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50 Greatest Friends and Foes of Spider-Man: Villains #1-3

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Spider-Man, we’re doing four straight months of polls having to do with Spider-Man, culminating with the release of the Amazing Spider-Man film in July. Future installments will deal with Spider-Man creators and Spider-Man stories, but this month will be about Spider-Man’s supporting cast and his villains.

You all voted, now here are the results! We finish with Spider-Man’s villains #1-3…

Here is a master list of all the characters revealed so far.


3. Venom (Eddie Brock)

Venom combined two popular Spider-Man plots from the mid-80s, the tale of the alien costume that Spider-Man got during Secret Wars (that turned out to be a symbiote that wanted to bond with Spidey) and the Death of Jean DeWolff (where the mysterious Sin-Eater killed Spider-Man’s cop friend, Jean DeWolff). During the Jean DeWolff storyline, a man confessed to being the Sin-Eater but it was all a hoax. Well, the reporter who reported it was Eddie Brock and he was ruined when Spider-Man discovered the REAL Sin-Eater. Now out of work, Brock discovered the alien costume and the pair bonded together to form a being who really hated Spider-Man. They called themselves Venom.

Now, to be frank, a GREAT deal of Venom’s appeal came in the way that Todd McFarlane drew him. Here is a scene from one of Spider-Man and Venom’s fights…

McFarlane sure knew how to make Venom appear distinctive!

Venom believed that he/it/they was a good guy and Spider-Man was a jerk. So Venom had this whole thing about protecting “innocents.” This ultimately led to Spider-Man and Venom having a short-lived truce while Venom went across the country and was an anti-hero for awhile.

Eventually Venom returned to New York but Brock had developed cancer. The two split and the Venom symbiote has gone to on to bond with two other guys. Brock, meanwhile, became a Venom-like creature known as…Anti-Venom!

2. Doctor Octopus

Doctor Octopus was the first supervillain to really kick Spider-Man’s ass. For years, he was the top of the Spider-Man villain food chain. I mean, not only was he the most powerful villain Spider-Man had, but he was also brilliant enough that he could be…the Master Planner!! That’s quite a combo.

As the years went by, though, other villains surpassed him in might and he slowly fell down the food chain. Heck, for awhile there, he was actually AFRAID of Spider-Man! Even worse, for awhile there, he was DEAD!

But recent years have been more kind to him, even as his own body has begun to fail him. While his body is failing, his mind is sharper than ever and he is currently in the midst of his most ambitious plan ever – an attempt to actually RULE THE WORLD!

However, for whatever else he has done over the years, Doctor Octopus will always hold a special place in Spider-Man’s heart. After all, how many super-villains out there have TRIED TO MARRY SPIDER-MAN’S ELDERLY AUNT?!?!

It is hard to top that.

1. Green Goblin (Norman Osborn)

Now, killing Spider-Man’s GIRLFRIEND would top that.

That’s exactly what Norman Osborn did. The father of Peter Parker’s friend, Harry Osborn, Norman Osborn went nuts and became a supervillain. He was a recurring foe, although his long periods of sanity (where he would forget he was the evil Goblin) made him a bit of a lower level Spider-Man foe.

This changed when Osborn (once again nuts and knowing his Goblin identity) kidnapped Spider-Man’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, and killed her.

This led to a dramatic showdown (for the top characters on each list, I’ll give a three-page sequence)…

However, Osborn secretly survived. He messed with Spider-Man’s life from behind the scenes for awhile (including the whole Clone Saga, making Peter think he was a clone and having an actress pretend to be a dying Aunt May) before revealing himself to Spider-Man once again.

Over time, Norman Osborn has become more than just a Spider-Man villain. He took over SHIELD and sort of secretly ran the United States for awhile (his “Dark Reign”). Even after he was brought to justice, he eventually escaped and has become sort of Marvel’s answer to Lex Luthor.

No one will ever forget his connections to Spider-Man, though (including impregnating Spider-Man’s girlfriend before he killed her). How could we forget seeing Osborn’s “O” face? It is seared into my soul.


Omar Karindu

May 1, 2012 at 5:42 am

3. I wonder how Venom would have been received if the original plans for the character had gone forward. A female Venom might have been equally popular, but having the symbiote move on from its original host — something that ended up happening anyway in recent years — hasn’t been that well-received by Brock’s fans. We never really got a classic confrontation between Spider-Man and the Gargan version, whose two matchups both made Gargan look like a pretender, and the Thompson version is at worst an anti-hero.

2. Doctor Octopus really seems to have been Steve Ditko’s original choice for Spider-Man’s archfoe. The Goblin got away a lot, but Ock was the villain with the grandest schemes, the one who could recruit the others. A lot of Ock’s original status as the #1 villain was surrendered to Norman over the years following Gwen’s death, incudling Ock’s organizational talents. It’s been Norman assembling eveil teams for some time now. Thank heaven Slott is restoring thsoe facets of Ock’s criminal persona; his verson has a little depth, at least, with Ock’s megalomania treated as something that makes him seek acclaim as well as power.

1. I dunno, the most recent Avengers storyline seems to me to have been about deflating Norman from his “A-list villain” status. As I’ve argued before, Bendis never really treated Norman like an A-lister; both in Dark Reign and in the “New Dark Avengers” storyline, he’s outwitted and used by the true A-listers. Every member of his Cabal excepting the Hood eventually betrayed or manipulated him, and in the more recent story HYDRA uses him ti get what it wants and then sticks him with an unstable powerset that lets the Avengers fry his mind and body within a single issue of confrontation.

Bendis’s Norman isn’t a master planer, which was more how the Clone Saga writers and Mark Millar treated him. No, the Norman in Avengers is little more than an opportunist with considerable media savvy, someone who tends to uncork genies he can’t control and get used by actual master planners for their own ends. He’s a man who is most powerful when he’s embedded within the status quo, but who invariably goes mad or gets too ambitious and disrupts the status quo so that he falls swiftly from power.

That sort of thing doesn’t really happen to Luthor; usually Lex is the player, not the played. Norman is really a more ruthless, dangerous Funky Flashman. (Does that make him Marvel’s answer to Stan Lee? Are the Scriers just a revamped take on Houseroy?)

Missing Osborn’s “O” face has to be one of my greatest accidental joys in life.

Osborn was my #1. He’s a great villain and he’s had great stories, both within and without the Spider-Man sphere. All those Romita stories, the Death of Gwen Stacy, Ellis’ Thunderbolts, New Ways to Die, World’s Most Wanted, Dark X-Men, etc. etc. I like to tell my non-comics-reading friends that Normy is my favorite supervillain because he’s both the Joker and Lex Luthor and also provides an actual physical threat. That’s an oversimplification, but I think it’s an important point–you can do a lot with the character.

Of course, I also love Doctor Octopus. Who could not?

The top three voted villains are also (coincidentally?) the three villains featured in the first three Spider-Man films.

Captain Librarian

May 1, 2012 at 8:57 am

No disrespect to Gobby, but I’ve always mentally had Doc Ock as Spidey’s number 1 villain (did I just use 3 nicknames in one sentence?). Can’t really debate that Goblin has done more horrible things, but the doctor’s unique design and powers, along with his status as a scientist and Spider-man’s first foe to really push him, (plus his run as Master Planner gave us one of Spider-man’s most iconic moments) always made him my favorite Spider-man villain. I guess I prefer the smug confidence of Doc Ock to the cackling craziness of Venom or Norman.


May 1, 2012 at 9:02 am

Brian, Any chance you can show 26-50??

I love the art in the Green Goblin pages.

It’s hard to beat Gil Kane and John Romita.

Personally prefer Doc Ock but that Norman’s plain epic in his despicable-ness!

Hilarious! The top three are the main villains from the movie franchise, in order of appearance!

I voted Green Goblin as number 1, but not necessarily Norman, whom I liked better when he was dead. I always liked the idea of Green Goblin reoccurring like a sort of curse that kept claiming a new host, Harry, Harry’s shrink, even returning in a new and deadlier form with the Hobgoblin. The Goblin persona was a truly formidable nemesis because it would never die…

Agreeing with dhole, as a singular person I prefer Doc Ock over Norman-Goblin, but I like the way the latter has kept on spreading its poison, creating new villains…a true nemesis.

I’ve made the same comment about death Norman as dhole many a time. Norman was actually more dangerous when he was dead because that made him completely untouchable while he evil continue to hurt people. Alive his evil can be more easily defeated, contained for a time.

Chris McFeely

May 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I always feel that, if Norman had never come back, Ock would have that top spot locked. Not to undersell Norman as the big villain of the 60s-70s era, but Ock stepped into the role after he died, and if Norman had never come back I reckon he’d have carried on there. They offed him in the Clone Saga, brought him back soon after it ended, and basically never did anything interesting with him for about fifteen years, until what is basically happening in Spidey right now.

I don’t like the Lex Luthorized Osborne one bit. It comes off simply as NuMarvel wanting an “evil businessman puppet master” of their own, after DC was so successful with theirs. I can’t wait for the day someone at Marvel sobers up and has their true number one supervillain–DOOM–take him out.

have to say i am not surprised to see Norman number one for not only is he spider mans version of the joker. but his genius also makes him the mu answer to lex luthor venom surprised was not number two. though doc ock has proven to be able to make spider man really fight.

“venom surprised was not number two.”

A lot of older Spider-Man fans hate the symbiote stuff so much that I’m surprised he made it up to 3.

I stopped reading Spidey for a while about a year into JMS’s run, so I didn’t know the image of or circumstances behind Norman’s O face.

Of course, I had to look it up.


WHY did I do that? AY YI YI!

By the way, there is a good listing of Norman’s craziest moments here:

Michael Mayket

May 2, 2012 at 10:34 am

The other great part of Norman, when handled well, is that his relationship/antagonism with Spidey extends beyond the masks into Peter’s actual world… or did before Mephisto changed all of reality.

A lot of older Spider-Man fans hate the symbiote stuff so much that I’m surprised he made it up to 3.

Hmm, I’m an older Spider-Man fan who hates both symbiotes AND Goblins. But boy do I love Doc Ock.

Too bad about Stegron and Swarm, though. Those guys get a bad rap.

I’m glad that Goblin was #1 on the list instead of Venom. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Venom fan, but I don’t think that he should be #1 on this list. Sure, he’s scary, huge, and super strong, but other than terrify Mary Jane at the end of ASM #299, he /it /they has always been more focused on hurting Spidey physically rather than emotionally, while Gobby seems content on doing both. But still, I wish that the Lizard was higher on the list than #7.

Oh, and also that terrible storyline “Sins Past” that successfully attempted to ruin Gwen’s character by having her giving birth to Norman Osborn’s kids was likely to have a large part of why she wasn’t high enough on the list. I actually have a theory about that. My theory is that Sarah and Gabriel were not Gwen and Norman’s kids, but clones of Gwen and Harry. After all, we know that Norman Osborn helped Jackal to create the original Clone Saga, so he would have the resourses to create two more clones. Also, that would explain the excellerated growth of the twins and why Harry’s son Normy grew at a normal pace even though his father took the Goblin Formula. After all, you didn’t expect Norman to be honest and say what reaaly happened, did you? And if you’re wondering why MJ “confirmed” that Osborn was telling the truth, the answer to that can be explained in four simple words: Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio. We know that Osborn had ties with Beck because just a few years later, he would hire Myserio to fake the death of his son, Harry. And when “Gwen” told Mary Jane what happened, that was actually an illusion Osborn hired Mysterio to create. As for the DNA analysis, the results could have been changed by Osborn the same way he changed the results for the DNA tests to determin who was really Spider-Man during the second Clone Saga.

buttler – I’m sure that Stegron was # 0. We’ll see him tomorrow.

Osborn didn’t kill Gwen, Peter did. Snap!

Osborn might be the top super villain, but to me J. Jonah Jameson has always been Spidey’s worst enemy.

@Omar Karindu

I really just get the feeling, generally, that Bendis doesn’t take Spider-Man seriously. He may like him (he professes to like him), but he often treats him as an ineffectual wimp and uses him for comic relief.

That’s actually something I find kind of annoying about Bendis, generally: he plays favorites. He amps up into utter badassery characters he digs (need I even say the name “Luke Cage”?), and often disregards the ones he doesn’t. And to me, that’s a sign of a bad writer.

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