Archive for March, 2012
Spider-Man has one of the best collections of villains ever concocted. Sure there are terrible ones, for every Scorpion, there’s a Hypno Hustler lurking around the corner. When it comes to A-listers though, Spidey has some really good opposite numbers. I wanted to spotlight my personal favorite today. Sure the Green Goblin usually gets top billing as Spidey’s #1 nemesis, but that didn’t happen until he decided to get all personal and murder Gwen Stacy. Before that, the Web-head’s best baddie was always considered to be the guy you see above. He of the bowl cut and multiple appendages, the one, the only Doctor Octopus!
As our story commences, Spidey is on a routine patrol when he comes across some nameless miscreants. Spidey makes such short work of them, that he laments his lot in life. He longs for a villain that can give him a run for his money. I guess that whole “power and responsibility” thing kind of slipped your mind there for a bit, Pete. At this point we leave the cocky web-spinner and cut to one of the many, many nuclear research facilities that existed in the early Marvel Universe. We’re introduced to a man named Otto who with a special harness can well, harness the awesome might of nuclear energy. This apparatus has already earned him the nickname of Dr. Octopus!
As these things usually go, something goes horribly awry and Octavius is caught in a bit of an explosion. Taken from the wreckage, it is discovered that the good doctor is alive, albeit with a great deal of radiation absorbed into his body. If you think that means he’s slowly dying anyway, you’ve never read a Marvel comic! Welcome to the blog, by the way! Anyway, what the radiation actually does is fuse the arms to Otto’s body somehow. This is comics, we don’t need real science to explain awesome things! As it is, Ock’s brain is also been a bit addled. When he wakes int he hospital some time later, he assumes he is being imprisoned for his vast intellect. Because of this, he lashes out, and finds that the arms now respond to his mental commands rather than clunky analog controls. That’s right, Doc Ock has bluetooth arms, apparently! Of course being the fresh off the operating table maniacal genius he is, Doc Ock decides to just take over the whole damn hospital. Although he does it in a hilarious way.
Meanwhile a the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson assigns Peter Parker to get some pictures of the scientist. All they know at this point is that no one is being admitted to the hospital. Actually, the whys and wherefores don’t matter. It’s a good excuse to get Spider-Man on the scene! When the titanic teen stumbles across Doc Ock hassling the staff and generally being a bad guy, he jumps through the window, itching for action! What follows is quite a heated battle that introduces many staples to the Doc Ock/Spidey mythos, such as Spidey getting punched by a tentacle and the hero subsequently webbing the arms up. Sadly for the webhead, the battle is not in his favor. In fact, Doctor Octopus makes such short work of the hero, he adds insult to injury by not even bothering to remember Spidey’s name…
So, after this exchange, Doc Ock literally slaps Spidey around for a bit, and then tosses him out of the 3rd story window like so much garbage. This leaves Peter devastated, as this was his first ever defeat. His confidence is shaken so much, that he goes home as Peter, not Spider-Man. Meanwhile, Doc Ock takes this opportunity to leave the hospital before the police arrive. In the interval, he goes to yet another nuclear research facility (told you there were a lot), and takes it over as well. Thinking himself invincible, Octopus takes the time to gloat.
Cut back to teenage Peter Parker who is being incredibly mopey just because he got his webbed behind handed to him. He goes through his daily routine of getting picked on in school. Not even the promise of the Human Torch coming to school to give a speech can rouse his spirits. In fact, if he wasn’t so mopey, he’d be on the verge of heckling the Torch, thinking it’s easy to exude confidence if you’ve never been defeated. As the Torch’s demonstration continues though, a chord is struck within Pete that truly galvanizes the young lad into action.
As soon as classes for the day end (Peter is responsible, after all.), Spider-Man gets ready to take the fight back to Ock. We even see the first use of the web-catapult to get Spidey past Doc Ock’s defenses. While inside the facility, though, surveillance devices track the web head’s every move. Using his innate cleverness and the trusty ‘ol spider-sense, he manages to evade detection and makes his way to the chem lab. Methinks our young hero has a clever plan.
Spidey finishes his concoction just in time as he is then ambushed by Doc Ock. Using his newly created chemical formula, Web Head manages to fuse two of Ock’s arms together! Doctor Octopus is having none of it though, and still advances on Spidey, backing him into a wall. Worse yet, the arms that got fused together now give Ock a formidable club to smash spiders with! Spider-Man is running out of options, and decides to make a desperate gambit. He manages to web Ock’s glasses to his face, but the arms don’t need eyes to bludgeon the young hero, so that plan was a bit futile. Ock gets the webbing off of his face and is about to deliver the coup de grâce. Spidey makes one last attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with his handy spider speed.
So, getting by with the skin of his teeth, Spidey wraps the unconscious Doc Ock in copious amounts of webbing and leaves him for the cops, because of course they’ll be able to handle him now that the dirty work is done. While Ock is defeated, this origin tale does a superb job in establishing that he is more than a match for the webbed wonder. In subsequent appearances, Octopus would go on to become a proto-Kingpin as the Crime Master, the de facto leader of the Sinister Six, among other things. Possibly the worst offense was when he very nearly became Peter’s new uncle when he wooed Aunt May. Currently, Ock is kind of a mess, with a debilitating disease leaving him a dying husk. That doesn’t have him down though, he still has the entire world in the palm in his hands with his current machinations. Over the years, Doctor Octopus has been all over the map in terms of his place in Spidey’s pantheon of villains, but he’ll always be my number 1, thanks in most part to this story here.
This tale was originally printed in Amazing Spider-Man #3, July 1963. It has been re-published too many times to count, notably in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 1 and Marvel Masterworks: Spider-Man Vol. 1. It is also available digitally.