Spider-Man has one of the best rogues’ galleries in comics—formidable and iconic villains like Green Goblin, Venom, and Doctor Octopus. Heck, only Batman has a better set of bad guys. But Spider-Man has got some real D-list baddies too. ( The Hypno-Hustler, anyone?) But one of those second-string bad guys, known as the Spot, has a pretty big role in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. And he’s actually quite powerful. Whether he realizes it or not. But who is this forgotten Spider-Man villain, now movie star? And is the Spot secretly…kind of cool? Here’s the Marvel Comics history of the Spot, one of the most unlikely Spider-Man villains ever to get the cinematic treatment.
The Origin of the Spot, Spider-Man’s Goofiest-Looking Villain
The villain known as the Spot first appeared in Marvel Comics as an unnamed scientist at MIT; he arrived in 1984’s Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #97. Writer Al Milgrom and artist Herb Trimpe created him. In the very next issue, they revealed the Spot as Jonathan Ohnn, who worked for Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. the villainous Kingpin. Working for Fisk, they tasked the soon-to-be Spot with trying to replicate the powers of the Marvel hero called Cloak, of the duo Cloak and Dagger. Cloak could create portals out of his own being, and the Kingpin wanted that power for himself. Working late one evening, he thought he cracked the code to Cloak’s dimension. But Ohnn actually wound up in a different dimension, one-half dark and one-half light.
This dimension was filled with various small black portals that opened up into other realities. Ohnn found a way back to Earth eventually by going through one, but many of the small black portals had already attached themselves to his body. He discovered he could use these black holes by throwing them and opening portals. Once returning to Earth, he confronted the Kingpin’s nemesis Spider-Man, declaring himself “the Spot.” Spider-Man laughed right in his face at the dumb name that made him sound like a pet. Spidey soundly defeated the Spot, leaving him humiliated. After all, being able to throw interdimensional portals? WAY cooler than having octopus tentacles or rhino skin. Having Spider-Man beat you, regardless of how powerful you were, must have been downright embarrassing for the Spot.
The Spot’s Marvel Comics Fate
After a few defeats at the hands of Spider-Man, Marvel relegated the Spot to permanent loser status. The character was conceived of as a joke villain, but the fact that they gave him such incredible powers makes it a kind of depressing joke. Since his first Marvel Comics appearance, the Spot continually popped up here and there, usually fighting Spider-Man, sometimes in battle with another hero like Daredevil. Often, the Spot was part of a larger Marvel criminal team, like the Sinister Sixteen, MODOK’s 11, or the Legion of Losers. The fact that he was part of a team with a name like that shows you everything you need to know about how the Spot saw himself.
The Spot’s Powers in the Spider-Man Comics
Despite the dumb name, Marvel’s the Spot was pretty formidable power-wise. With his trademark space warp spots, the Spot could transport himself or any part of his body from one area to another, all over what seemed like an unlimited distance. The Spot is able to do all these things thanks to the dimension that gave him these powers. A dimension he unimaginatively named “Spotworld.” These spots could be small, large, and even suspended in the air. The Spider-Man villain could also change their size at will.
The Spot could even control which portal could lead to Spotworld, and which could open up somewhere else in this dimension. Because of his connection to Spotworld, the Spot learned that he was effectively immortal. This power set technically made him one of Spider-Man’s most formidable Marvel Comics foes. Or at least, it should have. But he’s inflicted less damage on Spider-Man than some weak villains with names like the Looter and The Answer.
The Spot’s Role in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Until now, the Spot’s most prominent role outside the pages of Marvel Comics had been in the 1990s Spider-Man: The Animated Series. He appeared in that show in season three’s “The Spot,” and then again in the recent 2017 Spider-Man cartoon. Now, Jason Schwartzman portrayed this loser villain in Across the Spider-Verse. And he’s even Across the Spider-Verse‘s “Big Bad.” The Spot was always the Spider-Man villain with the most potential when it comes to his powers and abilities, and yet he was barely ever used as anything but a punchline.
In Across the Spider-Verse, we learned that this Jonathan Ohnn was a scientist working at Earth-1610’s Alchemax. He transported the radioactive spider from Earth-42 to his dimension, causing the chain of events leading Miles Morales to become Spider-Man. When Kingpin’s Super-Collider was destroyed, Johnathan became corrupted by dark matter, transforming him into the Spot, a villain who can create dimensional portals across space and parallel worlds.
Blaming his current situation on Miles Morales, and fighting him in a rather hilarious sequence early in the film, the Spot became hellbent on revenge for Miles making him something both more (and also less) than human. We’ll find out in Beyond the Spider-Verse if he can succeed when it comes to exacting vengeance on poor Miles, or if he’s truly a joke “villain of the week” or not. Who ever thought that this reject of a bad guy could potentially destroy all reality? The Spot proves even the goofiest bad guy has potential.
Originally published June 1, 2023.