The most anticipated Marvel release since Avengers: Endgame arrives on Friday, as Spider-Man: No Way Home makes its way to theaters around the world. The film’s first teaser broke the record for the most-viewed movie trailer in 24 hours when it was released in early September, shattering the previous mark, held by Endgame, with a staggering 355.5 million views across all online platforms in its first day. In many ways, No Way Home serves as the webhead’s own Endgame crossover, combining characters from almost 20 years of live-action Spider-Man movies as they come together for the conclusion of Tom Holland’s (first?) trilogy in the role of Marvel’s most popular superhero.
While Sony and Marvel Studios have remained silent about whether or not Holland will be joined by the other Spider-Men of the past, the marketing push behind No Way Home has revolved around the movie’s lineup of villains—and there are a lot of them. From Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin to Jamie Foxx’s Electro, many of Spider-Man’s greatest foes dating back to Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man trilogy in the 2000s are returning to the big screen in this massive multiversal spectacle. With five of them already revealed by No Way Home’s two trailers, it appears as if the infamous group of Spider-Man villains known as the Sinister Six could be arriving at last. The hype fueled by that potential team-up and a groundswell of Spidey nostalgia has put the movie in position to bolster the box office with a COVID-era-record opening weekend haul. So ahead of the film’s release, let’s examine the Sinister Six’s origins in the comics, recap Sony and Marvel’s past attempts at bringing them to life, and take a look at the five confirmed villains who are being resurrected for the grand finale of Peter Parker’s three-part coming-of-age story in the MCU.
Introducing: The Sinister Six
The Sinister Six wasn’t the first team of supervillains to assemble in comic books when it first appeared in 1964, but it’s become one of the most popular in the many years since, even as its roster has been refreshed or expanded time and time again. A group composed of Spider-Man’s enemies was conceived by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko when they were putting together the first edition of The Amazing Spider-Man Annual, a special 72-page issue that carried the promise of being “Spidey’s biggest, longest, greatest battle” to date.
The original Sinister Six was formed by Doctor Octopus and featured Electro, Mysterio, Sandman, Vulture, and Kraven the Hunter alongside him. While each had failed to defeat Spider-Man individually in previous stories, Doc Ock believed that with all of their sinister forces combined, they could finally beat him. (Of course, their first plan ends up being to fight him individually, one after the other, instead of all at once, so they end up just losing again anyway. Call it a trial run.) In most instances, the Sinister Six’s schemes fail because the bad guys just can’t seem to get along, as each of them wants the glory of beating their mutual enemy to themselves. However, the second time they joined forces, in 1990’s “Return of the Sinister Six” story line, the six set their differences aside and fought Spidey simultaneously. Naturally, he thwarted them anyway, but the teamwork was a breakthrough in supervillainhood.
In the years following the Sinister Six’s debut, the team has cycled in new villains as former members either died or departed. Classic Spidey villains like Venom, Lizard, and Scorpion have all joined the group at some point; with over half a century’s worth of comics since Amazing Spider-Man Annual no. 1 was published, pretty much every one of Spider-Man’s nemeses has been a part of the team at one point or another. One iteration of the group even doubled itself in size, when Norman Osborn rebranded them as the Sinister Twelve. (I’ve gotta say, the group name just doesn’t feel right without the alliteration. Good thing there has also been a Sinister Seven and a Sinister Sixty.)
To date, there have been well over a dozen variations of the Sinister Six in the comics, including the most recent version, which arrived in a 2021 story line called “Sinister War.” With Doc Ock leading the group in the majority of its efforts against Spider-Man over the years, the Sinister Six have nearly succeeded thanks to some of the mad scientist’s wildest plans, such as when he managed to convince the entire world that he could solve global warming just so he could almost burn it to a crisp instead in 2012’s popular “Ends of the Earth” story arc. Even though Spider-Man always saves the day, the Sinister Six just keep coming back, with many more incarnations of the team appearing in animated shows, video games, and other forms of Spidey-centric media.
The Sinister Six in the Movies and Beyond
The desire to square Spider-Man off against a group of his greatest enemies has extended from the comics to the big screen and beyond. In 2007, Spider-Man 3 shifted away from the previous films’ narrative strategy of focusing on a lone villain—which had led to a pair of iconic performances in Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock—and increased its number of bad guys to three. (Well, four if we’re including the jazzed-up Bully Maguire.) But by the end of the movie, Spider-Man 3 really had only two villains, Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Venom (Topher Grace), as James Franco’s Harry Osborn dropped his beef with his oldest friend to fight alongside him in the climactic final battle.