Last summer, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the debut of Spider-Man. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the debut of Spider-Man … err, Doctor Octopus, aka, the SUPERIOR Spider-Man. In honor of the anniversary of Amazing Spider-Man #3’s release, I thought I’d put together a list of Doc Ock’s 10 “greatest moments.” What constitutes a great moment, you ask? Well, besides personal preference, I took into account long-term impact on both Otto and Spidey. So while these may not be the 10 greatest Doc Ock/Spider-Man stories, I would argue that they’re the most significant.
On with the list …
10. Web of Death (from Spectacular Spider-Man #221)
The mid-90s were a dark time for Spider-Man comics, but I remember the “Web of Death” arc being a fun one when I first read it in 1994/95. In a moment that completely embodies the arrogance of Otto Octavius, he saves his arch-nemesis Spider-Man from a mysterious virus, but only because he wants to keep him alive long enough to “continue their dance” and keep fighting as adversaries. Of course, the mysterious clone Kaine would have something to say with that and shockingly kills Doc Ock at issues end (in a moment that will be revisited next month in the pages of Superior Spider-Man Team-Up and Scarlet Spider).
9. My Uncle, My Enemy (from Amazing Spider-Man #131)
I’ve always found this arc to be the height of Bronze Age silliness, but heck, this is a list about Doc Ock’s most memorable moments, and Otto ALMOST successfully marrying Peter’s Aunt May has to count for something. I never truly understood how May thought Spider-Man was a menace, but Otto was such a nice man despite having spent numerous stints in prison. Of course, Doc Ock only wanted to marry May for access to a nuclear reactor on an island she unknowingly inherited (in another silly plot contrivance). In recent years, especially under current Spidey scribe Dan Slott, Otto’s romance with May is portrayed as being sincere.
8. Doc Ock Wins (from Amazing Spider-Man #55)
During the Silver Age, Doctor Octopus was always portrayed as a formidable foe at the center of the majority of the major moments in Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s life. In this arc, Doc Ock uses a weapon called a “nullifier” on Spider-Man, making him an amnesiac. He then convinces his mortal enemy that he is helping him “commit the crime of the century.” This move really screws with Peter’s personal life, as the amnesia continues for a few issues right as he’s starting to put the moves on the lovely Gwen Stacy.
7. The Death of Captain Stacy (from Amazing Spider-Man #90)
Speaking of Doc Ock always being there for major moments of Spidey’s life, this one rooftop battle would go on to haunt Spider-Man for the rest of his life. Just as Spidey seems to be getting the upper hand on Otto, Doc Ock’s mechanical arms crash into the side of the building, causing them to crumble and fall to the ground below. Police Captain George Stacy, Gwen’s father, is there to push a little boy out of harm’s way, and gets killed instead. Sure, this wasn’t the way Doc Ock planned it, but I’m sure he took glee in knowing how much he tortured Spider-Man by being involved in Stacy’s death. The event created a fracture in Peter and Gwen’s romance that never fully healed before her untimely death in ASM #121. More personally, Peter experienced the tragic loss of another formative father figure to go along with the deaths of his own father and Uncle Ben.
6. Parker-echtomy (from Superior Spider-Man #9)
My list’s first “Superior” era entry shows Otto at both his best and most diabolical. Just as he’s starting to embrace the heroic qualities of being Spider-Man, Otto discovers that a piece of Peter’s mind still exists in his brain patterns. Rather than let the two co-exist, Otto calls for a “Parker-echtomy” to remove him completely. What follows is one of the better Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus battles to ever take place – inside Peter’s “mindscape.” And after always managing to physical succumb to Spider-Man in the past, Otto shows he has learned a thing or two about being Peter and uses the hero’s biggest personal weakness against him: his guilt about failing others. By forcing Peter to admit that he almost interfered in life-saving surgery of a little girl in an act of self-preservation, Otto beats Spider-Man into submission, and we haven’t caught a glimpse of Parker since.
5. Doc Ock’s First Victory (from Amazing Spider-Man #3)
Doc Ock’s first impression is a lasting one as he manages to defeat Spider-Man and smack him around dismissively. The humiliation almost causes Peter to quit being Spidey until a pep talk from Johnny Storm makes him reconsider. But make no mistake, in this memorable first appearance, Doc Ock was built as Spider-Man’s arch-foe. Readers also got to see from the very beginning what an insufferable jerk Otto was, a characteristic he would maintain for the duration of his criminal (and now heroic) career.
4. Unmasking Spider-Man (from Amazing Spider-Man #12)
If only Otto wasn’t so friggin arrogant he could have ended Spider-Man’s career 12 issues into the Webhead’s comic book series. A head cold has weakened Peter considerably, so much so that in battle with Doc Ock, he is easily beaten and then unmasked in front of J. Jonah Jameson, Betty Brant and a few others. But Doc Ock is so dismissive about how easily he took care of Spider-Man, he rejects the man under the mask as an imposter. Could you imagine how comic book history would have changed if Otto just said, “That’s right. I beat Spider-Man!”
3. The Master Planner (from Amazing Spider-Man #32)
In what was the middle chapter of the greatest stories of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko era, Doc Ock is revealed to be the dreaded “master planner,” the mysterious man that prevents Spidey from getting his hands on a serum that can be used to save his Aunt May’s life (which was put in danger after Peter gave her some of his unknowingly radioactive blood). In addition to cementing his status as Spidey’s top foe, this story also demonstrates the planning and scheming side of Otto – a personality trait that would be leaned on in some other famous arcs in the 70s and 80s such as the “Gang War” with Hammerhead and the Owl/Octopus War. Speaking of which …
2. No More Time forFarewells (from Spectacular Spider-Man #78)
My goodness I love this story. Click here for a recent recap explaining why I love it so much. As for why it’s the number two moment on my list is the fact that never in Spider-Man’s history has Otto been portrayed as being so menacing. The entire issue has this sense of doom as Peter/Spidey receives a death threat from Doc Ock and a warning that he will return to strike in 24 hours. So Peter goes around saying his potential last “good-bye” to all the people he knows. The comic’s writer, Bill Mantlo sells the moment really well. Even reading it all these years later gets my heart pounding. The moment where Spider-Man jumps out the hospital window to confront Doctor Octopus is just spell-binding. What follows is arguably THE greatest Spider-Man/Doc Ock battle of all-time, and certainly one with a long-lasting impact. After Spider-Man emerges victorious, Otto becomes a shell of his former self around the Webhead, even developing a fear of Spidey. The character wouldn’t get a proper revival (with a few exceptions, like #10 on my list) until more than 25 years later when Dan Slott brought him back in ASM #600 as a broken man looking for one last victory over his arch-nemesis. Speaking of which …
1. A Dying Wish (from Amazing Spider-Man #698)
The moment that broke the internet, and brought out the worst in Spider-Man fans as they threatened the life of ASM-writer Dan Slott is hands down, the most memorable moment involving Doc Ock. I understand that ASM #698 is still too new to be put on a pedestal with the likes of “If this Be My Destiny” and the “Death of Captain Stacy,” but it undoubtedly captures Otto’s ultimate victory over his long-time adversary, as well as changed the course of events for Spider-Man in a way readers haven’t seen since the days of the “Clone Saga.” And while I’ve come to revile the “Clone Saga” all these years later, I feel like Slott has really brought his “A” game to Superior Spider-Man. Slott’s work remains polarizing, and I’m certain my choice is controversial … but I’m also sure if we asked Otto Octavius himself, he would agree with my selection.