In celebration of everyone’s favorite web-head, July is Spectacular Spider-Month at AiPT! We have a series of amazing articles in store for the month. Movies, television, gaming, and of course comics will all be covered with great responsibility as we honor one of comics’ greatest heroes.
Spider-Man has arguably the best supporting cast in comics. While you could make the case that Batman has the best rogues gallery, Spider-Man’s foes, friends, and family combine to form a tapestry of characters that are nearly as interesting on their own as the title character.
But even in today’s age of obsessive internet discussion and archiving, greatly intriguing characters still manage to fall off map without a trace. Today’s we’ll be taking a look at the best Spider-Man characters who disappeared despite having massive amounts of story potential.
To make this prestigious list of longing, there were a few important guidelines:
1. The character’s last appearance must have no less than four years ago.
2. The character has to still be alive.
Look, we all know that death is merely a temporary condition in superhero comics. But if a character died in his/her last appearance, then technically it means the writer concluded their story.
So yeah, much as I loved Fusion back in the day, his story ended when he brought down a building on himself (for now).
3. The character has to be impactful (i.e. not lame)
Look, I love a goofy super villain as much as the next person. But Big Wheel (who’s dead anyway) is in no danger of making a significant impact on Spider-Man’s legacy any time soon.
That doesn’t mean goofy characters can’t evolve into something more, though. Spider-Woman did it for Armadillo. Heck, the recent ‘Hunted‘ storyline in Amazing Spider-Man somehow turned Gibbon into a character with Shakespearean levels of tragedy.
For this list, however, we’re looking for characters with unresolved stories and potential impact who continue to lurk in Spider-Man’s narrative shadows. And besides, the aforementioned ‘Hunted’ storyline and ‘The Clone Conspiracy‘ already took care of most of the obscure character cameos, anyway.
So without further ado, let’s begin with one of my personal favorites:
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #546 (February 2008)
Last Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #644 (December 2010)
One of the first villains of the ‘Brand New Day‘ era, Freak began simply has a nameless drug addict who tried to steal from the soup kitchen where Aunt May volunteered. After being pursued by Spider-Man, he stumbled into a lab (of course) owned by Curt Conners (OF COURSE) and injected himself with animal genes under the assumption that it was crystal meth.
We’ve all been there.
Anyway, he gets wrapped up in a chrysalis, later emerging as a skinless monster with incredible strength and durability. This became a bit of a theme with Freak, who reacted to new attacks by cocooning and reemerging with new defensive adaptations, making him even harder to stop.
At one point, Freak was captured and held by Norman Osborne, who used his unique physiology to create disease treatments/cures along with an amped up version of the Venom symbiote. Freak later escaped during a fight between Spidey and Osborne. The next (and last) time we see him, he’s one of the
bounty hunters super villains Doctor Octopus hired to find the child of Lily Hollister (who also makes an appearance on this list).
Freak’s near invulnerability and power level made him feel like a force of nature. While not as intellectual as Morlun, he was definitely a major threat. It’s surprising we haven’t seen him wreaking havoc during the last decade.
First appearance: Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2 #30 (June 2001)
Last appearance: Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2 #35 (November 2001)
All we really know about Dex is that he had the worst internship in history, forced to be Morlun‘s manservant while the single-minded vampiric being ruthlessly hunted Spider-Man across New York.
When Spider-Man found a way to incapacitate Morlun via radiation poisoning, the wall crawler was faced with a difficult decision: Let Morlun live to hunt again, or break his moral code and kill him. Fortunately, Dex made the decision for him, shooting his immortal tormentor and begging Spider-Man’s forgiveness.
Spider-Man decided to let Dex go, who celebrated by signing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!” before disappearing into comic book history. He might not seem like the most interesting character on the list, but I think it would be all types of interesting to see if his time being tortured by Morlun had any sort of long term effects–or what his reaction was to the appearance of Morlun (along with the rest of the Inheritors) in Spider-Verse and Spider-Geddon.
8. Stunner (Angela Brancale)
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #397 (January 1995)
Last Appearance: Superior Spider-Man #21 (January 2014)
If you’re a straight teenage boy who read Spider-Man comics in the 90’s, then you DEFINITELY remember this character.
Also, since Stunner was around during the Clone Saga, her history is a bit complex. So without going into too much detail…
Angela Brancale was a video store clerk who was chosen to be the test subject for a virtual reality program run by Doctor Octopus and Carolyn Trainer (aka Lady Octopus). Octavius ends up giving Brancale to remotely project her physical form as a beautiful (and very well endowed) super powered version of herself.
This causes her to fall in love with Octavius, which in turn causes her an immense amount of heartbreak when he is murdered by Kaine. Brancale ends up sacrificing herself to resurrect Octavius, but the virtual reality machine her Stunner persona is tied to explodes, leaving poor Angela in a coma.
Just stick with me here.
Years later, Angela awakens and learns that Doctor Octopus has died AGAIN. What she didn’t realize was that Octavius had transferred his consciousness from his battered and broken body into Peter Parker, creating the Superior Spider-Man.
Thinking that the Superior Spider-Man is responsible for Octavius’ death, she becomes (understandably) pissed off, hooks herself up to a handy VR machine to become Stunner again, and goes on a rampage to avenge her villainous lover.
Octavius/Superior Spidey eventually figures out a way to disconnect Angela from the VR machine, rendering her powerless. He then creates a virtual construct of himself in his former/more recognizable Doctor Octopus visage, which visits Angela at her apartment and tells her he is still alive and not to worry.
This seems kind of sweet (in a twisted way) until he also reveals that he’s met someone else (Anna Maria Marconi) and that there is no future for him and Angela. The last time we see her, Angela is sobbing on the floor of her apartment, her heart broken once again.
I doubt such a tragic character would give up so easily on someone she loved to the point of obsession, especially now that she knows there’s someone else who has his heart. You’re telling me she wouldn’t find a way to figure out who Anna Maria is, go to San Francisco, and wreak all types of havoc?
First Appearance: Spider-Man: Quality of Life #1 (July 2002)
Last Appearance: Fear Itself: The Fearless #8 (February 2012)
She was a hired as an assassin by man named Clifton Arliss to kill Curt Conners, who was on a crusade to prove that Arliss’ corporation had been dumping chemicals that caused Conners’ wife Martha to develop cancer. As you might imagine, stress-induced Lizarding and fisticuffs ensue. Things get ratcheted up a notch when Martha Conners dies (which she already had before this series, but whatever).
Yith initially appears cold and merciless, concerned only with completing her job and getting payed. But once she discovers Conners’ reasons for his rage and grief, she sympathizes with him…and kills Arliss instead.
Despite contradicting previous continuity (and the hit-or-miss computer generated art), Quality of Life is a great read–and Yith is a great villain. Her snake-like lower body and duel-wielded uzi’s make for a cool visual to go along with her superbly menacing demeanor. Add in what are undoubtedly some Lovecraftian elements to a character named “Yith” and you’ve got me 100% on board.
She’s appeared a few times here and there since Quality of Life, most notably in the background as a potential buyer for the Venom symbiote back in Marvel Knights Spider-Man and as a new member of the Hydra’s Department of Occult Armaments.
She was also mentioned in Marvel Tarot #1 as the potential queen of a new empire of serpent people who could/would take over the world. So yeah…plenty of unexplored story potential here.
6. Sarah Stacy
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #509 (August 2004)
Last Appearance: Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2 #26 (May 2005)
In Sins Past and Sins Remembered (which combined to create one of the grossest rectons of all time), Norman Osborne was revealed to have fathered twins with Gwen Stacy, who he secreted off to Europe. As Gabriel and Sarah aged at an accelerated rate due to the Goblin serum in their blood, Norman also convinced them that Spider-Man was their real father…and that he had killed their mother.
When the twins came after Peter, it was Sarah who soon realized that Normal of full of crap. Gabriel, on the other hand, took after his dad and kept riding his misplaced hatred straight into crazy town.
After preventing him from killing Spider-Man, Sarah takes Gabriel to Paris to take care of him. Unfortunately, Gabriel had an outstanding debt to some extremely shady people who were now coming after Sarah, as well. The cumulative stress causes Sarah to attempt suicide. This results in Spider-Man being called to Paris due to him being her emergency contact
*gigantic eye roll*
Spidey manages to save Sarah’s life with a blood transfusion, but Gabriel ends up escaping and going crazy (as Osborne men are wont to do). There’s also a bunch of uncomfortable flirting between Sarah and Spider-Man, but we’re gonna skip over that nastiness if you don’t mind.
Sarah ends up cutting a deal with Interpol to help catch the drug dealers she and her brother had been involved with as kids. This leads to her getting an an offer to join the organization. I’m not sure that’s the way promotions in law enforcement are supposed to work, but let’s just roll with it.
I know a lot of folks want to forget about the Sins Past storyline, but it’s fascinating to think that there’s a Gwen clone running around there fighting international crime with goblin serum and parker’s spider-blood running through her veins. Of course, there’s always the chance that she was “snapped” out of existence post-Brand New Day, but that seems pretty unlikely considering her brother Gabriel is still around.
Speaking of him…
5. Gabriel Stacy, aka Grey Goblin/American Son
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #509 (August 2004)
Last Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man: American Son #4 (October 2010)
A few years after all that Sins Past and Sins Remembered craziness, Norman Osborne ending up leading H.A.M.M.E.R. (the global protection agency that replaced a defunct S.H.I.E.L.D.) and the newly formed Dark Avengers.
Osborne created a powerful suit of patriotically colored armor, which he gives to his son Harry to become a the “heart” of his villainous superhero team.
As you might have guessed, this act of fatherly faith by Norman was all a ruse. It turned out he actually wanted Harry to die to help build sympathy for him and his team. It’s also revealed that Norman knocked up Harry’s girlfriend, Lilly Hollister (once again, we’ll get to her in a bit).
It’s about this time that Gabriel decides to reemerge, full of jealous rage at Norman’s “other” son. He shoots Harry (failing to kill him) and takes the American Son armor for himself. Gabriel then continues to commit crimes as the Grey Goblin while fighting crime as the American Son, his split personalities completely at war with each other.
Eventually, Spider-Man and Harry are able to capture Gabriel, who is put into a psychiatric institute for treatment. Despite his armor being seemingly destroyed, Norman is somehow able to salvage and obtain the helmet, which he sends to Gabriel along with a note saying that he loves him.
We all know that a psyche ward isn’t going to hold a super villain for long, especially one who’s been juiced with goblin serum. Add in his jealousy at Harry (along with his “good” side fighting to keep him from lashing out), and Gabriel’s story is ripe for further exploration. I know this comes from a storyline most of us would prefer to forget, but Gabriel Stacy’s fate is one dangling plot thread that’s definitely worth revisiting.
4. Carrion (William Allen)
First Appearance: Spider-Man: Dead Man’s Hand #1 (April 1997)
Last Appearance: Secret Avengers #32 (December 2012)
I could fill an article 10X as long as this one covering the convoluted backstory of Carrion, so we’ll just cover the key points you need to know.
- The original Carrion was a degenerating clone of Miles Warren, aka The Jackal.
- Later, an Empire State grad student named Malcolm McBride becomes jealous that Peter Parker got a grant that he wanted.
- Malcolm discovers Jackal’s old lab, finds a weird substance (the Carrion Virus), and (predictably) messes with it, accidentally turning himself into the second Carrion.
- Carrion/Malcolm are seemingly cured of the virus during the Maximum Carnage storyline.
- Later, Shriek reawakens the virus (which was dormant). Malcolm sees his mom, becomes sad, and tries to kill himself. Shriek becomes sad and purges the Carrion virus from Malcolm’s system.
- Malcolm is put into the Ravencroft Institute. He turns into Carrion again one more time (sort of) via some trickery by Judas Traveller in Amazing Spider-Man #403, but has otherwise been sitting in his cell since 1995.
And now we finally get to William Allen, an inept S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist who didn’t watch his OSHA work safety videos and got infected with the Carrion virus, becoming its third sentient incarnation.
This version turned out to be much stronger than the first two, giving Spider-Man a real run for his money. He was even able to affect people around him, turning them into what was basically a zombie horde that was under his control.
Thankfully, the memories of both Miles Warren and Allen fought back, helping Spider-Man subdue him before he could release his plague to a much wider audience.
Carrion followed this capture with the usual cycle of incarceration and escape most villains do, although he rarely made much of an impact–which is surprising considering what a difficult foe he was for Spider-Man in their first encounter. The last time we see him in 2012, Carrion has become a member of the Masters of Evil.
There’s been a fully sentient version of the virus in the comics since then, but Allen has been suspiciously absent despite (allegedly) still being in the field. You’d think that a villain with such a close/malicious tie to Spidey’s history would make an appearance since then, especially with other Clone Saga shenanigans and characters that have popped in over the last few years. Heck, even poor Malcolm McBride could be brought into the fold as a potential ally or villainous lackey. Maybe the Masters of Evil just don’t allow side projects or something.
3. Cardiac (Elias Wirtham)
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #342
Last Appearance: Superior Spider-Man #30 (May 2014)
After his older brother died of an incurable medical condition, Elias Wirtham dedicated his life to becoming the best surgeon he could be. When he discovered that a cure for his brother had been purposefully withheld in order to maximize profits, he experimented on himself to become a super powered vigilante. His abilities included superhuman strength/durability, the ability to shoot energy blasts, and a really cool staff that also doubled as a short range glider–along with his genius intellect, of course.
Cardiac’s design alone is cool enough to catch your eye, but his motivation for undertaking criminal activity is what really sets him apart. A brilliant surgeon turned super-powered vigilante taking on a corrupt medical/pharmaceutical industry? Can you think of a more timely (and awesome) character?
Unfortunately, the last time we saw Cardiac, he was helping the Superior Spider-Man during the Goblin Nation story arc. In true Cardiac fashion, he’d started an outreach/recovery clinic (good), which he stocked with stolen medical supplies (questionable/bad)…which all got blown up anyway 🙁
Despite helping Spider-Man save the day, it’s assumed that Wirtham was taken into custody by the Avengers for his well intentioned crimes. But that was five years ago. With healthcare and the business surrounding it becoming a bigger issue every year, it’s the perfect time for Cardiac to make a reappearance.
2. Officer William Lamont
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2 #41 (July 2002)
Last Appearance: Sensational Spider-Man Annual #1 (May 2007)
They might not have been as iconic as Commisioner Gordon/Batman, but the brief partnership between Spider-Man and Captain (?) William Lamont is one of my all time favorite pairings of law enforcement and a superhero.
In addition to being a great character in his own right, Lamont and Spidey had a fantastic and respectfully playful rapport with each other.
They successfully teamed up with each other on a number of cases. Lamont was also present in the future vision Spider-Man saw where he’d become a murderous anti-hero, forcing him to make a last stand at Aunt May’s grave.
Lamont tried to talk his friend into surrendering to the authorities, but to no avail. This version of the future (and its cool Spider-Man costume) may have been averted when Madame Web convinced Spider-Man not to kill a resurrected Kraven the Hunter, but it should still mean something that Lamont was there for him during what could have been the final moments of his life.
Speaking of being there for him, the last time we see Lamont, Peter was on the run from the law due to the recently passed Superhuman Registration Act. He asks to be arrested so his family can stop hiding. Lamont refuses, instead telling Peter to go rescue his wife from the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who are about to arrest her.
Lamont also asked Peter never to contact him again, but that was back when he was a fugitive. Now would be a perfect time for Spidey and Lamont to start teaming up once again.
1. Lilly Hollister/Menace/Queen Cat
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #545 (January 2008)
Last Appearance: AXIS: Hobgoblin #2 (January 2015)
When we first meet Lilly Hollister, she’s the daughter of District Attorney William Hollister and the smoke show girlfriend of the ‘Brand New Day’ returned Harry Osborne. She’s also friends with Carlie Cooper, a forensic specialist who ends up dating Peter Parker.
Lilly eventually finds a hidden door in one of Harry’s closets, which conveniently lead her into one of Norman Osborne’s many secret laboratories. After knocking over some goblin serum (which you really shouldn’t leave lying around), she gains the standard goblin combo of super powers and super craziness.
In her Menace identity, Lilly causes all sorts of trouble for Spider-Man and her father, who had decided to run for mayor. Her villainous shenanigans get off to a catastrophic start when she attempts to build sympathy for her dad’s campaign by staging attacks on him. When Spider-Man tries to stop her, Menace accidentally kills a councilwoman, which she of course blames Spidey for.
After another attack, Harry walks in on Menace changing back into Lilly. She handles this potentially awkward situation like a total pro, explaining her motives AND accepting Harry’s previous marriage proposal.
During another attack (which started when she tried to protect Carlie Cooper from being unfairly arrested), Lilly/Menace almost kills Spider-Man. Thankfully, Harry shows up (as the Green Goblin) and shoots her with a serum that turns Menace back into Lilly…in front of both her stunned father and a slew of news cameras.
After being put in prison, Norman Osborne visits Lilly to welcome her to the family. After being released from prison (!), Lilly tells Harry that she doesn’t want to be with him anymore…which seems a little presumptuous on her part, but whatever. Later, Lilly reconnects with Harry to inform him that she’s pregnant with his child.
Unbeknownst to Harry, this turns out to be part of an elaborate ruse concocted by her and Norman to make Harry agree to become the American Son and get killed, all for the sake of building public sympathy for the Dark Avengers. Once the ruse is revealed, Lilly informs Harry that she’s still goblin crazy and that the baby is actually Norman’s.
Because he’s a terrible father/person, Norman locks Lilly away for safe keeping until is his little goblin can be born. Lilly/Menace breaks out and is pursued by super villains desperate to get their hands on the ultimate human test subject/bargaining chip. After she gives birth, Spider-Man and the Lizard rescue the baby. Spidey then does some blood test, revealing that the baby was actually Harry’s all along.
Still with me? Good.
Harry names the baby Stanley. Lilly runs off, considering herself completely unfit to be a mother. This ends up being proven correct when Lilly/Menace is later shown to have joined Norman Osborne’s Goblin cult. She’s eventually defeated/captured and supposedly cured of the goblin serum via an antidote given by the Superior Spider-Man.
Later, Phil Urich (yet another goblin) attempts to free Lilly from police custody with disastrous results. When the police car she was being transported in falls over a bridge, Lilly is badly injured and affected by a severe case of amnesia.
Lost and alone, she’s see an ad for a program Hobgoblin/Robert Kingsley is running that helps turn regular people into superheroes. Lilly signs up and is molded by Kingsley into a Black Cat ripoff dubbed Queen Cat.
Urich eventually finds Lilly (who may or may not remember her past) and tries to convince her to be with him, but to no avail. As far as she’s concerned, her turn as Queen Cat is a chance to start fresh with whole new life for herself.
And that’s the last we’ve seen of her. It’s amazing to think that such a powerful and explosively connected character like Lilly hasn’t shown up again since then.
There’s no way that the goblin serum isn’t still coursing through Lilly’s veins in some way, shape, or form. Also, the fact that her son Stanley is still out there (and a major part of the ‘Go Down Swinging Storyline‘) makes her lack of visibility even more perplexing. Lilly obviously has a very convoluted backstory, but all a writer would really need to focus on is “Harry’s ex” and “Stanley’s biological mother” to reconnect her narrative thread.
Whether it’s in her Menace or Queen Cat form, Lilly Hollister’s story is one that deserves another chapter–even if it ends up being the finale one.
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