Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Villains of Ross Andru

A few weeks ago, Pierre posted an tribute to Ross Andru which caused a bit of back and forth comments between regular commenter RKB and Pierre wherein the called into question that all the villains created during that time were bad. As RKB put it while discussing a particularly good story featuring the Grizzly...

With a good enough story no villain has to be crappy. :)

There is no doubt that the Lee/Ditko run created most of Spider-man's A list villains. However, just like Flash's Rogues, the original Sinister Six get overused again (most recently, in the Gauntlet storyline), while many of the Andru Era villains get completely ignored, There are a few notable exceptions, who'll I'll mention in a the end of this post, but let's look at the list of forgotten villains.

The Gibbon - Seemingly born a mutant with an apelike build and agility, The Gibbon later joined a circus where he excelled as an acrobat. His powers were later enhanced by a potion given to him by Kraven the Hunter to "Unleash the Beast within".

The Grizzly - Maxwell Markham was a professional wrestler whose brutal tactics caused J. Jonah Jameson to write a scathing editorial calling for an investigation by the wrestling commission. As a consequence of the hearings, his license was revoked. Later, he obtained a suit that augmented his strength from the Jackal.

The Kangaroo - As a boy growing up in Australia Frank Oliver used to spend his vacations studying Kangaroos. He would live with the Kangaroos, going where they went and eating what they ate. Then he became a boxer but was banned after seriously injuring another.

Cyclone - He was a N.A.T.O engineer who created the Cyclone a weapon of war, and was told that N.A.T.O didn't need the weaponary because it was purchased solely from America.Not long after N.A.T.O fired him and from his device he created a costume and became a criminal.

Mindworm was a superhuman mutant with limited telephatic powers who was briefly a minor enemy of Spider-Man. He had an oversized cranium and was naturally extremely intelligent. Eventually, Mindworm attempted to reform but his problems were too difficult for him to control and he allowed himself to be killed by common street thugs to end his great suffering.

Mirage was a Holographic technician who always wanted to become a costumed criminal. First appearance involved him and his gang robbing weddings including that of Betty Brant and Ned Leeds where he was defeated by Spider-Man.

The Disruptor was a charismatic politician with ties to the underworld and possibly a criminal past. With the help of the Man-Monster, a creature created by Dr. Thaxton, he tried to get elected as Mayor of New York. He was defeated in that bid by Spider-Man and was killed when the Man-Monster took revenge on him.

The Smasher - I've got nothing on this guy. Anyone care to help me out and clue me in as to who this guy was?

Rocket Racer aka Robert Farrell was originally a criminal. He snatched a courier's bulging briefcase. Spider-Man couldn't stop him because he was moving too fast on his rocket powered skateboard. However, a car pulled out in front of him suddenly and Spider-Man was able to defeat him and leave him with the police.
And here is one of my favorites from this era...

Will O The Wisp - Jackson Arvad was the chief scientist for electromagnetic research at the Brand Corporation. During a laboratory mishap, a gravitic energy surge shattered the "magno-chamber" in whose vicinity Arvad was working. The accident plunged Arvad's body directly into the magno-chamber's self-sustained electromagnetic field, and the residual high frequency field weakened the electromagnetic attractions between the molecules of Arvad's body This caused the molecules of Arvad's body to gradually disperse. Arvad soon discovered, however, that he possesses a certain degree of mental control over the dispersion of his body's molecules. Unfortunately, every time he relaxed control over his molecular cohesion, it was more difficult for him to resume a solid state.

Here are the villains from this era that have managed to move off the D list.

The Jackal - Prof. Miles Warren was once a professor of biochemistry at Empire State University. At some point, he studied genetics under the tutelage of the High Evolutionary, but was expelled from the Evolutionary's headquarters when he proved to be unstable. He received further training and equipment from Maelstrom. Warren fell in love with one of his students, Gwen Stacy, who was the girlfriend of Peter Parker. After Gwen was killed by the original Green Goblin, Warren turned his attention towards methods of cloning, inspired by the creation of a full-grown frog to attempt to clone humans. When he killed his lab partner Anthony Serba (who had discovered the truth) Warren became completely insane, developing the personality of the Jackal as he tried to convince himself that someone else had killed his assistant, rather than he himself.

Man-Wolf - John Jameson, son of newspaper mogul J. Jonah Jameson, was one of the youngest applicants to ever be accepted into NASA's astronaut program. During his first mission, in which he orbited Earth, Jameson's capsule developed a faulty guidance module which caused the craft to spin out of control. The fledgling adventurer, Spider-Man, who had just begun his career weeks earlier, managed to rescue Jameson by getting a replacement guidance module to the plummeting capsule. This incident, which Jameson's father construed as a publicity stunt to upstage his son's accomplishment, provoked the one of elder Jameson's first editorial denouncements of Spider-Man.

And of course, this guy...

Do I really need to remind who this guy is? ;)

Have a great day!

- Jim


Sphinx Magoo said...

Just to clear up a thing or two...

1) The Disruptor
If memory serves, this was a story drawn by John Romita, so the Disruptor is not technically a Ross Andru creation.

2) The Smasher
Ditto above. This can be verified over at Mile High Comics:

(Again, if memory serves, the Smasher worked as the Disruptor's lackey. I think this was also a storyline which first saw light in Marvel's B&W Spectacular Spider-Man magazine, but was re-edited and colored to be used in the regular series.)

3. The Kangaroo
...first showed up in Amazing Spider-Man #81 ( and was first drawn by John Buscema. The later appearance gave him those leg braces which seemed to make him jump farther and higher. Say, what you want about the Kangaroo, but that cover for #126 is spectacular!

I think one of the problems with Ross Andru's run was that the stories consistently showed Spidey as weaker and less "with it" than previous runs. How else might Spidey be taken down by someone like the Tarantula (which wasn't on this list but featured another spectacular cover in his first appearance)? Plus Mr. Andru became the Spidey artist after Gil Kane split after the death of Gwen Stacy; that storyline was the One More Day of its day and a lot of bad feelings toward Andru's run might have been resentment from that story.

BTW, there was one more character, Hammerhead, who was introduced during Andru's run on the series.

Reno said...

What, no Big Wheel? I'm disappointed. :)

Maybe they should have changed their names. Paste Pot Pete rose from the D-list when he changed his name to the Trapster.

Jim Shelley said...

Sphinx! You're back! - Hey, I was wondering what was up with your blog the other day...

Thank you for setting me straight on The Disruptor and The Smasher - I have not actually read those issues, so I wasn't really familiar enough with them to know who created their designs.

Also, I was shocked to discover that my first encounter with the Kangaroo was not his first appearance! (But then I was only a grade schooler when I first read that comic, so I probably glossed over any caption boxes referring me to 81.) It wasn't until the Avengers/Defenders War that I realized how valuable those editorial references could be.

Jim Shelley said...

Reno - yeah, you are right about Paste Pot Pete! He did raise his profile.

I wonder what other characters made a similar upgrade?

RKB said...

I love this post!
Of course I loved see The Grizzly's first appearance.
I'm not sure but I might be the only one who was sad to see the Scourge kill off Mirage, and Cyclone. I thought Cap dressing up as Mirage (Cap hating what it would do to Mirage's family to think he was alive only to find out he wasn't was a nice touch) to catch the Scourge was a nice little tribute. Course that all got wrecked by the Hood bringing them back.
More proof of my "with a good enough story no villain has to be crappy. :)" view is the Tarantula. A evil a villain as your likely to find with amazing potential for a back story (dealing with dictator's and revolutions in South and Central America which left who knows how many dead, and Tarantula was supposed to be dark side version of Captain America) The second person to wear the costume was featured in one of the scariest/most depressing/impressive stories I've ever read in 'Hero of the People' in Marvel Comics Present #88. It also made a very cool character out of Solo of all characters. On the off chance anyone wants to read it, I won't spoil it. The art might have worked in spite of itself to make the story better. It lull's you in thinking hey not much here with a guy caught between imitating Erik Larsen's style on Doom Patrol, crossed with Liefield doing Hawk and Dove. It helps to hide the punch and twist at the end of the story which comes off more as a EC tale with costumed characters. one of the best written short stories Marvel has ever printed. If the contents of MCP had all been that good the comic would have been as critically hailed as NG's Sandman. Very high praise, very much earned by that story.
Rocket Racer had some good stories too, not counting the time he tried to make it out of the D-List working for Silver Sable. He was in a story which played off his first appearance and had him defeat Speed Demon by using some NYC traffic. More of a 'fun story', but still good.

Jim Shelley said...

@RKB - Wow! That Tarantula story you mention has be really wondering about it - I'm going to have to track it down in the back issue bins.

BTW - thanks to you and Pierre for the inspiration on this post!

Reuben Reuben said...

I had to do someresearch to be sure my memory was correct, and it was. The Smasher (thought not by that name) originally appeared in the spectatular Spiderman #1. this was a two issue magazine series, with the second issue featuring the Green Goblin. Originallly in black and white the "Smasher" tory was reprinted in color int the monthly magazine. Here is what wikipedia says: "The feature story was reprinted in color, with some small alterations and bridging material by Gerry Conway, in The Amazing Spider-Man #116-118 (Jan.-March 1973) as "Suddenly...the Smasher!", "The Deadly Designs of the Disruptor!", and "Countdown to Chaos!" (with additional inking by Tony Mortellaro on the latter two). These versions were


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