Marvel Studios made quite a few announcements on Disney+ Day. One of those was a surprise to everyone: Spider-Man: Freshman Year.
The show is set to be an animated tale following Tom Holland’s Peter Parker as he becomes what we know him as today: Spider-Man. This will be the MCU's first exploration of his origin story, something Marvel Studios actively avoided back during his debut during Captain America: Civil War.
With a Spider-Man story, Marvel Studios will need to find villains for him to go up against. The problem with that is, with Peter in the wider MCU world and with audiences having known the character for half a decade now, picking out someone who has never been mentioned before will be tough.
The story will have to sell viewers as to why no one has ever mentioned this antagonistic force before—particularly Peter Parker. Though, the name Uncle Ben has never been said out loud in any of the films, so anything is possible.
So what villains could make the cut? Let’s start with some big names.
Despite The Amazing Spider-Man 2 making Electro out to be quite the unstoppable force, he was never really known as such in the comics. While maybe not the lowest of the low, Max Dillion was never the smartest—certainly not a mastermind.
There wouldn’t need to be any major overarching connections to big corporations in Marvel Comics lore, just an electric worker in a bad accident. It's a classic and simple super-villain origin story.
In the grand scheme of things, Max would be a suped-up criminal who did some minor damage to New York City—with his antics catching the attention of Parker as he comes to terms with the responsibility that his powers bring.
Where do things start falling apart when it comes to his role in the show? Well, for one, usually when Spider-Man fights Electro, there tend to be some serious suit modifications necessary due to his electricity. Due to continuity, Peter can’t wear anything other than his homemade sweatsuit.
Another aspect would be with Jamie Foxx’s Electro appearing in Spider-Man: No Way Home. There would have to be some vocal mention of how he’s faced someone similar. Otherwise, the suspension of disbelief falls a little flat.
In the same vein as smaller henchman-esque villains from the comics, while still being a big deal, there’s the infamous Rhino.
In the comics, Rhino, also known as Aleksei Sytsevich, was originally a member of the Russian mafia. He willingly underwent a series of chemical and radiation treatments intended to give him artificial skin that granted superhuman strength.
When that was successful, he eventually got even more augmentation—this time using the same gamma radiation that granted the Hulk his abilities. This would be an enjoyable MCU connection and would play well into Peter Parker’s existence in the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe.
How could the world not have mentioned a big Rhino man running through NYC (or Brooklyn)? Well, no one will have spoken Abomination’s name until next year’s She-Hulk—which will be 14 years later. So, it’s possible.
Peter also wouldn’t have a reason to bring up Rhino if he was easily subdued, a minor footnote in his career. Rhino isn’t smart enough for any bigger plans and would likely be stuck on the Raft in the middle of the ocean at this point.
If the show wants recognizable villains, Aleksei Sytsevich is an easy pick. Maybe the show could do him in a comic-accurate fashion—something not even the critically acclaimed Spider-Man game for PlayStation did.
If it wanted to, the show could have Rhino be somehow involved in Uncle Ben’s death like Sandman was in Spider-Man 3—though that didn’t go over with fans very well.
This is a villain whose association with Parker’s origin would immediately start to bring with it a lot of similarities to The Amazing Spider-Man. But there’s a reason the series chose Curt Connors for that first film—he’s almost a perfect fit.
Unlike Electro and Rhino, there would be no way for Marvel Studios to use this character without it being intrinsically linked to Peter in some fashion.
Mentorship has been a huge throughline with the MCU’s Peter Parker, and this could have been the start of it all. Maybe Connors could be a high school science teacher that Parker looks up to—maybe even helping him out as an extra-curricular activity. The writers could even play off the two’s work together, potentially having it lead to Parker’s personal breakthrough with his signature web fluid.
One of the most extensive additions the MCU could include for the character is introducing Connor’s family. This is something Andrew Garfield’s film lacked, which lessened the impact of an otherwise great character.
Having just lost his Uncle Ben, Peter would be watching a family about to lose a family member of their own—and he’d do anything to try and stop that series of unfortunate events from occurring. This could lead to an emotional story and make this new animated series a meaty addition to Spidey’s MCU history.
But why wouldn’t Peter mention him after all these years? Maybe it’s a sore spot—almost similar to Uncle Ben. Their final confrontation could have ended with Connors being killed or at least disappearing in a manner that seemed finite.
The biggest problem with the Lizard’s introduction, besides the aforementioned similarities to The Amazing Spider-Man, is how this would be another case of a villain having to be referenced in Spider-Man: No Way Home, seeing as Tom Holland’s Spider-Man will likely be running into Andrew Garfield’s former baddie.
Let’s say Marvel wants to play with the same themes that the Lizard deals with but chooses another villain. Well, then why not Vermin?
In the comics, Edward Whelan was someone who got experimented on by Baron Zemo and Arnim Zola. Those experiments led to Whelan being bestowed various ratlike traits and attributes. So basically, he's The Lizard but rat-like instead.
The fun thing about Vermin is how the MCU already has all the connective tissues in place.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, fans briefly meet the character of Principal Morita, played by Kenneth Choi—yes, the same character who portrayed Jim Morita in Captain America: The First Avenger, one of Steve Rogers’ Howling Commandos. Their characters share a confirmed lineage so that there’s already a direct link to Arnim Zola.
Now, the Vermin wouldn’t need to be Morita himself or anyone related to him. His family heritage, however, would likely be one of the continuity strings that Marvel Studios pulls on in order to involve Zola—who would have been last seen in 2014 as a computer program.
If the storytellers wanted to bring in Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo, he would probably have just lost his family in Sokovia around the time that Holland’s Parker was a freshman.
Now, whether someone named Whelan gets bestowed the honor of a feral rat persona or not, the Vermin could make the perfect sized villain for Spider-Man: Freshman Year to tackle. No one would cry foul at it never being mentioned.
That said, especially if the Morita connection was used, the action would likely need to distance itself from the school. The more events that occur on or around campus, the harder it is to believe it, and nobody has talked about it for two solo Spider-Man films at this point.
Vermin is such a minor villain that if a show such as this doesn’t tackle him, he’ll likely never make it outside the comic book pages.
In Marvel Comics, this villain goes by the name of Jonathan Ohann. At one point, he was roommates with Quentin Beck (a fun little MCU connection) and also worked under the Kingpin as a scientist.
In attempting to replicate the Dark Dimension capabilities of the Marvel superhero Cloak, Ohann’s experiments both succeeded and failed. He didn’t quite achieve Cloak’s abilities, but he landed in between—he was able to navigate an endless number of portals.
Ohann now had black spots covering his body from head to toe. These spots ended up being portable space warps—basically allowing for him to use portals to teleport anywhere he wants. Going by the name of Spot, he went on to fight Spider-Man several times.
The villain has never been taken seriously in the comics, but he’s certainly got a lot of potential.
In fact, the character is rumored to be the villain of the Into the Spider-Verse sequel, so don’t be surprised to see Spot get a facelift in the coming years.
When it comes to the MCU, the character can be used as a perfect lower threat level for Holland’s fresh Spider-Man to take on. Not only that, but it would provide a visually exciting array of movesets to animate.
Spot likely wouldn’t have a deep-seated connection to Spidey like some of his previous origin villains. Here, he could best be served as basically an enhanced bank robber that stumbled into his powers.
Marvel Studios could attempt to make the character a fellow student of Parker’s, but that might be hard to swallow continuity-wise, as it’s something audiences likely would have heard about at this point via somebody in Peter’s classes saying something.
As everyone knows, at this point, Uncle Ben dies. It’s the constant in every Spider-Man story—it has to be. But someone has to do the deed. Generally, the act has been depicted as done by a run-of-the-mill robber. But what if it was someone a little more established?
This would not be done by someone massive, but a notable name and face at the least; Hammerhead is a perfect choice. Joesph Lorenzi was a Maggia hit-man when a brawl left his skull shattered; that is until somebody went and repaired it with Adamantium.
His origin details have plenty of room for creative freedom, and weaving it into a smaller scale Spider-Man origin story could be just the thing for the ol’ mobster.
The story could focus on Peter not only trying to identify who Uncle Ben’s killer was, but also dealing with that rage and urging him to go a step further than he should. So a little spice of what the original Sony Spider-Man film touched on, but a bit more.
Now, Hammerhead has never really been at the top of the food chain when it comes to mobster villains. He is and has always been a goon. The show could choose for him to simply be on his own, or depending on the series’ length, he could be a step toward someone bigger. But who would be both more substantial but not too significant?
Well, it can’t be Kingpin. His rumored inclusion in Hawkeye and other future projects is pretty strong. More importantly, however, that’s a name that would have almost certainly been on the lips of somebody throughout the many years of the MCU.
But what about Tombstone?
Lonnie Lincoln was born and raised in Harlem, New York. Having been born with albinism, his condition caused him to be an outcast among his social circles—something he made up for by physical intimidation.
His rise to the top of the criminal underworld isn’t that different from what one would expect. But if one of his henchmen, or even just himself, were involved with the death of Uncle Ben, then it would surely get Spider-Man’s attention.
Even though Tombstone is no Kingpin, he still may be getting a little too high on the totem pole for freshman year Peter. After all, one of his nicknames is the Horror of Harlem.
Speaking of, if the show introduces the villain to the wider world, it could lay the foundation for Luke Cage to go up against him at some point in the future.
Another problem with getting too far up the totem pole of the criminal underside of New York is how Peter’s sweatsuit wouldn’t be all that fit for those kinds of repeated confrontations.
Much like the issue that choosing Electro would have, Holland’s Spider-Man suits would need to be upgraded. After all, he probably hasn’t quite settled into his Peter Tingle just yet.
So let’s climb down from the craziness of organized crime and end the list with one of the most likely candidates: Screwball.
This is where we reach the perfect fit for Spider-Man: Freshman Year. Some may not know the name, and others might think the idea is crazy—yes, it’s that same annoying girl who always forced Spider-Man to do time trials and other similar challenge modes in Insomniac’s Spider-Man.
Screwball is a fairly recent villain in Spidey's lore, having first appeared in 2008. Touted as the first live-blogging supervillain, she was an internet personality and social media attention monger. Her real name still isn’t known.
There is no better fit for the requirements that the show needs to work under. She’s a villain who isn’t big enough to have required prior mention, and she fits perfectly into the life of a high school-bound Peter Parker.
The locals may start to take notice of the superhuman figure stopping everyday crimes, especially someone that enjoys attention in the form of podcasting and live streaming. What better way to up one's viewership than to get the attention of an up-and-coming superhero?
Screwball could stage big stunts and public displays to attract Peter’s alter ego, maybe even calling him out specifically. Her events would start getting dangerous, leading to bigger crimes, more damage, and potentially even loss of life.
These more public extravaganzas could even have been what attracted the eye of Tony Stark to start keeping a tab on the young Spider-Man to-be.
With a villain whose persona is being a big internet personality, one may ask: how could she have gone unmentioned? This is one of the more significant components of choosing Spider-Man: Freshman Year’s villain. It’s a tricky situation to tackle, that’s for sure.
One possibility is that by the end of their feud, Peter would have successfully shut down her show, maybe even causing her to move to greener pastures. Another could rest in Tony Stark, maybe moving behind-the-scenes to bury her antics from the general public.
So, Which is it Going to Be?
Spider-Man: Freshman Year is an exciting scenario for Marvel Studios to try and achieve. It has never tried to go back and tell an unseen story before a hero's main debut in the mainstream films—with Black Widow being pretty close to the concept, but most of it took place far after her first appearance in Iron Man 2.
It’s a unique set of constraints that the creative team will be putting on themselves. Fans definitely shouldn’t expect the likes of Venom or Green Goblin to show up. This show will be a place for the more minor villains to thrive.
As this list has gone over, big names aren’t out of the picture. Though, if bets were being made, names like Screwball or Vermin might be the safest calls.