Who needs magic when you have illusions?
Marvel fans don’t know much about next year’s sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, but they do have one valuable piece of information. Mysterio will reportedly be the villain in Spidey’s sophomore solo film in the MCU, and Jake Gyllenhaal is in talks to play him. At long last, the master of illusion will get his due on the big screen.
While we wait for production to begin on this hotly anticipated sequel, here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about the villains who call themselves Mysterio and why this character has remained such a constant presence in Marvel’s comics over the years.
He may look funny, what with the purple cape and giant fishbowl helmet, but Mysterio is one of Spider-Man’s most dangerous foes. This gifted but underappreciated special effects artist has chosen to focus his skills on becoming a supervillain. With his talent for creating convincing illusions and creating gadgets that specifically counter Spider-Man’s abilities, Mysterio has been a constant thorn in the hero’s side since the early days of his superhero career.
While several successors have briefly taken up the mantle of Mysterio, Quentin Beck will always hold the strongest claim to that title. Even death seems incapable of stopping him for long.
Powers and Abilities
As a former special effects artist, Beck has a knack for designing illusions so convincing that even heroes like Spider-Man are utterly fooled. Coupled with his talent for chemistry, robotics and hypnotism, Mysterio’s illusions often blur the line between reality and fantasy, to the point where his work seems almost supernatural in nature.
Mysterio has also augmented his costume with various gadgets and pieces of weaponry. For example, his domed helmet contains a portable air supply and a sonar system that allow Beck to safely navigate his debilitating gases (one of which cancels out Spider-Man’s Spider-Sense). The suit also contains an acid that can dissolve Spidey’s webbing and offensive weapons like lasers.
The third Mysterio, Francis Klum, is a mutant with the power to teleport and to take control of other people’s bodies.
Origin and Background
Mysterio is one of several iconic Spider-Man villains created by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko. He debuted in 1964’s The Amazing Spider-Man #13, though it was later established that he was responsible for an alien hoax seen in issue #2 the previous year.
Mysterio has remained a recurring character in the Spider-Man comics ever since, targeting his nemesis both alone and as a member of the Sinister Six. Unfortunately, powerful though they were, the Six always tended to be undone by their own dueling egos. The closest Beck came to truly defeating Spider-Man during this period was in The Amazing Spider-Man #24, where he created a fake identity as a hypnotherapist and nearly tricked Spidey into unmasking before being interrupted by J. Jonah Jameson.
Beck was briefly replaced by a character named Daniel Berkhart. A onetime cellmate of Beck’s, Berkhart took up the mantle and targeted Spider-Man with an even more advanced suit and array of illusions. He failed to succeed just like his predecessor, and Beck eventually reclaimed his mantle.
After years of failure, Mysterio returned to the forefront of the Marvel Universe in writer Kevin Smith and artist Joe Quesada’s Daredevil: Guardian Devil storyline. There, Matt Murdock found himself being manipulated by an unseen enemy and tricked into believing that the Antichrist had emerged in the form of a young girl. Eventually, he discovered Mysterio to be the source of these illusions. For his part, Beck believed that he could find in Daredevil the truly worthy nemesis he never did in Spider-Man. When that failed, he committed suicide, though he promptly returned from the afterlife in order to preserve “cosmic balance” in the Marvel Universe.
Mysterio has since resumed his role as one of the major players in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery. Recent storylines have seen Mysterio join forces with the Maggia crime family, help Norman Osborn fake the death of Harry Osborn, and join Doctor Octopus’ revamped Sinister Six. Marvel has also introduced two new temporary heirs to the Mysterio mantle – mutant teleporter Francis Klum and Mysterion, a, um, mysterious criminal who purchased an old Mysterio suit on the black market.
One particularly interesting reveal came in the 2012 miniseries Spider-Men, which featured the first team-up between Peter Parker and his alternate universe counterpart, Miles Morales. The two discovered that the Mysterio of the regular Marvel Universe and that of the Ultimate Universe are the same person. Using his advanced technology, Beck has been breaching the barrier between worlds and controlling a robotic avatar in the Ultimate Universe.
Beyond the Comics
Given his status as one of the earliest major Spider-Man villains, it should come as no surprise that Mysterio has appeared in numerous multimedia spinoffs over the years. Mysterio has shown up as a villain in the majority of Marvel’s Spider-Man animated series, including the 1967 and 1981 Spider-Man cartoons, 1994’s Spider-Man: The Animated Series, 2008’s The Spectacular Spider-Man and 2012’s Ultimate Spider-Man. The latter series is notable for focusing on a new character, Frances Beck, who blames Spider-Man for the death of her father.
Mysterio has also appeared in numerous Spider-Man video games, beginning with the Marvel-themed Questprobe adventure games and continuing in games like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and the Disney Infinity series.
Mysterio has yet to appear in live-action form, though he did pop up as a boss character in the video game tie-in to 2004’s Spider-Man 2 movie. Reportedly, director Sam Raimi intended for Bruce Campbell to play Mysterio in the unproduced Spider-Man 4. That sequel would have revealed that Campbell’s various cameo roles in past movies were all actually Beck in disguise.
While that never happened, Mysterio will finally get his chance on the big screen in the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming (due out in July 2019). And having Jake Gyllenhaal currently in negotiations to play the villain is a funny post-script to Spider-Man 2, actually, because back when that film was in pre-production, Gyllenhaal almost replaced Tobey Maguire as the title character (due to a back injury Maguire had suffered). That never happened, but now it looks like Gyllenhaal will finally appear in a Spidey movie after all.