The title of Spider-Man: Homecoming is a clever double entendre. On the one hand, it’s a clear reference to Spidey’s status as a real high schooler, a sharp contrast to the off-putting faux youth of Tobey Maguire. On the other hand, Homecoming is also a celebration of the character’s long-awaited return to Marvel Studios, perhaps the most exciting moment in MCU history for many fans. But the important question is, "Who are the bad guys in Spider-Man: Homecoming?" See, despite the fanbase’s palpable excitement over Spider-Man’s return, many individuals made it clear that they were not interested in seeing a rehash of the material already covered in Sony’s two abandoned franchises. No, this time, fans wanted to see something different.
In reaching back to find new and exciting content for the new and exciting Spider-Man franchise, Marvel Studios went all the way to some of Spidey’s earliest adventures. The Vulture, the main villain of Homecoming portrayed by Michael Keaton, is actually the second-oldest villain in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, after the Chameleon. The Shocker, whose role in the film was more carefully obscured by Marvel and Sony’s promotional team, was another baddie who showed up within the first 50 issues of the wall-crawler’s career. Most importantly, however, neither character has ever been in any previous Spider-Man film, despite their interesting and impactful comic book histories. So let's dive in and explore some facts about the Vulture and facts about the Shocker in order to really get the story behind the villains of Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Despite never even being alluded to in a Spider-Man film, the Vulture is actually one of Marvel's oldest villains. He made his debut in The Amazing Spider-Man #2, released in May of 1963, and was the second supervillain Spidey ever faced, with the Chameleon appearing in the previous issue. The Vulture’s appearance is actually what sparked Peter Parker’s interest in photography as an occupation, with J. Jonah Jameson offering to buy any pictures of the mysterious birdman.
Spidey’s attempts to get a perfect snapshot caused him to lose the first battle between the two, but the rematch went differently. Spider-Man invented a device that disrupted the Vulture’s flight harness and captured him, one of the earliest indicators of Parker’s scientific genius.
The Vulture’s secret identity is Adrian Toomes, a former engineer cheated out of his company by a shady business partner. Right away, Toomes stood out from other comic book villains because he was a senior citizen, which certainly doesn’t make for the most impressive superhero sparring partner.
Toomes’s frail body was more than made up for by his sharp mind, however, as he put his industrial skills to work inventing a flight harness that also granted him superstrength. After getting revenge on his former business, the Vulture turned to a life of professional crime, which led to his inevitable conflict with Spider-Man.
Despite the fact that Adrian Toomes’s advanced age hasn’t exactly hindered his career as a costumed criminal, there have still been more than a few storylines in which he attempts to regain his youth. An elderly bad guy trying to avoid their own impending mortality isn’t exactly a new story, but the way the Vulture goes about it is rather disturbing, if incredibly name-appropriate.
Like his carrion-eating namesake, Toomes sought to absorb the life-force of others, and he invented an add-on to his Vulture suit that allowed him to do just that. The creepy process turns the Vulture younger and his victim much older, which once led to Peter Parker getting trapped in an elderly body. Luckily, the effect wore off as time passed.
Spider-Man has a terrific rogues gallery, and each of his memorable villains can easily prove a valid threat to the wall-crawler on their own. Spidey’s bad guys might be at their best, however, when they combine forces.
The first, and most famous, anti-Spidey supervillain team to form was the Sinister Six. The Vulture was an original member of the team, and has kept a membership on pretty much every iteration of the roster ever since. He was joined on that inaugural roster by team founder Doctor Octopus, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, Sandman, and Electro.