Comics are some of the best places to find diverse characters and Marvel have done a lot to push ethnic superheroes and villains in recent years. Mister Negative is one of best examples, as his background is interesting and his personality makes him an intriguing villain. Taking inspiration from Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the character has a split personality in the form of the benevolent Martin Li and nefarious Mister Negative. As a villain of Spider-Man, Mister Negative has become one of the web-slinger’s most formidable foes, and The Comic Vault is taking a close look at his history.
Before he became Mister Negative, an unnamed Chinese gangster was working on a slaver ship called the Golden Mountain. As a member of the Snakehead gang, the man was used to doing bad things. When the ship crashed on the shores of New York, the gang member stole the identity of a dead Fujian slave called Martin Li. The original Martin Li had been an illegal immigrant who’d been trying to get to America to be with his wife.
The gang member was captured by the Maggia Don Silvermane and experimented on with a synthetic drug more potent than heroin. The experiments caused the Martin Li personality to take over and birthed the Mister Negative persona as well. Li dedicated himself to helping the needy, while Mister Negative vowed to become the Kingpin of Chinatown.
Li set up a soup kitchen in Chinatown called the FEAST Project (Food, Emergency Aid, Shelter and Training), where Peter Parker’s Aunt May started volunteering. In his first encounter with Spider-Man, Mister Negative was attempting to take control over the New York criminal underworld with a bioweapon called Devil’s Breath. This sparked an intense hatred for Spider-Man and the two of them battled on many occasions.
Mister Negative’s main power is his ability to corrupt anyone he touches, turning them into a photographic negative like himself. This allows him to control them and he often recruits the victim into his gang of Inner Demons. Interestingly, his corruption is more effective on good people because it twists their mind. When Spider-Man was touched, he became everything he fought against, coming close to killing Betty Brant. It appears strong memories are capable of breaking Mister Negative’s influence, as Spider-Man remembered how much he loved Betty.
Although Mister Negative is able to renew his influence on people, he can’t corrupt someone who’s already broken free of his control. His powers are also limited when it comes to affecting characters with supernatural powers. The villain also possesses superhuman strength and agility.
The Martin Li persona is capable of healing people. For example, he was able to cure Eddie Brock’s cancer and developed a new symbiote from his white blood cells called Anti-Venom. Li has also healed a number of homeless people who’ve stayed at his shelter.
What makes Mister Negative intriguing is that he’s a representation of yin yang. Martin Li is a metaphor for light, while his evil side is the darkness. The two personas believe in the duality of life and the need for good and evil in the universe. Neither interferes with the other while both being aware that the other exists. This element is also seen in Mister Negative’s appearance, as he has the black and white colouring of a negative photograph. It’s an important depiction of Chinese culture.
Look out for Mister Negative in the new Spider-Man game that’s being produced by Insomniac Games.