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If you've been playing Marvel's Spider-Man for PlayStation 4 or are planning on jumping into the game in the future, you might be in the dark on certain aspects. It draws from multiple eras of Spider-lore, with nods to classic comic runs, the Ultimate Universe, and even some of the films. If you've watched anything involving Spider-Man before, you might know some of these names and faces, but they can have wildly different looks and backstories in-game.
So here's a handy guide for every major character in Marvel's Spider-Man, including their first appearances in the comics and how they differ from their comic originators. And if you're interested in reading the comics behind these characters, I've included links to the issues on Comixology. There will be some spoilers for the game itself, if you're trying to go into it completely fresh.
Spider-Friends and Family
First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962)
I don't know how you ended up here if you don't know who Spider-Man is, but I'm not going to judge. Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider back when he was a teenager and didn't know what radioactivity really did to living things. He lucked into the proportional powers of spider: strength, speed, a supernatural sense of danger, and the ability to climb on walls. He used the power for personal gain, but he let a criminal get away and, turns out, karma's a b***h. The criminal killed his Uncle Ben and from that day Peter vowed to be a hero because, "With great power, comes great responsibility."
Insomniac's version of Spider-Man is largely the same character. Peter Parker has had his heroic alter-ego for eight years, through high school and college. He has existing relationships with many of the villains in his rogues gallery, but a number of his biggest threats haven't appeared... yet.
Mary Jane Watson
Mary Jane Watson isn't the first love interest of Spider-Man—she was actually introduced fighting for his affections against Betty Brant and Liz Allen—but she is the longest-running. MJ ended up dating Parker's best friend Harry Osborn until the death of his girlfriend Gwen Stacy, at which point she turned her kindness and attention towards Peter and his grief. Eventually, the pair began to date and later were married, though Marvel would eventually undo that in the controversial One More Day storyline. Mary Jane has at points in her history been an actress, a model, a nightclub owner, and secretary to Tony Stark.
The video game counterpart of Mary Jane seems to take from her Ultimate Comics version, who eventually decided to become a journalist. She's an investigative journalist who has been working for the Daily Bugle. She and Peter have a romantic history, but at the beginning of the game, both have gone their separate ways.
First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15 (August, 1962)
May Reilly is as old as Peter Parker himself. Many know her simply as Aunt May and most don't realize her last name isn't originally Parker; she's Peter's aunt on his mother's side. When Peter's parents died, May and her husband Ben Parker raised him as a son before Ben's untimely death. Following that, Aunt May was there to be a dramatic foil, worrying about Peter and somehow missing the fact that her nephew is Spider-Man. May has died twice in the comics, and her impending demise was the impetus for Peter Parker making a deal with Mephis—no, I'm not getting into all that. (Check the One More Day link above.)
Aunt May is Aunt May, regardless of reality. Sometimes she's younger, sometimes she's not. In Marvel's Spider-Man, she's working at Martin Li's F.E.A.S.T. shelter, like her comic version did at one point.
First Appearance: Ultimate Comics Fallout #4 (October, 2011)
In the comics, Miles Morales is the other Spider-Man. He began in the Marvel's Ultimate Comics line, a reboot of the Marvel Universe with far less continuity. Miles was a young boy bitten by another of Osborn Industries' Oz Formula spiders, like that universe's version of Peter Parker. When Parker died in battle, Miles stepped up to take his place. Miles and his supporting cast were eventually merged into the proper Marvel Universe, where he fights alongside an older Peter Parker as Spider-Man.
In Marvel's Spider-Man, Miles is a young man with no powers whose life will see him intersecting with Peter Parker and Spider-Man, the latter of whom is his hero. After events in the game, Miles finds himself working at the F.E.A.S.T. shelter alongside Aunt May.
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #600 (September, 2009)
Yuri Watanabe was first introduced in one of the milestone issues of the comic, Amazing Spider-Man #600. She was a Captain in the New York Police Department, helping Spider-Man out in a war between Mister Negative and the Maggia, the Marvel Universe version of the Italian Mob. Frustrated with the rules of police work, Watanabe would eventually cobble together the confiscated equipment of several super-villains to become The Wraith. This path put her into conflict with Spider-Man. She would ultimately become consumed by her anti-hero identity, leaving behind police work entirely.
In Insomniac's Spider-Man universe, Yuri Watanabe is just a friendly police Captain trying to kick a smoking habit who works with Spider-Man. There's no indication that she'll eventually become the Wraith, as she did in the comics.
Denizens of The City
J. Jonah Jameson
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March, 1963)
John Jonah Jameson, Jr. has been the publisher of several news outlets (including The Daily Bugle), a news reporter, the CEO of a company, and even the mayor of New York City. But throughout most of that, he's always hated Spider-Man. The genesis of this was Spider-Man's brief time as a wrestler. When the costumed wrestler used his abilities to perform vigilante actions, Jameson began to attack him in editorials, because in his mind entertainers should leave crime fighting to the police. Jameson himself has created a few super-villains in his quest to get Spider-Man, notably the Scorpion, the Spider-Slayer robots, and the Fly.
In Marvel's Spider-Man, Jameson is an Alex Jones-style radio host, occasionally cutting in to try and convince the city that Spider-Man is up to no good.
As his villainous other self, the Green Goblin, Norman Osborn is Spider-Man's most dangerous enemy. He was originally a corporate climber and co-owner of Oscorp, before pushing his partner, Mendell Stromm, out of the company. Osborn found that Stromm had been working on a formula to grant superhuman strength, but the chemicals were tampered with by Osborn's son Harry, who was angry about his father's constant rejections. The accident gave Osborn the strength he wanted, but also corrupted his mind, turning him into the Green Goblin.
Osborn has masterminded a number of attempts to destroy Spider-Man, whom he usually knows is Peter Parker. He's been a CEO, dead, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D, the leader of a Goblin Army, and even recently bonded with the Carnage symbiote to become the Red Goblin. Osborn is "the" Spider-Man villain and will likely never go away. (Fun fact: The Green Goblin was introduced first, with Osborn appearing for the the first time nine issues later. He wouldn't be named "Norman Osborn" until another fourteen issues after that.)
In the game, Osborn is the mayor of New York City and CEO of Oscorp. The history of Oscorp is similar to the comic version, but Otto Octavius was pushed out of co-ownership in Insomniac's universe. Osborn's company created the fearsome Devil's Breath by accident; it was an attempt to save Osborn's son from the same degenerative disease that killed his wife.
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #265 (June, 1985)
Silver Sablinova—no, I'm still not making this stuff up—is a mercenary and reigning monarch of the country of Symkaria. Through her company Silver Sable International, she takes jobs and hires other mercenaries for jobs. Sable has a rough moral code and won't take certain jobs, unlike other mercs. She has worked with Spider-Man on several occasions.
Insomniac's version of Silver Sable is the leader of a mercenary group hired by Norman Osborn to protect him and his city. She's directly antagonistic of Spider-Man, who she feels is getting in the way of her doing her job.
The Superior Foes of Spider-Man
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #50 (July, 1967)
The true past of Wilson Fisk isn't known. He applied his considerable drive and intellect towards crime at an early age, committing his first murder at the age of twelve. Fisk worked his way up through the crime family of Don Rigoletto, eventually killing his boss and taking over. At this point, Fisk became known as "the Kingpin of Crime". The Kingpin is notable because as his power grew, he began to invest his illegal resources in legal businesses. In the comics, the Kingpin is currently the mayor of New York City.
The Kingpin appears in the beginning of Insomniac's Spider-Man and his capture is what sets off most of the game's main story. He seems to be largely the same as his character in the comics.
First Appearance: Free Comic Book Day Vol 2007 - Spider-Man (July, 2007)
The man who would become Mister Negative was a member of a Chinese gang involved in human trafficking. When the gang's ship crashed, he took on the identity of Martin Li, one of the prisoners. He was later captured by another crime family and forced to consume an experimental drug—this is a constant for Spider-Man villains—that gave the heroes Cloak and Dagger their powers. The drug gave him powers, but also created two personalities: the kind Martin Li and the evil Mister Negative. Li opened and ran a homeless shelter called F.E.A.S.T., while Negative set out to become the new Kingpin of Crime.
Mister Negative is a new character in the Spider-Man mythos, only joining Marvel canon in 2007.
Insomniac's version is much more sympathetic. As a young man, he was experimented on by Oscorp in an attempt to cure a mysterious disease. A flare-up of his powers killed his parents, a tragedy for which Li blames Norman Osborn. There's no split personality; just an angry man who wanted to do good in the world, but also wanted revenge on Osborn.
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #19 (December, 1964)
Mac Gargan was a former private investigator that J. Jonah Jameson paid to undergo an experiment that gave him superhuman strength and speed, in addition to a suit that gave him a tail similar to a real scorpion. He turns to crime for money and power, or to get revenge on Jameson or Spider-Man.
One interesting tidbit is that for a time, Gargan was the third Venom. He's been bonded to symbiotes twice, looking like either a version of Venom, or a mix between the symbiote and his classic Scorpion outfit.
The Insomniac version retains his connection with Jameson, but it looks like his suit makes up far more of his powerset. He can also fling a powerful hallucinogenic poison from his tail, an ability not present in some versions of the character. There's no indication whether the game counterpart has abilities outside of the suit.
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #41 (October, 1966)
Aleksei Sytsevich is a former member of the Russian Mob. In return for wealth and power, Aleksei underwent experiments to increase his strength and bond him permanently to his distinctive Rhino armor. Between the gamma radiation and the suit, the Rhino is incredibly strong, very durable, and can run at high speeds. He's not too bright though.
The Insomniac version of the Rhino retains all of the same attributes, though his armor leans heavily on the technological side, rather than being a single, form-fitting suit.
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #2 (May, 1963)
Adrian Toomes was an engineer who created an electromagnetic harness that not only allowed him to fly, but also gave him a measure of super strength. The wings allow the Vulture to control his flight and are razor-sharp, letting him cut through objects like Spider-Man's webbing. One of the more elderly members of Spider-Man's rogues gallery, Toomes is one of the founding members of the original Sinister Six.
The Insomniac version of the Vulture is suffering from spinal cancer due to the source of his flight harness. The disease has been a part of his comic counterpart, though it was reversed through the magic of comics!
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #9 (February, 1964)
I'm still not making this up: Max Dillon was an electrical lineman who gained superpower when he was working on some power lines and they were hit by a lightning storm. Dillon is a low-level criminal, using his powers to generate electricity in heists or robberies to make money.
In Marvel's Spider-Man, Dillion's eventual aim is become living lightning, probably because that would make him amazingly powerful.
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #46 (March, 1967)
Herman Schultz is a career criminal. While in prison, he designed the first version of his shockwave gauntlets and the distinctive quilted costume that's become his signature look. Unlike most villains, Shocker doesn't really care about making the big time. He mostly wants to pull enough jobs that he's living the good life, but still stays off the radar of larger heroes and heroic organizations.
He's become kind of a running joke across all Spider-Man media as a bit of a throwaway villain. Which is how he's used in Marvel's Spider-Man.
First Appearance: Web of Spider-Man #36 (March, 1988)
Lonnie Lincoln was a young black man born in Harlem, New York with albinism. He was close friends with Robbie Robertson, who would eventually grow up to become the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Bugle. Capitalizing on his appearance, Lincoln eventually filed his teeth into sharp points and took the name of Tombstone. He was originally just a very tough person, but he gained superhuman strength and durability from exposure to an experimental preservative gas at Oscorp.
The Insomniac version of Tombstone is the leader of a biker gang involved in smuggling operations. He has the superhuman powers of his comic counterpart in addition to the razor-sharp teeth. There's no indication whether this version knows Robbie Robertson.
First Appearance: Avengers #195 (May, 1980)
Taskmaster's origin actually has a somewhat tragic bent to it. Tony Masters was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who gained photographic reflexes through exposure to a variant of Captain America's Super-Soldier Serum. He can see the moves of any hero or villain and copy them perfectly, performing them as well as someone at peak human physicality can. The problem is gaining new abilities overwrote Masters' memories of his own past. As Taskmaster, he's a mercenary and trainer of super-villain henchmen.
In the game, Taskmaster is a mercenary meant to test Spider-Man for an unknown client. Despite his tests, he's unable to fully understand and best the web-slinger's fighting style.
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #559 (July, 2008)
Screwball is a relatively new addition to Spider-Man canon, created by writer Dan Slott and artist Marcos Martin. Her real name is unknown. Screwball's general modus operandi is to commit crimes while a camera crew films her. She then uploads the videos online to generate revenue; she bugs Spider-Man because her videos involving the hero always prove profitable.
There is no real difference between the Insomniac version and her comic counterpart.
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #3 (July, 1963)
Otto Octavius was a scientist and engineer who developed a harness of tentacle-like mechanical arms while working for the United States government. An accident in his lab saw Octavius bathed in radiation, giving him full mental control of the arms and brain damage. The kind, but put-upon Octavius became Doctor Octopus. Doc Ock is a major Spider-Man villain and the only one to actually become Spider-Man himself at one point through a mental transfer device.
The version of Doctor Octopus in the game is somewhat like the character found in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2. Octavius is a scientist and mentor to Peter Parker whose experiments cause brain damage and change his personality. Dock Ock is the person who springs a cadre of super-villains from The Raft prison, forming the Sinister Six.