Kraven the Hunter: The comic book history of the villain that beat Spider-Man

Kraven in Marvel's Spider-Man 2
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Kraven the Hunter has been revealed as the apparent main villain of Marvel's Spider-Man 2 in some extended gameplay footage revealed at May 24's Playstation Showcase. The villain is one of Spider-Man's oldest foes, dating back to 1964's Amazing Spider-Man #15.

Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Kraven is actually Sergei Kravinoff, the scion of a wealthy Russian family who fled to the United States during the Russian revolution of 1917. As aristocratic as he is brutal, Kraven has dedicated himself to hunting down the most dangerous prey he can find, quickly moving beyond animals to hunt humans.

After realizing there was no prey strong or cunning enough to elude his masterful skills - including special mystical concoctions that give him enhanced senses, speed, and strength that allow him to take down his prey with his bare hands - Kraven decides to hunt Spider-Man, realizing that the Wall-Crawler may be the only target within his reach that can provide a real challenge.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Needless to say, Kraven's first hunt of Spider-Man ends in defeat, with Spidey escaping with his life. But Kraven would go on to remain one of Spider-Man's most indefatigable and deadly foes, even joining the original incarnation of the Sinister Six, and challenging other heroes such as Captain America and the X-Men.

Kraven's greatest moment would come in the 1987 story 'Kraven's Last Hunt' by writer JM DeMatteis and artist Mike Zeck. Widely considered one of the best Spider-Man stories ever (including by Newsarama), 'Kraven's Last Hunt' pits Kraven against Spider-Man one final time for a fateful battle that goes far beyond hunter and hunted. 

In the story, Kraven seemingly succeeds at killing Spider-Man, burying him and stealing his costume in order to take his place. Driven with madness, Kraven goes on a rampage across New York City attempting to prove himself truly superior to Spider-Man by defeating the villainous Vermin, who had previously nearly defeated Spider-Man.

After several weeks in a coma, Spider-Man recovers from the tranquilizer dart Kraven had used to knock him out, which hadn't killed him after all. A pitched battle between Kraven, Vermin, and Spider-Man ensues, with Kraven leaving to return to his mansion, claiming ultimate victory over Spider-Man. In a final, shocking twist, Kraven shoots himself to death, declaring his ultimate hunt concluded.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

That wasn't the end for Kraven however. Aside from Sergei Kravinoff himself, there's a whole family of Kravens who are also hunters. There's his wife Sasha Kravinoff, his daughter Ana Kravinoff, and his sons Alyosha and Vladimir Kravinoff - though Sasha and Vladimir have had their own brushes with death. And the villainous Chameleon is actually Kraven's half-brother.

Years after his death, the Kravinoffs would resurrect Kraven himself, leading him to kill several of his own family members in anger at their interference in his death.

Since his resurrection, Kraven has once again clashed with Spider-Man, attempting to hunt down his many animal themed villains, sorta like what we've seen in Marvel's Spider-Man 2. Most recently, he fought X-Force in the 2022 story 'The Hunt for X.'

Though he's not quite as well-known as villains like Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin, Kraven is one of Spider-Man's most enduring and terrifying villains, with his own starring movie currently in production as part of Sony's Spider-Man Universe, alongside his upcoming appearance in Marvel's Spider-Man 2.

Kraven makes the list of the best Spider-Man villains of all time.

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)