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Kraven the Hunter: The origin, the powers, and the promise of this classic Spider-Man villain ahead of his movie debut

No hunting is needed to get to know Kraven the Hunter before his first superhero film

Image credit: Marvel Comics

Of the colorful figures in Spider-Man’s extensive rogues’ gallery, few have pulled out as upsetting a victory over the webslinging superhero than Kraven the Hunter. A big game hunter drawn to the urban jungle of New York City for the ultimate quarry – Spider-Man – Kraven quickly became one of the wallcrawler’s most enduring foes. However, just when Spidey was ready to write off Kraven as a one-note villain, his longtime adversary managed to get the last laugh with the ultimate hunt, completely leaving Spider-Man at his mercy.

Kraven is set to star in his own solo film in 2023, with fan-favorite actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson playing the fierce antihero. With Sony’s universe of Marvel characters tenuously tied to the Marvel Cinematic Universe through films like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Morbius, here is a look on Kraven’s lengthy comic book history in the Marvel Universe and what has currently been divulged about 2023’s Kraven the Hunter film. And beyond the character’s cinematic debut, here’s how Kraven could be crossing paths with Spider-Man at some point on the big screen as the MCU expands into a full-blown multiverse.

Who is Kraven the Hunter?

Image credit: Marvel Comics

Kraven was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1964’s The Amazing Spider-Man #15 as a big game hunter summoned to Manhattan by his half-brother Chameleon after the supervillain master of disguise becomes frustrated fighting Spider-Man. After Spidey outmatches both of the supervillain siblings, Kraven swears revenge and makes it his life’s obsession to track down Spider-Man and kill him. This vendetta extends to Kraven becoming one of the founding members of the supervillain team the Sinister Six while his repeated attempts to triumph over his friendly neighborhood nemesis frequently lead to embarrassing defeat from the hunter.

Subsequent comics revealed Kraven hailed from an aristocratic family in Russia who fled to the United States with his family after the fall of the Russian monarchy in 1917. Over the years, Kraven trained his body to the peak of human physical perfection under a mercenary mentor named Gregor. Kraven has concocted a serum through a selection of rare, mystical herbs that has significantly slowed his aging, accounting for him still appearing in his physical prime despite being over a century old. Kraven has sired several children who have followed in their father’s wicked footsteps, including Vladimir, Alyosha, and Ana Kravinoff, all of whom share their Kraven’s grudge against Spider-Man.

Kraven’s masterstroke against his longtime rival came to its seemingly climactic conclusion in the 1987 storyline 'Kraven’s Last Hunt' by J.M. DeMatteis, Mike Zeck, and Bob McLeod. With Kraven’s mental health becoming increasingly fragile, he manages to hunt down Spider-Man and bury his quarry before masquerading as Spider-Man through the streets of New York in a replica of his costume. After Spidey was revealed to have been shot with a heavy sedative, he claws his way out of his grave and confronts Kraven, with the hunter boasting he has proven his point as Spider-Man’s superior before committing suicide.

Though Kraven remained dead for years following the storyline, he was resurrected by his children in the 2010 storyline 'Grim Hunt'. Sacrificing whom they believe to be to Spider-Man, with his blood linked to Kraven’s death, the Kravinoff children accidentally use Peter Parker’s imperfect clone Kaine for their ritual. Though Kraven still rises from the grave, he is cursed with being caught in between life and death from the botched ritual and noticeably colder and more violent than he had been. With killing the true Spider-Man as the only means to give himself peace, Kraven’s hunt for his arch-enemy is more driven and unhinged than ever before.

What are Kraven’s powers & abilities?

Image credit: Marvel Comics

Kraven has honed his body to become a formidable opponent with Spider-Man, able to trade blows with the radioactively powered superhero and take physical punishment that would stop any normal person dead in their tracks. Through years of training, Kraven is a master of hand-to-hand combat and boasts lethal proficiency in a number of weapons, as well as being a master acrobat, with the dexterity to keep with Spider-Man as he breezily navigates through Manhattan.

Thanks to the mystical serum he takes, Kraven has slowed his aging exponentially, appearing decades younger than he actually is. In addition to its effects on his aging, the serum also boosts Kraven’s senses to superhuman levels, augmenting his senses of smell and hearing while allowing his already keen eyesight to allow him to clearly see objects from great distances away, making his already impressive accuracy skills even more deadly.

How does Kraven fit into Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters?

Image credit: Marvel Comics

While Kraven has appeared in animated television adaptations of Spider-Man and the Marvel Universe since his on-screen debut in a 1966 episode of The Marvel Super Heroes, the character’s cinematic inclusion has been marked with considerably more difficulty in bringing him to the big screen. Sam Raimi hoped to include Kraven in Spider-Man 4 before departing from the Sony franchise, leaving it open for a reboot. The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s end credits sequence featured schematics of each of the supervillains for a planned Sinister Six debut that would never be realized, including a glimpse at Kraven’s signature spear while director Marc Webb hinted at the possibility of Kraven appearing in a proposed The Amazing Spider-Man 3. However, with Sony rethinking its cinematic strategy with Spider-Man following The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s lukewarm reception, these plans were quietly shelved.

Kraven has nearly made his live-action debut in the MCU only for these plans to similarly be tabled for the foreseeable future. One antagonist filmmaker Ryan Coogler considered early on during development on Black Panther was Kraven only to be told contractual issues made this inclusion an impossibility. When developing Spider-Man: No Way Home, Tom Holland recalled that director Jon Watts pitched making the 2021 film involve Kraven the Hunter if the logistics in assembling the multiversal guests didn’t work out. After the film’s supporting cast was secured, Kraven once again was cast by the wayside.

After Sony successfully launched its own shared cinematic universe with Marvel characters from Spider-Man’s supporting cast with 2018’s Venom, plans for a solo Kraven the Hunter film began to rapidly solidify. J.C. Chandor signed on to direct the Kraven movie in May 2021, with Aaron Taylor-Johnson signing on to star as the legendary big game hunter. Though the upcoming film’s connections to films like Venom and Morbius are still unclear, the movie will feature Ariana DeBose as Calypso, Kraven’s longtime love interest, and Fred Hechinger as Kraven’s brother Chameleon. Christopher Abbott and Alessandro Nivola have both also been cast as the movie’s antagonists while Russell Crowe has been cast in a mystery role.

Kraven’s Future on in movies

Image credit: Marvel Comics

Though Sony hasn’t officially confirmed sequel plans to Kraven the Hunter or additional appearances for Taylor-Johnson as the antihero, the actor has reportedly signed on to appear as the character in multiple film projects beyond his debut. If not in his own sequel, Kraven could appear in other Sony-produced Marvel films as this shared cinematic universe begins to take shape in earnest.

Kraven has always been the ultimate alpha in whatever pack he’s running in and, should he encounter a cinematic iteration of Spider-Man or one of Sony’s antiheroes, he is sure not to play nice. Kraven has been a thorn in Spidey’s side for years and one of the oldest, most prominent villains in his rogues’ gallery. With the hunter about to get the cinematic antihero treatment like Venom and Morbius before him, audiences are about to see a new side to the character.

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Sam Stone avatar

Sam Stone

Contributing writer

Sam Stone is an entertainment journalist based out of the Washington, D.C. area that has been working in the industry since 2016. Starting out as a columnist for the Image Comics preview magazine Image+, Sam also translated the Eisner Award nominated-Beowulf for the publisher. Sam has since written for CBR, Looper, and Marvel.com, with a penchant for Star Trek, Nintendo, and martial arts movies.