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NOTE: The following article contains spoilers for The Amazing Spider-Man.

The “sequel tease” is, by now, as obligatory to superhero movies as masks and capes. Either directly before, during or after the ending credits, an extra scene fades into view revealing some new piece of information – maybe a character thought dead is alive, maybe the villain for the next film makes an appearance, that sort of thing. The modern trend started with Batman Begins’ climactic reassurance to mainstream audiences that the next movie will feature a villain they’d actually heard of, but it was cemented in Iron Man when Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury stepped out of the shadows and declared that the superhero genre was about to evolve to the next level.

The Amazing Spider-Man (just to reiterate – a God awful film) concludes with probably the most perplexing “the hell?” example of such a tease yet, whereas The Avengers big reveal likely baffled anyone not steeped in Marvel Universe lore. Even die-hard fans can’t seem to figure out what Amazing Spider-Man is trying to tell us. Dr. Curt “The Lizard” Connors is sulking in his prison cell during a thunderstorm, when a mysterious figure steps out of the shadows, his face hidden, clad in a long black coat, futzing with a hat and speaking like someone doing a late-period Nick Nolte impression. He’s come to grill Connors about Peter Parker – specifically, how much he’s told him about his father (in the new continuity, Richard Parker and Connors were OsCorp scientists who invented the super science gobbledygook that turns Peter into Spidey and Connors into the Lizard before dying alongside his wife under conspiratorial-looking circumstances). Connors tells the mystery man to leave Peter alone, after which, the man seemingly vanishes from the room during a thunderclap.

So … who was that? I don’t know, and I don’t think the moviemakers know, either. The Amazing Spider-Man is said to have undergone extensive reshoots (which may or may not have involved excising what were supposed to be big story-changing plot points and/or setups for the next movie) so it’s wholly possible that this was supposed to be a specific character who’s now been re-edited into a mystery-man-to-be-determined-later. Most of the early speculation made the obvious conclusion that it had to be Norman Osborn (re: The Green Goblin) who is unseen in the film but repeatedly said to be dying of some unspecified illness that Connors’ shady genetic-engineering research was supposed to be curing. But now, according to The Lizard himself, that’s apparently not the case.

So, who was that? Or, rather, who will the makers of The Amazing Spider-Man Part II decide he was? Here’s a set of my best guesses, based on what little is seen/heard of the guy in question, the circumstances of his appearance, compatibility of theoretical comic characters with the world of the film and other factors.

Mendel Stromm

An early and comparatively minor nemesis from the early days of Spider-Man continuity, today mostly notable because he ties in to the origins of the Green Goblin and because his relationship to Norman Osborn (he was Norman’s college professor; they became friends and went into business together before Stromm went bad) is kind of ironically similar to Peter Parker’s relationship with educator/father figures turned evil like Curt Connors and Miles Warren. He appeared, briefly, in the original Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie as the scientist in charge of the project that ultimately creates The Green Goblin. His presence here would make as much sense as anyone else, though it’s unlikely he’d warrant a teaser of his own.

Spencer and/or Alastair Smythe

Spider-Man continuity has more mad scientists kicking about than a Transylvania TED Talk. Spencer Smythe is a scientist contracted by J. Jonah Jameson to build remote controlled anti-Spidey robots called “Spider-Slayers.” Eventually Spencer got his ticket punched, but his son Alastair picked up the mantle and kept the robot-making dream alive, eventually mutating himself into a “human” Spider-Slayer.

Electro

I’m putting this on here pretty much exclusively because the shadowy figure seems to “teleport” in and out of the prison cell during lightning, and because he’s a fan favorite character in a similar vein to The Lizard. Electro has one of the best simple/brilliant/goofy origin stories in comics: Maxwell Dillon is an electrical-engineer who gets struck by lightning while working on power lines and, instead of killing him, the jolt grants him electricity powers which he uses to become a criminal. Sadly, it’s a given that a movie would probably try to come up with something more convoluted and “realistic” than that.

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Miles Warren AKA “The Jackal”

The Jackal was a decent if not especially memorable 70s Spider foe who later became infamous when he (and his most famous storyline) were resurrected as the basis for the legendarily bad “Clone Saga”. Warren is a science teacher who was nursing a crush on his student Gwen Stacy. When she was killed by the Green Goblin, he went nuts and invented cloning in order to bring her back to life by funding his experiments with crimes committed while disguised as a green jackal-man. I elaborated on what came next here. It actually makes a lot of sense for him to show up in this new movie series, given the emphasis on super science and the presence of Gwen Stacy.

Ezekiel Sims

Now THIS would be interesting. Ezekiel is an aging, wealthy businessman/philanthropist who has the same powers as Spider-Man, except he gained his through ritual totemic magic. In lengthy early-2000s story arc, Ezekiel tells Peter Parker that his spider-powers are magical, too; the radioactive spider meant to bite him and pass on these abilities. He helped Peter battle a series of Spider-Totem-hunting threats, but it turned out they were really after Ezekiel, who’d been trying to position Peter as a fall guy sacrifice. It’s actually not quite as bad as it sounds, though a lot of bad story turns eventually spun out of it.

Silvio Manfreddi AKA “Silvermane”

Silvermane is a mafia boss, who is later a slightly more interesting cyborg mafia boss. In his first appearance, he forced Curt Connors to synthesize a youth potion from a formula on an ancient tablet … which winds up turning him into a baby, and then later an erratically aging adult requiring cybernetics to stay alive.

Doctor Octopus

If you don’t know who this is, you probably aren’t reading this article.

Norman Osborn AKA “The Green Goblin”

Studio publicity doesn’t always tell the truth, and actors are not always in the loop as to script/production decisions. In other words, even though it’s been “denied,” I’d still call this the most likely candidate.

Richard Parker

Hear me out on this one.

Something seems to be missing from The Amazing Spider-Man. Almost all of the trailers include a line of dialogue where someone (Connors?) asks Peter Parker if he thinks what happened was really an accident and if he knows what he “really” is. The whole re-imagined back story is all about setting up some conspiracy mystery in the deaths of Richard and Mary Parker, a conspiracy that Curt Connors, the rival OsCorp scientist played by Irfahn Kahn, all seem to have intimate knowledge of. And yet, none of it actually seems to involve any secret about Peter himself, and the “what you really are?” dialogue doesn’t appear in the film. Also, Kahn’s character vanishes midway through.

What happened? Well, according to web gossip as fresh as two months ago the film was originally going to make a much more dramatic change to Spider-Man’s origins. Richard Parker would’ve been revealed to have tested the Secret Formula stuff on himself and passed the genetic-changes to his son Peter, and these already latent abilities would’ve been “activated” by the spider-bite. In other words, the same reworked origin from the Ang Lee Hulk movie.

The studio never confirmed or denied this rumor, but if it was there and hacked out at the last second (it’s said that there were reshoots after test screenings) it explains an awful lot. The super science holy grail Connors and others are seeking on behalf of Osborn is the ability to successfully cross animal and human DNA, and while Connors can pull it off, he can’t stabilize it – hence The Lizard. Peter, on the other hand, was able to absorb spider traits without turning into a Spider which, in the film, is never adequately explained. But if Peter is carrying the stabilizing agent in his own blood, that not only explains the powers but also gives cause for Osborn etc. to chase him down in the sequels.

Meanwhile, who knows what really became of Richard Parker, if he indeed tried the stuff on himself. If they were already going to snag the ill-advised genetic legacy business from Hulk, why not also steal the ill-advised “Hero’s-Dad-as-Evil-Version-of-Hero” stuff as well?

Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.

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