A year ago, at E3 2017, I asked Spider-Man director Brian Intihar what creators he thought of when he first knew he was working on a Spider-Man game. We said he started with Dan Slott and Brian Bendis, who are some of the more recent and prolific Spider-Man writers from the past ten, twenty years. I wasn’t surprised at all then, to see Mr. Negative presented as ostensibly the main villain of the game. I was surprised, however, as we fast-forward and see a footage reel for the game at E3 2018 where everal new villains were introduced, and all of them were more classic Spider-Man Villains. So I thought it would be a fun exercise to take a look at each of these villains, where they started, and what they’ve been up to recently. It may provide more context for the game, as we don’t expect them to literally be the same, but are certainly informed by their comics past.
Mr. Negative first appeared in 2007 and was part of the changing of the guard that led to Dan Slott taking over as primary Spider-Man writer and the Brand New Day era of Spidey that was essentially a giant reboot. This was after the events of Civil War, and let’s just say that things got weird in the Spider-Man timeline. Martin Li poses as the head of a soup kitchen in Chinatown, where Aunt May volunteers. Of course he’s also Mr. Negative, a crime boss with some wild powers. Peter Parker discovers the dual identity here, and struggles with that juxtaposition. He’s more of a Cloak and Dagger villain these days, but it’s pretty clear his presence in the new game is based on his earlier days.
Scorpion is one of the O.G. Spider-Man villains and has around since the 1960's. Arguably earlier, depending on how weird you want to get with Marvel history. In the early days, Marc Gargan was hired by JJJ to find out how Peter Parker got pictures of Spider-Man, and ultimately became victim of a mad science experiment that led to becoming the Scorpion. Scorpion has taken many forms over the years, including as an unstable Peter Parker clone in the Ultimate Comics storyline. While even the character’s name has changed, the common element is always the super-powered Scorpion suit.
Rhino is another classic villain from the 1960's, so there's a common thread here. As always, these classic villains tend to be a result of science gone wrong, and the original Rhino has a polymer skin grafted onto his body that enhances his physical abilities. The form of Rhino has changed over th years, although the common thread is the animal-themed enhancements. Sometimes, as seen in the Ultimate Spider-Man video game, Rhino has even been a full-on piloted mech suit. Some particularly weird stuff happens with Rhino (thank goodness Doctor Octopus isn’t on this list or we might have to go into it), but at the end of the day, he’s a big dude with big dude abilities.
Electro is another 1960's veteran, but with a much longer and more varied history than the previous villains. He was quite popular early on. He took on not only other superhero groups before other villains crossed over, but also was a prominent member of subgroups, including the legendary Sinister Six. Electro would eventually be known for getting his ass beat over and over, but he made a big return in the Gauntlet storyline, debuting a new look and a more bitter, disgruntled personality. He loses control of his powers as he ages, and his struggles with that make him a more complicated, and ultimately more prominent character for a while.
The star villain of the most recent Spider-Man movie, Vulture was most recognizable in his original, 1960's incarnation for being a really old man. He was actually the second villain Spider-Man ever faced, after the Chameleon. He has always had a strong connection to Electro and has been in every version of the Sinister Six, one of the few who has done so. His age, being what it is, is often the focal point of major changes. Vulture has had many near-death experiences, including cancer and a stroke. But comics being comics, he hasn’t actually succumbed to anything yet, and is just perpetually stuck as being an old man who is in and out of poor health.