As I argued in the first Not-So-Great Debate, Spider-Man has the greatest rogue’s gallery in all of comics. This menagerie of maniacs, aliens, and general all-around freaks is top-to-bottom awesome. That said, there is definitely a cream of the freakshow crop when it comes to the ol’ webhead’s villains, and with that in mind, here are my top ten:
1. Dr. Octopus
Old bowl cut is one seriously nasty bastard. One of Spidey’s first villains, Doc Ock has been a staple of the rogue’s gallery for over 50 years now. But what puts him at the top of the list? Well, for one, he was responsible for the death of Captain George Stacy, so there’s that. He’s also extremely dangerous, and crazy smart. He formed the Sinister Six, and has led many of their incarnations against Spider-Man. He once held NY hostage with the threat of nuclear annihilation, and didn’t even bother asking for a ransom until AFTER he had armed the bomb and set the timer. He even tried to marry Aunt May (ew) in order to obtain access to an island she had inherited that had a nuclear reactor on it.
More recently, and perhaps most famously, he discovered the beatings he’s taken over the years were killing him, and used his last few months to try to imprint his consciousness into every machine in New York, and used his Sinister Six to essentially hold the whole world hostage before, in his last few days, transferring his consciousness into Spider-Man’s body, leaving Peter Parker to actually die in his nasty old body while he took over the body of Spider-Man!
After upgrading some tech, and hiring a bunch of henchmen to do his bidding, Ock spent a good bit running around as the “Superior Spider-Man”, wrecking the crap out of Peter’s personal life before eventually giving Peter his body back to do what he couldn’t, which is deal with the next goon on the list. It is his time in Peter’s body, combined with the fact that he actually pulled the switch off and the total bastard way he did it that earns Ock the top spot on the list.
2.Green Goblin (Norman)
As Spider-Man’s most hated enemy, things are rarely more personal than when Norman is involved. He was the first of Spidey’s villains to figure out who was under the mask, and used that information to torment the shit out of Peter. He most famously murdered Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man’s first, and some say greatest, love right in front of him. When he was believed dead he went to Europe to rebuild his power base, and from afar orchestrated the infamous Clone Saga, as well as causing Mary Jane Parker’s miscarriage, psychologically torturing Peter some more, having Aunt May buried alive, killing Ben Reilly, ruining Harry Osborn’s (Peter’s best friend) life beyond repair, tarnishing the Avengers name during his time in the Nick Fury role as the head of H.A.M.M.E.R., and just generally being a total piece of shit.
There is not one single member of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery that will cause the wall crawler to get super serious and really pissed faster than Norman.
One of Spider-Man’s most popular and enduring villains, as well as one of Marvel’s most popular characters period, Venom has gone through a number of changes and personalities.
The most famous/popular version is the Eddie Brock Venom (the first one). One of Spider-Man’s only villains to know his true identity, Venom terrorized not only Peter Parker, but threatened his family and friends constantly. He would randomly show up at like Aunt May’s house just to show Peter he could get to him anytime, anywhere.
Basically a stronger, faster, meaner Spider-Man, Venom was the one villain that Spidey was severely handicapped against, not only because of Venom’s physical dominance, but because his spider-sense didn’t work on Venom’s symbiote, so he would get hit a lot more often than normal. Usually Spider-Man is dodging all kinds of crazy attacks in all kinds of ways, which drives his opponents nuts, but against Venom he would essentially be fighting without his greatest weapon.
Eventually Eddie Brock gave up the symbiote, and it went to the former Scorpion, Mac Gargan…
Mac’s Venom always felt like a lost opportunity to me. The first and only real time he fought Spider-Man was awesome, but after that he was relegated to Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts and Dark Avengers teams, and other than growing absurdly large and eating people, he never really did much but look awesome.
Eventually the symbiote was stripped from Gargan and taken into custody by the U.S. military, where it was bonded to one of Peter Parker’s best friends, Flash Thompson.
Flash’s Venom is almost like a neutered version of the symbiote. It occasionally gets all murder-y when Flash loses control, but nowhere near the level it did with Eddie and Mac. This is because the Avengers created a chemical cocktail that essentially keeps the symbiote docile, and lets Flash use it to be a superhero.
Regardless of the situation, circumstances, or host, the Venom symbiote is one of Spider-Man’s greatest enemies.
Dr. Curtis Connors could not abide living life with just one arm. Just wasn’t having any of it. And being a brilliant chemist and biologist, went about fixing it. He didn’t just want to fix himself, but any/all amputees. After years of trial and error, he seemingly found a ‘cure’ by combining human and reptile DNA, thinking that the lizard’s ability to regenerate lost limbs could hijack the human DNA and cause people to regrow lost limbs. And it worked, for a little bit.
Soon after testing the formula on himself (not the smartest move), Connors mutated into a humanoid lizard monster, capable of communicating with other cold blooded animals. Strong as hell, faster than you would think possible, and utterly vicious, the Lizard quickly became one of Spider-Man’s most dangerous enemies.
He has been through a number of incarnations, from the ‘ssssssmart’ Lizard with grandiose plans, to a mindless, brutish killing machine, and more recently to a version that has none of Conners’ consciousness at all, and is just the part of his brain that is controlled by the Lizard persona (with other versions in between). Personally, I like the latter version best, but no matter the version, the Lizard is freaking dangerous. Crazy strong, fast, and aggressive, he is more than a handful for any of Marvel’s heroes that aren’t gods or the Hulk. And there is something really cool about the imagery of a giant lizard in a tattered lab coat and pants…
5. Green Goblin (Harry)
Poor Harry. Poor, foolish, drug addled Harry, he never stood a chance. Neglected from birth and ingrained with an inferiority complex, the son of the Green Goblin blamed Spider-Man for all of his life’s problems after he saw the ‘last’, fateful fight between Norman and the web-slinger. From there it was just a matter of time before Harry became the new Green Goblin and began terrorizing his best friend.
Never as devious or as straight up evil as his father, Harry wasn’t ever as effective as his father was, but there was something about the dilemma Peter faced when going up against Harry. His desire to save his best friend from the same fate his father suffered, and to get him out from under his father’s influence, even from beyond the ‘grave’, was constantly challenged by his sheer anger at seeing the sneering face of the Goblin, or his pure frustration and rage at Harry’s threats against himself and his family.
Since Harry’s ‘return’ with the Brand New Day status quo from a few years ago he hasn’t done anything Goblin-y, despite some teases, but the potential has always been there to make him incredibly dangerous. As it stands, he makes the list because of the few years in the 1990’s when he really stepped into his own as the one true Goblin in J.M. DeMatteis and Sal Buscema’s criminally underrated Spectacular Spider-Man.
Harry’s biggest weakness as the Green Goblin was that he just was never as straight up evil as his father. He would terrorize Mary Jane and Peter, but you got the feeling that he never wanted to really kill them (at least not Mary Jane). He was just so full of misplaced rage (against his father) and had no way to deal with it, because dealing with it would mean admitting to himself that his dad was a piece of shit, which he was never ready to do until long after his days as the Goblin.
On a side note, Harry turned out to be just as shitty a father as Norman was, and messed his kid Normie up something FIERCE. The kid keeps a box under his bed of decapitated Spider-Man dolls, and always looks like some horrible cross between Damian from the Omen movies and a sleep deprivation victim.
I bet Halloween is all kinds of fun for that little bastard.
Victim of the lamest origin story ever, he was an electrical worker working on some power lines when he and the lines were struck by lightning. Rather than, say, being fried to a damn crisp, he was gifted with crazy electrical powers.
You would think someone with electrical powers like he has would be set for life. You could work for the government or for SHIELD or something and spend like ten minutes a day just powering electrical grids or something and get paid a ridiculous amount of money. But is that would Dillon did?
Nope. He put on an absurd mask and tried to rob banks and stuff before getting his ass handed to him by Spidey on a regular basis.
Over the years Electro’s power level has been increased a few times, to the point that he can now feed off of the grid and make himself stronger, become electricity and travel through outlets and connections, and really be quite dangerous. Gone are the days when he could be beaten up by Spidey putting on web gloves and web boots to keep himself from getting shocked.
A founding and recurring member of the Sinister Six, Electro has had a few big moments in recent years, including destroying the super villain prison The Raft and freeing around 100 super villains at once, destroying the Daily Bugle, and participating in the resurrection of Kraven the Hunter.
Recently the Superior Spider-Man experimented on him a bit and messed him up pretty badly, to the point that he can no longer really control his powers. That’s bad news for Mr. Parker, since nobody but a select few knew that the Spider-Man that messed him up and the real Spider-Man were not the same person.
Bonded to the spawn of the Venom symbiote, Carnage doesn’t register on Spidey’s spider-sense, has no morals whatsoever, and enjoys nothing more than killing. In his first appearance he murders this dude for no real reason, and right before he sends to sharpened symbiote tendrils through the guys’ eyes, he tells him he’s killing him ’cause I can’.
Most famously he and a gang of freaks ran roughshod over New York City for days on end, killing thousands of people in the story “Maximum Carnage”.
It’s easy to hate Kassady, but it’s kind of easy to like him, too, in a sick way. Not only because he just looks so damn cool, but also because he seems to enjoy himself so freaking much. He enjoys being a sick bastard the same way Peter enjoys swinging around and making jokes at bad guys’ expense.
One of the interesting things about him is that, yes, he hates Spider-Man, but he hates Venom (specifically Eddie Brock, who in an ironic twist is now bonded to Carnage’s offspring, the Toxin symbiote) even more than he hates Spidey. And really, he hates order and rules more than them put together.
Carnage is so dangerous that when he has been defeated in the past the symbiote was completely destroyed before he was institutionalized. However, unlike Brock, Gargan, or any of the other symbiote’s hosts over the years, Kassady so welcomed the bonding with the symbiote that it lives in his bloodstream(!!) and can regenerate from a single drop of his blood!
8. Black Cat
The Catwoman to Spider-Man’s Batman (honestly she’s kind of a rip off), Felecia Hardy, aka the Black Cat, is probably the only one that maybe doesn’t belong on this list, simply because it’s hard to classify her as a ‘villain’.
A cat burglar by nature, she started a life of crime to be able to break her dying father out of jail so he could die at home, and crossed paths with Spider-Man, who was instantly torn between his desire to stop her from committing crimes, and his desire to stop her from wearing clothes.
Over time the two formed an on-again, off-again relationship, which slowly became more serious over time, even though he never really felt he could fully trust her. The twist was that she was in love with Spider-Man, and had no interest in boring old Peter Parker. Our Felicia likes to live on the wild side.
Equipped with bad luck powers, which are actually way more handy than you would think, she eventually fell back into a life of crime and the two went their separate ways.
What makes her so appealing as a villain to the wall-crawler is that, unlike the rest of the goons he goes up against, he legitimately cares about her, and doesn’t want her to keep committing crimes. He feels like she has more potential than that, and also doesn’t feel like he can honestly be a crime fighter if he’s dating the most notorious cat burglar in the United States (get over it, bro).
Things typically don’t go so well for Mr. Parker when he’s around her, either. Her bad luck powers have a tendency to turn on him, causing things like web shooter malfunctions, sticking to things he doesn’t want to, spider-sense going off at the wrong time, inopportune clumsiness, and just generally shitty luck.
While she may not be the most evil of his bad guys, she is definitely one of the most interesting, and when she shows up it always means things in Peter’s life are about to get crazy.
Originally created to fill the void left by a lack of Green Goblins, the mystery of the Hobgoblin’s true identity plagued readers and Spider-Man for years in the 1980’s. Creator Roger Stern littered Amazing Spider-Man with possible suspects, but left the book before he could reveal the actual identity.
Then the Hobgoblin was revealed as Daily Bugle reporter Ned Leeds, husband of Betty Brant, and was killed by a bunch of goons. This sat well with absolutely nobody, and the Hobgoblin was pretty much ruined forever. It wasn’t until years later that Stern wrote a mini-series that revealed that the true Hobgoblin was fashion mogul Roderick Kingsley, who used a number of dupes to fill in for him while he was establishing alibies, including a brainwashed Leeds, Flash Thompson, and Kingsley’s own twin brother, Daniel! The true Hobgoblin revealed and returned, it was unfortunately a wasted opportunity ONCE AGAIN because by that point Norman Osborn had returned and the need for the Hobgoblin wasn’t really there.
After Leeds had been ‘outed’ and killed, the Hobgoblin identity went to former mercenary Jason Macendale, and he promptly dragged the super badass villain’s stature down to “b-level, at best”. This Hobgoblin was utterly forgettable, and was routinely punked out by everyone from Spider-Man to Dr. Strange to Ghost Rider to Moon Knight. In an attempt to make him more badass, Macendale was bonded to a demon, giving the Hobgoblin a more monstrous appearance and demeanor, but that wasn’t really ever used to good effect, with the possible exception of a story in Todd MacFarlane’s “Spider-Man”. He was just such a complete and total tool. Macendale was later killed by Kingsley, who was sick of seeing his work tarnished by such a douche. Thankfully.
Years later, Dan Slott took over Amazing Spider-Man, and created a new Hobgoblin, former ‘good guy’ Green Goblin, Phil Urich. Equipped with new tech he stole from Norman Osborn, this Hobgoblin actually started off really strong, by killing what was thought to be Roderick’s Hobgoblin, newly returned to the United States (turned out to be Daniel Kingsley, not Roderick). Equipped with pumpkin bombs, wings, a sonic laugh and a badass flaming sword, people were actually excited about the Hobgoblin again. He worked for the Kingpin (and against the Kingpin), and fought (and beat) Spider-Man, Spider-Girl, and even Hercules! Sure, Herc was depowered, but still…
Now it looks like ol’ Roddy’s making a comeback to become the real deal, one and only Hobgoblin, and I couldn’t be happier. Roderick is cold, calculating, skilled, and NOT CRAZY like a certain other Goblin. Hopefully if I were to update this list in a few years he will be much higher.
10. Kraven the Hunter
Originally one of Spider-Man’s lamer villains (even though he was in the original Sinister Six), it wasn’t until J.M. Dematteis and Mike Zeck’s awesome “Kraven’s Last Hunt” (aka “Fearful Symmetry”) that people realized how totally badass Sergei Kravinoff really is.
One would think that a guy without any superpowers would stand zero chance against Spider-Man, but Kraven is far from an ordinary guy. He’s ruthless, extremely cunning, quick, and very, very clever. There’s a reason this guy has defeated KaZar and the Black Panther in hand to hand combat.
In addition to his skills as a fighter and (duh) as a hunter, Kraven is also very well versed in all kinds of poisons and magics, including voodoo and other dark arts from all over the world. He uses mixtures of poisons and magics to really and truly screw with his opponents minds, making them all the more vulnerable to a vicious ass beating when he gets his hands on them. He’s also a tracker that can put Wolverine to shame.
What really puts Kraven on this list is the aforementioned “Kraven’s Last Hunt”. Originally Kraven began hunting Spider-Man because he was bored. Like Sunday afternoon TV bored, and he felt like Spidey would be his greatest challenge yet. Incredibly frustrated by his continuous failures to beat Spidey, he hatched his final plan. First he drugged Spider-Man with a dart that induced a coma-like state, then buried him alive! With Spidey buried, the first part of his master plan was complete, and he began his second: replacing Spider-Man. He wanted to prove he was a better Spidey than Spidey ever was. He did that by beating the bejeezus out of the rat-man called Vermin, a villain Spidey only defeated previously with the help of Captain America. After having proven his superiority, the real Spidey clawed his way out of the ground, and furiously attacked Kraven, who didn’t bother to even defend himself. He didn’t care what happened to him, he had won and satisfied his life’s greatest goal. Afterwards he killed himself, a life well lived.
Years later his estranged wife and his children thought life sucked with Sergei, so they used a pretty horrible plan to resurrect him. While it was successful, it was completed by taking the life of Kaine, Peter Parker’s clone (they thought he was the real deal). This left Kraven alive, but completely unable to die unless killed by Spider-Man, who has sworn to never take a life. Kraven was not happy with being brought back, either. He felt like they ruined his masterpiece, and responded by murdering his wife and one of his sons, and sending his remaining son and his daughter against each other in the Savage Land. Whichever survives will help him rebuild his life.
Honorable Mention. J Jonah Jameson
There are few civilians in the Marvel universe that are bigger assholes than J. Jonah Jameson. Whether it is as the owner/editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle, or more recently as the mayor of New York City, few people have made life more miserable for Spider-Man AND Peter Parker than the hitler mustached, flat top sporting cheap ass.
Whether it’s publishing somewhat (ahem) biased editorials about Spider-Man, or outright declaring him an outlaw, a menace, a murderer, or a kicker of puppies and puncher of babies, Jameson is always out to decry the web slinger.
Some of his only redeeming qualities are that he sometimes shows he legitimately cares about Peter, and the rest of his employees. He has also gone after the Kingpin, Tombstone, and Norman Osborn in his paper, and thinks Captain America is the best thing since penicillin.
Other than that he’s just a huge asshole.