Chameleon (comics)

Chameleon (comics)
Chameleon drawn by Todd McFarlane.
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance The Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 #1 (March 1963)
Created by Stan Lee
Steve Ditko
In-story information
Alter ego Dmitri Anatoly Nikolayevich Smerdyakov Kravinoff
Team affiliations KGB
Sinister Twelve
Sinister Six
Kravinoff Family
Partnerships Kraven the Hunter
Doctor Octopus
Notable aliases Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson, General Ross, Dr. Turner, many others
Abilities Ability to mimic any human appearance

The Chameleon is a fictional character that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character first appears in The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March 1963), and was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko; the Chameleon is the first member of Spider-Man's rogues' gallery, based on issue publication date, excluding the burglar who murdered Ben Parker (Supercharger was the first Spider-Man supervillain chronologically[2]).


Fictional character biography

The Chameleon was born a Soviet citizen named Dmitri Smerdyakov. In his youth, he was a servant and half-brother to Kraven the Hunter, Sergei Kravinoff, and eventually became a minor associate to one Gustav Fiers. Although Dmitri and Sergei were friends, Sergei was often abusive to Smerdyakov, leading to a combination of admiration and resentment towards Kravinoff. Eventually, Smerdyakov emigrated to the United States of America. As he had made a talent for himself during his youth, impressing his brother by impersonating friends and neighbors, he assumed an even more impressive disguise: the identity of the Chameleon. During his first known criminal outing, he impersonated Spider-Man, though he was exposed and arrested. Shortly afterward, Kravinoff, now Kraven the Hunter, himself came to America, and the Chameleon set his old associate's sights on Spider-Man.[3] Both men became long-time enemies of Spider-Man, part of his primary rogues' gallery.

The Chameleon inspired Kraven the Hunter to begin hunting Spider-Man, inviting Kraven to dispose of the hero.[4] With Kraven, the Chameleon battled Iron Man [5] and then confronted the Hulk.[6] At one point, the Chameleon disguised himself as Henry Pym, and robbed Pym's laboratory for documents to combat Virus Nine. While delivering the documents and a shrunken Hulk to HYDRA, he was encountered and defeated by the real Pym as Ant-Man.[7] The Chameleon disguised himself as the Torpedo and battled Daredevil.[8]

When Kraven the Hunter committed suicide,[9] the Chameleon became obsessed with making Spider-Man suffer for his failure to prevent Kraven from killing himself. He ingested a serum which made his face permanently featureless and malleable. He attempted to kidnap America's leading expert on superconductors, but was thwarted by Spider-Man.[10] He then kidnapped J. Jonah Jameson. He approached the Maggia for support to become New York's new crime lord, and formed an alliance with Hammerhead.[11] Disguised as a scientist, the Chameleon temporarily removed Spider-Man's powers. He allied himself with the Femme Fatales, Scorpion, and Tarantula to eliminate Spider-Man and the Black Cat, but escaped when his plan failed.[12]

The Chameleon's most ambitious play against Spider-Man happened when he formed an alliance with Harry Osborn, the second Green Goblin. Before Harry's death, he told Chameleon Spider-Man's secret identity could be found through Peter Parker, to construct androids of Peter Parker's (Spider-Man) parents (Chameleon later admitted that he went through with the plot to confirm once and for all that Peter was Spider-Man). The plan led to a psychotic breakdown for both Spider-Man and Chameleon, Spider-Man briefly renouncing his civilian identity while Chameleon is sent to Ravencroft Asylum.[volume & issue needed] However, when Doctor Ashley Kafka sneaks him into a basement to try and continue treating him in the belief that he was close to a breakthrough when the court were preparing to put him on trial, Chameleon escaped and attempted to convince Spider-Man that he was actually a hallucinating writer who had suffered a mental breakdown after his daughter's death in a car accident, but Peter managed to break through this deception due to his strength of will.[13] Chameleon's confirmation of Spider-Man's secret identity led him to try and attack Spider-Man through his family and friends, but this effort met with rather dismal results when Mary Jane Watson subdued him with a baseball bat.[14] Somewhere in between this and subsequent appearances, he appeared to have been destroyed by his nephew, Alyosha Kravinoff (Alyosha later threw a Chameleon mask at Spider-Man's feet, referring to it as 'That weakling, Dmitri'), but apparently recovered, waking in a hospital.[volume & issue needed]

After tricking Spider-Man to the bridge where his first love Gwen Stacy died, on the pretext of having kidnapped his wife, he declared his own loneliness and love for Peter. When Peter laughed out of surprise, he threw himself off the bridge.[15] He reappeared some time later in a mental institution, completely incapacitated, believing himself to be Sergei Kravinoff rather than Dmitri Smerdyakov.[volume & issue needed] He later reappeared in his Chameleon identity as part of the Sinister Twelve villain team organized by the Green Goblin.[16]

Civil War

After Spider-Man was unmasked, the Chameleon gathered a gang of villains called the Exterminators,[1] including Will O' The Wisp, Scarecrow, Swarm, and Electro and also blackmailed the Molten Man into his employ all in an effort to defeat Spider-Man and attack his family.[volume & issue needed]

However, the Chameleon was dealt a most humiliating defeat at the hands of Spider-Man's Aunt May, when he attempted to trick her into believing he was Peter, then murder her. However, May was not fooled by any means, and defeated the villain with a plate of oatmeal-raisin cookies laced with Ambien. Rhino was also employed as part of the team up and later defeated Spider-Man only to be unable to collect payment from Chameleon as he was already captured.[17]

After the Civil War, Chameleon showed up among the villains at Stilt-Man's funeral at the Bar with No Name where Punisher poisoned the drinks and blew up the bar.[volume & issue needed]


The Chameleon next appeared in the newest incarnation of Super Villain Team-Up, called MODOK's Eleven. In this limited series it is revealed that he contacted A.I.M. the moment he was telepathically summoned by MODOK. He then allowed A.I.M. to send in their newest creation the Ultra-Adaptoid under the guise of being the Chameleon.[volume & issue needed]

Additionally, it was revealed in Super Villain Team-Up: MODOK's Eleven that his apparent insanity and demise years earlier were in fact well-crafted ruses designed so that he could fade into the background once more.[volume & issue needed]

Dark Reign

The One More Day storyline ended with the removal of Peter and Mary Jane's timeline from all memories, and no one knows Spider-Man's identity.[18]

The Chameleon returns to New York more sadistic and sociopathic than ever before. To complete his hired goal of bombing City Hall, he kidnaps and takes the identity of Peter Parker, who works for Mayor J. Jonah Jameson. While posing as Parker, he tries to better his life, revealing that he always tries to rectify the problems in the lives of his "faces".[19] Using Peter's security clearance to get access to various materials, Chameleon was poised to bomb City Hall before Peter escaped and thwarted his plans as Spider-Man. During the resulting confusion, Chameleon escaped.[20]

Sometime later at an alley building, a distraught Chameleon is met by Sasha Kravinoff, Kraven's wife, who wants his help in avenging the death of her husband.[21] Various follow up issues during The Gauntlet storyline show Chameleon helping the Kravinoff family into creating an alliance of Spider-Man's enemies as well as Diablo.[22] First, he and Sasha managed to spring Electro from prison.[23] Then Chameleon approached Mysterio stating that he has friends that are "dying" to meet him.[24] When it came to the Grim Hunt part, he posed as Ezekiel in order to get close to Spider-Man, defeat him, and bring him to the Kravinoffs in order to sacrifice him as part of a ritual that will revive Sergei Kravinoff.[25] After Sergei is resurrected, the Chameleon states that the problem might stem from inward anger of being resurrected. He and the Kravinoffs discover Spider-Man's corpse, which turns out to be Kaine in Spider-Man's costume instead.[26] The real Spider-Man goes to take revenge on the Kravenoff family. Spider-Man soon arrives and pulled Chameleon and Alyosha into the huge nest of spiders. Sasha realizes that the Kravenoff family wasn't hunting the spiders, but it was the spiders hunting them.[27]

During the "Origin of the Species" storyline, Chameleon is invited by Doctor Octopus to join his supervillain team where he becomes involved in securing some specific items for him. He poses as Harry Osborn to trick Spider-Man by telling him that Menace's infant has died. When Spider-Man has been away, Chameleon got the infant.[28] Doctor Octopus later talks with the Chameleon saying that the baby is the first of a new species. Using a lead gained when he took down Shocker, Spider-Man arrives at the Kravinoff Mansion where he captures Chameleon who says that the baby is still alive and is in the clutches of the Lizard.[29]

Powers and abilities

Originally, the Chameleon had no superhuman powers and simply used makeup and elaborate costuming to impersonate his targets. In order to do this, he implemented a device in a belt buckle that emitted a gas that helped him mold his features. This method of disguising is reminiscent of that of The Question,[original research?] who was later created by Steve Ditko after his run on The Amazing Spider-Man. Later, the Chameleon obtained a microcomputer from Spencer Smythe for his belt buckle that could be programmed with the facial features of hundreds of people. The belt buckle also contains a video receiver that enables the computer to analyze the appearance of anyone the Chameleon encounters so that it can duplicate his/her features using electrical impulses. The computer utilizes holographic technology that allowed him to change his appearance at the push of a button. His electronic devices allowed him to appear as two different people to two separate observers simultaneously. The Chameleon's costume consists of "memory material" that can be altered by electrical impulses from his belt so as to resemble the clothing of the person he is impersonating.

Currently, the Chameleon's powers are innate: his epidermis and skin pigmentation have been surgically and mutagenically altered by a serum so that he can take on the appearance of any person at will. He also wears fabric made of memory material that responds to nerve impulses and can appear to be what ever costume he wishes to be.

When his past friendship with Kraven the Hunter was revealed, it was also revealed that the Chameleon had taken the same serums that Kraven had taken over the years. This would suggest that the two characters were of a similar age (over 70 years old). It would also suggest that the Chameleon's physical strength and endurance could be somewhat augmented, but as the Chameleon's strength is much lower than that of Kraven, his augmentations may not reach a superhuman level.

Aside from his physical advantages, the Chameleon is a master of disguise, and a brilliant method actor and impressionist. He is also a master of creating lifelike masks and make-up. He is a quick-change artist who can assume a new disguise in less than a minute, although he no longer needs to use such skills. He also speaks several languages fluently. Although the Chameleon is not a scientific genius, during his increased lifespan he has been exposed to a wide array of sophisticated experimental technology, much of which he can apply effectively in his nefarious schemes.

In his 2010 appearances in Amazing Spider-Man, these special powers have been removed by Fred Van Lente, resulting in a stronger emphasis on his skills of disguise. Chameleon kidnaps people and brutally kills them by dumping them in an acid bath. From listening to them beg for their lives, he alters his pitch to sound exactly alike and takes a face print to make into a mask. This more chilling Chameleon also seeks to fix the lives of his "faces", attempting to rectify the problems of their lives while he poses as them as a part of some warped heroic view of himself.

Other versions

Chameleon 2211

A version of Chameleon appeared in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. He has the powers of physically changing into any shape or form after accessing their DNA. This usually involves sampling their blood after killing the subject, although less lethal methods are possible; he was able to change into Sandman after an accidental ingestion of some of his sand.[volume & issue needed]

Chameleon encounters an alternate Uncle Ben from another future who has been transferred into the 'main' timelined by Hobgoblin of 2211, attempting to influence Ben to kill Edwin Jarvis for his current involvement with this timeline's May Parker by arguing that, since the multiverse means every action possible is being committed, you might as well do what feels good. When Ben rejects the suggestion, Chameleon kills and replaces him. This fools Spider-Man 2211 whom he then kills when he arrives to try and return 'Ben' to his reality. After discovering the body, Sandman's father was framed for Ben's murder, and Sandman went to Spider-Man for help.[volume & issue needed]

The two encountered Chameleon at Peter's high school (Chameleon had murdered the principal and was posing as him), where Chameleon reveals that he wasn't human at all but a giant monster. Chameleon was finally defeated, however, after Spider-Man (of Earth 616) used Spider-Man 2211's helmet to literally "administer poetic justice," causing a last-minute body switch between Chameleon and Sandman's father into an electric chair.[30]


Spider-Man faces the Counter-Earth version of The Chameleon in Spider-Man Unlimited #5. This Chameleon, a reptilian Bestial, is a depraved serial killer who both Spider-Man and a bestial Wolverine team-up to defeat.

Ultimate Chameleon

An Ultimate version of the character appears in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man posing first as J. Jonah Jameson,[31] and later Peter Parker.[31] He is defeated by Johnny Storm and Bobby Drake, and imprisoned in the Triskelion.[31]

Marvel Action Hour: Iron Man

In Iron Man, during The Marvel Action Hour, the Chameleon appeared in #4 of the cartoon based comic in service to Justin Hammer. He used his transformation abilities to obtain The Grim Reaper (weapon) from Stark Enterprises.

Marvel Noir

In Spider-Man Noir, Dmitri Smerdyakov (a.k.a. The Chameleon) is depicted as a former Coney Island freak working for mob boss Norman Osborn (a.k.a. "The Goblin"). Like his mainstream counterpart, he has the ability to alter his features to imitate any individual, although this ability stems from his clay-like malleable features rather than any technological advantages. Osborn has him impersonate J. Jonah Jameson in order to eliminate Ben Urich and set a trap for Spider-Man.[volume & issue needed] He was killed by Felicia Hardy when she witnesses him as Jameson killing Ben.[volume & issue needed]

In other media


The Marvel Super Heroes

The Chameleon's first animated appearance was in the Iron Man segment of The Marvel Super Heroes episode "Cliffs Of Doom", and The Incredible Hulk episode "Enter The Chameleon".

Spider-Man (1981)

He appeared again in the 1981 Spider-Man episode "Arsenic and Aunt May", posing as the spirit of Spider-Man's Uncle Ben to manipulate Aunt May.[32]

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends

Chameleon as he appears in the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

The Chameleon was the featured villain in the "Seven Little Superheroes" episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends voiced by Hans Conried. He lured Spider-Man, Iceman, Firestar, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner, and Shanna the She-Devil (referred to as "Shanna of the Jungle") to the remote Wolf Island to pick them off one by one.

Spider-Man: The Animated Series

Chameleon as he appears in the Spider-Man animated series.

In the Spider-Man animated series, Chameleon is an international hitman and spy. He can't (or won't) speak while he is in his true form (in one episode, he transformed into the Kingpin only to say one sentence), though in the episode "Framed", Richard Fisk indicates that Chameleon told them about Peter Parker's parents. Chameleon wears a belt, which is capable of capturing an image of a person, so that he can turn into that person as a form of disguise. This proved to be his undoing in his first appearance in "Day of the Chameleon": an image of Nick Fury from a Bugle front page which he copied had been inadvertently flipped. Thus, his eyepatch was on the wrong side of his face and it was easy to tell which was the real Fury and which was the impostor. The Chameleon later attempted to kill two diplomats at a U.N. conference, but was foiled by Spider-Man. Spidey easily picked him out from the crowd: he had taken the appearance of Peter Parker.

Mary Jane arrived at Daily Bugle to see Peter. She met the Chameleon, disguised as Peter, and asked him to come to a Shakespeare play that she saved him a seat. The Chameleon kissed Mary Jane on the lips passionetly to hide from some S.H.I.E.L.D agents. Mary Jane kissed the Chameleon back, thinking that he was Peter and thought he promised her to come to the play.

Chameleon later becomes a member of the Insidious Six [33] and then works for the Kingpin's son, Richard Fisk, framing Peter Parker for getting restricted government information. After Parker's name is cleared, Richard and Chameleon are sentenced to jail.[34] It is revealed that Chameleon is jailed in a S.H.I.E.L.D. prison and was assigned by Kingpin to release Felicia Hardy's father. In the end, Electro and Red Skull, along with Captain America, were trapped in a time dilation loophole and Chameleon escaped, never to be seen again.[35] Interestingly, in the Chameleon's last appearance when he was fighting against Spider-Man, he was grunting numerous times and the grunts were provided by Jim Cummings, who also played Shocker in the series, which hints that the Chameleon can speak, but just doesn't have much use to talk in his true form.[citation needed]

The Spectacular Spider-Man

Chameleon as he appears in The Spectacular Spider-Man.

The Chameleon appears in The Spectacular Spider-Man, voiced by Steven Blum.[36] His first chronological appearance was in the episode "The Uncertainty Principle", where a competitor of Oscorp hired him to disguise himself as Norman Osborn and steel the company's secrets, though it wasn't revealed it was him until the final episode, "Final Curtain". In the episode "Persona", he is hired by an unnamed general to steal the symbiote, but failed due to a battle between Spider-Man and Black Cat. Later, he masquerades as Spider-Man to commit various crimes and lay the blame on the real Spider-Man. His henchmen are Quentin Beck, a special effects expert that uses his techniques to make it appear that Chameleon has all of Spider-Man's powers, and Phineas Mason who uses his inventions to help commit the crimes and secretly photograph them and give the pictures to the Daily Bugle. To defeat him, Spidey teams up with the cat burglar Black Cat. In the season 2 finale the Green Goblin is fighting Spider-Man while Norman and Harry Osborn are watching it in a helicopter. When Spider-Man rips off the Goblin's mask it turns out to be Norman. The Norman in the copter tells Harry its an impostor, but Harry remembers that Norman said he was sorry to Spider-Man early that night (this version of Norman never says sorry). Harry yanks at his face and the mask comes off revealing it to be the Chameleon. Chameleon bails by jumping out of the copter with a parachute after saying "I did not sign in for this."

This Chameleon is based on his mainstream Earth-616 version, with the same disguising abilities and mask design.

Video games

  • He appears in Spider-Man, a video game based on Spider-Man: The Animated Series. He attacks the player by mimicking the appearances of The Rhino and the Owl.[37]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Spider-Man timeline of first villain
  3. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #1
  4. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #15
  5. ^ Tales of Suspense #58
  6. ^ Tales to Astonish #66
  7. ^ Incredible Hulk #154
  8. ^ Daredevil #134
  9. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #294
  10. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #307
  11. ^ Web of Spider-Man #50-55
  12. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #340-343
  13. ^ Spectacular Spider-Man #242
  14. ^ Spectacular Spider-Man #244
  15. ^ Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man #11
  16. ^ Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #10
  17. ^ Sensational Spider-Man #31-#33
  18. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #545
  19. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #602
  20. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #603
  21. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #604
  22. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #607
  23. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #614
  24. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #620
  25. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #635
  26. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #636
  27. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #637
  28. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #644
  29. ^ Amazing Spider-Man #645
  30. ^ Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #19
  31. ^ a b c Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #11
  32. ^ [1]
  33. ^ "The Insidious Six" and "Battle of the Insidious Six
  34. ^ "Framed" and "The Man Without Fear"
  35. ^ "Six Forgotten Warriors" part 1-5
  36. ^ Comics Continuum by Rob Allstetter: Friday, February 1, 2008
  37. ^

External links

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