The Chameleon is a fictional character that appears in the comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character first appears in Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March 1963), and was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko; the Chameleon is the first member of Spider-Man's rogues' gallery, based on issue publication date, excluding the burglar who murdered Ben Parker. (Supercharger was the first Spider-Man supervillain chronologically.)
The Chameleon inspired Kraven the Hunter to begin hunting Spider-Man, inviting Kraven to dispose of the hero. With Kraven, the Chameleon battled Iron Man and then confronted the Hulk.. At one point, the Chameleon disguised himself as Henry Pym, and robbed Pym's laboratory for documents to combat Virus Nine. While delivering the documents and a shrunken Hulk to HYDRA, he was encountered and defeated by the real Pym as Ant-Man. The Chameleon disguised himself as the Torpedo and battled Daredevil.
When Kraven the Hunter committed suicide, the Chameleon became obsessed with making Spider-Man suffer for his failure to prevent Kraven from killing himself. He ingested a serum which made his face permanently featureless and malleable. He attempted to kidnap America's leading expert on superconductors, but was thwarted by Spider-Man. He then kidnapped J. Jonah Jameson. He approached the Maggia for support to become New York's new crime-lord, and formed an alliance with Hammerhead. Disguised as a scientist, the Chameleon temporarily removed Spider-Man's powers. He allied himself with the Femme Fatales, Scorpion, and Tarantula to eliminate Spider-Man and the Black Cat, but escaped when his plan failed.
The Chameleon's most ambitious play against Spider-Man happened when he formed an alliance with Harry Osborn, the second Green Goblin. Before Harry's death, he told Chameleon Spider-Man's secret identity could be found through Peter Parker, to construct androids of Peter Parker's (Spider-Man) parents (Chameleon later admitted that he went through with the plot to confirm once and for all that Peter was Spider-Man). The plan led to a psychotic breakdown for both Spider-Man and Chameleon. Chameleon's confirmation of Spider-Man's secret identity led him to attacking, rather unsuccessfully, Spider-Man through his family and friends several times, including one incident in which Mary Jane Watson subdued him with a baseball bat. Somewhere in between this and subsequent appearances, he appeared to have been destroyed by his nephew, Alyosha Kravinoff (Alyosha was later to throw a Chameleon mask at Spider-Man's feet, referring to it as 'That weakling, Dmitri'), but apparently recovered, waking in a hospital.
After tricking Spider-man to the bridge where his first love Gwen Stacy died, on the pretext of having kidnapped his wife, he declared his own loneliness and love for Peter. When Peter laughed out of surprise, he threw himself off the bridge. He reappeared some time later in a mental institution, completely incapacitated, believing himself to be Sergei Kravinoff rather than Dmitri Smerdyakov. He later reappeared in his Chameleon identity as part of the Sinister Twelve villain team organized by the Green Goblin.
However, the Chameleon was dealt a most humiliating defeat at the hands of Spider-Man's Aunt May, when he attempted to trick her into believing he was Peter, then murder her. However, May was not fooled by any means, and defeated the villain with a plate of oatmeal-raisin cookies laced with Ambien. Rhino was also employed as part of the team up and later defeated Spider-Man only to be unable to collect payment from Chameleon as he was already captured. .
Additionally, it was revealed in Super Villain Team-Up: M.O.D.O.K.'s Eleven that his apparent insanity and demise years earlier were in fact well-crafted ruses designed so that he could fade into the background once more.
Currently, the Chameleon's powers are innate: his epidermis and skin pigmentation have been surgically and mutagenically altered by a serum so that he can take on the appearance of any person at will. He also wears fabric made of memory material that responds to nerve impulses and can appear to be what ever costume he wishes to be.
When his past friendship with Kraven the Hunter was revealed, it transpired that the Chameleon had also taken the same serums that Kraven had over the years. This would suggest that the two characters were of a similar age (over 70 years old). It would also suggest that the Chameleon's physical strength and endurance could be somewhat augmented, but as the Chameleon's strength is much lower than that of Kraven, his augmentations may not reach a superhuman level.
Aside from his physical advantages, the Chameleon is a master of disguise, and a brilliant method actor and impressionist. He is also a master of creating lifelike masks and make-up. He is a quick-change artist who can assume a new disguise in less than a minute, although he no longer needs to use such skills. He also speaks several languages fluently. Although the Chameleon is not a scientific genius, during his increased lifespan he has been exposed to a wide array of sophisticated experimental technology, much of which he can apply effectively in his nefarious schemes.
Chameleon encounters an alternate Uncle Ben from another future. He kills and replaces him. This fools Spider-Man 2211 whom he then kills. After discovering the body, Sandman's father was framed for Ben's murder, and Sandman went to Spider-Man for help.
The two encountered Chameleon at Peter's high school (Chameleon had murdered the principal and was posing as him), where Chameleon reveals that he wasn't human at all but a giant monster. Chameleon was finally defeated, however, after Spider-Man (of Earth 616) used Spider-Man 2211's helmet to literally "administer poetic justice," causing a last-minute body switch between Chameleon and Sandman's father into an electric chair.
The Chameleon was the featured villain in the "Seven Little Superheroes" episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends voiced by Hans Conreid. He lured Spider-Man, Iceman, Firestar, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner and Shanna the She-Devil (referred to as "Shanna of the Jungle") to the remote Wolf Island to pick them off one by one. The heroes' only advantage is that Spider Friend's pet dog, Ms. Lion, is able to properly identify the people through their scents regardless of the villain's disguises.
In the Spider-Man animated series, Chameleon is an international hitman and spy. He can't (or won't) speak while he is in his true form, though in the episode "Framed", Richard Fisk indicates that Chameleon told them about Peter Parker's parents. Chameleon wears a belt, which is capable of capturing an image of a person, so that he can turn into that person as a form of disguise. (This proved to be his undoing in "Day of the Chameleon"; an image of Nick Fury from a Bugle front page which he copied has been inadvertently flipped. Thus, his eyepatch was on the wrong side of his face, so it was easy to tell which was the real Fury and which was the impostor.)
In his first appearance, he attempted to kill two diplomats at a U.N. conference, but was foiled by Spider-Man. Spidey easily picked the Chameleon out from the crowd: he had taken the appearance of Peter Parker. Chameleon later becomes a member of the Insidious Six Chameleon later works for the Kingpin's son, Richard Fisk, framing Peter Parker for getting restricted government information. But Parker's name is cleared and Richard and Chameleon are sentenced to jail. It is revealed that Chameleon is jailed in a S.H.I.E.L.D. prison and was assigned by Kingpin to release Felicia Hardy's father. He successfully does and disguised himself as Felicia's father so no one would know the real Hardesky was abducted. Chameleon was also infused with a techno-organic virus, which made him part-machine and was thus able to change into any person without the belt. Eventually, his ruse was uncovered by Nick Fury. Later, Chameleon is rescued by the rest of the Insidious Six and became a member again, but would betray them and join forces with his foster father, the Red Skull (they have no relation in the comics), and his brother, Rhienholdt Kragov, who would later become Electro. In the end, Electro and Red Skull, along with Captain America, were trapped in a time dilation loophole and Chameleon escaped, never to be seen again.
Interestingly, in the Chameleon's last appearance when he was fighting against Spider-Man, he was grunting numerous times and the grunts were provided by Jim Cummings, who also played Shocker in the series, which hints that the Chameleon can speak, but just doesn't have much use to talk in his true form.
The Chameleon appears in The Spectacular Spider-Man, voiced by Steven Blum In the episode "Persona", he is hired by an unnamed general to steal the symbiote, but failed due to a battle between Spider-Man and Black Cat. Later, he masquerades as Spider-Man to commit various crimes and lay the blame on the real Spider-Man. His henchmen are Quentin Beck, a special effects expert that uses his techniques to make it appear that Chameleon has all of Spider-Man's powers, and Phineas Mason who uses his his inventions to help commit the crimes and secretly photograph them and give the pictures to the Daily Bugle. To defeat him, Spidey teams up with the cat burglar Black Cat. When they catch up to Chameleon, Black Cat defeats Beck and Mason while Spider-Man in his black symbiote costume fought Chameleon. Despite being defeated by Spider-Man and being loaded into the paddy wagon, Chameleon escapes by disguising himself as Stan Carter, where he passed Spider-Man and Captain Stacy saying," 'Night Captain".
This Chameleon is based on his mainstream Earth-616 version, with the same disguising abilities and mask design.
In the final novel in the series, Secret of the Sinister Six, the Gentleman betrays the villains and tries to escape; it is the Chameleon, to everybody's surprise, who kills the Gentleman, shooting the old man while disguised as a limousine driver and assuming his identity, only to be attacked by Dr. Octopus, thinking him to be the real Gentleman. Marvel has officially stated that the Sinister Six novels lay outside of normal continuity; however, these events have more recently been referenced in the Marvel handbooks.
The Chameleon also plays the role of villain in the novel Goblin's Revenge. In this story, the Chameleon not only teams up with the murderous Carnage, but also attempts to drive Spider-Man insane by impersonating Norman Osborn (then thought to be dead and buried), and later trying to expose the web-slinger to a toxic chemical meant to destroy his mind.