6 Spider-Man ‘Brand New Day’ Villains Who Crashed and Burned
There are few comic book stories more likely to send fans into a screaming rage than ‘Spider-Man: One More Day’. The basic idea was that Marvel Comics wanted Spider-Man to appeal to a younger audience, and they didn’t think little kids wanted to read about Peter Parker’s long-standing marriage to Mary Jane Watson. Even though that relationship was the backbone of the movie trilogy. But they couldn’t make Spider-Man a divorcee or a widower, because that would also age him in the eyes of young readers.
So Marvel’s answer was for Spider-Man to make a deal with the Devil to magically change history so that Peter and Mary Jane were never actually married, and that they were just boyfriend and girlfriend for a very long time. A deal with the Devil!
Needless to say, the fans were outraged! I was one of those fans.
But one of the simple truths about loving comic books is that, in the end, all of us fans are just clinging to the stories and creative ideas of a handful of writers and editors, who are just real people like us. And they have a business to run. They wanted Peter Parker to be a swinging single, so they just went ahead and wrote it into the comics.
The ‘deal with the devil’ storyline was called ‘One More Day’, and it led directly to a new storyline called ‘Brand New Day’. The idea here was to give Spider-Man a fresh start. He wasn’t being rebooted, per se. Everything that had happened to him had still happened, it’s just that Peter and Mary Jane were only ever boyfriend and girlfriend, and now they were broken up so that Peter could be single again. The writers also decided to freshen up the Spider-Man comics by giving him some new friends, new supporting characters and new super-villains. They wanted to make Spider-Man feel fresh and new, while still maintaining him as the same Spider-Man as always.
Well I’m here to tell you that pretty much every new super-villain and status quo change created for Brand New Day crashed and burned. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the current big summer Spider-Man story “Ends of the Earth” is all about classic villains Doctor Octopus and the Sinister Six. Or last summer, the big ‘Spider Island’ storyline had the Jackal and Kaine as lead villains.
May this list be righteous justification to all the fans who hated ‘One More Day/Brand New Day’.
6. Mister Negative
Out of all the ‘Brand New Day’ villains, Mister Negative has probably had the best career. But considering his last appearance was as the villain in a Cloak and Dagger mini-series, that’s not saying much. Mister Negative’s profile has been on the steep decline since he debuted early in ‘Brand New Day’, set up as a new type of crime boss. Mister Negative is really Martin Li, a kindly man who runs a homeless shelter in New York City. The two are light and dark, two sides of the same man, after they came into contact with the mysterious Darkforce Dimension, which always comes in handy for super-villain origins.
Mister Negative and Martin Li were kind of a big deal because Aunt May worked at the homeless shelter for awhile. But over time, Aunt May simply stopped working there, and Spider-Man stopped caring about Mr. Negative. And like I said, he ended up just fighting minor superheroes in various short stories and mini-series. He basically never amounted to more than just a neat look.
5. Vin Gonzales and the Spider-Man Murders
Vin Gonzales, and to an extent his sister Michelle, were both an attempt to give Peter Parker a bigger supporting cast. Vin was a cop with the NYPD, and somehow he and Peter Parker ended up being roommates. That makes sense. There’s nothing wrong with expanding the cast, and as a young, single guy trying to make it in New York City, Peter is bound to meet new people. But Vin was just a straight up jackass. He had good intentions, being a cop and all, but he was constantly pissed off at Peter and he hated Spider-Man. Vin was an asshole all the time. Granted, Peter didn’t have a job, often couldn’t pay the rent and sometimes got Vin in trouble just by being in proximity. But still, Vin was an asshole.
But what really made him a bad guy were the Spider-Man Murders. Basically, Vin and several other NYPD officers hated Spider-Man so much that they would planet Spider Tracers at murder crime scenes. That would link Spider-Man to a bunch of homicides, besmirching his friendly neighborhood name. So not only was he an asshole, but he was a corrupt, Spider-Man-hating cop! Quite the cast member! But then Vin pleaded guilty, named names, was fired from the NYPD and sent to jail. He hasn’t been seen since. Clearly Marvel couldn’t get him out of the book fast enough.
4. Paper Doll
Paper Doll was an effort to make a super-villain whose motivations weren’t greed or world domination. So Paper Doll was some lonely emo chick who had a stalkerish crush on a celebrity. Piper Dali (groan) has the ability to flatten herself as thin as paper. She used this power to stalk celebrity Bobby Carr, killing people who were giving him trouble and then spying on him. This eventually led to a fight with Spider-Man, who was trying to protect Carr. Paper Doll got beat up and arrested, end of story. And that was also the end of Paper Doll. Both Paper Doll and Carr only existed for a single 2-issue story arc in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. That’s all she was around for. No reappearances. No escapes from prison. Nothing. It’s like she never existed at all.
The super-villain drug addict, ladies and gentleman. Freak started out as possibly an interesting idea before the writers seemed to realize how they’d backed themselves into a corner with this ugly and pathetic villain. I don’t even think he has a real name. He was just some scumbag drug addict named ‘Freak’ who doused himself with a bunch of mysterious chemicals in a science lab. Classic comic book origin. This gave Freak the ability to regenerate when he dies, growing a new body that is now impervious to whatever killed him. For example, in his first encounter he was shot to death by the police. Freak then formed a chrysalis around himself and later re-emerged as bulletproof.
Freak came back a few more times to try and get drugs and to sometimes fight Spider-Man, always dying and then getting reborn in some grotesque new form. His appearance was always changing, and he always looked just as ugly as that picture above. So he was not a villain who was fun to look at. Plus his personality was still just that of a scumbag druggie. That does not usually have much staying power. So here is a villain with a constantly changing appearance, who only seems to get uglier, and eventually is going to reach a point where nothing can kill him. He wasn’t going to be worth it in the long run. Freak was last seen as just a supporting villain in a group shot, with Spider-Man kicking all their butts. No more Freak after that, thankfully.
2. Dexter Bennett
Dexter Bennett was Marvel’s attempt to replace the legendary J. Jonah Jameson. So you can imagine how well that worked out. Upon the start of ‘Brand New Day’, Jonah has a heart attack from the stress of working at the newspaper. So his wife sells the Daily Bugle to Bennett, a sleazy huckster of a business man who quickly turns the Daily Bugle into a skeevy tabloid. He also renames it ‘The DB’ because it’s more fashionable and hip. Bennett was a caricature of every slickster businessman you’ve ever seen. He’s rude, arrogant, snotty and treats out hero like scum. He can never get Peter Parker’s name right, and turns freelance photographer Peter into a paparazzo.
So Marvel could only have Peter put up with that attitude for so long before his morals caused him to quit in disgust at Bennett’s management style. Or maybe Peter was fired because he wouldn’t do Bennett’s dirty work anymore. Either way, every major Daily Bugle character pretty much quit in disgust. So it was a good thing that Marvel had only a few years prior created a different fictional newspaper: Frontline. All the Daily Bugle characters, from Peter to Joe Robertson to Ben Urich, all ended up working at Frontline and it became a legitimate newspaper, with a strong online focus. Then Jameson later showed up and revealed that he’d always held on to the ‘Daily Bugle’ brand name, and so Frontline was simply transformed back into the Daily Bugle, as if nothing had ever changed.
As for Bennett, a super-villain attacked The DB, destroying the building and breaking both of Bennett’s legs, making him a paraplegic. So that settles that.
I actively loathe Menace. If the idea was to create all new villains, why did the main villain of ‘Brand New Day’ have to be modeled after the classic ‘goblin’ villains of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery? Menace is clearly just a cheap knock-off of Green Goblin and Hobgoblin. Menace started out as a mystery, but we eventually learn that Menace got his powers as a result of some new type of Goblin Serum. And sure enough, Menace has the glider, the weapons and the rest of the goblin ensemble. Completely unoriginal. And the name is just stupid. It’s about as creative as calling a villain ‘Vengeance’ or ‘Omen’ or some other ridiculously generic one-word name.
What’s even worse is how Menace got the name. It was published in The DB after Menace’s first few attacks. The newspaper called this new villain ‘a menace’, and somehow everybody suddenly thought that was his name. Newspaper headlines don’t work like that!
Then to make it even more ridiculous, Menace isn’t a ‘he’, Menace is secretly a ‘she’! Meet Lily Hollister.
In an effort to expand Peter Parker’s supporting cast of friends, Marvel immediately introduced Lily Hollister, the party girl, and Carlie Cooper, the bookish nerd type, into ‘Brand New Day’. They were completely new characters. I knew from the very first panel that Carlie was going to be set up as Peter’s girlfriend, and sure enough, Marvel eventually slipped her into that role after a few years. Lily was a little harder to initially place. She was Harry Osborn’s girlfriend and the daughter of a politician who was running for mayor of New York City. She probably would have been fine as a supporting character to Peter Parker.
But then it’s revealed that Lily stumbled upon some of Harry’s old Goblin Serum and was turned into Menace, able to change her shape from sexy babe to goblin monster. She started attacking her father’s campaign in order to get him the sympathy vote. Of course, when her identity was revealed, he had to drop out of the race. So much for that plan. And so much for an interesting new supporting character.
Then to make matters even worse, Marvel reveals that Lily was only ever toying with Harry’s feelings. In reality, she was having sex with his father, Norman Osborn, and secretly working for him the whole time! The baby that Harry thought was his? Nope! It’s his father’s, who was boinking his son’s fiancee! I guess Marvel thought that since the fans were so outraged by the revelation that Norman used to have sex with Gwen Stacy (long, horrible story) that they’d be even more skeeved out by Norman having sex with Lily Hollister. We were, but not in any way that improved Lily or Menace as a character.
In the end though, all these revelations lasted only as long as Norman Osborn was in power. Once he was dropped at the end of the ‘Dark Reign’ storyline, Lily was dropped right along with him. She returned to the comic just long enough to give birth, have it revealed that Harry was the father all along, and then disappear as she recognized she wasn’t going to be a suitable mother. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Honorable Mention: Jackpot
Jackpot is an honorable mention because she was a brand new superhero who crashed and burned, not a super-villain. You may recall from the my opening remarks that the main thrust of ‘Brand New Day’ was that Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson had no longer been married, and that they were in fact broken up as a couple. Mary Jane was shuffled out of the book for an extended period of time. But then Marvel started teasing this hot, red-headed superheroine whose name was a play on Mary Jane’s classic catchphrase “Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot.” Could it be that Marvel was going to bring back Mary Jane as a superhero?
Nope! Instead, Jackpot was two different women. The first one, Sara Ehret, had legitimate super powers, but she was only Jackpot for a short time. Super-fan Alana Jobson discovered Ehret’s secret and bought the Jackpot identity from her. Jobson was the superheroine in most of the Spider-Man stories. She flirted with him and was like the Catwoman to his Batman. Until he learned that she was using drugs to give herself super-powers. But then in a later fight, she’s poisoned by some super-villains. Spider-Man has the antidote, but the antidote starts going funky when combined with the drugs, and Dobson dies.
Spider-Man later gives Ehret a guilt party, and she goes into hiding. Neither she nor Jackpot have been seen since.
So there we have it, folks, several sure signs that ‘Brand New Day’ produced very little memorable new content. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are other villains, other supporting characters and other status quo changes that came and went. Harry Osborn is long gone, the new Vulture was killed off in a Punisher comic book, and Peter Parker has had several new jobs. Heck, even Mary Jane has come back into the picture, spending more time with Peter. But at the very least, we comic fans can be confident in the knowledge that our nerd rage was not misplaced. Even Marvel would apparently see how much their ‘One More Day/Brand New Day’ ideas sucked!