Spider-Man has been swinging through comic pages since 1962, so it makes sense that he’s picked up a few enemies over the years, but not all of them can be winners. Whether it is being saddled with a horrible gimmick or suffering from a lackluster backstory, many fans like to claim that these one-dimensional failures all came from the 90s, but they are spread out through so many of Parker’s greatest adventures.
Readers are too quick to write some of these characters off though, laughing at what once was, and others are killed off before reaching their full potential. Perhaps they shouldn’t be forgotten completely though, lost to history. Some of these characters are primed and ready to return, able to freshen up the Web-Slinger’s rogue’s gallery.
I’ve compiled a list for a few less than memorable enemies that could be repackaged and still make some waves, either by using the tools they already possessed, or by adding in a few small tweaks. Whether it would be for one more glorious issue or a full arc, each of these baddies deserves another chance to take on Spidey and pull themselves out of obscurity.
1. White Rabbit
This is a dumb character with a few really good traits that might deserve revisiting. Dr. Lorina Dodson was a huge fan of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, so of course she acquired a giant weaponized robot shaped like a rabbit to ride and even had mutated versions of the animals as well. It is a corny joke character, but there are some things about her history that worked, like that she hated being a trophy wife so much she killed her husband and took his money, or that some of the things White Rabbit saw traumatized her — even though the character was already established as being a bit crazy.
Following down that path, we explore a reformed character who became a supervillain because she was bored, embracing the cheesy persona she had built, but now the new White Rabbit is truly broken and sees the world in a new light, either becoming a serious criminal and killer, or more tragic story. Worrying for her life, she could attempt to acquire actual powers and have it backfire, harming or entrapping her. Something similar to her getting a suit like Scorpion’s and being stuck in it, or mutant hormones that give her power over time (works with the clocks and easy to have end tragically), but not because she becomes an actual giant mutated rabbit — though keep that on the backburner just in case.
2. Ruby Thursday
I guess it isn’t a bad start to name a character based on a Rolling Stones track, but it becomes a hard sell when it’s a woman with a red organic computer sphere for a head, especially when her original goals were to fit every human with the same. Ignore all of that, because Ruby can use her head for shapeshifting, either to appear human or create dangerous weapons, and she is incredibly intelligent. This all may sound like a joke, but this member of the Headmen (yes) group has gone toe-to-toe with The Defenders, Wolverine, and The Hulk. She’s also quite devious, having other villains killed through manipulation.
Ruby only appeared in a few Spider-Man comics, but I think she’d be an interesting foe to face again and test his spider sense, using her past with A.I.M. or political element — she actually tried to run for president once — could make for a good background story or long-term almost untouchable villain. Her most recent look isn’t bad, but some new motivations and goals are important, and I’d like to see a bit more hacking since her head is a giant detachable computer. Also, there is just something freaky about this character being able to walk around without a head, and I can already see one of Spidey’s allies stumbling onto that scene.
This is still a relatively new character, especially for comics after first appearing in Peter Parker: Spider-Man Vol. 2 #23 ( Nov.2000), but with an origin that sounds like it’s from the early sixties. The story of Gordon Thomas starts out well enough: fighting in the military, losing a brother, only to return from the war and have his wife leave him, then lose a job to an evil businessman, but I guess the trouble came from him working at a sign shop. Upset at the world, he paints letters on his face and tried to kill the man that cost him his job.
I know this is easy to laugh at, but remember that Typeface actually defeated Spider-Man with explosive letters he would throw, which is an impressive way to use sign-smithing skills. He did such a good job though that someone followed in his footsteps, becoming a villain named Spellcheck. I see a new role for Gordon, since he’s such an intelligent individual. I’d like him to become the right hand of a bigger villain, helping in a strategic role, but still slightly obsessed with letters and fonts. He will have moved past putting them on his face, while a new three-piece suit could hide him carving them into his or other’s bodies. He’s a perfect candidate for an old foe gaining a much more serious twist, especially since he didn’t take his time spent in the Negative Zone prison well mentally.
The astonishing campiness of a funk soul brother with the ability to hypnotize people with his guitar and boots that have retractable blades and knockout gas just seems a little too much, even if the character was introduced in 1978. I love the name and even hope we can keep the afro, but Antoine Delsoin has been a joke in almost every issue he’s graced the pages of, so we need to change a lot.
The biggest issue is that he has few goals and needs more development for readers to care, even if those motivations simply start with getting money like it seems he was originally after. In this regard, it may seem a bit stereotypical, but the new Hypno-Hustler could be someone new who simply liked the name from a retired villain, or a relative, who deals in drugs. These narcotics are potent but seemingly harmless on their own until combined with certain types of music, causing the subjects to become completely submissive to hypnotism or suggestions. He can still use knives, knockout gas, and wear a solid dose of purple, but everything needs to be updated and made slightly more serious. This type of villain will causes problems that bring Spidey back to the street, Friendly Neighborhood style, keeping the scale of the adventure small, but meaningful.
The Spider-Man comics have always embraced science and the effects that it has on creating — or giving the ability for — crazy people to become heroes or villains, so biochemist Chris Chernin fits into this world quite well as a newer character. His biggest claim to fame though, and the reason why I think he should be used more, is the fact that he actually killed one of Spidey’s more recent allies, Jackpot (Alana Jobson).
Blindside’s ties to Walter Declun (Mogul) are worth looking at, and this affiliation allows the storylines to touch on the worlds of both illegal science and business espionage. The villain does have a neat looking armored suit to help him out, but I think he could be revamped to be even more dangerous outside of that, using a crew, along with his girlfriend Commanda, to concoct some grander schemes than simply stealing money (or at least obscene amounts). Some will remember that Peter Parker was able to overcome Blindside’s neurotoxin — which, as one would expect, temporarily blinds someone — with some help from Reed Richards, but all it would take is a new and improved formula to be a threat to the Web-Head if they did fight again. Not only will this bring Jackpot’s death back up for Peter, but also should require him to use more of his skills as a reporter to follow the money and find the motive before it is revealed who the real enemy is. Let’s stick with Chris Chernin though, because I’m not sure if ‘Blindside’ really works.
A mysterious assassin skilled in firearms and melee weapons, she once worked for The Rose but eventually reached a higher status as a supervillain when she joined The New Sinister Six, and would make a good candidate to strike at Spider-Man again. Capable and ruthless, Delilah was involved in a heated gang war where she actually mailed The Tarantula one of his henchmen’s heads back to him, proving that she is willing to do whatever her employer asks and that nothing is too far.
The name is fine, her appearance works well, and the story reason for having her is simple: someone has hired her to distract or kill Spider-Man. I see Delilah as more of an extension for another character though, a challenge for a few issues, with the whole ordeal leading to someone bigger, but all it takes is a little ambition to possibly see her become more — either overthrowing the new boss or being given some more personal goals. It could also be that her long ago near-death experience gave Delilah perspective, changing her to more of an anti-hero or mysterious pseudo-ally, a la Elektra. Either way,, this assassin deserves one more shot at being remembered.
Virtual reality is one of those things that never seems to fully go away, so it makes sense that the technology keeps popping up in fiction as well, but these comics used it to make an interesting villain in the form of Angelina Brancale. The theme for her character is interesting and relatable, a young woman who feels unattractive and overweight, who falls in love with Dr. Octopus while given the chance to become what she has always wanted through technology—a real Stunner.
It is a bit of a depressing story, someone who is used and is left heartbroken and alone once again, probably going back to work in the video store. It’s a great concept, and although Angelina’s story seems like it may have been wrapped up well, since her abilities came from technology I could see a new person getting access to something similar and taking on the role of Stunner. This new version wouldn’t look quite the same, as it would be their desired avatar (possibly even a male or trans character), but this opens up some opportunity for some fun creative decisions. Someone with a bit of an ego could be out for themselves more than working as a pawn, or maybe Spider-Man needs a new obsessive lover, but without sacrificing the meaningful themes from the original character.
Not satisfied with being a holography technician, Desmond Charne wanted to use his skills for criminal endeavors. Though he started off small by robbing weddings, like that of Betty Brant and Ned Leeds, he quickly showed off his bravery (stupidity?) and ambition, by trying to kidnap The Thing to sell him to the highest bidder. The problem for poor Desmond — other than that atrocious outfit — is that he seems to keep being killed, which should teach anyone not to run with The Hood and an assortment of assassins, or against The Punisher.
He was most recently resurrected again as a clone, but suffered from degeneration, which got me thinking. Mirage should come back once more, only to realize that his use of technology used to perform criminal activities has actually been holding him back, not seeing that he has had powers ever since being brought back from Hell. In reality, Charne has the ability of reincarnation. Though he isn’t necessarily in control of the how and when, he is always able to return in his current state. With this new realization, he becomes even bolder, able to eventually return from any death, no matter how horrible. This would make an interesting character to write, a strong opposition to other criminals, and possibly cause Spider-Man to have to make some tough decisions.
It’s sad when a fun character becomes so attached to another in their origin story and being that it’s hard to separate them. That was a problem for Shriek for a while, a completely 90s creation who was used as a love interest for Carnage, and little more for several years, but she had way more potential than a relationship with a psychopath. I think we’ve been given enough insight in some later storylines that this femme fatale would do just fine with villainous intentions on her own and without Carnage, and possibly dropping her weird faux mother / son thing with Carrion.
Her sonic abilities and twisted thoughts offer plenty of material for new encounters that could send Spider-Man down some dark paths and push his limits, especially since she has the power to unleash someone’s dark side (but it’ll need to be handled different from Mr. Negative’s corrupting effect), and it has been long enough that she can definitely be introduced again without her ex, giving Peter Parker another strong villainess. The only thing is we need an update to that outfit, since Shriek looked like she was on her way to start a KISS cover band, but I will admit to liking the boots.
10. Alistair Smythe
The Smythe legacy in the pages of Spider-Man are mostly tied to the Spider Slayer robots, but Alistair specifically is driven by the death of his father, hatred of the titular hero, and J. Jonah Jameson, which has taken him a long way. This did eventually lead him to murdering Marla Jameson (JJJ’s wife) and the altercation with the Superior Spider-Man that resulted in his death. Whether it was through his robotic creations or self-enhancements — turning himself into the Ultimate Spider-Slayer, a horrendous mutated form — Alistair has managed to push his opponents to the limits.
Although he played a big role, I feel like this villain has more to give if he can check his ego and have a return to form. The younger Smythe was at his best when he worked for the Kingpin, creating the weapons, or augmenting others with cybernetic enhancements, like Scorpion. To make sure that he falls in line with that (at first at least), and the easiest way to bring him back, would be to have his consciousness uploaded into a hidden super computer or older Spider Slayer. While stuck without a body, he would be more inclined to help build for someone new, perhaps like Mr. Negative, while promises of a new body keep him motivated. As an added twist, this version of Smythe wouldn’t realize how Dr. Octopus had been the one to cost him so much in the end, and that discovery could open up many doorways.