Comics
Published October 17, 2023

The Crime Families of ‘Gang War,’ Explained

Get to know the criminal enterprises—and connections—behind the upcoming crossover event spinning out of ‘Amazing Spider-Man’!

To the victor goes the city. In upcoming crossover event GANG WAR, the super villains, crime lords, and criminals of New York are about to wage all-out war to determine their leader, and it’s up to Spider-Man and his allies to take them all down. Even with New York City Mayor Luke Cage and the city’s anti-vigilante laws in place, Peter Parker will need a team of heroes including Spider-Man: Miles Morales, She-Hulk, Daredevil (Elektra), and Spider-Woman to take on the forces of villains like Hobgoblin, Mr. Negative, Hammerhead, and more.

[RELATEDSDCC 2023: Marvel Announces Its Next Major Crossover Event—Gang War]

Before GANG WAR erupts throughout Marvel’s New York streets in next month’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: GANG WAR FIRST STRIKE #1, we’re taking a closer look at some of the major crime families and organizations embroiled in the event. See how these groups are connected too before reading the extra-length THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2022) #39 by Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr, in comic stores December 6.

THE MAGGIA

The Maggia is one of the oldest organized criminal empires in the Marvel Universe. With branches around the world, this crime syndicate has battled Spider-Man and dozens of other heroes since it debuted in AVENGERS (1963) #13. Several crime families within New York have carried out operations for the Maggia. One of the largest is operated by Hammerhead, a gangster with an Adamantium skull who is one of the Maggia’s more active leaders. Another branch of the New York Maggia is led by Silvermane, an elderly crime lord who tried to mystically de-age himself before becoming a cyborg. Count Nefaria, a super-powered villain who historically led the last central Maggia family, employed fellow superhumans more regularly than the Maggia’s other branches.

Madame Masque, Count Nefaria’s daughter, established herself as another prominent Maggia leader after she debuted in TALES OF SUSPENSE (1959) #67. After fighting Iron Man for years and operating on the West Coast, Madame Masque started working with the mysterious Crime Master, the fifth criminal to carry on that legacy, to build a power base in New York. Although the two became accepted parts of the lower rungs of New York’s criminal ladder, Madame Masque was seemingly killed in a car bomb set by her rival crime boss Hammerhead in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2022) #31.

Hammerhead menaces Spider-Man in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #113.
Hammerhead menaces Spider-Man in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #113.

THE FIVE WEAPONS SOCIETY

Although it has gone by several names throughout its existence, the Five Weapons Society debuted in its modern form in SHANG-CHI (2020) #1. The Five Weapons Society was founded by brothers Zheng Zu and Zheng Yi and their five students, the Deadly Weapons, to protect China during the Qing Dynasty. After both brothers lived exceedingly long lives thanks to magic, Yi was fatally injured and empowered Zu in his final moments. While the original Deadly Warriors were long dead, the Society was divided into five Houses that honored their memory. Over the coming decades, Zu lost faith in the Society’s mission and refashioned the organization as a criminal enterprise.

One of Zu’s many children, Shang-Chi, was raised to be the Champion of the House of the Deadly Hand, which his father directly controlled. However, Shang-Chi rebelled against his father and fought him for many years. When Zu finally died, Brother Staff and Sister Hammer, two of Shang-Chi’s siblings, tried to take over the Society. But per Zu’s wishes, Shang-Chi ultimately became Supreme Commander of the Five Weapon Society in SHANG-CHI (2020) #5. Despite the skepticism of his fellow heroes, Shang-Chi worked to return the Society to its heroic roots and established its new headquarters in New York’s Chinatown. After Shang-Chi took control of the Ten Rings, the Five Weapons Society revealed itself to the public and was accepted as a heroic organization.

Cover to SHANG-CHI (2021) #9.
Cover to SHANG-CHI (2021) #9.

TOMBSTONE’S GANG

As a child, Lonnie Lincoln was ostracized due to his albinism, but he transformed himself into a lethal enforcer by the time he debuted as Tombstone in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN (1985) #36. After being exposed to the experimental Diox-3 gas, Tombstone developed super-strength and near-unbreakable skin. As other crime lords fell out of power, Tombstone and his gang grew their criminal empire from their Harlem base. In addition to being a frequent foe of Spider-Man, Tombstone has had numerous encounters with Joseph "Robbie" Robertson, a longtime Daily Bugle editor whom he grew up with and tried to coerce into covering up one of his early murders. Tombstone has battled everyone from Deadpool and Luke Cage to Black Mariah, another crime lord who launched an unsuccessful attempt to take over Tombstone’s territory.

Despite her relatively normal upbringing, Tombstone’s daughter, Janice Lincoln, pursued a life of crime and took on the mantle of the Beetle. Janice’s relationship and engagement with Randy Robertson, Robbie’s son, even compelled Tombstone to make peace with the elder Robertson. Around that time, Tombstone faced a challenge from the Rose, the ambitious son of former Kingpin Wilson Fisk, starting in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2022) #1. Tombstone manipulated Spider-Man into wiping out the Rose’s operation on his behalf. Shortly after that, the assassin Shotgun attacked and seriously injured Tombstone during Janice and Randy’s wedding in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2022) #31.

Cover to THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2022) #5.
Cover to THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2022) #5.

THE SYNDICATE

Janice Lincoln always wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. And after going to law school and becoming a criminal defense attorney, Janice got her wish when she debuted as the new Beetle in CAPTAIN AMERICA (2004) #607. Although she debuted as an armored villain working for Baron Zemo, she became the leader of the Sinister Six in THE SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN (2013) #1. To bring more women into organized crime, the Beetle formed the Syndicate in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2018) #25. With funding from veteran villain White Rabbit, the Syndicate also recruited Lady Octopus, Scorpia, Trapstr, and Electro (Francine Frye).

While trying to claim a bounty on Boomerang, Janice ran into his roommate Randy Robertson in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2018) #63. Despite the wishes of each of their fathers, Janice and Randy began dating. After moving in together, Janice proposed to Randy in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2022) #3. Although Tombstone coerced most of New York’s crime lords to come to their wedding, Janice and Randy’s wedding ended before they could actually get married, thanks to Shotgun’s attack.

Cover to THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2018) #27.
Cover to THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2018) #27.

KINGPIN AND THE HELLFIRE CLUB

Wilson Fisk has come a long way since he debuted as the Kingpin of Crime in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #50. Where Fisk once regularly fought Spider-Man and Daredevil, he now stands as the former Mayor of New York City. One of Fisk’s deadliest assassins, Elektra, now patrols the city as Daredevil. Fisk fell in love with another of his old assassins, Typhoid Mary, and the pair got married in DAREDEVIL (2019) #36. Since Mary is a mutant, the couple retired from crime and moved to the mutant nation Krakoa. With Fisk out of the picture, the Owl, another established crime lord, became the Kingpin of New York until the late Izzy Libris took him down. While the Owl has since rebuilt his criminal operation, Richard Fisk, the Kingpin’s resurrected son and the crime lord known as the Rose, is trying to forge his own criminal legacy where his father once ruled.  

After Mary went missing during an attack by the mutant-hating group Orchis, Fisk returned to New York and allied himself with the surviving X-Men as they went underground. As part of that unlikely partnership, Emma Frost gave Fisk the rights to the Hellfire Club to keep the mutant-friendly organization safe from Orchis in IMMORTAL X-MEN (2022) #14. Now, Fisk stands as the Hellfire Club’s White King and one of mutantkind’s unlikely last allies.

Wilson Fisk as the White King in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (2022) #9.
Wilson Fisk as the White King in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (2022) #9.

MR. NEGATIVE AND HIS INNER DEMONS

After being forced to take an experimental drug by Silvermane, Mr. Negative vowed revenge on the Maggia. As a result of that experiment, he developed two personalities: the philanthropic Martin Li, who founded the F.E.A.S.T. Project to support his community, and Mr. Negative, who used his newfound Darkforce to build a small army of mind-controlled and corrupted Inner Demons. On his path to becoming the Kingpin of criminal activity in New York’s Chinatown, Mister Negative fought Spider-Man after debuting in FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: SPIDER-MAN (2007) #1. After taking over gangs like the White Dragons and the Snakeheads, Mr. Negative tried to wipe out a few Maggia families by unleashing the Devil’s Breath, a bioweapon.

Mr. Negative eventually made some valuable allies in the criminal underworld. After Hammerhead was seriously injured in a shooting, Mr. Negative helped him get new Adamantium enhancements. After Mr. Negative fell out of power, Wilson Fisk gave him control over Chinatown’s criminal activity again in exchange for the Tablet of Death and Entropy, a mystical item that Fisk needed to resurrect the Rose (in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #59). But in addition to Shang-Chi’s Five Weapons Society, Mr. Negative must share Chinatown with Lady Yulan, a vampire and Moon Knight villain who also has operations in that area.

Mr. Negative and his Inner Demons in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2010) #621.
Mr. Negative and his Inner Demons in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2010) #621.

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