It’s St.Patrick’s Day. The only day of the year when the world goes green, and actually means it. We all want to be Irish today and if we’re not, we can pretend we are and go to the pub to celebrate anyway. All this green gets me thinking, not about money, but about comics, and a question.
Why are all of Spider-Mans villains costumes green?
I have asked myself this question many times since I was a kid. Had they used up all the red & blue & yellow ink on the good guys Spider-Man, Daredevil, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, FF, and the X-Men? Did Stan Lee have a rich relative who owned an ink factory specializing in green ink? Did Archie Goodwin secretly harbour a dislike for the Irish, and ordered all villains be coloured green? Time to go to Google for some real answers!
Well first I found out that I was not the only person that had noticed or obsessed over this question. Second, there didn’t appear to be a definitive answer to the question. Here are a few of the theories/opinions expressed.
- A limited colour pallet. Primary colours were reserved for good guys (red, blue, & yellow) and secondary colours (green, purple, and orange) for the bad guys.
- Limited printing capabilities in the day vs. laser printing today.
- Green Ink was cheaper (don’t know about that one).
- Stan Lee has a rich relative who owned an ink factory specializing in green ink (my theory and I’m sticking to it ^-^).
I’m certain there are many more real reasons for this usage of the colour green in Marvel comics. Love to hear from CBD readers in the know on this.
Today we will take a quick look through part of the Steve Ditko’s run on Spider-Man #1-20. We will be looking for green and villains only in this tribute to Marvel Green on St. Patrick’s Day.
Amazing Spider-Man #1
J. Jonah Jameson, The Fantastic 4, and The Chameleon (who dresses like Spider-man) but does where a green overcoat. Not much green to be found here.
Amazing Spider-Man #2
First appearance of The Vulture. Is he black? Brown? NO! He is a green vulture.
The Terrible Tinkerer and his little green men from outer space are in part 2 of the book.
Amazing Spider-Man #3
First appearance of Doctor Octopus. Great book! Doc Ock typically wears a green lab coat or later a green costume. He has dabbled in purple, but mostly he is green!
Amazing Spider-Man #4
First appearance of the Sandman. A snazzy horizontal green striped shirt with purple pants are the Sandman’s go to attire. Yikes. He gets a green costume later.
Amazing Spider-Man #5
Doctor Doom crosses over from the Fantastic 4 where he was already covered in green.
Amazing Spider-Man #6
First appearance of the Lizard. Well he is lizard, so green is OK.
Amazing Spider-Man #7
Second appearance of the Vulture. He is still wearing an inappropriate green costume, and he is still very old.
Amazing Spider-Man #8
No real villain here outside of the Living Brain, a robot who is of course painted green.
Amazing Spider-Man #9
First appearance of Electro. Here we go electricity – that’s blue right? What do we get for a costume? We get a Loki green and yellow costume with a Christmas tree ornament for a mask. Bad day for the costume design department.
Amazing Spider-Man #10
First appearance of the Big Man & the Enforcers. Well the Big Man and Enforcer Montana both wear green. This book also sports a very all-green cover.
Amazing Spider-Man #11 & 12
Second appearance of Doctor Octopus. He is still very green.
Amazing Spider-Man #13
First appearance of Mysterio. A very theatrical green/purple (magenta?) costume with a goldfish or salad bowl for a mask. Very cool. If I ever have a breakdown and do cosplay this will be the costume.
Amazing Spider-Man #14
Featuring the first appearance of everyone’s favourite villain of the early Spider-Man run; the Green Goblin. Well he is the Green goblin and has a green and purple trim costume. If that isn’t enough green for you the Enforcers and Incredible Hulk also appear in this book.
Amazing Spider-Man #15
First appearance of Kraven the Hunter. Well he is a hunter so green camouflage is the order of the day….what… wait there is NO Green on his costume! Instead poor Kraven has a costume that looks like it was made up out of clothing found on the floor after a party at the Playboy mansion! A lion rug vest, cheetah tights, leather sandals and arm wraps. I submit it was being forced to wear this costume and not Spider-man that actually drove Kraven insane. The Chameleon in a purple Hugh Hefner type lounge coat completes the sad seedy picture.
Note – Kraven does wear a green vest on the cover of ASM#15, however it never appears again. I think they just put it on the cover to PMO.
Amazing Spider-Man #16
The Ringmaster fresh from his appearance in the Incredible Hulk, complete with his dazzling green jacket and shoes, trimmed with purple hat, tie, and pants. Daredevil appears in his original Yellow costume, which was another bad day in the costume design dept. and mercifully corrected shortly thereafter.
Amazing Spider-Man #17, 18, & 19
These books have appearances by the Green Goblin, The Enforcers, and the Sandman. They are all still wearing the same green costumes.
Amazing Spider-Man #20
First appearance of The Scorpion. His costume is of course green. Aahhhh! I give. Enough no more GREEN!!
There you have it. Steve Ditko’s run and Spider-Mans rogue gallery of villains are mostly dressed in Green. And I still don’t know why!!
OK – Now it is time to kick back, relax; with a nice cold Green beer at the Black Badger and enjoy the rest of St. Patrick’s day. Cheers!
Hmmm and the first major baddie to appear (for the first time) after Ditko’s run? The Rhino! Who isn’t green at all. It must be Ditko’s fault me think – maybe he has a fetish for green! Can’t believe I never noticed all the bad guys had so much green.
Great piece Mike. Why the heck are they green? Someone should ask Ditko.
You might have something there Kiwidan. The Shocker and Kingpin followed the Rhino and there is no green there either.
Thanks Walt. I had fun writing it. It is a mystery to me. It does seem to go even deeper than Ditko. A lot of early FF as well besides Doctor Doom. The Skrulls, Impossible Man, Mole Man, Molecule Man, Rama – Tut, and of course the Sub-Mariner’s aqua marine green trunks. Goes on Loki, Mandarin, Red Skull and so on….
There’s no such thing as green ink in comics. Comics use cyan, magenta and yellow.
Ditko didn’t color the books.
Green for villains (and other secondary or tertiary colors) pre dates both Ditko and Marvel.
Other than that, fun read.
Thanks Smitty, good info. I know Ditko or Kirby didn’t colour the books, but who decides what colour the costume (hero or villian) is going to be? It is a pretty important decision when you think about it. I would have thought Lee/artist/colourist would be in on that call, but I could be all wet.
Nice column Mike , my son Jason has been Into comics for most of his 31 years, and has tried his hand in creating story lines for his own creations as well as the illustrations as he is an amazing artist as well, I will have him check this out, he is very knowledgable when it comes to comics and he frequents a comic book store in Hamilton and has introduced his kids to them before they could walk, congrats !
This article is an interesting read on colour for comics and indicated the printers did the colouring in those days.
Good article Scott. What a pain-staking job. Makes you appreciate an artist like Marie Severin and her contributions to comics all the more.
I have thought about this for a long time but only recently realised it. Being a writer for many years and an avid comic book reader and fan since I could first read, this question came to me not so long ago actually when my wife told me green was one of her favorite colors as we watched a film (I forget what it was but it had something green in it I’m sure…) and I got this disappointed and sad feeling. I said to my wife. “How can green be your favorite colour?”
And she replied.
“I find it very calming” then what I said came from a place I wasn’t aware of at the time. I said.
“but green is the colour of greed, envy and jealousy, it’s the colour of people who want to take things off everyone else, not to mention the colour of money.” She laughed and asked me.
“Where did all that come from babe?” I laughed back and said. “You know, I really don’t know”
But afterward as I thought about it I realised it was the colour of all the bad guys I had grown up with as a kid. From Spider Man to Batman and many a villain in many a comic book. Again I have no answer to why so many villains are green, what I will say is that so many villains being green has definitely had an impact on my thinking over the years and without me really knowing it until I thought about it recently. Sorry I don’t have an answer for you but I thought you might find this story of interest.
Great story Jay. Green is one of my favourite colours too! I still have no definitive answer for it’s use in villains costumes.