The sensational saga of the Sinister Six, Spidey's greatest foes!

Five foes from various Spider-franchises appear in Spider-Man: No Way Home, including (from left) Electro (Jamie Foxx), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Lizard (Rhys Ifans). (© 2021 Sony Pictures)

By Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

Dec. 23, 2021 — Spider-Man: No Way Home hit theaters Dec. 17, featuring a lot of villains from the three Spider-Man film series. To comics fans, all those villains — and their specific identities — suggest a recurring threat in Spider-Man comics:

The Sinister Six.

Evidently, the villains in No Way Home aren’t ever called the Sinister Six. And there’s only five of them. But you know what? When it comes to the Sinister Six, neither of those things are a problem!

Here are three of my favorite iterations of Spidey’s oldest and most dangerous supervillain team:

 

O.G. SINISTER SIX

The original Sinister Six in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1964) were (clockwise from left) Mysterio, Vulture, Electro, Sandman, Doctor Octopus and Kraven the Hunter. (Art by Steve Ditko, courtesy Marvel.com)

The lethal sextet first appeared 57 years ago in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1964), in a story appropriately titled “The Sinister Six!” Doctor Octopus gathers five other villains for revenge on Spider-Man, as you do. He forces the Wall-Crawler to fight them one by one, by using Aunt May and Peter Parker’s then-girlfriend Betty Brant as hostages.

(A running gag is that Peter’s doting aunt never realizes she’s been kidnapped, and admires that nice doctor despite his obvious deformity. Brant, however, has the good sense to be terrified of a madman with four metal tentacles.)

According to Marvel.com, “The Sinister Six!” falls between the stories in Amazing Spider-Man #16 and #17. It basically uses every major Spidey villain introduced to that point.

Well, with some exceptions. Dr. Doom showed up in issue #5, but he was just moonlighting from “Fantastic Four.” And Green Goblin, who debuted in issue #14, was a loner who was laser-focused on his own ambitions. The Lizard, who appeared in issue #6, was also excluded, probably because he literally lizard-brained at the time and might eat one of them.

Other villains in Spidey’s first 16 issues included The Tinkerer, The Chameleon, The Living Brain and The Enforcers. But who cares? They were all second-raters.

The original lineup, therefore, was Doctor Octopus, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, Sandman and The Vulture. If you’re a Spider-movie expert, you might note that all of those characters except Kraven have been introduced in one Spider-Man movie or another. And No Way Home features Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Lizard (Rhys Ifans) and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) — all Spider-Man villains introduced before Amazing Spider-Man #17.

So we veteran comics fans can be forgiven for considering No Way Home a Sinister Six appearance. Even if Sony doesn’t admit it.

Not that a gang calling itself Sinister Six requires the original lineup. In fact, it was rarely the same six twice. Nor does a Sinister Six have to call itself Sinister Six. One called itself the Sinister Syndicate, and another the Wild Pack. Nor does a Sinister Six need exactly six members. One was the Sinister Seven, another the Sinister Twelve and a third was, believe it or not, the Sinister Sixty-Six (which were actually holograms, so they don’t really count). And then there was …

 

THE SINISTER … FIVE?

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man series featured a Sinister Six short a member. They are (from left) Overdrive, Beetle, Shocker, Boomerang and Speed Demon. (Cover art to The Superior Foes of Spider-Man Vol. 2: The Crime of the Century by Ale Garza, © Marvel Comics)

By far my favorite iteration is the Sinister Six found in Superior Foes of Spider-Man, which ran for 17 issues, from 2013 to 2015. The title is a reference to the concurrent storyline over in Superior Spider-Man, which had replaced “Amazing Spider-Man,” because Doctor Octopus had taken over Peter Parker’s body.

OK, it’s a long story. But for a while Ock’s brain was in control, and in the very first issue of Superior Spider-Man, Otto Octavius (as Spider-Man) made mincemeat of the latest iteration of the Sinister Six. They weren’t exactly world-beaters to begin with, as they were comprised of the female version of The Beetle (insect-themed battle suit), Boomerang (trick boomerangs), the Living Brain (robot), Overdrive (mental control of engines), Shocker (mechanical shock devices) and Speed Demon (super-speed).

This Sinister Six was so hilariously lame that it was a hit, and was spun off into its own series, Superior Foes of Spider-Man. But since Living Brain didn’t make it out of that first battle — “Spider-Man” made off with it for scientific experiments — the entirety of the Superior Foes series featured only five members in its Sinister Six.

Which suited Fred “Boomerang” Myers just fine. “Did we not talk about the whole ‘air of mystery’ thing?,” he says. “People see us, they’ll just think ‘who’s the secret sixth guy,’ right? I mean, then it could be anybody! It could be Dormammu!”

To which Janice “Beetle” Lincoln replies, “That is genuinely the stupidest thing I have ever heard a real person say.”

So the Superior Foes weren’t exactly friends. In fact, Myers was constantly lying to the others and even tried to kill the none-too-bright Herman “Shocker” Schultz. But they were a team of convenience, who managed to steal the head of dead gangster Silvio “Silvermane” Manfredi, which was valuable. For reasons.

You can read the whole story, conveniently collected in the Superior Foes of Spider-Man omnibus. But I’ve read it already, so I’d love it if Marvel would adapt Foes into a Disney+ TV show. (Yes, I’m already casting it in my head.)

 

SINISTER OVERKILL

Sinister War features six Sinister Sixes. Doctor Octopus, Electro, Green Goblin, Hydro-Man, Kraven, Lizard, Rhino, Sandman, Taskmaster and Vulture are all represented on the cover of Sinister War #3. (Cover art by Bryan Hitch, © Marvel Comics)

But that was, like, six years ago. The Sinister Six has made a more recent appearance, just months ago, which may be its most impressive to date. Well, at least numerically.

I’m talking about Sinister War. This story, which ran concurrently in Amazing Spider-Man (sixth series) #71-74 and the four-issue miniseries Sinister War, featured the Sinister Six … times six.

First, we had a traditional Sinister Six, comprised of Doctor Octopus, Electro, Kraven (actually a clone of the original), Lizard, Mysterio and Sandman. That’s the lineup from 1964, with Lizard subbing for Vulture.

That’s because Adrian “Vulture” Toomes wasn’t available. He was running his own sextet of villains, the animal-themed Savage Six, who also appeared in Sinister War. Check off Spidey villains King Cobra, Rhino, Scorpion, Stegron the Dinosaur Man, Tarantula and Vulture.

The Superior Foes Sinister Six also made a triumphant return … sort of. They still had only five members, including original members Boomerang, Overdrive, Shocker and Speed Demon. But Hydro-Man took the place of Beetle.

That’s because Janice Lincoln was running her own team, the all-female, seven-member, all-new Sinister Syndicate! Joining Beetle were Electro II, Ana Kravinoff (Kraven’s daughter), Lady Octopus, Scorpia, Trapster II and White Rabbit.

But that’s not all! Spider-Man has fought a lot of characters over the years, and Sinister War gave some lesser lights a chance to reappear.

For example, the “Wild Pack” consisted of Black Ant (the third Ant-Man), Chance, Foreigner, Jack O’Lantern, Slyde and Taskmaster. One of these was in Black Widow the movie; the rest are pretty obscure.

Then there was the Sinful Six, which consisted of Grey Gargoyle, Juggernaut, Living Laser, Morlun, Sin-Eater and Whirlwind. I’m not really sure what the “sin” theme is here, except that Sin-Eater was the leader. And outside of Morlun (a “devourer of totems”) and Sin-Eater, the rest of the team made their bones fighting other superheroes.

So why would these 36 villains, some of whom usually appear in other books, all attack Spider-Man at once? Because yet another Spider-villain named Kindred (actually synthetically grown super-beings Gabriel and Sarah Stacy), acting on instruction from Mephisto, had put centipedes in their ears. The centipedes would eat the villains’ brains, Kindred said, unless they killed Spider-Man.

They all became highly motivated.

Rest assured, however, that Spider-Man prevailed, no centipedes were injured (probably) and no brains were damaged. Unless you count the readers, who may have suffered cognitive decline from this convoluted storyline and confusion of characters.

So the next time the Sinister Six appears, let’s hope it’s just six bad guys (or even five) trying to wallop Spider-Man for nothing more than good, old-fashioned revenge. As Spider-Man: No Way Home shows, that story never gets old.

 

Find Captain Comics by email (capncomics@aol.com), on his website (captaincomics.ning.com), on Facebook (Andrew Alan Smith) or on Twitter (@CaptainComics).

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Being an O.G. Spidey fan, I have a soft spot for the original 1964 team. Steve Ditko produced some terrific full page battles between Spidey and each of the bad guys*. The best of these IMO are the ones of Sandman and Kraven (below). I even had Gayle make me a mug in her ceramics class with a pretty close version of the Sandman picture.

*This is like the way Bane wore down Batman before facing him. It would have been smarter of Doc Ock (who I think was hoping to face a worn-down Spidey) if more than one attacked him at a time.

As I recall, the Vulture wanted to do just that, but the others all wanted the glory of defeating Spider-Man by themselves. 

Also, there were a number of cameos in the book from the likes of Dr. Strange and the Human Torch, the latter of whom offered to assist Spider-Man but was turned down. 

Richard Willis said:

*This is like the way Bane wore down Batman before facing him. It would have been smarter of Doc Ock (who I think was hoping to face a worn-down Spidey) if more than one attacked him at a time.

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