In a previous edition of this column, we discussed in broad strokes a selected stream of the events that ultimately led to Sony Pictures abandoning their plans for the rebooted Amazing Spider-Man film franchise, and how we’ve arrived at the current status quo: a partnership between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios that will allow for Marvel Comics’ arguably most iconic character to join the ranks of the organization’s wildly popular Cinematic Universe, alongside the likes of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy.
While we still have nearly a year to go between now and the 2017 release of Spider-Man: Homecoming starring Tom Holland and directed by Jon Watts, rumors continue to abound about who exactly Spider-Man will face off against in his sixth major motion picture, which will also be his first bow as a member of Marvel’s larger cinematic family. One regular name we know will be the film’s primary villain is the Vulture, who will be played by Michael Keaton, and there are rumors that actor Michael Chernus (Orange is the New Black) will be playing the Tinkerer.
Still, now that we’ve broken free from the previous continuity of the two films released between 2012-14, the future Spider-Man movies have larger implications, because along with Spidey himself, the villains he faces off against will also be inducted into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That very idea makes it possible for other characters beyond Spidey to potentially run into the other characters that belong in that larger narrative web (pun only partially intended).
The Villains of Spider-Man’s Rogues’ Gallery
Generally speaking, comic book fans in most cases point to two specific characters as having the best sets of villains in the entirety of the superhero genre. A character who has always been associated with some of the absolute best villains is Batman, since he oftentimes faces off against characters that even the most minimal superhero fan seems to be aware of in some capacity. Whether it’s the Joker, the Riddler, Two-Face, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Bane, the Court of Owls, the League of Assassins, or whomever, comics fans are usually quick to assign Batman as the hero that has the best villains on DC’s side.
At Marvel, the unequivocal champion of rogues’ galleries is the one that belongs to Spider-Man. From Green Goblin to Doctor Octopus, Sandman to Shocker, Black Cat to Rhino, down through to the likes of Carnage, Venom, the Lizard, Electro, and Mysterio, Spidey seems like he just simply has the most interesting cast of enemies to face off against in a given comic book issue when compared with a lot of his fellow Marvel heroes.
While the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have undoubtedly been very successful, they have almost always been consistently criticized in equal measure by fans, critics and general audiences alike for somewhat weak showings of their various villains, save for Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of the Asgardian God of Mischief Loki in the Thor films and the first Avengers film. Try as they might, characters like Whiplash in Iron Man 2, the Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger (as much as I personally loved him), Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, and Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron just didn’t manage to make much of an impression with audiences.
Now that the MCU has access to some of Marvel Comics’ absolutely best villains, though, that can change. Here are five Spider-Man villains – some we’ve seen before in a movie, and some we haven’t – that should follow Peter’s lead and join the ranks of the MCU.
Though ol’ Herman Schultz has appeared prominently in almost every single other non-comics appearance by Spider-Man (whether it’s animation, novels, or video games), he has yet to make it into the big-time by becoming a cinematic adversary for the Webhead. It’s not particularly difficult to see why, considering that he’s far from the sharpest tool in the box of Spidey villains, but Shocker’s unique and distinctive look and his place as a constant thorn in the side of the Webslinger since 1967 seem to at least help the idea that says he should appear in one of the upcoming films in some capacity.
Even if he had a place as little more than an initial obstacle for Spidey to overcome in the opening minutes of a film, Shocker has a rich history in Marvel Comics continuity as a member of several major teams. At varying points throughout his existence, he’s been a part of the Sinister Six, the Masters of Evil, the Thunderbolts, as well as relatively recent Villains for Hire. Doesn’t seem like it would be a bad idea to at least give him a shock – I mean, shot – if for no other reason than to see his awesome John Romita, Sr. character design brought to life on film.
4) Kraven the Hunter
Although my personal exposure to Kraven as a comic book fan has been minimal, it’s still difficult not to recognize just how much of a unique foe he really is for the Webhead. First appearing in 1964’s Amazing Spider-Man #15, Kraven is a dedicated (if somewhat maniacal) big game hunter who sees Spider-Man as the ultimate test of his abilities to track down, defeat, and kill the creatures he sets his sights on.
Perhaps the most definitive comics story featuring the character was in 1987’s “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” written by J.M. DeMatteis with pencils by Mike Zeck. After feeling he defeated Spider-Man even after being confronted with evidence that he had not, the Hunter decided that he had done what he had set out to do and returned home with a newfound feeling of peace, committing suicide with a rifle.
Kraven wasn’t actually brought back from his comic book death until the summer of 2010, and now occasionally crosses paths with his former foe on an irregular basis. Be that as it may, whether a film may explore “Kraven’s Last Hunt” or simply include him through other means, Kraven would be a great choice for a cinematic villain in some form.
3) Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin
Here’s why the idea of the Kingpin showing up in a future Spider-Man film seems like such a great idea: though he’s now more closely associated with Daredevil, we’ve already seen the Kingpin firmly established in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While the ties are far from the most solid, Netflix’s Daredevil does in fact take place in the MCU. Whether you see a newspaper headline showcasing the “Battle of New York” from the first Avengers film in Ben Urich’s office during season one, to off-handed mentions of characters like Thor and Iron Man, those characters do inhabit the same world as Matt Murdock, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and yes, even Wilson Fisk that we see on Netflix.
In addition to the fact that the character’s first comics appearance was in 1967’s Amazing Spider-Man #50, fans who were kids in the 1990s may remember that Kingpin was something of a regular fixture on the highly-popular Spider-Man animated TV series from the early years of that decade, and Spidey has faced off against Fisk with a noticeable amount of regularity in the comics off and on for most of the past 50 years.
The primary thing about this that seems so great from a thematic level is simply the clash between Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, and the dark, murderous, powerful rage of Fisk as played very well by Vincent D’Onofrio on Daredevil. Creating more connective tissue between the TV properties and the films wouldn’t hurt either, and Kingpin seems like he would be an excellent way to accomplish that. As powerful as Fisk is when he grabs someone, I’d love to see the rage on his face as Spider-Man cracks jokes while zipping around him through the air with the greatest of ease.
2) Doctor Octopus
We’ve seen Doc Ock before, obviously, since he was the primary villain in what is arguably Spider-Man’s best cinematic outing yet: 2004’s Spider-Man 2 directed by Sam Raimi. With actor Alfred Molina turning in a memorable (though perhaps too sympathetic) performance as Dr. Otto Octavius, Ock stands as one of the better adversaries to stand across from Spidey on film, but incorporating him into the MCU could allow for a more truthful vision to the source material to emerge.
In the Marvel Comics Universe, Octavius doesn’t really give you many opportunities to feel a lot of sympathy for him, at least not in the same way as he seemed to in Spider-Man 2. In the comics, Otto actually became Spider-Man when it appeared he killed Peter Parker and took over his body during the 2013-14 series The Superior Spider-Man, which gave a lot of insight into what his very difficult life was like as he was growing up. Still, be that as it may, it’s virtually impossible to dispute Doctor Octopus’ place as one of the best, most timeless Spider-Man villains, and in the hands of Kevin Feige and with more attention to be paid to the comic book iteration of Doc Ock, we could potentially be in for something pretty notable and special.
If not in just one movie, then perhaps multiple ones: one of the keenest scientific minds in the Marvel Comics Universe, next to the likes of Reed Richards and Tony Stark, is Otto Octavius.
1) Norman Osborn/Green Goblin
Yes, we’ve certainly seen him before. While Willem Dafoe gave one of the most memorable performances as a comic book villain while wearing something often compared to a Power Rangers costume in 2002’s original Spider-Man film, there’s no getting around it: the Green Goblin – specifically Norman Osborn – is Spider-Man’s arch nemesis.
Dangerous because of his psychological instability, unpredictability, and scientific and tactical genius, Norman Osborn presents the most potent hero/villain conflict when put up against Spider-Man, and without a doubt represents one of the most powerful sources of villainy in the entire Marvel Comics Universe. While the movies may be tempted to shy away from Osborn as the Green Goblin in a future outing, another path could still be true to the comics, while also presenting a brand new kind of threat to the larger MCU: “Dark Reign.”
After the 2008 Secret Invasion crossover event, the world saw what appeared to be none other than Norman Osborn defeat the shape-shifting race known as the Skrulls invading the planet. Because of that, Osborn basically became the new Nick Fury of the Marvel universe: the top cop, who reorganized S.H.I.E.L.D. into a more militaristic global police force called H.A.M.M.E.R., while also creating his own dark team of Avengers that were made up of many Marvel villains posing as heroes (Venom as Spider-Man, Wolverine’s son Daken posing as his father, and Norman himself taking a suit from Tony Stark and branding himself the “Iron Patriot”).
While it would be great to see the Green Goblin flying around on his glider in the MCU, it may be even better to see Osborn take control of the law while our heroes do what they can to try and stop him.
What do you think? Who do you want to see face off against the Webhead in the forthcoming co-produced Sony/Marvel Spider-Man films? Sound off with your choices below, and we’ll see you next week!