Since Spider-Man 3 is the summer blockbuster TR members most want to see, and it opens this Friday, I thought I’d cobble together a survival guide to the movie for the comic book-impaired. Above is the final full-length trailer to the flick, which has loads of eye candy and no less than three supervillains laying the smack to everyone’s favorite webslinger. Here’s your Who’s Who:

  • Topher Grace as VenomEddie Brock, AKA Venom: This is the dude played by Topher Grace, the skinny kid from That ’70s Show. Venom is one of Spider-Man’s A-List baddies, though most comic fans have a love-hate relationship with the character since he’s been badly over-used and has a complicated backstory (which everyone is curious to see condensed/made plausible in the new movie). In the comics, Brock is a reporter from a rival newspaper whose biggest story is revealed by Spider-Man to be false. His career ruined, Brock just happens to be in the same church at the same time when and where Spidey is divesting himself of an alien symbiote that forced him to be reckless, cruel and dress in a wildly popular black alternate costume. The symbiote and Brock hook up, sprout an anatomically impossible gator-grin, and proceed to seek vengeance against Spider-Man whilst wearing said wildly popular black costume. The movie version appears to have stripped down the character, though his visual look is more akin to Venom’s comic-book offspring, Carnage. No word yet on where the movie version of the symbiote is going to come from, as the comic book version came about as a result of the first Secret Wars, which is way too complicated to explain in any brief setting. Suffice it to say, Spidey was at one point nearly naked on another planet and used an alien goo to fashion a hip new look. Rumor has it that John Jameson–Mary Jane’s guy-left-at-the-altar in Spider-Man 2, who is also an astronaut and J. Jonah Jameson’s kid–will bring the symbiote back from the moon. This is itself a nod to a different comic storyline, as in the funnybooks John Jameson is the Man-Wolf, who becomes a lycanthrope after bringing a cursed moonrock back from a space mission (which was also the symbiote’s origin in the more recent Spider-Man: The Animated Series). Believe it or not, in comic book world, this counts as a simplified origin.
  • Thomas Haden Church as SandmanFlint Marko, AKA Sandman: This is the green-shirted dude played by Thomas Haden Church, better known as Lowell from Wings. In the comics, Flint Marko was an on-the-lam mob enforcer who, like a strange number of Spider-Man characters, got bitten by a radioactive [insert noun here]. In Marko’s case, the noun was sand (seriously), so he became the world’s most dangerous walking sandcastle (seriously). Think Imhotep from The Mummy, only without the power to summon zombies or the Ten Plagues of Egypt. In the comics, Marko has nothing to do with Uncle Ben’s death, his dad does (sorta), but you gotta have a through-line somewhere, so the film Sandman is implicated in Ben Parker’s demise. In the comics, Marko is obsessed with protecting his mother. In the film, Marko is trying to save his dying daughter. In the comics, Sandman isn’t that bright and usually resorts to villain team-ups (including with Venom) to get stuff done, but he also tries his hand at being a good-guy now and again, with failed results. Even money says the movie Sandman has a moment of redemption, too.
  • James Franco as Harry OsbornHarry Osborn, AKA Green Goblin II: Played by James Franco, Harry has been in the last two movies, so everybody should know him. Based on the trailer, Harry decides to avenge his dearly departed dad, the Green Goblin (who died fighting Spidey in the first film). This syncs nicely with the comics, wherein the younger Osborn goes insane over the death of his father and takes up his mantle as the Green Goblin, eventually defeating and nearly killing both Spider-Man and Mary Jane. Only at the last minute does Osborn have a change of heart, and dies saving Spidey and MJ. Given director Sam Raimi’s love and knowledge of the Spider-Man mythos–and the needs of the studio to kill off the the increasingly expensive Franco–its a good bet Harry takes a bullet for Spider-Man at some point in the new film. In various comics continuities, Harry Osborn is either the second Green Goblin or The Hobgoblin. No sure word on which moniker, if any, the film version will adopt. All we know is that the new villain looks more like a snowboarder (or Night Thrasher, one of the lamest superheroes ever) than a goblin.