Since the webslinger was introduced in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962, the world of Spider-Man has expanded greatly, becoming deeper and more complex. This is especially true in regards to his rogues gallery, which is considered one of the biggest and best in comic books. Spidey himself is a mix of brains and brawn, and he has an entire roster of bad guys that push him to the limit in both of those areas. When it comes to the most powerful of Spider-Man's villains, we're not just talking about the ones that can bench press buildings. Many villains with comparatively limited powers have given ol' Underoos some of his biggest headaches and forced him into some of his toughest battles yet.
With the latest incarnation of Peter Parker set to debut in theaters this weekend in Captain America: Civil War, it's time for a refresher course as we count down the 15 Most Powerful Spider-Man Villains.
Hobgoblin started life as an excuse for Spider-Man to fight a goblin enemy without having to bring back the actual Green Goblin. However, the character was given more of his own identity as the stories went on, and he soon became a formidable opponent in his own right. Several people (including Deadpool) have worn the Hobgoblin's cape over the years, but when he first appeared, readers were kept in the dark as to his secret identity. Fans were teased for many issues before it being finally revealed that the Hobgoblin was amoral billionaire fashion designer Roderick Kingsley, who had found an old lair of Norman Osborn and stolen the contents.
Hobgoblin originally only had the goblin's equipment and weapons, but eventually cracked Osborn's formula as well, giving him superhuman strength and reflexes, said to be greater than even the original Green Goblin's. Hobgoblin's attributes outside of these abilities have varied from person to person, but have included a proficiency with mind control and hypnosis to wielding a giant flaming sword and looking like something from an '80s metal album cover.
Whilst the flat-haired, cigar-chomping Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson is not a villain in the traditional sense, he's been the source of a lot of trouble for both sides of Peter Parker's life. Jameson has led a tireless campaign to drag Spider-Man's reputation through the mud in the pages of The Daily Bugle, accusing Spider-Man of criminal activity and turning the tabloid-reading section of New York against him. He invariably and reluctantly has to publish retractions when the true nature of Spider-Man's deeds come to light, but his desire to sell papers as well as his resentment of a masked vigilante taking the law into his own hands always end up starting the smear cycle all over again.
Jameson has taken a more active role in his hatred of Spider-Man too. He's offered cash rewards for Spider-Man's capture and hunted him with a number of Spider-Slayer robots. Jameson has even hired other superhumans like Luke Cage and Silver Sable to bring Spidey in. In addition to that, JJJ has been directly responsible for the creation of two supervillains to mess with Spider-Man, the Human Fly and Scorpion. Speaking of whom...
In Amazing Spider-Man #19 (1964), J. Jonah Jameson hires private investigator Macdonald “Mac” Gargan to find out how Peter Parker is able to get his suspiciously great photos of Spider-Man. Gargan fails and Jameson hires him to take part in an experiment to give human beings useful animal abilities. The procedure partially works, giving Gargan scorpion characteristics, but at the cost of turning him insane. Gargan is outfitted with a high-tech suit complete with a mechanical tail before he's sent after Spidey.
As Scorpion, Gargan has superhuman strength and durability beyond Spider-Man's, and similar powers like a “Scorpion Sense.” He also has an exceptionally strong pincer-like grip that can rip through webbing. To top it all off, his tail is basically a Swiss army knife of deadly possibilities, and can be used to strike and club as well as to fire electricity and, in some cases, acid.
Shathra isn't a particularly well known villain, but she's one of more interesting threats Peter's had to face in the more modern age of comics. She's an inhabitant of the Astral Plane and is the natural predator of Spider-Man, the spider-wasp to his spider. She follows him back to Earth, hoping to make him a meal for her spider-wasp hatchlings.
In addition to possessing strength equal to Spider-Man, Shathra is more agile, vicious and can move faster than the spider can. She shapeshifts into a human woman and draws Peter out by garnering media attention and claiming to be Spider-Man's lover and that she knows all kinds of salacious secrets about which way his webs sling. Peter rises to the bait and attacks her, leading to a huge brawl which left Peter briefly paralyzed by wasp venom.
Although Wilson Fisk is now predominantly known as a Daredevil villain thanks to the efforts of Vincent D'Onofrio, Wilson Fisk's first appearance was in the famous Spider-Man No More! storyline in Amazing Spider-Man #50 (1967). When Peter turns his back on his life as Spider-Man, the shadowy kingpin of crime seizes the opportunity to increase his stranglehold on the city and forges a coalition of New York's biggest crime syndicates to monopolize the city's organised criminal activities.
Even though Fisk doesn't have any superpowers, Kingpin is described as having peak human, “near superhuman” strength and is composed almost entirely of muscle. He's a skilled fighter, and he possesses unusual speed and grace for his size. His bulk serves a crucial purpose too, providing Fisk with padding from most forms of injury. Kingpin's criminal genius is also a major factor in what makes him hard to beat, with armies of henchmen, scientists and several superhumans all loyal to him and at his disposal. Add in Fisk's influence of the law system and it makes him a difficult man to put behind bars.
Borne of Stan Lee's love for both gothic literary classics such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Lizard is one of many cases in Peter's life where a friend or mentor goes rogue and has to be taken down by Spider-Man. Dr. Curtis Connors works on a formula involving lizard DNA to crack the reptilian secret of limb regrowth. His experiment works and the good doctor regrows his missing arm, but is turned into a large humanoid lizard in the process. In his original state, Connors lost his higher brain function when transformed, becoming a snarling, savage beast, but later comics have played around with Connors' level of mental control.
As the Lizard, Connors is granted superhuman strength, speed, durability and agility as well as razor-sharp fangs and claws. He can also take an immense amount of punishment, with his regenerative healing factor working overtime to repair any injury and regrow any damaged limb.
Sergei Kravinoff is a former Russian aristocrat, who abandoned his dying dynasty in favor of becoming a great hunter. After he has successfully hunted Earth's toothiest and most dangerous creatures, his focus shifts to Spider-Man, who he believes will be the jewel of his collection. In preparation for the hunt, he drinks an elixir given to him by Calypso, a voodoo priestess, and gains a host of superhuman abilities, including enhanced strength and a drastically slowed aging process.
Kravinoff was already scarily skilled as a hunter, fighter and marksman, but the elixir heightened these, enabling him to track and trap Spidey as well as be able to go toe-to-toe with him. Despite his skill and fantastic facial hair, Kraven is never able to beat Spider-Man and becomes frustrated, leading to the memorable Kraven's Last Hunt storyline, where Kraven appears to shoot Spider-Man and bury him. He adopts the Spidey costume and goes on a “heroic” spree, hospitalising criminals and even killing one. He also apprehends minor supervillain Vermin single-handedly. When Spider-Man wakes up after what transpires to be a tranquilizer, Kraven explains that he's made his point and regained his honor before he commits suicide.
William Baker aka street crook Flint Marko won the super powers lottery whilst fleeing the authorities. In his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man # 4 (1963), Marko hides from the law in a testing site. A nuclear bomb explodes nearby and the radioactive energy of it causes him to merge with the sand beneath his feet. As a result of this, Marko becomes a shape-shifter, now imbued with the ability to manipulate his size and form at will.
Despite being embarrassingly defeated by Spidey using a vacuum cleaner in his first appearance, Flint Marko grew to pose a significant threat to Spider-Man. Marko's command of sand makes him an incredibly tough opponent. His control of his density means that he can be the consistency of a sandcastle one minute and be as tough as sandstone the next, making him resistant to physical attacks in both forms as well as superhumanly strong. He can use nearby sand to repair any damage taken in battle and, given enough, can increase his size and volume exponentially. Whilst he's weak to common things like water, Sandman has proved incredibly difficult to ultimately defeat, as he's also able to reassemble himself from a few grains of sand.
Aleksei Sytsevich firmly belongs in the “big but dumb” camp of villains. Sytsevich was introduced in Amazing Spider-Man #41 (1966) as a Russian mobster who is selected due to his size and low intelligence to undergo severe chemical and radiation treatments to transform him into a superhuman. His armor is modelled after a rhinoceros' hide and it becomes permanently bonded to his skin.
Rhino is incredibly strong, capable of lifting 75-100 tons, completely eclipsing Spider-Man's strength. Sytsevich is able to charge at great speeds, making him a dangerous opponent. He's also as durable as a tank, able to withstand high caliber gunfire as well as extreme temperatures. To cap it off, he has a nifty horn on his head for goring. More modern interpretations have updated the suit to be more of a robot exoskeleton, but his raw strength remains consistent.
Maxwell Dillon has always been about the Almighty dollar. After agreeing to help a fellow electrical lineman in trouble for a fee, Max ends up being hit by a bolt of lightning at the top of a pylon and becomes a living capacitor for electricity, able to shoot high voltage electric blasts as well as having the ability to turn into pure energy and escape via wires and sockets. Dillon naturally uses these gifts to super-ignore people in need of help, and takes to robbing banks for the benefit of his wallet.
When fully charged, Electro is superhumanly strong and fast. At one point in the comics, he undertakes an experimental procedure that enhances his powers significantly. Dillon gained the ability to absorb and produce limitless energy. As another change, he is also able to use electromagnetic fields to move and throw objects, making him even tougher to take down.
Venom is one of Spider-Man's most popular and iconic villains. An alien symbiote comes to Earth and bonds with Spider-Man, giving him an awesome black and white suit as well as enhancing his powers and giving him the ability to create limitless webbing. The suit started to change Peter's personality for the worse and left him weak and unable to take the costume off, which led to Peter enlisting the help of Reed Richards to study it. Reed and Peter discover that the symbiote is especially weak to loud noises and fire. Peter eventually ends up at the top of a church tower, using the church bells to ultimately separate himself from the evil goo. He succeeds, but the weakened symbiote latches on to the nearby Eddie Brock, attracted by his mutual hatred of Peter Parker.
Eddie Brock became Venom, a hulking alien beast who shares many powers with its original host. As Venom, Brock is stronger than Spider-Man, can spin webs and uses alien tendrils emerging from the suit itself as weapons or as a shield. Venom can also bypass Peter's Spider Sense, making him a dangerous presence and an unpredictable fighter. It's also worth noting that the symbiote later bonded with Mac Gargan's Scorpion, making for an equally strong foe.
More recent comic interpretations have depicted Peter Parker's high school classmate Flash Thompson as having bonded with the symbiote, turning him into another fan-favorite character, Agent Venom. It's unclear which version of the character, Brock or Thompson, Sony has in mind for their planned Venom solo movie, but either way, will it work without Spidey on board in some capacity?
Otto Octavius is one of Spider-Man's oldest enemies. It only took a mere 3 issues of Amazing Spider-Man for Doc Ock to show up and start sticking his tentacles into Spidey's affairs. Octavius is a genius scientist who ends up with four mechanical arms fused to him after an experiment goes awry. The accident left him with the ability to telepathically control the arms and he soon became megalomaniacal, turning to a life of crime to fund and build dangerous inventions.
Octavius's metal tentacles are capable of lifting several tons and can be operated separately, making him an unconventional opponent. However, it's Doc Ock's intelligence that's the real gamechanger. Otto Octavius is usually considered one of the smartest humans in the Marvel universe, and he puts that intelligence to good use when taking on the webslinger, proving to be a superb strategist with an expert-level ability to mess with Peter's life.
It's tempting to include Carnage with Venom when running through Spider-Man villains, as they share the same alien heritage, but there are several things that set Carnage apart from the other symbiotes. Carnage is the offspring of the original Venom symbiote, which bonds with Eddie Brock's cellmate and psycho serial killer Cletus Kasady. Simply put, Carnage is what would probably happen if the symbiote bonded with The Joker.
As insane as Eddie Brock is when bonded with the symbiote, Venom is still focused on bringing Spider-Man down. Carnage on the other hand, has no moral code whatsoever and kills without motive for pleasure. Carnage shares many of Spider-Man and Venom's abilities, but is stronger than both and uses the alien tendrils to create terrifying axes and blades. Spider-Man ended up enlisting the Fantastic Four and Venom in order to finally stop and imprison him but as is par for the course in comics, it didn't stick for long.
Morlun made his debut in 2001's Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2 #30. Morlun is a vampiric being from an alternate dimension that feeds off the energy of living creatures. He soon develops a taste for superhumans and pursues Spider-Man, stalking him and sending his Spider Sense haywire. When Morlun finally revealed himself, he delivered a punch to Spider-Man that Peter admits is the hardest punch he's ever felt. Morlun tirelessly hunts Peter across New York and beats him senseless, threatening the lives of innocent civilians if Peter tries to rest or heal.
Morlun is one of the strongest opponents Spider-Man has faced to date due to his superhuman strength, speed, and inhuman stamina that enables him to fight for hours without getting tired. Spider-Man's strong moral compass usually prevents him from unleashing his true strength, but Morlun can take a full Spidey beat down without stumbling. Morlun recently made an appearance in the Spider-Verse series of comics, when he and his family hop from reality to reality to kill all the alternate Spider-Men, including the Marvel Vs. Capcom video game Spider-Man and the Golden Spongecake Spider-Man from the old Hostess comic book advertisements. He may be the least-known villain on this list, but that doesn't make him any less badass.
From the many villains that could be called Spider-Man's arch nemesis, the Green Goblin has one of the strongest claims to that title. Brilliant businessman, scientist, and negligent father Norman Osborn experiments with what will eventually be called the Goblin Formula. The formula gave him enhanced strength and boosted his already well above-average mind, making him a genius. However, the price Osborn paid was his sanity, and he soon became a dangerously deranged addition to Spider-Man's life.
Gobby isn't the strongest villain Spidey's faced (although he's no slouch) but in terms of sheer impact and power over Spider-Man, it's hard to beat Goblin's influence. In the incredibly famous story "The Night Gwen Stacy Died," Osborn abducts Gwen Stacy and throws her off the top of the George Washington/Brooklyn Bridge (there's some confusion in the original text). Spider-Man webs down to save her, but the inertia of the fall, coupled with the sharp stop, breaks Gwen's neck and kills her. The story shocked readers and proved to be a defining moment for Spider-Man as a character, giving him guilt and remorse about it for decades to come, as well as strengthening his resolve to be a hero and ensure that similar events never happen again.
In terms of Spidey villains, they simply don't get any bigger or better than the Green Goblin. Whether or not he'll be making his way back to the big screen anytime soon, however, remains to be seen.
Which Spidey villain do you want to see in Spider-Man: Homecoming? Will a full-on incarnation of the Sinister Six ever face off against the webhead? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.