How Marvel’s rhino became a better pivot than Wilson Fisk
A minor villain from Spider-Man’s live-action movies briefly became Marvel’s criminal backbone, and he chose to give it up on his own.
The Rhino is one of Spider-Man’s most physically imposing villains, but has never necessarily been the smartest. Even her big screen debut in Amazing Spider-Man 2 as played by Paul Giamatti took it to almost cartoonish levels of stubborn resolve. While he’s been portrayed in both a comedic and tragic light, it’s not often that the character’s potential for something other than stupid violence really becomes the focus of his appearances.
But in the two-part story “Flowers for Rhinoceros” by Spider-Man’s Tangled Web # 5 & # 6 by Peter Milligan, Duncan Fegredo, Steve Buccellato, Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt, the character got the chance to improve his intellect in a story based on “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes – proving the live on More idiotic-action Spider-Man villain actually has the potential to become a better criminal backbone than Wilson Fisk ever was.
In “Flowers for Rhino”, the Rhino is hired to protect the daughter of a wealthy character from the underworld. Rhino falls in love with the intelligent young woman on his first meeting, but grows more and more depressed when he realizes that he can’t be with someone like her – both due to his general lack of ‘intellect, as well as the very thick skin he gained when he became the Rhino. Facing the scientist who gave him the skin in the first place, Rhino discovers that they have implemented a new process to increase the intellect of others. Rhino goes through the procedure and quickly begins to develop more and more intellect as the story continues. Days after the operation, he reunited – and truly impressed – Stella Pavlov, while also securing a solid victory over Spider-Man.
In no time at all, Rhino is revealed to have come far enough to become a true linchpin of crime. Unlike Wilson Fisk, however, he was able to make full use of the loopholes in the legal system to combat superhero interventions. Much of the crime in New York City becomes ruled entirely by Rhino, with excess income going to underprivileged people around the world. He has a happy relationship with Stella and even deduces an algorithm that reveals the identity of every costumed superhero in New York City, including Spider-Man. But the procedure ends up having a negative effect on Rhino, as his intellect keep grows, causing him to lose all empathy or connection with humanity. In the end, a disheartened rhino has the operation canceled and happily returns to its original dumbest state.
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It is still worth noting however how effective of a Kingpin the Rhino turned out to be. Aside from being arguably more physically dangerous than (also quite menacing and powerful) Wilson Fisk, Rhino found a way to legally keep heroes out of business in a way that Fisk failed as mayor. . He even arranged to play his own version of “Born Again” against Spider-Man and didn’t even need someone else to inform him of the hero’s identity to do so. With his mind now matching his strength, Rhino has managed to get a number of bad guys out of jail and convince them to work for his interests, and this is implied by his relatively uneventful time as New York’s top crime boss. that no one is ready to really face him on this takeover.
It would have been interesting to see Wilson Fisk take on someone who truly matches him in terms of raw strength and intelligence – and see if Fisk’s cruelty could have countered Rhino’s growing intellect. If Rhino hadn’t reversed the process, he might have become one of Marvel’s most influential and powerful criminals. While he can still be a threat just like the rhino, “Flowers for Rhino” proved just how dangerous the typically short-sighted villain really can be.
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