Villains’ Row: Otto Octavius (aka Spider-Man)
When you think of Spider-Man’s greatest foe, most people immediately go to the Green Goblin. But the Green Goblin, nor any other member of Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery, has achieved what Dr. Otto Gunther Octavius has: Killing Peter Parker. Yes, “Doctor Octopus”, in my book, has become the greatest of all Spider-Man villains.
Otto Octavius grew up in an abusive household in Schenectady, NY. His factory worker father would abuse both Otto and his mother. Determined to not become like his father, he dedicated himself to his studies, becoming a brilliant nuclear physicist, inventor, and lecturer well-respected in the science community. To assist his studies, Octavius created a pair of highly advanced mechanical arms fitted on to a harness that wrapped around the user’s body, and controlled through an interface between his brain and the arms’ internal computers. Aside from the increased strength they gave him, the arms were radiation resistant. Though it was an incredible invention, his colleagues gave him what would become his villainous nickname: Doctor Octopus.
An explosion due to a radiation leak fused the apparatus to Otto’s body. Due to either radiation, or his own latent mutant abilities, Octavius was able to control the arms with his mind, even after they were surgically removed. The accident also traumatized his brain, rewriting itself to account for four extra limbs. This trauma led to him becoming a criminal.
Now, what makes the case for Doctor Octopus being Spider-Man’s greatest enemy can be made in just their first meeting: When facing a criminal, Spider-Man usually shows up to stop him. Spidey has a smart remark and beats up the criminal. End of story. But the formula changed in The Amazing Spider-Man #3. Doctor Octopus beat Spider-Man up and threw him out a window. In their very first fight, Otto Octavius defeated him, and humiliated him, changing Spidey’s life forever.
I can already hear the disbelief in you, my Minions: You’re thinking, “Oh Peter Parker always doubts his abilities as Spider-Man.” But the significance of this fight was that before, Peter was high on life believing that he was invincible. As Spider-Man, he was undefeated… until Doctor Octopus.
OK. That’s not enough of convince you, huh? Then how about this? The thing about Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery is that they’re almost all sociopaths and loners. But it was Doctor Octopus who came up with the idea to unite five other of Spider-Man’s enemies to create one of the greatest supervillain teams, the Sinister Six. In The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, Otto knows he can get Vulture, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, Sandman, and Mysterio – who had all been defeated by Spider-Man – to work for… I mean, with him to get revenge on the wall crawler. Even though they lost that initial encounter, the Six remains one of Spider-Man’s greatest obstacles, no matter the incarnation.
Still not convinced yet, Minions? Then I present my final piece of evidence, which I alluded to in my opening statement: Otto Octavius killed Peter Parker. Yes. Peter Parker is no more. Well. OK. Yes. Spider-Man still swings in the pages of Superior Spider-Man, and under that mask is the face of Peter Parker. Yet, behind that face, is none other than Otto Octavius, in what could only be described as the most genius move in comics.
Due to a series of events starting way back during the Spider-Island story arc, Peter’s mind was linked to Octavius’s Octobot hive mind. With Peter linked, all Otto needed was to establish a connection and download each others’ minds. Using one of the last Octobots, Otto downloaded a copy of his consciousness into Peter Parker’s body, switching the minds of the two foes. In the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man, beginning with issue #698, readers found out that Spider-Man’s mind had been trapped in Doctor Octopus’ ailing body, while Otto had been living as Peter Parker with all his memories, yet none of his morals. Otto decided to become a better Peter Parker than the original.
In The Amazing Spider-Man #700, Peter tries – but fails – to reclaim his body. But he is able to transfer his nobility and morals back into his borrowed body, which convinces Otto to become Spider-Man.
Having finally beaten his greatest enemy, Otto Octavius stand tall as the superior Spider-Man. Or so he believes.
Otto living as Spider-Man had always been plagued by the remnant of Peter Parker’s personality. In The Superior Spider-Man #9, Octavius decides to have a “Parker-ectomy” and rid himself of Peter Parker once and for all. He actually succeeds, leaving Otto Octavius unhindered in his task of becoming the superior Spider-Man.
There you have it. Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man’s greatest villain. He killed off his nemesis, took over his body, and is now trying to show he can do a better job that the original. That’s a villain for you.
Until next time, Minions, when we take a look at Doctor Doom!
(Image: Marvel Entertainment)