5 Most Underrated Spider-Man Villains Ever

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on June 14, 2017.

One of the classic debates amongst superhero fans is who has the best rogues gallery, and the question always boils down to two heroes: Batman and Spider-Man. While Batman has the most obvious A-list talent, Spider-Man’s villains often go underappreciated. Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus always rank at the top, but there are lots of Spidey foes who are every bit as great. That’s why we’re putting together a list of the 5 most underrated Spider-Man villains.

With The Vulture featuring so prominently in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Kraven receiving a beautiful new collection of his greatest story ever, “Kraven’s Last Hunt”, it’s time to pay some respect to the Spider-Man villains that get none. These are the villains that continue to pop up, but are rarely deemed essential. Click ahead to see which 5 underrated greats made the list and why we think they are every bit as cool as Gobby or Ock.

The Vulture

Created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee

First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #2

Notable Appearance: The Spectacular Spider-Man #188

The Vulture is a character that only seems like a B-list villain on the surface. Having wings may seem like a pretty lame power (why else would they keep modifying Angel?), but Adrian Toomes makes them work. He’s shown himself to be a consistent threat to Spider-Man, killing loved ones and outsmarting the webslinger for over 50 years. What really makes The Vulture great though is his thematic connection to Spider-Man.

One of The Vulture’s defining characteristics is his age. He is an old man who wants to take back what he believes the world owes him. In this way he is an inversion of both Spider-Man’s place in life and his mentality. Where Spider-Man seeks to live up to his power, The Vulture aims to swoop down with his. This works for the character, but it’s an especially poignant conflict today. We can only hope Spider-Man: Homecoming and future comics explore this contrast in more detail.

Boomerang

Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee

First Appearance: Tales to Astonish #81

Notable Appearance: The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1

Boomerang may have started as a villain for The Hulk, but he’s firmly within Spider-Man’s rogues gallery now. For all intents and purposes, he’s just another guy with a schtick in New York City, but decades of slow advancement have turned him into a real A-lister. Series like The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man and Superior Foes of Spider-Man have dug into Fred Myers’ earnest ambitions and terrible luck making him another great reflection of Peter Parker.

Unlike Spider-Man, Boomerang took whatever power he could find and attempted to make himself a better criminal with it. If you remove morality from the equation these to have a lot in common though. Lots of puns, colorful costumes, and big dreams foiled by the worst coincidences. Unfortunately, Boomerang lacks Spider-Man’s conscience and so we get a bizarre mirror image of the ol’ Parker luck where it’s for the best that things don’t ever work out.

Crime Master

Created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee

First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #26

Notable Appearance: Marvel Team-Up #39

Crime Master has two great elements going for him: a killer costume design and an important element of anonymity. The costume, especially that mask, still look great many decades after they were first designed by Steve Ditko. It’s a perfect combination of old school gangster aesthetics with a fearsome, antagonistic face. The lack of a mouth makes it especially menacing.

What’s even more important though is that the Crime can be and has been just about anyone. Nicholas Lewis, the original Crime Master, is every bit as forgettable as his alter-ego would suggest. In fact, so was his son and fellow Crime Master Nicholas Lewis, Jr. Yet the Crime Master never truly goes away. Every time one version is killed or locked up another appears. So that creepy mask becomes a metaphor for the nature of crime that Spider-Man must confront. It will never truly end and each new generation will offer a new iteration. Even if the burglar who killed Uncle Ben is dead, Spider-Man must remain vigilant because there will always be another Crime Master.

The Jackal

Created by Gerry Conway and Ross Andru

First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #129

Notable Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #149

The Jackal has been featured notably in Spider-Man comics and is behind two of the most memorable stories in Webhead’s entire saga. However, he has never been particularly loved as a villain (probably because of “The Clone Saga”). That’s unfortunate because The Jackal’s single-minded devotion to a loved one and scientific genius expose Spider-Man’s greatest strengths and weaknesses very well.

It’s notable that The Jackal was originally motivated by his love for Gwen Stacy, much like Peter Parker. However, there is a key difference between the two in that Miles Warren never actually knew Gwen. His conception of love and his response to loss are a terribly twisted form of Parker’s own grieving. The monstrous turn of The Jackal’s life exposes the heroism of Peter Parker and Spider-Man alike, as they both move forward continuing to protect and love others, instead of becoming consumed by a singular obsession.

Kraven the Hunter

Created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee

First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #15

Notable Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #294

Yes, he was a founding member of the Sinister Six. Yes, “Kraven’s Last Hunt” is widely respected by Spider-Man fans. Yes, he’s a household name amongst comics fans. But no, Kraven is not rated nearly as well as he deserves. Kraven the Hunter is one of the greatest Spider-Man villains ever and deserves to be compared to Doc Ock and the Green Goblin, which he almost never is.

What makes Kraven a spectacular villain is that he represents the exact moral opposite of Spider-Man; he is selfishness embodied. Kraven’s entire life and his pursuit of Spider-Man is dedicated to self-aggrandizement and wealth. He does not care about helping anyone besides himself and is singularly obsessed with his own power and how it makes him special. He is a Randian nightmare set on destroying the New Yorker most dedicated to helping the working man. There’s no villain in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery better suited to showing off why Spider-Man matters than Kraven the Hunter.

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About chasemagnett

Chase is a mild-mannered finance guy by day and a raving comics fan by night. He has been reading comics for more than half of his life (all 23 years of it). After graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with degrees in Economics and English, he has continued to research comics while writing articles and reviews online. His favorite superhero is Superman and he'll accept no other answers. Don't ask about his favorite comic unless you're ready to spend a day discussing dozens of different titles.
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