Marvel fans have been waiting a long time to see the Vulture finally take flight against Spider-Man on the big screen, with the idea of bringing the long-establish villain to the film franchise having been floated well over a decade ago. But despite a long, rich history of battles against the web-slinger, the highflying baddie remains a relative unknown compared to more established cinematic characters like Dr. Octopus, the Lizard, and Green Goblin. That comes despite the Vulture boasting a history that includes five markedly different incarnations of varying shapes and sizes, one that dates all the way back to 1963 and those early halcyon days of Stan Lee’s Spider-Man.
So, before his cinematic bow in Spider-Man: Homecoming, it’s time someone set the record straight on a character with a long and varied history as one of Peter Parker’s most intriguing foes. Read up on 18 Things You Didn’t Know About The Vulture before Michael Keaton gets his talons into the character.
18. He’s only the second costumed supervillain to ever face Spider-Man
The original Vulture, Adrian Toomes, was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and first featured on the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man #2 back in May 1963. That makes the Vulture only the second ever costumed supervillain to face the wall-crawler, just behind the Chameleon. The issue saw the Vulture take to the skies of Manhattan, with Spidey tasked with foiling the elderly Toomes’ dastardly plot.
Being part of The Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel’s flagship publication focused around the web-slinger, puts the Vulture in pretty good company, with many of Spider-Man’s most iconic adversaries making their debuts over the first 38 issues running from March 1963 to July 1966.
As well as featuring the Vulture’s debut, The Amazing Spider-Man #2 was also notable for showcasing the start of Peter Parker’s career as a freelance photographer at the Daily Bugle, the newspaper run by J. Jonah Jameson, who was introduced in the previous issue.
17. He’s got an oddly ordinary backstory
Part of what makes Vulture such an intriguing villain is the very fact that he’s a fairly ordinary guy who turned to crime after a life unfulfilled and as a means of making money – he’s almost a comic book version of Breaking Bad’s Walter White.
Long before he became the Vulture, Toomes was an electronics engineer at the company B&T Electronics, alongside his partner Greg Bestman. Toomes handled the technology side of things, with Bestman taking control of the day-to-day running of the company. It’s here that things went wrong, because while Toomes was busy working out how electromagnetism could be channelled into his flight harness, Bestman was busy stealing profits from the business.
Toomes soon found out and took to the skies, eager to extract some sort of revenge on the world that screwed him over through a new life as a career criminal. Spider-Man just happens to get in the way, time and time again. It also doesn’t help that the web-head makes a habit of mocking Vulture’s age, either.
16. The Vulture Is Useless Without His Suit
Though the Vulture ranks among Spider-Man’s most intelligent foes, the reality is that Toomes is a pretty useless adversary without his flying harness. That’s down to the fact that the harness not only allows him to take to the skies, but also augments his strength, health, and overall athletic prowess, making him more than a match for Peter Parker. In one instance, he was able to rip his way out of Spider-Man’s webbing while his suit’s anti-gravity generator allows him to lift a variety of very heavy objects.
Unfortunately, while the effects of the harness work for several minutes after he takes it off, those effects do eventually wear off, leaving Toomes a frail, feeble, and fairly tame adversary without it.
15. He’s central to the Sinister Six
Vulture’s status as a major Spidey villain was confirmed in the 1964’s The Amazing Spider-Man Annual, where he becomes part of a criminal collective the likes of which had never been seen before in comics.
It all starts when Doctor Octopus comes to the realization that he simply cannot defeat Spider-Man on his own, and therefore goes about recruiting some fellow costumed supervillains to help him. Vulture is among that original group that goes on to become the Sinister Six, with other members including Electro, Sandman, Kraven the Hunter, and Mysterio. One of the more intelligent members of the group, alongside Doctor Octopus, Vulture is often the one that comes up with the Sinister Six’s dastardly plans, though they never ultimately work out the way the group would have hoped.
Though several members of the Sinister Six have been swapped in and out over the years, the Vulture has remained almost ever-present throughout. Don’t be surprised to see the villainous team in a Spider-Man film in the future.
14. Vulture becomes a good guy…briefly
Despite his status as one of Spider-Man’s oldest foes, Vulture did briefly flirt with the idea of becoming a good guy. It all came about as a result of Alyosha Kravinoff’s pursuit of Spidey. The son of Kraven the Hunter, who was killed by Spider-Man, Alyosha became obsessed with the idea of tracking down and killing the web-slinger, to avenge his father’s death.
After a couple of failed attempts, however, Alyosha had a change of heart, and along with the Vulture, who was his ally at the time, the pair decided to embark on a new career as a vigilante duo. It didn’t last for long, though, with Vulture soon returning to his life of crime.
In another instance, he was recruited by the government to track down Spider-Man. What appeared like another good deed soon turned sinister, however, with Vulture attempting to kill, rather than apprehend, Spidey.
13. He found a cure for aging
The Vulture has acquired other notable powers from time to time, including one bit of technology that allowed him to become young again.
The “juvenator” first featured in The Amazing Spider-Man and was capable of draining the life force from one person and giving it to whomever was wearing a pair of special gauntlets. So it’s not a massive surprise to learn that the elderly Toomes decided to try it out in a showdown with Spider-Man, the guy always cracking wise about his age.
It didn’t last though, with the effects of the gauntlets eventually reversed. The Vulture has become young on a few other occasions, though. At one point, he even had the technology found in the gauntlets built into his suit. Once again, however, the effects were temporary.
12. Toomes Has History With Aunt May
In one particularly heart-breaking incident from The Amazing Spider-Man #336, Aunt May found love again with a kindly old man by the name of Nathan Lubensky. But it wasn’t to be, as Lubensky found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Toomes had been hired to kill a rival of the Kingpin, and in the process, he attempted to take Aunt May hostage. When Lubensky tried to stop him, the Vulture took to the air, taking the May’s partner with him.
Lubensky ultimately was forced to let go, high up in the sky. Spider-Man swooped in to save him, but the elderly gentleman ultimately suffered a massive heart attack as a result of the fall.
Years later, when Toomes thought he was dying, he visited Aunt May at her home. What initially seemed like another one of his dastardly plans was soon revealed to be something else – the Vulture wanted to apologize for what had happened to Lubensky.
11. Con artist Vulture
Once behind bars, Toomes struck up a relationship with his cellmate, a conman by the name of Blackie Drago. After suffering a potentially life-threatening accident in prison, the weakened Toomes decided to pass on information revealing the location of his Vulture costume to Drago.
Drago promised Toomes he would use the suit to defeat Spider-Man, but after hijacking a prison car and making his escape, he soon decided to take a different course of action. After finding the suit, Drago designed a helmet with a built-in short-wave receiver, embarking on a one-man crime wave, during which time he even attacked a helicopter and stole its shipment of uncut diamonds with little difficulty.
Eventually brought to justice by Spider-Man and, inadvertently, Kraven The Hunter, Blackie returned to prison. Finding Toomes alive and well, the pair joined forces to escape, but Toomes wasn’t so easily fooled this time, publicly defeating Drago and leaving him to the police, who returned him to prison.
10. Actual Vulture…Vulture
Not content with having an ordinary man wearing a pair of constructed wings, Marvel decided to take the idea of the Vulture in a very literal direction for the third incarnation.
In this instance, Clifton Shallot quite literally became the Vulture in a plotline not too dissimilar to the one that saw Dr. Curt Connors become the Lizard. A bio-mutation professor at Empire State University, Shallot taught a vulture wing-making course (because that’s a thing, sure), but when the course was cancelled, he snapped and donned a costume he had created, resulting in a bizarre mutation that left him more fowl than man.
The deranged Clifton embarked on a killing spree before discovering his condition was reversible. Eventually running out of the chemicals he needed to cure himself, Shallot eventually came into conflict with Spider-Man and was duly defeated. Once cured, Shallot was sent to prison for the crimes he’d committed.
9. Drug Dealer Vulture
The fourth incarnation of the Vulture, Honcho, was arguably the most conniving and calculated of all the successors to Toomes, and a very bad man to boot.
Like Toomes, Honcho was an engineer. The only one key different was that Honcho had something of a side job selling heroin. It eventually got him arrested and imprisoned alongside Toomes. It was there that Honcho managed to pull the wool over Toomes’ eyes, feigning ignorance so that the elderly Spider-Man villain would reveal the secrets of his costume. Once released from prison on parole, Honcho set about creating an army of Vultures, or Vulturians.
The new group was eventually defeated by Toomes, who broke out of prison, took back his Vulture suit, and took down the Vulturians one by one, with Spider-Man the only thing that prevented him from killing them. Honcho and the group returned to prison, though they returned briefly during the events of Civil War.
8. Cannibal Vulture
Jimmy Natale was the next man to don the Vulture costume, and he was perhaps the most psychotic of all the characters to take up the mantle. A mob fixer by trade, responsible for cleaning up the messes made by his employers, Natale floated the idea of creating a human-vulture hybrid as a means of better dealing with any mob issues. But when no test subject could be found, he was forcibly turned into the Vulture himself.
Eventually going rogue, Natale was soon munching down on wounded mob goons, and even went up against Spider-Man with a special new weapon: acid vomit. Natale’s Vulture also had razor-sharp wings and talons, making him the most lethal Vulture yet.
Though he alluded Spider-Man, Vulture was eventually brought to justice — Frank Castle’s brand of it, anyway. Hired to assassinate The Punisher, Natale met a grim end after being repeatedly stabbed by the vigilante during a brutal exchange chronicled in the pages of The Punisher Vol.8 #3.
7. A Generation Of Sega Genesis Fans Missed Out On The Vulture
To a certain generation of gamers, the Spider-Man title Spider-Man vs The Kingpin will hold a lot of special memories, as it was one of the biggest selling titles on the Sega Genesis. The 1991 game saw players take control of Spidey as he went up against a gamut of iconic villains — including Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Lizard, Hobgoblin, and Venom — in a series of innovative side-scrolling levels before taking on the titular baddie himself.
One villain that was noticeably absent from the game was the Vulture, though Technopop, the developers behind the title, soon found a way to remedy it. In 1993, they released a Sega Mega CD version of the game that included two extra levels, one of which saw Spider-Man fight the Vulture in a subway showdown. Despite including the Vulture in this version of the game, the Mega CD’s limited success meant most fans missed out on this version.
6. He’s Been Voiced By A Horror Icon
Robert Englund will forever be remembered as the dream-based serial killer with knives for fingers, Freddy Krueger, but he’s also famous for playing another creepy old man in the Marvel animated universe. England voiced the Vulture in the Spectacular Spider-Man, a recent animated update on the Peter Parker story which focuses on the web-slinger’s high school days and his journey towards learning that “with great power there must also come great responsibility.”
The first Spider-Man animated series to focus on Parker’s time in high school, the show was designed for new fans and more established followers alike, but it only ran for 26 episodes that were broadcast from 2008 to 2009. That was not a lot of time for Englund to make an impression as the veteran comic book villain but he made a decent, non-bladed fist of it.
5. Ben Kingsley’s Vulture almost saved Spider-Man 3
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 was a sad way for the Evil Dead director to sign off from the Spidey franchise, following two excellent movies starring Tobey Maguire as the eponymous wall-crawler. In truth, there’s an endless list of reasons why Spider-Man 3 failed, though one particularly ill-advised decision came with the rushed inclusion of Venom in the film.
Shoe-horning Venom into the tale felt forced from the off, and yet it could have been so different. According to producer Grant Curtis, Sam and Ivan Raimi had put together a story treatment that would have seen Vulture and Sandman serve as the principal villains of the third Spidey outing. The story would have seen Toomes thrown in jail alongside the Sandman, with the pair quickly striking up a deadly alliance and breaking out. With Thomas Haden Church already tapped up for the role of Sandman, Ben Kingsley was approached to play Vulture, and he seemed up for the part, with a pair of prototype wings even being put together and tested out by the film’s crew.
4. John Malkovich might have played him in Spider-Man 4
The idea of a Spider-Man movie featuring the Vulture didn’t go away entirely, though, with Sony keen to bring the villain onboard for Sam Raimi’s scrapped fourth Spidey film in 2009. According to Movieline, Sony was eager to hire John Malkovich to play the part, alongside another potential foe in Felicia Hardy, who becomes the Black Cat in the comic books.
There would have been a Vulture-based twist of sorts, with Felicia eventually transformed into the Vulturess, an entirely new character that would have most likely amounted to a female version of Toomes’ character, perhaps even being his daughter. In an interesting twist, Sony was keen to cast Anne Hathaway in the role of Felicia – a move that would have surely resulted in her missing out on the part of Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises.
3. His kind-of appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man 2
After two swings and misses, Sony made yet another failed attempt at bringing the Vulture to the big screen. Having rebooted the franchise with Andrew Garfield replacing Tobey Maguire as the web-slinger, Marc Webb’s 2012 film The Amazing Spider-Man arrived with a slightly different take on the Marvel hero, one that proved pretty popular with fans and critics alike (though it certainly has its critics).
Keen to capitalize on the first film’s success and expand the Spidey universe in new and interesting ways, Sony green-lit plans for a spin-off focusing on the Sinister Six, which would feature the Vulture. The idea was that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 would lay the foundations for the villainous team-up to come, which was already being written by Cloverfield and Cabin In The Woods scribe Drew Goddard.
Unfortunately, when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 arrived to lukewarm reviews and underwhelming box office returns, Sony soon had a change of heart, striking up a deal with Marvel that saw Spider-Man finally arrive in the MCU, prompting yet another reboot of the franchise.
2. Toomes has a secret family
Though rarely mentioned in his initial run with Spider-Man, Toomes was actually previously married to a woman named Cheryl, who left him when he embarked on his newfound life of crime. In fact, the two had a child together, Valeria, who actually goes on to become a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. while keeping her true identity a secret. Toomes, meanwhile, lied to anyone who asked, claiming his daughter was in prison.
The Vulture also had a son and a grandson, the latter of whom ends up terminally ill, prompting Toomes to embark on a crime spree in a desperate bid to finance treatment for the young boy.
Family appears to matter to the Vulture, despite his decision to seemingly turn his back on it. In another instance, he directly targets a gang after discovering that they are responsible for the death of his nephew.
1. Bouts With Cancer And An Attempted Mercy Killing
Not to keep on with the Breaking Bad comparisons, but much like Walter White, the Vulture got cancer and came very close to death. What can we say, the parallels are there.
The Vulture’s illness was first revealed in Spectacular Spider-Man #186, where it was discovered that the electromagnetic radiation generated by his flying suit had left him with an incurable form of cancer. The longtime villain found a way to fight back, however, after absorbing the life force of a shape-shifting robot built to trick Peter Parker (don’t ask).
The Vulture went on to suffer a mid-air stroke in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #16 after falling off the top of a building. Half paralyzed in hospital, Toomes urged Spider-Man to kill him, but when the web-slinger tried to smother him with a pillow, the Vulture fought back and lived to fight on another day.
What else should fans know about the Vulture before Spider-Man: Homecoming arrives? Have your say in the comments.