Comics Features TV

Spider-Man 101: The Sinister Six

Ah, the Sinister Six. One of the greatest villain team ups of all time, the Sinister Six have come back again and again in many incarnations to battle Spider-Man across the years. Just about every major Spidey villain has had a position in the team. It was recently announced that the impending incarnate to appear in The Amazing Spider-Man film series would be getting their own spin-off movie. A promising and exciting idea to say the least. So with the anticipation sure to rise over the next few years before the film arrives, I thought I would take the time to explore the history of the Sinister Six and their numerous appearances over the years. However, there are quite a lot, so I’ll look back at their major appearances in the comics and other media.


The Sinister Six first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 in 1964, formed when Dr. Octopus decided to get back at Spider-Man for his past defeats. Doc Ock called upon Spider-Man’s other defeated enemies to form a team – while the Green Goblin fobbed him off, Doc Ock recruited Vulture, Sandman, Electro, Mysterio, and Kraven the Hunter into the Sinister Six. However, the team was doomed from the word go. No one was willing to give up their personal desire to defeat Spider-Man, so they decided to fight him one at a time rather than as an actual group. Aunt May and Daily Bugle secretary Betty Brant were both taken captive, and Vulture spilled the beans to J. Jonah Jameson about their challenge for Spider-Man to come and fight them.

Poor Peter Parker was having his own troubles at this point, who lost his powers due to going into an angsty period over Uncle Ben’s death. However, the kidnapping of his loved ones prompted Peter to swing back into action and by pure luck he regained his powers to make mincemeat of his enemies, until he battled Doc Ock inside a giant fish bowl. No, seriously, that does happen. Spider-Man defeated Doc Ock, rescued Betty and Aunt May, and the Sinister Six all ended up in jail, blaming each other for their disastrous defeat.

The Sinister Six made a comeback in The Amazing Spider-Man #334-339, released in 1990, but with a couple of changes. Dr. Octopus, Vulture, Electro, and Mysterio were back, along with Sandman who was trying to reform himself at the time. However, Kraven had killed himself in the epic story “Kraven’s Last Hunt”, so the Six hired the maniacal Hobgoblin to replace him. However, it was all another plan by Doc Ock as part of a scheme to eventually conquer the world, but Sandman turned traitor and helped Spider-Man defeat the group once again.

Enraged at Dr. Octopus’ betrayal, the other members of the Sinister Six reformed with the intention on pounding the eight-limbed scientist into mush, as seen in Spider-Man Vol 1. #18-23. To get Sandman onboard, the four bombed his family and put the blame of Doc Ock. The five attacked Doc Ock, with Sandman asking Spider-Man to shadow the group, but the team’s original founder was ready for them. Armed with new tentacles made from adamantium, Doc Ock soundly kicked the crud out of his former comrades and immobilised Sandman by turning his body to glass with a flashy weapon, before beating up Spider-Man and nearly killing him. By the time the cops arrived, the other Sinister Six members decided the best way to evade the police was to team up with Doc Ock again, going on a rampage across several places including an alien dimension where they recruit a sixth member, a giant reptile man named Gog. Spider-Man was aided by several other superheroes, and the Sinister Six was defeated once again.

Shortly after, Sandman recovered and rallied the Sinister Six to once again get revenge of Doc Ock. The team consisted of Sandman, Electro, Vulture, Venom, Kraven’s son Alyosha Kravinoff, and Daniel Berkhart as the second Mysterio. However, the team quickly fell apart when Venom attacked them, poisoning Sandman and causing his body to collapse, though he survives this near death experience. Venom wounded Electro and Alyosha, before Eddie Brock was separated from his symbiote, and this incarnation of the team disbanded. Later, Norman Osborn formed the Sinister Twelve in Marvel Knights Spider-Man, consisting of himself, Scorpion, Vulture, Electro, Sandman, Chameleon, the Lizard, Hydro Man, Shocker, Hammerhead, Boomerang and Tombstone. Spider-Man and Black Cat took them on, but the arrival of the Avengers put the ambitious Sinister Twelve in their place, with the Green Goblin getting thrown into a river.

The most recent incarnation of the group in the main comic series was the Superior Six, formed by Dr. Octopus while possessing Peter Parker’s body as the Superior Spider-Man. Brainwashing Sandman, Electro, Vulture, Chameleon, and a copycat of Mysterio named Mysterion, the Superior Spider-Man led them against the evil Lightmaster and the Wrecking Crew, but an attack by Sun Girl, Lightmaster’s daughter, destroys his control over the Superior Six. Superior Spider-Man and Sun Girl have to defeat them, though their partnership is short lived and the Six are sent packing once again.

The Ultimate Spider-Man incarnation was called the Ultimate Six, formed by the Green Goblin to destroy S.H.I.E.L.D. The group consisted of the Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, Electro, Sandman, Vulture, and Spider-Man – the latter being forced to join when he believed Aunt May was being held prisoner, until Captain America exposed the trick. The group later returned to kill Peter Parker, knowing he was Spider-Man. After a brutal, bloody battle involving the Human Torch, Iceman, and even a gun-toting Aunt May, Peter and Norman Osborn both die in the battle, putting an end to this incarnation of the Sinister Six.

Other Media

Spider-Man: The Animated Series had a version of the group called the Insidious Six, renamed by Fox Kids’ censors since they found the word “sinister” too scary for kids (yeah, they were pretty weird). Formed by the Kingpin, the group was made up of Dr. Octopus, Chameleon, Mysterio, Scorpion, Rhino and Shocker, but their argumentative ways and several clever ploys on Peter’s part lead to the team’s defeate. They later returned in the “Six Forgotten Warriors” arc, where Vulture replaced the dead Mysterio, and Chameleon betrayed them for his foster father, the Red Skull. Yeah, the 90’s show was pretty awesome.

The Spectacular Spider-Man has a pretty awesome incarnation of the Sinister Six, having all the original six members at one point along with Rhino and Shocker in the first incarnation, as well as the Tinkerer as an assistant. The team was defeated by Spider-Man, although Dr. Octopus and Vulture remained active for some time until arrested. The group also appearred in the controversial Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, consisting of the really creepy incarnation of Dr. Octopus, Electro, Rhino, Kraven, the Beetle, and the captured Lizard, while the second version replaced Beetle with Scorpion. Spider-Man has his own superhero team in the cartoon, allowing for a unique team vs. team battle in the Sinister Six’s appearances.

I’d comment on the incarnation that appears in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, but the less said about the musical, the better. Seriously, who the heck is Swiss Miss? Now, as for which members could appear in The Amazing Spider-Man films, recent news has implied who might be appearing, but I’ll be addressing that more fully in a later article. Until then, you’ll just have to enjoy the mystery!

Who are your favourite members of the Sinister Six, and what is your ideal roster for the group? Who would you like to see in the movie incarnation? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Mark Russell