The new, rebooted SPIDER-MAN movie is only a few short weeks away, and with it will come a classic Spidey villain making his silver-screen appearance for the first time: The Lizard.
(Although your heart has to go out to actor Dylan Baker, who portrayed the Lizard’s alter ego Dr. Curt Connors in all three of Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN films. They finally get around to using his character as the Big Bad in a SPIDER-MAN movie, and it’s in the fastest reboot in cinematic history, so he’s out of luck. That’s gotta sting…)
Let’s take a look at how things started for the Lizard, with his first appearance back in November 1962, in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #6, “Face-to-Face with…the Lizard!”, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko.
The Lizard action starts right from the beginning, as we open with scenes of a mysterious human lizard terrorizing the Florida Everglades.
Once news of the “Lizard-Man” spreads to New York, Spidey is confronted with a curious challenge from the Daily Bugle.
It’s a classic case of “let’s you and him fight.” Always looking for a payday, Peter suggests that the Bugle send him down to Florida to get photos of the Lizard, but JJJ isn’t interested:
But when the Bugle’s campaign works too well, Peter Parker finds himself desperate to get to Florida.
In typical Spidey style, the wall-crawler gets to Florida by irritating Jonah into paying for a ticket for Peter Parker to go take photos.
Once Peter and JJJ are in Florida, Pete heads to the Everglades and begins looking for the Lizard. Luckily (or unluckily, depending how you look at it), the Lizard finds him.
After a quick initial skirmish, Spidey finds himself at the home of noted reptile expert Dr. Curt Connors, where he meets Curt’s wife Martha and son Billy, at which time Martha tearfully tells Spidey the truth:
Martha explains that Connors was experimenting with a lizard-based serum hoping to crack the secret of cell regeneration, and like all good Marvel Universe scientists (see: Pym, Henry; Stark, Tony; Richards, Reed) decides to use himself as a guinea pig, as he’d lost his right arm in the war.
Unfortunately, Connors’ triumph was short-lived, as the serum continued to affect him, transforming him into a human-lizard hybrid.
Using Connors’s notes and his own scientific knowhow, Spidey synthesizes a cure for Connors’ lizardism, which is pretty impressive considering Spidey’s Midtown High education.
Spidey then sets off to track down the Lizard and give him a mouthful of Lizard cure, thanks to a pair of swiftly made web-swamp-shoes.
After a heated battle, we get to what is always my favorite part of any Lizard story: the part where Spider-Man gets the Lizard in a headlock and pours the cure down his throat.
Works like a charm, too.
Spider-Man agrees to keep Curt Connors’ transformation a secret, and returns to New York with a disgruntled JJJ, who’s none too pleased at what he considers a wasted trip, believing Peter Parker’s genuine photos of the Lizard to be fakes.
Spider-Man would go on to have lengthy relationships with both Curt Connors and the Lizard. Connors, who would eventually move to New York City, would go on to become Spider-Man’s frequently consulted scientific advisor, while he would later discover that periods of great stress could re-trigger his transformation into the Lizard, forcing Spider-Man to whip up yet another batch of the antidote serum. In fact, sometimes the most entertaining part of a Lizard story was seeing just how Spider-Man would manage to administer the antidote to the Lizard in that particular episode. Sometimes he’d just load up his webshooters with the serum and spray it down the Lizard’s throat. In a personal favorite, one time I remember Spidey actually making a pitcher out of his webbing and using it to pour the antidote into the Lizard’s unwilling maw. If you’re gonna do something, you might as well do it with style.
The Lizard was also notable for being one of the few Spider-Man villains to score an action figure in the landmark 1970s Mego action-figure line, and also happened to be one of the coolest figures in the set. If you have questions about the Lizard or comics in general, send them here.