One of the most fascinating changes in the Spider-Man mythos over the past three decades has been the elevation of Norman Osborn in the hierarchy of Spider-Man villains. It is true that the Green Goblin took the life of Spider-Man’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, but he lost his own life in the process and was out of commission for decades. Meanwhile, prior to that fateful battle on the bridge, the Green Goblin being the father of Peter Parker’s best friend was certainly a novelty, but not one that was explored all that often in the actual comic books. No, for the first half of Spider-Man’s existence, his greatest rival was clearly Otto Octavius, the villain known as Doctor Octopus. The first appearance of the villain marked a major change for the hero, as Spidey dealt with the first defeat of his career in battle with the multi-armed criminal.
In recent years, though, Octavius has taken on a role in the Spider-Man titles bigger than simply nemesis. In fact, he even temporarily took over as Spider-Man for over a year back in 2013. He is now stuck in a strange state of being where he is neither hero nor villain, really. He is set to return once more as the “Superior Spider-Man,” so Doc Ock has gone through more ups and downs than a roller coaster in his time in comics, including literally losing his life on two separate occasions. Here are 19 bizarre facts about the good doctor’s body and one fact that we all really would probably have been better off not knowing.
20. NO LABOR DAY
Throughout most of his comic book career, Doctor Octopus stood out from Spider-Man’s other villains based on the fact that he was, well, not exactly in the greatest physical shape. Since his arms did most of the work, Doc Ock could be a major threat to Spider-Man without having to be a physical threat himself.
In Spider-Man Unlimited #3 (by Tom DeFalco, Ron Lim, and Jim Sanders III), we discovered the reason for this in a spotlight on Otto Octavius’ background. As it turned out, his mother resented the fact that she married a common laborer, so she insisted that her son be as different from his father as possible, so Octavius avoided manual labor his whole life, becoming doughy in the process.
19. MAKING NEW NEURAL PATHWAYS
Simply having a harness with metal arms would have been interesting enough, but in the case of Doctor Octopus, his metal arms are far more than just a device that the user manipulates. Octavius designed them so that they could react with the users’ brainwaves. As a result, when they merged with Octavius permanently, his central nervous system literally created new neural pathways so that he could fully control the arms.
18. BREAKING BAD
A controversial aspect of Doctor Octopus’ origin is the question of whether Otto Octavius was a bad person before he was merged with his metal arms. In his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #3 (by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko), the text of the comic book explicitly notes that the merger of the harness drove Octavius insane. More than insane, though, it drove him to become evil.
However, in more recent years, writers have questioned whether the addition of the arms actually altered Octavius’ mind so much as it allowed the darker side of his personality to take a greater hold of him.
17. DIALING LONG DISTANCE
The additional neural pathways that Octavius added to his body played a significant role early in his comic book career when Octavius was finally successfully separated from his harness. Naturally, scientists and doctors believed that that the removal of the harness severed the connection between Doc Ock and his arms, but they were mistaken.
In Amazing Spider-Man #88 (by Stan Lee, John Romita, and Jim Mooney), despite being miles away from his arms, Octavius was able to still control the arms and even have them battle Spider-Man before breaking Doc Ock out of captivity and facilitating a man and arm reunion.
16. WAS OTTO ONE OF THE CHILDREN OF THE ATOM?
Some writers took issue with the idea of Doctor Octopus simply creating new neural pathways out of thin air. This, then, led to the occasional writer flirting with the idea that perhaps Otto Octavius was already genetically predisposed to being able to handle the addition of the metal arms.
In Doctor Octopus: Year One #1 (by Zeb Wells and Kaare Andrews), young Otto is explicitly shown as having mutant powers. He telekinetically assaults his abusive father. That calls into question whether the work accident that took the elder Octavius’ life was actually an accident after all. If Otto had telekinesis before the merger with his harness, then that could explain how he was able to manipulate his arms so well.
15. THE FUTURE IS SO BRIGHT HE HAS TO WEAR SHADES
Even as films based on superheroes have become more and more popular, the relationship between the comic books and the films have gradually changed, with the comics being less insistent on adapting to match the films. There are still notable changes to characters made in comics to reflect their status in the film adaptations, but in the old days, it used to be almost automatic that the comics would adapt to fit the comics.
Therefore, when Spider-Man 2 had Doctor Octopus develop a light sensitivity from his accident, the comic books introduced the same problem for Octavius, as well. He had always worn glasses in the comics, but now he specifically had to wear sunglasses for his health.
14. A FANTASTIC DIAGNOSIS
During his acclaimed run on Fantastic Four, John Byrne had Sue Richards deal with severe complications during her second pregnancy. There was a problem with Sue’s radiation levels, likely due to the cosmic radiation that gave the Fantastic Four their powers. Reed Richards tried to get Otto Octavius, the foremost expert in radiation, to help him.
Reed made a surprising discovery – Octavius was institutionalized and appeared to have Multiple Personality Disorder, as the arms specifically seemed to alter his personality! Octavius ultimately was compelled to help out, but it was too late and Sue lost the child. Don’t worry, though, this is comics, a cosmic storyline 20 years later led to the reversal of the miscarriage and Valeria Richards was born.
The reason that Octavius was in an institution when Reed came to get his help had to do with a notable storyline in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man. Doctor Octopus had been in a gang war with the supervillain known as The Owl. They were fighting over a powerful doomsday device that the Owl wanted to use to hold the city of New York hostage. Octopus, though, wanted to use it to simply destroy New York.
Spider-Man’s then-girlfriend, Black Cat, stole the device to keep it from Octopus and he retaliated by nearly ending her life. An enraged Spider-Man pummeled Octopus so badly that Octopus developed a severe case of arachnophobia, the fear of spiders (and Spider-Men!).
12. THE SUM OF ALL FEARS
You would think that Spider-Man would have been thrilled about the fact that one of his greatest rivals was extremely frightened of him and you would be right. However, there came a time when Spider-Man had to cure Doctor Octopus’ brain of this fear. You see, Octavius was so frightened of the web crawler that he arranged for a nuclear reactor to detonate, destroying all of New York City — Spider-Man included.
Spider-Man allowed Doc Ock to beat him senseless, and then convinced the villain that he couldn’t allow the city to be destroyed, as if that happened, no one would know that Octopus had so thoroughly defeated Spider-Man. Octavius agreed and shut the reactor down. He was now cured of his acute arachnophobia.
11. THE MARK OF KAINE
In the early stages of the epic second Clone Saga in the Spider-Man titles (a storyline that enveloped all of the Spider-Man titles for over two years), Spider-Man was poisoned by the Vulture. The poisoning was meant to be fatal, but Doctor Octopus surprisingly showed up with a cure for the poison. As it turned out, Octavius wanted to be the one who finally finished Spider-Man, so he couldn’t let Vulture have the honors.
While saving Spider-Man’s life, Octopus also learned Spidey’s secret identity. He could not do anything with the information, though, as he was then taken out by the rogue Spider-Man clone known as Kaine.
10. LENDING A HAND TO BRING OCTAVIUS BACK
Octavius’ former student, Carolyn Trainor, took over as the new Doctor Octopus. However, over time, she eventually discovered a way to bring the original Doctor Octopus back to life. Trainor cut a deal with the villainous gangster, Rose, who had an arrangement with the mystical ninja organization known as the Hand. The Hand had been known to bring people back to life in the past and so they were enlisted to resurrect Octavius.
The problem was that they needed a human sacrifice to bring Otto back. They originally intended for Spider-Man to be the sacrifice, but instead, Octavius’ girlfriend, the supervillain called Stunner, gave up her life to bring her love back to life.
9. RUNNING LOW ON MEMORY
Having one of your greatest enemies return from the grave is a bad situation for any superhero to handle, but what if that supervillain also knows your secret identity? That was the challenge that Spider-Man faced when Doctor Octopus was resurrected.
However, Spidey was quite relieved to discover that when Octavius was resurrected, Carolyn Trainor managed to get his mind working by using a computer chip that had Octavius’ mind backed up on to it. Luckily for Spider-Man, it had not yet been updated to include Spider-Man’s secret identity, which Octavius had only learned right before he was attacked by Kaine.
8. HIS BRAIN AFTER FIGHTING SUPERHEROES FOR 50 YEARS
As noted earlier, Doctor Octopus’ body was not just not superpowered, but it was specifically in bad physical shape. Therefore, all of those battles that he had with superheroes over the years was putting an enormous toll on to this body. His brain, in particular, had received repeated concussions from getting punched in the face by heroes with super strength over the years.
In Amazing Spider-Man #600 (by Dan Slott, John Romita Jr., and Klaus Janson), we discovered that Octavius was slowly fading away from the brain trauma, as his body was beginning to shut down on itself. He used a series of tiny “Octobots” to take control of New York City, but Spider-Man defeated him by using his own brainwaves to cancel out Octavius’ orders.
7. WHO HAS THE BIGGER BRAIN?
In one of his most sadistic evil plans, Doctor Octopus held Tony Stark hostage with a nuclear bomb. He wanted to force Stark to use his genius to cure Octavius of his brain trauma. If he failed, then Octavius would detonate the bomb. Upon examining Doc Ock, Stark realized that he could not save the villain.
Stark heroically vowed, though, to get the world’s best minds together to help find a cure for Octavius’ condition. Octopus then forced Stark to beg to help him. Stark complied and it turned out that Octavius just wanted to prove that Stark wasn’t smart enough to cure him. The bomb was a ruse. Octopus simply wanted to show that he was smarter than Tony before passing this mortal coil.
6. TALK ABOUT BEING A GOOD HOST
As Doctor Octopus’ health condition worsened, so did his desire to keep himself alive increase. He tried a series of plans to save his life before settling on a plan to burn away half of planet Earth as a testament to his scientific might before he passed away. Spider-Man, naturally, defeated him. However, one of Spider-Man’s earlier victories proved a problem for Peter Parker.
Back in Amazing Spider-Man #600, when Spidey used his brainwaves to control Doc Ock’s octobots, the process made Peter’s brainwaves vulnerable. So soon before his body completely failed him, Otto used a remarkable machine to take control of a new body – Spider-Man’s!!
5. 700 MINUTES TO LIVE
When Doctor Octopus took over Peter Parker’s body, the mind transfer left Peter’s mind within Otto’s body — just minutes from the villain’s body falling apart! Luckily, a group of supervillains broke “Octavius” out of prison in Amazing Spider-Man #700. Working with the villainous Trapster, Peter constructed a life-support system that would give “Octavius” 700 minutes more of life.
The villains attacked “Spider-Man.” However, the battle ended without Peter being able to get back to his original body before his new body perished. Before he was completely gone, though, Peter managed to transfer his sense of responsibility into Octavius’s mind, so while the villain remained in control of Spider-Man’s body, he was at least compelled to still be a superhero.
4. A BRAIN IN A LIVING BRAIN
Ultimately, Otto Octavius’ tenure as Spider-Man did not work out as he expected. He assumed that he would be a “Superior” Spider-Man to Peter Parker, but it turned out that when the Green Goblin began an all-out assault on New York City, threatening Otto’s new scientist girlfriend, Anna Marie, Otto had to concede that he could not take down the Goblin while the “real” Spider-Man could.
Luckily, there was a remnant of Peter’s personality still in Otto’s head and so once Otto stepped aside, Peter took over. What Peter did not know is that Otto had revived the old Spider-Man robotic villain, the Living Brain, and then had placed his own mind within the robot, just waiting for a chance to get a new body.
3. A CONSPIRACY OF CLONES
A new company was introduced in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man called New U Technologies, which claimed that it could clone organs for people to help them deal with failing parts of their body. However, once a number of bodies were stolen from their graves, it became clear that this was actually a conspiracy to clone people and, sure enough, the villainous Jackal was behind it all.
Doctor Octopus was returned to his original body, complete with his tentacles, with all of his original memories. The problem, though, was that all of these new clones were unstable and eventually fell apart. That happened to Doctor Octopus’ cloned body, as well, but he had a backup plan.
2. A NEW MAN
While almost all of the clones were destroyed, there was a special Proto-Clone of Peter Parker’s body that was immune to the decaying effects of the technology. It was intended for Ben Reilly to put his mind into it, but Octavius beat him to it and so Doctor Octopus was alive again, now in a perfect cloned body of Peter Parker!
During the Secret Empire crossover, Doctor Octopus joined forces with Hydra, using this body to become the Superior Octopus. However, his heroic tendencies appear to have gotten a hold of him again and he might once again try to prove that he can be a superior Spider-Man than the “real” Peter Parker.
1. DIDN’T WANT TO KNOW: SHARING HIS “SPECIAL TIME” WITH AUNT MAY
After an argument with Peter’s college girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, his aunt, May Parker, realized that she was smothering him. So she decided to give him his space and become the live-in maid of Otto Octavius, who had once rented a room from May. When Octavius discovered that May was set to inherit an atomic research base (don’t question the logic of this story!) he decided to marry her to gain access to the base.
The marriage was ultimately avoided, but years later, when Peter was stuck in Otto’s brain, he learned that Otto and May had engaged in some pre-marital fun times and Peter had to experience Otto’s memory of the event. That was way too much information for Peter (and us) to have!
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