Theodore Sallis (Man-Thing)

man-thingfilm…and to celebrate Christmas, let’s meet the last Marvel character in Brick89‘s list: Ted Sallis, better known as Man-Thing! Despite his name has been dropped by Maria Hill in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as for now the character only appeared in the horror movie dedicated to him, Man-Thing. This version of the anti-hero, portrayed by Mark Stevens, has little or nothing in common with the original material: in here, Ted Sallis is a Native American shaman trying to prevent the oil tycoon F. A. Schist to destroy the sacred land of his tribe, Dark Waters in Louisiana; killed by Schist, his body is revived by the Nexus of All Realities (the aforementioned sacred land) as a plant-monster who murders anyone enters the swamp, good or bad alike. Needless to say, the Man-Thing from the comics is completely different from this mindless monster. After this, the blog takes a brief hiatus: enjoy your holidays, see you next year!

Ted Sallis was born in OmahaNebraska, but he moved to New York City to study biochemistry at Empire State University. He excelled in his studies, and proved to be one of the greatest minds ever in the university; he became a professor at a very young age, and his successes attracted the attention of the US Army. Sallis was hired by the military to lead Project: Sulfur, a group of researchers whose aim was to prepare the United States for a bio-chemical war. Sallis managed to create a futuristic compound, Serum SO-2, which was actually able to make anyone immune to every known toxin, venom or armful chemical agent…but with an unpleasant side-effect, as a prolonged use transformed human beings into monsters. The Army wanted to use the SO-2 nevertheless, thinking they could have found a use also in monsters, and Sallis was about to let them do it…until a friend of his, Saint-Cloude, convinced him to listen to his conscience rather than to his thirst for glory, and prompted him to denounce the officers. Sallis did as he was told and the project was shut down before any serum was produced: thankful, he man-thingcomics1realised he had fallen in love with Saint-Claude, and proposed to her…only to be refused, as the girl saw the many differences between them. Alone and without his job, Ted Sallis came back to university as a teacher, avoiding all human contact and preferring books over people…until he met Ellen Brandt, a particularly brilliant student, and he got smitten over her. Sallis started an affair with the girl, and the two escaped together and married in secret. Such an intellect wasn’t meant to be wasted, however, and S.H.I.E.L.D. contacted Sallis, asking him to be a part of Dr. Wilma Calvin‘s team along with Dr. Barbara Morse and Dr. Paul Allen: the team was assigned to Project: Gladiator, a top secret research aimed to recreate Abraham Erskine‘s Super-Soldier Serum. Sallis agreed, but with one condition: he would have worked separated from his colleagues. S.H.I.E.L.D. accepted, and sent Sallis to a secret lab in the Everglades, where the scientist could work alone. Well, where he sould have, according to security protocols: he brought Ellen.

Sallis dedicated completely to his work, and he used his SO-2 as a starting point to develop the Super-Soldier Serum. Of course, S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn’t the only organization interested in this project, as other shadier and meaner ones wanted it to succeed as well: AIM, for example. Embittered for being neglected by her husband, Ellen betrayed Ted and became a spy for the Advanced Idea Mechanics: when Sallis was informed that AIM was possibly already infiltrated in the project, he memorized the formula of the (allegedly) succesful result of his work and destroyed every evidence of it. After that, Ellen and AIM struck: they ambushed Sallis, who made an escape in the nearby swamp. Not sure he was able to leave his attackers behind, Ted injected himself with the only sample of the serum, sure it would have worked…what followed proved he was wrong. During the chase, Sallis lost control of his car, and ended up in the swamp…a really peculiar one, as it was imbued with arcane magic power. The serum in his blood, mixed with the mystic energies of the place, transformed Ted Sallis into a massive monster whose body was composed of the vegetation of the swamp, a creature in which the scientist’s mind and memory were rapidly fading man-thingcomics2away. Emerging from the water, the monster, a “man-thing”, confronted Ellen and the AIM agents: he slew the latters, and when he touched a terrified Ellen half of her face burnt in contact with an acid the creature that once was her husband secreted, and that reacted to strong emotions like fear. The Man-Thing started wandering the swamp, making it his home, and during a brief meeting with sorceress Jennifer Kale he understood his true purpose: the swamp itself was home to the Nexus of All Realities, an intersection of all dimensions and all possible realities that gave access to them all…and the Man-Thing was destined to be its guardian. The peculiarity of the place exposed it to a number of threats, not only AIM, still trying to learn Sallis’ secret, but also multi-dimensional foes like Thog the Netherspawn, the Cult of Entropy or the Foolkiller; with nothing of Ted Sallis living inside him anymore, the Man-Thing was one with the swamp he protected, a mindless monster completely dedicated to his sole purpose of existence.

Ted Sallis used to be an extremely intelligent and somewhat arrogant man, a misanthropist who preferred solitude and study over human relations; as the Man-Thing, he barely possesses a mind at all, he has no reason, no thought, and nothing similar to a long-term memory. Man-Thing has no emotions, but he reacts to others’ ones: any emotion causes him to get curious and to observe from afar, but strong and violent ones prompts him to attack. As the guardian of the Nexus of All Realities, he possesses superhuman strength augmentable according to necessity (he’s been able to fight to a standstill even the Hulk), he’s virtually invulnerable, since his semi-solid body is nearly impenetrable to regular arm, and he can regenerate completely using the swamp’s vegetation; in presence of violent emotions, his body secretes a strong sulfuric acid that burns everyone coming in contact with it. A formidable guardian for one of the most important places in the multiverse, the Man-Thing terrifies whatever evildoer tries to exploit the Nexus, and consumes him with his acid…for whoever knows fear, burns at the touch of the Man-Thing!

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Ben Reilly (Spider-Clone)

spider-clonefilmSorry Brick89, the Scarlet Spider has never been adapted in live action (and he probably won’t, considering how tricky the Clone Saga is…), but his alias Ben Reilly made his debut in the 1970s nevertheless. In The Amazing Spider-Man tv series, in fact, the evil clone of geneticist Doctor Moon stole a blood sample from Spider-Man, and created a fully grown up and functioning clone, always portrated by Nicholas Hammond. Since the adaptation came just at the beginning of the one that would have become the longest saga ever in the Spider-Man mythology (and before it degenerated…), the clone doesn’t survive the single episode he appears in (The Night of the Clones), and dies of accelereated aging. In the comics, on the opposite, he survived and became a superhero in his own right, later becoming quite an important presence in Spider-Man’s life. Before the Scarlet Spider, however, there was the Spider-Clone

Overcome by grief over losing Gwen Stacy, a student he had a crush on, deranged professor Miles Warren, aka The Jackal, started to plot revenge against the man he held responsible for the girl’s death: Spider-Man, who was also Gwen’s boyfriend Peter Parker. Using his revolutionary science, Warren cloned Peter (as well as Gwen, and himself), and imbued the clone with the memories and the personality of the original one. After that, in a sick game, he dressed the clone with a Spider-Man costume, and let him believe he was the real deal. The clone and the original Spider-Man found themselves together at Shea Stadium, to save from the Jackal “their” friend Ned Leeds, who had been abducted and threatened with a time bomb. Both of them believed the other to be an impostor, and they fought one against the other, thinking they had to defeat the enemy in order to save Leeds, and what seemed to be a reborn Gwen (obviously a clone). Their powers obviously matched, and even their strategies were the same: none of them could prevail on the other. Finally, they realised the good faith of the opponent, and they decided to team up to stop the Jackal, spider-clonecomics1postponing the “who’s the real one” problem to another moment. The Jackal, apparently, realised the true nature of the young man he wanted to destroy, and had a change of heart: he freed Ned Leeds, then he detonated the bomb, apparently killing himself and the clones he had created. Spider-Man retrieved the body of the Spider-Clone, but he was obviously unable to give a proper burial to a corpse that was exactly the one of Peter Parker: he put the body in a black sack, and he “buried” it in a smokestack. The clone, however, was more resilient than Parker believed, and the many substances the Jackal had injected him with reanimated him. Regaining consciousness, and still believing he was Peter Parker, the clone came back home…only to find “the other” Peter Parker there, with Mary Jane: his world shattered, he realised he was the clone. Taking some old clothes Peter was throwing away, the clone left New York, deeply depressed, trying to give a sense to his life.

With memories that weren’t his own, feeling a “worthless clone”, the man decided to change name, kowing that “Peter Parker” wasn’t his real self. He named himself “Ben Reilly”, taking Uncle Ben‘s first name and Aunt May‘s last one. He spent months on the streets, deeply depressed, often sick; once, while going through a bad flu, he met scientist Seward Trainer, a man who changed his life. A genetics expert and a former rival of Miles Warren, Trainer cured Ben, and he helped him regain his spirit, pushing him to become his own person. Slowly, Ben started to trust the scientist, who became some sort of father figure for him (Trainer, actually, was blackmailed by Norman Osborn to keep Ben Reilly in check). Trainer provided Ben with false references and credentials, allowing him to find a job wherever he went; after a while, Ben moved again, starting a new life somewhere else. In all his travels he was followed by a bearded, disfigured man, who clearly wanted to kill him: it was Kaine, Warren’s first attempt to clone Parker, who believed Ben to be Peter and wanted him to suffer due to his being “flawless”, unlike him, who was unstable and slowly dying of cellular degeneration. Finally, moving from city to city, Ben found a reason to stop: Janine Godbe, a waitress he met in Salt Lake City. The two started hanging out, and fell in love. During this time, Ben found that, as much as he tried to avoid spider-clonecomics2being a hero, he just couldn’t ignore other people in pain: using an amateur mask, he became a vigilante, and he dismantled a drug cartel in Salt Lake City. There was a shadow over Janine, however, and it became clear what it was when the girl told him her real name was Elizabeth Tyne, a fugitive herself: she had killed her father after years of rapes and abuses, and she was trying to find a new start. Her sense of guilt, however, proved to be unbearable, and she committed suicide. Ben got drepressed once again and came back on the road, eventually ending up in Italy, where he worked as an English teacher. Peter’s blood and memories were however calling for him, and it was inevitable he would have embraced also the responsibility coming from his power…

Ben Reilly is a man with no identity: all his memories, every trait of his personality, even his looks belong to another man, who he’s just a copy of. Trying to become his own person, Ben systematically refuses everything coming from his heart and mind that makes him think of Peter, including his sense of responsibility and his morality. As the Spider-Clone, he has the exact same powers of the original: he possesses superhuman strength, speed, agility, stamina, durability and reflexes, he can stick to every surface, and he possesses a Spider-Sense that warns him of incoming danger; possessing Parker’s scientific knoweldge and proficiency, he also built a pair of Web Shooters identical to Spider-Man’s ones. Trying to free himself from an identity that’s not his own, Ben Reilly is an “artificial man” struggling to find his place in the world.

Clea

cleafilmLet’s meet another character from Brick89‘s list: Clea, the interdimensional sorceress. In the 1970s’ Dr. Strange movie she loses all her supernatural traits and becomes Clea Lake, portrayed by Eddie Benton. In this version, Clea is university student with a natural psychic bond with Stephen Strange, and who becomes the target of Morgan LeFay, an evil sorceress who possesses her in order to murder Earth‘s Sorcerer SupremeThomas Lindmer. She luckily fails, but the trauma leaves her shocked: from that point, Strange tries to use her to track back Morgan, while Morgan constantly endangers her to use her as a bait for Strange. In the comics, she luckily has a much more active role than the simple “damsel in distress” (albeit she started that way), and her origins are a little bit more complex than a university student. Let’s see together.

Clea was born in the Dark Dimension, the offspring of an interdimensional affair: Prince Orini, leader of the humanoid magic users Mhuruuks and legitimate heir to the throne of the Dark Dimension, conceived a child with Umar, a Faltine sorceress who was aiding her brother Dormammu in conquering said realm. Since Umar had slept with Orini mainly out of boredom, and was actually disgusted by the relationship, she abandoned Clea with her father and disappeared, leaving the prince to raise their daughter on his own. Orini, for obvious reasons, decided to keep the identity of Clea’s mother a secret, even from her. A Mhuruuk among Murhuuks, Clea grew up oblivious to her own origins, living under the dictatorship of Dormammu, who had replaced King Olnar as the ruler of the Dark Dimension. She witnessed the Dread One conquering realm after realm, until he found one he was unable to add to his dominion: Earth, a dimension protected by powerful sorcerers. One of these defenders, Doctor Strange, finally entered the Dark Dimension to face Dormammu and defeat him once and for all: Clea intercepted cleacomics1the stranger, and tried to convince him that battling Dormammu was suicide, but she eventually started admiring the sorcerer’s courage, and she agreed to help him. The Dread One, however, discovered her betrayal, and he imprisoned her, promising to execute her as soon as he had dealt with Strange. Things, however, didn’t go this smoothly, as the power Dormammu used during the battle was so much that he lost control over his indestructible minions, the Mindless Ones. In a sudden turn of tides, Strange helped his sworn enemy subdue the Mindless Ones once again, and exploited Dormammu’s debt of honor by making him promise he would have left Earth alone…and by making him release Clea from her prison. Of course, Dormammu wasn’t famous for being a man of word, and when he tried to attack Earth again using Baron Mordo as a pawn, Clea warned Strange…thus earning the exile from her home dimension.

Clea’s help proved to be vital, as Strange was able to summon Eternity for help and to imprison Dormammu in a pocket dimension, the Realm Unknown. Clea and Strange grew closer, and they became lovers, albeit living in different dimensions. In the meanwhile Umar, seeking revenge for his brother, had invaded the Dark Dimension and kidnapped Clea to lure Strange in a trap. With such a powerful sorceress as Umar unleashed, the Ancient One suggested to his disciple to send his beloved to a pocket dimension to protect her, and both Strange and Clea agreed to do so, even if this meant they would have probably never seen each other again. Clea was teleported on another dimension…which unfortunately happened to be the Real Unknown, just where her vengeful uncle was imprisoned. Needless to say, the Dread One seized the moment, and tried to use his niece as a means to break free. He nearly managed to open an access to Earth, but this way he attracted the attention of Doctor Strange, who came to Clea’s rescue: Strange and Clea cut off Dormammu’s escape ways, and the two together came back to Earth, with the woman starting to live with her beloved in his Sanctum Sanctorum. She struggled a little to get accostumed to Earth, its people and its uses, and she found many things to be quite weird…first of all, the fact that she and Strange had to avoid using magic in public. Due to this restraint, and to the distance from her home dimension, Clea started cleacomics2losing her magic powers, but a trip to Stonehenge, one of Earth’s most mystical places, proved to be enough to repower her completely. Soon after, the Ancient One officially designated Doctor Strange as the new Sorcerer Supreme, and one of Strange’s first actions was to take Clea as his first disciple: under her lover’s tutelage, Clea became even more skilled in magic than she already was, until she was nearly on par with Strange himself. It was time to assist him in protecting Earth’s realm, doing for this dimension what she could not for her own.

Clea is a brave young woman, who lived under the rule of a tyrant and found the strenght to rebel; loyal and devoted, she’s one of Doctor Strange’s most reliable and precious allies. As the Sorceress Supreme of the Dark Dimension, she’s an extremely powerful magic user, taking the best of her mixed heritage: being half-Faltine, she possesses superhuman strength, durability and longevity, she can summon the Flames of Faltine to increase her already remarkable power, and she can produce mystic energy from her own body; being half-Mhuruuk, on the other hand, she can summon and manipulate magic energy from the environment; as Doctor Strange’s disciple, at last, she can draw mystic energy from other dimensions, using it for a variety of purposes that include (but are not limited to) energy blasts, energy shields, illusion casting, levitation, telekinesis, summonings, teleportation, telepathy, astral projection, hypnosis and many other things. A sorceress of unlimited potential, Clea embodies the better part of three worlds, a living bridge between alien dimensions.

Obadiah Stane (Iron Monger)

ironmongerfilmBrick89, I didn’t forget about you! I’ll finish the Marvel side of your request before Christmas, and after that the blog will be on hiatus. Let’s continue the list with the Iron Monger, the main villain from the first Iron Man movie. Portrayed in the film by Jeff BridgesObadiah Stane is Howard Stark‘s best friend and associate, and he takes control of Stark Industries after Howard’s death…as well as being Tony‘s mentor. He tries to kill Tony in order to take full control of his company, and he forges an alliance with the Ten Rings terrorist group to accomplish that. After he manages to reverse-engineer and upgrade the Mark I, he becomes an armored villain of his own. In the comics, Stane has quite a different backstory, as for example he’s never been Howard Stark’s associate, nor a father figure for Tony. Let’s see together.

Obadiah Stane was born in New York City, the son of the gambler and drunkard Zebediah Stane. Since his mother had died when he was still a child, Obadiah grew up with his father, living in poverty his first years. One night, when he was only seven years old, Obadiah witnessed his father boasting a “lucky streak” and playing Russian roulette…ending up shooting himself in the head. This event deeply traumatized the boy, who lost all his hair and became bald for life; it also affected his spirit deeply: determined never to become as weak as his father was, Stane decided he would have always had the upper hand in any challenge, never leaving anything to chance, studying strenghts and weaknesses of every opponent, climbing the social ladder over the corpses (mostly metaphorical ones. Mostly) of his rivals. In order to obtain and master this kind of “inner eye”, Stane dedicated himself to chess, becoming a champion at still a very young age: he learnt to obtain victory exploiting his own strengths, and understanding and using his opponent’s weaknesses…and not necessarily in a legitimate way. Once, for example, when he found another chess player who had an intellect able to rival his own, rather than letting the game going to a stalemate, he shot the man’s dog, so that his mind was clearly ironmongercomics1not focused on chess anymore: this way, he won the match. Years passed, and Stane accomplished many things thanks to his cold logic and to the tricks of psychological manipulation he had learnt; he even managed to become a colleague of a rampant scientist and businessman, Norman Osborn, and he helped him running his company, Osborn Industries, in its first years. When he learnt enough from Osborn about finance and business, he dumped him and founded his own company, Stane International, also taking some contracts from Osborn Industries and putting his former associate in difficulty. Obviously, Stane ran his company the same way he did with anything else in his life: planning every move, being careful to every detail, crushing every rival.

Soon realising he wasn’t able to obtain everything he wanted with financial maneuvres, Stane created the Chessmen, a group of armored mercenaries he deployed as a personal paramilitary force and moved as they were true chess pieces. After failing to acquire Stark Enterprises from its CEO Howard Stark, Stane tried again once Howard was dead and his son Tony succeeded him. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, Stane moved to cripple his enemy: he cut Stark out of several business deals, making him lose millions, then he sent his Chessmen to assault Tony’s best friend and confidante, James Rhodes, to leave him alone; last, knowing Stark’s weakness for women, he set up things so that the Chessmen’s Queen, Indries Moomji, became Tony’s lover, making her undermine his confidence and sanity. As a result, Tony fell into alcoholism, and Stane managed to buy his company, merging it with Stane International. Not only Obadiah Stane became S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s main weapons supplier, as well as the supplier of a number of less-transparent organizations who could afford his product, but he also found notes left by a now missing Stark with designs of his Iron Man armor: unable to comprehend them, Stane hired a team of highly qualified scientists who managed to reverse-engineer Stark’s tech, creating the Iron Monger armor, an upgraded and more lethal version of the original. He was still thinking of whether he would have used the massive armor as a new expensive product to sell to foreigner armies, or to create an army of them to conquer a country personally, until Tony Stark himself solved the ironmongercomics2dilemma for him: the man had recovered from his depression, and wanted to retaliate. He had founded a whole new company, Circuits Maximus, and he had built a new armor, the Mark 8 (or Silver Centurion Armor), so advanced that with it he easily defeated the Chessmen. Since Stark was battling him on both the financial and the physical ground, Stane decided to meet him on both, and he donned the Iron Monger armor himself to face his opponent directly: only one man would have survived this clash of titans, and Obadiah Stane wasn’t surely known for ever losing to anybody.

Obadiah Stane is a ruthless and ambitious man, a narcissist genius whose ego is possibly the only thing matching his intellect. A master strategist expert in warfare, Stane is even more lethal with his Iron Monger armor: a battle suit made of Omnium Steel (an artificial, highly resistant and versatile alloy), the suit grants him virtual invulnerability and an immense physical strength; it also allows him to fly, to shoot powerful Repulsor Rays from his gauntlets and a highly concentrated laser from his chestplate, making it basically a powered-up version of the Iron Man armor. Bent on control, using people as they were pawns, Stane is the ultimate chess player, who uses the entire planet as his personal chessboard.

Abraham Erskine

abrahamerskinefilmThe last character appearing in Spider-Man: Homecoming is an old acquaintance…and he’s been dead for decades. In one of the main corridors of Midtown School of Science and Technology, we see a mural with portraits of some of the greatest scientists in history…even Marvel history, as we can clearly see Howard Stark, and even Abraham Erskine. The latter was portrayed by Stanley Tucci in Captain America: The First Avenger, he’s the inventor of the Super-Soldier Serum, and the man who choses scrawny Steve Rogers as a test subject (he’s also the one who created the Red Skull in the first place, but he doesn’t seem so proud of that). Killed at the beginning of the movie by a Nazi spy, Erskine’s name has been dropped in a number of Marvel movies and tv series, but this is the first time since The First Avenger that he’s seen (albeit in photo) rather than just mentioned. Now, let’s take a look at this heroic scientist who changed the (comics’) world with his work.

Abraham Erskine was born in Germany from a Jewish family. In the years of his youth he met a girl, Anita, and fell in love with her: the two got married, and they had a daughter, Esme. Studying biochemistry and physics, Erskine became one of the most renowned and brilliant scientists in all Europe, and he even met and befriended another famous German physicist, Albert Einstein, whom he shared ideas and debates with. His life-long project was to create a superior breed of humans, able to defeat any illness and to excell both physically, mentally and morally over the lost generation that had given birth to a horror such as World War I: to do so, he devised a program that included a peculiar diet, a serum of his own invention (later known as the Super-Soldier Serum) and the Vita-Rays, radiations of his own discovery that allowed the Serum to work correctly within the body of test subjects. Still far from the final achievement, Erskine kept working even when Adolf Hitler rose to power, and despite he was a Jew he was left alone, since his work could have been useful to the Nazis as well. The only way abrahamerskinecomics1Erskine had to continue his research was working for the new regime, and he accepted to do so…thus losing his daughter’s esteem, as the two became estranged. Of course, working for Hitler meant a lot of uncomfortable compromises, and Erskine watched in horror as, against his will and opinion, the dictator and Baron Zemo tested a new weapon, the Death-Ray, on a living human subject. Remarking that bettering human beings was more a noble purpose than ending lives, Erskine tested Hitler’s patience, but he was nevertheless allowed to examine John Steele, an American super-soldier with powers of unknown origins, without being able to learn much from him. His discovery, however, would have been used to enslave humanity rather than freeing it, that much he knew: it was finally time to listen to his daughter and to abandon Germany, like his friend Einstein had done years before.

Thanks to an old friend of his, Hans Bruder, another German scientist who had defected to the United States of America, Erskine contacted the enemy, and he was granted safe passage to the US along with his family: during a lecture in Luxembourg, Erskine’s escort was attacked by special operatives Nick Fury and Red Hargrove, and the scientist was brought to their commanding officers, Lt. Sawyer and Colonel Ellis. Brought to the United States, Erskine faked his own death and started a new life under the alias of Joseph Reinstein, offering his services and expertise to the US Government. Made the head of Project: Rebirth, aimed to the creation of a functioning super-soldier to be used against the Nazis, Erskine/Reinstein developed a program that worked faster than his diet-based one, and he made several experiments on volunteer test subjects, such as Duvid Fortonuv, later dismissed, and Clinton McIntyre, who was unstable and died as a result of the exposure to the Vita-Rays. Finally, a perfect candidate was presented to Erskine: Steve Rogers, a scrawny kid who accepted to volunteer for the abrahamerskinecomics2experiment even with full knowledge of his possible death. While the candidates trained, Erskine observed them and selected them, and at the end of the day Rogers proved to be the best choice: if lacking under any physical point of view, his spirit was strong, and his morality even stronger, exactly the characteristics the scientist wanted for his “perfected human”. In 1941, near the end of the preparation program, Erskine felt something was amiss, and feared the Nazis had found out he was alive and working for the US: just in case, he entrusted the formula for his Serum to James Fletcher, an Army colonel who was among the few people he totally trusted, then continued with the experiment. Erskine was succesful, and Steve Rogers became the super-soldier he was meant to be…but two members of Project: Rebirth, Professor Hamilton and Special Agent Frederick Clemson, were actually Nazi spies Albrecht Kerfoot and Heinz Kruger: they killed Erskine and stole his formula, trying to escape with it, only to be stopped by the now empowered Rogers. All of Erskine’s knowledge died with him, and Rogers remained the only succesful super-soldier for a long, long time.

Abraham Erskine is an extremely intelligent man, who dedicated his life to making humanity reach its full potential, reather than surrendering to the evidence of war-mongering and hate-spreading individuals. A proficient physicist and biochemist, he is one of the most accomplished scientists of his time, but he always sees science as a tool at man’s service, never the opposite. An idealistic man for uncivilized time, forced to watch helplessly as even his beloved science is perverted to serve the purpose of annihilating men and women, Abraham Erskine keeps fighting for his dream of a better humanity, super-humans who could embody all the best the human body, mind and soul have to offer.

Herman Schultz (Shocker)

shockerfilmThe Vulture won’t be alone in his task of giving Spider-Man a headache in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, and in the trailer we spotted a member of his gang: Herman Schultz, portrayed by Bokeem Woodbine. Starting as a simple crook, Schultz will receive an upgrade as well (possibly thanks to the Tinkerer, set to appear in the movie), and he’ll become the villainous Shocker. This secondary supervillain was mentioned in the viral campaign for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, with an article from the Daily Bugle claiming he had been captured by Spider-Man right before the events of the film, but he never actually appeared on the big screen, this movie marking his debut. Now, let’s take a look at the original guy, one of the few non-psychopathic villains Spidey is used to face.

Herman Schultz was born in New York City from a low-income family. He excelled in studies, especially in scientific subjects, but when he was in high school both his parents died, and he was the only one who could take care of his younger brother, Marty Schultz. Needing fast money to make a living for both himself and Marty, Herman became a thief, and used his impressive intellect to become the (self-proclaimed) best safe-cracker in the city. With time, Marty learnt to take care of himself and moved away, but Herman didn’t stop his criminal career, since it was by now the only thing he was actually able to do. He wasn’t exactly satisfied with his life, but it paid the bills. Eventually, however, he was caught, and sent to prison for robbery: Herman quickly realised that in a world full of superheroes normal thieves like him had no chance in the world to continue with their “job”…but instead of shockercomics1changing life starting from this realisation, he decided to raise the biddings for himself, and he spent his first years in jail studying mechanical engineering, becoming quite an accomplished professionist. Instead of using his newfound knowledge to find a regular job, of course, he built for himself a pair of experimental gauntlets, able to vibrate air at an intense frequence and to blast it against a determined target, with a highly destructive power. The vibration, however, was so powerful that Schultz would have broken all his bones, or even killed himself, if he had used the gauntlets without protection: he tailored a special costume made of yellow quilt patches designed to absorb the shock and protect him from the lethal side effects. With his new equipment, he created the masked identity of Shocker, a new supervillain who could stand on par with the empowered law enforcers around…well, at least theoretically.

Using his gauntlets to open safes even quicker than before, Shocker made his debut robbing a bank…and running into Spider-Man, who tried to stop him. Surprisingly enough, Shocker managed to defeat the hero, leaving him half-dead on the streets (actually, Spidey was severely wounded due to a previous fight with The Lizard). Growing cocky over his first victory, Shocker attacked another bank soon after, confronting Spider-Man yet another time…but this time the hero didn’t have a broken arm, and he easily knocked him down after blocking his thumbs so that he could not activate his gauntlets. He easily escaped, and after a brief mission on Silvermane‘s account, he decided to blackmail the entire New York City, using his abilities to black out several blocks (so that the remaining illuminated ones spelled “Shocker”…) and asking a million dollars for restoring the power. When this odd plan failed, he actually obtained the million he was looking for in a much simpler way, by threatening a broker. Finally obtaining some fame, he was recruited by Eggman in his new version of the Masters of Evil, and they managed to incriminate Hank Pym for treason…but the remaining Avengers exposed them and defeated them in battle. Despite the defeat, Shocker found out that working for others was much more rewarding shockercomics2and less stressful than going solo, so he presented himself as a mercenary and, if necessary, a killer for hire. He was hired by Baron Von Lundt to kill the adventurer Dominic Fortune, and he received an upgrade to complete the task…a task that he failed nevertheless. He ended up in prison once again when Spider-Man caught him trying to steal charity money from a celebrity fund raiser, and while he was in prison he developed some serious problems of lack of confidence and paranoia: during the time he had spent in jail, some brutal vigilantes such as the Scourge of the Underworld or The Punisher had started killing criminals like him, and he was terrified by them. His cellmate Fred “Boomerang” Myers convinced him not to abandon the activity, and Shocker came back on the scene…but now he surely got things in perspective.

Herman Schultz is a smart man who tries to make a living with the only job he knows: robbery. Sometimes a coward, sometimes frustrated with how his life turned out to be, he’s a professional criminal who truly sees his activity only like a (crappy) job he has to do to make ends meet. As the Shocker, he has designed a pair of gauntlets that allow him to shoot powerful blasts of air, as well as make solid objects (people included) vibrate to the breaking point, to create a “vibrational shield” protecting him from arm, and even to perform giant leaps by directing the blast to the ground and letting the vibrated air sustain him; his suit is designed to protect him from the deadly recoil of the gauntlets, and without it he wouldn’t be able to use his weapons without killing himself. Essentially an “office worker of crime”, Shocker doesn’t care about vengeance, idealistic crusades, personal vendettas or world domination plans: he’s not in league with most of the other superpowered beings, and he knows it, so he keeps a low profile to earn as much money as he can from his job.

Adrian Toomes (Vulture)

vulturefilmFinally, it’s time for the Vulture, who’ll be the big bad in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming. Portrayed by none other than the former Batman (and Birdman) Michael Keaton, the Vulture will be a professional criminal who, along with his gang, will make quite a quality leap in his activity obtaining an Exo-Suit that allows him to fly…and possibly some other things. He was supposed to be portrayed by Ben Kingsley in Spider-Man 3, but he was replaced by Venom, and again by John Malkovich in the cancelled Spider-Man 4; the villain’s wings had been spotted in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, thus indicating his presence in the planned but never realised spin-off The Sinister Six, but this is the first actual live action appearance of one of the most iconic villains in Spider-Man‘s rogue gallery. Often mocked for being essentially and old man dressed like a bird, the Vulture in reality is one of the cruelest and creepiest enemies of Spidey’s, a true monster that, depending on the storylines, managed to add a horror taste to the hero’s stories. Let’s see together.

Adrian Toomes was born in New York City, and his parents died when he was still a kid. He was raised by his older brother, Marcus, but when the boy became paraplegic after a motorbike accident, it was Adrian’s time to take care of him. His obligations towards Marcus didn’t prevent Adrian from excelling in studies, and in school he always impressed teachers and professors with his results; he became an electrical engineer, and together with a friend of his, Gregory Bestman, he founded a small firm, Toomes & Bestman Electronics: Bestman took care of finances and administration, while Toomes worked as an inventor. Adrian dedicated most of his life to his company, and at a certain point Marcus disappeared from his life (he probably died): his remarkable intellect allowed him to invent a number of devices and machines that Bestman patented and sold to other companies. Adrian’s most ambitious project was an electromagnetic harness aimed to allow individual flight: it took years of his life, as Toomes was incredibly careful to details, but one day, finally, his life-long project was complete. Rejoicing, he told Bestman of his vulturecomics1success…just in time to discover that his “friend” had acquired his share of the company, and was kicking him out of it, leaving to Toomes nothing to do from a legal point of view. Humiliated and defeated Adrian Toomes, now an old man, retired to a farm in Staten Island, his only remaining property along with his flying harness: there, he kept working on it, planning his revenge on Bestman…and he even found out that the electromagnetic waves had an unexpected side effect, giving him superhuman strength. Using his device, Adrian Toomes created the masked identity of the Vulture, and came back to New York, breaking into his ex partner’s office looking for crime evidence…but he found none. Enraged, he destroyed the place, vandalizing both the office and the labs, hoping to damage Bestman. If a man like Gregory Bestman had used the law to ruin him, law itself didn’t mean anything for Toomes anymore: it was time he took what he wanted, without asking.

Turning his harness into a flashy costume, the Vulture became a super-thief, starting a series of robberies that put New York on its knees; the old man became renowned also for the brutality of his attacks: while trying to steal a suitcase containing jewels from a man who had it handcuffed to his wrist, he flew away carrying the man attached to the suitcase, and crashed him against several buildings until his wrist’s bones were broken enough to let his hand slip through the cuff. One of the city’s newest superheroes, Spider-Man, tried to stop him, but Vulture defeated him, and locked him in a watertank whose sides were too slippery to be climbed. Growing arrogant over his successes, Toomes announced his next target publicly: Park Avenue Diamond Exchange; he surprised everybody coming not from above, but from the underground, through a manhole, and then escaping with the diamonds through the sewers. Here, he met Spider-Man again, and the two resumed their duel: while in mid-air, Spider-Man activated a device of his own invention, an Anti-Magnetic Inverter, that disabled Vulture’s wings and made him crush on a roof. When he woke up, Toomes found out he had been arrested. This was but a minor nuisance, as he easily escaped from vulturecomics2prison and modified his wings, so that the Inverter didn’t affect them anymore; following that, he tried to rob the Daily Bugle‘s payroll, but Spider-Man stopped him once again, this time pinning his wings to a wall with his webs. Frustrated over his inability to crush Spider-Man like the bug he was, Toomes accepted the offer of one of his jailmates, Otto Octavius, better known as Doctor Octopus: the genius criminal wanted to recruit Vulture, along with other four supervillains (Kraven the HunterMysterioSandman and Electro) to form a team, the Sinister Six, whose aim was solely to kill the superhero. Each member of the Six was extremely proud, however, and refused to work together: they decided to face the hero one per time, each one of them holding the key to finding the following opponent in a sick game, with Spidey forced to defeat them all if he wanted to save Betty Brant, whom the villains had kidnapped. The Vulture was the last foe he had to face before Octopus himself: all he had to do was to wait for his prey to come to him, and then to make him play according to his rules. Time for revenge had come at last…

Adrian Toomes started his criminal activity as a way to get revenge against his business partner and against society as a whole, but he found in it an unprecedente freedom, that unlocked everything he had kept repressed until that moment: he now enjoys robbing, killing and torturing, he murders people without the slightest remorse, and he has no problems even in exploiting children for his personal gain. As the Vulture, he’s a genius scientist who invented a harness that allows him to fly and increases his strength to superhuman levels (apparently, it also increases his life span); after years of exposure to his own invention’s electromagnetic waves, Toomes retains some of his strength and the ability to levitate even without it. Just as intelligent as he is cruel, the Vulture is a man with no pity, no remorse, no empathy, a mean killing machine who’s just as menacing as the bird he named himself after.