Kraven the Hunter


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The Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 #293 © 1987 Marvel Comics. COVER ART BY MIKE ZECK AND BOB MCLEOD.

Kraven the Hunter

(pop culture)
Sergei Kravinoff—publicly known as Kraven the Hunter, the world's most renowned animal trapper— swaggers into New York City in The Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 #15 (1964) in pursuit of “the most dangerous game of all”: Spider-Man! Ruggedly handsome, mustached, and bursting with machismo, Kravinoff, an overconfident Russian aristocrat exiled from his homeland into Britain, spends much of his youth in Africa, where he gains superhuman strength and stamina from a witch doctor's herbal brews. Able to methodically outmaneuver his prey and overcome any beast with his bare hands, the hunter dubbed “Kraven” is lured to the United States by Spider-Man's first foe, the Chameleon, Kravinoff's “old friend” in the original text but established in later continuity as his halfbrother. Kraven comes close to bagging the wallcrawler, but the cunning Spider-Man snares the hunter in a giant web. Looking every inch the forerunner to circus showmen Siegfried and Roy, Kraven the Hunter was festooned in leopard-print tights, a lion-motif vest with a mane, and a zebra-striped belt dotted with tusks containing tranquilizers, toxins, and strengthaugmenting potions. His vest's lion “eyes” emitted “electro-bursts,” and he wielded magnetic handcuffs to slow down his prey. Kraven's co-creators, writer Stan Lee and illustrator Steve Ditko, drew inspiration from the character General Zaroff, first seen in Richard Connell's 1924 novel The Most Dangerous Game and later translated to film in 1932, 1946, and 1956. On the heels of his first appearance, Kraven took on Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #58, then partnered with five other vanquished Spider-Man enemies— Dr. Octopus, the Vulture, Sandman, Mysterio, and Electro—as the Sinister Six in The Amazing Spider- Man Annual #1, both published in 1964. His ego bruised from his ignominious defeats, Kraven sullied Spider-Man's reputation by masquerading as the hero in 1966, his actions goading the real Spidey into a trap, but through unbridled resourcefulness the wall-crawler hammered the hunter once again. Conceited to a fault, his losses sat poorly with Kraven, and over the next twenty years he frequently returned to attempt to capture Spider-Man, the occasional clash with Ka-Zar, Daredevil, and Man-Wolf aside. Eventually Kraven's sanity was eroded by his defeats and his loss of stature. In an applauded six-part story by writer J. M. DeMatteis and artist Mike Zeck, serialized throughout three different Spider-Man comics series in 1987, Kravinoff executed “Kraven's Last Hunt,” finally trapping the wall-crawler—“There's … something in his eyes! This isn't the Kraven I know!” thought a bewildered Spidey—and resorting to firearms, apparently killing the hero. Kraven then usurped the web-slinger's costumed identity, as he did in 1966, on a mad mission of proving his superiority to his fallen foe. Spider-Man was not actually dead, but tranquilized and buried alive, and he escaped from his grave. Satisfied with having bested Spider- Man, Kraven put a shotgun to his mouth and, in a scene chillingly rendered in silhouette by Zeck and inker Bob McLeod, committed suicide. Kraven's legacy has continued to populate the pages of Marvel Comics in the years after Kravinoff's demise. In the mid-1990s his son Vladimir Kravinoff briefly followed his father's footsteps by becoming the “Grim Hunter,” but died at the hands of the assassin Kaine, Spider-Man's evil clone. Alyosha Kravinoff, Kraven's illegitimate son first seen in 1997, was obsessed with learning about the father who abandoned him and adopted his Kraven the Hunter identity. After a few clashes with Spider-Man and the Black Panther, Alyosha realized that his gifts were better used for entertainment, adapting to a different type of jungle—Hollywood— as a film producer named “Al Kraven.” His adventures in Tinseltown were chronicled in the six-issue miniseries Get Kraven (2002)—but between the fickle nature of show business and the super-villainy in his blood, Kraven II may one day resume the hunt. Gregg Brewer played the original Kraven the Hunter in the animated series Spider-Man (1994–1998), and Michael Dorn voiced the villain in MTV's short-lived Spider-Man toon of 2003. A 2005 rumor that he would appear in the live-action film Spider-Man 3 was later dispelled. Never a top-tier Spider-foe, Kraven has sporadically appeared in merchandising in the 1990s and 2000s, including a Toy Biz action figure and collectible mini-busts.