Last September, the big event for DC Comics was “Villains Month.” One of the highlights for many readers and fans alike were that many forgotten characters were finally getting the “New 52” treatment and were finally back in the spotlight. The villains our heroes face are some of the most colorful and spectacular of creations, and a consistent staple in comic books such as “Batman”, “Superman”, and “Spider-Man.” Let’s face it, we love the villains sometimes even more than the heroes. Who can deny the iconic and unforgettable impact The Joker has had on comic books, film, animation, and video games. So I thought it’d be interesting for What’cha Reading to feature some of the villains that may not have been in the spotlight throughout the past year of comics for DC and Marvel. And possibly convince you to go back and re-read some of these tales of deadly, cunning, and sometimes charming rogues who threaten the very fabric of existence as we know it!
One of the earliest of “The Amazing Spider-Man” comic books I got, besides reprints, was the story arc “Web of Death” in “Amazing” #397 by writer J.M. DeMatteis and penciled by Mark Bagley. What stood out for me was the cover. Spider-Man pinned against a wall, being lifted off the ground and choked by a woman with long, wavy blonde hair in a red and black outfit. Who was she? All that I knew was that this was the start of what was being called “The Last Spidey/Doc Ock Saga of All Time” and that “a dying Spidey [had to]get past Stunner!” And by page 13, when this woman entered into a stereotypical bar with stereotypical patrons and announced “Stunner’s here.” – I was in love.
To say that Stunner was my favorite Spider-Man villain would be an understatement and a lack of credit to J.M. DeMatteis’ writing and Mark Bagley‘s stunning drawing. He had created a character that within a few panels became the object of my affection, the girl of my dreams, and an unrequited crush since 1995! In a nutshell, Stunner was a product of her time. She entered into comic books in the 90’s when we all were fascinated by the magic behind computers and technology, and physically strong female characters beside She-Hulk were infiltrating the stories of our favorite characters. Suffice it to say, the magic went away when we all became hip to computers and we preferred our heroes to be involved with women that looked a little more like Mary Jane Watson than Bruce Banner’s feisty and savage cousin. Angelina Brancale, the real identity of Stunner, was an average, video store clerk, who through the intellect of Otto Octavius, was connected to a virtual reality machine of his own creation to become her avatar, Stunner, and was used as his loyal bodyguard/ henchwoman.
After more than 20 appearances in Marvel Comics, it wasn’t until Spidey writer, Dan Slott, resurrected her for his “Superior Spider-Man” series that she was seen again. And this time she was back with a vengeance. Her love, Otto Octavius, was dead and Spider-Man needed to have vengeance exacted upon him. A clever twist being that the real Spider-Man was dead and Otto was now Spider-Man. This was the highlight of “The Superior Spider-Man” run for me. Issues #20 and #21, released in December 2013 and January 2014 are fun reads and are still readily available at most comic shops.
Angelina Brancale a.k.a. Stunner is a character who has once again faded into the obscurity of the same video stores in which she was once a clerk at. However, maybe after reading this, you too will go back and read through some of her adventures in the books of “Spider-Man.” And, just maybe, you too will fall in love with a character a little more Cory Everson and a little less Gisele Bundchen.
*Here is a list of Stunner’s 31 appearances in the Marvel Comics Universe:
Amazing Scarlet Spider #1
Amazing Scarlet Spider #2
Amazing Spider-Man #397
Amazing Spider-Man #398
Amazing Spider-Man #403
Amazing Spider-Man #426
Amazing Spider-Man #427
Amazing Spider-Man #428
Astonishing Spider-Man #11 Astonishing Spider-Man #136 Astonishing Spider-Man #15
Astonishing Spider-Man #21 Astonishing Spider-Man #22 Astonishing Spider-Man #72
Astonishing Spider-Man #73 Astonishing Spider-Man #9
Scarlet Spider #2
Spider-Man: Maximum Clonage #Alpha
Spider-Man: The Jackal Files #1
Spider-Man Unlimited #18
Spider-Man Unlimited #9
Superior Spider-Man #20
Superior Spider-Man #21
The Spectacular Scarlet Spider #2
The Spectacular Spider-Man #220
The Spectacular Spider-Man #221
Web of Spider-Man #124
Web of Spider-Man #126
Some (most) of these are available (at the time of this writing) through Marvel Unlimited on the Marvel Comics App.