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Who is MR. NEGATIVE? A Primer On SPIDER-MAN’S Latest Video Game Nemesis

Most Spider-Man inspired movies, televisions shows, and video games tend to only use “classic” villains from Spidey lore—meaning mostly characters from the ’60s through the ’90s. But at Sony’s E3 2017 presentation, Insomniac showed off an extended look at the gameplay for the upcoming Spider-Man game for the Playstation 4, and it featured a villain who is a little more current — Mr. Negative.

The character was first introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man #546 (January, 2008), and was created by writer Dan Slott and artist Phil Jimenez. Introduced first as Martin Li, we later learn that Martin Li wasn’t Mr. Negative’s true name, it’s one he stole. He was actually an unnamed human trafficker who was under the employ of the Chinese crime boss Silver Fang. At one point, when a freighter full of undocumented Chinese immigrants nearly collides with a port in New York Harbor, the man who would become Mr. Negative is able to escape,  and when he does, he steals the real Martin Li’s identity, as the real Li died in the crash.

Because he’s assumed the identity of an undocumented person, he becomes easy pickings for the local crime family the Maggia, headed up by longtime Spidey villain Silverman. Martin Li, as he’s now known, is exposed to the highly dangerous drug D-Lite as part of the Maggia’s experiments on humans—the same tests which gave powers to Marvel heroes Cloak and Dagger. Like those two, this gives Li a connection to the Darkforce and Lightforce dimensions, and also gives him something of a split personality.

His Martin Li side remains mostly intact and more or less a nice guy (for a human trafficker that is), but his Mr. Negative persona is a lunatic, and one who happens to have crazy superpowers to boot. Before too long, the new Kingpin of Chinatown in New York is none other than Mr. Negative. Meanwhile, “Martin Li” operates a soup kitchen in Chinatown, the F.E.A.S.T. Project (Food, Emergency Aid, Shelter, and Training), where Peter Parker’s Aunt May volunteers.

Power and Abilities

Mr. Negative has some pretty formidable powers, all which come from his connections to the Lightforce and Darkforce. He has a degree of superhuman strength—enough to kick Spider-Man around and send him tumbling through walls with concussive force. He has the ability to heal others as Martin Li and can power up inanimate objects to make them stronger with dark energy as Mr. Negative. He can also bring out both extreme good and evil in someone with a single touch. As his name suggests, when in bad guy mode, his appearance resembles that of a photographic negative.

Major Storylines

Brand New Day (2008)

In the story that introduced him to Spider-Man’s world, Mr. Negative acquired a special tablet that contained the formula for a powerful poison called Devil’s Breath. Negative then kidnapped members of the Maggia families, who tortured him and gave him his abilities in the first place. Spider-Man arrived at Mr. Negative’s hideout as he was in the process of getting his revenge on the Maggia. Mr. Negative escaped with the poison and attempted to kill the other Maggia families with it, and although Spidey did his best to stop him, he wasn’t able to save the Maggia crime bosses.

New Ways To Die (2009)

In this storyline, Mr. Negative encountered the former Venom Eddie Brock, and once he learns of Brock’s tragic history, Martin Li offers him a job at his soup kitchen. It was while working there that a single touch from Li cured Eddie Brock of his cancer, but that touch’s side effect mutated what remained of the Venom symbiote in his body.

These mutating remnants bonded with Brock’s white blood cells, and they transformed him into a new being called Anti-Venom.

Shadowland (2010)

Mr. Negative plays a part in the Shadowland storyline, which had Daredevil take control of Hell’s Kitchen and unleash the ninja army known as The Hand on its inhabitants. During all of this, Mr. Negative takes advantage of The Hand takeover to expand his crime empire. He squares off against a group of Hand ninjas, until Spider-Man & Master of Kung-Fu Shang-Chi intervene. This is one of the first times that Mister Negative’s exploits have taken his beyond just being a Spider-Man baddie.

What do you think of Mister Negative stepping into the big leagues of mass media representation? Could he be the next Doc Ock or Green Goblin and transition from games to movies? Let us know your thoughts down below in the comments.

Images: Marvel Comics

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