Back Issues: Across the Multiverse, Doctor Octopus Remains Superior

The upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home will swing for the fences with the latest caper in Tom Holland's web-slinging trilogy, bringing in characters from across the multiverse including villains from the original Sam Raimi movies and the Marc Webb rebooted series. Among those that will crawl back to life and take on Holland's Spider-Man is none other than Doctor Octopus, played once again by the indelible Alfred Molina. Though intrinsically tied to the character after his portrayal in 2004's Spider-Man 2, he's just one bright spot in the near 60-year history of the character that has menaced the wall-crawler.

Making his debut in The Amazing Spider-Man #3 back in 1963, and just the third supervillain to face the titular hero after Chameleon and Vulture, Doctor Octopus quickly became a recurring fiend for Spider-Man as well as an icon of the post-nuclear age. Rightfully named Dr. Otto Octavius, he earned his nickname from the device he created that gave him an additional four arms, allowing him to handle nuclear materials safely. As you can guess, an experiment with such things fused the arms to him forever but also gave him control of the arms as extra appendages.  

After his first defeat by Spider-Man, and earning himself a criminal record, Doc Ock would continue his life of crime through various other instances of criminality, many of which were designed to attract Spider-Man's attention specifically. He would go on to found the original Sinister Six, the supervillain group united to defeat the hero once and for all. Around this time is when Doc Ock actually becomes separated from his mechanical arms, though he'd continue to be able to control them despite being detached (a trait that would continue). 

One of Doc Ock's most famous schemes however isn't one of outward evil-doing like robbing a bank or attempting to kill Spider-Man, but the scheme he carried out that saw him attempt to marry none other than Peter's Aunt May. As seen in Amazing Spider-Man #131 and its iconic cover, Ock tried to marry May for one of the most cockamamie reasons ever seen in a comic book storyline. The marriage never went through but the imagery lives on to this day and gave Spider-Man yet another reason to beat up the baddie.

Despite his continued villainy, Doc Ock has at times taken on the role of an anti-hero, though this is often driven by his own selfish desires to be the one to defeat Spider-Man. There have been times previously when Doc Ock even saved Spider-Man from certain death by another villain or cause since it wouldn't be him delivering the killing blow. One of the times Ock would save Spider-Man lead to his own death however as the Spider-Man clone Kaine would kill the villain during the famous Clone Saga storyline (he would later be brought back to life by the notorious resurrection cult, The Hand).

Perhaps the most famous recent Doctor Octopus story however is when he actually won. Late in life Doctor Octopus was nearing death (again) and through months-long planning and trickery, he was able to put his own consciousness in the mind of Spider-Man, leaving Peter Parker trapped in his own dying body while he took on the role of the webslinger. After making the body-swap, Octavius takes Peter's plea to the heart of staying a hero, but in doing so he vows to become a "Superior Spider-Man," prompting the fan-favorite storyline that lasted a couple of years in Marvel Comics (before, naturally, Peter found a way to take his body back).

In recent years Doc Ock has come back via a robot body, a clone, and later his own body, teamed up with HYDRA to become the Superior Octopus, and even fighting the villain Kindred to help Spider-Man. No matter what happens to the character, he always comes back.

Ock has also been a big part of Spider-Man's history elsewhere, taking on a major role in the 1990s animated series and also on the big screen. The previously mentioned Alfred Molina played the part in 2004's Spider-Man 2 and will reprise his role once again in the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home, while an alternate version of Doc Ock was voiced by none other than WandaVision's Kathryn Hahn in 2018's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Wherever Spidey goes, there will seemingly always be a Doc Ock to follow.

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