Has it really been a year?
One of the most polarizing and divisive comic book sagas in recent memory, when Dr. Otto Octavius took over the body of Peter Parker and became the Superior Spider-Man, many fans were sure it would last 24 issues or less. The shocking story arc, crafted by Dan Slott and a who’s who of today’s top comic artists, has caused as many internet disagreements as Obamacare and still has everyone buzzing. Yet, here we are, a year later, and while Peter Parker’s return has been announced, when it’s all said an done, Otto will have worn and weilded the webs for 30-plus issues (not counting the dozens of guest-appearances and spin-offs) while maintaining a top ten position on the sales charts for most of them.
Almost lost in all the controversy is the fact that “Superior Spider-Man” has been one heck of a book, with plot twists and compelling new characters that all make up a “Spider-Man” title than no one ever imagined. There are even factions of fans who are demanding Otto stay Spidey. However, Peter will be back, and soon, reminding readers why he is, was and will always be the greatest hero in Marvel’s pantheon. But as absence continues to make the heart grow fonder, to mark the one year anniversary of Otto’s’ triumph and his eventual ride into the sunset (or blaze of glory), it is time to look back to the moments when Dr. Octopus indeed proved his Spider-Man was the Superior one.
10. Otto Defeats the Sinister Six (“Superior Spider-Man” #1)
One thing is certain, ‘ol Otto didn’t take any baby steps into his Spidey career. Right out of the gate, OctoSpidey faced off against the new Sinister Six, a team consisting of B-listers Boomerang, Speed Demon, The Shocker, the new Beetle, Overdrive and The Living Brain. Slott used this battle to establish how this brand-new Spidey would operate when vastly outnumbered and outgunned. This new Spidey rose to the challenge, as the Six never had the drop on Spider-Man. The battle showed that this was a Spider-Man who had a strategic mind, a thinker that was four steps ahead of his opponents at all times.
After the first time OctoSpidey tangled with the Six, Otto bugged the villains, listened in on their plans (While he was on a date with Mary Jane!) and prepared the battlefield with weapons that would nullify each of the Six’s powers. OctoSpidey soundly defeated each one, made sure the media was there to record his victory and took The Human Brain for himself to use as a robotic minion (every good villain/hero should have one). In other words, not only did OctoSpidey soundly and brilliantly defeat the Six, he literally owned one of them. Otto was mighty pissed that a team of lesser villains dared highjack the name of the team that Ock himself founded, and in his first time out as Spidey, Ock made them pay. Dearly.
The Superior Spidey’s first battle was also notable because it served as an introduction to the team of villains that would comprise the cast of “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man,” one of Marvel’s most original and enjoyable critical hits of 2013.
9. Breaking Bullies (“Superior Spider-Man” #6)
In issue #6 of “Superior,” Ock runs into two villains who profit from the humiliation of others. The Jester and Screwball set out to humiliate Spidey, and when they do, this new Spider-Man does not sit haplessly by, enduring the abuse. This Spider-Man fights back, crossing the line and breaking the limbs of the two mischievous, if comparatively harmless villains. This moment furthered the contrast between Otto and Peter: When Peter ran up against rascally villains, he usually fought fire with fire, testing his wits and humor against the troublemakers. Not the Superior Spider-Man. No, this Spider-Man has no time for games.
Ock’s reaction to being bullied also created a commonality between the two Spideys as Peter was no stranger to being on the receiving end of such abuse. It was the reaction to the bullying that set the two Spideys apart; Peter rose above the pain and humiliation, while Ock reveled in his ability to break his tormentors, thus becoming a bully himself.
8. Regicide and the Utter Deconstruction of the Hobgoblin (“Superior Spider-Man” #14-16)
Shadowland was a cancer existing in the heart of New York, a sinful symbol of excess that acted as The Kingpin’s headquarters of crime. The Kingpin was one of Spidey’s oldest enemies, a purveyor of sin who Peter, nor any other vigilante for that matter, was ever able to totally bring down. The area of NYC was a constant reminder of the power of corruption until the Superior Spider-Man used his new, city-funded army of Spider minions to bring down Shadowland around Kingpin’s ears. In one attack, Ock brought down the Kingpin’s empire. Kingpin had a complex escape plan ready, but as far as the city was concerned, Spider-Man had committed regicide and destroyed the king of vice in New York and rid the city of Shadowland.
From there, Ock turned his attentions to the Hobgoblin, who had established himself as Kingpin’s chief enforcer. Using his technology to track the villain, Ock discovered that Hobgoblin was secretly Phil Urich, honored Daily Bugle staffer. Ock revealed Hobgoblin’s identity to the world, not only exposing the villain but utterly taking apart the secretly corrupt life that Phil had perfected. Ock’s defeat of the Kingpin and Hobgoblin showed that this Spider-Man wasn’t content to defeat a foe; this Spider-Man took them apart piece by piece, leaving them with nothing but ashes of former glories.
7. Protector of Children (“Superior Spider-Man #3”)
The first A-list Spider foe OctoSpidey faced was Ock’s old Sinister Six comrade, The Vulture. Fans were just getting used to Ock in the role of iconic hero when the two clashed for the first time, discovering that Adrian Toomes was using street kids as thieves in a Dickensian plot to terrorize the city. No one was surprised that Otto tried to stop Toomes’ plans — what was surprising was Ock’s horror at the Vulture’s use of children in his nefarious schemes. The junior minions triggered a flashback in Ock, a reminder of his own sad childhood. All of a sudden, in what was a typical Vulture story, Ock was suddenly humanized, Slott playing off Ock’s tragic past to solidify his currently heroic motivations. All of a sudden, Ock was no longer just a usurper; he was a neophyte hero, fueled by his dark past., a staunch protector of children, a crusader for the innocent.
The clash with the Vulture strangely began the unexpected transformation of Ock, from a villain reveling in his greatest triumph into a motivated protector of kids. It was out of character for the man readers knew as Doctor Octopus, but now that Ock was wearing the skin and morality of a hero, his clash with The Vulture created within him a sense of responsibility to protect the innocent. No one was around to protect him from the fists of his father, and this new Superior Spider-Man would be damned if he allowed a child to suffer.
6. Dumping the Watson Woman (“Superior Spider-Man” #2)
Mary Jane has long been Peter Parker’s inspiration, his impetus to keep fighting, and, for a long time, his wife and confidant until their marriage was dissolved in the ever-controversial “One More Day” storyline. To OctoSpidey, Mary Jane was simultaneously an object of desire and a distraction to his mission to be superior. At first, Ock was interested in Mary Jane physically, and for readers, it was not pleasant to watch the once villain try to make time with Peter’s gal. Of course, it was even less pleasant for Peter, who was along for the ride on all of Ock’s dates with MJ, housed in the villain’s subconscious.
When “Superior” first began, many fans railed against this story before it was even published, fearing the teased Ock and MJ hook-up result in a date rape scenario. Dan Slott was vilified before the story unfolded, but Ock and MJ never got physical. Instead, Ock accesses Peter’s memories of his intimate moments with MJ, never harming or touching a hair on MJ’s head. Ock’s lasciviousness satiated by Peter’s memories, he breaks things off with MJ, citing her as a distraction to his mission as Spider-Man. Breaking Peter and MJ’s relationship down to a mathematic formula, Otto realized that a union between the two would be impossible given his responsibilities as Spider-Man, so the always cold scientist did the logical thing, dumping MJ to focus on being a hero.
This moment, so early in “Superior,” really drove home the difference between Ock and Peter beyond the obvious. Otto, in a really twisted way, was more driven by his mission than Peter ever was, a revelation which cast a spotlight on how flawed Peter was in his constant romantic pursuit of the unobtainable, and how deeply human he was at the same time. OctoSpidey, on the other hand, was a hero unmoved by romantic notions of love or chivalry.
5. Massacre (“Superior Spider-Man #5”)
An unrepentant killer unable to feel empathy, Massacre was one of the most disturbing Spider-Man foes in years. Peter’s overwhelming morality forced him to spare Massacre’s life, calling into question of whether or not the blood of Massacre’s future victims would be on Peter’s hands. Ock sure thought, so and when the Superior Spider-Man ran afoul of the villain, Otto’s sense of responsibility led to Massacre’s death at Spider-Man’s hands.
When Massacre escaped prison, he murdered Spider-Man’s ally Dr. Kafka, a woman who was determined to rehabilitate even the worst super-criminals. Ock felt that Kafka was an asset, and her loss enraged the cold and calculating body thief. Her death was a result of Peter failing to complete his mission, to live up to the responsibilities of being a hero. This moment called into question the practicality of mercy in Spider-Man’s complex world. Was Otto the better hero for sparing future innocents, or was Peter the greater hero for his willingness to bear the responsibility of defending the justice system and not allowing himself to become an executioner? The answer is complex and debatable, making Massacre’s death one of the most powerful moments of the series, a moment that spotlighted the stark differences in Parker’s mercy versus Ock’s cold pragmatism.
4. Saving Amy Chen (“Superior Spider-Man” #8)
Early on in “Superior’s” run, it seemed the dynamic of the book would consist mainly of brain ghost Peter Parker helplessly watching Ock ruin his life, with Peter acting as sort of a Jiminy Cricket to Otto’s Pinnochio. Then, in issue #8, Ock became aware of Peter’s presence. Otto needed to get to a brain scan device in order to confirm his suspicions regarding Peter’s existence, and Peter had to keep Ock from getting that device at all costs. The only problem was that the device was in the hands of the doctor-turned-vigilante known as Cardiac, who was using it in his underground clinic to help a little girl named Amy Chen, who had been severely brain damaged as a result of one of Doc Ock’s attacks on the city.
Peter had to stand helplessly by, as he could not prevent Ock from helping an innocent in order to protect himself, yet, in one of the series’ most shocking moments, Peter, the bastion of mercy and responsibility, forced Ock to hesitate for a moment in using the scanner, because the disembodied Peter feared discovery. For one moment, Doctor Octopus acted as the savior while Peter was the self-serving threat to the life of an innocent. Once Ock was able to use the device, he pinpointed Amy’s issue and used his skills as surgeon to fix the little girl, something Peter would never have been able to do.
3. Owning J. Jonah Jameson (“Superior Spider-Man” #13)
For years, one of Peter’s greatest conflicts had been with once publisher of the Daily Bugle and current Mayor of New York City, J. Jonah Jameson. When Ock took over Peter’s body, Jonah noticed a change in his mortal enemy, and found himself approving of Spider-Man’s darker approach to crime fighting. Ock felt a kinship with Jonah because they both suffered Peter’s pranks and insults for years. When Alistair Smythe, the Spider-Slayer and the man who murdered Jonah’s wife, was scheduled for execution, both Jonah and Spidey were there. Of course, Smythe had an escape attempt ready to go and was able to enhance the powers of Vulture, Scorpion and Boomerang, three villains the Superior version of Spidey previously beat within an inch of their lives, to assist Smythe in his daring escape. For a moment, it looked like Smythe would succeed, and Jonah begged Spidey to find the murderer and end him once and for all.
Spidey defeated all three villains with a little help from some of his friends, including a Curt Connors-controlled Lizard, and stopped Smythe, destroying him in the process. When Jonah thanked Spidey, the hero’s response was to play a recording of the Mayor calling for the unlawful death of a human being. Now, Spidey flat-out owned Jonah, paying him back for years of humiliation and lies. Peter was never able to get a real upper hand on Jonah, nor would his morality have allowed him to exploit this situation, but Octavius happily seized upon the moment to gain the use of a mayor as a puppet. This also allowed Ock to take control of the prison Smythe was held in as his own Spider Island. Jonah — and the City of New York — now bankrolls Spidey’s operations thanks to Ock’s masterful manipulations. It may not be moral, but Spidey’s control of Jonah allowed Spidey to function as a more capable and well-equipped hero, which benefited the city both Spidey and Jonah had sworn to protect.
2. Peter’s “Final” Defeat (“Superior Spider-Man”#9)
When Ock realized that Peter was along for the mental ride, the mastermind villain-turned-hero did something about it. Confronting each other in their shared mindscape, the two mortal enemies went to battle over who would control the body of Spider-Man. They each pulled out all the stops, with the mentally-conjured images of Peter’s allies and friends ganging up on Ock to kick him out of Peter’s mind, but Ock countered with the memories of Peter’s greatest villains. It appeared as if Peter had the upper hand, but when Ock began pointing out Peter’s failures, Parker’s resolve began to weaken. He pointed out how Peter thought everything was a joke — and Peter blinked. Ock showed Peter how his failure to kill Massacre cost innocent lives — and Peter balked. And when Ock pointed out how Peter tried to prevent Ock from helping Amy Chen, a true innocent, Peter was defeated.
It was only for a second, but Peter’s selfish attempt at stopping Ock from living up to a hero’s responsibilities gave Otto the edge he needed to remove Peter from his mind, this time for good. In this mental battle, Ock proved himself to be superior by finding and exploiting the one second of true selfishness Peter had committed since he failed to stop a burglar years ago. Peter was gone and fans were left shocked and numb.
1. Anna Maria Marconi (First appearance: “Superior Spider-Man” #5)
It may be shocking that a one-time villain has done so much to help a society that once completely rejected him, but the element that humanized Otto Octavius’ Spider-Man the most was the woman he gave his heart to. Ock was never a romantic figure; he was a pudgy nerd with a Moe Howard haircut. Not a dashing or handsome man, he was often ridiculed, particularly by Peter, for his appearance. Perhaps this is part of the reason why when he came across the object of his affections, Ock looked beneath the surface to find true love.
Anna Maria Marconi is a brilliant scientist, a gourmet chef, a woman who possesses a true heart, and a woman who maintains a steely strong resolve in the face of ridicule. Anna also happens to be a little person, and Ock not only loves her, he seems wonderfully oblivious to this fact. The addition of Anna to the cast allowed Ock to find a depth beyond any he ever had in his arch-villain days.
Ock saw Anna for the inspiring figure she is, which caused the reader to see Ock as more than a villain. The idea of a villain in the body of an iconic hero is a bit difficult for a reader to wrap their heads around for over thirty issues, but thanks to his blossoming relationship with Anna, we found ourselves rooting for him, even if that meant we’d never see Peter Parker again. For Anna’s sake! Otto’s affections for his girlfriend showed his amazing depth and the heart of a man who can look past the superficial. Peter’s love interests included sexy cat burglars, super models and other beauties, which begs the question: When he is once again in control of his body and life, what happens to Anna?