The Shelf Is Half Full

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Archive for the category “Spider-Man”

The 30 Sexiest Comic Heroines – #20-11

It’s time for the second part of this list, and just in case you haven’t gotten the memo from the first part, this is more of a critical look at why readers fall in love with certain comic book women. This is not an excuse to post pictures of comic book characters in revealing clothing. I actually nearly gave myself a headache trying to find pictures of some of these women that were in relatively normal clothes and were still quality art.

At the end of the day, personality is a lot sexier than a pretty girl in a bikini. These are the DC and Marvel heroines that fit all that criteria.

Psylocke

#20. Betsy Braddock (Psylocke)

One of the archetypal character types for making a woman who is, shall we say, designed to have sex appeal is to make them an exotic beauty, a woman who doesn’t look like everyone around here. Exotic is different, different is exciting, it makes us want to know more about that person because we feel like they’ve lived a life we don’t know about. Elizabeth Braddock is a British model whose signature is her purple hair. Well that should already make her stand out from the pack. But nope, Marvel did us one better; through a crazy psychic body swap, Betsy’s mind is now in the body of Kwannan. So now she’s a British model living in the body of a Japanese ninja with purple hair. And those don’t come around too often. So Psylocke is already super attractive just because she stands out from virtually everybody.

Psylocke is also the first psychic to be on the list (she won’t be the only one), and that is an interesting trait. The idea of a woman being able to read a man’s mind can be utterly terrifying, especially given Betsy is best known for her stripperiffic outfit shown above in the most tasteful pose I could find. But on the other end, the idea that Betsy could fall in love with us even though she knows what we are thinking is really attractive. People want to be accepted for who they are and at the end of the day you can’t lie to a psychic. So if Betsy’s in love with you, you must be pretty special. The idea of being that in tune with someone is a pretty awesome thing to think about.

Supergirl

#19. Kara Zor-El (Supergirl)

And from the extremely exotic to the epitome of the “girl next door” trope, we know have Supergirl. Like her cousin, Kara is kind of meant to embody the “feminine ideal” for readers. This of course means that she’s gone through some phases in different points in history that don’t exactly hold up to feminist standards. And no, Supergirl in her original incarnation is not a character I particularly enjoy; she’s pretty and compassionate and well… “nice”. But she lacks agency or layers to her personality, and Superman is in far too much control of her life. The only thing I like about this Supergirl is that I can at least look at her outfit without feeling a dirty old man.

But the more modern takes on the character are much more interesting. She’s no longer obedient, she rebels from time to time and sometimes that works out for her and sometimes it gets her in trouble. Which is a much better take on teenage characters, something that is easier to relate to. I enjoy her even more in the New 52, where she has little to do with her cousin and is instead a girl trying to find her place in the world. She’s somebody who feels like she could be your best friend, somebody who would go on an adventure with you.

She-Hulk

#18. Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk)

I am a firm believer that many men are attracted to women who can beat them up. There’s a sense of danger there and danger is exciting. But especially in a genre with as much action as comic books, it’s also nice to know that our partner can take care of themselves and can save us if we need them too. Yeah, there’s appeal in the “damsel in distress” character, but it can also get really annoying in a hurry. One look at She-Hulk, Strongest Woman There Is, and we know she can take care of herself.

Fortunately, She-Hulk’s personality is as much of a force of nature as her body. Jennifer Walters is Bruce Banner’s cousin, a lawyer who is a bit timid but very smart and very funny; the She-Hulk however, lacks her inhibitions. She’s not afraid to be funny or outspoken or confident in her abilities. This again is very appealing trait; She-Hulk just doesn’t know how to be fake. She’s always honest and always blunt, and there’s a lot of appeal in that. And of course, this can’t be overstated; She-Hulk has never hesitated about pursuing relationships; she’s not going to be chased, she’s the chaser. Again, blunt honesty and aggression is a turn-on for plenty of guys; the fact that she’s funny is even better.

Gwen Stacey

#17. Gwen Stacy (Spider-Woman)

Peter Parker first met Gwen Stacey in college, and despite a few obstacles, they quickly hit it off and were a well-functioning couple. Being the girlfriend of one of the most popular characters in comics, especially the one who was most designed to relate to teenagers, Gwen was sort of an “America’s Sweetheart” type; everyone loved Gwen. She was kind of the Betty to Mary Jane’s Veronica; not as outgoing or “exciting”, but kinder, more mature and more capable of handling a stable relationship. Honestly, were it not for her death, I imagine that Peter and Gwen would have become married. Many consider Gwen’s death to be the moment when comics lost their innocence and “grew up” to face the real world, which wasn’t always happy. Gwen is a symbol of that childlike innocence and the hope that we could have a happy ending.

Gwen was before my time, although her impact was still felt in later media. The Mary Jane Watson from Sam Raimi’s movies honestly has a lot more in common with Gwen than the comics MJ as far as personality goes. And conversely, the Gwen Stacey that Emma Stone plays (a much better love interest) has a bit of MJ’s fire, but is still definitely Gwen. Marvel has tried different ways to bring Gwen back (clones… ugh), but I think by far the most successful has been “Spider-Gwen”, an alternate reality where Gwen is bitten by the radioactive spider. And… yeah, that is pretty much a perfect idea. Gwen Stacey as Spider-Woman is awesome. Definitely a good way to update the character for more modern tastes.

Pepper Potts

#16. Pepper Potts

Pepper Potts is kind of an interesting case. Though she was introduced as Tony Stark’s personality secretary with a crush, their relationship was never one that went anywhere. No, she eventually fell in love with and married Harold “Happy” Hogan, Stark’s butler. And yep, the idea that a smart, funny, pretty girl like Pepper would eventually give up on the selfish, arrogant pretty boy for the steady, reliable guy who doesn’t look like Hercules is a huge point in her favor. I am sure most comic book fans have a lot more in common with Happy Hogan than with Iron Man. The “nice guy wins” is a story that is always going to make that guy’s partner more attractive.

However, Pepper seems to be subject of a bit of a war between some writers who want her with Tony and others who want her with Hogan. Sadly, Tony eventually won out in order to make things more in line with the Iron Man movies, where Gwyneth Paltrow stars as the character and is the primary love interest of Tony. Fortunately, I am a big fan of that couple and Paltrow definitely brings a lot of personality that has influenced the comics version in positive ways. Pepper fulfills two things that will always be attractive. She’s got that blunt honesty that I talked about with She-Hulk; she always calls out Tony on his crap; self-respect and standards are always a good thing. But she’s also the ultimate caretaker; her job is basically the same as Alfred Pennyworth. She is the ultimate support system for Tony, and that is probably what makes her stand out most.

Batwoman

#15. Kate Kane (Batwoman)

Again, being unique is always a good way to endear readers. Being easily the highest profile lesbian in comics gives Batwoman a huge edge in that department; she’s the standard that future gay characters are probably going to be held to. Kate Kane is actually the second version of Batwoman; the Silver Age version of the character was, ironically enough, created to make a love interest for Batman to show that he was not gay after concerns raised by the book “The Seduction of the Innocent”. Fortunately, we have evolved a bit as a society and there is a growing desire to see LGBT characters be represented in comics. Kate is an excellent example of this. While being gay is not her only defining trait thanks to her superhero career, close relationship with her father and her military background, it is not a simple personality quirk either. A major part of Batwoman comics is about Kate’s relationships with other women.

And not just the sex stuff either. The dates, the personality clashes, the ups and downs of a relationship. Kate’s relationship with Maggie Sawyer is one of my favorite in comics, and one of the more unique. In addition to being an example of a lesbian relationship that is given a lot of time and development and is usually pretty healthy, it’s also a generational gap. Maggie is much older than Kate and that is a key dynamic of their relationship. While there is plenty to love about Batwoman comics, from the supernatural element to J.H. Williams III’s gorgeous art style, what always stands out to me is that it is a romance comic done right. And well written relationships with two likable yet distinct characters will always be sexy.

Kitty

#14. Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat)

From one Jewish Katherine to another, it’s time to take a look at the X-Men who can walk through walls, Kitty Pryde. When it comes to examining why Kitty is on this list, it comes down to a pretty simple reason. X-Men fans have grown up with her, and she has grown up with them. Kitty was introduced as a fourteen year old girl who wasn’t quite ready to be on the team; in many ways, a link between the typical reader and the fantastic world of X-Men comics. And she’s likable from the start; full of spunk, creativity and courage but also emotionally vulnerable and often out of her depth. Easy to relate to, Kitty is a character that many people saw themselves in, and many fell in love with.

Fortunately, Kitty has been anything but stagnant. We’ve seen her take on rigorous warrior training from Wolverine, so we know that she’s tough and has self-discipline. We’ve seen her leave the team to join Excalibur, so we know she’s independent and willing to take risks. We’ve seen her become a teacher and a leader, so we know she’s intelligent and capable and confident. And yet through all of that, Kitty has never stopped being the optimistic, compassionate person that we first knew. And she recently became one of the spokesman for why the anti-bigotry message of the X-Men will always be important; she’s proud of who she is, unafraid to claim it, and inspires us to be the same.

Black Widow

#13. Natasha Romanov (Black Widow)

The fact that Black Widow has become a breakout character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is played by one of the most attractive women on the planet has certainly raised awareness of the character and helped make her a more major player. But this isn’t about Scarlett Johanssen and how awesome she is. Black Widow from the comics still has plenty to like about her. She’s still the best spy in the Marvel Universe and is an incredibly dangerous fighter, and a member of the Avengers. There’s that danger thing I keep bringing up. She’s also a bad girl turned good; she debuted as a villain but eventually had a change of heart and joined The Avengers. Yep, there’s another mark in her favor.

But perhaps the most important difference between the comic version and the movie version is that Black Widow is a much older woman. So instead of being the incredibly hot twenty something who we probably shouldn’t mess with, she’s the incredibly hot older woman who is so dangerous that she could eat us alive.Yeah, that about seals the deal. Natasha’s mix of intelligence, skill as a warrior, willingness to use her sexuality to her advantage, ability to bend the rules, and a long life of experience make her an extremely intimidating woman. And that is always going to appeal to certain people, including me.

Donna Troy

#12. Donna Troy (Wonder Girl)

To understand the appeal of Donna Troy, Wonder Woman’s sidekick/protegy, one first needs to understand what makes Wonder Woman appealing. Wonder Woman is a warrior, but one who fights for peace and equality. She holds up very lofty ideals and is very capable of standing up for them. She is simultaneously fierce and gentle, compassionate and ruthless. That is all very awesome. Now take these traits, and add them to a younger girl who is closer in age to the target audience. Where can you go wrong? Donna Troy has Diana’s lofty ideals, but has a younger perspective on things. When Wonder Woman gives a speech about equality it can almost come across as a scolding mother. When it’s Donna, it feels like a friend giving helpful advice to help you grow as a person.

But beyond that, Donna is mostly just a girl who feels like she just knows how to handle the world and whatever it throws at her. If you read George Perez and Marv Wolfman’s run on Teen Titans, you’ll notice that Donna is the only Titan holding down a job. She’s got her own boyfriend and it isn’t another superhero, but a teacher without superpowers. And she has enough experience as a fighter not to be afraid of the danger that goes on around her. And like Kitty Pryde, she’s a character that grew along with the audience, going from a young teenager to a young woman; that feeling that you’ve grown up with someone and seen them reach their potential provides an intimate relationship that lends itself to fan crushes.

Mary Jane

#11. Mary Jane Watson

Can I just take a moment to please ask any fans of Mary Jane Watson who have pictures of her where she isn’t undressing, wearing Spider-Man clothes, or showing off impossible flexibility, please put them up on the internet? I love Mary Jane, but man it was hard to find a picture of her that was more current and didn’t make me feel like I was one step away from looking at pornography. And that’s really why I’m doing this list; there is so much more that goes into sexual attraction than just physical attractiveness and these should be realized. A good writer and a good artist should be able to make their characters appealing and yes, even sexy, without showing them undressing. That way, when the character does show off a bit we have an established emotional connection to the character. This is the difference between “fan service” and “cheesecake”; one is showing off the sensuality of a beloved character and the other is just sexual objectification.

Now that I have that out of my system, let’s talk about Mary Jane Watson, the iconic girlfriend/wife of Spider-Man. There’s basically two key phases of Mary Jane’s life that are extremely sexually appealing, but in different ways. She first shows up as a confident, self-assured party-goer who is way out of Peter Parker’s league but doesn’t see herself that way. The character has flaws, being a bit stuck up and shallow, but that just makes her a bit more human. And it means all the more when she grows out of that after Gwen Stacy’s death; she was just as close to Gwen as Peter was and that death causes her to grow up a bit. This brings me to other important aspect; MJ and Peter married and spent a very long time as a couple. And as the ultra-supportive, loving wife of Spider-Man she fulfills a fantasy that a lot of people don’t get; a loving, committed partner who is in for the long haul.

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The Top Twelve – Superhero Movies

This list is just my own person favorites and not intended to be a scientific or definitive list. I don’t expect my opinions to be shared by everyone, but at least that should make this a refreshing read, right?

X2

#12. X2: X-Men United (2003)

Not enough credit is given to Bryan Singer’s X-Men films these days. I think the poor quality of X-Men 3 (2006) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) as well as the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made people forget that before X-Men released to positive reviews in 2000, superhero movies were pretty much a joke. The Batman franchise was dead and buried thanks to Batman and Robin (1998) and the most successful comic book franchise was Blade. Anyway, the first film was good but the second one was even better. Wolverine’s origins were explored, the tension between humans and mutants took center stage, Nightcrawler was a worthy addition to the cast, and everyone from Mystique to Pyro got meaningful character development. Twelve years later this film still stands as one of the best ensemble superhero movies and arguably the blueprint for The Avengers movies.

Superman

#11. Superman (1978)

The first modern superhero film is still one of the best. The movie told us that we would believe a man would fly, and thanks to the cutting edge special effects, it’s still easy to believe Superman can fly almost four decades later. But more importantly, thanks to Christopher Reeve we believed that Superman could act; his portrayal of the Man of Steel was so different from his portrayal as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent that it was easy to believe nobody could make the connection. To me this is the standard for everything that was to come; it’s also so much better than Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013) that it isn’t even funny.

Spidey

#10. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Yesterday I wrote about how awesome Doctor Octopus was in this film and how the movie raised the bar for action in the genre. But there is plenty more to love about Sam Raimi’s second Spider-Man movie. The characters are older and more complex. Peter feels more of the toll that being Spider-Man takes on his personal life, which is probably the most important dynamic of the character in the comics. Harry Osborn really comes into his own in this film as well. While the franchise took a nose dive after this, this is still a high point and I feel is the film that should be most closely modeled when Marvel brings Peter Parker into their cinematic universe.

Ultron

#9. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

The most recent addition to this list, Age of Ultron is a worthy follow up to the most successful superhero movie of all time and another hit in Marvel’s recent flurry of creative successes. The all-star casts returns and by this point could play the characters in their sleep. Jeremy Renner’s increased role as Hawkeye arguably makes him the breakout star of the movie, but everyone has their moments. The Maximoff Twins worked better than I could have hoped and the Vision ended up as one of the best parts of the movie instead of the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ultron was also a strong antagonist who entertained me in ways I didn’t expect. While not as good as the first one, it’s still a great time at the movies.

Logan

#8. The Wolverine (2013)

Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine for about fifteen years at this point, but for my money, it’s this film where he gave his greatest performance as the character. I love this movie because it is a great character study and a solid action film and doesn’t try to be more than that. I also enjoy the film for helping wipe away the bad memory of Logan’s first solo film, and for not trying to insult me for being a comic book fan like other movies from 2013. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet I highly recommend it.

CA.0417.ironman

#7. Iron Man (2008)

I remember going to the theaters to see this movie and not having overly high expectations. As difficult as it may be to imagine now, Tony Stark was hardly a pop culture icon. I knew of him mostly because I played War of the Gems on Super Nintendo. By the time the movie was over I was in love with Iron Man and even more in love with Robert Downey, Jr. Turns out I wasn’t the only one; this movie helped launch Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and made Robert a high profile star once again. And it still holds up as one of the most fun comic movies out there, and is far better than its sequels.

Lights

#6. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

I remember when Marvel announced that they were doing this movie shortly after the release of The Avengers and thinking that they may have gone in over their heads a bit. Sure, Iron Man and Thor weren’t exactly cultural icons but the Guardians of the Galaxy were obscure even by comic book standards. I expected this to bomb hard, but that is why Kevin Feige is a millionaire and I am writing about his movies. Guardians of the Galaxy was irreverent, innovative and glorious entertainment, introducing audiences to a slew of new characters that almost all comic book fans have come to adore. Including myself. This movie is fantastic and arguably the best launch of a franchise ever.

Batman

#5. Batman Begins (2005)

Then again, this is a pretty good argument too. While I have gained a certain appreciation for the 1989 Tim Burton film Batman, especially Michael Keaton’s performance as the caped crusader, I have to say that on the whole those movies fell flat for me. And let’s not even talk about the Joel Schumacher films. But Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the character in movies was the breath of fresh air that the character needed, the most serious dramatic film based on a comic book to date. This told the origin and training of Batman so well that I don’t think it ever needs to be addressed again.

Future

#4. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

It was a long and bumpy road, but the third Bryan Singer directed X-Men film was more than worth the wait. Featuring a story that was loosely based on one of the best stories in the X-Men’s history, this film brings together the cast of the original series with the younger cast from X-Men: First Class (2011) to stellar results. In many ways this is my favorite comic book movie, because it felt like a reward for sticking with the series even after it burned me as a viewer more than a couple of times. Unfortunately, being a movie that runs on time travel, there are some serious logic problems that sometimes distract from the experience, but other than the film is a blast. Especially when Pietro is involved.

Avengers

#3. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

Here’s a bright idea; take a World War II soldier, a Norse God, Frankenstein’s monster, a female James Bond, a male Katniss Everdeen, and a man in a flying robot suit and make a movie. This should have been a disaster, but Marvel’s careful world building mixed with talented actors mixed with Joss Whedon’s writing and directing somehow formed the perfect mixture for what may be the best comic book movie ever. It’s a miracle that this film works as well as it does. Which is spectacularly. I think I saw this movie around five times in theaters and was never bored, and I still like to throw it in when I have nothing better to do. One of the best popcorn flicks ever put together.

Joker

#2. The Dark Knight (2008)

Batman Begins was a great… beginning, but it turned out to be a mere appetizer for the most critically acclaimed film based on a comic book ever. The Dark Knight is more of a serious crime thriller than escapist popcorn fun, though it does have its moments. However, this was one of the first movies to take the heroes and villains seriously and show that they actually can be symbols with greater meaning. Even if it did beat those points into the ground. Still, it’s got a ton of great performances and an Oscar-winning Heath Ledger as The Joker, one of the all time great antagonists in cinema; not just comic book movies, but movies in general. It’s a remarkable piece of film making, and it just happens to involve a guy in a bat mask.

Scuffle

#1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

If one takes the comic book escapism of The Avengers and blends it with the real world seriousness of The Dark Knight, you get the conspiracy thriller action film called Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I was a huge fan of the first Captain America film but the sequel was an improvement in every single way. Chris Evans is brilliant as Steve Rogers, there’s a strong supporting cast and a genuinely compelling plot. The action scenes are gorgeously choreographed and feature a lot of practical stunt work, and the film even brings in political concepts from the real world to discuss them. It’s my favorite comic book movie and I think it’ll be a while before anything challenges it.

Supervillain Spotlight – Doctor Octopus

This week’s villainous feature takes a look at another Spider-Man villain, and definitely one of the greats. Another invention of Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, Otto Octavius debuted in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man #3 and has become one of the most famous and memorable villains that Webhead has faced. He’s been in comics, TV shows, video games, and was the villain in the best Spider-Man film to date. And other than The Lizard, he’s probably my favorite Spider-Man bad guy. And if you don’t know the name Otto Octavius by heart, you probably know him for his signature four-armed machine and the nickname inspired by it…

Doctor Octopus

Octopus

Otto Octavius was a shy but brilliant young man who grew up with an abusive father and a controlling mother. Often bullied in school for being a teacher’s pet, Otto was often berated by his father, a factory worker who encouraged him to use violence to fight back. Instead, Otto followed the advice of his mother and threw himself into academics, especially physical science. He became a respected nuclear physicist, working as a consultant and lecturer on the subject. In order to help him safely handle the often hazardous materials he worked with, he created four mechanical arms that he could control with his thoughts by having the computer of the device connect to his brain.

Though not the most sociable person, Otto actually found a kindred spirit in fellow researcher Mary Alice Anders, who he would have married if not for the disapproval of his mother. Eventually his mother would die from a heart attack, and with no one else in his life that really mattered, Octavius became both mean-spirited and reckless in his work. This led to a disaster that fused the tentacle-arm apparatus to his body, and Octavius embraced the nickname of “Doctor Octopus”, abandoning his life as a civil scientist to become a criminal mastermind.

Doc Ock

The Sinister and Superior Foe of Spider-Man

Though the short, overweight and near-sighted doctor would normally never be a match for Spider-Man, his tentacled arms give him range, strength and speed to match his superior intellect. Doc Ock beat the Web-Slinger in their first encounter, almost causing Peter Parker to give up the super-hero business. He has proven to be a worthy enemy on his own, but perhaps the most dangerous thing about Otto is that he has the intelligence to realize that working together, Spidey’s rogues have a much better chance of beating him then they do fighting him alone. He brought together Electro, The Sandman, Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter and the Vulture to form the Sinister Six, putting Spider-Man through a gauntlet that he barely survived.

Otto has also interfered in Peter’s life in other ways; he became the tenet to Peter’s aunt May Parker and even pursued a romance with her, albeit for ulterior motives. In recent years, Otto actually became a hero when he and Spider-Man switched bodies (comics are weird) and he became “The Superior” Spider-Man, initially wanting to fight for good but eventually giving into his villainous nature before Parker’s conscience was able to gain control of his body once again.

Molina

“I Will Not Die A Monster”

Doctor Octopus made his film debut in Sam Raimi’s 2004 sequel to the successful Spider-Man movie. Portrayed by Alfred Molina, this version of Doc Ock was a much more sympathetic one, possessing a kinder, gentler personality and shown to be a victim of the artificial intelligence of his tentacles. While it’s a different approach that the comics version, I think the Rami version deserves to be recognized as a good interpretation of the idea. The tentacles were absolutely brilliant CGI for the time, and were Raimi managed to give them a good deal of personality despite the fact they never actually speak. Otto being a man torn between trying to be the good person he was and the slave of the diabolic arms is a compelling story arc in my opinion.

And of course, the fight scenes between Doctor Octopus and Spider-Man raised the bar for action in super-hero films. To this day I still get a rush of adrenaline watching them battle on the side of a skyscraper or on a speeding train; the creativity on display is just excellent and one of many reasons that Spider-Man 2 is considered to be one of the best superhero films of all time.

Octavius

Peter Parker’s Dark Reflection

More than any other Spider-Man villain, Otto Octavius is the evil version of Peter Parker. Stan Lee was very good at creating character concepts, and Doc Ock is one of his best. Like Peter Parker, Otto is bullied and ostracized by those around him for his intelligence and for not being “cool”. They are both outcasts and scientists. They are orphans and unlucky in their love lives, and they get angry about it. For those unfamiliar with the comics, Peter does have a cruel and selfish streak in him, something that is arguably only countered when his uncle dies and he realizes that great responsibility comes with great power.

Doctor Octopus is an example of what Peter could become if he allows the anger and bitterness towards those around him control him and shape him as a person. Otto is bullied, but becomes a worse bully than any of them when he retaliates. He serves as a cautionary tale both to Peter and the reader; any reader than could see themselves in the nerdy social outcast hero could also see themselves in the bullied genius villain. Even the names are a cue: both the octopus and the spider are known for having eight limbs. Even with the names and the visuals, Stan Lee shows that Peter and Otto are different sides of the same coin. And when a hero and villain are similar in every way except for their moral choices, it will always make for compelling storytelling.

Supervillain Spotlight – The Lizard

Other than Batman, the X-Men, and maybe The Flash, I don’t think any major superhero has a list of spectacular villains as long and of such high quality as Spider-Man’s. The Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, Venom… I could go on and on. However, my personal favorite adversary of Peter Parker is a man who is usually a civilian and occasionally an ally to Spider-Man: Doctor Curtis Connors. Normally a one-armed genetic biologist specializing in the study of reptiles, his research leads to him creating an experimental serum that turns him into a monster known as…

The Lizard

The Lizard

The Comic Book Origin

Doctor Curt Connors was a surgeon in the U.S. Army, whose right arm was amputated after he suffered a severe injury in his service. He returned home to his wife and young son, and became obsessed with the regenerative abilities of reptiles, some of which could regenerate a lost limb. The serum I alluded to did indeed regenerate his right arm, but also transformed into a savage humanoid lizard, more than a worthy foe for Marvel’s most popular superhero. In addition to his immense strength and agility, Lizard also possessed reptilian weapons; claws and teeth and a heavy tail. With these weapons and a burning hatred for humans, Lizard is one of Spider-Man’s most dangerous enemies.

However, one of the most interesting dimensions of the character is his dual nature. Spider-Man may have to fight Lizard, but he’s not a monster to be killed or a criminal that should be thrown in prison. Curt Connors is a good man, a husband and a father and a friend to Peter Parker. So the battles between Spidey and the Lizard are more about Peter surviving and protecting innocents until he can find some way to counteract the effects of the serum. I’ve always enjoyed this unique dynamic.

Spider-Man #6

The Real Life Origin

Like most of Spider-Man’s supporting cast, Curt Connors and his reptilian alter-ego were created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The Lizard debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man #6 and appeared somewhat sparingly, but he did make a pretty solid impression. Perhaps the best story with the Lizard was actually the debut of The Rhino, a villain with great strength and near impenetrable armor. Spidey gets Curt Connors’ help to develop a chemical that will break the armor down, but exposure to the chemicals turns Curt into The Lizard once again. It’s perhaps the perfect example of how Curt is an ally and the Lizard is this other side of him that hates humanity and will fight Spider-Man to the death.

The Lizard is obviously inspired by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a character who Stan Lee was a fan of and also drew inspiration for when making the famous character of Bruce Banner and The Hulk. In some ways, Lizard is kind of the flip side of this idea, a good person who becomes a monster that isn’t necessarily misunderstood. Lizard has become one of Spider-Man’s most famous bad guys, working his way into almost every form of Spider-Man media. Sam Raimi’s films featured the character in his civilian identity, and the 2012 reboot Amazing Spider-Man elevated him to the primary villain, with mixed results.

Monster

Why Do I Like The Lizard?

This question is something of a loaded question. At the very basest level, I have always been a fan of animals and animal-themed characters; I like Lizardfolk from Dungeons and Dragons for similar reasons. A humanoid fighting lizard is just cool to me in that respect. But I also enjoy the classic horror roots of the character; I like classic horror monsters like Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so that aspect of the Lizard also appeals to me.

But I think what it really boils down to is that the Lizard is living inside of a good man. Curt Connors is a great character who has tremendous staying power in Spider-Man comics. Peter Parker was always depicted as a young scientist; Curt is an older, wiser one who can serve as a mentor figure to Peter and help him solve problems. But while his character can be a huge help to Spidey, there’s always the tension that Curt will turn into the Lizard and perhaps finally bring Spider-Man down. He’s a monster that is close to home, and that’s compelling to me. He’s not Spidey’s greatest nemesis by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s the one I enjoy the most.

And considering how disappointing his appearance in Amazing Spider-Man was, I’ll hold out hope that we may eventually get a better version at the movies now that Spider-Man is part of the cinematic universe. A man can dream, right?

Superhero Spotlight – Spider-Man

When somebody asks me who the greatest comic book superhero of all time is, I usually say that it is a close race between DC Comics’ Batman and Superman. Those two are the most influential characters after all, and have stayed relevant for over seventy five years. While I am a fan of Marvel Comics as well and cannot deny the popularity of their characters, I do feel that deference must always be shown to DC for popularizing the costumed comic book hero in the first place. With that being said, if there is one Marvel Comics character who has a legitimate case for being the greatest comic book superhero of all-time, it is a certain wall-crawling New Yorker that the world knows as…

Spider-Man

Spider-Man

The Comic Book Origin

Peter Parker is a high-school science whiz and social outcast whose life is changed when he is bitten by a radio-active spider, an event that gives him amazing superhuman abilities. He has the proportionate speed and strength of a spider, as well as arachnid’s ability to cling to sheer surfaces such as walls and ceilings. Perhaps the most useful super-power is a heightened awareness that borders on pre-cognition, allowing him to feel when objects threaten his safety and to react accordingly. Ironically, the “super power” that Spider-Man is most famous for is not this “spider sense” or his increased physical abilities; it’s not even a super power at all. Parker designs adhesive webbing and a device to fire them, keeping them on his wrists and using the web fluid to travel across the skyscrapers of New York or as weapons.

Now armed with incredible powers, Peter initially tries his hand at fame by becoming a local television star. However, his life takes a tragic turn when he ignores an escaping thief, who later shoots Peter’s beloved uncle Ben Parker. When he tracks down the criminal and finds out that he allowed him to escape, he learns that with his great power must also come great responsibility. And thus he dedicates his life to fighting crime and helping the citizens of New York as the costumed hero “Spider-Man”.

Ditko

The Real Life Origin

Spider-Man was one of the earliest creations of Marvel godfather Stan Lee, who developed the character alongside artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko (pictured above). After the surprise success of The Fantastic Four showed that 1960’s readers were once again interested in superheroes after a decline in the 1950s, Stan Lee was asked to develop more superheroes. Knowing that teenagers were his primary audience, Stan decided to create a story about an “ordinary teenager” who became a superhero. After initially going to artist extraordinaire Jack Kirby for concept drawings and finding them to be “too heroic” for his idea, Lee consulted with inker Steve Ditko on ideas for the character. Ditko designed the distinctive costume, a fairly revolutionary one for the time but entirely practical for the character. He does not have thick clothes so that his feet and hands can still stick to walls, and he has a mask to cover the unintimidating face of a teenage boy.

Spider-Man debut in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962 and was soon starring in The Amazing Spider-Man, a smash hit for Marvel that proved that superhero comics could be huge business. Spider-Man became Marvel’s unofficial mascot and has generated enormous amounts of revenue for the company through movies, television cartoons, loads and loads of toys, clothes and other merchandise, and of course the comics in which he originated from.

Parker

The Hero You Can Relate To

Part of Spider-Man’s popularity can certainly be attributed to the superhero aspect of his stories. I have always said that he has one of the most visually interesting costumes of all time, and there’s a reason it hasn’t changed much. It’s bright and colorful enough that it won’t scare kids, but there is a certain amount of intimidation that can be achieved with the eyes, especially with proper use of shadows. His webs provide opportunities for endless creativity, and while he has enhanced physical abilities he is still vulnerable enough that he can take a meaningful beating, allowing us to sympathize with him. The Wall-Crawler also benefits from an excellent group of iconic bad guys: Green Goblin, Venom, The Lizard, Doctor Octopus, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio and Sandman among many others. It’s also hard not to be entertained by the endless series of quips he throws their way; Spidey is one of the funniest comic book characters and made it acceptable for superheroes to be goofy and irreverent.

But what really makes Spider-Man successful in my eyes is that Peter Parker still has to deal with life’s problems. He isn’t a millionaire with time to kill or an alien ambassador; he isn’t even that trusted by the people around him. He’s just a kid who can’t keep a job, turns to jelly around girls, and feels guilt about not being able to help support his Aunt May. While some depictions of Spider-Man can be overly mopey or angsty (all writers bring something different after all), I think that a healthy amount of bad things happening makes the character more human. Things don’t always go right for Peter, the same way they don’t always go right for us. So when things do go right for him, there’s a sense of satisfaction knowing that he’s caught a lucky break. The fact that he experiences the same kind of life his readers do and has a career as a superhero is the true appeal of the character.

Webhead

Why Do I Like Spider-Man?

In the interest of complete honesty, Spider-Man is not a character that I would classify as a “favorite”. I do like and enjoy the character when he is written well, but feel that Peter Parker doesn’t work that well as someone older than college age and has had the misfortune of some really poor stories over the years. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that there is a large amount of Spider-Man lore that I do enjoy. I also have tremendous respect for the character because he popularized the idea that teenagers can be heroes, which paved the way for some of my favorite comic book characters like the original X-Men team and DC’s Teen Titans. Spidey’s influence on the genre is considerable and deserves recognition.

But I think what I do enjoy about Peter is that he is a very good archetypal hero. He’s a bit of a dork leading and unremarkable life, but then fate intervenes and he gets the chance to do something truly amazing. He has a lot in common with characters like Marty McFly and Luke Skywalker, and I feel that’s a valuable perspective to bring to superhero comics. While others have been influenced by him, there will probably never be a comic book character that so successfully captures that aspect of storytelling.

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