Much like the supporting cast discussed in the previous installment, Brand New Day has used a combination of new villains and old ones updated for the new continuity.  In the latter case, many of these villains have been dramatically revamped.

In this installment, we look at the villains of Brand New Day, both the new villains introduced and the revamps and reintroductions of the classic rogues.

On the new villains …

Kevin Cushing: Most of them just seem like poor concepts.  Mr. Negative and the Inner Demons are first some of the worst named villains I’ve ever run across, and second they’ve done pretty much nothing.  Freak was DOA, let’s face it.  I don’t think any more needs to be said about him than already has been.  Paper Doll was just a strange idea for a villain.  I’m not sure what the intention was, but the execution came off as annoying rather than threatening.  Menace was a poorly designed Goblin knock-off, and when we’ve got so many Goblins running around out there already we seriously didn’t need another one.  Raptor I suppose served his intended purpose, since he very much did feel like a terrible 90s villain, so he fit into a Clone Saga arc pretty seamlessly.

Zach Joiner: Who here thinks that any of the new villains are going to stick?  I personally think that Mr. Negative will stick, but Ana Kraven?  Not so much.  Freak was a mistake, the voodoo Mayan-God thing was only good for the issues that they were in, Paper Doll is a one note character (sort of like Skin and Bones in Spider-Woman IV)…  Most of the characters have potential, but the problem is that we’re not seeing it.  Outside of Ana Kraven (Skittles the Penny Hooker) who have we seen since 575?

I got ya: Little to no one.  Dexter Bennett appeared just to get crippled. Whoopie.

CrazyChris: I find the new villains okay.  J. Michael Straczynski’s unmemorable villains had little staying power and were a weaker aspect of his run, so the Brain Trust only had room to improve in this respect.  As good the JMS stories were, can you really picture a magical wasp god from the astral plane as a recurring foe for Peter Parker?  I can see Mr. Negative, Paper Doll, and even Freak meshing much better with Spider-Man’s existing rogues.  These characters have so far featured in mediocre stories, but only because the Brain Trust/Web Heads/Whatever are mediocre writers.  For example, Paper Doll has unique powers and a spooky presence, but I could count her character traits on one hand.  Hell, I think I could do it on one finger.  A deeper writer could say more about her than “she’s a creepy celebrity stalker.”  And, like George Berryman said in his Brand New Day recap series, Freak could be a tortured and multi-faceted character if a great writer tried to discover those layers instead of un-ambitiously writing him as soulless drug fiend.  In sum, the new villains are decent concepts but need a writer who will think deeply about them and realize their potential.

Jon Wilson: Of all the villains introduced, the only two that seem to have had any staying power were Mr. Negative and Screwball.  I’m pretty sure Paper Doll was meant as a vehicle for that one plot, and Freak was a plot device to set up events in “New Ways to Die”.  Screwball is fun; I don’t find her annoying as a character.  What I do find annoying is that we were told in a letters column that there was more to her than meets the eye, yet after all this time, we’ve seen no indication of that.  All we’ve seen on the page is that a girl with athletic abilities is staying ahead of the Spider somehow, and that’s just weird if there’s no explanation.

Mr. Negative has me intrigued.  I appreciated the added mystery to his character that came from his Dark Reign miniseries.  His proximity to Peter’s Aunt May is an ever-present danger, and we just don’t know what’s going to happen there.  He’s a would-be crime boss with an agenda.  That’s a good classic Spidey villain concept.  I’m looking forward to more.

Gerard Delatour II: The new villains have, in a word, sucked.

The main problem is that most of them are stand-ins for other characters, playing familiar roles that could easily have been filled by already-existing characters.  Mr. Negative?  He’s pretty much a new version of Silvermane, trying to gather up gangs under his name and become the new Kingpin of crime.  Menace?  This one fills the familiar Goblin archetype.  Paper Doll?  As if Brand New Day wasn’t similar enough to the Mackie reboot already, they had to throw in a stalker plot!  New Vulture?  Well, it’s just Vulture with the word “New” tacked on in front.  These villains were thrust into plots that were clear rehashes of earlier stories, hurting their viability in the long run.  Outside of brief, mandatory reappearances, they’ve been put aside in favor of the classics.

Brad Douglas: I’m with everyone else and hated Freak.  I applaud the webheads for trying to come up with new villains.  But it’s kinda like throwing some on the wall and hoping they stick.  Jackpot’s has been so-so, her mini series was actually good.  Also Menance is an interesting take on the Goblin legacy.  Mr. Negative had potential, but nothing is being done with him.  Anti-Venom is a waste.  I’d like Brock back in the suit and not be an anti-hero.


On the revamps …

Kevin Cushing: First, I absolutely loved the Rhino revamp.  Instead of focusing on redesigning his look and powers, the focus was on telling a powerful emotional story, and it was beautifully told.  Those two issues made me care about the Rhino for the first time in history.  Chameleon’s revamp was also excellently told.  Forget about the controversies around that arc and just look at the Chameleon, and you’ll see a villain who might have seemed almost played out who was given a terrifying and interesting refocus.  The story was entertaining and the Chameleon came out of it a better character than he went in, which is the biggest win a revamp can have.

The rest of the revamps, sadly, were pretty terrible.  Electro’s power revamp seemed redundant, and the new look he was given is cheesier than his original costume, so what’s the point?  Sandman became Madrox the Multiple Man – flippin’ fantastic.  Dr. Octopus was given a few months to live, which we know will either end with a reprieve or result in a resurrection.  And he reacted to the news by deciding it’s best to go out with a straight-jacket, a diaper, a muzzle, and enough arms to render his name incorrect.  The less said about that the better.  Mysterio was brought back from the dead with no mention of him having been dead.  Even if his death was an illusion (which doesn’t actually work), we need at least a line of dialogue to tell us that.  The Lizard was turned into a villain who, at his best, eats children and causes people to rape each other.  I had to check the credits multiple times to make sure there wasn’t a special thanks to Garth Ennis for the idea.  And the first of these revamps – Anti-Venom – seemed to be a decision that stripping away everything good about the character and leaving only the worst parts of his 90s characterization would somehow improve him.  Maybe it’s me that “just doesn’t get it,” I don’t know.  But I do know revamps are supposed to strengthen characters, and all of these seemed tailor-made to prove that there’s no point in using these classic characters anymore.

CrazyChris: Honestly, I dropped Amazing Spider-Man around the time these villain revamps began.  The last story I read before quitting was Joe Kelly and Chris Bachalo’s Hammerhead reimagining, and the puking, the bum lady breath, and the flying clowns distracted me from considering the new Hammerhead.  I loved the back story Joe Kelly provided for Hammerhead in the first Extra, but the full story arc, combined with the Jackpot annual that arrived the same month, made me drop the title, I hated it so.  I later bought and read the Spot reimagining because that character always interested me, and while I liked the ruthless application of his powers, his mute lack of personality and the editor’s caption referring me to a miniseries for the story’s continuation promptly depleted my interest.

Oh, and let’s not forget Anti-Venom.  Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s story left Venom in a dark, interesting place psychologically, providing great platform from which to move forward with Eddie Brock, but New Ways to Die jettisoned all that progress for a reversion to the flamboyant, “innocent”-protecting 1990s Venom, only now covered in pus.  Anti-Venom gets my vote for worst character revamp.

Gerard Delatour II: I have mixed feelings about the revamps of classic Spider-Man villains.

First of all, I welcomed the return of the classic villains after living through the horrors of Freak, Menace, Paper Doll, etc.  I would take Doctor Octopus over any of these clowns, any day of the week.  But then we got to the actual stories …

Outside of the revamp of the Chameleon, which was an interesting take on the character, the other updates have been a mixed bag.  The Brand New Day take on the Sandman was okay (even if it was shamelessly obvious that they were trying to line it up with Spider-Man 3), and the appearances of Shocker and the Enforcers didn’t change the characters at all.  The rest, however, left me cold.  I didn’t care for the revamp of the Rhino, which seemed melodramatic, pretentious, and very obvious, and the others were a dramatic step backwards.  The new take on the Lizard, for example, has ruined the character so badly that I never want to see him used again.  He went from being Marvel’s take on Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde to a shambling, borderline-retarded monster with Rape-O-Vision.  These character weren’t broken, so why did they need to be changed so dramatically?

Brad Douglas: I hated the Lizard revamp.  Electro is ok, they gave him a similar boost in the 90s and it went nowhere.  I like the mask better than the scar.  Doc Ock, eh….. we only have 1 story with him.  I liked 600 but I miss the fat smartass guy instead of a vegetable.

Up next: The Best and the Worst

11 Responses to “Brand New Day Retrospective, Part 5: “If Thee Be My Enemy!””

  1. #1 TimmyG says:

    Nice review. For the new villians I agree with most of you that Mr. Negative probably has the most potential. of them all and while I cant say much abotu the other new villians (Mainly becuase I started reading ASM around 598) they sound like they do need a good writter to get them off their feet. I think the kid Kravenoff still needs to make her bones. I guess I go againt the opinion of Menace, yes the world really doesn’t need another goblin (Green Goblin, Green Goblin II, Hobgoblin, Demogoblin, Grey Goblin, ect) I think there is huge potential with a female goblin being pregnant with normans seed. For the new villians I like most of the revamps. Vulture appears way more threatening and threatening, I like Electro’s new look (that stupid mask from the 60’s needed to go since the 80’s), The new Spot really takes advantage of the characters powers and is maybe the best revamp imo, and Chamelon doesn’t seem so much like a lame character to me. Now what I absolutly hate it the ruining of my two favorite villians Venom and The Lizard. The Lizard (while I still dont think any rape actually happened) should not have the power to control anyone becuase its too sophisticated and dumb and having him stuck as the Lizard ruins the duality that was hsi trade mark. Now Venom is my Favorite, and unlike a lot fo people I think the Leathal Protector stuff never ruined his character becuase ever since his debut he was always had a desire not to hurt innocent people unless absolutly nessisary and even says in Venom and the Truck Stop of Doom (between ASM 315 and 316) that “Protecting Innocence is the highest of goals. Protecting it, yes and avenging its loss”. He never needed to be made into Anti-Venom to justify his desire to protect people. The idea of Anti-Venom really makes me angrey and in my opinon is one of the worst things to happen becuase of BND, hopefully mr. Negatives effect on him wears out and somehow he gets the black costume again (Mac is a good Venom but not good enough to beat the origional).

  2. #2 CrazyChris says:

    I have a different take on the early Venom stories, Timmy. Early on, Venom talked about protecting innocents, but it was all pretense. For example, he smothered an innocent prison guard when escaping and then whined about how he hated killing innocents but it was necessary in this case. This is a guy with super strength and the power to turn invisible. He has dozens of ways of getting out of jail without killing anyone. So, he’s just a hypocrit. His talk of protecting innocents original had the effect of making him seem crazier and creepier, because it was so insincere. The whole “lethal protector” angle ruins that.

  3. #3 Javi Trujillo says:

    Chris has a good point. Venom killed because he’s a psycho and was trying to justify his actions to himself. He did point out several times that he was catholic and suicide was a sin so he was going to church for forgiveness.

    I have to disagree with the esteemed Mr. Cushing. I think Mr. Negative is a great name for a Super-villain. I don’t know what seems to make it fit for me, but i like the name and look for him. Now, the stories he’s in I can’t comment on as I’m not reading them.

  4. #4 Nate says:

    I think mr negative is a villain with staying power
    his involvement in the gauntlet-mysterio storyline was badass
    I also think that most of the new villains except for him havent had enough storys.Freak, overdrive, paper-doll, screwball and even menace/lilly hollister (who is gonna be returning soon) would all be better if the braintrust would use them more and flesh them out

  5. #5 Donovan Grant says:

    Whilst I can appreciate the attempt to both add new villains to the mythos while try to integrate new life in old villains, there is such a thing as trying to hard. Again, it goes back to the love interests aspect in that they are trying to chase an archetype and it shows. Mr. Negative=Big Man, Crime Master, Schemer, Kingpin, Tombstone, Hammerhead. Menace=every Goblin character ever, even in a way Phil Urich. Screwball I find is remniscent of Rocket Racer, and Freak was just a silly idea. I think the best Spider-Man stories go down as stories where concentrated effort was necessarily on the attempt to make new villains but the attempt to tell a story. While no one remembers certain characters like Cyclone, Mirage, Kangaroo, Gibbon, the Bear, the Fly and other doofs, the Hobgoblin is a classic villain because his entire character was made as an integral part in an ongoing story. I consider the same to be the case with Venom and Carnage in that their powers are not only similar to Spidey’s in a way but brought on from something he once owned at a time. I also put Morlun in there as he was integral to the storyline JMS set up. So again, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The villains are again something about BND is really have any vitriol for, but at the same time I don’t feel they are working well either.

  6. #6 Attila says:

    @Donovan: well stated.

    Creating new characters is always a hit or miss proposition and the web-heads (brain trust, whatever) did an admirable job in creating some new villains. There are rare exceptions, but over the past 20 to 25 years, how many new villains have really struck a chord with fans? For every new character that works there are a dozen or so that fail. For every character like Venom there are a swarm of characters that it’s best that we all forget. (Anyone remember Cardiac? or Styx and Stone?) Mr. Negative is a character that has some staying power. Unfortunately, not entirely much has been done with him. But I blame that on the rotating writing teams that never seem to get proper time to develop their creations or on going plotlines. Menace is another character that I think has some potential. Screwball was a nice sort of one-off villain that they should have done more with. The only two new additions that were truly abominable were Freak and Overdrive, both are completely cringe worthy. Paper Doll like the majority of villains created during JMS’s run, was created to serve as a vehicle for that one storyline without much hope of coming back.

    As for the Revamps … some were handled better than others. The Lizard revamp was to be honest horrible and I think that most would agree, but I do like the fact that they tried to do something with this character that no one has done anything with pretty much since his creation. The Hammerhead revamp was okay. I liked the dignity that they gave Rhino. I did like the Mysterio revamp resurrection/non-resurrection. And the Chameleon revamp was creepy, intelligent and handled well. The Sandman and Electro revamps were something we have already seen before and didn’t do anything for me.

  7. #7 Two-Bit Specialist (formerly SuperChencho) says:

    I was a fan of Venom during his Lethal Protector days, so I’m glad he’s back in a way. Has anyone read his mini “New Ways to Live”? I thought it was a good way to establish Eddie Brock in his new role as Anti-Venom, and he even has a supporting cast already with Jenna Cole. They can even make Mr. Negative part of his rogues gallery, if he’s not being used in Amazing Spider-man. I really would like to see Marvel do this, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

    If Norman Osborn is in jail, wonder what’s going to happen to Menace. Come to think of it, Osborn was completely absent from this post. Other than American Son, he’s been fighting Spidey outside the main book (Spider-man: The List or New Avengers, for instance). What’s up with that?

    Ah, the good old days, when Sandman was a hero but now he’s crazy; or when Doc Ock was killed by Kaine only to be brought back, and now he has cancer… /sarcasm

  8. #8 Enigma_2099 says:

    ANY of these guys could have worked if written properly…

    … therein lies the rub…

  9. #9 LUNI_TUNZ says:

    “Mr. Negative and the Inner Demons are first some of the worst named villains I’ve ever run across”

    Someone’s never heard of Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man.

  10. #10 LUNI_TUNZ says:

    “Mysterio was brought back from the dead with no mention of him having been dead. ”

    Pete did make reference to his being dead. Also, by that point he’s had to have seen him “die” like 200 times over by then.

    Also, no mention of Mac Gargan as the new Venom?

  11. #11 Spidey Fan says:

    Another solid review!

    I have to agree that the majority of the new villains introduced just don’t seem to have what it takes to stick around. Mr Negative might, but those Demons of his have to go, that or ramp up their power set from mere immortality and give them something that will let them be at least a moderate threat to Spidey instead of just an annoyance. The Brain Trust has really wasted Mr Negative in my opinion in that he is just kind of lingering in the background and doing next to nothing. Screwball, while she served a purpose, is not really what I would consider a villain. She is more like that nuisance that pops up from time to time that Spidey webs up and tries to talk sense as filler for a couple of panels. She’s really not evil, just a glory hound. I’d just as soon we saw the last of her. Now that Menace is unmasked it seems she’s been relegated to nothing more than an oven to cook yet another illegitimate bastard child of Norman Osborn and Lily’s disappeared for the most part. Sure she’ll turn up again about time for the kid to be born, but I don’t see her being a serious foe for Spidey now. I agree w/ Gerard that Paperdoll seems to have been a one shot villain for that one particular plot and we will most likely not see her again.

    As far as revamps go, I think they did the best with Rhino. We see him trying to stay on the straight and narrow, he wants to get married, and Spidey talks him out of confronting this new wannabe Rhino that the Hunters hyped up as part of the Gauntlet. In the end we see a more savage old Rhino telling Spidey he will never forgive him for what has happened. Best part of the Gauntlet and best of the revamps in my opinion. Doc Ock had so much promise, but was the weakest delivery to me. He is invalid and dying, relying on little robots. Really? What about a cloned body? A robotic body with his mind? Anything? This is how Ock is going out, withering away to nothing? Lame. Electro has promise, but the whole blogging hero of the people thing killed it for me. New Vulture is not a revamp to me. If it’s not Toomes or at least Drago it’s not the Vulture. The Lizard was just way off base to me. Connors mind and restraint of the Lizard is gone now, Billy eaten, and he can control human minds through their primal side? I am not impressed. Hammerhead was the second best revamp to me. Not so much a revamp as a new side to the character, a ruthlessness that seemed missing for a long while. Though he may be a B lister, the way he was written in recent issues moves him to second on the revamp list.