Spider-Man doesn’t lack iconic villains, from the Green Goblin to Venom and Carnage or even Kraven and Mysterio. But if there’s one representing the wall-crawler’s mirror image, his darker reflection, it’s Otto Octavius. From fighting Spider-Man as the supervillain and mad scientist Doctor Octopus to replacing him as the Superior Spider-Man, Otto might not have ruined Peter’s life quite as much as Norman Osborn has, but he has challenged our hero in a way no one else can, as a constant reminder of the worst-case scenario of who he could become.
In recent years, Otto has turned towards a possible redemption and tried his luck at being a superhero, but he still has a lot to make up for despite his efforts. Currently, it would seem Otto is back to his roots of supervillainy, but who knows what the future may hold for the eight-limbed scientist with the best bowl cut in the Marvel Universe.
Collects: Amazing Fantasy #15, Amazing Spider-Man #1-17, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1
Otto Octavius is one of the very first villains Spider-Man ever faced, introduced as soon as Amazing Spider-Man #3 in 1963. In his first appearance, the nuclear physicist uses four robotic arms to perform nuclear experiments, but an explosion fuses them to his body. With the power to control the arms with his mind, he takes a hospital hostage and begins using the nickname of Doctor Octopus, first given to him by his colleagues as an insult. When Spider-Man comes to rescue the hostages, Doc Ock beats him so easily that Peter almost gives up his crime-fighting career, until the Human Torch inspires him to don the tights again and knock out Doctor Octopus.
Octavius is released after serving his full, very short prison term in Amazing Spider-Man #11. He helps criminal Blackie Gaxton escape from jail, which in turn causes the death of Betty Brant’s brother Bennett. In issue #12, Doc Ock goes on a crime spree to get Spidey’s attention and fight him again. And this time again, he wins the fight and even unmasks the wallcrawler, but he thinks Peter isn’t the real Spider-Man.
In the first Amazing Spider-Man Annual, Doctor Octopus assembles the Sinister Six for the first time, with each villain fighting Spider-Man one after the other until Octavius himself decides to challenge him to an underwater fight in a giant fishbowl, “as a real octopus would” (weird flex, but okay).
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #18-38, Annual #2
Octavius takes on the name of the Master Planner in the iconic story arc “If This Be My Destiny.” At the time, he is trying to unlock the secrets of atomic radiation, and he sends his minions to fight Spider-Man.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #51-61, Annual #4
After stealing a military device during a university demonstration, Doc Ock decides to lay low and rent a room in a suburban home… owned by Aunt May. During a fight with Octavius, Spider-Man is hit by the Nullifier device, losing his memory. Ock uses this to manipulate him and tell him they are partners in crime.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #88-99
Doctor Octopus hijacks a military plane with a foreign General on board. In the aftermath, he fights Spider-Man on the roofs of New York City, indirectly causing the death of Captain Stacy from falling debris.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #110-120
Hammerhead challenges Doctor Octopus in a gang war, which leads to him capturing Aunt May. However, the Stockholm Syndrome is strong with this one, as May thinks Otto Octavius is quite the gentleman ; and when he goes back to prison, she decides to stay and keep his house in order.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #121-131
Freed from prison, Doc Ock schemes to marry Aunt May, who just unknowingly inherited an island containing a nuclear power plant.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #143-155
Now living in the streets, a crushed and acutely arachnophobic Doc Ock must resort to mugging to survive.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #156-168
Otto decides to go to May, and thanks to her, he appears to genuinely turn over a new leaf. However, Hammerhead comes back in the form of an atomic ghost (don’t ask), which leads to a three-way struggle between Spider-Man and the two villains.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #193-202, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #13, Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #1
In two Annual issues, Ock loses one of his tentacles during a fight with Spider-Man, which appears to be as painful to him as losing a real limb. During their rematch, he appears to drown, with one of his robotic arms stuck in a sinking boat.
Following this defeat, Doctor Octopus reappears, heisting adamantium in Daredevil #165, followed by an attempt to steal and study Cap’s shield in Captain America #259. Both in an apparent attempt to remake and improve his weapons.
After fighting Spider-Man and the Punisher during a plot to poison New York City with ink in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15, Doctor Octopus appears in the uncollected issues #72 to #79 of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man. In these, he wages a new gang war, this time against the Owl. He saves the Black Cat’s life to recruit her, but she betrays him and reveals his plans to Spider-Man.
Doc Ock can later be seen on the villains’ side during the crossover mini-series Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.
In Fantastic Four #267 and #268, Otto Octavius is committed to a psychiatric facility, weak and scared after his last encounter with Spider-Man. Reed Richards comes and asks for his help to save the Invisible Woman from the radiation poisoning her, and Otto tearfully accepts, although his Doctor Octopus persona starts coming back as the story progresses.
Collects: Web of Spider-Man #1-18, Annual #1-2
Back at the psychiatric facility, Otto has nightmares of Spider-Man and subconsciously calls his arms to him. Back to being Doctor Octopus, he trains by fighting robot Spider-Men but freezes in stupor when he realizes that one of the robots is actually the real Spidey.
In Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #124, Doc Ock attempts to build a nuclear bomb, but he loses once again and appears to be buried alive.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #295-310, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #22, Web of Spider-Man #33, Spectacular Spider-Man #133.
Otto goes through sleep therapy to get over his paralyzing fear of Spider-Man, which causes his arms to break free and get him out. He intends to spread a deadly bacillus across New York City, and Spider-Man can only stop it by allowing Ock to beat him so that he gets over his fear of Spider-Man and stops the bacillus.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, Amazing Spider-Man #334-339
Doctor Octopus assembles a new team of Sinister Six to go against Spider-Man, including a newly reformed Sandman whom he forces to join by threatening the lives of his friends.
Collects: Spider-Man #15, #18-23
The Sinister Six assemble to kill Doc Ock after he betrays them, which leads to a huge fight involving Spider-Man, the Hulk, Ghost Rider, Deathlok, and various other superheroes.
Collects: Guardians of the Galaxy #21-29, Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #2, Marvel Super-Heroes #2
During the Infinity War crossover, Doctor Octopus attacks Avengers Mansion with a team of supervillains before joining forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy against the Magus’ doppelgangers.
During the Lethal Foes of Spider-Man miniseries, Doc Ock allies himself with the Answer before the two villains turn against each other.
In Spider-Man Unlimited #3, Otto Octavius’ full backstory is revealed, from being bullied as a kid to his father’s death and his mother’s manipulation. Throughout the issue, he appears to be plotting to use HIV-infected blood in one of his schemes; however, it is revealed that he was trying to cure it, with his former lover Mary Alice Burke having died from it.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #395-399, Spectacular Spider-Man #218-221, Spider-Man #54-56, Spider-Man Unlimited #8, Web of Spider-Man #120-122, Spider-Man: Funeral for an Octopus #1-3
As Spider-Man was poised during the “Clone Saga,” Otto Octavius discovers his enemy’s secret identity and decides to save him out of respect and because he wants to be the one to kill him. However, after Peter is saved, Doctor Octopus allows himself to be arrested and is killed by Spider-Man clone and villain Kaine.
Collects: Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man #1-18
In the last two issues of this miniseries, Doctor Octopus and Spider-Man come to blows during a scheme to steal the fortune of the King of Belgium.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #30-45
Otto Octavius is tricked by Luke Carlyle, who steals his arms and creates his own version of them, becoming the new Doctor Octopus. During a fight between the two Doc Ocks, Otto helps Spider-Man save civilians, but he leaves Spidey to die in a collapsing building. He also saves MJ and Aunt May from Carlyle.
Collects: Spectacular Spider-Man #6-10
Back in a new costume similar to the one he wears in the 2004 Spider-Man 2 movie, Doc Ock captures the Palestinian Foreign Minister, threatening the peace in the Middle East to force Spider-Man to reveal his secret identity.
Collects: Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Negative Exposure #1-5
In this miniseries set back in Doctor Octopus’ early days, he manipulates Daily Bugle photographer Jeffrey Haight into getting him out of prison.
Collects: Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Out of Reach #1-5
Doc Ock kidnaps and takes under his wing a protégé named Brigham Fontaine, who helps him increase the power of his arms.
Collects: Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #1-12
Doc Ock is sent to kill the Green Goblin as he rampages across New York City.
Spider-Man reveals his secret identity to the whole world during “Civil War,” leading to Sensational Spider-Man #28 and enraged Doctor Octopus’s realization that he’s been beaten by a teenager all this time.
In Amazing Spider-Man #600, it is revealed that Otto has a degenerative condition caused by the radiation in his body. He takes total technological control of New York City and captures Peter’s friends, forcing him and the Human Torch to fight them.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man 642-647
A new team of Sinister Six is assembled, allowing Doctor Octopus to steal Menace’s son, whose blood he wants to use to save his own life.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man 658-662
While Spider-Man joins the Future Foundation, Doctor Octopus and the Sinister Six steal tech from the Baxter Building.
Collects: Rescue #1, Invincible Iron Man #501-503
Having captured Tony Stark, Doctor Octopus forces him to save his life; but when Tony admits he can’t do it without the help of other geniuses like Reed Richard or Hank Pym, Octavius refuses and makes him beg for his life.
In Amazing Spider-Man #676, Doctor Octopus and his Sinister Six attack the Intelligencia to steal M.O.D.O.K ‘s Zero Cannon, both to save the world and to use it to take it over themselves.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #678-681
Doctor Octopus sends octo-bots to take over John Jameson’s space station.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #682-687, Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth #1, Avenging Spider-Man #8
While he’s dying, Doctor Octavius puts into motion a plan to burn half the planet unless the world’s governments pay him to save the world from global warming. In actuality, he intends to destroy the world either way, taking all of humanity with him in death. Despite the Avengers and Silver Sable getting involved, Otto’s plan almost succeeds.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #698-700, Superior Spider-Man #1-16
Otto Octavius swaps his mind with Spider-Man’s, and finally succeeding where all other villains failed, he kills him. However, he also is forced to live through all of Peter Parker’s memories, and a dying Peter makes him promise to be Spider-Man and protect the people of New York.
Now living as Peter Parker, Otto Octavius is a more violent and repressive version of Spider-Man, intent on ridding the city of all crime. He gets the praise of Mayor J. Jonah Jameson, kills supervillain mass-murderer Massacre, goes back to university to get his doctorate back, begins dating fellow student Anna Maria Marconi, and creates his very own company called Parker Industries. He also erases the last parts of Peter Parker left in him during a mindscape fight between Otto and all of Spider-Man’s villains on one side and Peter and all his friends and family on the other.
Otto blackmails JJJ into giving him the Raft as his very own base of operation, renamed “Spider Island.” There, he recruits his own private army, which he uses to go after people like the Kingpin and the Hobgoblin. However, as Otto rids New York of its supervillains, from the Vulture to the Owl and White Dragon, their underlings start to take refuge in the sewers under the leadership of the Goblin King.
Collects: Avenging Spider-Man #15.1-19
In his team-up series, Otto starts capturing various supervillains and holding them prisoner.
Collects: Avenging Spider-Man #20-22, Superior Spider-Man Annual #1, Daredevil #22
Collects: Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #1-4, Scarlet Spider #20
Collects: Superior Carnage #1-5
Carnage escapes and takes over new hosts, from Karl Malus to the Wizard.
Collects: All-New X-Men Special #1, Indestructible Hulk Special #1, Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special #1, Wolverine: In The Flesh #1
When a past version of Doctor Octopus comes to the present, Otto has to work with the time-displaced X-Men and Bruce Banner.
Collects: Mighty Avengers #1-5
During the Infinity crossover event, the Superior Spider-Man fights alongside Luke Cage’s new Mighty Avengers before attempting to take control of the team himself.
Collects: Superior Spider-Man #17-31, Annual #1-2
Octavious meets Spider-Man 2099 and Agent Venom; the Avengers deem the wall-crawling imposter too violent to be left unchecked; and the Goblin King reveals he knows that Doc Ock is the new Spider-Man.
Otto finally sees that he can’t beat the Goblin and that he must give way for Peter Parker, the true Superior Spider-Man, to return.
Collects: Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #5-12
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #7-15, Superior Spider-Man #32-33, Spider-Verse #1-2, Spider-Verse Team-Up #1-3, Scarlet Spiders #1-3, Spider-Woman #1-4, Spider-Man 2099 #6-8
As the Superior Spider-Man, Otto Octavious fought to save all of reality, battling alongside Spider-People from across the multiverse against the Inheritors. It was fight, Octavious learned, that he was doomed to lose. But before Peter Parker could replace him, Otto copies his mind to one of his gauntlets.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #1-11
Now living secretly inside of the Living Brain, Otto works to protect his beloved Anna Maria.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #12-19
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #19-24, The Clone Conspiracy #1-5, The Clone Conspiracy Omega #1, Silk #14-17, Prowler #1-5
Doctor Octopus is brought back to life by the new Jackal and works with him before betraying him to allow Anna Maria and Peter to escape. He transfers his mind to a new body, a clone of Peter Parker infused with some of Octavius’ DNA.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #25-28
Now working under the name of the Superior Octopus, Otto allies himself with Arnim Zola and HYDRA to take back Parker Industries.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #29-32, #789-791
During Secret Empire, the Superior Octopus joins HYDRA’s Avengers (appearing in Avengers #10 and throughout the event). He destroys Parker Industries’ London branch but loses when Peter destroys the company in order to beat him.
Otto reappears as the Superior Octopus in Amazing Spider-Man #800, during which he saves Aunt May from the Red Goblin and the Goblin Childe. An act Parker tells him clears the villain’s slate, giving Otto a fresh start under the guise of Dr. Elliot Tolliver, working at Horizon University in San Francisco.
Collects: Spider-Geddon #0-4, Vault of Spiders #1-2
In the sequel to Spider-Verse, beginning with the one-shot Superior Octopus #1, Otto goes back to being a superhero, fighting crime in the streets of San Francisco and joining forces with multiversal Spiders against the Inheritors once again, although actually being a good leader and ally this time around.
Collects: Superior Spider-Man #1-6
Otto tries to prove to Anna Maria Marconi that he is genuinely trying to be better, saving San Francisco from Terrax and Master Pandemonium and rescuing civilians in the aftermath.
Collects: Superior Spider-Man #7-12
The Superior Spider-Man juggles between his love life with fellow teacher Emma Hernandez and fighting in the War of the Realms alongside the West Coast Avengers. As a hero, Otto has to reconcile with the fact that he won’t always be able to save everyone, feeling undeserving of the praise given by the city of San Francisco. His identity as Otto Octavius is revealed publicly by an alternate universe version of Norman Osborn, who threatens the life of a child he once saved, and he is forced to make a deal with Mephisto to become Doctor Octopus once again, without the influence of Peter Parker’s memories.