Spider-Man for the PlayStation 4 is a game worth playing, even for someone only vaguely familiar with the popular comic series and its six movie tie-ins. If that’s you, here’s a handy little guide to the characters you need to know to get the most out of Insomniac’s web-slinging adventure.
Before we get started, a caveat. All of the characters listed below appear in Spider-Man for the PlayStation 4 in some shape or form. They won’t necessarily be the same as their comic book or movie counterparts—the game has its own continuity—but they will be present. We’re only talking about who they are in the comics and films here, so don’t worry about spoiling the game’s plot. But if you’d rather not know that variations of these characters even show up in the game, stop reading now.
Bitten by a radioactive ‘insect’ in 1962's Amazing Fantasy #15, New York City high school student Peter Parker gained super speed, strength, agility and the wall-crawling ability of a spider. Aided by his genius-level intellect and fueled by the death of his Uncle Ben at the hands of a criminal, Peter became the amazing, spectacular and sometimes sensational Spider-Man.
Peter has been through a hell of a lot over the past 56 years. He’s gone through high school and college. He’s been a photojournalist, a scientist and a billionaire businessman. Despite not being a mutant, Spider-Man has acted as headmaster for the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning (formerly Professor X’s School For Getting Blown Up Every Couple Of Years). He married his childhood sweetheart, and then undid that marriage in a deal with the devil.
He’s made some bad choices, possibly because almost every man he looks up to becomes a super-villain. Oh, and his parents, who left him with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben at a very young age, were secret agents who were murdered during a mission. He’s pretty screwed up, Peter Parker, but we love him.
First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15
Meanwhile, in the Ultimate Universe, an alternate reality created in the year 2000 to tell re-imagined stories of popular Marvel Comics heroes, a younger, edgier Peter Parker was also doing his swing thing. But he wasn’t quite young and edgy enough. Enter Afro-Latino teenager Miles Morales. Bitten by a bio-engineered spider unknowingly smuggled out of Oscorp by his criminal uncle, Miles gains all the powers of Spider-Man, plus the ability to shoot directed energy (his “Venom Strike”) and camouflage himself.
Miles made his comic debut in 2011's Ultimate Fallout #4, following the ‘death’ of the Ultimate version of Peter Parker at the hands of the Green Goblin. Initially frightened of his abilities, Parker’s sacrifice inspires Miles to try his hand at crime-fighting.
Due to his popularity with comic book audiences, Miles became a permanent resident of the main Marvel Universe (Earth-616) following 2015's Secret Wars crossover event. As Peter Parker takes his super-heroism global, Miles fills in as New York City’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Miles Morales’ big-screen debut in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a computer animated film, hits theaters on December 14.
First Appearance: Ultimate Fallout #4
We’ll be stretching the definition of friends a bit here, but for the most part the following characters play a supporting role in Peter and Miles’ lives
The adoptive mother of Peter Parker, Aunt May has enthusiastically nurtured her nephew since his parents dropped him at her doorstep and jetted off to oblivion. She’s the mom every superhero should have: caring, understanding and for the most part, oblivious to the fact that her nephew has been fighting crime in his pajamas since inadvertently getting her husband, Ben, shot and killed.
In comics Aunt May has traditionally been depicted as a frail older woman, often in poor health. In the Marvel cinematic universe she is portrayed by Marisa Tomei, who is neither frail nor in poor health.
First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15
Mary Jane Watson wasn’t meant to be the love of Peter Parker’s life. That was supposed to be a character named Gwen Stacy. But the mysterious redhead from next door proved much more interesting than Gwen, so the young blonde died at the hands of the Green Goblin, and Mary Jane became Peter’s main squeeze. As Stan Lee put it in an interview about the Parker/Watson marriage that ran in Spider-Man comics in 1999, “We wanted Gwen to be the heroine of the book, but no matter how we wrote it, Mary Jane always seemed more interesting!”
She’s been a model and an actress, exactly he sort of professions a 1960's era female character would have. Lately she’s been moving up in the world, having served as Tony Stark’s executive administrator, a fact that Peter didn’t exactly take in stride.
And though their marriage was annulled by Mephisto, Mary Jane and Peter are getting closer in the comics again.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #25 (full reveal in The Amazing Spider-Man #42)
A captain with the New York Police Department, Yuri Watanabe has been an ally to Spider-Man in more than one guise. In the comic books she is the fourth character to take up the mantle of Wraith, a vigilante who terrorizes violent criminals like Mr. Negative and Tombstone. She’s a relatively recent addition to the Spider-verse, but serves an important role in the PS4 video game.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #600
J Jonah Jameson is one of the most iconic supporting characters in comic book history. Once the grouchy boss of the Daily Bugle, his constant demands for photos of Spider-Man and his ongoing smear campaign against the masked vigilante are legendary.
Jonah’s obsession with Spider-Man led him to create one of the hero’s deadliest foes, Scorpion (in Amazing Spider-Man #20), which eventually led to Jameson resigning from the Bugle. But don’t worry too much about old JJ. He’s since served as the mayor of New York City and now runs his own cable channel.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #1
Silver Sable, AKA Silver Sablinova, is a woman who takes her first name seriously. Her hair is silver. Her outfit is silver. Her lipstick is silver. We get it, she likes silver.
Sable is also an accomplished mercenary, well-versed in hand-to-hand combat, knives, guns, explosives and other dangerous things. She’s often seen leading her mercenary group, the Wild Pack. In the early ‘90s she even had her own comic, Silver Sable & The Wild Pack, which lasted 35 issues.
As a mercenary, Sable’s aims and goals depend on who is paying her for work. Most of the time she’s an ally to Spider-Man, though there’ve been instances where her clients have pit her against the webslinger.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #265
Felicia Hardy’s penchant for thieving, feline name and costume and on-again, off-again relationship with Spider-Man have drawn comparisons to Batman’s former fiancee, Catwoman, but Selina Kyle was not the inspiration for the Marvel character. Creator Marv Wolfman originally came up with the Black Cat as an enemy for Spider-Woman. When he was reassigned to Spider-Man, she tagged along.
Felicia is another character that’s gone through a lot of changes over the years. She’s been a hardcore villain, an anti-hero, Spider-Man’s sidekick and lover. She’s had catlike abilities and bad luck powers. Right now in comics she’s just a very skilled thief with a knack for getting mixed up in Peter Parker’s business.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #179
The father of Miles Morales, AKA Ultimate Spider-Man, Jefferson Davis led a troubled life in the Ultimate universe. Disgusted by his brother Aaron’s (AKA Prowler) criminal activities, Jefferson worked undercover with Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. to take down The Kingpin. Following that incident, Jefferson was offered an official position within Fury’s organization but declined, not wanting to be a part of that world.
Jefferson became an NYPD officer, married Rio Morales and the two had a son, Miles, who eventually became Spider-Man. As with any Spider-Man family member, Jefferson often found himself at the mercy of villains. He tangled with Hydra and was involved in the Venom War, which resulted in his wife’s death. So yeah, things were rough for Jefferson.
That is, until Ultimate Spider-Man became part of Earth-616. Now Rio is alive, Jefferson knows his son is Spider-Man and, in order to keep an eye on Miles, he’s joined that universe’s version of S.H.I.E.L.D.
First Appearance: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man Vol 2 #1
Does the name Dr. Morgan Michaels not ring a bell? How about his other name, Dr. Michael Morbius? Morbius, the Living Vampire? He’s one of Marvel’s more famous supernatural characters. Not only does Morbius have all the powers of a vampire, he’s also a talented biochemist. He’s the total package.
Morbius is another character that could go either way, villain or ally. I’d rather have him as a friend, and I am sue Peter would too.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #101
As we get into the costumed freaks who act as the bane of Peter Parker’s existence no matter which continuity they’re in, I must reiterate: just because a character is on this list doesn’t mean you’ll fight these guys. You might see a poster, or hear a reference. You’ll see when you play the game.
An amazingly talented scientist who Peter Parker looked up to, Otto Octavius went mad and became a super-villain.
Pompous and arrogant to a fault, Octavius was a brilliant engineer and inventor who crafted a set of fantastic metal arms to help him with his work as a nuclear physicist. When a freak radiation accident fused his arm harness to his body and granted him the ability to control his arms with his mind, Octavius turned to a life of crime, taking on the name Doctor Octopus.
Over the decades, Doc Ock has become one of Spider-Man’s most dangerous foes, using his brilliant mind and technical know-how to defeat Peter on many occasions. His most notable triumph? When he switched minds with Peter Parker, trapping the younger man in his own dying body and taking on the persona of The Superior Spider-Man. As goofy as that sounds, it was an outstanding run of comics.
Having died multiple times, Doc is alive and well currently, struggling with a pesky leftover bit of Peter Parker’s personality that keeps making him perform noble acts.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #3
An amazingly talented scientist who Peter Parker looked up to, Norman Osborn went mad and became a super-villain.
Osborn is one of the biggest jerks in the Marvel universe. Even before an experimental serum exploded in his face, increasing his strength and intelligence but rendering him dangerously insane, he wasn’t a nice guy. A workaholic, Osborn neglected his family and poured himself into his business, Oscorp Industries, always grasping for more power and control.
As the Green Goblin (and recently the Red Goblin), Osborn has been one of Spider-Man’s greatest enemies. He’s responsible for one of Peter Parker’s most traumatic moments, the death of his girlfriend Gwen Stacy. It was later revealed that Norman and Gwen had a one night stand, leading to the birth of twin children, because Spider-Man is a soap opera at heart.
Since those days, Norman has become one of the most powerful villains in the Marvel universe. He’s run his own S.H.I.E.L.D.-like organization (H.A.M.M.E.R.), and acted as leader of the Dark Avengers, wearing red, white and blue armor and calling himself the Iron Patriot. Such a nutjob.
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #14
An amazingly talented scientist who Peter Parker looked up to, Curt Conners went mad and became a super-villain.
All poor Conners wanted to do was use his mastery of genetic biology to regrow the arm he lost while serving as a surgeon in the U.S. Army. While his experimental treatment did bring back the limb, it also transformed him into a humanoid reptile creature.
The Lizard is one of Spider-Man’s more tragic enemies. He was a genuinely nice guy before he made a boneheaded mistake and turned himself savage.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #6
Martin Li isn’t really Martin Li. As revealed in Dark Reign: Mr. Negative #3, he’s an unnamed member of the crew of a Chinese slaving ship who took on the name of a deceased slave when the ship nearly crashed off the coast of New York. The man now known as Martin Li then dedicated his life to amassing a fortune and helping those less fortunate. He founds the F.E.A.S.T. Project (Food, Emergency Aid, Shelter and Training), helping a great many of the city’s poor and downtrodden with the help of volunteers like Peter Parker’s Aunt May.
But there is another side to Martin Li. Captured by the Maggia (Marvel’s mafia) and subjected to an experimental drug by Dr. Simon Marshall (whose experimental drugs also created Cloak and Dagger), Li became two different men—the altruistic philanthropist and Mr. Negative, the super-powered Chinatown crime boss.
As Mr. Negative, Li has the power to charge weapons with dark electrical energy, control minds, heal with a touch and shift his body between normal and negative states. While he’s a relatively new Spider-Man villain (he’s only been around for 10 years!), Mr. Negative’s managed to score a starring role in the PlayStation 4 game. You go, Martin.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #546
Mysterio, with his outstanding fishbowl helmet, is a fun Spider-Man villain. A former special effects artist, skilled hypnotist and illusionist, Quentin Beck decided his skills would make him an excellent super-villain, so he did that. Good plan!
Mysterio is the villain comics writers (and video game designers) turn to when they want to do something trippy and mind-bending. Between his illusions and his use of hallucinogenic substances, he’s always good for a show-stopping moment.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #13
From bullied, overweight school child growing up poor in New York to the city’s most powerful crime boss, Wilson Fisk is a man who knows what he wants and knows how to get it. What he wants is power, and nobody, not Spider-Man nor Daredevil nor the damn Avengers, is going to stand in his giant, muscle-bound way.
As a very tall, mostly bald and somewhat chubby person, I’ve always admired Fisk.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #50
Herman Schultz is just a guy with a gift for inventing and a need for more money than he can obtain legally.
Possibly Spider-Man’s most sensible enemy, he knows he’s just a guy with a pair of gloves that emit vibrating air blasts. He’s most likely to give up when cornered. He knows his place.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #46
Ah yes, the iconic Electro, with his lightning bolt mask and simple origin story. Max Dillon was an electrician who gained the power to control electricity during a freak electrical accident. He decided to use his powers for evil and has been causing Peter Parker to come up with new ways to insulate his suit ever since.
Electro is currently dead in Marvel comic continuity, replaced with a woman named Francine Frye. Poor Max.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #9
Remember back when I mentioned J Jonah Jameson accidentally created one of Spider-Man’s deadliest foes? This is that guy. JJ originally hired Mac Gargan as a private investigator to find out how Peter Parker got such amazing pictures of Spider-Man. When that failed, JJ had Gargan submit himself to an experimental process that would bestow him with the powers of a scorpion. The process granted him superhuman strength, agility, speed, endurance, the ability to cling to most surfaces and a precognitive “scorpion sense” that alerts him to danger. It also drove him insane, because that’s how mad science works.
Gargan’s been a tail-spike in Spider-Man’s side ever since.—mostly as Scorpion, but he also spent some time wearing the Venom symbiote. It’s an alien life form that Spider-Man picked up during the original Secret Wars mini-series, and it has been trying to get back at Peter Parker for rejecting it when it started to turn him evil. It’s complicated. Long story short, Gargan and the symbiote served as The Amazing Spider-Man in Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers, which is just insane.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #19
Rhino is the embodiment of brute force. Sealed inside an experimental polymer armor suit styled to resemble his namesake, Alexei Sytsevich uses his superhuman strength, durability and endurance to wreak havoc, generally for the highest bidder. With his habit of running head-first into things and stunning himself, he makes a great video game villain.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #41
As a young teen I was always tickled by the appearance of Adrian Toomes, a lanky, bald old man, soaring through the sky in an electromagnetic body harness of his own design. He was an odd duck, certainly not the sort of super-villain a young teen would aspire to be. That is, if young teens wanted to be super-villains, which I certainly did not. I did want to fly, but being ancient and frail-looking seemed too high a price to pay.
Fun fact: Adrian Toomes briefly used the name Falcon, figuring the actual Falcon wasn’t using it at the time. Cheeky.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #2
One of my favorite characters in comics, Taskmaster uses the power of “photographic reflexes” to copy and then anticipate the moves of anyone he encounters. He’s an expert martial artist, swordsman, shield wielder, archer—whatever he sees, he can do. What an awesome power to have.
When not being a creepy voyeur absorbing moves from other heroes and villains, Taskmaster can often be found using his abilities to train the next generation of hired thugs. Somebody has to do it, and he’s that guy.
First Appearance: The Avengers #195
Lonnie Thompson is a brutal thug. Teased relentlessly while growing up in Harlem as an African American albino, Lincoln eventually grew taller and stronger than the bullies who bothered him. He mastered the art of intimidation, filing his teeth to razor-sharp points to enhance his ghastly appearance. As ifs him being a 6’7” murderer wasn’t enough, exposure to an experimental gas granted Lincoln superhuman strength, speed and stamina.
Tombstone was one of the main villains in Web of Spider-Man as I was first getting into comic books in my teens, and he scared the living hell out of me.
First Appearance: Web of Spider-Man #36
Screwball commits crimes, films them and uploads them to a website in order to make money off clicks. Really.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #559
That’s a whole lot of Spider-Man characters in a single game. The fun part is finding out how each of them fit. You’re in for some suprises when Spider-Man PS4 arrives on September 7.