Comics : Spider-Man Unlimited #3

Staff Only
Edit Review
Edit Title

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Filling Gaps

This review was first published on: 2006.

Background...

After 30 years of being one of Spider-Man's greatest villains, Doctor Octopus' past is finally revealed.

In Detail...

"An Obituary For Octopus"
Spider-Man Unlimited #3 (Story 1)
Nov 1993 : SM Title
Summary: Dr. Octopus, Corona, Annex
Editor:  Danny Fingeroth
Writer:  Jack C. Harris, Kurt Busiek, Tom DeFalco
Pencils:  Aaron Lopresti, Jesse Orozco, Ron Lim
Inker:  Jim Sanders, III, Mark Stegbauer, Sam DeLaRosa
Cover Art:  Ron Lim
Staff Only
Issue
Review
Articles: Corona, Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius), Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn) (BTS)

Our story unfolds in an office in the Daily Bugle, where obituary writer Dilbert Trilby is busily typing up an obituary. Along comes a young high school intern named Oscar with some assignments for him. Oscar explains that he wants to be a newspaper reporter some day. Dilbert commends him on his ambition, as he warns him to not end up as a "blank" like some of the poor people whom he writes obituaries for. Oscar enquires what a blank means. Trilby explains that a blank is someone who died while never achieving anything important or great with their lives. Suddenly the phone rings, and it is Robbie Robertson with some interesting news. Doctor Octopus has struck again, robbing an AIDS research centre. Octavius' obituary is to be written in advance, as is only done in special cases, explains Trilby. And so he pulls the Bugle's file on Doc Ock which contains the necessary info to put Ock's background into perspective.

As Trilby begins typing up Ock's background, we get a look into his childhood. Young Otto was quite a favorite of the school yard bullies, who enjoyed kicking his books on the ground, and roughing up Otto. Returning home beaten with his glasses broken, Otto's father Torbert Octavius, who was a construction worker by trade, explodes in anger when he sees Otto has been beaten up again. "Again?? You let them humiliate you again?? When are you going to start fighting back?" he bellows, "I can't afford to keep replacing your glasses. You've got to stand up for yourself. A man is measured by his STRENGTH and POWER!". But Otto's mother, Mary Lavina Octavius, enfolds young Otto in her arms and scolds her husband for his harsh words, claiming that Otto is a thinker, and that he uses his brains not his fists. Torbert is unimpressed, claiming Otto is a wimp. "Mother was right. I should never have married a common workman" Mary retorts.

Meanwhile at the AIDS research centre, Peter Parker and Ben Urich are on the scene investigating Ock's recent raid. They learn from the doctors that Ock stole their most recent blood work, and they believe he heard about it from the Daily Bugle, as it recently did a series of articles praising their work. Peter and Urich part ways, as Peter plans to make a little side trip. Back at the Bugle, the exploration into Ock's past continues. Otto was made president of the science club in High School, though the other students later quit in protest. A brilliant student, he had his full choice of college scholarships. However during his freshman year in college, Otto's father was killed in a construction accident. "An early death is a manual laborer's son. I expect better from you" Mary Octavius tells Otto at Torbert's grave. And she got her wish when Otto graduated college at the top of his class.

Spider-Man web swings thru the city, contemplating what sinister scheme Ock has planned this time. Though he is genuinely confused as to what Ock wants with AIDS infected blood, when Ock's speciality is Nuclear research. He has had no luck finding Ock by searching all his old hideouts. However he spots a known hood name Smooth Eddie Rollins running at the sight of Spider-Man approaching. Smooth Eddie is a fixer. A crook who helps others plan their crimes by providing them with security plans and schedules etc. Eddie disappears into an alley, believing he has lost Spider-Man. But Spider- Man has used his amazing speed and agility to leap ahead of Eddie, and web zips him up onto a lamp post. Eddie begs that Spider-Man releases him, but Spidey tells him he wants to know about Octopus first.

Back at the Bugle, the exploration into Ock's background continues. Otto Octavius had quickly established himself as a genius in the field of Nuclear research. He moved from company to company, until he eventually settled into the U. S. Atomic Research Centre. Octavius is being praised by a fellow colleague to a female colleague for his brilliant mind in the field of Nuclear research. This female colleague is a pretty young lady with black hair named Doctor Anders. She is puzzled however by the "odd contraption" Octavius is working with. Otto explains that it is his tentacles harness, which enables him to work safely with chemicals which are far too dangerous to handle without protection. As he addresses her as Doctor Anders, Anders smiles and tells him not to be so formal. She introduces herself as Mary Alice, to which he responds by telling her his name is Otto.

Our scene shifts again to a large delivery truck, which shows the driver yawning with boredom as he does his mundane routine. Suddenly two tentacles smash thru his door window, as he is pulled from the truck by Doc Ock, who is ripping the door off the back of the truck with his other tentacles, and pulls out a small canister. Ock declares he needs this particular radioactive isotope to the frightened driver. Spider-Man suddenly appears on the roof of the truck, wagging his finger as he says "Tsk tsk. For the best deals in town you should really try Isotopes 'R Us!". Ock lashes out a tentacle at Spider-Man, declaring that he's running on a tight schedule, and has no time for their usual banter. Ock begins to flee, tossing the driver away. Spider-Man swiftly catches the driver, and then leaps after Ock. Spider-Man realises Ock is racing some clock, but why?? And what is his fascination with AIDS?? He briefly thinks Ock may have the disease himself, and he could be risking infection. Until he snaps out of that frame of thought, and thinks he should read up on the facts about AIDS before panicking like most people do. Spider-Man swings in front of Ock, and delivers a swift kick to Ock's face, knocking him to the ground. Ock is furious at Spider-Man's interference, and rips out a chunk of concrete from the pavement and tosses it at Spider-Man, shouting that he has no idea what is at stake. Suddenly Ock notices that he has unintentionally exposed a gas pipe. "Perfect!" he says as he smashes a hole in the pipe with a tentacle. "A single spark could engulf this entire neighbourhood in flames. Hardly a pleasant prospect from your standpoint" Ock tells Spider-Man. "Y-You're insane" Spider-Man stammers, as his spider sense buzzes like crazy. "Genius has always been reviled by the ignorant" Ock says as he leaves. "This city is full of insignificant nobodies who do not matter in the grand scheme of life. A few thousand less can only benefit the gene pool". Spider-Man knows that Ock knows he won't try to follow, not with lives in danger. So he tosses a spider tracer on Ock's back as he leaves. He then turns his attention to the leaking gas pipe. He begins to web up the leak, the more web he adds the less his spider sense buzzes. Finally he plugs up the leak, just long enough until an emergency repair crew can arrive.

Back at the Bugle, we continue to see into Ock's past. Otto's relationship with Mary Alice deepened, until the day he returned home to his mother declaring that Mary Alice agreed to be his wife. However Mary Octavius reacts bitterly, saying she can't believe he plans to desert her in such a callous fashion, after she devoted her whole life to him, he was supposed to look after her. She won't hear of this marriage. With his mother's cruel words still stinging in his ears, Otto broke off his engagement. Later he used his influence with his cousin, a fellow employee named Hargrove, to have Mary Alice dismissed from U. S. Atomic Research. He has not seen her since.

The scene then shifts to Ock's secret lab, where he is multi tasking with his tentacles at his experiment. The isotope was the final necessary ingredient for it Ock says, and it must succeed. Suddenly he hears a voice say "Eh. . . What's up Doc?" as Spider-Man bursts in. Spider-Man leaps towards Ock, but is kept at bay by Ock's tentacles. Spider-Man wants to know what Ock is up to, as he's not used to getting the silent treatment from Ock, who usually always brags about his brilliant plans. "Are we talking simple extortion?? City wide panic?? Or mass murder??" Spider- Man enquires as he shoots a strand of webbing at Ock's face, which is swiftly blocked by one of Ock's tentacles. "You'll never find out. NEVER!!" Ock exclaims. Spider-Man notices that Ock is only fighting with two of his tentacles, and is using his other two to continue his experiment. Spider-Man realises that whatever is in that batch of chemicals is really important to Ock. "What's the story Doc?? You sick??" Spider-Man quips, as Ock ensares a tentacle around Spider-Man's throat. "Me?? HARDLY!! However your health is now seriously in question" Ock shouts.

Back at the Bugle, Trilby and Oscar continue to delve into Ock's past. Otto's nature became even colder, more arrogant, and egotistical. "Pay attention you incompetent clods. Though others fear radiation, I alone am able to make it my servant" he declares with arrogance to his co-workers. One of his co-workers thinks to himself "No wonder they call this creep Doctor Octopus behind his back". Octavius buried himself in his work, sometimes putting in as much as 24 hours a day. However one night he returned home to find his mother all dressed up. It turns out she met a nice gentleman, and has been dating him. Otto is outraged. He explodes with anger at the fact that his mother is leading a happy life finding new love, while she denied him his happiness with Mary Alice. Mary Octavius falls back in shock at Otto's angry outburst, and clutches her chest saying it's her heart. Mary Lavina Octavius died at the age of 57. Her single accomplishment in life was to raise a son who would routinely threaten the lives of millions. Lost in his own private world of grief, Octavius stumbled along the next three weeks, barely conscious of his surroundings. He kept to his daily routine. And as so often happens when one's mind is distracted, an accident occurs. Some say the warning alarm was sounded too late for Octavius to save himself. Some claim he never even tried. In any event the accident bonded the tentacle harness to his body, and on that day Otto Octavius became Doctor Octopus.

Back at Ock's lab, Ock rants about how foolish Spider-Man is for challenging someone with his strength and his powers. Spider-Man tells Ock to chill the mad scientist routine, as it dates him. "Do not mock me. I hate being mocked" Ock shouts in anger. Spider-Man continues to dodge Ock's tentacle attacks, as Ock rants about how this experiment will prove he is the greatest genius of all. "Yeah right. Then why are you combining radioactive chemicals with infected blood?? Don't tell me you're concocting some kind of AIDS bomb. Even you couldn't possibly be that crazy" Spider-Man quips. "You have no hope of understanding me. You NEVER did!!!" Ock shouts. Spider-Man tells Ock to shock him, and tell him he's seen the error of his evil ways and is attempting to develop a cure. Ock asks would he believe him. Spider- Man says "Not a chance". So Ock tells him he won't bother. And tells Spider-Man his experiment has reached a most critical stage, and turns his back on him. But his tentacles are still flailing around at Spider-Man keeping him at bay. Ock's tentacles corner Spider-Man just as the experiment reaches completion. "No" Ock says as he views the results. Suddenly all his tentacles go limp. Spider-Man is shocked to see Ock just give up, especially when he had Spider-Man cornered. All his arrogance and smug exterior gone. "My formula proved ineffective. I failed" Ock says.

At the AIDS research centre we see an orderlie rush out to tell a Doctor that one of the patients went into heart failure. Back at Ock's lab, Ock is being led away by a SWAT team, as Spider-Man talks to the SWAT team leader, who is genuinely puzzled at why Ock just gave up. Spider-Man agrees that it makes no sense, and figures the lab boys can work out what Ock was up to. "One thing's for certain. With Ock involved it had to be something fiendish. . . . right??" Spider-Man says. Back at the Bugle, Trilby is just finished writing up Ock's obituary. Oscar comes in and tells him they just got a report that Ock is in custody. Trilby is disappointed, but says a well written obituary is money in the bank. It'll get used eventually. Oscar hands Trilby another assignment sheet. Trilby is unimpressed, as it is another blank. He tosses it aside as he says "They're nobodies who never contributed anything useful to society, and who probably won't be missed by a single person". We then see the assignment sheet, which reads "Mary Alice Burke who died today at the Robeaux AIDS research centre. A former nuclear researcher, she was recently featured in our AIDS awareness series".

In General...

Oh man what an awesome story. Ock's past is finally revealed, and it does not disappoint. Tom DeFalco did an outstanding job with Ock's past. You really see all the various elements of what made Octavius turn out the way he is. It is a tragic history that Octavius has. And one similar to Peter Parker's, with regards to the isolation and bullying because of being a science geek, having no friends, being unpopular with girls, losing a parent at a young age, and acquiring an awesome power thru a science accident.

The lab accident was the final push Octavius needed to send him over the edge into villainy. And this is the wonderful parallel between Peter and Otto. Peter is the geek gone good, while Otto is the geek gone bad.

Overall Rating...

Five webs. One of the best Spidey villain back stories ever.