35 Spider-Man Villains Who Took Their Nom de Guerre from a Member of the Animal Kingdom
(*With bonus obscure Canadian pop song reference!)
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #1 (3/63)
There are many reasons why Spider-Man has succeeded in becoming a permanent fixture in our pop culture, and a top-notch Rogues Gallery surely ranks near the top of the list. Interestingly, many of the great (and not-so-great) Spidey villains have costumes and MOs based on animals. Back around 2001, writer J. Michael Straczynski attempted to explain this with a storyline that put forward the notion that Spider-Man was an animal totem (a human who gains supernatural abilities through a mystical link with a certain animal), and as such he was a target for other totems and those who feed on totems (not literally, one hopes). Not surprisingly, it didn’t get much mileage (Spidey fans as a rule like their mysticism in small doses), but it was an interesting explanation for the abundance of animal people who appeared in Peter Parker’s life as soon as he suited up for action. Case in point: the Chameleon, his very first super-villain nemesis, who uses his uncanny disguises and impersonation skills for fun, fear and profit.
Resemblance to actual chameleons: Nil.
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #2 (5/63)
Ah, dear Vulchy. He was a natural nemesis for our young Parker, what with him being a bitter old man who uses his mechanical genius to get what’s his (and certainly didn’t appreciate some young punk getting in his way). A pity the 1960s cartoon redesigned him to look much younger — there’s nothing like a good cross-generational tussle to liven up a good comic, I always say.
Resemblance to actual vultures: Well, he flies and he’s wrinkly. Plus there was a great Daredevil story during the ’80s wherein the Vulture, truly living up to his namesake, scanned the obituaries and robbed the graves of the recently deceased.
3. Doctor Octopus
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #3 (7/63)
Doc Ock is, bar none, the most perfectly realized super-villain opponent for Aunt May’s nephew. That’s it. End of discussion. Anyone who disagrees with that… well, probably has a very good counter-argument to support their choice. Really, I’m not that invested in the issue. Unless you’re going to suggest Venom is Spidey’s top villain. If that’s the case, get out. Now. P.S. Alfred Molina simply rocked that role.
Resemblance to actual octopi: Mild. He does have the multi-arm look going for him, but that’s as far as it goes: no underwater powers, no ink blasts, nada. And it’s just as well — real octopi give me the heebie-jeebies something fierce.
Debut: Strange Tales #112 (9/63)
The Eel is what you might call a villain without portfolio — he was first brought in to fight the Human Torch in that hero’s solo stories, after which he kicked around the Marvel universe for a long time, picking battles with heroes whenever a bigger baddie paid him enough to make it worth his while. Nothing personal, Spider-Man — it’s just business.
Resemblance to actual eels: He possessed an “electrified lubricated costume,” which sounds a lot kinkier than the writers probably intended.
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #6 (11/63)
No superhero’s roster of villains is truly complete without the requisite scientist who falls victim to his own ill-advised experiments. Batman gets Man-Bat (of course), Green Lantern gets Hector Hammond and Spidey gets Dr. Curt Connors, who devised a serum to regenerate his lost arm but ended up transforming into a humanoid lizard monster hellbent on reclaiming the Earth for all reptiles. ‘Cause, you know, he’s a reptile. Not much into nuance, this one.
Resemblance to actual lizards: Dude, are you even paying attention?
Debut: Journey into Mystery #98 (11/63)
Another of those countless Marvel villains who moved from hero to hero (I could do a lovely list based on just those with snake names), Cobra ran afoul of Spider-Man while trying to escape the clutches of his former partner-in-crime, Mr. Hyde, who was looking for a little payback for a past slight. At what point do you think partnering yourself with a vicious psychopath called Mr. Hyde sounded like a good idea?
Resemblance to actual cobras: Surprisingly high. His costume nailed the motif, right down to his “venom dart” shooters, and he was able to slither into tight spaces with unnatural ease.
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #10 (3/64)
Fans of colorful costumes will be disappointed by this one; Ox was your average strong (but not super-strong) guy in a group of non-superpowered crooks called the Enforcers. Take a wild guess what they did for a living.
Resemblance to actual oxen: He’s big, strong and not all that bright — aside from that, not much.
Debut: Daredevil #3 (8/64)
Wow, a crooked Wall Street financier — what are the odds of that? High roller Leland Owlsley was dubbed “the Owl of Wall Street” for his financial acumen… which didn’t matter squat when the IRS exposed his links to the criminal underworld. Adopting the “in for a penny” attitude, he added “become New York’s top crimelord” to his bucket list and hasn’t looked back since.
Resemblance to actual owls: High. Though more of a planner than a fighter, he’s able to glide short distances, rotate his head 180 degrees, and tear flesh with his teeth and talons. And as if that weren’t enough, he enjoys the occasional live mouse with a glass of wine. Um, ew.
Debut: Strange Tales #123 (8/64)
Another of those all-purpose Marvel villains who move from hero to hero, Abner Jenkins was an ex-mechanic who invented a high-tech flying suit and left his career to pursue life as an adventurer seeking wealth and fame, but turned to crime. Because really, what other career options are open to a mechanic who can build a flying suit in his workshop?
Resemblance to actual beetles: Average. Depending on the armor version he’s using, the wings fold up inside a protective shell, similar to that of beetles.
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #20 (1/65)
Boy, ol’ JJJ really had it in for Spider-Man from the start, didn’t he? Not content with slagging our hero’s good name in his editorials, he hires a scientist to create an opponent strong enough to defeat Spider-Man. Displaying a flair for the dramatic, the scientist comes up with the Scorpion, whose enhanced strength is made deadlier with a mechanical tail that can act as a spring, battering ram, cattle prod and whatever else the writers came up with.
Resemblance to actual scorpions: Are actual scorpions green? In that case, high. Though I’m pretty sure most actual scorpions don’t come equipped with an acid thrower in their tails.
11. The Cat
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #30 (11/65)
He’s a cat burglar. That’s it. And thanks to Arrested Development, I’ll never see his name and not think of the line: “Agile, like… the cat.”
Resemblance to actual cats: Aside from a preference for high places, low.
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #41 (10/66)
How bright is this sack of hammers? Let me put it this way — let’s say you’re a low-level thug and someone comes along to offer you a full-body suit with a rhinoceros horn in the forehead that gives the wearer immense strength and durability. The only catch is — and pay attention now — you can never, ever take it off, and you’ll spend the rest of your days stealing money to pay for a way to get out of it. How fast would you leap at this offer? Not as fast as he did, I’d wager.
Resemblance to actual rhinos: Depends — how stupid are rhinos in the wild?
Debut: Daredevil #25 (2/67)
For the longest time — and way before Frank Miller came anywhere near him — Daredevil was a strictly C-list Marvel superhero, fighting villains deemed too ludicrous for Spider-Man to deal with. Leap-Frog continued the proud tradition of such luminaries as the Matador and Stilt-Man, providing both Daredevil and Spider-Man a light workout by donning a frog-inspired costume and using his mechanical leaping coils to strike fear in the hearts of New Yorkers. Amazingly, that didn’t go so well. His son later took his suit and fought crime as Frog-Man, if you count “making bank robbers laugh so hard they can’t carry their loot” as fighting crime.
Resemblance to actual frogs: Ehhh… not for lack of trying.
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #81 (2/70)
The man, the myth, the legend known as Kangaroo was born — brace yourself — in Australia. Quoth Wikipedia: “As a young man, he studied kangaroos in his native Australia with a passion. Oliver lived, ate, and traveled with the kangaroos, developing a leaping ability that rivaled the animals he studied.” As if that weren’t sad enough, his successor used a suit that gave him superhuman strength, enhanced leaping skills and a “pouch-level cannon.” I’ll just let those last few words sink in for a moment.
Resemblance to actual kangaroos: Both fellows codenamed Kangaroo were known to leap great distances, but it’s a fair assumption that actual kangaroos don’t come with cannons in their pouches.
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #110 (7/72)
Not so much a villain as a regular guy who just can’t get a break, Gibbon is a mutant with the powers and appearance of your average gibbon. He goes down the criminal route after his offer of teaming up with Spider-Man is met with a laugh. Way to go, Spider-Dick.
Resemblance to actual gibbons: Quite high. In fact, he was able to pass as a “normal” monkey-man in an alternate universe where apes were the dominant species and teams like the Ape-vengers battled evil. How long do you think it took the writers to come up with that clever pun?
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #113 (10/72)
This gangster and Tommy gun aficionado gets his name from the plate of adamantium (Marvel’s fictional super-metal) in his head that makes him a human battering ram but gives his skull a flattened look. No jokes for this one; he’s the type of guy who saw GoodFellas as a training film.
Resemblance to actual hammerhead sharks: Not much, really. But wouldn’t it be terrifying/cool if sharks learned to use Tommy guns?
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #124 (9/73)
Col. John Jameson actually first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #1, when Spider-Man saved him from a malfunctioning spacecraft, but he didn’t turn into the Man-Wolf until this issue. He later found the mystical Godstone on the moon, which bonded to his throat and turned him into a werewolf and… you know what? This is too stupid even for comic books.
Resemblance to actual wolves: High, except for the whole “walking upright with an embedded jewel” thing.
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #129 (2/74)
If superhero comics have taught us anything, it’s this: college professors, by and large, are evil. And none come eviler (eviller?) than Miles Warren, the biology professor whose obsession with Gwen Stacy turned him into the Jackal and, roughly 20 years later, turned all Spider-Man titles into an unintelligble mess.
Resemblance to actual jackals: Very low.
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #134 (7/74)
Hailing from the fictional Latin American country of Delvadia, Anton Miguel Rodriguez is expelled from his group of revolutionaries for being a little too into the whole terrorism thing. So he switches sides and the government creates the Tarantula identity for him to serve as his country’s counterpart to Captain America. Along with the usual hand-to-hand combat training, he came equipped with razor-sharp boot spikes that were also tipped with poison. You have to admire an assassin who values thoroughness.
Resemblance to actual tarantulas: About the same as Spider-Man’s resemblance to spiders.
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #139 (12/74)
Maxwell Markham was a pro wrestler with a gimmicky name whose career fizzled after J. Jonah Jameson wrote an article criticizing him of brutality in the ring. Because if there’s one thing the wrestling business can’t abide, it’s roughhousing. So of course he goes and gets a high-tech grizzly suit and attacks the Daily Bugle office, forcing Spider-Man to come to JJJ’s rescue. Again.
Resemblance to actual grizzly bears: While in costume, quite high.
21. Human Fly
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #10 (1976)
Richard Deacon was born in Newark, NJ, but that’s only the first indignity he had to suffer in his life. A small-time crook who was shot and left for dead, he coerced a scientist to save his life — which he did by giving Deacon fly-like powers. Now blessed with flight, strength, and compound eyes, he embarks on a new life of crime only to get stomped by Spider-Man. Oh, and then he keeps mutating into a fly, growing antennae and dining out on garbage. Um, I’ll stick with the gunshot, thanks.
Resemblance to actual flies: At one point, quite high.
Debut: Spectacular Spider-Man #12 (11/77)
Remember that big CB craze back in the ’70s? You don’t? Well, be grateful. Razorback was a product of his times, a good ol’ boy from Arkansas with his own “space rig” who wore a giant boar’s head on his noggin and used his mutant power to pilot any vehicle for good. Although it’s hard to see how a talent like that could be used for evil.
Resemblance to actual razorbacks: Not that great, and he better hope no real razorback sees that thing on top of his head, either.
23. Black Cat
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #194 (7/79)
She may have ended up as one of Spider-Man’s many lady loves, but in the beginning she was just another adversary for our arachnid avenger, albeit one with an unnatural ability to cause bad luck to happen to other people. Hence the name, naturally.
Resemblance to actual black cats: Average, although her uncanny resemblance to another certain feline femme fatale ought to be the greater concern for Marvel’s lawyers. But since they’re now with Disney, they’re probably not sweating it.
Debut: Spectacular Spider-Man #32 (7/79)
Ugh. All right, if you must know — Dr. Curt Connors (see above) somehow zaps an ordinary iguana with some doohickey and the iguana grows into a Lizard-like creature, which Spider-Man then has to fight because…. well, just because, all right? Cripes, we’re not creating literature for the ages here, people.
Resemblance to actual iguanas: Do you see a lot of iguanas walking upright and sporting glowing yellow eyes? No? All right, then.
Debut: “The Sidewinder Strikes!”, Season 1, Episode 13, Spider-Man (1981)
In creating this list, I didn’t just go through the comics for potential candidates. As any good Spidey fan knows, there have been a number of villains that were created specially for television. Of all of them, only the Sidewinder fits this particular list. His first (and so far only) appearance as a Spider-Man villain was in this episode, where he appears as a masked cowboy riding a flying robot horse.
Resemblance to actual sidewinders: Nil.
Debut: Captain America #272 (8/82)
This poor soul is one of the more tragic villains Spidey ever faced. Abused as a child, he was later manipulated by evil scientists and turned into a humanoid rat with cannibalistic tendencies. His mind twisted by the transformation, he had the intellect of a child and was often used as pawn by other villains. He got better, but that rarely lasts long in the comics.
Resemblance to actual vermin: Frighteningly high. Not only did he have the eyes, teeth, claws, fur and general temperament of a rat, he was also able to control nearby rats and stray dogs.
27. White Rabbit
Debut: Marvel Team-Up #131 (7/83)
From the frightening to the frighteningly inane, we move on to the White Rabbit, a young socialite bored with her pampered life and inspired by Alice in Wonderland to become a master criminal. Think Paris Hilton with genetically altered killer bunnies at her command. Better yet, don’t.
Resemblance to actual rabbits: Very little, unless you count the bunny ears she wore as part of her costume.
Debut: The Defenders #131 (5/84)
Keeping with the Lewis Carroll theme, we have the Walrus, a rather inept super-villain endowed with the proportionate speed, strength and agility of a walrus… which, as Spider-Man pointed out, should make him less fast, strong and agile than his namesake, given how much bigger than humans walruses really are. Trust me, he was played for laughs right from the start.
Resemblance to actual walruses: While in costume, rather high, though actual walruses might threaten legal action if I make any further comment.
29. Black Fox
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #255 (8/84)
Like the Cat above, the Black Fox is a master thief. Not much for theatrics (he’s so named more for his stealth than because of any foxlike powers), he’s a professional near the end of his career who dreams of pulling off just one more heist so that he can retire to the French Riviera.
Resemblance to actual foxes: Nil.
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #256 (9/84)
Thomas Fireheart, CEO of Fireheart Enterprises, started out as an enemy of Spider-Man but later became an ally, but the one thing he never turned out to be was interesting. Can’t blame him for that, though — his entire life was spent training to be the chosen protector of his Native American tribe, so he didn’t have much say in his destiny to be a humanoid man-cat with anger-management issues.
Resemblance to actual pumas: Quite high, when he’s in his were-cat form. Fireheart can change himself at will into Puma, growing fur, claws and fangs in the process.
31. Lobo Brothers
Debut: Spectacular Spider-Man #143 (10/88)
They’re two Mexican-born brothers building a criminal empire in Texas who just happen to turn into werewolves during the full moon. How did they gain this power? Why, they’re mutants, of course! Sure, why not?
Resemblance to actual wolves: While in lupine form, disturbingly high.
32. Toro Negro (Black Bull)
Debut: Amazing Scarlet Spider #2 (12/95)
Didn’t we all agree to pretend this whole “Scarlet Spider” period of history didn’t happen? Fine, then. South American mercenary, enhanced speed and strength and ability, aliases include El Hombre de la Noche, blah blah blah. Bottom line: don’t expect Sam Raimi to call this guy’s agent anytime soon.
Resemblance to actual black bulls: Nil.
33. Black Tarantula
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man #419 (1/97)
One of the more interesting opponents Spider-Man has faced in recent years, Black Tarantula hails from South American climes (much like the similarly named Tarantula, but that’s about the only connection they share). Like the comic-strip Phantom, he’s the latest in a long line of men who have shared the same name and costume, creating the legend of an immortal warrior. He comes with the usual enhanced speed, strength and stamina, with a bit of martial-arts training on the side, but the laser-beam eyes and healing powers seem like overkill. Do one thing and do it well, I always say.
Resemblance to actual tarantulas: Nil, save for his lethal abilities.
Debut: Peter Parker: Spider-Man Vol. 2 #16 (4/2000)
Man, I love how Wikipedia makes anything sound utterly normal and everyday. Check this out: “After his mother died, Don Callahan had a hard time relating to his father ‘Big Mike’ Callahan. He eventually fell into the wrong crowd and ended up transformed into a mouthless squid-like creature.” Doesn’t that sound like a “Scared Straight” lecture on acid? “Don’t fall in with the wrong crowd, kids, or you’ll end up a mouthless squid-like creature like I did.” I’m not sure why he was mouthless or why it mattered, but there you go.
Resemblance to actual squid: Disturbingly high while in his mutated form, right down to the ability to squirt ink from his hands.
Debut: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #36 (2009)
About 16 years after the velociraptors in Jurassic Park scared the bejeebus out of youngsters expecting a fun dinosaur movie, this fellow came along to scare the bejeebus out of Spider-Man fans. Not because he was a velociraptor (although he did graft raptor DNA onto his own, begging the question of where he got his hands on such a thing), but because his appearance brought characters and storylines from the 1990s Spider-Clone saga into the 2000s, a decade which to that point had remained unsullied by any mention of that heinous storyline.
Resemblance to actual velociraptors: What am I, a paleontologist? His gene splicing scored him fangs, claws and enhanced strength, but I’m pretty sure actual raptors didn’t carry a pair of submachine guns.