The Vulture is one of Spider-Man’s oldest foes, and that’s not because traditionally the character is portrayed as an elderly man, having made his high-flying debut in 1963’s The Amazing Spider-Man #2. There has been a steady release of Spider-Man films since 2002, yet this weekend’s Spider-Man: Homecoming will mark the first time the character will be realized in live-action. While he’s had a difficult time getting off the ground in movies, the same cannot be said for video games as 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the Vulture’s first appearance in a video game.
Vulture has gone toe-to-toe (toe-to-talon?) with Spider-Man in solo fights, but he also has regular membership of the super villain sextuplet, the Sinister Six. It was with the group that Vulture first appeared in 1992’s Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six for the NES, Sega Master System and Game Gear. He’s a boss in the game’s fourth stage on the top of a skyscraper, but is also off-screen dropping bombs on Spider-Man from on high throughout the level leading up to him as well. He would reunite with the Six in 2001’s Spider-Man 2: The Sinister Six for the Game Boy Color where Doc Ock enacts a master plan to kidnap Spider-Man’s alter ego, Peter Parker, but instead abducts Peter’s Aunt May. Vulture appears to challenge Spider-Man on top of a skyscraper, similarly dropping bombs on the web-slinger as he did in Return of the Sinister Six.
Sega shared Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six with Nintendo, but also went on to produce their own first-party Spider-Man game in The Amazing Spider-Man Vs. The Kingpin, or simply Spider-Man. The plot of the game has Kingpin framing Spider-Man as a villain, broadcasting to the citizens of New York that he’s hidden a bomb within the city when in reality it the Kingpin who has done so and hidden keys to disarm the explosive with members of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery. Multiple versions of this game were released across Sega’s catalog of devices that shared a similar plot, but it wasn’t until the 1993 enhanced version on the Sega CD which featured animated cut-scenes and CD quality music that Vulture would join the game. Traditionally battles with the Vulture take place in high places, yet in Spider-Man on the Sega CD, players encounter Vulture in a subway tunnel in that game after Spider-Man has to halt a runaway train full of goons.
Nintendo and Sega would continue to share custody of Spider-Man games throughout the remainder of the 16-bit era, save one instance, and Vulture would appear once more as part of an ensemble in the only game based off the popular 90’s Spider-Man animated series, Spider-Man. He can be seen with another aerial villain, the Beetle, in that game’s fifth stage that takes place in J. Jonah Jameson’s penthouse. Interestingly enough, Vulture would premiere in the video game before he did in the show and for the first and only time as a young man as well. Christopher Daniel Barnes, who voiced Spider-Man on that show, would switch sides and provide the voice of the first iteration of the Vulture in the mobile game Spider-Man Unlimited from Gameloft.
Spider-Man: Homecoming’s take on the Vulture has the character working with a gang that includes another Spider-Man villain, the Shocker, and this is a team-up that was actually worked into the first Spider-Man movie game in 2002, though this partnership occurs solely in the console and PC games , not the game of the same name on for the Game Boy Advance. Spider-Man interrupts a diamond heist being perpetrated by Shocker and upon his capture, he gives up his accomplice, Vulture. Spider-Man tracks him down to a booby-trapped clock tower where he gets away before Spider-Man can catch him, resulting in an aerial chase across the city where Vulture destroys water towers and signs to slow his web-slinging pursuer. The fight after this chase is notable as it’s the first time in a 3-D Spider-Man game that a boss fight took place mostly in the air in the mission aptly titled “Air Duel with Vulture” where among other things the goal is to try to land on Vulture while he’s flying in one of the game’s most fun new mechanics.
For future Spider-Man movie console games, the Vulture would fly the coup, leaving only a few feathers on the top of a building in Treyarch’s Spider-Man 2 to mark that he still existed in universe created for those games. Handheld games were another story, as there would be Vulture sightings in both the DS and PSP versions of Spider-Man 2. The way in which Vulture appears in Spider-Man 2 on the PSP is similar to how did so in the first Spider-Man movie game on consoles where you first have to chase him, stopping briefly to do things like safely web up destroyed property, culminating in a boss fight. In proof that you’re never too old to learn something new, Vulture has a new grappling hook in his arsenal that you have to trick him into attaching to a building in order to defeat him.
Comic books are infamous for having multiple universes and time-lines in which there will be different takes on characters. Adrian Toomes would never take flight in the Ultimate Marvel universe, and would debut in that world in the Ultimate Spider-Man video game first before the comics. In that game, which would eventually have its plot retold in the War of the Symbiotes arch, Toomes is an employee of Bolivar Trask of Trask Industries who is hunting Eddie Brock in order to get the Venom symbiote.
A more gruesome take on the Vulture in which he is reimagined as something more close to his namesake happened in Marvel’s Noir Universe where the character is a cannibal and the one responsible for the death of Peter’s Uncle Ben. This version of the character appeared in 2010’s world spanning Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions where four Spider-Men across unique dimensions are charged with reassembling an artifact broken apart by Mysterio. As Spider-Man of the Noir universe, you track your Uncle’s killer down and have to defeat him by sticking in the shadows, carefully maneuvering to spotlights in the environment needed to blind Vulture before you can attack him. The Metroid-Vania inspired Shattered Dimensions on the DS added new villains and ones from the console game from different places, including Vulture. The 2099 version of the Vulture appears in place of the one from the Noir Universe which is the only instance of the character appearing in a video game who has no relation to Adrian Toomes. Vulture 2099 has no alias or connection to his namesake from the past, other than he uses a specially designed harness to fly but does have something in common with Vulture Noir in that it’s revealed that he too is also a cannibal.
In most instances, Vulture is an antagonist to Spider-Man in video games but there have been a few instances in which he is also an ally to him. 2008’s Spider-Man: Web of Shadows features Spider-Man desperately seeking the help of both friends and foes alike to combat an outbreak of symbiotes spawned from Venom. Spider-Man too is also infected by the alien parasite, which is the catalyst for a morality system where the player can choose to either stay virtuous or give into the dark temptations of the Black Suit. Vulture in the game is supplying Goblin Gliders to the Kingpin and no matter what costume you prefer, the classic red-and-blue or black, you’ll have to fight him, defeating him by zipping from flying enemy to flying enemy until you can reach him mid-air. Depending on choices you make through the course of the game, Vulture can eventually work side-by-side with Spider-Man to stop the invasion.
The second instance of Vulture teaming up with Spider-Man and other characters from the Marvel Universe is in 2013’s Lego Marvel Super Heroes. Vulture and Howard the Duck stage a take-over of the Marvel Comics offices in a bonus mission. After tricking Vulture into flying into dummy Marvel heroes and a booby trapped bird house and bath, he then becomes a character you can unlock and play as in both the open-world area and Freeplay missions.
As it is for most Marvel Cinematic Universe films, there’s Spider-Man: Homecoming themed content coming to Marvel’s slate of mobile/F2P titles and Vulture eggs have hatched in all of them. He can be recruited in both Marvel Future Fight and Marvel Puzzle Quest but not before he’s defeated as a villain character first. He will be a pure villain character in Spider-Man Unlimited where he will get a Homecoming facelift, the brawler Marvel Contest of Champions and will invade Marvel Avengers Academy. The free-to-play MMO Marvel Heroes for PC, but not its Omega counterpart on consoles, will get a new event where players can enter the Daily Bugle and battle members of the Sinister Six, including the Vulture and even get the opportunity to collect Vulture themed loot.