There’s a reason that the cliché, “a hero is only as good as its villain” will never lose its meaning: it’s simply true. Now, when it comes to villains, there’s no denying that Spider-Man has some of the most colorful and richest adversaries in all of the mainstream comics. Here are five that are just a cut above the rest.
If there’s one villain that truly sits right at the opposite end of Spider-Man, it’s none other than Venom. Apart from being one of those rare characters that were able to outgrow its 90s roots and remain more or less relevant to this day, the Venom character is also a property that’s pretty impressive when you consider that it’s one of the youngest additions to the Spider-Man franchise. Created by Randy Schueller, David Micheline, Mike Zeck and Todd McFarlane in 1988 and first appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #299, the black symbiote from space has proven time and again that it’s one Spidey villain that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Not a lot of comic book characters are lucky enough to become iconic based on one story arc alone, and Kraven just happens to be one of those. A classic Stan Lee and Steve Ditko creation that first appeared in 1964 within the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #15, it wasn’t until the 1987 storyline Kraven’s Last Hunt by J.M DeMatteis and Mike Zeck that the property propelled itself into one of ol’ Webhead’s greatest nemeses. Not bad for a guy wearing leopard print tights and whose only actual superpower is being a great huntsman.
There’s a reason that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man II is considered one of the greatest superhero movies ever created, and its thanks in huge part to Doctor Octopus. A brainchild of the short-lived Lee and Ditko partnership, Doc Ock’s trademark design and tragic origin story makes it one of the most empathetic characters in mainstream superhero comics. Plus, the property has come a long way ever since first appearing in 1964’s Amazing Spider-Man #3, even taking on the Spider-Mantle (zing!) in 2012’s Superior Spider-Man series.
The Green Goblin is undoubtedly the perpetual thorn on Spider-Man’s side, and is arguably the our hero’s greatest enemy. Ever since menacing Spidey in Amazing Spider-Man #14 (published in 1964), the green-skinned maniac has been featured in some of the wallcrawler’s most important stories. For one, this is the villain responsible for killing Gwen Stacy, one of Peter Parker’s most famous love interests. If you go even deeper, you’ll find out that the Green Goblin even had sex with that same woman. ‘Nuff said.
Who says you need superpowers to become a great villain? Whereas all the other characters on this list can destroy Spider-Man, only J. Jonah Jameson has enough juice in the Marvel universe to destroy him for everybody. That’s the power of bad publicity for you, folks. Additionally, this Stan Lee and Steve Ditko creation predates each and every other villain here by having been present ever since 1963’s Amazing Spider-Man #1. And there’s no sign whatsoever indicating that he’s about to throw in the towel just yet.