Comic books aren’t generally known for being grounded in reality. It takes a certain willingness to suspend disbelief to be a comic book fan–a disbelief that most self-avowed nerds are all too willing to embrace. We can accept that Spider-Man got his powers from a radioactive spider or that Wolverine has an indestructible metal skeleton or even that the people of Metropolis haven’t yet figured out that Clark Kent and Superman might actually be the same person.
Comics are by their very nature objectively silly. Silliness aside, however, fans still expect the writers of their favorite comics to adhere to certain ground rules, lest they take their patronage elsewhere. Namely, fans have come to expect a high quality of writing, original and engaging story lines, and compelling, fleshed out characters. Needless to say, the writers don’t always oblige and we’re sometimes left with unreadable drivel (we’re looking at you, Dazzler).
However, despite the Red Bull-and-Doritors-fueled rants that these comic book missteps tend to incite from their fans (great entertainment in their own right), they also serve two very important purposes: 1) they allow us to appreciate the well-written stories and characters all the more, and 2) they provide us with a near bottomless pit of material with which to mercilessly make fun of everything we hold sacred. And if there’s one thing the internet loves, it’s destroying that which is most important to it…and cat videos.
While there has certainly been no shortage of ludicrous superheroes (see Dazzler above), the supervillains have more than their fair share of ridiculous characters among their rank. Maybe it’s because the writers know that we usually hate the villains anyway, so why put so much effort into creating something that’s just going to be reviled? Because then you end up with cultural abominations that should never have seen the light of day! That’s why, you stupid writers!
Speaking of cultural abominations, here are the 10 most ridiculous villains in the Spider-Man canon.
10. The Kangaroo
Any guesses where this guy is from? How about what his primary power might be? If you guessed he’s a magician from Cleveland, you’re not very good at this game and there are more edifying things you should probably be using the internet for. For the rest of you, yes, he’s from Australia and he has superhuman jumping abilities. And, as part of their decades-long fight against subtlety, the writers decided to make him an amateur boxer on the side (get it? because kangaroos!). The Kangaroo, in his original incarnation, was never more than a minor nuisance to Spider-Man and ended up dying in a fashion most Australians would be proud of: crumbling to ashes after voluntarily walking into a room that he knew was practically pulsing with deadly radiation. Say what you will about the Kangaroo, the man had some stones on him.
9. The Iguana
While a kangaroo might not seem like the most formidable animal namesake on which to base a supervillain, they can still be pretty nasty when cornered. Iguanas, on the other hand, are pretty much just turtles without the badass armor. In an effort to capitalize on the earlier success of The Lizard, one of the best comic book supervillains of all time, the Spider-Man writers introduced the world to the Iguana, essentially a cheap knockoff of The Lizard with none of the latter’s redeeming qualities. The Lizard was complex; The Iguana was decidedly not. Sure, he was powerful and he looked pretty cool, but the fact that he’s just a cheap imitation of an earlier, better character more than earns the Iguana a place on this list.
Hypno-Hustler is what you get when you cross a looming deadline and a large pile of cocaine and put them in front of a panicked comic book writer who just finished watching Saturday Night Fever. That is, he’s an absurd, vaguely racist caricature of everything that was wrong with the ’70s. He uses his hypnotic electric guitar (you read that correctly) to subdue his victims in order to steal their valuables. The Hustler is so diabolical that, possessed of the legitimately awesome ability to hypnotize anyone who hears the sounds of his hypnotic electric guitar (!!!), the most nefarious crimes he can manage essentially amount to petty theft. Spider-Man made quick work of the Huslter by casually removing the villain’s earmuffs, thus rendering him vulnerable to the mesmerizing sounds of his own HYPNOTIC ELECTRIC GUITAR. Bonus ridiculous points: Hypno-Hustler’s disco boots can emit knockout gas. Seriously.
Compared to other villains on this list, Hammerhead is a relatively major character in the Marvel Universe and over the years has evolved to the point where he’s capable of defeating Spider-Man in a one-on-one match. He makes this list, however, because as his name delicately implies, he has a hammer for a head. It’s not literally a hammer, mind you; it’s a reinforced plate of adamantium (the same unbreakable metal affixed to Wolverine’s bones) that enables the villain to use his head as a shield and battering ram. Hammerhead has all the affectations of a 1920s mobster, which is appropriate given his position of prominence in the Maggia crime syndicate, Marvel’s version of the mafia. Hammerhead isn’t particularly smart and doesn’t have any superpowers of note, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Rather, he’s on this list more for his laughable appearance as well as the fact that he literally has to dive head first into whatever he’s doing just to make an impact.
Humbug is a classic example of the middling-scientist-turned-pitiful-supervillain trope that has become commonplace in the comic book industry. Originally a respected professor of entomology, the Humbug persona came about when his university cut research funding. Like most out-of-work academics in a struggling economy, this ordinary professor turned to a life of crime in a desperate attempt to secure the funds his research needed to continue. As you’ve probably already guessed, Humbug has a superhuman ability to communicate with–but not control–insects, which is every bit as useful as it sounds. He eventually gets his act together and switches sides to become an equally underwhelming superhero. He makes this list not because of his penchant for talking to grasshoppers but because his fearsome name is more likely to inspire fond recollections of summer trips in the family Volkswagen than terror in the hearts of his enemies.
He’s probably some formidable assassin who can slip in and out of any situation undetected to get the job done, right? Or maybe a baseball-themed villain? What’s that? He’s a disgraced chemist who developed a frictionless lubricant which he slathers all over his skintight white bodysuit in an attempt to avoid capture while he robs banks? Sigh.
Comic books have introduced us to some pretty cool weapons and superpowers: Thor’s hammer, Magneto’s manipulation of metal, Superman’s everything. Not on that list: letters. We’re not talking about the kind of letters you write to your congressman when you’re unhappy with something. Those can actually be pretty powerful. We’re talking about L-E-T-T-E-R-S. Typeface was a supervillain (like Humbug, he’s now fighting for the good guys) whose weapons of choice were a series of razor-sharp letters he used as projectiles. Idiotic name and appearance aside (he would write different letters on his face depending on the mood he was in–“R” stood for “Retribution,” “A” for “Annihilation,” and so on), Typeface wielded his sharpened alphabet to surprising effect, even defeating Spider-Man at one time. Why he chose to use letters instead of, oh, I don’t know, knives, we’ll never know. Perhaps because Knifeface doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Although, if we’re being honest with ourselves, Knifeface sounds infinitely cooler than Typeface.
3. Big Wheel
If you thought sharpened letters were lame weapons, wait until you meet Big Wheel. Jackson Weele (remember: subtlety is not a tool in the comic book writer’s belt) was a business man down on his luck. Rather than refinancing his house or getting a 9-to-5 like everyone else, Jackson instead commissioned The Tinkerer (an inventor for the criminal underground) to build him a giant wheel equipped with mechanical arms and machine guns. What he hoped to do with this wildly impractical means of transportation is anyone’s guess. Big Wheel’s big wheel was so successful, in fact, that the first time he battled Spider-Man in it, he promptly drove off the roof of a 40-story building into the Hudson River.
2. The Walrus
In his defense, the Walrus was never meant to be a supervillain that anyone took seriously. He was essentially just a dimwitted former cabbie with the “proportionate speed, strength and agility of a walrus.” The sheer ridiculousness of this character is best highlighted by the fact that one of his powers is being laughed at–he’s able to distract his enemies with his absurd looks and, while they’re caught in the throes of laughter, he attacks. Other powers include an insulating layer of blubber, the ability to hold his breath longer than most humans and a surprising facility with crossword puzzles. We’re not exactly sure how the blubber and breath-holding come in handy to a terrestrial supervillain, but the crosswords sure sound like fun.
1. Chtylok the Che-K’n Kau
Chtylok is an ancient, fierce, impossibly strong beast seemingly ripped straight from the pages of H.P. Lovecraft. An otherworldly monstrosity who emerged from deep within the uninhabitable interiors of Antarctica, Chtylok is a force to be reckoned with, one not even Spider-Man himself could hope to contain. So why is he on this list? Because Chtylok the Che-K’n Kau is a 25-foot tall half-chicken, half-cow whose name sounds suspiciously like “Cluck the Chicken Cow” (there’s that subtlety again). We can accept the fact that he hails from a prehistoric tropical jungle in the middle of the coldest, most desolate place on earth. We can even accept the fact that he’s a ferocious cow-chicken hybrid the approximate size of a two-story house. The icing on the ridiculous cake, however, is that the writers had the gall anoint him the “Che-K’n Kau” and still get out of bed in the morning.