A former stuntman, Daniel Berkhart takes up the menacing mantle of Mysterio and joins the ranks of the notorious Sinister Six.
From Stuntman to Illusionist
Stuntman Daniel “Danny” Berkhart is blacklisted by the film industry after showing up for work drunk. Berkhart eventually finds himself in jail, where his cellmate Quentin Beck teaches him the special-effects tricks he used as the super-criminal Mysterio. When Beck fakes his own death, Berkhart adopts the Mysterio identity to avenge his friend, and Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson hires him to pose as Beck’s ghost to drive Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man, mad. After tricking Spider-Man into driving his Spider-Mobile into the Hudson River, Berkhart confronts him, overwhelms him with illusions, then escapes. During their battle, Berkhart plants an image inducer on the wall-crawler, causing him to be plagued with illusory enemies, even as Peter Parker.
Eventually, Spider-Man finds the inducer and uses it to track Berkhart down. Berkhart, unprepared for such an assault, loses his bearings and exposes himself as a fraud. Spider-Man quickly overpowers the ersatz Mysterio, who is subsequently arrested. Berkhart demands that Jameson provide him with a lawyer, but no such aid is given, leaving him to the justice system’s mercies.
Skilled With Mysterio’s Suit
Berkhart is a skilled special-effects designer, disguise artist, stuntman, roboticist and chemist, having trained under Quentin Beck. He masters powerful ancient hypnotism and mind-control techniques, enabling him to seize control of even powerful psychics.
As Mysterio, Berkhart wears a semi-transparent helmet, underneath which he wears an invisibility helmet that allows him to appear headless. His helmet also contains a half-hour air supply and a sonar device that allows him to navigate through his own smokescreen and also disrupts Spider-Man’s spider-sense; the helmet also projects a “psychedelic power” effect.
Berkhart uses various sophisticated robots, including explosive robotic bats with poison-tipped claws and mechanical snakes, which he conceals in his costume. His gloves incorporate electro-blasters and an acid-sprayer capable of dissolving Spider-Man’s webbing. His costume can emit various gasses, including a concealing smokescreen and a powerful hallucinogen. Magnetic plate springs in his boots allow him to leap great distances, and his cape is electrically charged.
His costume and cape also feature multiple hidden holograms, lasers, mirrors and other illusion-casting devices. He once used a portable imager, a device that adheres to targets and continually projects holographic images around them. He has also used “joy juice,” which dampens the special abilities of certain superhumans, sensory-deprivation “happy tanks,” and elaborate sets, to enhance his illusions.
As Mad Jack, his pumpkin-like helmet contains a three-hour air supply and is constantly wreathed in “stage flame.” He also rides a small one-man hovercraft, which he uses as Mysterio as well, cloaking it in his smokescreen to simulate flying under his own power. He uses unconventional weapons, including a candle with psychoactive wax, explosive candle-grenades, and a finger-mounted flamethrower. He is constantly accompanied by a robotic cat, which is remote-controlled by Beck’s cousin, Maguire Beck. The cat can activate post-hypnotic suggestions in Berkhart’s victims with its purr, and uses its claws as weapons.
Adversaries and Rivals
An ally at first, J. Jonah Jameson turns foe to Berkhart when Norman Osborn, AKA Green Goblin, hires Berkhart to bully the editor into selling part of the Daily Bugle to him. Berkhart later goes after Jameson and his family either when he is hired to do so or of his own accord. He at one point decides to pursue some of Quentin’s old foes such as Matt Murdock, AKA Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Beck’s childhood friend Betsy Schneider.
Berkhart often finds himself up against Spider-Man. He battles him while on hired jobs and later becomes obsessed with discovering the wall-crawler’s secret identity, going to great lengths, including kidnapping, to do so.
While in jail, Berkhart and Conundrum train under Quentin but Berkhart develops a fierce rivalry with fellow student in the process. Berkhart later gets shot by Dmitri Kravinoff, AKA Chameleon, and goes head to head with the powerful extradimensional mutant Nate Grey, AKA X-Man, capturing him in an illusion but X-Man frees himself and traps Berkhart in a fantasy world.
When the mutant drug dealer Francis Klum desires to take up Mysterio’s mantle, Berkhart goes up against him. As he has Klum in his grasp to come out victorious, Spider-Man prevents him from killing his rival. The conflict is revealed to be coordinated by a reborn Quentin Beck, begging the question of whether he is an enemy, despite having trained Berkhart.
Villainous Tutors and Criminal Networks
Quentin Beck and his cousin, Maguire Beck, both become Berkhart’s allies. Berkhart first meets Quentin in prison where the captured Super Villain teaches him in the ways of illusionist arts. Berkhart is later connected to Quentin’s cousin Maguire who provides technical support to him.
As Mysterio, Berkhart joins the Sinister Six when William Baker, AKA Sandman, helms the villainous group and seeks vengeance on Dr. Otto Octavius, AKA Doctor Octopus. Berkhart allies with Alyosha Kravenoff, AKA Kraven, Adiran Toomes, AKA Vulture, Max Dillon, AKA Electro, and encourages the team to add Eddie Brock, AKA Venom, to the group’s ranks. Outside of this group affiliation, Berkhart also allies with Norman Osborn when Osborn hires him to manipulate Jameson.
Criminal Rap Sheet
Beck resurfaced alive while Berkhart was in prison, and after his release, Berkhart began training under Beck alongside Beck’s cousin Maguire and the enigmatic Conundrum. Berkhart developed a fierce rivalry with Conundrum, but Conundrum soon left Beck’s tutelage to pursue his own ambitions. Joining forces with Maguire Beck, Berkhart adopted the identity and costume of Jack O’Lantern, calling himself “Mad Jack” to distinguish himself from deceased mercenary Jason Macendale and professional criminal Steve Levins, the two other possessors of the Jack O’Lantern identity. Norman Osborn hired Berkhart to intimidate Jameson into selling a controlling interest in the Daily Bugle to him; remembering his abandonment by Jameson, Berkhart gladly accepted. He began plaguing the Jameson family, first attacking Ravencroft’s then-security director John Jameson (Jonah’s son) after he had already been shot by Ravencroft escapee Dmitri Smerdyakov, AKA Chameleon, and then nearly beating Jonah Jameson to death at the Daily Bugle. Keeping watch over Jonah’s hospital room, he battled Spider-Man while John Jameson (whom he had doused with mind-controlling chemicals) tried to smother his father. Spider-Man saved the publisher, but Jonah was later visited by Berkhart himself, who revealed his identity to him and threatened his wife, which persuaded Jameson to sell the paper. When Osborn paid him for his services, however, Berkhart burned the money and cursed Osborn as he left. Despite this, Osborn hired him again when Conundrum kidnapped the Sufindian ambassador’s daughter in an attempt to acquire the mystical Hand of Mumthazi. Osborn hoped to rescue the girl and place the ambassador in his debt, but the interference of Prodigy (secretly Peter Parker in disguise) had complicated matters. Intercepting Conundrum, Jack fought his old rival, who told him that their old master Beck would be sorely disappointed by his mercenary career. The two briefly joined forces to thwart Prodigy, but Berkhart was forced to flee when he overcame their combined illusions, leaving Conundrum to be captured. Berkhart subsequently stole the Hand of Mumthazi himself, seemingly acquiring its powers before being gunned down by Osborn’s guards; this, however, was an elaborate ruse organized in concert with Osborn to fake Mad Jack’s death, leaving Berkhart free to operate more inconspicuously.
With Quentin Beck’s apparent suicide, however, Berkhart adopted his old friend’s identity once more, giving his Mad Jack identity and equipment to Maguire, who continued to assist him behind the scenes. As the new Mysterio, Berkhart faked a series of public suicides, giving the impression that he was Beck, his own death either a sham or else having returned from the grave. He began obsessing over Spider-Man’s secret identity, and in an attempt to discover it, he abducted people connected to the web-slinger and placed them in an elaborate virtual reality scenario where Peter Parker had been paralyzed by a radioactive spider bite, and Flash Thompson acted as a super-powered sidekick to Spider-Man (secretly Berkhart himself). The illusion eventually crumbled thanks to Parker and Thompson’s indomitable wills, forcing Berkhart to retreat.
He then used arcane mind control techniques to place extradimensional mutant X-Man in a bizarre fantasy world, all the while manipulating Grey into committing robberies for him. He had also hoped that Grey, a friend of Spider-Man’s, would reveal the hero’s identity, but Grey eventually broke Berkhart’s hold on him and used his psychic powers to trap the illusionist in a fantasy world of his own.
Breaking free of this illusion, Berkhart next joined a new Sinister Six led by Sandman, who sought revenge on Doctor Octopus, and planned to abduct shadowy United States Senator Stewart Ward at the behest of an unrevealed employer. Forming an alliance with Electro, Berkhart encouraged Sandman to admit Venom, into their ranks, falsely allowing the symbiote to believe that they also sought to kill Spider-Man. After a massive battle between the Six, a betrayed Venom, Doctor Octopus (who alone among the combatants seemed to be aware of the new Mysterio’s identity) and Spider-Man, Ward caught his attackers off guard with previously unrevealed energy powers, but Electro somehow neutralized them, and he and Berkhart delivered Ward to an unrevealed party. The vengeful Venom subsequently injured Sandman so badly that he began to lose control of his body’s particles. In this state, he tracked Berkhart and Electro to their base, which he and Spider-Man destroyed. Concerned for his own safety, Berkhart sent Electro after Venom, who nearly mauled him to death. Luckily for Berkhart, however, Ward waylaid Venom before he could enact his vengeance on him.
Around this time, Berkhart briefly pursued a vendetta against actor/singer Zane Whelan, as the special effects in his upcoming film had been touted as superior to his own. After nearly killing two Daily Bugle interns assigned to interview Whelan, Berkhart attacked the actor himself with a squad of holographic duplicates, but Spider-Man intervened and realized the holograms cast no shadows, making short work of the illusionist.
Berkhart and Maguire then turned to seeking revenge on the late Quentin Beck’s old enemies. They targeted J. Jonah Jameson, Daredevil, Spider-Man and Beck’s childhood friend Betsy Schneider, who had parlayed her past with Beck into book and merchandising deals. They doused Spider-Man, Daredevil and Betsy’s formerly super-powered husband Joe Smith with power-dampening joy juice and placed them in sensory deprivation happy tanks, trapping them in illusory fantasy worlds. Meanwhile, Maguire and Berkhart tormented Schneider and Jameson with hallucinogens and androids. Eventually, their prisoners overcame the illusions and captured Maguire. As Maguire had become unhinged and unreliable in the wake of her cousin’s death—at times, even believing Berkhart to be Quentin—Mysterio abandoned her to be arrested and escaped unseen.
Berkhart began to ingratiate himself within the super-villain community in order to establish contacts and make alliances. To this end, he began frequenting the Bar with No Name, and once narrowly avoided becoming embroiled in a brawl between Spider-Man, Alyosha Kravinoff, and the bar’s other patrons. He also attended Phineas Mason, AKA Tinkerer’s criminal-packed auction of Eddie Brock’s Venom symbiote, where he questioned Brock’s motives for selling a homicidal alien to known criminals. One of his subsequent criminal exploits was foiled by Spider-Man and a stapler-wielding copywriter, but he soon escaped captivity.
Via surveillance equipment planted in one of Beck’s old lairs, he learned that a cache of his old friend’s equipment had been purchased by mutant drug dealer Francis Klum, who wished to establish himself as the new Mysterio. When Klum attacked Midtown High School to strike at Peter Parker, who had publicly outed himself as Spider-Man, Berkhart confronted him, clad in a redesigned costume. The two Mysterios dueled, with Berkhart emerging the victor, but Spider-Man stopped him from killing his rival. Berkhart then turned on Spider-Man, but the web-slinger used his new “Iron Spider” costume’s enhanced abilities to overcome Mysterio’s smokescreen and robotic bats. Spider-Man knocked Berkhart out and left him for the police, neither combatant aware that their conflict had been manipulated by a seemingly reborn Quentin Beck.
Though when the original Jack O’Lantern spent several months killing every person who had ever used a Jack O’Lantern outfit, it stands to reason that he may have included Berkhart on his hit list who had claimed the identity for a time leaving his status and whereabouts uncertain.