This November, Insomniac Games follows up its beloved Marvel’s Spider-Man game with Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, one of the big launch titles for the PlayStation 5. The game takes the second Ultimate Spider-Man and gives him his own adventure full of webslinging and high-flying. Hopefully, there will be a bagel toss in there somewhere.
While we’re excited to kick some ass as the star of Into the Spider-Verse, what is a superhero story without the villain? Peter Parker got to take on the Sinister Six while hinting at the Green Goblin and Venom on the horizon. So who will Miles get to tangle with?
In the new gameplay demo, we see that Miles is facing off against both Roxxon (Marvel’s go-to evil corporation) and an army of cyber-goons led by the Tinkerer.
The Tinkerer noticeably looks a lot like the incarnation of Ghost who appears in the film Ant-Man and the Wasp and the game Iron Man VR. Rather fitting, considering this is another villain design from the comics being gender-swapped into a new character.
In the comics, the Tinkerer (AKA the Terrible Tinkerer) is not only a man, but he’s also old enough to be a grandfather. He was also in Spider-Man: Homecoming as a much younger guy (played by Michael Chernus), so it’s not like radical redesigns are new to him. He was the guy making Vulture’s weapons, if you’re wondering.
And really, that’s what the Tinkerer is all about. He’s one of those unique Marvel fixtures who seems to exist for the sake of answering a question you might ask if you look deeply enough at how a superhero world works.
Who teaches all the costumed henchmen how to fight? The Taskmaster. Who makes all these swank costumes for the heroes and villains? Leo Zelinsky. Where do heroes go to get their injuries treated after their many, many fights? The Night Nurse.
And who’s behind the street-level villain tech? A lot of the time, it’s Phineas Mason, the Tinkerer.
The Early Days
The Tinkerer goes way, way back in Spider-Man lore. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, he made his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #2 back in 1963. That’s only the THIRD comic to have Spider-Man in it, keep in mind. He’s been around longer than Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin.
Originally, the Tinkerer was a run-of-the-mill mad scientist type with a ridiculous plot that involved staging an alien invasion to spy on state officials. But then his escape hinted at the idea that he really was an alien all along! What a twist!
Marvel didn’t follow up on this for another 13 years when they finally revealed the guy was not an alien, and was instead just a run-of-the-mill mad scientist type all along. After losing to Spider-Man once again, the Tinkerer fell into the gimmick of being the guy you go to when you’re a low-level supervillain and you need an upgrade.
After all, Octavius and Osborn are evil geniuses who know how to put together robot arms and pumpkin bombs. What the hell is Constrictor going to do when his cyber coils are on the fritz? Beg Tony Stark? Mason was even the inventor of Grim Reaper’s absolutely kickass scythe-hand.
The Tinkerer’s most high-profile appearance was in 2004’s Secret War, which acted as one of the major opening steps of Brian Michael Bendis’ lengthy run on the Avengers books (as well as introducing Agents of SHIELD’s Daily Johnson). The story involved Latverian Prime Minister Lucia von Bardas funding the Tinkerer and giving him assets to advance the tech of various supervillains like Scorpion, Goldbug, and the female Dr. Octopus from the old Spider-Man Clone Saga days.
The Latverian government was doing this to terrorize the United States, but Nick Fury couldn’t convince his higher-ups to do anything about it. Instead, Fury put together a superhero-based coup off the books and chose to mind-wipe everyone involved.
This blew up in his face in various ways.
As the video game Ultimate Alliance 2 acted as an adaptation of the Civil War comic, the first level was based on Secret War and gave us a Tinkerer boss fight.
His son Rick Mason, otherwise known as Agent, was a government operative and did cool James Bond stuff for the US. Despite being on opposite sides of the law, the two remained close. Unfortunately, Mason died. In the events of Civil War, Rick Mason’s own children perished. Seeing his family wiped out made the Tinkerer work ever so harder. The experience has turned him into a nihilist and he only wants the heroes and villains to increase the firepower until both sides have wiped each other off the map.
Ultimate Marvel Tankerer
In the Ultimate Universe, Tinkerer’s backstory is a little tangled, but does feel like it just might relate to what’s going on in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. While there was indeed an Ultimate Phineas Mason, he was an associate of Reed Richards who made a single appearance and was then practically forgotten about. So much for him.
A man named Elijah Stern instead became the Tinkerer. Stern worked for Roxxon, but was fired before he could make some major breakthroughs on his study of vibranium. Rather than taking his misfortune in stride, he instead started a war against Roxxon by upgrading the weaponry of some villains and having them attack the corporation’s higher-ups. While he had been recruited to work for SHIELD, Stern left and helped beef up the anti-Spider-Man team the Ultimate Six.
Stern met his end and the hands of Miles’ criminal uncle, the Prowler. We’ll see how much that ties into the upcoming video game adventure.
But really, the most important thing about the Tinkerer is that he once rebuilt the Spider-Mobile. Please, oh please, oh please let us be able to drive the Spider-Mobile in one of these Insomniac games!
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is out on PS5 and PS4 on Nov. 12.