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“Has the amazing Spider-Man turned to crime?” asks writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko's splash page for The Amazing Spider- Man vol. 1 #13 (1964), which depicts the webslinger on the lam with a stolen money bag. This crime is actually committed by Mysterio, aka Quentin Beck, a television special-effects master who disguises himself as Spidey to frame the hero and reap glory—plus a significant reward—by capturing him. Beck longs for more of the spotlight than his behind-the-scenes trade affords, and he attires himself in green with a purple cape and a crystal ball–like one-way helmet (he can see out, but no one can see in) to tackle Spider-Man. Beck's Mysterio uniform is a sartorial warehouse of effects weaponry—he immerses himself in an eerie cloud of fog, leaps prodigiously with solemounted springs, and wields a spray that dissolves Spider-Man's webbing—but through stick-to-itiveness Spidey foils Mysterio's plans and exposes him as a supervillain. In Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1964), Mysterio accepted Dr. Octopus' invitation to join the Sinister Six, allying with Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Sandman, and the Vulture in (unsuccessful) gang warfare against Spider-Man; Mysterio remained a Sixer in many revivals of the team. In a classic 1968 clash, Mysterio made Spidey believe that he was trapped inside a miniature model of a danger-filled amusement park, and on more than one occasion he drove the wall-crawler to the brink of insanity. Soured by each defeat, Mysterio continually upgraded his weaponry, over time adding hallucinogenic gasses, holographs, toxins, robots, and even hypnotism and slight-of-hand trickery to his repertoire. With each new encounter, this master of illusions so disoriented Spider-Man that the hero could no longer trust his eyes, learning that nothing with Mysterio was as it seemed. Nor was Mysterio always who he seemed. During a period when the villain had faked his demise, a new Mysterio—Beck's successor Danny Berkhart—made the web-slinger believe that the illusionist had risen from the dead. Berkhart donned the Mysterio guise on several occasions, but Beck later returned to the identity. Eventually Beck discovered that he had developed terminal cancer from repeated exposure to his illusion-casting chemicals (Daredevil vol. 2 #7, 1999, by Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada). Targeting a new adversary, Daredevil, for a final hurrah, Mysterio was mortified after failing to defeat the Man without Fear with an elaborate web of deceptions and took his own life. Yet with Mysterio, no one can be fully certain if his death was real. Berkhart resumed the Mysterio mantle, and the miniseries Spider-Man: The Mysterio Manifesto (2001) alleviated reader confusion by clarifying which Mysterio appeared in various Spider-Man stories. One thing with Mysterio is certain: his superpowers translate well to animation. The insidious illusionist (voiced by Chris Wiggins) appeared in two episodes of the original 1967–1970 Spider- Man toon, both adapting comics stories, as well as in an episode of Spidey's 1994–1998 series, with Gregg Brewer playing the villain.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.