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Best Spider-Man Villains

collage of images of Spider-Man villains
(Image credit: George Marston)

A whole bevy of bad guys are about to arrive in the MCU with Spider-Man: No Way Home hitting theaters across different markets, with the North American theatrical release scheduled for December 17.

Green Goblin, Electro, Sandman, Lizard, and Doctor Octopus have all been revealed as appearing in the film, with more potentially waiting in the wings.

In fact, several of those characters are among the best Spider-Man villains ever. Which ones, where do they rank, and who else made the cut? 

Read on to find out, and chime in with your favorite Spider-Man villain on Facebook and Twitter!

Jackal

Jackal

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Miles Warren, AKA the Jackal, may not be a household name like some of Spider-Man's other arch-enemies, but for Peter Parker, he's one of the people most responsible for some of the darkest moments in his life.

The one-time college genetics professor for Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, Warren deduced Spider-Man's identity, becoming obsessed with cloning both Peter and Mary Jane - and actually succeeding.

Warren cloned Spider-Man intending to replace him with the Spider-copy under his command, though Peter Parker seemingly destroyed his doppelganger. But years later, the clone resurfaced alive and well as Ben Reilly, who believed at the time that he was the authentic Peter Parker, and Peter was the clone, resulting in the infamous 'Clone Saga.' However, it turned out the guy we know and love as Peter was indeed the real deal all along.

The Jackal has resurfaced a few times over the years, with Reilly himself once donning the identity for the story Spider-Man: The Clone Conspiracy - though he's since returned to being a hero as the primary Spidey in the current 'Spider-Man Beyond' era of Amazing Spider-Man. In fact, Ben Reilly is among the best Spider-Men ever.

Hobgoblin

Hobgoblin

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Menacing and mysterious, Hobgoblin is just one of the goblin-themed villains who have spun off from Norman Osborn/Green Goblin (more on him later - hint, hint). 

But he's also arguably the most successful, with the original Hobgoblin Roderick Kingsley (no, not Ned Leeds, who was secretly framed by Kingsley - it's complicated) having spawned his own crew of successors, spin-offs, and imitators, and even franchisees, in his time as a seller of supervillain identities.

Following in the Marvel goblin tradition, the villain's secret identity remained a mystery for a good chunk of his original story, Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin, which ended with an editorially-dictated bait-and-switch reveal (hence the whole Roderick Kingsley framing Ned Leeds retcon, which brought back the originally planned reveal).

In the years after that strange story, the Hobgoblin identity was picked up by Philip Macendale, a mercenary who became a literal hobgoblin after selling his soul to Mephisto for power, only to be twisted into a darker form as a result. That version of Hobgoblin was a longtime member of the Sinister Six.

Most recently, Kingsley and the third Hobgoblin, Phil Urich, warred over the name, briefly making Hobgoblin one of the most coveted costumed identities in the Marvel Universe - though Kingsley won out, re-establishing him as the true Hobgoblin, while Urich became the 'Goblin Knight.'

Sandman

Sandman

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Sandman is one of Spider-Man's best villains not because of any world-threatening scheme, or massive single impact on Peter Parker's life, like some of his top villains - but because he's the perfect essence of a Spider-Man enemy distilled into a character who also packs a terrific visual punch.

Sandman/Flint Marko/William Baker (his actual birth name) has powers summed up right in his name - he's made of sand, which he can control and morph and transform his body both in size and shape, among other things. And when he was part of the Fantastic Four's enemy team the Frightful Four, he upgraded his powers with a suit that let him mix special chemicals into his sand for a variety of effects - though he's rarely used any of that in modern stories.

He's also got a tragic backstory and a heart of gold - he originally got his powers while stealing to provide for his infant daughter, but his criminal impulses led him into a life of crime.

Despite being a founding member of the Sinister Six (and a current enemy of Spider-Man), Sandman also had a brief stint as a hero, in which he reformed from villainy first as part of the Silver Sable's Wild Pack mercenary team, and then briefly as a full-on Avenger.

Still, he always goes back to bad whether he's pushed into it or simply can't help himself - and that's the real tragedy of the Sandman.

J. Jonah Jameson

J. Jonah Jameson

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

J. Jonah Jameson may not seem like a villain offhand - and on technical terms, he may not count as a supervillain. But in terms of his impact on Spider-Man's life and his place among the Wall-Crawler's extended cast, it's safe to say that cantankerous ol' JJJ counts as one of Spider-Man's greatest arch-foes.

Obsessed with his all-consuming hatred of Spider-Man, JJJ has traditionally used the full power of the press to paint Spidey not as a 'Friendly Neighborhood' hero, but as a menace to the peace of New Yorkers and a threat to their safety - a full-on anti-Spider-Man propaganda campaign.

And if that's not enough, JJJ has engaged in some full-on villainy of his own over the years, funding the creation of classic Spidey enemies such as the Scorpion and the Spider-Slayers.

JJJ has more recently been a tenuous ally of Spider-Man following Peter Parker's reveal of his secret identity to his former boss - but in Spidey's life, that kind of back and forth between enemy and ally is almost standard at this point.

Mephisto

Mephisto

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The devilish Mephisto may be more associated with heroes such as the Fantastic Four and Thor than Spider-Man, he's actually one of the bad guys who has had the biggest impact on Peter Parker and his career as Spider-Man.

Spidey first encountered Mephisto in the story Spider-Man: One More Day, in which Peter and his wife Mary Jane Parker made a deal to erase their marriage from their timeline to save the life of Peter's Aunt May. But Mephisto's obsession with Peter Parker - and Mary Jane Watson - goes deeper than that simple twist of fate.

The recent conclusion of Nick Spencer's long run on Amazing Spider-Man established that Mephisto has been messing around in Peter's life for a long, long time - with Doctor Strange ultimately wresting control of Peter's fate from Mephisto's magical grasp and restoring Peter's relationship with MJ.

In the end, Mephisto seems to reveal the reason that he's so concerned with Peter Parker, and especially his relationship with Mary Jane, is that he believes one or both of them will be responsible for his ultimate downfall.

Mysterio

Mysterio

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

It can be tough to pick a favorite - or a clear leading candidate - from among Spider-Man's classic rogues' gallery of street-level supervillains. 

But Mysterio takes the metaphorical cake, springing out ahead of a host of other worthy, classic Spidey villains both for the innovation of his illusion and special effects-based powers and for his absolutely bonkers Steve Ditko costume design, which, like Spider-Man, Doc Ock, Green Goblin, and others of Ditko's greatest creations, has largely gone unchanged (if occasionally evolved) since his debut way back in 1964's Amazing Spider-Man #13.

Of course, Mysterio's strengths as a character go far beyond his unique aesthetic and his abilities - it's the way he uses his techniques of illusion and manipulation to absolutely turn Peter Parker's perception, and in turn Spider-Man's powers, on their head. 

Many villains can challenge Spider-Man's strength or Peter Parker's intelligence, but few manage to challenge his entire sense of reality, just through the use of some clever tech, a gift for misdirection, and a hell of a lot of preparation.

Kraven the Hunter

Kraven the Hunter

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Kraven the Hunter is possessed of what can charitably be called a heaping helping of 'Silver Age charm' thanks to the kinda funky big game hunter-style costume he wears, which is usually based around a lion skin (badass) and, uh, well, some pedal pushers and slippers (maybe chosen for comfort?).

But catching any scent of the vicious hunter beneath the semi-silly style (which has admittedly evolved significantly over the years, sometimes even without slippers) proves that aristocratic master hunter Sergei Kravinoff belongs among the upper-echelon of Spider-Man's villains.

There's plenty to be said about Kraven's family legacy, including his multiple heirs to the Kraven name, and his brother the Chameleon, as well as his penchant for stalking and slaying the most dangerous game possible - superheroes and other supervillains included. 

However, Kraven's place among the greatest Spider-Man villains ever can easily be illustrated in the story Spider-Man: Kraven's Last Hunt, a tragic, timeless tale of Kraven's ultimate victory and eventual defeat, itself among the best Spider-Man stories ever told.

Venom

Venom

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

For most of his history, Venom has actually been on the path to heroism - at least the original Venom, Eddie Brock has. Despite that, he started as one of the most fearsome villains Spider-Man ever faced; a desperate, bloodthirsty predator driven only by a sense of revenge for Spider-Man shared by both Brock and the alien symbiote, and a desire to literally eat Peter Parker's brain.

Yuck.

Even through Eddie's 'Lethal Protector' years (soon to be revisited in a new flashback style limited series), he spawned a series of symbiote villains, most notably Carnage, who have solidified the legacy of the symbiotes themselves, if not always their hosts, as some of Spider-Man's most enduring enemies.

The Venom symbiote has also returned to villainy plenty of times both with and without Eddie, especially when it bonded with the former Scorpion Mac Gargan, who went on to be part of Spidey's arch-enemy Norman Osborn's incarnation of the Thunderbolts

Of course, the fact that Peter Parker's high school bully Flash Thompson became a hero when he bonded with Venom kinda goes to show you whether Venom counts as a hero, a villain or something in between often comes down to who the symbiote is paired with.

Green Goblin

Green Goblin

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin, is the patriarch of an entire dynasty of Spider-Man enemies, from his son Harry, Peter Parker's best frenemy, to a whole legion of goblin-themed spin-off villains who have managed to pull themselves into super-villainy after unearthing the numerous hordes of Green Goblin tech that Norman Osborn stashed all over New York City in his original time as the cackling, crazed villain.

Osborn's time as the Green Goblin is of course legendary. After a long mystery surrounding who was actually underneath the Goblin's grim, grinning visage, Norman Osborn was revealed in the story Spider-Man: The Death of Gwen Stacy in which, as the title implies and has become legendary Spidey lore since, he kills Peter Parker's girlfriend Gwen Stacy.

But as a villain, his legacy extends well outside of Spider-Man's world. First, he managed to become the leader of the Thunderbolts program, turning the team of villains-turned-heroes into brutal black-ops agents under his command. 

And then in Secret Invasion, Osborn manages to be instrumental in taking down the Skrull invasion, getting a promotion to become the leader of HAMMER, a replacement for SHIELD which was dismantled in the wake of the invasion. This led to Osborn destroying Asgard itself, along with the death of Loki, in the story Siege.

Osborn has since returned to the identity of Green Goblin time and again - and even though his most recent appearances seemed to show him as somewhat reformed, it's always been just a matter of time till he goes Goblin again.

Doctor Octopus

Doctor Octopus

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

From an outside POV, Green Goblin may seem like Spider-Man's truest arch-enemy more than Doctor Octopus, but in reality, it's very similar to the question of whether the Joker or Ra's al-Ghul is Batman's greatest villain - meaning the answer may often depend on the place and time in which the question is asked. 

And when it comes to Spider-Man, his reigning opposite number is also his original arch-enemy, Otto Octavius, the founder of the Sinister Six and the villain who actually killed Spider-Man. And he didn't just kill Peter Parker, he full-on stole his body, his powers, and his identity as both Peter and Spider-Man, taking on the mantle of the Superior Spider-Man - and almost destroying Peter's legacy in the process.

But the reasons Doc Ock is Spider-Man's number one villain go far beyond just the worst thing he ever did to the wall-crawler. Since Spidey's earliest days (Doc Ock debuted way back in 1963's Amazing Spider-Man #3), the stodgy old Otto Octavius has been the philosophical opposite of youthful Peter Parker - a gifted scientific mind whose brilliant intelligence and resulting physical prowess, granted by the science accident which fused his tentacles to his body, are used entirely for selfish, destructive ends.

Doctor Octopus is expanding his about to expand his villainy far beyond Spidey's corner of the Marvel Universe - and even outside Earth-616 - in the upcoming Multiverse-spanning limited series Devil's Reign: Superior Four.

Many of these villains are still menacing Peter Parker and his allies. Keep up with all the wall-crawler's adventures and his deadly foes with our listing of all the new Spider-Man comics planned for release in 2021, 2022, and beyond.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)