With this issue, Lee and Ditko began to focus on longer, more detailed stories in place of two shorter ones.
“Spider-Man Versus Doctor Octopus”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Synoposis: Brilliant Atomic Researcher Otto Octavius, developer of an incredible set of robotic arms, is horribly injured in a radiation accident. Because of the accident, a brain damaged and deranged Octavius discovers he can mentally control his metal appendages (now welded to his body). Taking the nickname his coworkers had teased him with, “Doctor Octopus” takes several members of the hospital staff hostage. Charged by J. Jonah Jameson to get snapshots of Octavius in the hospital, Spider-Man arrives on the scene and, after a brief fight, is left humiliated and, for the first time, defeated. Doctor Octopus leaves and takes control of a nuclear plant while Peter Parker mopes.
The Governor decides to send in The Fantastic Four’s own Johnny Storm to take down the multi-limbed mad man. However, since he needs a few days to charge his flame, Storm gives a lecture to Midtown High. This gives Peter the confidence he needs to once again confront Octavius. In a showdown at the nuclear plant, Spider-Man runs through a gauntlet before finally reaching his multi-armed foe. Using a combination of punches, webbing, and a quickly developed chemical that fuses his metal arms, Spidey emerges victorious and ends the adventure by thanking a confused Human Torch.
- I think the choice to go with one story over two smaller stories makes for much better stories, mostly because Lee/Ditko are able to flesh things out when they have the space to do so.
- This the first appearance of Doctor Octopus, obviously. He really is one of the great Spider-Man rogues, awesome gimmick, dynamic characterization, and a challenging threat. I like how Doc Ock’s evil comes from brain damage and that his plan is so simple and short sighted because of it. To me, the best Doctor Octopus stories are the ones where he’s motivated by pride instead of money or anything like that. That he’s a bad guy because he thinks he’s better than everyone else isn’t maybe the unique when you look at Doctor Doom or Magneto, but it really works for the character.
- Looking at this issue again, it’s crazy that after so many attempts at a “realistic” Doctor Octopus costume, no one thought to try something like his white uniform here instead of the boring trench coat ensembles seen in the movies and several comics. It looks good and, frankly, ages really well.
- The Spider-Light or whatever it is so hilariously dumb. So he just stands on top of buildings, pointing his crotch at buildings until the police arrive? I like it better when he leaves a note personally, but THIS is gold:
- Man, Peter Parker is just a sad sack for the bulk of this issue. It’s a testament to Lee as a writer though that he continues to show him as a very human super-hero. You didn’t see this kind of protagonist self-doubt over in Justice League of America, certainly.
- Ditko deserves some serious credit here on art. He really makes use of Doc Ock’s arms, they’re always doing something. The end of the issue fight sequence is easily the best one to date and Ditko draws the heck out of it.
- So wait, they decide to wait for a few DAYS to send in the Human Torch because he’s got some kind of virus? The government was content to leave a literal mad scientist in charge of a nuclear reactor until one dude got well enough? Yikes.
- This is the first issue with a letter column and the 60’s era Marvel letter columns are pretty amusing. They’re either super-positive or incredibly harsh. What always surprises me is that there are generally a pretty good number of letters from women.
Final Thoughts: This is a great issue and you really get the sense that Lee/Ditko are getting comfortable as storytellers here. Tomorrow: One of my personal favorites, Sandman. Be there.