The Shocker is expected to make his film debut in Spider-Man: Homecoming, played by recent Emmy nominee Bokeem Woodbine. This will likely significantly raise the profile of the villain, even if Michael Keaton’s Vulture is likely to have a larger role in the movie.
The last decade hasn’t been that bad for Herman Schultz. He was a member of the ensemble in Superior Foes of Spider-Man, a well-regarded series that ended with the Shocker taking out the Punisher. He was the main bad guy in Mark Waid and Marcos Martin’s “Unscheduled Stop,” a mainstay on lists of the best Spider-Man stories.
But it could have been a faster rise. The Shocker was the basis for a mini-series pitch by a man who went on to become one of the biggest comic book writers ever.
There was an interesting tidbit in Mark Millar’s interview with the Let’s Talk Comics podcast several years back. When Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palimotti were launching the Marvel Knights books in the late 1990s, Millar pitched a mini-series with B-list Spider-Man villain Shocker.
I pitched them a Shocker mini-series. This is what I mean, I was really struggling. I was trying to come up with something, and I knew that the Fantastic Four was taken. I knew that Spider-Man was taken. I had a feeling that nobody was working on a Shocker mini-series. I sent in a six month series, and it was a rehash of something that had been rejected by DC called The Secret Society of Supervillains. I just had this idea for a villain book that eventually I did as a creator-owned book called Wanted.
Joe knew who I was, and was always looking for something for me, but couldn’t quite find it. One of the things I liked about Marvel, and they’re kind of up front about it, is that they want people who are going to move books. DC was run at that time as the Roman empire, where they granted favors. It didn’t matter if the book was selling whereas Joe, I liked Joe immediately, Joe said “I’m not sure you could really sell a Shocker book. You know, your name isn’t big enough and the character isn’t big enough.”
Millar eventually got to work under Quesada on Ultimate X-Men, The Ultimates, and a few other hit projects (and at least one not so hit project with the mini-series Trouble.) The Shocker had a small appearance in his twelve issue run of Marvel Knights Spider-Man, although a few other villains had a much bigger role. It is interesting to consider what this mini-series could have done to the reputation of the perennial Spider-Man punching bag. Perhaps it would have flopped, sending Millar’s career in a different direction.
It could also have been forgotten, kinda like Millar’s earlier Skrull Kill Krew mini-series, a collaboration with writer Grant Morrison. That said, Millar did revisit the Skrulls in The Ultimates, although he called them the Chitauti, who would become the alien race Loki teamed up with in the first Avengers movie.
It could also be that a promising writer would have made it work, given that the germ of the idea was the same as Wanted, which went on to be a hit mini-series, and a blockbuster movie. The comic might have been edited a bit, though.
I can’t imagine that last panel making it into a Marvel comic at that time. MAX was a few years away.
If the Shocker were to be the lead in a TPB that were an evergreen seller for Marvel, that would come to redefine the character. I’m trying to think of an equivalent for any other comics character and coming up short. It’s be like if Warren Ellis wrote a hit Mr. Mxyzptlk mini-series for DC in the early 90s, or if Brian Michael Bendis had tackled the Mad Hatter. The closest analogy I can think of to a comic that actually came out was the way John Ostrander wrote a Deadshot mini-series, although this was after he used the character in Suicide Squad. It did end with Will Smith playing Deadshot in a movie.
It’s entirely possible that if Quesada had accepted the pitch, Sony would be planning for a Shocker movie right now.
It remains one of the most fascinating Spider-Man publishing What Ifs.