At this point, I’ll say a few words on other prominent members of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery that don’t have their own monthly titles, and aren’t primarily known as Daredevil foes, symbiotes and goblins.
The antagonist of the most recent Spider-Man films is also my favorite from the series. For starters, the Lizard’s abilities (control over reptiles/ strength/ speed/ ability to breathe underwater/ wall-scaling) are pretty cool, and he represents something impressive in Spider-Man’s pantheon, as an animal based villain so far gone that he’s forgotten that he’s human.
Then there’s the man underneath the disguise: Curt Connors- a brilliant scientist who thought he had found the breakthrough in limb regeneration and tested the serum on himself, because he didn’t want to risk the life of anyone else. It may just be the best origin of any supervillain. Curt Connors has become an effective ally to Spider-man, when he’s not going nuts and trying to start a reptile rebellion.
The fusion of enemy and decent man creates a weird tension, when Spider-Man can’t fight all out against the Lizard, because he knows about the good man underneath. This type of villain has become its own archtype with Vermin, Man-Wolf, Morbius, the Batman foe Man-Bat, and many more.
One problem with the character was that his stories got formulaic. There was a repetitive structure to it, as some form of stress causes Curt Connors to become the Lizard, he comes up with some plan to hurt mankind, and is eventually restored to humanity with the love of his family. Paul Jenkins had an ill-advised retcon with the revelation that Curt Connors had always been in control of the Lizard, although this has been largely ignored by subsequent writers.
Recently, he has become a bit like Venom in the 1990s in that his most recent appearances matter, creating the sense of a continuing storyline. In Shed, he ate his son, an act which seemed to kill Curt Connors’s soul. In No Turning Back, Connors was restored but trapped in the Lizard’s body, a choice he made to punish himself. Billy Connors had been exposed to the Lizard serum a few years earlier, so there is a way to retcon his death. But it could also be interesting to explore Curt Connors as a man trying to seek redemption after falling lower than any other villain. I’d also love to see him fight the Hulk.
In the comics, Electro has been an amoral thug with super-powers, a generic villain with occasional delusions of grandeur. Marc Webb and company seem to be going in a different direction with him in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. That doesn’t bother me since the villain doesn’t have much of a personality. It is possible that the film’s interpretation will affect the comics. One potential development is that his comic book appearances will matter more after he’s been portrayed by an Academy Award winning actor. Since the Gauntlet, he has mostly been a sidekick, working with the Kraven family and the Sinister Six. But there have been hints that he hasn’t reached his true potential, which could be interesting to explore.
Sandman now has two things going for him. His power set is impressive, and really effective in a visual medium. And he has become the sympathetic villain, in line with his depiction in Spider-Man 3. He tried to be a good guy, and it didn’t work out. And he loves his ex-girlfriend’s daughter. The writers have to be careful with his motivations, though, lest he become irredeemable or less imposing.
There has been a lot of debate on the Vulture. Roger Stern thought the character was underutilized enough to write three times, which was unusual considering his tendency to go outside the regular rogues. Mark Waid didn’t like the idea of Spider-Man fighting an old man, so he introduced the Red Vulture as a replacement. But the Vulture’s age, experience and cynicism is an interesting contrast to Spidey’s youth and inexperience. Mark Millar and Dan Slott both had great takes on the character, as he picked his battles just like his avian namesake. So he would send others to do his bidding, or wait until his enemy was defenseless. This is an approach that works with the villain, a reminder that raw power isn’t as important as cunning.
Kraven the Hunter
It makes sense that a world of Spider-Men, Vultures, Octopuses and Lizards is going to include a hunter. Many family members were introduced since his death, including two sons (one of whom was quickly killed off) and a daughter. Now he has returned as the patriarch. Spider-Man: Blue seemed to establish Kraven as a master manipulator, so it’s something that could be duplicated by subseqent writers. He works quite well as a Big Bad.
The Sinister Six
The advantage of the Sinister Six is that readers love stories in which Spider-Man fights several of their favorite bad guys. The problem is that the individual villains aren’t as compelling if Spider-Man’s able to defeat six of them. Erik Larsen found a good compromise with Revenge of the Sinister Six, that’s been used in the Ultimate Six mini-series as well as the Ends of the Earth. When six of Spider-Man’s enemies team-up to stop him, Spider-Man should get his own friends to help.