Marvel Countdown: Meet the Villains of 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'

Marvel Countdown: Meet the Villains of 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'

Jun 08, 2017

There are only a few superheroes who have a villain roster as deep and as substantial as Spider-Man. Here we are at Spider-Man: Homecoming, the sixth Spider-Man film (but the first set in the established Marvel Cinematic Universe), and we’re still getting worthwhile Spidey rogues for the very first time. Homecoming introduces movie audiences to two baddies, Vulture and Shocker, who’ve been providing conflict for Peter Parker since the 1960s.

Vulture first shows up in the second issue of Amazing Spider-Man (1963, from creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko). The villainous Adrian Toomes uses a magnetized green flight suit to swoop down and steal valuables from unsuspecting New Yorkers. Spider-Man is pulling double-duty, trying to thwart Vulture while also hoping to get the first pictures of the winged super-villain that he can sell to newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson. Vulture’s elderly, avian features provided a nice contrast to Parker’s fresh-faced teenage world, and the character’s flight-based powers meant his battles with Spider-Man would put them swinging and punching high above the New York skyline. He achieved “classic villain” status fairly quickly and was even a founding member of the Sinister Six, an all-star team of villains that included Doctor Octopus and Kraven the Hunter.

Michael Keaton is Adrian Toomes in Homecoming, and the Vulture name has a more organic meaning here. Toomes is a scavenger industrialist who cleaned the city of Chitauri parts after the alien invasion during the finale of Avengers. He’s turned those parts into dangerous experimental tactical gear, and eventually uses his flight suit to show up Spider-Man (and Tony Stark).

Shocker was created by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. and debuted in 1967’s Amazing Spider-Man #46. He catches a lot of guff for being a second-rate Electro, but it’s interesting that the character has still maintained a status as a classic Spidey villain through the decades. There must be room for two electricity-powered crooks in Spider-Man’s world? In the comics, Herman Schultz (aka Shocker) is strictly motivated by money and uses a quilted suit to protect himself from electric wrist blasters he invented to crack safes. He’s got a memorable costume, which is likely why he’s stuck around, and his general low-stakes thievery provides a contrast to some of Spidey’s more maniacal baddies.

Shocker will be brought to the big screen by Bokeem Woodbine (pictured above in 2013's Riddick). Knowing how Vulture is being used, it’s easy to imagine how Shocker’s electric gauntlets might also be powered by Chitauri tech salvaged by Toomes, but we don’t want every single plot detail spoiled before the film arrives! How Shocker figures into the plot hasn’t been thoroughly explained yet. Still, we’re happy to see the inclusion of “lesser” Spider-Man villains who might not be able to carry the plot of an entire film, but are worthwhile in their own right.

The Spider-Man film franchise hasn’t considered Shocker before, but we might have gotten Vulture as one of the main villains in a Spider-Man film if the series wasn’t rebooted in 2012. Ben Kingsley and John Malkovich were both floated by Sam Raimi as possible choices for Adrian Toomes, and Anne Hathaway was heavily rumored to play Toomes’ daughter, who also has her own Vulture flight suit. Raimi tried for the character in Spider-Man 3, but producers were insisted he use Venom. Raimi’s pitch for Spider-Man 4 included the winged villain but Sony decided to reboot the franchise. Even the second film in the rebooted franchise, 2014’s Amazing Spider-Man 2, featured Vulture’s pair of green metallic weaponized wings in a case, as an obvious “Easter egg” that producers hoped would lead to a sequel or, weirdly, a Sinister Six spin-off film from director Drew Goddard.

Maybe the third time is the charm, as Vulture finally gets his own spotlight as the Spider-Man film series faces its second reboot, this time under Marvel’s creative protection. The pressure isn’t on Keaton or Woodbine anyway, but on Tom Holland’s Spider-Man himself - can the third cinematic Spidey reach the creative heights of Raimi’s box office-smashing trilogy? Right now, things look pretty positive. Bringing two classic, previously unseen Spider-Man nemeses to the movies is a rock solid hook, only slightly less of a hook than seeing Spider-Man swing alongside Iron Man is.

Spider-Man: Homecoming, a Jon Watts film starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, and Michael Keaton opens July 7. There are 32 days until release.

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