Lee designs.
(Spectacular Spider-Man #198, written by J.M. DeMatteis, art by Sal Buscema)

First Appearance: Marvel Team-Up #117 (1982)

Created By: J.M. DeMatteis and Herb Trimpe

What's His Deal: Professor Anthony Power was a world-renowned historian and presidential advisor, as well as a stern, disapproving father to his son, Matthew.  When Matthew went to war to prove himself to his father, only to come back catatonic, Power lost faith in his country, and decided that the only way to heal a sick society was to unite it under a singular will - his own!  While trying to recruit Professor X to save his son's mind, he ran afoul of Spider-Man, as well; Xavier's failure to save Matthew led to Power's vendetta against both the X-Men and Spider-Man. Joining the subversive Secret Empire, Power clashed repeatedly with Spider-Man, the Defenders, and Iron Man; to make himself a physical threat, he had his brain transplanted into Matthew's body, which he had cybernetically enhanced.  He also seemingly died a couple times, once at the hands of the unhinged new Captain America (John Walker), but survived via electronic brain transference   He recently resurfaced running a Secret Empire recruiting operation in a New York high school, but his plans were foiled by Nomad (Rikki Barnes).

Why He's Great: Man, this guy's a piece of work; the whole thing with his son's body also makes him really creepy.  DeMatteis writes great villains, and this is one of his best creations.  He's a bit of an aesthetic mess, though - he wears a suit of orange and green armor, his henchmen dress like Roman centurions, and he hangs around in a flying medieval castle.

What Should I Read?  The Professor Power story in Spectacular #197-199, written by DeMatteis with art by Sal Buscema, is great.  Check out Nomad: Girl Without A World, too.

#118 - Judas Traveller

Centuries wandering the Earth, and he still can't find his right glove.
(Amazing Spider-Man #401, written by J.M. DeMatteis, art by Mark Bagley)

First Appearance: Web of Spider-Man #117 (1994)

Created By: Well, a lot of Spider-villains at the time were kind of created by committee, but Traveller's first appearance, at least, was by Terry Kavanagh and Steven Butler.

What's His Deal: Noted criminal psychologist Dr. Judas Traveller's fascination with the nature of good and evil drove him to a nervous breakdown, unleashing his latent mutant ability to distort others' perception of reality.  Traveller's mind was so unhinged, however, that he was fooled by his own illusions, coming to believe that he was a centuries-old immortal (maybe even Judas Iscariot himself).  Norman Osborn took advantage of this and partnered Traveller with one of his Scrier agents and the mercenaries of the Host, who fed his delusions and brought Spider-Man to his attention.  First encountering the web-slinger and his clone Ben Reilly at the Ravencroft Institute, he bedeviled both of them for months, seeking to learn the secrets of good and evil through them, until he began to suspect Scrier and the Host were screwing with him.  They tried to kill him, but Ben, Peter, and Host member Chakra (who had fallen in love with him) saved him; Traveller and Chakra departed to parts unknown.

Why He's Great: Well, I just thought this guy was the coolest when I was ten.  Unfortunately, it turns out he's basically Mysterio, with a goofy posse and amazingly bad fashion sense.  Traveller here suffers from the fact that the writers (of which there were four at the time) basically had no idea what they were doing with him.  While I'm not convinced that Terry Kavanagh or Howard Mackie cared one way or the other, J.M. DeMatteis clearly intended Traveller to be the real deal, whereas Tom DeFalco was setting him up to be a fraud, making some of his appearances a little incoherent.  I still like him, though.

What Should I Read?  Well, like I said in the Host's entry, the Clone Saga kick-off storyline Power and Responsibility is a fun read.

#117 - Venom (Angelo Fortunato)

"You're not my real dad, Spider-Man!"
(Marvel Knights Spider-Man #8, written by Mark Millar, art by Frank Cho)

First Appearance: (Angelo) Marvel Knights Spider-Man #6; (Venom) Marvel Knights Spider-Man #7

Created by: Mark Millar and Terry Dodson

What's His Deal: The scrawny son of Maggia crimelord Vincente Fortunato, Angelo Fortunato was a constant disappointment to his father.  That all changed when his father bought the Venom symbiote from a repentant Eddie Brock and gave it to him.  Learning Spider-Man's secret identity from the alien, he attacked Peter Parker's high school reunion as the new Venom, killing several of Peter's ex-classmates to get to him.  When an enraged Spider-Man turned on him and began beating him senseless, Angelo lost his nerve and fled, disgusting the symbiote; it abandoned him in mid-air, leaving him to plummet to his death.

Why He's Great: Another well-done parallel Peter Parker, Angelo shows what happens when power comes without responsibility.  And, uh, what happens when one's parental influences are less Uncle Ben and more Don Corleone.  You can't help but feel a little bad for him at the end of the story.  I like his design, too.

What Should I Read?  Angelo's brief stint as Venom is available in the Spider-Man By Mark Millar Ultimate Collection, and while I have some issues with some of Millar's work, I do legitimately like most of his run on MK Spidey.

#116 - Sundown

You better take care if I find you've been creeping down my back stairs.

First Appearance: Untold Tales of Spider-Man Annual 1997

Created By: Kurt Busiek and Tom Lyle

What's His Deal: Osborn Industries biochemist David Lowell was so proud of his photogensis formula, a chemical designed to give humans the ability to photosynthesize, that he burst into Norman Osborn's office to show it to him.  Unfortunately for him, Osborn was still kind of loopy after getting a faceful of Goblin serum, so he ordered Lowerll's project shut down.  Lowell freaked, and while he struggled with the Osborn goons dismantling his lab, he spilled chemicals all over himself and backed right into a wall of sun lamps, transforming him into the solar-powered Sundown!  He rampaged across the city, attracting the attention of practically every super hero operating in New York at the time, including Spider-Man.  When he accidentally blasted his young friend Mary Kelleher, however, he meekly surrendered to the police.  Unlike many of Spider-Man's foes, Lowell served his sentence, and was released a decade later.  Unable to find work, he was almost blackmailed into supervillainy by his former jailmate, mobster "Lucky" Lobo, but with Spider-Man's help, he turned the tables on Lobo and left to rebuild his life.

Why He's Great: This may be the most likeable villain on the list.  Lowell is a decent enough guy who has kind of a crummy life, gets a couple bad breaks, and ends up doing a little rampaging.  Who hasn't been there, right?  Honestly, he only ranks this low because he's not much of a villain.

What Should I Read?  Well, he's only appeared in two annuals (the aforementioned Untold Tales and Amazing Spider-Man 1997). They're both good.

#115 - Morlun

What the hell is up with his hairline?

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #30 (2001)

Created By: J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita, Jr.

What's His Deal: An impossibly old creature who has survived through the centuries by devouring totemic life forces, Morlun came to New York in recent years in search of Spider-Man. In his first battle with Morlun, Spider-Man barely escaped, then injected himself with radioactive serum; when Morlun subsequently tried to absorb Spider-Man, the radioactivity weakened him enough for Morlun's long-suffering aide, Dex, to shoot and kill him.  He returned to life when Peter was at his weakest, dying of a mysterious ailment; after he beat Spider-Man to the brink of death (and also ate his eyeball), Spider-Man underwent a bizarre transformation and killed him, only to succumb to his injuries.  Later, he menaced T'Challa, the Black Panther, in Wakanda, but was banished to limbo by Shuri, the new Panther.

Why He's Great: Yeah, this guy kind of doesn't sound like a Spider-Man villain, does he?  Plus, maybe it's not a good idea for a Dracula-esque guy to have a similar name to Spider-Man's other vampiric foe.  But he did have some personality, and he produced a couple of cool fight scenes - plus, he did kill Spider-Man, so he gets some props for that.  He should have stayed dead, though.

What Should I Read? JMS' initial Spider-Man arc, running from ASM #30-35, still holds up.

#114 - Bloodshed

"And meet my friends, Goreshack and Bonegarage."

First Appearance: Web of Spider-Man #81 (1991)

Created By: Kurt Busiek and Steven Butler

What's His Deal: Years ago, brothers Wyndell and Ricky Dichinson tried to steal a car.  While Ricky got busted by Spider-Man, Wyndell got away; he continued with his life of crime, and eventually fell in with crimelord Phillippe Bazin, who had him undergo treatments to become the super-strong Bloodshed!  Years later, Bloodshed found himself in hock to Bazin, and tried to convince the now-reformed Ricky to steal the money he needed.  Ricky eventually got help from Spider-Man, who cleaned Bloodshed's clock.  Wyndell agreed to testify about Bazin's organization, but repeated attempts on his life resulted in him escaping instead.  Some time later, he tried and failed to leave the country during the superhuman "civil war", then fell in with the Hood's supervillain army.

Why He's Great: Okay, so he's got a name that sounds like a b-list Rob Liefeld title, and his costume has an awful lot of hot pink on it.  But Busiek crafted a good little story for this guy, so I always kinda smile when this guy turns up.

What Should I Read?  Hit up the back issue bins for Web #81 and Spider-Man Unlimited #4.  You won't be disappointed.

#113 - Scorpia

Her twisted twin obsessions are her plan to rule the world and her employees' health.

First Appearance: Spider-Man: The Power of Terror #2 (1995)

Created By: Gregory Wright and Darick Robertson

What's Her Deal: To assist his gang of super-goons in their quest to steal Deathlok's body for him (long story), aged crimelord Silvermane gave Hell's Kitchen psychopath Elaine Coll a super-suit, complete with claws and a deadly stinger, transforming her into the lethal Scorpia!  Silvermane soon double-crossed her, and she struck out on her own, joining the Sinister Seven in their quest to kill the deadly Spider-clone Kaine, and allying herself with several other villains to hunt down Spider-Man's skeleton (another long story, but it was a clone).  She then was hired to assassinate philanthropist Garrison Klum (secretly the mutant drug dealer Mister Brownstone), but Spider-Man and the Black Cat stopped her.  Lately, she's been hanging out at the Bar With No Name.

Why She's Great: Remember what I said about female versions of established villains when I was talking about Lady Stilt-Man?  Scorpia is an attempt at that taken totally seriously, as was de rigeur in the '90s, as was her penchant for constantly hitting on anything with a Y chromosome.  She's also another villain I encountered early on in my comics-reading history, so that alone pretty much gets her on the list.

What Should I Read?  Scorpia's stint with the Sinister Seven in Spider-Man Unlimited #9 is actually a lot of fun.

#112 - Green Goblin (Hamilton)

Shouldn't that bomb be shaped like a black cat or a ghost or something?  You're not the Pen-Man, Bart.

First Appearance: (Hamilton) Amazing Spider-Man #167 (1977); (Green Goblin) Amazing Spider-Man #176 (1978)

Created By: Len Wein and Ross Andru

What's His Deal: Fascinated by the twisted psyche of his patient Harry Osborn, psychiatrist Bart Hamilton undertook the ultimate study of the criminal mindset by usurping Osborn's identity as the new Green Goblin!  He captured Harry and coerced him into telling him where his hideout was; armed with an arsenal of new Goblin-weapons, Hamilton sought to take over New York City's criminal underworld, crippling aged crimelord Silvermane in the process.  He also tried to kill Spider-Man because hey, that's what Green Goblins do.  Eventually, however, Harry broke free, and adopted the Goblin mantle again to fight Hamilton; defeated and unmasked, Hamilton threatened Harry and Spider-Man with a bomb, failing to realize he was on a garbage conveyor belt.  As he fell off it, the bomb went off, blowing him to pieces.

Why He's Great: So he turned out to be kind of a crappy Goblin, and unlike almost everyone else to ride around on a big metal bat, he hasn't even come back from the dead (thus making him a suspect for just about every new mystery Goblin that turns up).  But he was in an entertaining arc, he used some amusingly bizarre weapons (beware his sonic toad!), and he really rocks that little beard.

What Should I Read?  All of Hamilton's appearances are collected in the Spider-Man: A New Goblin trade.  It's good.

#111 - Hydro-Man

"Total sploosh."
(Amazing Spider-Man #315, written by David Michelinie, art by Todd McFarlane)

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #212 (1981)

Created By: Denny O'Neil and John Romita, Jr.

What's His Deal: Seaman Morrie Bench was accidentally knocked overboard while out at sea; dragged to the bottom by a loose cable, he was exposed to bizarre deep-sea gases and gained the ability to transform his body into water!  As the Hydro-Man he went on a citywide crime spree, which of course got him mixed up with Spider-Man; as they battled on a hot summer day, he evaporated, but a rainstorm soon returned him to coherency.  When battling with fellow elemental villain Sandman over the affections of a worn-out barfly, they merged into the massive, mindless Mud-Thing.  They were eventually separated; Sandman was shaken by the harrowing experience, and soon went straight, but the shallower (ha!) Bench kept committing crimes, both solo and for teams like the Sinister Syndicate and the Frightful Four.  He remains a deadly, albeit cool and refreshing, thorn in Spider-Man's side.

Why He's Great: Seems pretty low on the list for a big-name villain, no?  I mean, he's been in cartoons, video games, action figures...but quick, name me a good Hydro-Man story.  It's hard, isn't it?  Hydro-Man is basically Sandman without the interesting personality.  He's a good visual and all, but he rarely rises above "dumb muscle".  Most of the time he doesn't even bother with a costume, and if you're just going to wear a black t-shirt to fight Spider-Man, you're not breaking #100, pal.

What Should I Read?  Uhm...well, Spider-Man Unlimited #6, which pits Spider-Man and Thunderstrike against Hydro-Man, actually goes into Bench's motivations a little, you see what I had to do?  A Thunderstrike team-up from 1993.  Jesus.  You know what's pretty good, though?  The Hydro-Man episode of the 90's Spider-Man cartoon, which gives Hydro-Man new backstory as Mary Jane's creepy ex-boyfriend, has some surprisingly good animation, and features an entertainingly unhinged vocal performance from Rob Paulsen.  Also, Spider-Man fights eels!  Just, uh, don't watch the later Return of Hydro-Man 2-parter.  It features a plot twist that rivals the Robot Spy Parents in forehead-slapping implausibility.

Next: a litany of horrors!  Radioactive zombies!  Mutated cannibals!  Man-eating spiders!

1 comment:

  1. For Hydro-Man, I'd recommend Fantastic Four 512-513. Spidey and the Torch fight Hydro-Man at a water park, and Johnny loses his pants in the process. Waid handles the witty banter, Ringo draws the thing.