Jan 29, 2013

Spider-Man's Greatest Villains #110-101

For somebody who doesn't like Terry Kavanagh, I sure put a lot of his stuff on this blog.
(Spider-Man #25, written by Terry Kavanagh, art by Chris Marrinan)

We're almost halfway done!  As always, check out the master list to see the whole countdown!

#110 - Vulture (Natale)

"You are one ugly motherf - "

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #593 (2009)

Created By: Mark Waid and Mike McKone

What's His Deal: Maggia fixer Jimmy Natale made a few too many enemies in the mob, so when it came time to mutate some poor schnook into a superhuman enforcer, Natale was "volunteered", and became the horrific new Vulture!  Armed with razor-sharp wings, acidic vomit, and a taste for human flesh, the Vulture preyed upon New York's wounded criminals until Spider-Man took him down.  He was soon liberated from prison by the Kravinoff family, and became part of a plot to frame J. Jonah Jameson for his creation - a plot that culminated in Peter Parker being blacklisted from ever selling photographs again!  After trying and failing to acquire Menace's newborn son for Dr. Octopus, the Vulture was apparently slain by the Punisher.

Why He's Great: So after our two previous Vultures, it's nice to have a guy who isn't just some dude who stole Adrian Toomes' dry cleaning.  He's a little too 1995 for 2009, but he's pretty cool all the same. Also: vultures actually do that acidic vomit thing, and I love esoteric animal facts.

What Should I Read? 24/7, by Mark Waid and Mike McKone, is a fun story with great art and some funny gags.  Be warned: it contains an image more gruesome than even the Vulture's Predator-esque maw...

#109 - Kangaroo (Hibbs)

"Boys, put out an APB on Yahoo Serious."

First Appearance: Spectacular Spider-Man #242 (1997)

Created By: J.M. DeMatteis and Luke Ross

What's His Deal: Inexplicably idolizing the late Kangaroo, Brian Hibbs (who wasn't even Australian or anything) adopted his mantle, first attacking Spider-Man in a replica of Oliver's costume, then in mechanized Kangaroo armor. Neither worked particularly well. Neither did joining up with some of Spider-Man's lamest adversaries in the Legion of Losers, adopting a fake name to infiltrate Major League Baseball, or making an enemy of Tombstone in his subsequent prison stay. He settled into professional villainy for a while, hanging out in villain bars and getting captured by the deranged Alyosha Kravinoff as part of his human zoo.  Most recently, he relocated to Australia and tried to aid Spider-Man in disrupting Dr. Octopus' plan to scorch the Earth, although he was sadly outmatched by Ock's hireling Lady Deathstrike.

Why He's Great: "Kangaroo battle armor".  Need I say more?  Well, okay, I'll say more.  Even though this guy is supposed to be a goof on crummy villains (and is successful in that respect, because he is crummy), I actually really like the design of his aforementioned battle armor.  It is goofy, but it's plausible in an animal-themed supervillain context - and, of course, it's preferable to the fur vest/no shirt look of the original.

What Should I Read?  The Legion of Losers, in Spectacular #246, is a laugh riot from start to finish.

#108 - Blindside

Maybe Sandra Bullock'll adopt him.
(Amazing Spider-Man #600, written by Dan Slott, art by John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson)

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (2008)

Created By: Marc Guggenheim and Mike McKone

What's His Deal: With the surreptitious help of his employer, the corrupt Walter Declun, biochemist Nick Chernin stole the formula for the blindness-inducing Oedipus neurotoxin and used it to become the super-thief Blindside!  After battling and escaping Spider-Man and the heroine Jackpot, Blindside was tracked down to his suburban home in the middle of a romantic evening with his ladyfriend, the French super-thief Commanda.  That fight didn't go well for anyone, as both Blindside and Commanda were beaten up, and the Oedipus toxin reacted badly with the power-enhancing drugs in Jackpot's system, killing her.  Later, during an altercation at the Bar With No Name, a super villain hangout, Blindside unwisely used his powers on Daredevil and got thrown through a plate glass window.

Why He's Great: Sometimes all you need is a gimmick.  Blindside is a guy who makes you blind.  That's it.  No tragic backstory, no grandiose plans, no weird serial killer stuff.  All he wants to do is put on a costume and rob banks.  He has an interesting gimmick, and a good costume, and they aren't creating a lot of villains like this guy anymore.

What Should I Read?  Well, he's only been in two comics, and they're both pretty good.

#107 - Digger

Caaaaaan yoooouuuu diiiiig it?

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #51 (2003)

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

What's His/Their Deal: In 1957, thirteen of the country's top fourteen mobsters met in Las Vegas - but the fourteenth, Morris Forelli, had betrayed them.  He had them all murdered and buried in a chemical waste dump in the Nevada desert.  Decades later, a gamma bomb test fused their corpses into one being - the vengeance-crazed Digger!  It made its way to New York City and tore through the now-elderly Forelli's holdings before Spider-Man fought him to a standstill, exhausting his residual gamma energy and reducing him to a pile of body parts.

Why He's/They're Great: I wasn't crazy about most of the villains JMS came up with for Spider-Man, but Digger's a good one.  In addition to being a credible threat, there's a goofiness to him that the best Spider-Man villains all have.  Also, since he's a guy (or thirteen guys) from 1957, he's constantly going on about how kids wear their pants too low whilst smacking Spider-Man around.

What Should I Read? ASM #51-54 are a good read.  There's a crazy monster, some interesting moral choices, and also Spider-Man gets drunk.

#106 - Fortunato

"Also, fear his hilarious wolf."

First Appearance: Spider-Man #70 (1996)

Created By: Howard Mackie and John Romita Jr.

What's His Deal: One-eyed mobster Vincente Fortunato was one of the top lieutenants to Don Rigoletto - but when the Kingpin killed Rigoletto and ordered a purge of his men, Fortunato narrowly escaped a hit (thanks to reporter Jacob Conover) and escaped to Europe.  Years later, after the Kingpin's fall, Fortunato returned to New York, having allied himself with Hydra, and took over the city's underworld.  With the assistance of his lieutenants the Rose and Hammerhead, Fortunato weathered a number of challenges, including rival crimelord the Black Tarantula, his rebellious son Giacomo "Jimmy-6" Fortunato, and the constant irritant that is Spider-Man.  Fortunato was eventually displaced, and nearly killed, by a resurgent Kingpin.  Later, a recovered Fortunato spent a fortune to buy the Venom symbiote for his weakling son Angelo, but that didn't go so well.

Why He's Great: Spider-Man doesn't fight a lot of straight-up mobsters - those he does generally have some kind of weird comic-booky twist to them, like the steel-skulled Hammerhead, the albino Tombstone, or the old man cyborg Silvermane.  Fortunato is probably as straight-up as they get, but even he has like half a dozen weird quirks.  He's got one eye!  He always whispers!  He has a pet wolf!  He's not Italian!  (He's from Malta.)  He has a quiet, subtle sort of menace that one doesn't often see amongst Spider-Man's bombastic rogues gallery.

What Should I Read?  I'm quite fond of Fortunato's first appearance, in Spider-Man #70, and the later two-parter that pits him against Spider-Man and Daredevil in Spider-Man #73-74.

#105 - Shriek

Oh man, Paul Stanley's sister is pissed.
(Amazing Spider-Man #380, written by David Michelinie, art by Mark Bagley)

First Appearance: Spider-Man Unlimited #1 (1993)

Created By: Tom DeFalco and Ron Lim

What's Her Deal: Scarred by an abusive childhood, Frances Louise Barrison became a criminal junkie, but an encounter with the vigilante Cloak unlocked her latent empathic powers, enabling her to absorb negative emotions and use them as weapons against her enemies! Locked up in the Ravencroft Institute, Shriek was freed by the deadly Carnage and became the murderous matriarch of his "family" as they killed their way across New York City. Spider-Man and his allies put a stop to it, eventually, but Shriek was a constant threat; after leading an attempted Ravencroft breakout, she hooked up with Carrion (Malcolm McBride) and acted as a twisted mother figure to him until McBride's love for his real mother convinced her to cure him of the Carrion virus by absorbing it into herself, where it stayed until the Jackal stole it from her. That was pretty much it for her for a while until she tried to release Carnage from the corporate dumbasses who'd saved him from certain death in space. She did free Carnage, although in the process her psychiatrist, Tanis Nieves, was transformed into the symbiotic Scorn, who left Shriek catatonic.

Why She's Great: I don't like Maximum Carnage.  At all.  And it just so happens that Shriek is the only remnant of that fourteen-issue death march that lingers on.  That said, I do think that Spider-Man's rogues gallery is hopelessly full of dudes, so I am generally going to give a lady villain a break, even if she bears the taint of one of the worst Spider-Man stories ever.  J.M. DeMatteis wrote her well, at least, and I liked the recent Zeb Wells/Clayton Crain Carnage miniseries.

What Should I Read?  Shrieking (ASM #490-493), by J.M. DeMatteis and Mark Bagley, is a very good, albeit very '90s grim-and-gritty, story.

#104 - Life Foundation

Bald-guy ponytail, Hunter S. Thompson shades, and yes, a Hitler moustache.  Best boss ever.

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #298 (1988)

Created By: David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane

What's Their Deal: The Life Foundation, headed by financier Carlton Drake, is an organization dedicated to providing secure living for the super-rich after the collapse of society -and they'll do anything to make the 1% as safe as possible.  They first encountered Spider-Man when they hired (and later kidnapped) the high-tech mercenary Chance, resulting in the web-slinger destroying their Sanctum Maximus base.  Later, they were embroiled in the Red Skull's plot to foment war between the US and Symkaria, and then reassembled the terrifying Tri-Sentinel before it was destroyed by Spider-Man and Nova.  Even in California they ran afoul of Spider-Man, when he teamed with Venom to bring down the newborn symbiotes they'd harvested from the latter. When the chain-smoking Drake was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, he poured the Foundation's resources into finding a cure for him - unfortunately, that cure entailed transforming him into the monstrous Homo Arachnis.  This, understandably, didn't end well - the Foundation's base was destroyed, most of the group went to jail, and Drake ended up wandering around naked in the wilderness.

Why They're Great: The Life Foundation are dicks.  They're rich people motivated by fear and greed, and their plans generally totally backfire on them.  It's always fun to watch that happen.

What Should I Read?  Amazing Spider-Man #351-352 features some of Mark Bagley's earliest Spider-Man work, and is a fun read.

#103 - Puma

The Pyuma!
(Spectacular Spider-Man, written by Gerry Conway, art by Sal Buscema)

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #256 (1984)

Created By: Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz

What's His Deal: Centuries of selective breeding and mystic research by the Keewazi tribe produced Thomas Fireheart - millionaire CEO of Fireheart Industries by day, feline assassin Puma by night!  He first encountered Spider-Man when the Rose hired him to assassinate him - when he learned that Spider-Man was an honorable man, however, he let him live, and soon discovered, via his enhanced senses, the wall-crawler's true identity. When he falsely attacked Spider-Man for a crime he didn't commit, the Puma decided he owed Spider-Man a debt - and to that end, he wrested control of the Daily Bugle from J. Jonah Jameson and ordered its staff to print nothing but pro-Spider-Man articles. This eventually became too much for Spider-Man, so he and the Puma settled their debt once and for all in a vision/quest/death duel - nobody ended up dying, though.  Later, he briefly let his animal side overwhelm him, and he descended into savagery before recovering with Spider-Man's help.  After a brief fling with the Black Cat, Fireheart was framed for embezzlement, and was stripped of his powers by his tribe at an inconvenient moment, as he was in the middle of a heist for MODOK.  Luckily for him, fellow heister Deadly Nightshade was able to restore him with a dose of werewolf serum, and later promised to help him fight the charges against him.  Also, he was destined to fight the Beyonder or something, but Jesus, that story was so tedious.

Why He's Great: A lot of great writers really like writing the Puma - Tom DeFalco, Gerry Conway, J.M. DeMatteis, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.  I love all those writers...but not when they're writing the Puma.  I don't know what it is about the guy, but I just can't get into him - I will say that the whole "Native American guy with an esoteric code of honor" is a little played out, though.  They're not bad stories, they're just not stories I particularly want to read -and it's my list, after all.

What Should I Read?  The Puma's first storyline, in ASM #256-257, is a nice, solid two-parter before we started getting into honor debts and vision quests and the god damned Beyonder.

#102 - Thousand

Well, that's the last time I buy a Mexican cactus.

First Appearance: Spider-Man's Tangled Web #1 (2001)

Created By: Garth Ennis and John McCrae

What's His Deal: Bully Carl King tormented Peter Parker for years until one day, while following him, he saw him get bitten by a radioactive spider, then secretly watched as he displayed the powers that would one day make him the Amazing Spider-Man!  Jealous of Parker, King found that dead spider, and ate it, transforming him into the nightmarish arachnid collective known as the Thousand!  He killed a succession of victims (starting with his own parents), wearing their skins while his constituent spiders devoured their organs - all the while, building up his strength so he could defeat Parker and take his body.  When he finally did take on Spider-Man, however, he accidentally punched through a transformer, incinerating 999 of his component parts.  The remaining spider plotted revenge...until a random passerby stepped on it, ending the threat of the Thousand once and for all.

Why He's Great: Man, this guy is gross.  Lotta gross in this list.  Anyway, Ennis takes the idea of an evil Spider-Man and makes it viscerally, horribly awful.  I love it.

What Should I Read?  Spider-Man's Tangled Web #1-3 is a surprisingly heartfelt look at Spider-Man from Garth Ennis, who is the last person I'd expect to even want to write a Spider-Man story.  Well, a Spider-Man story that doesn't involve the Punisher hitting a giant transsexual assassin with his unconscious body.

#101 - Knight and Fogg

'Ello 'ello, what's all this then?

First Appearance: Spectacular Spider-Man #165 (1990)

Created By: Gerry Conway and Sal Buscema

What's Their Deal: Juvenile delinquent Malcolm Knight was adopted as a child by Edgar Fogg, and soon formed an unholy duo with Fogg's sociopathic son Thomas. Despite Malcolm's unspoken love for his Thomas' sister Evelyn, the two grew up to be legbreakers-for-hire, and were eventually hired to snuff out Professor Henry Lewis.  They did so, but in the process destroyed his experimental particle cannon. The resulting explosion reduced the two assassins to their quantum structures and reshaped them according to their own self-images - thus, the steely Knight became an armored colossus, while the shady Fogg became a living cloud of vapor.  Knight and Fogg crossed paths with Spider-Man when the Kingpin hired them to kill his right-hand man, the Arranger, who Spider-Man had sworn to protect.  Spider-Man failed to save the Arranger, but tracked the killers back to England, where he defeated them and alienated them from each other. Despite this, they were both later spotted at the Tinkerer's auction of the Venom symbiote.

Why They're Great: Man, what's with all the limey soap opera in this story (I didn't even mention Spider-Man's bout with amnesia and Knight's other brother, who is a fisherman)?  Did Conway start watching Coronation Street or something?  Anyway, these guys are hella goofy, but I like their designs and honestly, I just kind of want Spider-Man to fight more British guys so he can make fun of their accents.

What Should I Read?  Spectacular #165-167.  Gerry Conway, Sal Buscema, and a whole lot of British people.

Next: The Top 100 begins!  Lightmasters and Kravens and bears, oh my.

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