Ever wondered who is the most popular Spider-Man villain? Spidey’s got so many adversaries, there’s got to be one who is top dog, right? But who could it be?
Is it Doc Ock? Maybe Kraven the Hunter? What about Paste-Pot Pete?! Heck, could it be the Chameleon?
Well, the folks over at Zavvi believe they’ve worked it out, and can tell you who the most popular Spider-Man villain is. And for the record, the online retailer has not just yanked names out of a crinkled Spider-Man mask, they’ve done their homework!
The team have used some maths, a bit of research, and a lot of patience, to come up with some figures. They then compared results accordingly, to provide the ‘Number #1 Bad Guy’.
Now before I get to the all-important result, which I know you’ve itching to see, let me first explain how they reached their conclusion.
To begin their list of potential candidates, the Zavvi guys headed over to Instagram and searched for hashtags related to Spider-Man villains (#Venom, #Mysterio, etc). To meet the criteria for this exercise, and to ensure the hashtags weren’t just random words, the team set two stipulations: The hashtag had to be the villain’s costumed alias (not their alter-ego) and the name had to be accompanied by a ‘Marvel’ hashtag.
The additional of the ‘Marvel’ hashtag was to make it clear that each time the word was being used on Instagram, it was in relation to a Marvel villain and not something else. After all, many Marvel villains have names that can relate to something in the real-world.
Once the hashtag data was collated, the team then headed over to Ahrefs, to check out the average global search volume for each villain. This information gives an indication of how often the character name is searched online.
The two figures were then combined to produce an overall total (hashtag + avg. search vol) to inform their rankings. So, for example, when searching for Sandman, the number of Instagram hashtags for this character was 173, while the average search volume was 12000, resulting in a combined total of 12173.
Once each villain was given an overall total, the results were used to create a ‘popularity’ list. In total, 23 names appear on the list… although, sadly, Paste-Pot Pete is not one of them.
So, who topped the list? Who is the most popular Spider-Man villain and who languished at the bottom of the pile?
Well, some of the results might surprise you a little.
According to Zavvi, the most popular Spider-Man villain is Carnage! The character – first introduced in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man – topped the list with a whopping 12398 Instagram hashtags, and an average search volume of 74000, to achieve a combined score of 86398.
This is a huge achievement for Carnage (aka Cletus Kasaday), although not entirely unlikely, as he has been a popular villain with comic book readers since his debut back in 1992. And his popularity has increased in recent years thanks to appearances in two live-action Venom movies.
Commenting on Carnage’s ranking, Alistair Ryder, editor at Zavvi, said:
“The recent Venom films have struck a chord with audiences because they offer big, silly fun at a time when superhero movies keep trying to get serious. Carnage’s recent ascent to the big screen in the Venom sequel has transformed the character into much more of a household name, inspiring fans to go back to the comic book origins of Cletus Kasady, a complicated adversary to Spider-Man, and the ultimate arch nemesis of Venom.”
Carnage’s nearest rival on Zavvi’s list is Black Cat, who came in second place. Black Cat boasted an overall score of 70137.
Third on the list was Venom, followed by Morbius (4), Mysterio (5), Kingpin (6), Vulture (7), Rhino (8), Sandman (9), and Prowler (10). Yes, Prowler!
Bit of a shock, I know. But if you think Prowler appearing in tenth place is an eye-opener, then you might want to sit down for this next revelation: Doctor Octopus came in 22nd on the list, while Kraven the Hunter was 23rd!
It feels bizarre for me to be typing out these words, but it’s true, the villain who ranked the least popular on the list was Kraven the Hunter. Despite being a classic Spidey foe, and considered to be very popular amongst the comic book community, Kraven only served up a mere 12 hashtags on Instagram, and an average search volume of 400, resulting in a woeful score of just 412!
Pretty poor form for Kraven, right? Well, yes, but Doctor Octopus didn’t do too well either!
Doc Ock limped in just above Kraven with an overall total of just 601. This was achieved through a dreadful Instagram hashtag score of just one hashtag(!), along with an average search volume of a mere 600.
Perhaps most surprising is that Daily Bugle mouthpiece and Spider-Man detractor, J. Jonah Jameson, didn’t feature on the list at all. Sure, Jameson isn’t a villain in the traditional sense, but then neither is Black Cat, and yet she made it into second place.
I can only presume the lack of Jameson is due to a.) there being no hashtags for the character on Instagram, and b.) no one wanting to see ol’ sour puss on the social media platform. Can’t blame users for that one – why look at Jameson’s mug when there are more positive people on the ‘Gram?
Other fairly well-known villains that didn’t make the list include Alistair Smythe, Carrion, Demogoblin, Shriek, Jack O’ Lantern, Puma, and Man-Wolf! The Spot also didn’t feature on the list, but I guess he’s only popular in my heart… and nowhere else.
So, why did Carnage top the list and why do characters such as Doctor Octopus and Kraven rank so low?
Well, it’s important to remember that while this is a ‘popularity’ list, it takes into account who is most popular at present – it is not necessarily a rundown of ‘the best’ villains, or ‘the most liked/disliked’ Spidey villains since the dawn of time. It is very much a time sensitive thing and if this study was conducted again in a couple of years, the results could be quite different, depending on which characters were doing the rounds at the time.
For example, Carnage likely topped the list in 2022 because a.) he’s a fan-favourite character, b.) he recently appeared in the movie Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and c.) this year he celebrates his 30th anniversary – something which Marvel have been actively marketing. All of these things have helped increase his presence online.
Likewise, many of the characters that appear in the Top Ten are connected to movies or are topics of discussion right now. Venom is a huge movie star, Morbius is about to appear in a film, and Mysterio is a key villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In the case of the Black Cat, while she doesn’t have a movie out at present, she recently headlined a comic. I also imagine her appearance, and the way she is often drawn in comics, makes her very popular on Instagram and in online searches.
For me, the thing I find most interesting about this study, is why Doctor Octopus and Kraven rank so low. Could it really be they are not popular villains? Or could a more technical reason be behind this result?
It’s possible Doctor Octopus has such a poor Instagram presence because users include the hashtag #DocOck, rather than #DoctorOctopus. And maybe his average online search result is low because few people are searching for the character, as he is already pretty well-known.
Think about it: People tend to search for things they don’t know about, rather than things they are already familiar with. Because Doc Ock is so popular, few people are actually searching for him, which is having a negative impact on this list, rather than a positive one.
On the flipside, this is possibly why The Prowler ranked so high. The Prowler appears in a movie (2018’s Into the Spider-Verse) which has raised his profile, but he’s not a well-known character in general, meaning more people are searching for information about him than say, Doctor Octopus.
Once again, remember while this list is about ‘popularity’, it is based in part on what people are searching for – the results have not come via a fan poll. So, if you are a disgruntled Doc Ock fan, who wants justice for Otto, remember the list measures how popular the characters are at this particular moment, and is based on data that can favour a lack of knowledge of the villain, rather than their overall place in the pantheon of Spidey foes.
Either way, Zavvi’s list is a fascinating one, which you should check out in full, because it highlights the way in which the general public are interacting with Spider-Man’s universe and his villains. It details the characters we are currently connecting with (or researching), and highlights which foes may slip into the zeitgeist over time.
If Zavvi conduct a similar study each year, and continue it for the next few years, it would be interesting to compare the rankings over time, to see how much they change. Would Carnage still top the list, or could another villain take his place?
I’d wager that in time, someone else would knock Carnage off the Number #1 position. Although the jury is still out on whether or not that could ever be the Spot! I can but hope.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post about Spider-Man villains on Don’t Tell Harry. For more Marvel-related musings, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.