Supervillain Origins: The Chameleon

The Chameleon first tangled with Marvel's favorite webslinger back in Amazing Spider-Man #1, thus earning the title of Spider-Man's first superfoe. As shown in this issue, the Chameleon was originally nothing more than a very skillful master of disguise. He used his quick-change artistry and finely-honed mimicry skills to pass himself off as a wide range of other people. Later, his real name was revealed to be Dmitri Smerdyakov, a spy who used his ill-gotten wealth to develop a serum which enabled him to physically alter his physical appearance without the aid of masks, wigs or make-up. Join WatchMojo.com as we explore the comic book origin of the Chameleon. Special thanks to our user g-origin769, ibriers1, Drew Pennington, viliguns, Mattyhull1, Spideyfan-0913 & Philip Folta for submitting the idea on our WatchMojo.comsuggest page!
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*Written by Craig Butler

Supervillain Origins: The Chameleon


How do you catch a super-villain when you don't know what he looks like? Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we will explore the comic book origin of the Chameleon.

As with most comic book characters, there are often re-imaginations and different versions to a character’s past. We have chosen primarily to follow the storyline which unfolded in 1963's Amazing Spider-Man #1, which was expanded upon in 1964's Amazing Spider-Man #15, 1988’s Amazing Spider-Man #307, and 1997's Spectacular Spider-Man #243-245.

The supervillain known as the Chameleon first tangled with Marvel's favorite webslinger back in Amazing Spider-Man #1, thus earning the title of Spider-Man's first superfoe. As shown in this issue, the Chameleon was originally nothing more than a very skillful master of disguise. He used his quick-change artistry and finely-honed mimicry skills to pass himself off as a wide range of other people.

A criminal spy intent on stealing top secret plans to sell to iron curtain countries, the Chameleon needed a fall-guy to take the blame for his thefts; and so he disguised himself as Spider-Man and lured the real Spidey to the scene of the crime. He almost got away with his scheme – until an alert police man foiled him.

Some months later, the Chameleon decided that he needed to take care of Spider-Man permanently. With this in mind, the Chameleon contacted someone whom he called an old friend – Kraven the Hunter – to track down Spider-Man. As usual in these circumstances, the plan didn't pan out quite as expected.

By 1988, a major change had come over the Chameleon, whose real name has been revealed at Dmitri Smerdyakov. As related in a flashback, the Chameleon had originally been a spy who became used to an elevated lifestyle and then turned to criminal activity for his own personal gain. With his ill-gotten wealth, Smerdyakov financed the development of a serum which enabled him to physically alter his physical appearance without the aid of masks, wigs or make-up. He also recommitted himself to his original goal: the destruction of the United States.

Finally, in 1997, readers learned more about the Chameleon's past – including how he came to know Kraven the Hunter. Smerdyakov had escaped from a mental institution and had used techniques he learned there to try to convince Spider-Man that his career as a superhero was all a delusional fantasy. When that failed, Smerdyakov escaped Spider-Man but came face-to-face with Kraven – who supposedly had committed suicide a short time earlier.

Kraven mocked the Chameleon's failure and revealed that the two knew each other as small children. On the brink of a breakdown, the Chameleon teetered between praising Kraven as a friend and excoriating him for torturing him. As they fought, Kraven revealed that as children, Smerdyakov had been his servant – but that the Chameleon and Kraven shared the same father. With this knowledge at last freed from his subconscious, the Chameleon felt that he had found his true identity at last and gained strength and confidence from this knowledge – enough to beat Spider-Man…temporarily.

With his newfound sense of identity, the Chameleon put in motion his plan to destroy the woman Spider-Man loves – only to be humiliatingly beaten by Mary Jane, a mere human with a baseball bat.

The Chameleon has appeared several times on television, on both Spider-Man: The Animated Series and The Spectacular Spider-Man. Of course, with his ability to disguise himself as any other person, he may have turned up many more times – without anyone knowing it.

Are you a fan of the Chameleon? For more comic book origins, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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