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“All the power of electricity is mine!” cackles New York City's sizzling new supervillain as he loots an armored car by hurling lightning bolts from his hands. This is “The Man Called Electro,” making his voltaic debut in The Amazing Spider-Man #9 (1964), from the electrifying creative team of author Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko. Beneath Electro's vibrant green-and-yellow garb is Max Dillon, once an electrical lineman of limited character; in a flashback, he charges a fee from his boss to rescue a fellow worker trapped on a live wire, but in karmic retribution is zapped by lightning. Instead of harming him, however, the bolt energizes Dillon into a living power generator that instinctively recharges itself. Able to expel electrical blasts at the speed of lightning, Electro gives Spider-Man the shock of his nascent career until the wall-crawler short-circuits his foe with a nearby fire hose. The deviant dynamo returned a mere four months later to battle another superhero, Daredevil, in Daredevil #2 (1964), and resurfaced shortly thereafter in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1964) as one of the founding members—with Dr. Octopus, Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter, the Vulture, and Sandman—of the Sinister Six. Although unplugged by DD and Spidey in these tales, Dillon, the formerly self-doubting product of a dysfunctional family, found his confidence sparked by his awesome electrical abilities. Despite his effrontery, however, he still harbored insecurities, often preferring the safety of supervillainous teamwork—Electro attracted Daredevil rogues Stilt-Man, the Matador, the Gladiator, and Frog-Man to become the Emissaries of Evil, and has frequently returned with myriad Sinister Six refurbishments. Like an AC/DC current, throughout the 1970s Electro switched back and forth between battles with Spider-Man and Daredevil—occasionally jolting other heroes including Captain America and the Defenders—before focusing his ire mostly against Spidey in the ensuing decades. Electro's services are for hire: J. Jonah Jameson once contracted him to attempt to defeat Spider-Man … before a television audience! At the turn of the millennium, Electro traded his original uniform for blue-and-white togs; while fans had long criticized his gaudy green gear, his new look was universally loathed. Spider-rogue Venom killed the fashion-impaired Electro in 2000, but for an inexplicable reason Dillon zipped through the revolving door separating the corporeal world from the afterlife and, in true comicbook fashion, returned from the dead—in his original costume. One of Spider-Man's most dangerous foes, Electro can emit arcs of lightning from his fingertips, generate a protective electrical field, psionically control electronic devices, and siphon energy sources (in a 1993 story, he nearly succeeded in blacking out Manhattan). No matter how much power he obtains, Electro is, at heart, a schmuck with a gimmick, and through tenacity and cleverness Spider- Man is always able to turn out his lights. Electro's supercharged superpowers have made the character a natural for visual media. Tom Harvey voiced the villain on the 1967–1970 Spider- Man ABC cartoon; Allan Melvin (best known as the voice of Magilla Gorilla and for playing Sam the Butcher on The Brady Bunch) portrayed Electro in episodes of the animated Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981–1986); and Ethan Embry was a visually redesigned, nebbish-gone-bad Electro in several episodes of the short-lived MTV Spider-Man cartoon in 2003. The Spider-foe co-headlined the 2001 video game Spider-Man II: Enter Electro, has been manufactured as an action figure, and was one of the villains rumored to be played by Topher Grace in the movie Spider-Man 3 before Grace's role as Venom was announced in 2005.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.