Monday 21 March 2011

The Ugly, The Bad and The E14: Spiderman Villains

Greetings, E14ies. With the news that Lizard has been cast in the new Spider-Man movie, this week E14 looks at some of the villains of the Spider-Man universe. Some are noteworthy, some are...not worthy. Then there's one in the middle, it's just the format I've gone with which seems to have stuck.

The Ugly: Sandman

Sandman, or Flint Marko to use his civilian alias, first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man in 1963 as an enemy, and did the rounds in the Marvel universe before returning in later comics to become an ally of Spider-Man as well as a member of one of the iterations of The Avengers. He gained his powers (if you can call them that) by fleeing to a nuclear testing site after escaping from prison, where he comes into contact with radioactive sand. A bit like Spider-Man's origin story, but a lot more shit.

If that doesn't already get you going "hang on, he sounds a bit ropey to me", then it gets better. His first altercation with Spider-Man is in high school, after a life of crime and some unfortunate schoolyard bullying in prep school (as if he wasn't already enough of a douche, now imagine him in a tweed blazer with elbow patches). He loses this fight. How, you ask? A vacuum cleaner. That's right, the fearsome Sandman is bested by an appliance that you can pick up from almost any branch of Comet or Currys relatively inexpensively. That must be a tremendous comfort, however, for the people of New York.

"Mom, there's a villain here to cause mischief!"
"Quick, call the police! Which one is it?"
"It's Sandman, mom!"
"Fuck calling the police, get the Dyson out! Let's see how he likes losing one of his legs into my filter!"

He then goes through his troubled youth as a member of various evil factions, from the Sinister Six to the Enforcers. THen he moves on to found the Frightful Four alongside villains the Wizard, Medusa and...Paste Pot Pete. That's right. Sandman joined up with a guy called Paste Pot Pete. All they needed to be taken less seriously was to form the Crafts Four with Macaroni Lad and Captain Seashell!

If I were Spider-Man (and unfortunately, since the closure of my local Woolworth's that is no longer possible), the first thing I'd say is "Wait, what the fuck? You're...just a bit like sand? So presumably the best thing you can do is get between my toes, which are enclosed by this form-fitting suit, and get in my eyes, which are also enclosed? Cock off, Sandman. Go make yourself useful at a petrol station forecourt or something."

The Bad: Hobgoblin

When deciding the criteria for this section, I found myself discounting Carnage for the position of "The E14", mainly because he can be argued to be, for lack of a better expression, 'a poor man's Venom'. Now, there are arguments for and against that point of view, but it was in fact this line of thinking that got me this far. Hobgoblin, or to put it another way, 'a poor man's Morlun'.

Just kidding. Of course, Hobgoblin has *slightly* more in common with Green Goblin than our supernatural friend with the insatiable appetite for optic nerve. However, this time it is for at least a canonically viable reason, in that Roderick Kingsley (the original Hobgoblin) acquires a lot of the Green Goblin's old kit when he (supposedly) dies during a massive fracas with the arachnid one. He then gains the superhuman strength by modifying the original Green Goblin formula to remove the bits which made Norman Osborn go mental.

See, I've got two issues with this one. First of all, supposedly he makes up the formula for himself, understanding fully what's involved. Roderick Kingsley is a fashion designer. I'm not sure how clever Gok Wan is, but I imagine he's not clever enough to perform advanced chemistry. His knowledge seems to be considerable, however, when it comes to choosing bras for women with 'big bangers', and I'd pay good money to have seen Roderick Kingsley become the villain known as 'The Bra-Fitter'. However, I suspect that they didn't go with this idea mainly because I'm the only one who *would* pay money for it.

The second problem with it is that not only does he perform advanced chemistry to produce this super-strength serum, but he modifies it to remove the bit that makes you lose your mind. We've already established that his knowledge would be better suited to choosing that perfect prom dress, and yet we're meant to believe that he stumbles across the perfect formula in a more meaningful way than 'feeding it to a bunch of local cats and seeing which ones flip their shit.'

The E14: The Punisher

Oh, how soon people forget. Most people will have gone 'Really Rob? The Punisher? We realise he's a favourite of yours, but really? Is there no lengths to which you will not stoop to get him name-checked in everything you write?' To those people, I say 'Yeah, probably, but fuck off and listen a minute.' Believe it or not, The Punisher actually started life as a villain in The Amazing Spider-Man in 1974. Ha! It just goes to show what a little research (and conveniently owning one of those Marvel Essentials books) can do.

I've talked at length about why The Punisher is a great hero because he's not in possession of any superpowers whatsoever, and simply carries out his war based on his military skill and a complete reckless abandon for his own life due to the untimely death of his family. What's also awesome is his resolve. He punishes the evil and corrupt with no concern for the laws of the world, simply because they tend to let the evil ones slip off the hook. It is indeed this that causes his first run-in with Spider-Man, with The Punisher on the web-slinger's trail for the murder of Norman Osborn.

In the original Spider-Man comics, The Punisher was one of the few characters who had no objection to killing wrong-doers and mobsters, which is one of the things that endears him to me personally, certainly. Far too many superheroes torment themselves over bringing people in 'by the book', whereas The Punisher opts to replace the word 'book' with 'gonads'.

Plus, he uses guns, which was another big departure from the heroes of the time, with Spider-Man opting to use his webs and Captain America slinging his wank shield at people. Or something to that effect, I forget the details.


July, 1944. As WWII raged on, a group of conspirators, led by Claus von Stauffenberg, plotted to assassinate Hitler and end his reign of terror. Using rare color footage, painstakingly recreated dramatizations, detailed CG reconstructions and exclusive interviews with leading historians, this thrilling documentary presents the definitive record of what happened before, during and after these pivotal events.

Thanks to our friends at High Fliers, we've got three copies of Operation Valkyrie on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Monday 28th March, making sure to put "Operation Valkyrie" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Operation Valkyrie" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Operation Valkyrie is available from Monday 28th March, priced £9.99.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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