Growing up in the 90s, I wasn’t surrounded by comics. In fact, I don’t think I picked up my first issue until well into my late teens. Even though the 90s resulted in gobs and gobs of comics, the quality didn’t live up to the quantity.
What I was interested in during that time, however, was reading.
I distinctly remember reading my first comic book novel – Spider-Man: Revenge of the Sinister Six by Adam-Troy Castro. Judging by the title, I probably should have known that a book including the words ‘Revenge of’ isn’t exactly the best place to get your feet wet on something. I believe it starts in what acclaimed writers call in media res.
But, that didn’t deter me. No, I swung into that novel like our favorite neighborhood webslinger, quickly becoming engrossed in the world and its characters. Most importantly, however, was my gravitation towards the villains centered in the novel: The Sinister Six.
They’re awesome. And, as logic would have it, there are definitely more than six members of the Sinister Six over the course of Marvel history. So, for this episode of Comic Characters You Should Know, I want to run through the Sinister Six and why they are the greatest villain installation in comics.
Sinister Six: The Original Cast
After Doctor Octopus is defeated by Spider-Man on several occasions, he decides to take matters into his hands…along with the hands of others. He whips out his Supervillain Rolodex and contacts everyone in the hopes of creating a team-up the likes of which the world had never seen.
And who responds? Fewer villains than you might expect. Let’s meet the team and see how they stack up:
- Sandman – the guy can turn himself into sand, which is a great icebreaker at the beach
- Kraven, the Hunter – mostly a big-game hunter obsessed with cheetah print
- Mysterio – a master illusionist and special FX artist, maybe DC should hire him
- Electro – holds the capacity for a shocking amount of electrical power
- Vulture – creator of a flight harness, making him somewhat avian-inclined
Now, you don’t need a doctorate in mathematics to see that, counting Doctor Octopus, that makes a grand total of six villains. Six vs one hardly seems fair, but Spider-Man catches a lucky break. Since they all loathe Spider-Man with the entirety of their beings, they individually challenge him instead of taking him on all at once.
These masterminds don’t seem to have a lick of sense.
Spider-Man rolls through each challenge with ease, eventually squaring off against Doctor Octopus who isn’t pleased with his “team.” I’m not sure you can even call it a team if there was exactly zero cooperation or strategy.
But Abram! You said that this is the greatest team of villains ever concocted! They sound so…LAME.
Patience, I’m getting there.
The Sinister Six x 15
After the original Sinister Six were defeated, that wasn’t the end of them. In fact, over the years there have been 15 different iterations of the team, often not even staying true to the ‘Sinister Six’ moniker. You have the Sinister Seven, the Sinister Twelve, the Sinister Sixty, the Sinister Sixty-Six – all different combinations of villains all trying to put an end to Spider-Man.
It’s crazy to think that so many villains have been a part of this iconic group. Villains that you’d never expect to work together towards a common goal, usually because they’re self-centered and egotistic enough to want to accomplish everything by themselves.
Just think of reading these comics and seeing villain after villain popping up at you from the page. Villains that might not get as much page-time as others, like our portal pal Spot or the ruthless Delilah.
Suddenly these characters are thrust to the forefront, becoming something bigger than themselves for readers to enjoy. It’s the same reason why people like the Avengers, Defenders, X-Men, Fantastic Four…more characters are always better. Not just for the bottom line of trying to sell more comics, but because there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
In the words of Ashley from The Boys: Everybody loves a team up.
Sinister Six: By the Numbers
- 1: The issue of The Amazing Spider-Man Annual that debuted the Sinister Six
- $0.25: Amount of money a copy of that comic would have set you back originally
- $1.99: Cost of the digital issue of the same comic today
- $60,000: Value of the physical comic issue today, in the best known condition
- 6: The number of founding members of the Sinister Six
- 8: The number of times Doctor Octopus has been on the Sinister Six, counting the time he was inside Peter Parker’s head.
- 15: Different iterations of the Sinister Six team in Marvel Comics history
- 66: The largest number of Sinister Six members on a single team, even if there were holographic copies
- 13.2 million: Number of copies sold of Spider-Man for PS4, featuring Rhino, Doc Ock, Mister Negative, Electro, Vulture, and Scorpion
- 27,709,000: Copies of Marvel comics sold in 1964, when the Sinister Six were first introduced to the public.
Sinister Six: The Best Villain Team
So at this point, we know more about the history of the Sinister Six and I’ve even started to indulge you with why they’re one of the best teams in Marvel comics history. At least, one of the most enjoyable to read about.
Excitement: I mentioned it before, but the more characters you can pack into a comic spread, the more hyped the reader becomes. When a hero fights 1v1, it’s great and all, but when the deck seems stacked against them, that’s when the magic really starts happening.
It feels like there are actual stakes for our friendly neighborhood web-slinger. Granted, the Sinister Six generally don’t play well with others, including themselves. But when you see them all hurtling towards Spider-Man and he’s spouting fewer one-liners, you know things are getting serious.
Revolving Door Cast: Although there are key members of the Sinister Six that are always reprising their roles, the team is really open to the entirety of Spider-Man’s Rogues Gallery. With every new team, you could never count anybody out; are we going to see Beetle this time around? What about Tombstone, or Boomerang?
Although there’s a soft spot with the original cast, it’s still really cool to be able to say that some of your favorite villains had a spot in the coveted team that is the Sinister Six. Not to mention that this means an abundance of awesome powers, and the chance to expose readers to characters that they may never have known existed in the Spider-Verse.
Spider-Man: Lastly, when the Sinister Six are involved (except for the Age of Apocalypse instance with Mr. Sinister, which isn’t even related), you know you’re getting Spider-Man. There’s a reason he’s one of the most beloved characters in comics. Actually, there are several.
He’s a local hero that champions for the people. He has responsibility thrust upon him and fights through situations without ever giving up. He never ceases to find humor and happiness when it appears darkness has won the day.
To see Spider-Man overcome the odds and emerge victorious against not one, not two, but SIX (or more) villains, it makes me feel like anything is possible.
My Personal Sinister Six
Finally, I want to talk about my ideal Sinister Six team. I mean, you really can’t go wrong as there are so many cool characters to choose from. But these are my picks for an interesting team that would invite some interesting scenarios. Of course, this is also going to be a somewhat unconventional list – let them have their time in the sun!
One of favorite villains, recently showcased in Spider-Man: Far From Home. He makes a fitting leader thanks to his natural charisma and showmanship. Also a member of the original Sinister Six, so he is worthy of an inclusion.
Furthermore, his ability to combine illusions and special effects to make things seem different than what they really are will be key in luring Spider-Man to wherever the Sinister Six need him.
- Kraven, the Hunter
Also a founding member, Kraven is the best at tracking people down. He can figure out what Spider-Man is up to, and help the team concoct a plan to trap the webslinger. I also really like his general demeanor, even if he should update his wardrobe to get with the times.
It’s also important to have at least one person with a level-head; Kraven’s code of honor and justice will help keep the Sinister Six personable. At least, as much as it can. (More on Kraven here.)
There are tons of variations of Beetle, but all of them have that same high-tech armor. Flight is necessary when squaring off against someone who can sling through the city skyline, and Beetle can fill that role, keeping Spider-Man somewhat contained. There’s a lot of versatility with the Beetle armor itself, allowing the group to adapt to Spider-Man’s counter-punches.
- Black Cat
My first outfield pick is Black Cat. She’s a wildcard and has a history on both sides of the fence with Spider-Man. Combining Kraven’s intuition with her knack for theft and espionage, there’s nowhere that Spider-Man can safely hide. She also has the ability to skew luck in her favor, which could be the deciding factor in the battle against Spider-Man.
- Lady Octopus
Of course, this is a nod to the founding member of the Sinister Six, but Lady Octopus is sort of Doc Ock 2.0. Thanks to a personal force-field, she might be slightly more protected than her mentor and predecessor. This also gives the team a bit more of that physical punch that they crave(n). Also, I don’t want to suggest that anyone on the team isn’t smart, but she can help work out any complex mathematics or algorithms to lead them to victory.
As Kraven’s half-brother, he has a bit of a nepotistic ‘in’ to this iteration of the Sinister Six. You can also tell that I have a fondness for illusion, trickery, and subterfuge, another place where Chameleon shines. If the Sinister Six wants to stop Peter Parker, I think their best shot is appealing to his human nature and playing with his emotions. With infinite disguises at his disposal, Chameleon will be an important cog in that machine.