Who has the best rogues gallery in all of comics? It could possibly be that guy who runs around with a bat on his chest, but we prefer to think its Spider-Man. For fifty years, the webslinger has been fighting back the forces of evil with his smarts, his strength, and the power of his will... And just barely holding them together. These are some of the most complex, intriguing characters ever created, so to say it was difficult to chose the top ten was an understatement (sorry, Spot):
You might underestimate an octogenarian with wings and a fuzzy collar, but you’d be dead wrong to do that. Adrian Toomes (and the other men who have donned his flight suit) have plagued Spider-Man throughout the decades... Mainly because, in Toomes case, at his age... He has nothing to lose.
Though the unstoppable Rhino has popped up throughout the decades, its mostly been to act dumb and break some buildings, before Spider-Man slows him down. He’s the hired muscle - and he’s good at it. But its the recent take on the character, from “The Gauntlet” storyline that boosts him onto this list. In the tale, the original Rhino is forced to give up his newly won happiness and normality to battle a young pretender to his name. It gave new depth and life to the man in the grey suit, and though he’s fully on the side of the villains, our heart breaks whenever we see him on the page.
8. The Lizard
Another classic, Dr. Curt Connors was just trying to grow back his missing arm, and instead turned himself into an unstoppable lizard man. Like the best Spidey villains, the Lizard shows what happens when the mixing of animal and human DNA go wrong. Sometimes, very, very wrong, as in a recent story when the Lizard part of Connors’ mind forced him to eat his own son. Yuck.
We have a soft spot for old dome head, just because he’s so fun. A former special effects artist, Mysterio excels in trapping Spidey in increasingly complicated illusions. Sure, Spider-Man always breaks free, breaks his dome, and then makes a break for it, but it’s a ton of fun while it lasts.
Another character given surprising depth by the decades of stories written about him, Sandman has been a villain, a hero, and then a villain again. He’s created innumerable sand-mallets from his hands, and even figured out ways to clone himself with sand. He’s even figured out ways around Spider-Man always beating him with a hose, or a bucket of water. And still, even as we know he’ll lose... We always kind of want him to win.
5. Kraven The Hunter
There’s been some excellent stories with Kraven the Hunter, but there’s one that, of course, vaulted him into the realm of classic villain. That would be “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” the storyline where the Hunter successfully kills Spider-Man, and assumes his identity. The story is creepy, sad, and action packed, while also giving us a good reason to care about Kraven in his last ever appearance. Well, until he was recently resurrected, but, you know: comics.
4. The Symbiote
We grappled a bit with putting Venom, or Carnage on this list. Both good, though perhaps overused villains. Leaving them off seemed wrong, but leaving them on seemed like a waste of a good slot. Then it struck us: the real villain is The Symbiote, the black and white costume Spider-Man wore during Secret Wars that eventually started to turn him evil. Not only did the costume successfully corrupt Spider-Man, it loved him so much, the break-up forced it to bond with Eddie Brock, another man who loved/hated Spider-Man/Peter Parker, turning him into the villainous Venom. Venom begat the even more insane Carnage, as well as Anti-Venom, and a slew of other symbiotes... But they all started with the one, original costume, which, to this day, will do anything to get back on Peter Parker’s body.
3. J. Jonah Jameson
you could argue that newspaper publisher - now NYC Mayor - Jameson is more of an antagonist than a villain, but who has made Spider-Man’s life more of a living hell on a daily basis, and more successfully than Jameson? Not to mention also making his life as Peter Parker insufferable for decades; and all those time he strapped on robot suits called Spider-Slayers, and tried to outright kill Spider-Man. He may not be thrown in prison after tussling with Spidey like other villains, but that makes him all the more dangerous.
2. Doctor Octopus
His most recent incarnation might be the most terrifying, as he lacks the bowl cut and dorky glasses of his previous looks; but Doctor Octopus has always been one of Spider-Man’s deadliest adversaries. Whether he’s assembling a new Sinister Six, trying to destroy the world, or trying to marry Peter Parker’s Aunt, Doc Ock has eight limbs of outright terror.
1. Norman Osborn
Who else could be number one? Like The Symbiote, we struggled with exactly how to characterize this, but it really is Norman Osborn, and not one of his aliases that’s caused Spider-Man so much trouble. As the Green Goblin, he killed Gwen Stacy, caused his own son to go insane, left weapons all over the city allowing the creation of various villainous Hobgoblins, and even one time had two kids with Stacy who tried to kill Spider-Man. But there’s one thing that cements Osborn’s status as Spider-Man Enemy Number One: when Osborn is around, Spider-Man loses his ability to make jokes. Yeah, he’s that bad.
Honorary Mention: The Burglar
No list of Spider-Man villains would be complete without the nameless burglar who started it all. He may have committed only one major crime - killing Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben - but it was enough to drive Peter to a life of crime-fighting as the masked Spider-Man... And fifty years of great stories.