A tangled web: the 10 best Spider-Man villains of all-time

By ·August 24, 2017 10:27 am

Spider-Man may just be the most recognizable superhero on the planet and with the recently released MCU flick Spider-Man: Homecoming dominating the box office, fans new and old are getting to experience one of comics’ most seasoned heroes on the big screen.

Other than the wall-crawler himself though, one of Spider-Man’s biggest draws is his diverse rogues gallery, complete with men in rhino suits, vicious lizard-monsters and alien parasites.

Get ready – these are the absolute ten best Spider-Man villains!

10] Vulture

Adrian Toomes, better known as the Vulture, was relatively unknown to non-comic book fans before Michael Keaton’s portrayal of the character in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but he has had many memorable run-ins with Spidey since his debut in The Amazing Spider-Man #2 in 1963.

Toomes – an ingenious inventor and electrical engineer – created the iconic wingsuit he is known for that allows him to fly as well as giving him superhuman strength. He is also a founding member of the Sinister Six, and has been in every incarnation of the team over the years.

Although his appearance seems a bit goofy, his wingsuit design makes him especially dangerous and Michael Keaton’s performance in Homecoming definitely lends to him having a more menacing look in the future.

9] Kingpin

New readers (and Netflix viewers) may consider Kingpin to be a Daredevil villain, but he started his criminal escapades as a member of the Spider-Man rogues gallery.

A hulking presence in the criminal underworld both physically and economically, Wilson Fisk will stop at nothing to become the crime boss of New York City. After events which led to Spider-Man apparently leaving the superhero life behind, Wilson Fisk uses the opportunity to attempt to coalesce the various New York crime families under his leadership, but was ultimately foiled by the returning web crawler.

Fisk has since moved on to tangling with many heroes for control of New York, but is always up for smashing Spidey, should he get in the Kingpin’s way.

8] Chameleon

Chameleon is the first villain to be introduced in the Spider-Man comics, arriving on the scene in The Amazing Spider-Man #1 in 1963.

As his name might suggest, Chameleon has the unique ability of disguising himself as other people, preferring psychological warfare to brute strength. His first criminal undertaking saw him impersonate Spider-Man, for which he was caught and imprisoned.

His defining moment occurred when he designed robot-versions of Peter Parker’s long-dead parents and tricked him into believing they were real, which nearly caused him to have a mental breakdown.

Together with his half-brother Kraven the Hunter (who narrowly missed this list), Chameleon has even encountered Iron Man, Bruce Banner’s Hulk, and Ant-Man, impersonating various superheroes for his nefarious benefit.

7] Lizard

Dr. Curt Connors is an iconic villain from the 1960s and has appeared in numerous cartoon, movie and video game adaptations, as well as being the featured villain in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man.

A genetic biologist by trade, Dr. Curt Connors became obsessed with researching reptilian limb-regeneration, in attempts to discover a way to regenerate his own arm. After successful testing, Connors develops a serum that he believes will regrow his arm until it is revealed that the serum has a horrible side-effect that transforms Connors into a horrific, mutated reptile dubbed The Lizard.

Dr. Connors’ constant uncontrollable transformations have put his family, Spider-Man and New York City in danger, as he struggles to retain his humanity against the Lizard. Revealing himself to be more of a tragic figure than a monstrous villain, both he and Spider-Man view their fruitless search for a cure to be one of the biggest failures of their respective careers.

6] Mysterio

A product of the campy 60s, Mysterio is one of the few villains from that era that still holds up surprisingly well – even with the purple cape and fishbowl helmet.

A former special effects guru and stuntman in Hollywood, Quentin Beck turns to a life of crime when he realizes his job is a dead-end. In his very first battle with Spider-Man, Mysterio frames Spider-Man for the robbery of a museum, confuses his Spidey-Sense, and dissolves his signature webbing. Although his robbery attempt is thwarted, he vows to get revenge on Spider-Man by any means necessary and joins the original Sinister Six team to bring him down.

Preferring to use tricks and gadgets to fight his battles, Mysterio has outsmarted Spider-Man numerous times but has never truly defeated him. Although Mysterio is more of a utility villain than a main threat, given the right circumstances, or as part of a team, he can turn the tide of battle against Spider-Man very quickly.

5] Hobgoblin

Originally created due to fan and Editor-pressure to bring Green Goblin back to the comics, Hobgoblin grew to be much more than a knockoff, proving himself a menacing villain in his own right.

Roderick Kingsley, the original Hobgoblin, began his crime spree as an unscrupulous billionaire fashion designer who became obsessed with Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin after a fellow criminal stumbled upon one of Osborn’s hideouts and alerted Roderick of its whereabouts. After murdering the criminal, Roderick makes it his sole mission to be a better villain than Green Goblin had ever been, by raiding the hideouts of the now deceased villain.

After updating Green Goblin’s signature armor, tech and the iconic Goblin Formula, Hobgoblin became determined to protect his secret identity at all costs, framing unsuspecting victims of his crimes and murdering any successors to the Hobgoblin name.

4] Venom

No villain has ever become so popular so quickly and had as sudden an impact as the Venom symbiote. Eddie Brock, the symbiote’s second and most famous host, is even considered by S.H.I.E.L.D to be one of the greatest threats to all of humanity and with good reason.

Starting off as a professional rival of Peter Parker, disgraced journalist Eddie Brock actually inherits the alien parasite from Spider-Man, soon realizing the symbiote is taking control of his body. Sensing his hatred for Spider-Man the symbiote bonds with Brock, creating the first incarnation of Venom.

Fueled by his hatred for Spider-Man, Eddie Brock’s Venom can overpower Spider-Man with ease and is a constant thorn in his side, preferring brute-strength to the psychological warfare of some of Spidey’s more colorful foes.

Oh, and he’s technically the symbiote father of our number 3 villain. So there’s that.

3] Carnage

Carnage is Venom turned up to eleven. Stronger, faster and more depraved, the Carnage symbiote spawned from Venom as Eddie Brock was captured and jailed for Venom’s crimes. Bonding with Brock’s cellmate Cletus Kasady, a psychopathic serial killer in his own right, the Carnage symbiote operates without morals and remorse.

Carnage had one of the more spectacular debuts in 1992’s The Amazing Spider-Man #361 – an arc which began with Carnage’s escape from prison and subsequent murder spree. After Spider-Man is easily defeated by Carnage, Spider-Man makes a dangerous alliance with Venom to narrowly defeat Carnage before he can cause any further harm.

Carnage is used pretty sparingly these days, but his meteoric rise and willingness to harm makes him a top contender for Spidey’s greatest foe.

2] Green Goblin

Green Goblin is a villain like no other. Made famous by Willam Defoe in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin, is a multimillionaire by day and murderous psychopath by night who uses  advanced weapons and “Goblin Formula” that enhance abilities to wreak havoc on his foes.

Green Goblin’s most iconic moment came in the seminal arc “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” in which Green Goblin abducts Peter Parker’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy and drops her off the Brooklyn Bridge. During her fall, Spider-Man attaches webbing to Gwen’s legs and initially believes that he has saved her, only finding out once he has pulled her back up that she has died from the whiplash effect of the web stopping her fall.

Still considered to be one of the most shocking moments in comic book history, Green Goblin and his part in the death of Gwen Stacy makes him one of the most deadly Spider-Man foes of all time.

1] Doctor Octopus

Doctor Otto Octavius is the perfect Spider-man villain. Blending both a genius mind and superhuman agility and strength with the help of four mind-controlled mechanical arms, Doc Ock routinely pushes Spider-man to his limits.

First appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man #3 in 1963, Doc Ock has remained a dogged and dangerous foe of Spider-Man, and even founded the villainous super-group the Sinister Six to achieve his goals.

He also has one major achievement over every other villain on this list (so far): he’s actually killed Spider-Man. In a plan that concluded the first volume of Amazing Spider-Man, a dying Doc Ock sets in motion a plan that sees him swap consciousness with Peter Parker, leaving Peter to die while Octavius lives on in Peter’s body.

Do you agree with our list? Who would you add? Let us know in the comments section below!

Image credits: Marvel comics


Written by Alex Wedderien


Alex is a writer and father of two in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. His previous work includes copy writing, technical writing, and brand copy. One day he also plans to write his own comic book.

His interests include comic books, sci fi and fantasy novels, and retro video games.

His specialty subjects include DC, Marvel, and Image comics.

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