Musing on the Sinister Six

I’ve been doing research into super villain team-ups lately. Like super hero team-ups, these fall into basically two categories: Teams like the X-Men or their evil counterparts in the Brotherhood of Mutants who are built from the ground up to be teams, and post-hoc team-ups of established heroes/villains like the Avengers or our heroes today, the Sinister Six. Creating a villain team isn’t that different from creating an ensemble cast of heroes, and the ensemble outlines I’ve already written about apply equally to them. What about Avengers-style villain team-ups?

I haven’t determined any general purpose rules for them yet, probably because so far I’ve only really examined the Sinister Six, but here’s what I’ve found about that particular line-up.

The original Sinister Six line-up consists of Doc Ock, Electro, Vulture, Sandman, Mysterio, and Kraven the Hunter. The middle four are in no particular order, but notably Doc Ock is almost always the leader of the Sinister Six and Kraven is only there because “Sinister Five” isn’t alliterative. Spidey has subsequently gotten much better villains to fill that spot. Hobgoblin and Rhino have filled the sixth spot in the past, and while Venom was only ever a part of Sandman’s Sinister Six assembled for revenge on Doc Ock, he’s also a good choice for the sixth spot. The 2018 video game put Mister Negative in there, and even though Mister Negative is a C-tier villain no one cares about, it still worked, because Kraven’s spot is a total wild card, so go ahead and shove your favorite underrated Spidey villain in there, it’s a free space.

Chameleon and Shocker have also been in the Sinister Six before, but they’ve got a bit of overlap with Electro and Mysterio, respectively, so you should probably avoid putting them in the same story unless you have a plan to draw attention to their differences. Also, Beetle makes appearances surprisingly often, despite the fact that you have never heard of him and don’t care, and Scorpion makes appearances surprisingly rarely, despite the fact that he’s no more averse to team-ups than most villains and is easily as recognizable as some of the roster-fillers like Mysterio and Vulture.

Into the Spider-Verse had a very different Sinister Six line-up. Kingpin is in charge, Doc Ock is his number two (she isn’t especially loyal and has her own motives, but that is true of most Sinister Six members – in their first appearance, their infighting led to them running a gauntlet on Spidey one by one because they refused to work directly with one another, and Spidey mocked them at the end for being defeated when they probably would’ve won if they’d just worked together). Green Goblin, who is normally too megalomaniacal to work with other villains in any capacity except as their undisputed master, and Scorpion, who is perfectly good Sinister Six fodder but doesn’t usually join for no reason I can think of, are both on the team. Prowler is normally an also-ran villain unworthy of a Sinister Six spot, but in Spider-Verse he stole the show as the stand-out villain of the bunch, and then also Tombstone was there. He is also normally an also-ran villain unworthy of a Sinister Six spot, and in Spider-Verse, he is still that. Nothing’s perfect, I guess.

The Spider-Verse version breaks a lot of Sinister Six rules, like “the Green Goblin never joins the Sinister Six” and “Doc Ock always leads the Sinister Six.” If you want to make your own Sinister Six story, do not do this. In Spider-Verse, the whole point is that Miles Morales’ dimension is similar, but different, to Peter B. Parker’s. His Scorpion has eight limbs (nine, counting the tail), his Green Goblin is a hulking brute instead of a lithe super soldier, his Doc Ock is a woman, and his Kingpin was bitten by a radioactive dump truck. You can swap out any member of the Sinister Six if it serves a purpose, and in Spider-Verse, there was a purpose to be served by the entire line-up being radically altered. Sandman’s Sinister Six had no Doc Ock at all because its purpose was for revenge on Doc Ock. Speaking of Sandman, he dances across the hero/villain line now and then, which means he might sometime be unavailable for his usually sacrosanct spot in the roster, and will have to be replaced (you could even get a good story out of Sandman confronting his former allies in the Sinister Six as a friend of Spider-Man).

This is a slapped together post about a half-complete research project I happened to be undertaking, so it’s not really going anywhere and has no conclusion except for this sentence explaining a lack of a conclusion. So. Uh. Have a sinister Tuesday.

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