Finally, 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 success…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 prison 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 Hunter, Mysterio, Sandman 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.