There’s a special group of supervillains beloved by every Spider-Man fan, no matter how unimpressive their big screen adaptations may be. Briefly glimpsed at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the comic book version of the Rhino first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #41 and joined Spider-Man’s growing rogues’ gallery of animal-themed villains soon after. But how well do fans really know the Rhino?
Despite his impenetrable hide, many Rhino stories expose a surprisingly vulnerable man hiding behind an intimidating exterior. Here’s what you need to know about Spidey’s thick-skinned sparring partner, Rhino.
The Rhino began his career as a thug named Aleksei Sytsevich working for an organization that experiments on him with drugs and radiation and bonds a bullet proof suit to his skin. Hired to kidnap Colonel John Jameson, son of Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson, the Rhino battles Spider-Man who develops an acid web that dissolves the Rhino’s suit. However, the Rhino gains a new suit which also becomes permanently bonded to his skin. Eventually, the thrill of being a super villain wears off, and the Rhino starts stealing money to have his suit surgically removed.
The Rhino has quit crime multiple times and even gives himself up to the law in The Amazing Spider-Man #617. Authorities remove his suit and he is paroled for good behavior. Aleksei ends up marrying a waitress, and finds honest work as a casino bouncer. However, when a new Rhino kills his wife, an enraged Aleksei becomes the Rhino again and serves the Jackal during the Clone Conspiracy storyline to get a cloned version of his wife. When that clone also dies, Rhino goes on a rampage, but Spider-Man calms him down and offers to visit him in prison as a friend. Although the Rhino is a Russian immigrant, different writers vary his speech patterns, with some emphasizing his Russian accent and formal speech, while others having him use typical American slang.
Thanks to chemical and radiation treatments, the Rhino possesses superhuman strength, speed, stamina, and durability. His greatest asset, however, is an artificial hide bonded to his skin which renders him virtually invulnerable. Rhino’s suit also has a sharp horn on his head that lets him charge through most obstacles. Although usually dimwitted, the Rhino once tried impressing a girl by having brain surgery to give him superhuman intelligence. However, he becomes so smart he finds life pointless. To cope, he uses another procedure to make him even dumber than before so he can be satisfied with life as an unintelligent thug.
As one of Spider-Man’s earliest foes, the Rhino has appeared in a variety of other media. He has been a villain in multiple animated shows, including the 1967 Spider-Man animated series, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Marvel’s Spider-Man. He has also appeared in many video games and is frequently featured in boss fights. Paul Giamatti played the Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, first as a Russian mobster and then in an armored rhino suit at the very end. According to Giamatti, if The Amazing Spider-Man film series had continued, he would have returned as the Rhino in the third film. The Rhino may still make his return to film, however, in one of the many other Spider-Man-related movies under development at Sony, including a Sinister Six film.
Given the surprising depth writers and artists have given this character – who would normally be portrayed as a one-dimensional brute – it would be gratifying to see some of the pathos and tragedy from the comics translate into his film incarnations when the Rhino charges back onto the big screen.
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