His horn is sharp, and his temper is hot. Since his debut in 1966, the Rhino has been a central part of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery. While he may not be as smart as Doctor Octopus, or as terrifying as Venom, make no mistake, the Rhino is dangerous: he packs a powerful punch, which Spider-Man can attest to. Ahead of his appearance in the upcoming Kraven the Hunter film, where he will be played by Alessandro Nivola, let’s get to know the horned villain.
What is the Rhino’s comic book origin?
Aleksei Sytsevich was a small time Russian criminal, performing heists for the highest bidder. One day two scientists approached Aleksei, inviting him to participate in an experiment. Aleksei didn’t care about the power they were offering him, he only wanted to be paid. Over the next few months, the scientists injected Aleksei with chemicals, and bathed his body in Gamma radiation.
The final touch was a molecular adhesive, which encased Aleskei in a second skin. The adhesive was modeled after a rhino’s skin, giving Aleskei an extra set of protection. To complete the motif, a sharp rhino horn was included on the suit’s forehead. Aleskei was now the Rhino, and his scientist handlers couldn’t wait to put him to work.
However, the Rhino had other plans. Realizing that he was stronger than his handlers, Rhino turned on the scientists, destroying their lab. Aleksei realized that he could sell his powers to the highest bidder and decided to strike out on his own.
The Rhino first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #41 (1966) where he attempted to capture the astronaut John Jameson. This story played heavily on the Cold War, and the space race between Russia and the United States. Spider-Man was able to defeat the Rhino and save John Jameson, but this battle proved to be the first of many more.
What are some of the Rhino’s notable stories?
Rhino plays a central role in the 1991 limited series The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man. The story centers on a supervillain group known as the Sinister Syndicate, which includes Rhino, Beetle, Hydro-Man, Speed Demon, and Boomerang. By this time Aleksei had grown tired of his Rhino suit but was unable to remove it. Rhino planned to use the money from the Sinister Syndicate’s heists to hire scientists to remove his suit. The group eventually fell apart due to in-fighting and manipulation from outside forces.
‘Flowers for Rhino,’ which was published in Tangled Web #5-6 (2001), is a heartbreaking character study on the Rhino. Growing tired of being ridiculed as a dumb brute, Rhino undergoes an experimental procedure to increase his intelligence. Using his new intellect, Rhino takes control of New York’s crime syndicate. Aleksei uses 95 percent of his criminal earnings to ease third-world poverty, give relief to troubled inner cities, and support the arts. He writes novels, sonnets, and music in his spare time.
The experiment has unfortunate side effects, and Rhino’s intelligence continues to grow. As Aleksei becomes smarter, he becomes more emotionally detached, and less satisfied with the world around him. His growing brainpower almost drives him to suicide, before he decides to reverse the procedure. Rhino then returns to his dumb brutish persona, happy with his place in life.
In Amazing Spider-Man #617 (2010) Aleksei forges a new beginning. The Rhino is arrested, his suit is removed, and he decides to serve out his sentence in peace. After gaining early parole, Aleksei falls in love with a woman named Oksana. The two marry, but their happiness is interrupted by the arrival of a new Rhino. The new Rhino seeks to beat Aleksei in combat, so he could “earn his skin.” Not wishing to risk his new life with Oksana, Aleksei refuses the challenge.
However, the new Rhino is determined. Seeking to draw Aleksei out, he kills Oksana. Aleksei becomes enraged, and dons his Rhino outfit once again, brutally killing his successor. Aleksei resumes his career as the Rhino, with a renewed vendetta against the world. He blames Spider-Man for Oksana’s death, believing that the hero encouraged him to stand down when he should have fought.
What are the Rhino’s powers?
The experiments that transformed Aleksei into the Rhino gave him a set of special powers. The Rhino has super-strength, and at one point was able to lift 80 tons. It’s possible that his strength has grown since then, thanks to the various times he’s leveled himself up. His strength and endurance have made him more than a match for the Hulk, who he has tangled with on numerous occasions.
While he won’t be winning any races against Quicksilver, Rhino is faster than the average supervillain. He has been known to run as fast as 30 miles per hour. His speed and his horn enable him to charge at his enemies with deadly force. The downside is that once Rhino speeds up, it’s difficult for him to change direction.
The Rhino’s suit augments his powers, giving him extra strength and protection. Spider-Man was able to melt the Rhino’s original suit with acid, but the villain has gone through some upgrades to ensure that wouldn’t happen again. The suit is unable to be pierced by most elements. The costume can also survive extreme temperatures and withstand close range explosions. There have been times when the Rhino’s suit has been permanently bonded to his body, with Aleksei unable to remove it. The nature of the Rhino’s costume, and Aleksei’s feelings on being trapped in it, vary depending on the story.
The Rhino in other media
The Rhino can be seen in a variety of Spider-Man animated projects. The character made his animated debut in the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon, one year after he first appeared in the comics. Ed McNamara voices the Rhino, who appears in three episodes of the animated series. The Rhino made frequent appearances in the 1994 Spider-Man animated series, where he was voiced by Don Stark. This version of the Rhino usually found himself as the bud of the joke, with the other villains ridiculing his intelligence.
The Rhino is used as a boss in numerous Spider-Man video games, including the 2000 PlayStation game, Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, and most notably, Insomniac’s 2018 Spider-Man game.
The Rhino was portrayed by Paul Giamatti in the 2014 film Amazing Spider-Man 2. This version of the Rhino is a Russian mobster who operates a giant mechanical Rhino suit. He serves as a minor antagonist in the film, who Spider-Man battles during the first act and the epilogue. According to an interview with Giamatti, there were plans to include Rhino in Amazing Spider-Man 3 and a Sinister Six spin-off, but the reboot of the Spider-Man franchise halted those plans.
The Rhino will return to the big screen in the upcoming film Kraven the Hunter, which is set for release on October 6. Rhino’s role in the film was revealed during Sony’s presentation at CinemaCon 2023, with Alessandro Nivola playing the character. Nivola is best known for his roles in the films Amsterdam, Face/Off, and The Many Saints of Newark.
Nivola can be briefly glimpsed in the first trailer for the movie, pleading with Kraven - in this version, his brother - before the final seconds of the trailer tease a new origin for the character as he seems to literally turn into a rhino-human hybrid.
Fun facts about the Rhino
If you’re still curious to learn more about the Rhino, here are some miscellaneous facts about the horned villain.
- The Rhino’s real name (Aleksei Sytsevich) was not revealed until the publication of Marvel Encyclopedia: Spider-Man in 2003, 37 years after his first appearance.
- Deadpool once shrank the Rhino and kept him around as a pet. He attached Rhino to his keychain, infuriating the villain. Check it out for yourself in Deadpool #66-67 (2002).
- The Rhino once had an online romance with the bear themed villain known as the Grizzly. Rhino and Grizzly each thought they were chatting with a beautiful woman. In essence, they both accidentally catfished one another (Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #19).
- In the past Rhino has accidentally rolled out of bed, crashing through the floor. As a result, he only sleeps in cellars (Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #5).
Get ready for Rhino's return to the big screen with our Kraven the Hunter guide.