The Kingpin is always the first person to get touted as the key figure of crime in the Spider-Man/Daredevil books. However, there’s more to it. The Kingpin is a constant figure that is frequently knocked down from power in the Marvel Universe. Other characters fight to overtake him and they carve out identities that create other criminals. It’s just one giant tangled web that will never end. What kills me is that there are so many low-key super powered goons that continue to populate Spider-Man’s life. Whether it’s Speed Demon, The Rose, Boomerang, Shocker or a litany of other goons…no one bats an eye at them.
That is what makes them so great. They feed Spider-Man’s career, plus they show that a new level of crime has taken to the streets. Before Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and immediately afterwards, all you had were burglars. It was like some divine hand forced Russian spies, scientific accidents and organized crime to move into New York City. If you follow what we know about Hammerhead, The Kingpin, Tombstone and Silvermane; the problem has been there for decades. Peter’s arrival alongside the Marvel Age of Superheroes lead to escalation. Now, if you dipped a toe into the Nolan Batverse, then you should be very familiar with the principle.
First, they will use better guns. Then, they will use masks. Finally, they’ll come at you with powers on par with what you have. But, what comes of the poor schlub trying to be a career criminal in a world where people walk up walls? Stan Lee and others have tried to answer that over the years, but very few have come close to a satisfying answer. Recent successes with “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man” and “Thunderbolts” have attempted to satiate it. But, here we are still pondering the question.
Very few writers have tackled the criminal element in the Spiderverse to any degree of real satisfaction. Sure, DeFalco and company kicked off “Gang War”, but it never really came together. Most of that came from the fact that the editor fired DeFalco off the book and he took over. Sure, the editor later dominated Black Panther and created a ton of other books. But, there’s something lost in the process. That being said, how was a Gang War new?
Wilson and Richard Fisk had been in-fighting since the Lee/Romita time and very few competitive aggressors had emerged. That is unless you count Silvermane siccing Man Mountain Marko on Spidey to be a serious threat. It seems like a decade can’t go by without Marvel trotting out Gang Warfare for Spidey. But, I always saw the real hope in the trope with characters such as The Sinister Syndicate. Taking a few cue from The Flash’s Rogues Gallery; these were guys that had a talent or some tech and used it to make a better life for themselves. Unfortunately, that involved crime.
Recently, “Superior Foes of Spider-Man” was launched and answered most of my issues. Taking most of those Sinister Syndicate members and framing them as a team trying to realistically commit crimes shows that there are personal parallels to Peter’s rise as Spider-Man. Some people didn’t have Uncle Bens or support structures to nurture them through power gain or having their world crumble around them. They used their know-how to build their own world and they didn’t care who they had to step on. That’s why Spidey is there to web them to a light pole for the cops. What did the NYPD do before webbing?
These working stiff criminals exist not to prove a point against Spider-Man. Hell, they can and have fought other members of the Marvel Universe. They are average guys thrown into a bigger world than what they can handle. There’s a reason why killer boomerangs or ray guns don’t work well against trained super heroes. Those heroes have had every opportunity to plan for this encounter, while the super criminal is just trying to make an escape route. I’d love to see Spider-Man examine how close in nature he is to these guys, but he’s too busy snapping photos to sell to the Bugle.
The Superior Spider-Man has shown a very distinct approach to the issue of crime. When Massacre threatens to murder even more people after an initial spree, Spider-Man takes his gun and shoots him in the head. Sure, this is a Doc Ock possessed Spidey, but Spider-Man was seen executing a criminal at a busy train station. The NYPD is starting to love him, Mayor Jameson loves him and criminals are starting to flock to the Green Goblin for protection. Again, we’re starting to see the patterns of escalation.
Where will this lead? A Green Goblin led Gang War, since Superior Spidey already destroyed the Kingpin’s home and forced him out of New York City? What does it mean that the super powered have now taken crime away from the normals? There’s a steadfast advancement that is leading us into worlds that Alan Moore once dreamed about when his beard was young. Until then, I leave you with this. Now that the Superior Spidey kills and maims people regularly, what happens when the villains step up to that level?