Jeremy enjoys reviewing cinema and television when not working as a chemist.
Otto Octavius in Spider-Man
Rivaling the Green Goblin and Venom as Spider-Man's arch-nemesis, Dr. Otto Octavius challenges Peter Parker both physically and mentally. With four extendable "tentacles" connected via harness, "Doc Ock" proves a fierce combatant, and his incredible intellect knows no equal.
But despite his prominence in Marvel, Doctor Octopus leads a complicated life full of various tidbits you might have missed—which are most interesting? Here are ten facts you probably didn't know about Otto Octavius! Spoilers ahead.
1. He Had a Troubled Childhood
Delving into Otto's past explains many of his adult flaws. As a child, his father physically beat him, and he was bulled in school for being a brainy teacher's pet. Otto's already-damaged psyche further collapsed when his dad died in an industrial accident, again isolating him from the world.
At least Otto got along pretty well with his mom, but even that would end in tragedy...
2. He Was Engaged
We're talking a legitimate engagement here, no scheming involved. Before his criminal career, Otto proposed to fellow researcher Mary Alice Anders, who accepted. However, Otto's mother disapproved, leading Otto to break up with Anders and causing a big argument between mother and son.
Unfortunately, this caused Mrs. Octavius to have a heart attack, killing her and leaving Otto more alone than ever. Single and parent-less, Otto abandoned moral restraints in his research, beginning his descent into crime. And Mary isn't Otto's only failed courtship...
3. He Almost Married Aunt May
Mary was a true relationship, but Otto's engagement to May Parker was a sham. Not realizing Octavius is a supervillain, May agrees to live with him after he "saves" her from Spidey. A dozen or so Amazing Spider-Man issues later, Otto seeks marriage to gain access to an island May had recently inherited that housed a nuclear reactor, quite the prize for a criminal mastermind.
Long story short, Hammerhead crashes the wedding and Spider-Man recovers Aunt May, putting an end to her relationship with Octavius.
4. He Was Killed (And Resurrected)
You might have heard of Peter's clone Ben Reilly (the Scarlet Spider), but few fans know about fellow clone Kaine Parker. In essence, Kaine's a misguided anti-hero who performs overly violent acts supposedly in the name of justice, like killing Octavius after his spider-senses told him someone would go after Mary Jane.
The Doc Ock mantle would temporarily fall to Carolyn Trainer, Octavius's student, But with the help of the Hand, a group of mystic ninjas (hey, this is the comic world), Trainer was able to resurrect Octavius.
5. Spider-Man Gave Him Arachnophobia
In one iconic battle, Doc Ock faces Spider-Man and Black Cat, grievously injuring the latter. Enraged, Spider-Man violently counterattacks, beating Otto to within an inch of life. This experience gives Otto a phobia of Spider-Man, which he only conquers when Spider-Man purposefully lets Otto beat him (it helped saved the city).
6. He Can Control Unattached Tentacles
Ock's most iconic weapons are his mentally-controlled "tentacle" arms, which extend to 24 feet. Not only that, Otto discovers he can even command them when unattached from his body, which he often uses to bust out of prison. The tentacles also have a complex set of orders to follow should Otto fall unconscious, letting him escape battles even if knocked out.
Otto with four extra arms is bad enough, but he becomes an absolute monster with eight...
7. He's Much Stronger Than You Think
In his regular four-tentacle state, Octavius has beaten heroes like Spider-Man and Daredevil, but it'd only take an Avenger or two to conquer him, right? Well, that's before his upgrade—at his peak, Octavius adds four additional arms to his harness and upgrades them to near-indestructible adamantium, the same metal that forms Wolverine's claws.
In this state, Otto wrecks Iron Man (whose crushing defeat nearly drives him to alcoholism), and is noted by Peter to "hold his own" against the combined might of Spider-Man, Hulk (who he knocks out), the Fantastic Four, Deathlok, Ghost Rider, and Solo. Yikes.
8. He Became Spider-Man
Perhaps Otto's most nefarious plan was when he swapped bodies with Spider-Man, placing Peter into his old and dying self while gaining Peter's young and super-powered body. Heck, it's one of few villain plans that works—Peter dies and Ock becomes the lead in the Superior Spider-Man comics. In these, Peter's remnants and Otto's own moral compass inspire him to become a better Spider-Man, leading to a unique anti-hero.
The radical idea of Ock becoming Spider-Man was criticized when first announced, but fans were won over by Superior's clever writing and unique plot. I have to agree; it's one of my favorite stories and doesn't overstay its welcome at a substantial yet modest 34 issues (longer if you include future volumes).
9. He Has Several Kind Moments
While somewhat dependent on which film, comic, or show you're experiencing, Otto has several sympathetic moments even after his villainous descent. For instance, in the panel above, he's protecting Aunt May from the Red Goblin (Norman Osborn in a kid's body—long story), no ulterior motives or tricks.
Other good deeds from Otto include:
- Saving Peter's life by developing antidote to poison (admittedly because he didn't like the thought of anyone else besting Spider-Man, but still)
- After being redeemed by Spider-Man, sacrificing himself to save New York (Spider-Man 2)
- Searching for AIDs cure for dying ex-fiance Mary Anders (sadly, he fails)
- Releasing a defeated Spider-Man rather than killing him (Amazing Spider-Man #297)
- Offers to pay Vulture from his own bank account to give up crime (Superior Spider-Man #3)
- Sacrifices himself to revive Peter and save the city (Superior Spider-Man #30)
Even some of Otto's crimes become sympathetic when we learn his endgame, like when he tried to conquer New York to turn it into a peaceful paradise. And recently, Otto has delved into more heroics...
10. He's Now the Anti-Hero Superior Octopus
As Spider-Man, Doc Ock sacrifices himself, staying dead this time—sort of. Another long story short, during his prior antics in the future, he created a duplicate consciousness of himself who eventually emerges as the Superior Octopus, another Spider-Man-esque anti-hero.
This means we're getting more intriguing storylines where we half root for Doc and are half appalled by him, except this time, there's the added turmoil of also having regular Spider-Man active. Time will tell what duplicate-Otto's ultimate fate is, but for now, I'm just glad to see more (anti) heroics from one of Marvel's most complex characters.
The Future of Otto Octavius
While true Otto is technically dead, his duplicate lives on. Meanwhile, other characters (like Olivia Octavius in Into the Spider-Verse) may fill Otto's old role as Doc Ock, leaving room for Otto to possibly shift into a more heroic role.
He wouldn't be the first Spidey rogue to fully convert, with characters like Eddie Brock (Venom) firmly abandoning their villainous ways. But for now, as we await the future of Otto Octavius, vote for your favorite Spider-Man villain and I'll see you at our next Marvel countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill