Mysterio, one of the oldest characters in the Spider-Man mythos, will be introduced to movie audiences for the first time in less than one week. So far the mysterious new ally played by Jake Gyllenhaal has not revealed much of his motives and plans in trailers, much less his ultimate fate and place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For those unfamiliar with the source material, there’s a lot to be learned from the original comic books, both about who Mysterio is and how he might factor into Spider-Man: Far From Home. However, there are potential spoilers from this point forward as we look into how Mysterio has traditionally been portrayed. Take that as a fair warning.
For new audiences looking to get ahead of the movie or learn more about Mysterio after falling in love with Gyllenhaal’s performance, this should act as a perfect primer. We’ve collected Mysterio’s origin, his comics history, along with some of his greatest hits in comics (and other media) so far. This is everything someone would want to learn about Mysterio at a glance.
Creation & Origins
Mysterio first appeared in the first volume of Amazing Spider-Man #13, where he was co-created by artist Steve Ditko and writer Stan Lee in the midst of their iconic 41-issue run. He would only appear twice more before Ditko left the title, as the central antagonist of #24 and a founding member of the Sinister Six in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1.
Ditko and Lee introduced Mysterio as Quentin Beck, a Hollywood special effects designer who decides to opt for a life of crime once his career as an actor stalls out. Mysterio’s modus operandi has remained consistent from his first encounter with Spider-Man, one in which he used tricks to rob the Midtown Museum, then battled and framed Spider-Man for the crime (by duplicating his abilities). His technological expertise has allowed him to both create very believable illusions and destructive suits along with independent constructs. That’s why he has been known as the “Master of Illusion” since his debut.
Much of Mysterio’s history in comics is some rendition of his very first story. He has consistently battled Spider-Man using extravagant tricks, including hypnosis, faked deaths, and fake realities, in order to stop his adversary. Along the way he has often battled with allies, usually other Spider-Man foes in the Sinister Six, and crossed paths with some other heroes, including the Human Torch and Daredevil.
His encounter with Daredevil led to his apparent death. Quentin Beck had been released early from prison due to a terminal cancer diagnosis caused by his regular exposure to hazardous chemicals as Mysterio. After his final plan was undone by Daredevil, he committed suicide. It remains unclear whether this suicide was real or faked. In one future story, Mysterio returned with half of his head missing and confirmed that he had been in hell, and that was later ignored altogether when he returned again with his head intact.
Mysterio has been featured in a variety of events in recent years, including helping Doctor Octopus threaten an apocalypse in “Ends of the Earth” and crossing over to the Ultimate universe in Spider-Men. He remains a regular foe both for Spider-Man and other street-level superheroes like Deadpool and Scarlet Spider. His most recent appearance in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 5) #24 suggests that he died when confronting Daredevil and was supernaturally returned to life, before his supernatural “savior” appears to kill him again. Movie audiences and comics readers alike will have to wait and see whether Mysterio had a trick up his sleeve to escape a second death.
The Menace of Mysterio: The Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #13: There’s a reason that so many of Spider-Man’s most iconic rogues appeared in his earliest issues, two reasons actually: Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. Like much of their run, this single issue is a home run from its era, one that capably presents a new antagonist, multiple challenges, and a satisfying conclusion with lots of drama in between.
Guardian Devil: Daredevil (vol. 2) #1-8: Mysterio briefly dipped into the pages of Daredevil for a new challenge and one of his best-remembered stories. This is Mysterio at his most diabolical as he putts Matt Murdock through the ringer with some terrible psychological torture (and some very real battles with other villains). This is a can’t-miss set of issues for Daredevil and Mysterio fans.
Old Man Logan (part 5): Wolverine (vol. 3) #70: Whether you want to read or skip the rest of Old Man Logan, this one issue is a stand-out for Mysterio as it shows just how terrifying he can be at his worst. This is the origin story of the “Old Man” version of Wolverine, and it’s Mysterio, not Sabretooth or Magneto, that delivers the iconic X-Man the worst beating he has ever imagined.
Mysterioso: The Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #618-620: This modern caper, part of the larger “The Gauntlet” storyline, shows Mysterio at his most stylish in an easily accessible tale. Artist Marcos Martin makes Mysterio’s many illusions sing on the page, providing readers with intricate visuals to trace Spider-Man through. It’s a great Mysterio story and a perfect starting place for any new comics reader.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series (cartoon), voiced by Gregg Berger: The animated adaptation of Spider-Man from 1994 remains a formative series for many adult Spider-Man fans. While the series updated many elements to the 1990s, it pulled from all of Spider-Man’s history and wove it into a great survey of decades of adventures. Mysterio was a regular villain on the show, just as he had been throughout those many years of comics.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (video game), voiced by David Kaye: Mysterio is the central antagonist of the game that thought to bring together a whole lot of Spider-Men before Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was even announced. He sets off the multiversal chain of events by breaking the Tablet of Order and Chaos at the start, then drives much of the action throughout the game as he seeks to control its powers. This game made clear that Mysterio wasn’t just a great flavor-of-the-week villain, but a grade-A mastermind, the kind who could be the centerpiece to a film, even.
Ultimate Spider-Man (cartoon), voiced by Paul Scheer: In one of the most recent animated adaptations of Spider-Man, Mysterio was made to be a much more sympathetic character. In the show he is an old enemy of Spider-Man’s, but one who lost his soul in one of their battles. The adventure in this series focuses on a redemption arc for Mysterio, providing him with a family and happy ending, something exceptionally rare for villains. It might bode well for the movie version of Mysterio as well.
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