Kirk Smith of Screenrant has a decent but kind of long-winded explanation for why many, not all, of Spider-Man’s villains are animal-based, and it’s kind of interesting but it’s also the kind of theory that makes a person stop for a moment and go ‘what?’ since it sounds like more fantasy than even Marvel normally gets into. The explanation is that he’s a totem hero, someone that was chosen by destiny to take on the role that he was given, in other words to be bitten by a spider that knew it was dying and bestowed upon him the power to bridge the gap between animals and humans. As Smith explains it Peter wasn’t the first to receive this gift and he wouldn’t be the last one to take the qualities of a totem either, as many of his enemies would eventually come to plague him in the years to come using animal-like names, appearances, powers, and so on. Granted, there are many other villains that have gone after the wallcrawler with murderous intent that weren’t based on animals, in fact some were based on elements, in a way, such as Sandman and Hydro Man. Electro, Mysterio, and yes, even Kraven the Hunter fit this bill since like it or not Kraven is a human that hunts his prey draped in animal skins, he doesn’t have an animal name or even the appearance of one. But let’s get into a few that do.
Adrian Toomes is kind of a despicable but also tragic character since originally he was a man who found out that his business partner had embezzled everything he had and split. In his rage he eventually became the Vulture, using the flight harness he’d created to wreak havoc on the city and become a remorseless killer. Despite being an older man he still managed to give Spider-Man a hard time throughout many issues and would eventually team up with other villains to make Spidey’s life even harder. The manner in which he was brought back to prominence in Spider-Man: Homecoming was kind of great, but hopefully he’ll show up again in Morbius to a greater extent.
This one is really all in the name since there’s not an octopus alive that Doc Ock resembles and not one in nature that would be able to replicate what his mechanical arms can do. Still, he’s been one of Spidey’s deadliest enemies throughout the years thanks to his intelligence and the insanely deadly appendages that make him such a threat. The fact that they respond to his mental commands makes him even more dangerous since the speed of thought is something even Spidey can’t always defend against. His appearance in Spider-Man 2 was kind of impressive, but his death scene left a little to be desired.
This guy has to be one of the most abused of Spider-Man’s enemies thus far since he’s had one appearance in the movies and it was horrific given that he became a guy in a mechanized suit, which wasn’t horrible, but Paul Giamatti just wasn’t the guy for the role. Rhino is a true beast of a man, and is someone that’s been able to take on much heavier hitters than Spider-Man, no matter if he loses. But it would be great to see him step up in a movie down the road to really come out as the kind of guy that a lot of comics fans would like to see.
Lizard is actually one of Spider-Man’s oldest enemies and has been around for a while, though he’s also one of those that doesn’t always get the kind of attention he should really since he’s one of the more dangerous among the rogue’s gallery that Spidey has to deal with so often. Curt Connors’ story is kind of a tragic one much like many villains, but his regression into the Lizard is a great story arc that has given Spider-Man one of the deadliest enemies in his long history.
Scorpion is something of a lesser-known Spider-Man villain that would likely get stomped into the ground by many other heroes that don’t care too much about keeping the bad guys in one piece. He’s tough, he’s nasty, and he has a reason to hate Spider-Man like a lot of people, but it doesn’t help that J. Jonah Jameson was in a way responsible for bringing this character into being. Scorpion has actually defeated Spidey a couple of times, but the process that made this possible wrecked his mind in a way and at some point he was defeated. Despite having an interesting story he’s still not that famous since he hasn’t really escaped the comics or the cartoons, where he still hasn’t been as prevalent.
Throughout all of this the one explanation is that both Spider-Man and his enemies have served as totems to link animals and humans together in a strange way that makes sense for a comic book, but might need a little more explaining for a live action movie.