Professor Spencer Smythe

 In: Characters
 Posted: 1998
 Staff: Jeanne Burch
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Usually accompanied by either a two-legged or eight-legged robot


Alternates between gray and red






Smythe is a reknown robotic expert and knows about everything there is to know when it comes to spiders.


Smythe designed a number of robots, which he termed "Spider-Slayers" after his initial defeat by Spider-Man. The early ones were bi- pedal, designed to be operated by remote control and like a spider, could walk straight up walls. The later ones were built to look more like a spider, and sometimes had cockpits so a controller could ride along.


Apparently skipped physics class the day they covered the dangers of handling radioactive energy sources.

Strength Level:

Normal human strength


None other than the robots.



Created By:

Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Current Occupation:


Dual Identity:

Not generally known


Post-graduate degree, presumably a PhD

Former Occupation:

Research scientist and possibly a college professor, although the latter was never made clear.

Known Allies:

For a time, J. Jonah Jameson funded Smythe's research and operated some of the Spider-Slayers himself

Known Relatives:

Alistaire Smythe, his son, who would blame Spidey for the Professor's death and come after him with even bigger Spider-Slayers.

Legal Status:

Criminal record.

Major Enemies:


Marital Status:


Place of Birth:


Real Name:

Spencer Smythe

Usual Bases:

New York City


When Peter first met Spencer Smythe, he assumed that the scientist was a crackpot. He brought his original spider-slayer to show J. Jonah Jameson after reading his anti-Spider-Man editorials but Jonah wasn't interested. Peter talked Jonah into letting Smythe give a demonstration, assuming that he could defeat the robot easily and get some photos to sell in the process. He quickly regretted the decision to change Jameson's mind, as the robot caught Peter in its unbreakable tentacles. Jonah then agreed to rent the machine and use it against Spider-Man. In Jameson's office, the spider slayer immediately picked up Spider-Man's aura and followed him to Midtown High School.

The robot caught up to Peter as he was running from Flash Thompson and his friends. Peter managed to jump to a nearby rooftop without anyone noticing and changed to Spider-Man just as the robot appeared over the ledge. Webbing was useless as it slid off of the slayer and the machine climbed walls just as quickly as the webhead. The chase was beginning to tire Spider-Man and the robot captured him, tangling him in its tentacles. Smythe feared that if the robot brought Spider-Man back to the Bugle the coils could loosen and their captive could escape, so they decided to go to the robot instead. Jameson told the webhead that they were on their way, which gave him time to take off the control panel on the machine. By the time Jameson and Smythe arrived, Peter had slipped out of his costume. Peter got one last laugh at his boss's expense, using his webbing as puppet string to make it look like someone was struggling in the costume. Jonah screamed at Spencer to leave, threatening to wrap the spider slayer around his neck. (Amazing Spider-Man #25)

While Peter enjoyed his victory over Jameson, he was now without his costume. He went to Professor Smythe's lab to get it back with the cover story that he was curious if any improvements had been made on the device. As he approached the spider slayer, the machine picked up on his spider aura and attacked him. Smythe was suspicious of the teenager and began to accuse him of being Spider-Man but Peter had an explanation. He had a jar of spiders with him, which he claimed registered on the robot's spider sensing radar. Peter said he wanted to give the jar to Smythe for help in his research and the scientist accepted the explanation, saying "I should have know that a teenager like you couldn't be the mysterious Spider-Man!" Peter then went to take a picture of the costume "for the Daily Bugle" and switched it with a store bought Spider-Man costume.

Just then, Smythe's assistant, Mark Raxton, arrived and an argument broke out between the two men. Raxton wanted to take his share of one of their discoveries and sell it while Smythe claimed that he had been the one to supply the money and equipment. Raxton grabbed the liquid metal alloy and punched Smythe, knocking him into the control panel of his lab. Peter moved to stop Raxton from escaping but was soon tangled in the spider slayers tentacles. Mark dropped the vat of liquid metal and it splashed all over him, absorbing into his skin. Mark fled to find a doctor and Peter escaped from the spider slayer by hitting a button on a control panel with a webline. He found Smythe nearby, who was devastated that his liquid alloy was gone. (Amazing Spider-Man #28)

Smythe stayed away for a large amount of time but again called Jonah to show him the new spider slayer. Jonah was doubtful of the inventor's new machine but reluctantly went to his lab anyway. He was soon impressed by the new slayer and agreed to pilot it, despite his discomfort with Smythe claiming that the machine would kill the webhead. Once the robot found Spider-Man, Smythe fired a "destructo beam" at the wall crawler, to Jameson's dismay. Spencer took over control of the machine from Jonah and took to the chase. The rubble from a building collapsed on the machine, giving Spider-Man the time to find a phone booth and use its directory to find Smythe's lab. The robot tried to crush the web swinger in the booth and he barely escaped.

Back at the Bugle office, Jameson accused Smythe of wanting to kill Spidey for personal revenge instead of justice and Smythe called him a hypocrite. The robot caught up to the webhead at Smythe's lab, where it suddenly exploded. He explained to the defeated machine that he remember it tracked him by his spider aura and the spiders kept in Spencer's lab overloaded its circuits. At the Bugle, Jonah tossed Smythe out, swearing that if they had just tried to capture the webhead they'd have won. (Amazing Spider-Man #58)

When Smythe next convinced Jameson to sponsor one of his slayer, he had redesigned them into a spider form. The new robot had its own webbing and a nullifier to block out the spider sense. While the slayer tracked the webhead, the controls seemed to malfunction then go back to order. The robot eventually beat the web swinger despite the erratic controls. At his lab, Smythe gloated over the fact that he had beaten Spider-Man and managed to steal several important components for a device he was working on. That had been the spider slayer's true mission: to frame Spider-Man for the robberies without Professor Smythe being anywhere near the scene.

The last piece helped Smythe finish his city-wide surveillance system of cameras on strategic roof tops. As the city's scientific advisor, he had the permission to build those cameras, claiming they would help to solve crimes. However, he planned to use the information to be the greatest criminal ever. When Spider-Man regained consciousness, he used one of the cameras to see him take his mask off. (Amazing Spider-Man #105)

Spider-Man sensed that he was being watched ad soon webbed up the camera that caught him. Fearing that his identity was loose, he went to Curtis Connors lab to create a face mask of himself. Smythe meanwhile gloated over the fact that he had seen Spider-Man's face and accomplished it with Jameson's money. He was soon meeting with several gang leaders, trying to sell them on the idea of using the cameras to stay one step ahead of the police. Only Professor Smythe would control the cameras, after the theft of the device from earlier in the day. He soon spotted Spider-Man, who was unmasked. Waving at the camera, Spidey pulled his "face" off, revealing it to be a rubber mask. The mobsters were disappointed in the twist but Smythe insisted that the scanners could still be useful. While the crooks were unhappy that Spider-Man knew about the cameras, Smythe informed them that it didnt matter, as he had a new slayer ready for him. Smythe then climbed into the machine and went after his enemy. He soon caught up to him and captured him. (Amazing Spider-Man #106)

After taking his captive back to his headquarters, Smythe had the mob bosses order a bank robbery. Spider-Man was left dangling in front of the robot and escaped by snapping the cable that was holding him. Despite being groggy from being gassed, Spidey managed to clog the robot's sensors with webbing. Smythe fled behind steel doors, bragging that soon he'd be rich and eventually return to finish him off. Spidey halted the bank robbery and then returned to Smythe's lab and found the scientist back in his machine. The machine malfunctioned, a side effect of Spider-Man having tampered with it before leaving to take on the bank robbers. Smythe demanded to know how he had escaped and Spider-Man left without telling him. Spider-Man soon arrived at the Bugle and told Jameson that if he ever sent Smythe after him again, he'd bend his skull. (Amazing Spider-Man #107)

Smythe next attacked Spider-Man soon after he had defeated the Jackal and the clone that would come to call himself Ben Reilly. As Peter agonized over the possibility that he was really a clone, he was attacked by the Vulture, then the Sandman and then the Kingpin. After defeating each of these enemies, they seemingly vanished. Smythe then appeared in his spider slayer, telling him that the crooks he had faced were merely robots that had LSD in them. When they were defeated they would disperse the hallucinogen, making it seem that they had vanished. Spidey had used up all of his webbing in fighting the robots and was soon caught in the spider slayer's tentacles. He was about to give in, as he saw no pint in living his life as a clone. Spider-Man then remembered Mary Jane Watson. He had started dating her after he had been cloned and the other clone had had no feelings for her. He deduced that because he loved MJ, he must be the real Peter Parker. Renewed by this revelation, he broke free and defeated the mad scientist. (Amazing Spider-Man #150)

After Smythe learned that he was dying of radiation poisoning (used to create his spider slayers) he used Spider-Man's other enemies to strike at him. He first used the Chameleon, who failed to follow his orders and was defeated. (Amazing Spider-Man #186) He later used John Jameson, Jonah's son, to kidnap his father as the Man-Wolf. The resulting battle with Spider-Man caused John to disappear to another dimension. (Amazing Spider-Man #190)

Jonah, as usual, blamed Spider-Man for John's disappearance and put out a scathing editorial directly blaming the webhead for what seemed to be his son's death. Jonah and Marla Jameson went to Smythe for his help in killing Spider-Man not knowing that he was responsible for John's transformation into Man-Wolf. Spencer ordered Jonah to send Marla away and then showed him the new spider slayer. He then told Jameson to wear what looked like handcuffs and then revealed that it was a bomb. Meanwhile, a furious Spider-Man went to the Bugle to confront JJJ about his accusations in the newspaper but Smythe's spider slayer intercepted him and knocked him out. Spencer soon arrived to recover the unconscious vigilante and take him back to his lab. When he awoke, he was shackled to Jonah and Smythe was gloating that in 24 hours they would both be dead. (Amazing Spider-Man #191)

Spider-Man was forced to flee Smythe's lab with Jonah and soon arrived at Dr. Connors laboratory to seek help. Connors examined the device and found that it worked on a pressure principle. Any change in pressure on the shackle would cause the plastique explosive to detonate. The police barged into the lab after it seemed that Spider-Man had kidnapped Jameson and took him to Connors. Spider-Man left with Jonah after the bomb expert couldn't find a way to stop the device but the duo was soon attacked by the Fly. Spidey and Jonah fell to an alleyway and the Fly left, thinking them dead. Jameson regained consciousness and took him back to Connors. It was there that Spider-Man realized that they had to go back to Smythe's Westchester lab.

There, they found the dead Spencer Smythe. He knew that he wouldn't live to see his enemies death, so a pre-recorded message played for them, telling them they were going to die. As Jonah begged Spider-Man to save his life, Spider-Man figured out that Smythe wanted to see them die and had probably installed a tiny camera into the device. That meant that a viewing screen had to be somewhere in the lab. He hoped to find the power source and shut it down. While he did find it, he had no idea how to deactivate it. As time ticked down, he noticed a cryogenic tube, where Smythe had kept John Jameson. The liquid oxygen coolant shattered the locking mechanism and the bomb fell off. Spider-Man threw the bomb out of the building and into the air, just in time for it to detonate. (Amazing Spider-Man #192)

”Slayers, Spiders and Torches...Oh My!”

In an alternate future reality, May "Mayday" Parker was sent to Earth 616 while trying to capture the interdimensional traveler, Spyral. Both she and Spyral were sent to Peter's high school years and May set out to find the criminal. (Spider-Girl #10) Smythe and Jameson soon sent the first spider-slayer after Spider-Man but it found Spider-Girl instead. Jameson loved remote controlling the machine but complained that the picture wasn't clear. He said Spider-Man looked oddly feminine and Smythe said that it was expected for someone that dressed like that. Jameson tried to asked if he meant that Spider-Man was gay and he said anything was possible. Jameson had never thought about it and got uncomfortable thinking that he was persecuting a minority. Smythe reassured him that no one would accuse him of discrimination, because everyone knew he was protecting the city from a costumed maniac. Spider-Girl escaped and the slayer went after Spider-Man. Besides the story ending with Spyral being captured with the help of Spider-Man and Human Torch, the story involving Smythe and Jameson continued as it had in Amazing Spider-Man #25. (Spider-Girl #11) (All of this was made cannon in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) #9 when Peter recognized Mayday.)

Years later, Spencer's son, Alistaire Smythe, took to building spider slayers of his own. (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #19)

"Revenge of the Spider-Slayer"

Alistaire tormented Spider-Man for years but never gained the respect of Doctor Octopus. As Octavius was dying of his own radiation poisoning and beatings from super humans, his latest Master Plan was jeopardized by Alistaire's own revenge plot. As John Jameson's space shuttle was in mid launch, Alistaire's locusts attacked. Ranting at the younger Smythe's interference, Octavius surmised an "88.7% probability he (Alistaire) was adopted" and that he isn't half of the planner that Spencer was. (Amazing Spider-Man #653)

”Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy”

Years later, Smythe was cloned by the Jackal (Ben Reilly)), who was resurrecting anyone that Spider-Man felt had died by his failure. Reilly promised that the criminals were safe, as they had received therapy from Ashley Kafka. Reilly said he could clone Ben Parker, which Spider-Man refused. Jackal then told the clones to kill him.

Image Gallery


Cover Date Appearance Information
Jun 1965 App: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #25
  Brings proto-type robot to Jameson
Sep 1965 App: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #28
Mar 1968 App: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #58
  First "Spider-Slayer" robot
Feb 1972 App: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #105
  Turns to crime. Sees Spider-Man unmasked
Mar 1972 App: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #106
Apr 1972 App: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #107
Nov 1975 App: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #150
Mar 1979 App: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #190
  Origin retold
Apr 1979 App: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #191
May 1979 App: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #192
  Dies of radiation poisoning

Thanks To

 The assistance of the Marvel Chronology Project is gratefully acknowledged.

 Some of the above information is extracted from the various versions of the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe and the more recent Marvel Encyclopaedias.

 In: Characters
 Posted: 1998
 Staff: Jeanne Burch