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You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies, and few superheroes have a better rogues' gallery than Spider-Man! Curiously enough, one of his most iconic foes is a supervillain who, at first glance, seems little more than a joke; after all, Doctor Octopus (better known as Doc Ock) is essentially just a mad scientist with extra arms! But comic book fans have long known that Doc Ock is a powerful character, and a true menace. Over the years, the two enemies have clashed many times - here are five of their greatest battles!
5. The First Battle!
It's incredible to realize that Doc Ock's vendetta against Spider-Man runs all the way back to Amazing Spider-Man #3! The issue opened with a cocky wallcrawler wishing for a foe who could challenge him, and his wish was soon to be granted. When he barged in on Doc Ock's affairs, he was defeated with ease, and tossed aside like trash.
A recurring theme in those early comics was that Doc Ock was fascinated by atomic radiation. In this first appearance, he took over an atomic plant, and threatened a nuclear meltdown. A downbeat Peter Parker, meanwhile, came close to quitting as Spider-Man, but was given an impromptu pep talk when the Human Torch spoke at his school assembly. The second battle didn't go Doc Ock's way, as Spider-Man brewed a chemical concoction to fuse two of his foe's mechanical arms together. It all ended with a single punch to Doc Ock's glass jaw.
From this moment on, Doc Ock's role as one of Spider-Man's greatest foes was sealed. In his first encounter, he'd proved to be more than a match for the wall-crawler; this was a foe who would challenge Spider-Man's brawn and brain!
4. Doc Ock must conquer his fear!
One particularly harsh beat-down gave Doc Ock a deep-rooted psychotic fear of Spider-Man! Attempts to treat his psychosis only made matters worse, and in Amazing Spider-Man #296 he broke loose. It was Spider-Man's turn to set a trap, as he persuaded psychiatrist Doctor Jefferson - who had been treating Doc Ock - to push a fake news story in the Daily Bugle that he was going to reveal Doc Ock's greatest secrets. Furious, Doctor Octopus decided that he had to deal with Spider-Man once and for all. Since Spider-Man was based in Manhattan, the surest way to do that was to destroy Manhattan!
The next issue kicked off with Doc Ock stealing a biological weapon in order to achieve his terrible aim. It led to an epic confrontation at the World Trade Center (Doc Ock was using that as his hideout!). Spider-Man realized that there was only one way to end this: he had to let Doc Ock defeat him, breaking the psychotic fear. Doc Ock called off the biological attack, not wanting to sully his victory with all that "negative publicity", and allowed Spider-Man to go - convinced that his foe would never be able to forget his defeat.
3. The Superior Spider-Man!
Mention simply has to be made of Doc Ock's greatest victory! In the run-up to Amazing Spider-Man #600, Doc Ock's body was dying. But Spider-Man had made one mistake: he'd used Doc Ock's mind-control interfaces, meaning Doc Ock had a copy of Spider-Man's brainwaves. Doc Ock managed the impossible, switching minds, and taking Spider-Man's body as his own! It seemed to end in tragedy; Doc Ock's old body died, with Peter's mind inside it.
Marvel relaunched the Spider-Man book as Superior Spider-Man, with Doc Ock pledging to be a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker had ever been. He did it in true Doctor Octopus fashion, building an army and using advanced science. Unfortunately, he'd failed to factor in the Green Goblin, who undermined everything Doctor Octopus had done. With the Green Goblin holding Doc Ock's lover prisoner, the supervillain-turned-superhero made the ultimate choice: he restored Peter Parker's mind, effectively committing suicide, and bringing an end to the era of the Superior Spider-Man!
2. The fight for Aunt May's life!
In the run-up to Amazing Spider-Man #32, Spider-Man's life had been plagued by a mysterious supervillain known as the Master-Planner. Meanwhile, his personal life was in turmoil; his Aunt May was in hospital, dying. To Peter's horror, the reason was because of exposure to radiation, and he realized that he was responsible - in an earlier adventure, he'd given her a blood transfusion to save her life, but failed to factor in the radioactive element of his blood.
The plots converged: Doctor Curt Connors agreed to help Spider-Man find a cure, but needed a new chemical, known as ISO-36. Meanwhile, Doc Ock (in reality the Master-Planner) wanted the same chemical. Soon Spider-Man was tearing through New York's underworld in search of the Master Planner, and it all led to a desperate confrontation in Doc Ock's underwater base.
Astounded at Spider-Man's ferocity, Doc Ock fled - but left Spider-Man in a crisis! The beginning of Amazing Spider-Man #33 saw Spider-Man trapped beneath a pile of rubble as the base began to flood. It led to one of the most iconic moments in Spider-Man's superhero history, as the wallcrawler - refusing to give up, spurred on by desperation to save Aunt May's life - tapped hidden reserves of strength. He burst from the rubble, rescued the ISO-36, and escaped before the base flooded!
1. The Death of Captain Stacy
The run-up to Amazing Spider-Man #89 saw Doc Ock believed dead, but Spider-Man quickly discovered the truth. Seething with fury after his latest defeat, Doc Ock set a trap for Spider-Man, and launched one of his most devastating attacks against the web-slinger. The issue ended with Doc Ock casting a half-conscious Spider-Man from a rooftop, basking in his triumph. Despite having run out of web-fluid, Spider-Man's agility saved him, and he got a spider-tracer on Doc Ock before the mad scientist left.
Doc Ock spotted the spider-tracer, and set another trap, one Spider-Man jumped straight into. Again, though, it was Spider-Man's intelligence that defeated Doc Ock - he succeeded in coating Doc Ock's arms in a chemical fluid that disrupted Doctor Octopus's mental control of them, sending them rogue. It all ended in tragedy, though; Police Captain George Stacy, father of Peter Parker's girlfriend Gwen, was working down on the streets to keep innocents safe. Doc Ock's arms flailed out, smashing a chimney, and Captain Stacy shoved a child clear from harm - at the cost of his own life. In a heart-wrenching scene, Captain Stacy died in Spider-Man's arms, revealing he'd known the secret of Peter Parker's identity all along.
As he died, Captain Stacy charged Peter to look after Gwen. This tragic tale is only compounded by the sad truth that Peter failed in this charge; Gwen would ultimately die at the hands of the Green Goblin. So this story jumps from spectacular action to tragedy in a matter of a few pages, making it one of the best Spider-Man comics ever written.
Bonus: And don't forget Spider-Man 2!
Let's take a step back from the comics for one moment, though, and accept that Spider-Man 2 is viewed by many as one of the best superhero movies ever made! In this film, Alfred Molina plays Doctor Octopus, and he handles it with all the skill you'd expect. The film's pretty much impossible to beat, and is an absolute classic. The conclusion, where Doctor Octopus overcomes his psychosis to save New York, is legendary.
So there you have it ! Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus have fought many, many times, but these are - in my view - the greatest battles between these two comic book legends. Over in the comics, it's pretty certain that writer Dan Slott is about to resurrect Spider-Man's greatest enemy - there have been teases that Doctor Octopus's mind has been hidden inside the body of a robot servant he used during his era as the Superior Spider-Man. So death itself won't bring an end to this bitter feud...