Throwback Thursday is Spider-Man’s first super villain – The Chameleon!
Spider-Man first appears in Amazing Fantasy #15 in August of 1962, but he doesn’t face any Super Villains in this first issue, instead he goes up against The Burglar, the thief who kills Uncle Ben. It is only later, in the first issue of The Amazing Spider-man, March of 1963 that he faces a true super villain. The first super villain in what would become the legendary rogues’ gallery of our favorite neighborhood web-slinger was The Chameleon.
Born Dmitri Smerdyakov, The Chameleon was a Soviet Citizen and half-brother to Kraven The Hunter. Initially he did not have any true super powers but used make-up and elaborate costumes to impersonate his targets. He would wear a device on his belt buckle that would emit a gas to cover him as he changed his features. In his first known criminal outing, The Chameleon impersonates Spider-man as he commits his crimes. He is exposed and arrested, clearing the web-slinger’s name. Soon Kraven also comes to America and together they become longtime enemies of Spidey.
Over time, The Chameleon came to use microcomputers to help him change. His belt buckle could now be programmed with the facial features of hundreds of people. It would also contain a video receiver that could analyze the appearance of anyone that the Chameleon encounters. Using holographic technology, the microcomputer on his belt allowed the Chameleon to impersonate any person at the push of a button.
In more modern comics, the Chameleon’s powers became biological, allowing his to assume the identity of anyone by altering his own image. Much as Clayface would do in the Batman comics. Unfortunately, The Chameleon always stayed a fairly second rate villain in the mythos of Spiderman and would eventually lose his sanity due to the constant changing of his identity.