Jul 3, 2010

Top Five Spider-Man Villains

Welcome to the final installment in our Spider-Man Week! Today, we list the top five Spider-Man villains of all time! These are the people who have given Spider-Man the most grief over his 48-year history!

5. J. Jonah Jameson

I had to think long and hard about who to pick as number 5. (The rest of the list was pretty easy.) In the end, I narrowed it down to the Jackal, for being the mastermind of the Clone Saga, which caused Peter to doubt himself largely; Kraven the Hunter, for burying Peter alive, and whose actions are still felt to this day in current Spider-Man comics; Carnage, for being Carnage; Electro, because I love him and for no other good reason; and this guy. In the end, I concluded that no one has caused Spider-Man pain and suffering on a more consistent basis than his own boss, J. Jonah Jameson.

Jameson's bias against Spider-Man is well-documented. He frequently lambastes the wall-crawler in his columns and headlines, constantly calling Spider-Man a threat or menace. He also financed the projects that gave way to Alistair Smythe's Spider-Slayers and Mac Gargan's transformation into the Scorpion. To add to that, he's not exactly the easiest boss to work for!

One of Peter's main problems is public opinion, and JJJ is its architect. Currently, as the mayor of New York City, he's making life even worse for the webslinger!

4. Venom

I will never forget the first time I saw Venom on a cover of Amazing Spider-Man. It was drawn by Mark Bagley and I, always fascinated with the idea of an evil double, thought it was so cool (I also think Wrath is the best Batman villain this side of the Joker). What makes Eddie Brock's alter-ego so fascinating is that he's not really evil; just incredibly twisted. He'll go out of his way to protect those he deems innocent, but he'll be merciless when he's hunting Spider-Man.

He's also the only guy on this list who completely outclasses Spider-Man in terms of physical attributes, so Peter has to use his smarts each time to beat him!

Eventually, Venom proved so popular that they spinned him off into a series of miniseries where he was the protagonist, and completely diluted his character. He then lost the symbiote, and it joined with Mac Gargan (formerly the Scorpion), and Eddie Brock somehow got another symbiote and now calls himself Anti-Venom. It's actually pretty cool, although utterly ridiculous when I type it out like that.

3. Dr. Octopus

Otto Octavius is the guy who handed Spider-Man his first loss. Psychologically speaking, that's got to stick in ol' Webhead's craw. And in fact, if Dr. Octopus knew Peter Parker was Spider-Man, he could very well top the list. Besides being the centerpoint of many a classic Spider-Man story (most notably the Master Planner Saga), Doc Ock was the founder and leader of the Sinister Six, that ragtag bunch of misfits who planned nothing else but Spidey's death, and even once, almost married Aunt May!

As that last example demonstrates, Ock actually has a human side, which makes for great reading. He didn't court May Parker as a way to get back at Spider-Man - he didn't even know Peter was Spider-Man! He courted Aunt May because he was, put it simply, enamored with the good lady!

2. The Green Goblin (Harry Osborn)

Imagine that your best friend, who is married to your high school friend, and who lives next door, followed his father's path and became the one villain who knew every single one of your secrets. That's how Peter Parker felt when Harry Osborn finally lost his lid and became the Green Goblin! As the Goblin, Harry was even more confused than Venom - hating Spider-Man and loving the Parker family with every fiber of his being. In one truly inspired moment of writing creativity by JM DeMatteis, he even took Mary Jane to the bridge where Gwen Stacy died - not to throw her off, but to talk about old times.

Spectacular Spider-Man #200, where the war between Harry and Peter finally came to a close, is one of the most touching and intense Spider-Man stories of all time. Even today, with Harry back from the dead, the story itself is still strong and holds up as essentially a tale of two best friends who grew apart.

Even in the time when he was dead, Harry's presence was felt in various schemes he set in motion before his death, and Spider-Man knew he'd never be able to let it go. The phrase "Gotcha!" in the Spider-Man universe has been associated with Harry and his ability to torment Peter at every turn.

1. The Green Goblin (Norman Osborn)

Norman Osborn is the only Spider-Man villain who has ever been the centerpoint of a Marvel Universe-wide event. He's also the first Spider-Man villain to evade capture, and the first one to ever unmask Spider-Man as Peter Parker, gaining the ability to strike at him through his loved ones! And strike he did, as the Green Goblin killed Gwen Stacy in a classic story by Gerry Conway and Gil Kane. At the time, Gwen was Peter's lady love, and many a reader thought they would end up together!

For over 20 years, Norman's presence was felt, even if he himself was "dead." A criminal found an old hideout and became the Hobgoblin, who himself would be a preeminent Spider-Man villain in the 80s, while Bart Hamilton and Harry Osborn succeeded Norman as the Green Goblin, torturing Spider-Man when they could. And the impact of Gwen's death kept a cloud over Peter Parker's head throughout the years, a cloud that exists to this very day, and one that could not exist without the Green Goblin.

When they needed to wrap up the dreadful Clone Saga, they decided to resurrect Norman Osborn and generally have him be behind everything. And then, years later, Norman Osborn would weasel his way to the government and replace Nick Fury and Tony Stark as the director of SHIELD, leading the official government-sanctioned Avengers team as the Iron Patriot.

No contest!

Thanks for joining the Comics Cube on Spider-Man Week! Comments? Leave 'em below!


The Professor said...

J Jonah Jameson! I laughed and said "brilliant".

I guess I'm less convinced that the top four are so clear, but maybe only because I'd bundle everyone whose name involved "goblin" together. So the Goblins have got to be #1; and Venom and Dr Octopus have to come next. Let's leave JJJ at #5 and so there's room for one more at #4.

I'm not a fan of Kraven or Carnage or Electro (sorry). I would be tempted by the Vulture; he shows up early and he's, well, old! Morbius would be tempting to consider, as would the Tarantula. But all of these feel mainly "of their era" more than being a sustained character with broad impact.

So, the obvious answer is #4 should be The Lizard.

I promise that no personal quirks were involved in coming to this conclusion. It was done purely objectively.

Duy Tano said...

I had a friend tell me that the two Goblins should definitely be grouped together, but I thought it fell apart when you consider Bart Hamilton, and I decided to keep them apart since Norman and Harry hate each other. The dynamics they have with Peter are different.

There is absolutely NO way Electro could be on this list, except if I went with complete bias - there are no stories where he's treated with any sort of respect, as far as I remember.

I haven't read anything with the Tarantula where he's treated with that respect either, actually, though I remember reading the story where he dies after being transformed into a giant spider when I was younger-- that was icky.

Speaking of Morbius, I didn't consider him or the Black Cat because they're both heroes now, and I do think they're both products of their time.

The Lizard is actually a great choice! But in the end I'd still lean toward Kraven (who I'm not a fan of either, actually; I think Kraven's Last Hunt was severely overrated) and Carnage (who I'm not overly crazy for either, and I think he, like the others you mentioned, is a product of his time, as evidenced by the fact that they don't even bother using him now), just because they both have these "event" stories (Last Hunt for Kraven, Maximum Carnage for Carnage).

The other one I thought would be shoo-in, if Daredevil didn't completely hijack him, is the Kingpin. He's a sustained villain that is relevant at any given time; it's just that he hasn't been a Spider-Man villain since Frank Miller moved him over to DD.

I also think a case could have been made for the original Hobgoblin, but he's another one of those unsustained villains who was only relevant at his time (not to mention that he's never relevant when Norman is around).

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