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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #285

Today, in our look at comics’ greatest villains: my favorite Spider-baddie. He’s probably not yours, but I think he’s cool. (Wealth and fame, I’m ignored; archive is my reward.)


285. The Vulture

Vulture 1.jpg

(Man, remember when Spidey was fighting! joking! daring!? Those were the days.)

The Vulture (or Vultchy to those who know him best) is certainly not the most popular Spider-villain, or even the most effective. He is, however, pretty cool, mostly because he’s a geriatric guy with wings who can still kick some ass. He’s the Abe Vigoda of the super-villain community: solidly B-list, but when he shows up, you know you’re getting something great. (Yes, Abe Vigoda is awesome.)

Created by the wonderful Stan Lee and Steve Ditko team, and first appearing way way back in Amazing Spider-Man #2, the Vulture was an elderly fella who committed robberies through the use of his marvelous electromagnetic wings. He was really Adrian Toomes, an engineer turned to crime after gaining revenge on a business partner who had shafted him. In this way, he’s not so much “science gone wrong!” like Doctor Octopus, but more like “science corrupted,” kinda like Green Goblin.

Vulture 2.jpgVulture 3.jpg

Vultchy asserted himself as a mainstay of Spidey’s rogues gallery. He’s been a member of every incarnation of the Sinister Six. He became friends with (and then accidentally caused the death of) Aunt May’s second beau, Nathan Lubensky. Later, in the “Funeral Arrangements” story by J.M. DeMatteis and Sal Buscema, the Vulture almost died of cancer (he got better) and begged Aunt May for forgiveness. He can be a nice guy at times– he also tries to provide for his grandkid (by stealing, of course, but…). So, yeah, there have been some really good Vulture stories. The Lee/Ditko ones were excellent.

There have also been some lame stories– like when Vultchy gained the ability to absorb youth from others and sucked out Spidey’s life force. It was alright, and overshadowed by the whole “Peter’s parents are robots” plot, but it took away from Vulture’s fantastic core concept, which is that he’s a really old guy who can still prove to be a match for a generation of young superheroes.

Vulture 4.jpgVulture 5.jpg

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Vulture– he’s my favorite Spidey baddie (not counting Swarm, who, let’s face it, is everyone’s enemy). It’s probably because I have the mentality of a 90-year-old man. Many think Vultch is lame because of his old age, but c’mon! Super-villains don’t practice ageism. Even if he’s on Medicare and collecting social security and eats nothing but applesauce and kidney mush, the Vulture is still a formidable opponent to that blasted webslinging wallcrawler. I believe he’s loaded with potential, most of which remains untapped.

My choice for the next Spider-Man movie villain? The Vulture, of course. Played by… Ben Kingsley! (I doubt Abe Vigoda would actually be up for it.) It’d be great and you know it.

For more on Vultchy, go to Spider-Fan or Marvel’s own Wiki. Give the old duffer your respect! One day, you too will be a crazy old fogey with a giant fluffy collar who has to put up with the younger crowd. Remember that.


There’s a Roger Stern/John Romita story that made me a fan of the character for life. I first read it in the late, lamented Marvel Megazine, which reprinted choice selections from three decades worth of Spider-Man comics. It occurs to me that this also probably imprinted my fondness for the Ringmaster, another villain that I’m sure a lot of people think is lame.

Brad Curran said:
“It occurs to me that this also probably imprinted my fondness for the Ringmaster, another villain that I’m sure a lot of people think is lame.”

That’s okay, one of my first ever comics was an early 80’s issue of Spectacular Spider-Man in which Spidey fought The Ringer. Oooh, look, a guy who can toss rings at people! He he. Still, as lame as he was/still is, I have a fondess for him spurred by that childhood memory.

I have long thought that Abe Vigoda would be the perfect live-action Vulture. Glad to see I’m not alone in this belief.

Ben Kingsley’s a good second choice, though.

I’m surprised they haven’t done a grim ‘n gritty revamp of the Vulture where his baldness, like that of his namesake, comes in handy when he sticks his head inside a carcass to eat.

Then again, maybe he did this in a Zombies issue.

The Vulture is kind of lame.

But yeah, he’s absolutely a reason to love comics.

What a great villain, a criminally pesky old man. Many forget that he was the first and maybe only enemy to take advantage of a unique Spidey weakness: he cannot ward off a double uppercut when surprised.

I love goofy villains, and he even got seriously menacing from time to time, like in that O’Neil Daredevil story,

Was that O’neill story the one where he was eating dead bodies in a graveyard? That was damn creepy.

No, he was ROBBING dead bodies on the graveyard!

Anyway, it is rare to see anyone who really “gets” the Vulture. He is awesome EXACTLY because he is an old man and doesn’t take crap from those newfangled young super-heroes!

Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

Vigoda really must play Vulture in a Spidey flick.

The Vulture is Spider-Man’s greatest villain, bar none.

— Uncle Rog

Turner D Century better show up in this list. Greatest. Villain. Ever.

Seeing all this talk of Vulture in a Spider-Man movie really makes me lament the fact that he was replaced by Venom in number 3. For those that don’t know Vulture was in the original draft and Kingsley was approached for the role.

I like the Vulture and yeah, he works becuase he is old and decrepit. I also like the green jumpsuit more than the black and red one he has sported in recent years.

Jon H, if I remember right Vulture 2099, is a cannibal, perhaps someone can tell us for sure.

Flush it all away

October 13, 2007 at 9:38 am

Good entry! The Vulture’s definitely a reason to love comics. Although I could never really take him seriously as a life-or-death threat to Spidey, it was always cool to see this little old guy doing battle with a much younger, super-strong hero.

Vincent Paul Bartilucci

October 13, 2007 at 10:01 am

Though I’ve never been what you could call a Spider-Man fan, I do love the original Lee / Ditko run and villains like the Vulture are the primary reason why. Spidey’s original Ditko-designed rogues gallery is one of the greatest in comics. The only Spidey villains introduced post-Ditko that are the least bit interesting to me are Kingpin and Rhino. The rest, feh …

A Spider-Man 4 with Kingsley as the Vulture and Schwarzenegger as Kraven would be bliss.

The Vulture is one of my favourites, because he’s so weird and old. The Lee-Dito Spider-Man was a weird book, with lots of wonderfully rough edges– when he became more of a “mainstream” superhero (Romita and on) and faced more “mainstream” villains– like the Rhino and the Kingpin– the book lost something immeasurably wonderful.

My favorite Vulture appearance is in Amazing Spider-Man #63, where Toomes beats the crap out of Blackie Drago, who had replaced him as the Vulture in #48-#49.

Great cover…


“Schwarzenegger as Kraven”

Oh hell no. No AARP members, please. Maybe Russell Crowe.

“Oh hell no. No AARP members, please. Maybe Russell Crowe.”

Or maybe Liev Schrieber, who’s taller (6’3″).

I vote Antonio Banderas for Kraven. He looks the part.

It wasn’t until John H.’s post that I figured out that the Vulture is bald because actual vultures are bald as well.

Nice visual joke by Ditko there.

That cover link shows a Little Lulu cover…

I too am grieved they didn’t go with Ben Kingsley as the Vulture. SInce seeing the first movie I’ve been hoping they’d do the Vulture as it would be a terrific character study–soemthing the second movie really had going for it with Doc Ock. Kingsley would still be perfect for the next movie though.

One of the few original published pages I own is an Alex Saviuk page from Web of Spider-Man #45, in which Spidey KOs the Vulture in the desert outside Las Vegas. Good times.

Hey! I like Abe Vigoda every time I see him in a movie or tv episode. I recenly bought the first season of BARNEY MILLER on dvd and he’s never been better than in this great comedy series, one of the best tv shows ever!

I’ve always liked the classic original Spidey villains best. Maybe it’s because I came to Spidey via the Spider-man cartoon from the 60’s (then was hooked by early John Romita sr.). But Electro, Octopus, Mysterio, all those great Ditko creations are the best. Ditko’s Vulture was really spooky, the old face, the wing tips that almost looked like blades… PLus the Vulture symbolism; the scavenger, death hovering over the dying… Spooky when you think about it… But they are some characters that only Ditko could draw with effect. And I think that’s why Vulture is so often dismissed as a serious Spidey villains nowadays.

The Vulture is one of THE Greatest bad-guys ever! I’ve never understood the people that don’t like him. (Whenever I’ve read any complaints about the Vulture, they always seem most upset by the fact that he’s old. That makes no sense at all. It’s nothing more than outright prejudice. It’s not as though his age is a handicap in any way– His flight suit adds to his physical strength, so he’s tough enough for anyone up to Spidey’s level.)
One of the things I really love about Toombs is that he is so MEAN– rotten to the core. But he’s NOT a sadist or a sociopath, which are horribly overused nowadays.
It is true that a lot of writers don’t know how to use him, but it should be the editor’s job to shoot down their lousy stories when they propose them.

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