<i>by <a href=http://twitter.com/sizzlerkistler>Alan Kistler, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> <p>Spider-Man has one of the most interesting and memorable rogues galleries in comics. And things always get hectic when several of his enemies decide to team-up. Very early in the web-spinner's career, his enemy Dr. Octopus gathered together five other villains and created the original Sinister Six, forcing the teenage Spider-Man to run through a gauntlet that he barely survived. <p>As the years have passed, there have been other incarnations of the Sinister Six. Once, it was reformed as the Sinister Seven. Another time, a group of villain formed as the Sinister Twelve. Most recently, the Sinister Six has gathered once more under Dr. Octopus. But rather than announcing themselves to the world, the Six have been content to operate from the shadows, biding their time while running secret operations. They also seem to be gelling better as a group, looking out for their teammates in the same way superhero teams usually do, making the whole unit more formidable than ever. <p>Now, we're getting close to the endgame where the Six will make their true master scheme known, as evidence by the recent issue of <b>Amazing Spider-Man #676.</b> But even if you read that issue, you may not know the history of the group's criminal members. So for new fans and old, here's an easy guide to the Sinister Six. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
When a lot of comic book fans and retailers talk about the Sandman, they mean Dream/Morpheus, the king of stories who was the focus of Neil Gaiman's critically acclaimed series. Or they may be talking about the 1940s adventurer Wesley Dodds, who wore a gasmask and used a sleeping gas gun against his enemies. <p>But years after Wesley Dodds stopped having regular adventures and long before Neil Gaiman got into comics, Spider-Man met a villain called Sandman. William Baker AKA Flint Marko was a career criminal who wound up inadvertently hiding in a nuclear testing site. Exposed to radiation, his molecules were fused with sand, allowing him to shift his entire body into the substance and control his shape and density. He started a whole new career with his powers, fighting Spider-Man on many occasions and becoming one of the original Sinister Six members. He also helped found the Frightful Four, battling the heroic Fantastic Four and the Avengers more than once. <p>At one point, the Sandman came to regret his criminal ways and attempted to play the part of a hero. He worked alongside the Thing and Spider-Man, even becoming a reserve Avenger. But his old Frightful Four teammate the Wizard used some brainwashing techniques to revert Baker back to his old, villainous Flint Marko persona and he's been a villain again since. Despite his criminal tendencies, Sandman is loyal to those he considers family, such as his daughter Keemia and some of the criminal colleagues who have fought beside him over the years.
A former Hollywood stuntman and special effects wizard, Quentin Beck decided to use his mastery of illusion to become a criminal. First he worked for the Tinkerer, then he went on his own as Mysterio. In his many stories, the villain has used a combination of holograms, hypnotic gases, robots and magician tricks to distort the perception of his enemies. He once convinced Spider-Man that he was only a few inches tall. Another time, he made the web-slinging hero seemingly discover that he was a TV star and that all his adventures had merely been fictional movies and TV specials he'd starred in. <p>Mysterio apparently contracted cancer later and then killed himself. Afterwards, a new Mysterio appeared, claiming at first to be the original though this was later revealed as a lie. Later on, yet a third Mysterio menaced Spider-Man. Finally, the true Quentin Beck returned, alive and well, having faked his suicide years earlier. <p>Since then, Mysterio has returned to his criminal activities in earnest, still after money and power but also taking a sick joy in making people doubt their sense of reality. A member of the original Sinister Six, he has operated with most incarnations of the team.
Aleksei Sytsevich AKA Alex O'Hirn was initially just a mercenary who was given an incredible suit that granted him near-invulnerability and massive strength. After a debut battle with Spider-Man, the Rhino went on to fight many heroes over the years, including the incredible Hulk more than once. For a while, his suit was fused to his skin and many of his crimes were performed so he could get enough money for the expensive surgeries it would take to remove it. Later, he was able to don and remove the suit at will. <p>The Rhino has shown some signs of sensitivity in the past. Though he's never seemed to have a problem trying to kill those he deems enemies (such as Spider-Man), he has no desire for bystanders to be caught up in his efforts. When his actions led to the accidental death of a security guard, the Rhino made sure to send money and an apology letter to the man's widow. He even once persuaded the Punisher not to kill the third villain called Stilt-Man. Finally, the Rhino turned himself in for his crimes, accepting a sentence at Ryker's Island. <p>Later released on early parole for his good behavior, Aleksei got married and felt his criminal life was behind him. But a new Rhino appeared, one who wanted to prove his superiority by besting the original. Aleksei wouldn't do it, having promised Spider-Man he wouldn't don his old suit again, and the new Rhino killed his wife later on. Blaming himself (and partly Spider-Man) for the death of his wife, Aleksei killed his successor and has resumed his role as the Rhino.
Maxwell Dillon was an electrical engineer initially. A lightning strike caused latent powers to emerge, turning him into a living capacitor, able to absorb and redirect electricity from his body. Even touching him could cause harm to others, due to his electrical aura. Initially asked to join Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants, Dillon refused and later began his career as the criminal Electro, fighting many heroes but most often battling Spider-Man, the first enemy he made. He also became a member of the original Sinister Six. <p>At times, others considered Electro a joke due to his seeming shortsightedness, attempting simple robberies that were nearly always foiled by the likes of Spider-Man. But in recent years, Electro has learned how to use his powers more effectively, making himself more formidable and increasing his reputation in the process. A while ago, he was hired to break open the super-villain prison known as the Raft, a disaster that led to the formation of the new Avengers team, months after the group had disbanded (in the story Avengers Disassembled). <p>Recently, Electro has become even more powerful, so much that it's disfigured his body, leading to a new resentment of humanity as a whole and his enemies especially. Including a certain wall-crawler who constantly interferes in his life.
The first costumed villain Spidey ever fought was Dimitri Smerdyakov AKA the Chameleon. Dimitri learned the power of deception at a very young age and became a skilled actor who was able to disguise his face, voice and form with a variety of techniques, experimental masks and a natural talent with mimicry and improvisation. The Chameleon is actually decades older than he looks, his aging slowed down greatly thanks to chemicals shared and used by his half-brother Kraven the Hunter. For many years, the Chameleon was a formidable spy for those who would pay him, until he masqueraded as Spider-Man during one mission and was then caught and exposed by the true hero. <p>Over the years, the Chameleon has taken his war against Spider-Man very personally, later improving his own techniques with holograms and miniaturized computers. He even recruited Kraven to help him defeat the hero. Kraven became even more obsessed than Dimitri with Spider-Man's defeat, joining the original Sinister Six and, years later, even burying Spider-Man alive, an action that was followed by the Hunter's suicide since he felt he had proven himself the hero's superior. The Chameleon blamed Kraven's death on Spider-Man and became more obsessed with defeating the hero than ever before. He later teamed up with one of the Green Goblins to attack the hero through his friend Peter Parker, going so far as to convince Parker that his long-dead parents were actually alive, a scheme that backfired when Spider-Man realized the deception and attacked the Chameleon so furiously that he suffered a psychotic break and it was years before he truly recovered his senses. <p>Now back in top form, the Chameleon is relying on more of his old tricks rather than high-tech gear to do the work of disguise for him. He event recently succeeded in resurrecting Kraven the Hunter, though this was not entirely welcome by a man who had intentionally killed himself. With all the bad blood between him and Spider-Man, its no wonder the Chameleon was happy to take Kraven's old slot in the new Sinister Six.
There are many fans that argue that Spider-Man's true archenemy is not the Green Goblin but Dr. Otto Octavius, the man called Dr. Octopus. Otto Octavius was a genius, of that there can be no doubt. Years of mental abuse from his mother left him distrustful of people and focused totally on science, determined to show that he was master of radiation while others were fearful of it. In the lab, Octavius used a harness equipped with telescoping mechanical arms so he could multi-task and keep his distance from some of the more dangerous experiments. This earned him the nickname of Dr. Octopus among his peers. <p>An explosion involving radioactive substances left Otto in a hospital, his arms now fused to his body and his brain seemingly damaged. To his shock, he now mentally controlled his arms and was able to summon them even when they were later safely removed. Believing the brain damage was merely his mind rewiring itself to perform this incredible power and that he was now truly superior to humanity, Otto embraced the name Dr. Octopus and has made various campaigns to control New York's criminal underworld or rule the world at large, either alone or with the Sinister Six at his side. Several times he's nearly succeeded and it is important to note that he was the first super-villain to directly defeat Spider-Man in personal combat. <p>Though he's fought many foes over the years, Doc Ock considers Spider-Man his true arch-enemy, frustrated by how the wise-cracking hero has also turned out to be highly intelligent, enough to constantly defeat his schemes and advanced technology. At one point, Dr. Octopus was actually killed but an ally later had him resurrected through mystical means. His defeat of death has only increased the man's megalomania. Now that his body is failing him and he's forced to rely on a high-tech life-support suit, the doctor knows that time is running out and he must make his greatest move yet...