Marvel’s “Secret Empire” event will see the triumphant return of Spider-Man’s most arrogant of foes: Dr. Octopus. Given that Otto already considers himself better than everybody else, it really is no surprise he would choose to work with Hydra. However, before we look forward toward the return of Otto as “The Superior Octopus,” we thought we would take a look back at the time he tried his hand — or should we say tentacles — at playing hero.
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“The Superior Spider-Man” series chronicled the adventures of Doc Ock as Spider-Man. After successfully transferring his mind into Peter Parker’s body, Otto gave himself fully to the task of being a hero. Join us as CBR looks back on this highly controversial series and counts down 15 of “The Superior Spider-Man’s” more memorable moments.
SPOILER WARNING: The following list contains spoilers for “The Superior Spider-Man” issues one to 31 and “The Super Spider-Man Annuals” one and two.
15. PETER GOES BACK TO SCHOOL
The first major change Otto made to Peter Parker’s life was surprisingly constructive. When he realized Peter Parker was not actually a doctor, he set out to change that by completing his education. Although this educational pursuit may seem noble on the surface (after all, what is more noble than the pursuit of knowledge?) Otto, of course, did it for the worst possible reason: to appease his hubris! In short, it was his inability to live in a world where he wasn’t referred to as a doctor that drove him back to college.
Although it could have come off as just a fun gag or reoccurring joke, Peter’s pursuit of his PhD became a key part of many of “The Superior Spider-Man’s” storylines. This was no doubt helped by Peter’s antagonistic relationship with his advanced physics professor, Dr Lamaze — an old classmate of Otto’s — and his romantic relationship with his tutor, Anna Maria.
14. SCREWBALL AND JESTER
Even with all its superhero sparkle and fun dialogue, “The Superior Spider-Man” went to some pretty dark places. It was, after-all, a villain book, and despite his best efforts to change his nature, Otto Octavius is very much a villain. Fortunately, writer Dan Slott was able to break all the darkness up with plenty of lighter moments.
One such moment came in the form of villains Screwball and Jester. After Spider-Man’s first kill of the series in the previous issue, his run-in with the two colorful villains made for a playful counterpoint, especially given their main crime was pantsing J. Jonah Jameson! The trouble-making pair were busy in New York pranking notable figures and streaming the footage all over the web. Armed with paint-filled balloons and millions of followers, they managed to embarrass Spider-Man before he eventually got the upper-hand and inflicted his brutal revenge. Turns out, even in Peter Parker’s body, Otto still can’t take a joke!
13. THE ALL-NEW SINISTER SIX
For better or worse, — well let us be honest here, definitely for the worst — “The Superior Spider-Man” was a very different kind of web-slinger. As well as not being burdened by a traditional sense of morality, Otto brought a certain pragmatism to the whole superhero thing. If nothing else “The Superior Spider-man” was brutally efficient.
Nothing showcases this difference in approach quite like in the first issue of “The Superior Spider-Man” when Otto had his second run-in with the “All-New Sinister Six.” Barely considering them worth his time in his first encounter, Otto puts in a little preparation to truly humiliate the “All-New Sinister Six” the second time around. And humiliate them he does. Thanks to some frictionless surface paint and a power-dampening field, he is able to reveal the “All-New Sinister Six” as the amateurs they are. To make matters worse for the villains, he even notified the press so they can report on Spider-Man’s impressive victory!
12. THE SPIDER-BOTS
Right from the get-go, Otto brought a certain amount of his supervillian skills to the role of Spider-Man. He was pragmatic, arrogant and at times downright violent. He also happened to have a certain affection for hordes and hordes of robots.
Not content with simply carrying on Peter’s legacy, Otto aimed to improve it by making Spider-Man more efficient. This resulted in him infesting New York with thousands and thousands of small “Spider-Bots.” As well as sharing Spider-Man’s logo and red-motif, the “Spider-Bots” were equipped with the latest facial recognition software and would scan the city for villains. This essentially turned the city into a surveillance state, continually being monitored by thousands upon thousands of tiny robotic eyes. Not surprisingly, this eventually backfired on Spider-Man when the Green Goblin manages to find a loop-hole in the “Spider-Bots” code, exploiting it to make the robots completely oblivious to him or his many green henchmen!
11. A SAD FAREWELL
Dr Ock’s transition to his new life as Peter Parker and Spider-Man was anything but smooth. As well as avoiding suspicion from Peter’s many allies, such as Mary Jane Watson and The Avengers, the Superior Spider-Man had Spidey’s countless foes to contend with, many of which were Otto’s old allies.
A great example of this was the Superior Spider-Man’s encounter with Stunner. Angry at Spider-Man and out for revenge — ironically, because she blames him for killing Otto — Otto only manages to take down Stunner with the help of his army of “Spider-Bots.” After neutralising her, Otto uses her holographic suit to say a final goodbye. Appearing as himself in a pale white suite, Otto tells stunner that he survived, but they can no longer be together. Although the goodbye seemed sweet on the surface, Otto’s intentions were more pragmatic and the whole goodbye came across as an attempt to stop Stunner from messing with “The Superior Spider-Man” again.
10. ANNA MARIA
In his time as “The Superior Spider-Man,” Otto brought many new things into Peter Parker’s life, but none felt sweeter or more sincere than his new girlfriend, Anna Maria. Without a doubt, Anna is the only truly good thing in “The Superior Spider-Man’s” life. Among all the supervillians, robots and violence, she manages to ground Otto, bringing out the better aspects of his nature.
Around Anna he is almost — almost being the key word here — likeable. He is sweet, considerate, thoughtful and significantly less creepy than usual! Although initially his physics tutor, Anna and Otto bond over their love of physics and fine dining. As their relationship grows, they eventually become more and more entwined in each others lives. So much so, that when Otto considers giving up his civilian identity as Peter Parker and fully becoming “The Superior Spider-Man,” the thought of losing Anna is the only thing that stops him.
9. OTTO AND THE GOBLIN HAVE WORDS
The final arc of “The Superior Spider-Man” saw Otto face off against Peter Parker’s arch Nemesis: the one and only Green Goblin. Since early on in the series, the Green Goblin had been biding his time. Waiting in the shadows until the time was right to strike. Despite all his bragging about his superior intellect and how he cannot be bested, “The Superior Spider-Man” was completely blind-sided by the Goblin’s rise to power as the ruler of New York’s underworld.
Eager to save face by quickly taking down the Goblin, Spider-Man ventures into the Goblin’s subterranean empire known as “The Goblin Underground.” What follows is a dramatic discussion between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. In one of the series’ tenser moments, the Green Goblin reveals that he knows that Spider-Man is actually Dr. Octopus in Peter’s body. Rather then wanting to go to war with “The Superior Spider-Man,” the Goblin instead offers a partnership, a deal Otto immediately refuses.
8. OTTO OUTWITS THE SPIDER SLAYER
“The Superior Spider-Man’s” “No Escape” story arc saw the web-slinger go toe-to-toe with the Spider Slayer in the corridors of the super-prison known as “The Raft.” Although Spider-Man eventually won the day, it wasn’t before the Spider Slayer tried to enact his master plan.
You see, the Spider Slayer had an ingenious plan to escape “The Raft” for good. The plan involved injecting his consciousness into Spider-Man’s body, granting him the ultimate revenge by stealing Spider-Man’s life! If the plan sounds suspiciously familiar, it’s because that is exactly what Doc Ock already did to Peter Parker and happens to be the main premise of “The Superior Spider-Man!” Aware that someone else could try to do it to him, “The Superior Spider-Man” has a metal plate installed at the base of his neck. This metal plate prevents the Spider Slayer from injecting his consciousness into Peter’s hijacked body and ensures that Otto can continue to live out his days as “The Superior Spider-Man.”
7. THE SUPERIOR VENOM
One of the biggest strengths of “The Superior Spider-Man” was how the series was able to make older elements of the “Spider-Man” mythos seem fresh and new again. Sure, we had seen Peter Parker go up against villains like the Vulture or the Black Cat, but no one knew how Doc Ock would handle these members of Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery. The answer, as it turned out, was usually with increased hostility, violence and hubris.
Otto’s Hubris was particularly damning when he came up against Venom. Although Flash Thompson was now on the side of the angels, using the Venom Symbiote as a controlled weapon, this didn’t stop “The Superior Spider-Man” from trying to contain it. Things, of course, go terribly wrong, resulting in Otto being overtaken by the symbiote and forming “The Superior Venom.” After wreaking havoc on New York, “The Superior Venom” is brought down by the Avengers — with a little help from Flash Thompson and Peter Parker.
6. THE SUPERIOR SURGEON
Throughout “The Superior Spider-Man,” we occasionally got to witness Doc Ock’s more altruistic side. He was, after all, trying his best to be a hero; a side effect of Peter Parker sharing the memories that turned him into a superhero. One of Otto’s more selfless acts came in the form of him putting his doctor’s credentials to good use to save the life of a young girl.
After a run in with Cardiac, “The Superior Spider-Man” ends up performing surgery on Amy Chen, who is a child with severe brain damage that was hurt by Dr. Octopus’ global warming scheme. Eager to atone for the sins of his villainous past, Otto performs the surgery all while still being in his Spider-Man costume! That’s right, apart from a truly heart-warming moment of heroism, this scene gave us the visual of Spider-Man in full surgical scrubs! Wait, is that Spider-Suit even sterile?
5. SPIDER ISLAND TWO
As “The Superior Spider-Man” went on, Otto gradually became more and more bombastic with his brand of heroism. This often came in the form of him indulging in some of his old villainous habits, such as having a secret lair. At the end of the “No Escape” story arc, Spidey blackmails Jameson into giving him The Raft as a base of operations, rather than closing it down for good as Jameson had initially intended. In a packed press conference, the Superior Spider-Man confidently announces that his new headquarters will be known as “Spider-Island Two,” which is a surprisingly funny quip for the usually super-serious Otto.
Despite the fact that it happens to belong to Spider-Man, Spider Island Two has all the stereotypical trappings of a supervillain lair. It is filled with dangerous gadgets, has a workshop for building giant battle-robots and is even crawling with henchmen who all wear Spidey’s colours and insignia.
4. THE SIEGE ON SHADOWLAND
Unburdened by a traditional sense of superhero morality, “The Superior Spider-Man” possessed a ruthless pragmatism. This usually meant he beat villains to within an inch of their lives, and sometimes even murdered them. On a less gruesome note, it often led to very straightforward solutions to problems other superheros hadn’t been able to solve. Case in point: Shadowland.
After being gifted with a base of operations (the previously mentioned Spider Island Two), the Superior Spider-Man immediately got to work taking down Shadowland. Instead of sneaking in under the cover of darkness or trying to fight the Kingpin one on one, Otto had a much more direct solution: he stormed the ninja stronghold with an army of henchmen and giant robots! Although certainly unconventional, Otto’s methods proved to be effective — at least for the time being, anyway — and the people of New York were ecstatic to finally have Shadowland gone from their city.
3. OTTO’S SACRIFICE
The lingering question throughout “The Superior Spider-Man” was whether or not Otto could put his ego aside and truly become a hero. Although the answer didn’t come until the series’ second-last issue, it was a surprising yes.
Despite his genius-level intellect and mind for strategy, Otto’s huge ego allowed him to be outplayed by the Green Goblin. As best he tried, Otto couldn’t get the upper-hand on the pointy-eared villain and found himself coming up short. With all of New York on the line, Otto finally understood what it meant to be a hero and gave up his hijacked body to the only person who could stop the Goblin’s reign of terror; the amazing Spider-Man himself, Peter Parker. With tears in his eyes, Otto placed the neurolitic scanner over his head and erased his consciousness from Peter’s mind. Although Peter was back, it couldn’t have happened without Otto sacrificing his own life (if you can call living in someone else’s body a life) first.
2. SPIDEY’S FIRST KILL
“Superior Spider-Man’s” fifth issue was a real turning point for Otto. Although he had already tried to kill someone earlier in the series when he tried to finish off Boomerang (but was stopped by what remained of Peter Parker), issue five was the first time he actually got away with it. The issue represented a dark turn for Spidey and was a hallmark of things to come for the series.
After going on a killing spree through New York city, Massacre, a sociopath and killer incapable of feeling emotion, was confronted by “The Superior Spider-Man.” Seeing Massacre as an unrepentant mass-murderer, Otto pulled the trigger and ended his life in front of a crowd of by-standers. It was heavy, it was brutal and most of all, it was a sign of what the evil Otto was capable of, even as Spider-Man. To make matters worse, right before Spidey pulled the trigger, Massacre began to cry, a sign that he was capable of feeling emotions and therefore potentially changing.
1. PETER PARKER RETURNS
Perhaps the biggest lesson that “The Superior Spider-Man” taught us was that absence makes the heart grow fonder. “The Superior Spider-Man’s” pragmatism and coldness, although fun for a while, reminded us of how much we crave selflessness and altruism in our heroes. Although he had tried his best, it was clear Otto never was, and was possibly never capable of, actually being a hero.
This was highlighted in “The Superior Spider-Man’s” final story arc, “Goblin Nation,” when Otto’s intelligence and gadgets weren’t enough to defeat the Green Goblin. Instead, only Peter Parker’s selflessness and willingness to look before he leaps were enough to win the day. There was something so delightfully refreshing about Peter donning the red and blue tights again and swinging into action against his green-skinned foe. As soon as Peter let out his first quip, which happened to be about the Green Goblin having a man-purse, it was clear Spidey was back!
Be sure to tell us in the comments what you’re favorite moments of Doctor Octopus’ tenure as Spider-Man were!