Doc Ock's Greatest Hits - Part 2

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Broken Frontier continues its look today at the top ten greatest Spider-Man/Dr. Octopus clashes of all time. In our second outing Ock has a devastating impact on Peter’s loved ones, makes a brand new enemy whose presence will haunt him for some time to come and displays a romantic penchant for the older woman...

Click here for Part 1 of this series.

Amazing Spider-Man #s 88-90

By the time Amazing Spider-Man #88 begins Dr. Octopus has had his supposedly "permanently"-attached arms removed from him. Ock’s control of them, though, hasn’t been affected. From states away he is able to mentally command them to free him from prison and, after a bizarre "solo" battle with Spider-Man on the way, the metal appendages are reunited with the freed villain. After a botched attempt at hijacking a plane containing a foreign V.I.P. for ransom money, Octopus is seemingly killed attempting to fly the plane to freedom.

Presumed dead in the airport explosion, Doc Ock realises in Amazing Spider-Man #89 that he is now free to pursue his revenge against Spider-Man unhindered and lures him to a confrontation. Here he delivers him a sound beating, nearly killing him. Spidey tags him with a spider-tracer but Ock is aware of this and will later use it to set a trap for the young hero.

Echoes of Amazing Spider-Man #3 abound as a defeated web-slinger is forced to rely on his scientific genius to find a way to take down his eight-limbed foe. Tracking his spider-tracer, he ends up in a rooftop battle with the well-prepared and waiting Dr. Octopus. Spider-Man uses a chemical he has created to block Ock’s mental control of his arms but, in the ensuing confusion, Dr. Octopus’s thrashing, unguided tentacles knock down a chimney towards the crowd below. Captain Stacy, father of Spidey’s girlfriend Gwen, heroically leaps to save an endangered child but is himself fatally injured by the plummeting masonry.

Stacy’s death itself is one of the all-time great moments of Spider-history. As he lies cradled in Spider-Man’s arms, his life ebbing away, he addresses the hero as "Peter" and asks him to take care of Gwen, indicating he always knew who Spider-Man really was but kept Peter’s secret. This was an era, of course, when death in Marvel Comics was still truly shocking and a plot device used to remove a character from the mythos entirely, not just to give them a short holiday.


The true tragedy of Captain Stacy’s death is that Spider-Man is, at least, partially responsible for it – something that will be repeated in years to come when his attempt to save Gwen Stacy goes horribly wrong in Amazing #121. By robbing Ock of the control of his arms he creates an out-of-control menace to innocent bystanders that will, ultimately, cost George Stacy his life. It brings an extra layer of tragedy to the proceedings and underlines that feeling that Dr. Octopus stories in the early years always had an added edge to them. And sadly, as we all know, Peter’s promise to Captain Stacy will be one he will be unable to fulfil…

Events here were elaborated on in the Spider-Man: Death and Destiny miniseries in 2000 in which Lee Weeks follows up on the aftermath of George’s Stacy’s death. Without a doubt this is not just one of the top ten Dr. Octopus stories of all time but one of the top ten Spider-Man stories of all time.

Amazing Spider-Man #s 112-115

Our next chosen story arc begins a 1970s trilogy of sorts as Dr. Octopus gains a recurring adversary in the shape of Maggia boss Hammerhead – the wonderfully over the top crime boss whose schtick was that he spoke and dressed like a stereotypical 1920s/1930s gangster. His name came from experimental surgery performed on him by stock Marvel mad scientist and recurring Spidey foe Dr. Jonas Harrow. Harrow took the notion of the "flat top" to extremes where Hammerhead was concerned, providing him with a re-enforced, indestructible cranium.

The gang war between Octopus’s men and Hammerhead’s forces for control of New York’s underworld comes to a temporary halt when Ock is once again captured and Hammerhead forced to flee. However, it’s some of the peripheral moments that elevate this story to the stature of all-time Ock corkers - not the least of which is that it sets up all future storylines for the character up to 1976. It also sees Octopus unmask Spider-Man for a second time (in the ‘90s he would manage it for real proving that the third time really is the charm) and features a desperately ill Peter Parker going into battle with a stomach ulcer.


Most importantly, however, Doc Ock drives another wedge between Spidey and one of his supporting cast when he employs Peter’s already estranged Aunt May as his housekeeper. In the final climactic confrontation between Spider-Man, Octavius and Hammerhead at the Doctor’s mansion Aunt May not only smashes a vase over Spider-Man’s head but she also picks up a gun and fires it at our hero! Despite her employer’s arrest she opts to stay on in her current position…

Old school Spider-Fans remember the Ock/Hammerhead clashes with a great deal of affection. They're a staple ingredient of the best of the '70s Spider-fare and, with umaskings and family betrayals providing some classic cliffhanger moments, this one seasons the pot with some tasty added extras.

Amazing Spider-Man #s 130-131

From behind the scenes between the last Ock arc and this one, the not-so-good Doctor continues to manipulate the Parkers’ lives. The reasons why will be come apparent in Amazing Spider-Man #131. But not before the greatest Dr. Octopus cliffhanger of all time and one that is, I am not ashamed to admit, my single favorite Ock moment ever…

In Amazing Spider-Man #130 the return of Hammerhead sparks further conflict with Dr. Octopus. The mysterious new player in town, master manipulator the Jackal, is the character merrily pulling everyone’s strings as part of the much larger "original" Clone Saga. Indeed it is thanks to the Jackal’s scheming that Peter learns how necessary it is that he makes an immediate intervention at Ock’s Westchester mansion. Rushing to the bad guy's extravagant estate Spider-Man peers through a window to discover... Dr. Octopus is marrying Aunt May!!!  This leads to Amazing Spider-Man #131’s wonderfully camp but utterly unforgettable title "My Uncle… My Enemy?".

Quite why May Parker was so taken in by her erstwhile beau throughout the ‘70s is never really satisfactorily explained but we have to remember this was the rather dotty Aunt May as she was originally conceived. Her current characterisation bears only the most passing resemblance to her pre-Millennium incarnation and, while Peter has aged about ten-twelve years since we first met him, Aunt May appears to have de-aged by at least the same amount!

In later stories Octopus’s affection for May Parker will actually grow into something far more genuine (just check out last week’s Amazing Spider-Man #600 for more evidence of that). Here, however, he is primarily hoping to get his tentacles on a recent inheritance bequeathed to May Parker – a Canadian island rich in natural deposits of uranium and complete with its own nuclear reactor. The wedding is gatecrashed by not just Spidey but by Hammerhead too, forcing Octopus to flee by helicopter with Aunt May to the island before their vows can be taken. He’s closely followed by Hammerhead and a "hitch-hiking" Spider-Man.

Subsequent events will move Otto Octavius and Hammerhead’s enmity into the most unexpected quarters. As we would expect, Spider-Man frees his aunt from Octopus’s clutches and escapes with her by plane. Hammerhead, however, now obsessed with his need for oneupmanship with Dr. Octopus, has pursued him without even knowing what May’s significance to Otto is. In their final confrontation, deep within the reactor complex, the volatile crime boss charges Doc Ock causing a nuclear explosion that apparently kills them both.

Admittedly this story stretches the bounds of credulity to their limits on a number of points – all the way from May’s near nuptials to her unlikely inheritance. But it deserves its place in the pantheon of Ock classics for that one glorious, shocking, stunning, jaw-dropping moment when we discover alongside Peter that he's a whisker away from calling his greatest enemy  "Uncle Otto" for the rest of his life.

Just don’t think too hard about the implications of Otto Octavius as Aunt May’s tubby toy boy...

In the upcoming third and final part of this feature series we will be looking at the conclusion of the Hammerhead trilogy, the also-ran stories that just missed the list and revealing what I consider the greatest Dr. Octopus epic of all time! Those wishing to further investigate the stories featured in these articles are directed to Marvel’s Omnibus, Masterworks and Essential series of reprints.

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