When one thinks of the history of Spider-Man and his sinister assemblage of villains, one’s thoughts usually go to the big guns like Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Venom, Lizard, or even Kraven the Hunter (personally, I think of Stegron the Dinosaur Man, but that’s my own issue). One might even think of hardcore B-listers like Mysterio, Electro, Sandman, or Vulture. But one’s focus certainly doesn’t turn to today’s Spidey villain of the hour: The Shocker. But that’s exactly who we’re here to discuss because Spider-Man’s vibrating bad guy will feature in Spider-Man: Homecoming as played by Bokeem Woodbine.
Shocker’s inclusion is a bit surprising because he has always been more of a background villain, an also ran that has had a smattering of memorable appearances over the years. That being said, considering that Shocker is not a major Spider foe, like…at all, it’s sort of amazing that the yellow suited crook has stuck around all these decades basically unchanged. And now, the day has come for this persistent Spidey rogue to make it to the big time!
Shocker may have never been big league, but his creators certainly were. Shocker first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #46 (1967) and was created by Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr. and now that we’ve mentioned Mr. Romita, let’s just talk about the fact that Shocker is the most Romita thing of all things created by Romita. I mean, just look at that costume! The symmetry, the unique design, the way it offsets Spider-Man’s own super hero geometry and colors! I think we can all agree that while Shocker won’t make the supervillain hall of fame, he has an absolutely eye popping costume.
“Enough with the aesthetics,” I hear you say, as you ask “Who the hell is the Shocker?” Well, you know how some supervillains have origins so iconic that the history of that villain becomes embedded in the firmament of the Marvel Universe?
The Shocker is not one of those villains.
Shocker’s real name is Herman Schultz. Now unless it’s a Nazi, it’s really hard to take a villain named Herman seriously, but we digress. Schultz was a professional burglar until he got arrested. In prison, Hermie built himself a rig that allows him to shoot intense vibrations out of specially made gauntlets, which he promptly used to bust out of prison. Then he designed a specially padded suit to protect him from the force of his vibrations. As the Shocker, Herman went to toe to toe with Spider-Man and actually defeats the Webslinger! But in their second go around, Spidey defeated his yellow suited foe by webbing Shocker’s thumbs so the villain can’t press down on his gauntlets. Yes, essentially Spider-Man conquered Shocker by defeating him in thumb wrestling. This ignominious conquest was just the first of many as Shocker became something of a lovable loser in Spidey lore.
And no, Stan Lee’s didn’t originally intend to call the Shocker “The Vibrator” instead. Yes, we know there’s a v-pattern on the costume. Yes, we also know what “the shocker” means. Stop it.
So with that out of the way, we turn to a few more memorable Shocker appearances. Don’t look for a Kraven the Hunter “Kraven’s Last Hunt” situation or a Doctor Octopus “Superior Spider-Man” situation, because Shocker never really had that career defining story arc. But most Shocker tales are just good fun, and here’s some of the good ones…
The Shocker’s silliest but most ambitious plan came in Amazing Spider-Man #151-152 (1975-1976) by Len Wein and Ross Andru. In these issues, the Shocker takes over New York City’s electric grid to hold it for ransom. Herman’s big plan is to use the grid to spell his name out in lights. Spidey stops Shocker of course, but really Herman, you go through all that trouble for a million bucks and to spell your name out in electricity? Can’t you, like, sell your earthquake gloves to the military for way more than that?
As for the Shocker’s powers, well… for a villain that never really went too far, he is kind of a powerhouse. Herman’s gauntlets produce a concentrated wave of compressed air that can be tuned to different vibrational frequencies. Shocker can take down skyscrapers if he chooses. In fact, Shocker’s weapons are so intense that they would kill him if he didn’t wear his distinctive quilt-like suit. So Shocker may be a bit of a joke at times, but his earthshattering powers are really nothing to laugh at. So now that Shocker is ready for his film debut, maybe he will finally take a step up in the super villain pantheon. But really, Herman, that whole spell your name out in lights thing is always going to be a black mark against you. Still, in the worlds of Hannibal Lecter, “Love your suit.”
All this silliness aside, for a semi-loser, Shocker has been part of many supervillain teams. At one time or another Shocker ran with the Sinister Six, the Masters of Evil, the Sinister Syndicate, the Thunderbolts, and the Villains for Hire. Don’t get too excited though, Shocker wasn’t part of Baron Zemo’s sick cool version of the Masters of Evil, Shocker joined an earlier incarnation of the team that boasted Radioactive Man, Tiger Shark, Moonstone, and the Beetle as members. This not-so-powerhouse version of the Masters was led by Egghead so yeah, not exactly the ’61 Yankees of villain teams there. But listen, Shocker was a member of the Thunderbolts and we here at Den of Geek love us some Thunderbolts so good on ya Herman! Also, in case you want to see Shocker run with the Masters of Evil, pick up Avengers #228 (1983) by Roger Stern and Al Milgrom.
Shocker has popped up many times over the years fighting Spidey and other Marvel heroes, but his finest hour was in the absolutely must read Superior Foes of Spider-Man (2013-2014) series by Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber. In this comic, Shocker joins with a gang of other C-list Spidey foes such as Boomerang, the female Beetle, Overdrive, and Speed Demon to get into all sorts of shenanigans around New York. Of this cadre of super dopes, Shocker is the most hapless of the lot and barely escapes the Superior Foe’s escapades with his life. Even his fellow villains have no respect for him until the conclusion of the series when Shocker takes down the Punisher (I’m not kidding) and is crowned the king of the New York underworld. Marvel never really followed up on that bit of business, but let me tell you something for free, Sony is looking for prospective properties to build a Spidey film universe. Superior Foes of Spider-Man would be a massive, runaway hit. It could be a Deadpool meets Oceans 11 type of thing.
Sony, call me, we’ll talk.