Sally Avril (Bluebird)

Among the many classmates of Peter Parker, in Spider-Man: Homecoming, there’s also a chubby girl portrayed by Isabella Amara (she’s the one who sadly announces that Peter isn’t going to the competition in Washington D.C.); she’s quite smart, as she’s a member of the school’s decathlon team. Amara already confirmed she’s going to appear again in Avengers: Infinity War, so we haven’t seen the last of her…albeit it’s unlikely she’ll start wearing a costume and fight crime like Sally did in the comics. Even the first live action version of Sally didn’t do much in this sense: Kelsey Chow in fact portrays her in The Amazing Spider-Man, the hot girl who asks Peter if he can take pictures of her and her boyfriend on Friday night, laughing at the fact he believed she was asking him out. In the comics, Sally’s story is more deepened…and eventually more tragic. Let’s see together.

Sally Avril was born in New York City, in Forest HillsQueens. When she was a kid she attended the local Elementary School, where she met and became friends with a group she would have grown up with, consisting of Jason Ionello (her best friend), Liz Allan, Peter Parker, Tiny McKeever and Seymour O’Reilly. The group was quite inseparable, but when they arrived to Midtown High School everything changed: the new social division had quite an effect on her, and she immediately realised the new school was clearly divided between “winners” and “losers”, and she had no intention of being part of the second group. She did her best to be one of the popular girls, taking a distance from some of her old “best friends”…including Peter Parker, who was now the favourite target of bullies like Flash Thompson. Instead of defending her friend, Sally started dating Flash, and when Peter asked her out she laughed in his face and proclaimed she preferred “dream boats” like Thompson. She even arrived to the point of isolating Peter when his beloved Uncle Ben died, convincing Liz Allan not to be friendly with him even in such a delicate situation, so obsessed she was with high school’s role game. She finally obtained all the fame and the popularity she craved by winning all the school’s competition as a gymnast, but it still wasn’t enough, she wanted more…and Jason gave her the perfect idea to achieve it, as J. Jonah Jameson offered a big sum of money to whoever brought him the secret identity of the superhero he despised, Spider-Man. The two friends decided they would have been the ones to take money and glory.

Armed with binoculars and camera, Sally Avril and Jason Ionello started “hunting” for Spider-Man, and they found him during a meeting with Batwing. Spider-Man realised he had been followed, and warned the two kids not to, as it could be very dangerous; Jason wanted to follow his advice, but Sally decided to ignore it, as she was sure they would have succeeded. Next, they spotted Spider-Man as, brainwashed by Dr. Winkler, was stealing money for Electro. The two followed the hero, and prepared to take a picture just as Electro was about to unmask him…but their camera’s flash broke the hypnosis, and Spidey came back to his senses just in time. In the following fight, when Spider-Man was about to be defeated, Sally intervened in first person incapacitating Electro with a kick to the head, allowing the hero to knock him out for good: thankful, Spider-Man took a picture of Sally and Jason standing over the defeated criminal, a photo that would have been published on The Daily Bugle under the title: School Kids Foil Super-Villain. Intoxicated by the experience, Sally presented herself to Jameson asking for the position of free-lance photographer, but she was shocked in discovering that the job was already taken…by Peter Parker. Her former friend confirmed it, but she asked her not to tell anybody at school he was the one who took pictures of Spider-Man. This, however, brought Sally to change her plans: instead of becoming a photographer, she used the experience with Electro to decide to become a superheroine herself. She created a costume and built some (highly inefficient) gadgets, and named herself Bluebird, ready to take on New York’s criminality with her athletic skills. She even elected herself as Spider-Man’s partner, but the hero wasn’t too happy of having such an inexperienced and vulnerable sidekick “aiding” him…

Sally Avril is an extremely ambitious and glory-carving girl, a young woman quite obsessed with popularity who’s overenthusiastic over pretty much every single initiative she takes. As Bluebird, she’s an extremely skilled athlete and acrobat, but she doesn’t have any superhuman power; she has a number of gadgets, some useful ones such as insulated boots and her rope line, and some unuseful and dangerous ones like her Bluebird Eggs, “bombs” filled with ether that usually explode before even reaching their target. First a bully ready to forget any friendship and to step on anyone’s feelings for a little popularity, now Sally is a danger for herself and others, a rookie vigilante who’s too arrogant to realize that as an amateur she risks her life without being of any kind of help to her unwilling mentor Spider-Man.

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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.

Mary Jane Watson

maryjanewatsonfilmAnd here’s another iconic character from Brick89‘s list: Mary Jane Watson, the friend, girlfriend, wife, and later “ex” wife of Spider-ManMJ first appeared in the Spider-Man trilogy, portrayed by Kirsten Dunst. She debuts in the first movie as Peter Parker‘s neighbor and everlasting crush, girlfriend of school bully Flash Thompson. She evolves throughout the movie, and first she stays with Harry Osborn, then she become interested in his best friend Peter. In the following movie she’s about to marry John Jameson, but she eventually realizes her feelings and she finally gets engaged with Peter, but in the third movie something goes terribly wrong and the two cancel the wedding, only to eventually come back together. Shailene Woodley (sigh) portrays MJ in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but almost all her scenes got cut off the movie: we can spot her in the final sequence with Rhino, she’s the waitress trying to hold the kid inside the restaurant. She will appear again in Spider-Man: Homecoming, portrayed by Zendaya…and we don’t know anything of the new incarnation of MJ, yet, so let’s just take a look at the original one.

Mary Jane Watson was born from Philip and Madeleine Watson. Because of Philip’s job, the Watsons had to move frequently all around the country, but unlike her older sister Gayle, MJ could count on a cheerful and carefree personality that helped her a lot to make new friends everywhere she went. The girl paid attention never to let anyone from outside her house see what really happened inside: Philip, frustrated for his poor academic career, vented his rage at home, and was always verbally abusive with her family. The moment he hit Gayle in a fit of rage, Madeleine finally left him, and she started staying with relatives who made turns hosting her along with her two girls. MJ’s favourite one was Aunt Anna, who lived in Forest HillsQueensNew York City: MJ had grown into a beautiful teenager, and Anna wanted to introduce her to her best friend May‘s nephew, hoping that the two maryjanewatsoncomics1youngsters would have gotten along. MJ wasn’t interested in the nerdy Peter Parker, but she enjoyed that little game she played with Anna. Finally, the Watson girls settled in Pittsburgh, but here MJ grew quite distant from her mother and sister: her (fake) party-girl personality alienated Madeleine, while Gayle became pregnant of her high school boyfriend and got married at 19, replicating the exact some mistakes of her mother (with a guy who was exactly like Philip). Sick and tired of her family, MJ gladly spent time with Aunt Anna, and went to her place during holidays. One night, while MJ was in Forest Hills for Thanksgiving, she abruptly changed her opinion on the boy next door, as she saw him rushing into his house…and Spider-Man emerging immediately after. She decided to keep what she saw secret, and she followed with interest the new hero’s first steps. Back home, however, a bad news was waiting for her: Madeleine had fallen ill, and she died shortly after. Gayle believed her sister would have stayed with her and helped her with her two kids (especially since her husband had left her after the second pregnancy), but MJ reacted the same way she had done with all the serious problems in her life: she ran away, moving to Aunt Anna and leaving her sister alone, thus definitely deteriorating their relationship.

Back to New York, Mary Jane could finally start to seriously pursue her dream of becoming an actress: she attended acting classes and she starred in many school plays, becoming even more popular. She even started working as both a waitress and a dancer at a restaurant, so that she earned money enough to buy her own apartment…always trying to avoid the blind date Anna and May tried to organize between her and Peter (a blind date that Peter as well was finding any excuse to refuse). Finally, the two ended up meeting, for the one that Peter believed to be the first and last date…but when he finally saw MJ in person, he was simply stunned in seeing how beautiful she was; the girl introduced herself saying “Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot“, a line that became the basis of a long relationship. Their first date, however, was quite lively, as Peter and MJ ended up finding Rhino maryjanewatsoncomics2on a rampage just near where they were; knowing Peter’s secret, MJ pretended to be curious, thus giving him a good excuse to get near the criminal and to get away “to take pictures for the Daily Bugle“; a moment after, Spider-Man arrived and solved the situation. Despite MJ’s obvious feelings for Peter, he disliked her (apparent) superficiality, and he started dating Gwen Stacy, another friend of his. MJ started dating another boy from their group, Harry Osborn, but their story didn’t last long, mostly because she was still attached to Peter. Everything changed for both her and her relationship with Peter when Gwen got killed in a battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin: knowing that Peter was Spider-Man, she understood better than anyone else how much his girlfriend’s death must have hurt him, and the event shocked her as well. She became more serious and sensitive, abandoning for once in her life her mask of carefree party-girl: she grew closer to Peter, and she became the friend he needed in the blackest moment of his life. At first, Peter rejected her quite violently, not believing her change of attitude, but then they finally started to understand each other. When Harry, now the second Green Goblin, wounded MJ with a Pumpkin Bomb, Peter never left her a moment in the hospital. When she woke up, the relationship of her life was about to begin.

Mary Jane Watson is a young woman full of life, with no worries in the world, whose only concern is partying all night and having as much fun as possible…or at least, this is what she wants others to see: behind the facade of a carefree and shallow girl, she hides far too many scars, and she defends herself from all the pain past and present with a fake smile and attitude. Sensitive and caring, she pretends not to care about people, so that she doesn’t get involved in relations that, she knows for experience, can hurt her. With Peter Parker, her best friend, her boyfriend and eventually her husband, MJ learnt to open herself to others again, and she can now fully express her character, her strength, her selflessness, her unshakable determination. Model, actress, dancer, wife of a superhero, she’s the rock Spider-Man can always count on, a woman who finally defeated her inner demons and bloomed to her full potentialities.

John Jonah Jameson (JJJ)

j-jonahjamesonfilmTime for an iconic Marvel character from Brick89‘s list: J. Jonah Jameson, the publisher and/or editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle. Jameson’s first live action appearance was in the 1977 Spider-Man tv movie, where he was portrayed by David WhiteRobert F. Simon replaced White in the following The Amazing Spider-Man tv series, but both actors gave a much more friendly and grandpa-like portrayal of the character. Finally, Jameson appeared in all his glory and grumpiness in Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man trilogy, where he was portrayed by an amazing J.K. Simmons: a stubborn, constantly angry, shouting boss who turns out to be unexpectedly protective over his employees (such as when he risks his life refusing to give Green Goblin the name of Peter Parker). He even “appears” through a hilarious email in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but he never got the chance of a full appearance. Waiting to see if Marvel will use him for Spider-Man: Homecoming as well, let’s take a look at one of the greatest grumpy cigar-smokers ever appeared on paper.

John Jonah Jameson (or JJJ for short) was born the son of John Jameson and his wife Betty. Immediately after he was born, John left his family, and Betty ended up marrying his brother, David Jameson, a war veteran. If for the outside world David was a hero, at home he was often drunk, and verbally and physically abused both his wife and step-son: from that man, Jonah learnt that “true” heroes didn’t exist, and that even the best man had a dark side. Despite this, he was always committed to do his part: he became a boy scout, and idolized Captain America. In high school he was in the boxing team, and discovered his true passion: photography. It was in the photo club that he met Joan, the girl of his life. When three of the school best athletes started bullying Joan, Jonah intervened, and beat them all to unconsciousness: this impressed Joan, and the two started dating. The photo club eventually paid off, and Jameson, still a high school student, was hired as a part time photographer by the one who would have j-jonahjamesoncomics1become his greatest love in life: the Daily Bugle, one of the most important newspapers in New York City. Starting from the bottom, Jameson became a reporter, and even uncovered some secret operations from World War II; some of these, in fact, involved the super group of the Invaders, and seeing what they had been able to do put in Jonah a strong distrust for people who believed they could operate outside the law. JJJ and Joan eventually married, and the two had a son together, John. While he was covering the Korean War, Jonah left home for a while, but when he came back he found out that his beloved wife had been killed by a robber (a masked one, a detail that only increased Jonah’s hatred for masked vigilantes). Distraught, he gave himself totally to his work, and became one of the most famous and apreciated reporters of the Bugle. Thanks to what he had earned, and to a remarkable inheritance, he eventually founded his own company, Jameson Publications, and through that he bought the Daily Bugle, starting to work as its editor-in-chief and publisher. Now, he was one of the kings of the media in New York.

Jameson used his newspaper to launch a crusade against organised crime in New York, and to promote civil rights; due to his columns and investigative reports, he even was attacked by some henchmen sent by the mysterious Kingpin, but not only he survived the encounter, he didn’t even get scared enough to interrupt his battle. There was only a topic Jameson wrote about even more: masked heroes, whom he saw as a public menace. In particular, when the masked wrestler Spider-Man caught a burglar, Jonah became simply outraged: an entertainer who possessed dangerous powers had decided to take the law in his own hands, risking to give an example to others like him, and endangering the lives of normal citizens of New York without any kind of accountability. Plus, Jameson didn’t trust even the motivations that moved the superhero, and in his (in)famous editorials he constantly attacked Spider-Man, calling him a public menace, seeding doubts about his true purposes and nature, even suggesting that he was still paid by the same entertainment industry that gave him his first job as a wrestler. Despite his blatant j-jonahjamesoncomics2hatred for the Spider, however, Jonah never lost his integrity, and every time he made some mistake (such as when he erroneously accused Spider-Man of being the same person as the thief Electro) he publicly admitted it with “repairing” editorials. In the meanwhile, Jonah’s son John had become an astronaut in NASA, and Jonah was extremely proud of him; while on an orbiting mission, however, John’s capsule malfunctioned, and the young man was about to die…but Spider-Man intervened, saving the astronaut’s life. Jonah, not exactly grateful, accused Spider-Man of being responsible for the ship’s malfunction, so that he could have later gained publicity with his intervention. What really had an effect, however, was the report of Spider-Man breaking into a military base without authorization, a fact that indeed turned the hero into an outlaw. From that moment, Jonah even increased his public war against the superhero, but for his articles he needed photos…and there was one high school student who always managed to obtain clear pictures of Spider-Man, Peter Parker, a young man JJJ hired without thinking it twice…and without realising the ironic secret he hid.

J. Jonah Jameson is quite an icon for journalism in New York City…a volatile, quick-tempered, intractable icon. JJJ follows a personal and very strict moral code, he faces both his private life and profession with honesty and integrity, and he’s fiercely loyal to his cooperators (especially his long-time colleague and friend Robbie Robertson), but he doesn’t forgive someone, as close to him as he can be, who proves to be dishonest. He sincerely dislikes masked heroes, since he doesn’t trust people who don’t want to reveal who they are and who act outside the law, but he has more sympathy for the ones operating for the government, like the Avengers. Among all the “vigilantes” he dislikes, Spider-Man earned more than once his everlasting hatred: a glory-hound, a buffoon and an irresponsible, a true menace for everybody…and JJJ won’t stop until everybody will be able to see the “hero” for what he really is.

Venom

venomsymbiotefilmThe latest character from casualgamer‘s list is hardly considered a character in his own right, but even evil alien slimes have rights, so here he is: Venom, the most famous Symbiote of the Marvel Universe. As for now, he had two live action appearances: the first one is in Spider-Man 3, where he was completely portrayed in CGI. He is an alien who arrives on Earth on a meteorite, and who later bonds with Spider-Man‘s costume, turning it black and empowering the hero. When Spidey gets rid of it realising how much (and how badly) it affects his personality, the Symbiote bonds with the vengeful Eddie Brock and goes on a revenge spree, only to be later destroyed with a Pumpkin Bomb (everything considered, a pretty disappointing portrayal). The Symbiote appears again in a cameo in The Amazing Spider-Man 2: when the Gentleman arrives in the secret lab of Oscorp, we can see a canister besides Vulture‘s wings containing it in stasis, ready to be used. We’ll never know what Sony wanted to do with it, but let’s wait to see if MCU will have another take on the alien; in the meanwhile, let’s meet the original.

Somewhere in the Andromeda Galaxy, on a remote, planet, a race of peaceful and isealistic aliens was born, the Klyntar: the Klyntars appeared as amorphous beings, composed of a thick liquid body, able to survive only in symbiosis with other hosts. The majority of the Klyntars were bent on building a better galaxy, creating noble peace-keeping warriors through symbiosis and uniting peoples and cultures through the hive mind they shared. Unfortunately, a rogue splinter of Klyntars became feral, preferring to totally consume their hosts, creating a condition of constant stress to feed on their adrenaline, phenethylamine and other hormones, exhausting the hosts to death and sucking them dry. The feral Klyntars eventually took control, and spread through the galaxy as a plague, conquering worlds and destroying entire civilizations (the only real threats they ever encountered were the world-eater Galactus and his herald Silver Surfer, and in their hive mind an incontrollable fear of the two was implanted). However, at a certain point in the Klyntars’ lineage, something changed: the 998th generation was born venomsymbiotecomics1differently from his brothers, and he desired to return to the old ways, creating a single, long-lasting bond with a host, protecting him and establishing a relationship of mutual benefit. Fearing that the new Symbiote would have tainted the gene pool, the other Klyntars imprisoned him, putting him on stasis in an isolated cell: the “aberration” was abandoned on a planetoid, never to be freed again. After centuries of isolation, the mutant Symbiote was forgotten…until the Beyonder, a cosmic being of untold power, used several planetoids and asteroids to create a new planet, Battleword, to test champions of good and evil from Earth in a contest. Among the pieces that composed Battleword there was also the planetoid hosting the Klyntar’s prison: unaffected by the metamorphosis, the Symbiote still lived in his cell, waiting to be freed. And freed he was indeed, even if by an unwilling and unaware Earthling.

With his costume torn to pieces after a battle, the hero Spider-Man entered a chamber looking for a replacement; what he found was the Symbiote’s prison, and he opened it. Sensing the man’s needs, the Symbiote bonded to him, giving what the hero was looking for: a new uniform, albeit black as he was. He also gave his new hosts new powers, increasing the ones he already had, enabling him to face many of the powerful foes lurking on Battleworld. Back on Earth, Spider-Man found out many others of the abilities his new “costume” granted to him, and started to truly apreciate his new self, but the Symbiote had a mind of his own: unknowingly to the hero, the alien misunderstood his will to protect the innocents and fight bad guys, and maneuvred his body during the night to exact a much more brutal and severe justice. Every morning, the man woke up tired and bruised, without remembering anything of the venomsymbiotecomics2night deeds of the “Black Spider-Man“. Worried by this and some other changes, Spider-Man asked Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four for help, and the scientist analyzed the costume, realising it was a living (and sentient) being. He also discovered that the Symbiote was re-assembling Spider-Man’s neural connections, in order to bond to him permanently both physically and psychically. Finding in sounwaves a weakness of the alien, Richards proceeded to separate the Klyntar from Spider-Man, trapping him in a cell. The Symbiote, however, wasn’t so easily tricked, and he managed to escape from his prison, finding his way back to Peter Parker. Now sure that the alien was a menace to him, Spider-Man moved to the belltower of Our Lady of Saints Church, where he tried to drive the Symbiote away with the soundwave generated by the bell. The symbiosis was far too advanced, and Spider-Man succumbed before the Symbiote did: still wanting to protect his host, the Klyntar preferred to sacrifice himself rather than let Parker die, and abandoned him, letting himself fall in the church. Weak and dying, the Symbiote unexpectedly found another host, Eddie Brock, who was about to kill himself: the alien bonded to him, but Brock’s violent emotions overwhelmed him, making him focus on the pain for being rejected and igniting a thirst for vengeance in him. Along with Brock, he became Venom, and he would have hunted down Spider-Man and made him regret to ever turn him down.

Venom is a naturally peaceful creature, who seeks to form a bond for life with a host to create a mutually beneficial relationship, like his ancestors used to do; bonding with people driven by violent emotions or even madness (such as Deadpool, Eddie Brock or Mac Gargan) turned him into a possessive and jealous creature, maniacally obsessed with his host and unforgiving in case of rejection or betrayal. As a Klyntar, he’s able to bond with other creatures to create extremely powerful warriors, increasing his hosts’ strength, speed, stamina and reflexes, granting them virtual invulnerability (albeit he’s vulnerable to soundwaves and fire), and putting his shapeshifting abilities at disposal of the host’s fantasy; he also transmits his memory to the host, and absorbs some of the characteristic of a host to replicate them with the following one (such as Spider-Man’s powers). Venom can be whatever his host wants him to be, demanding in exchange only the possibility to fully realise himself in a perfect symbiosis (and to feed on some of his host’s hormones, without harming him, of course): with such a convenient agreement, it’s quite a shame to reject him.

Curtis Connors (Lizard)

lizardfilmIt’s villains time, as we find yet another one of Spider-Man‘s enemies in casualgamer‘s list. This time we meet Lizard, one of the oldest (and deadliest) foes of Spidey. He first appeared in Spider-Man 2 portrayed by Dylan Baker, but we only saw his human alter-ego Curt Connors: Connors appeared as Peter Parker‘s mentor and lab supervisor, a friend of Otto Octavius and a capable scientist. In Spider-Man 3, Peter brings to him the alien symbiote he’s found to have it analyzed, and Connors warns him to stay away from it. Finally, in The Amazing Spider-Man, we see another version of Connors, portrayed by Rhys Ifans: this one is a geneticist working for Oscorp, who experiments on himself his innovative regenerating serum when his supervisor, Dr. Rata, threatens to fire him…the serum works, but it transforms him into a human-sized lizard who wants to transform every single human being in a creature like himself. Luckily enough, Spider-Man is there to stop him. Now, let’s take a look at the original one.

Curtis Connors was born in Coral GablesFlorida, from a middle class family. A brilliant young man, he attended Medical School, and obtained doctorates in both biology and biochemistry. In college he met Martha, a girl he fell in love with; while they were still engaged, Curt was enlisted in the US Army as a war surgeon, and left to serve his country in many war zones. His talent was undeniable, but working in such an environment was dangerous nevertheless, something that Connors learnt on his own skin when an explosion took away his right arm. After the accident, he came back to the United States, were he found a job as a researcher; he also got married with Martha, and some years later the two had a son, Billy. The loss of his arm deeply traumatized Connors, and it also influenced his work: he grew obsessed with finding a way to regrow people’s lost limbs, and he started studying reptiles and their unique ability to replace a lost tail or limb, wanting to “borrow” that characteristic and to use it to lizardcomics1make human DNA better. His work absorbed him so much that he eventually left his home and moved to a lab house in the Florida Everglades, continuing his research with the help of his fellow scientist and war buddy Ted Sallis. All the time spent on his experiments eventually rewarded him, as Connors managed to synthesize a serum based on reptiles’ DNA, compatible with human organism and (allegedly) effective in regrowing lost limbs. After a rabbit had his missing paw succesfully regrown, the last step was, of course, human experimentation, and Connors obviously tested his serum on himself: overwhelmed with joy and satisfaction, the scientist saw his right arm growing back, but that was before the side-effects kicked in. The reptilian DNA mixed with his own and modified it, turning him into a humanoid, vicious lizard, who disappeared in the Everglades. The monster hunted in the swamps, and the local population was terrified by the creature. Sightings of “The Lizard” gained the country’s attention, so much that even a newspaper like The Daily Bugle got interested in the story: in order to investigate the presence of this man-slaughtering lizard-man in the Everglades, editor J. Jonah Jameson arrived in Florida with his photographer Peter Parker.

Exploring the surroundings, Parker found Connors’ lab (Sallis wasn’t there, having being transformed into a monster himself and wandering the Everglades as Man-Thing), and his notes as well. The photographer was secretly the heroic Spider-Man, and when Lizard emerged from the swamps for hunting, he was there to face him: starting from Connors’ notes, Spider-Man managed to develop an antidote, and despite being heavily overpowered during his fight with the monster, he managed to force the beast to assume the new serum. Connors turned human again, regaining his appearance and personality…as well as his missing right arm. Unable to put up with his handicap, Connors perfected his serum and tried it once again on himself, but Lizard returned: this time, Curt’s former colleague Charles Xavier sent his X-Men to track him down, and at the end of the fight Iceman froze the monster, keeping him hybernated as long as they found a cure. Beast managed to develop a new serum, and lizardcomics2Connors was apparently cured from his condition, with his monstrous alter ego gone for good. Finally, Connors gave up, and came back to his family; they moved together to New York City, in the effort of leaving behind the misadventures with Lizard. In New York, Curt became friends with Spider-Man, and helped him in more than one occasion: he cured May Parker when she was poisoned with radiations, and he developed a special acid to destroy Rhino‘s armor, thus allowing Spidey to defeat him. This period of peace wasn’t meant to last long: the Lizard was now part of Connors, and was ready to come back any time. First, he transformed back to Lizard because of the exposure to the chemicals he had used to fight Rhino: again, Spider-Man barely survived the experience, but he eventually managed to force the antidote into the monster and to have Connors resurface. Lizard didn’t need chemicals anymore, however, and when Curt was kidnapped by Silvermane to create a rejuvenating formula for him, the fear, rage and stress were enough to trigger the transformation; this time, only the combined effort of Spider-Man and the Human Torch managed to subdue Lizard. Now, Curt Connors knew that he had become a constant threat even for Martha and Billy, as his mammal-hating counterpart was ready to take control of him everytime he experienced a strong emotional stress.

Curt Connors is a brilliant and idealistic man, a scientific genius bent on assuring a better future for humanity with his work; a loving father and husband, he’s a gentle and dedicated man who suffers for his physical handicap, but who managed to defeat his trauma. His reptilian alter ego, on the opposite, is a brutal and pitiless monster, driven by a deep hatred and disgust for mammals and humans in particular, who aims at restoring reptiles’ dominion over the planet and who recognizes strength as his only value. Lizard possesses vast amounts of superhuman strength, durability, speed and agility, he can stick to any kind of surface, he has heightened senses and an outstanding regenerative healing factor, as well as deploying sharp fangs and claws and a prehensile tail as useful tools in battle. He also shows some level of telepathic abilities, being able to control any kind of reptilian life in a wide range, and even to manipulate human brain’s reptilian complex, making people act on their lower instincts. Torn between a human personality who wants to help mankind and a reptilian one who seeks to destroy it, Curt Connors constantly struggles with Lizard for control, in a neverending battle that makes him an extremely dangerous threat to everyone around him.

Eugene Thompson (Flash)

flashthompsonfilmcasualgamer‘s list goes on, and we meet another secondary character (at least, he used to be) in the Marvel Universe: Flash Thompson, the bully who tormented Peter Parker in high school. His first live action appearance was in the first Spider-Man movie: portrayed by Joe Manganiello, he is the boyfriend of Mary Jane Watson, as well as the school’s bully, until he’s knocked out with a single punch by a now-superhuman Parker; Manganiello reprises the role in a brief appearance in Spider-Man 3, where Flash is seen attending Harry Osborn‘s funeral. The character appeared again in The Amazing Spider-Man, this time portrayed by Chris Zylka: in here, he plays basketball rather than football, and he’s obviously humiliated by his former victim Peter Parker after he gains spider-like powers; he also appears briefly in the extended cut of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, where it’s revealed that he’s now friends with Parker. In the comics, his role doesn’t differ much, being always the big bad bully who eventually turns out to be a pretty decent guy. Let’s see together.

Eugene Thompson was born in New York, in Forest HillsQueens. He was the son of police officer Harry Thompson and of his wife, Rosie; he grew up with his younger sister, Jesse, and had a normal and happy childhood…apparently. Harry, in fact, was an alcoholic, and every time he got drunk (something that happened pretty often) he used to beat his firstborn son. Eugene soon learnt to hate and fear his father, but all the rage he felt for him was something he simply could not vent on its cause, being his father so much stronger and bigger than him: to hide his pain and to release some of his anger, he became the living nightmare of his schoolmates, especially the weak and defenseless ones, people in which he saw himself, and who he released all his violent rage upon. A feared bully, Eugene was also an ace in sports, especially in football, and his talent, his prowess and speed earned him the nickname “Flash”. Flash Thompson attended Midtown High School, where he was revered as a god by flashthompsoncomics1the “cool guys”, and feared as a monster by all the others; his favourite target was Peter Parker or, as he called him, Puny Parker, a smart and scrawny boy whom he bullied on a daily basis…mostly because he was secretly envious of his intelligence, something he obviously would have never revealed to anybody. His usual friends were Tiny McEever, another bully who shared his same family history, Jason Ionello and Seymour O’Reilly, but he also had a crowd of worshipping girls following him, among which Sally Avril and Liz Allan, the most popular girl in school, who was his girlfriend for a while. When Flash realised that Liz kind of liked Parker, he even intensified his bullism, making him the nearly exclusive target of his beatings and his pranks. Only once Peter fought back, during an improvised boxing match in the school gym: in this occasion, surprisingly enough the skinny boy managed to dodge each and every punch from Flash, knocking him out with a single hit immediately after. Impressed, Flash and the others soon forgot the “incident”, especially considering that things came back to normal soon enough.

Some days after Parker’s unexpected victory, a new superhero appeared in New York, the one who immediately became Flash’s undisputed hero and role model: Spider-Man. Despite the popular opinion considered Spider-Man little more than the criminals he captured, and J. Jonah Jameson convinced many citizens with his Daily Bugle editorials that he was a menace for all the innocent people of New York, Flash never faltered in his admiration for ther hero, going as far as to found the first Spider-Man Fan Club, inviting every single schoolmate (Parker excluded) to join him. He even sent Jameson’s reporters away when they were trying to discredit Spidey in Midtown High, and his faith won even over evidence, since he remained the only one to believe in Spider-Man’s innocence even after he was photographed while robbing a bank (it turned out Flash was right, as the culprit was actually the villain Mysterio impersonating the hero). The enthusiastic fanboy even tailored his own Spider-Man costume: he flashthompsoncomics2first wore it trying to scare Parker, but he ended up captured by Doctor Doom, who believed him to be the real deal; luckily enough, the real Spider-Man intervened to save him from the villainous monarch. The second time he dressed up as Spider-Man was when the hero was publicly deemed a coward after escaping a battle with the Green Goblin: Flash, in his costume, faced three car thieves, hoping that the real hero would have showed up like the last time; unfortunately, this time the boy was on his own, and the thieves ended up beating him badly. After this, Liz broke up with him, telling him she wanted nothing to do with a “muscle-bound goop”; obviously, Flash vented his frustration over Parker as always, but as the end of high school approached, the tension between the two started dampening, and Eugene’s admiration for Peter’s intelligence eventually overcame his unmotivated grudge against him. Flash and Peter met again in Empire State University, which they both attended, and they got closer thanks to a mutual friend, Harry Osborn. The two former rivals put away their former enmity for good, in a relation that would have eventually become a close and strong friendship.

Eugene “Flash” Thompson is essentially a scared kid who acts all tough and mighty to hide his private pain and fear. A violent bully and a boasting athlete, he’s actually pretty insecure, and most of the time he envies the very people he torments on a daily basis. Behind all his fake arrogance and his public role of “poular guy” there’s a good young man trying to emerge, a selfless and honest boy ready to take his own responsibilities, desperately trying to become a different man from his father.