To take full advantage of the fact that Marvel Unlimited is only 99 cents for the first month if you sign up by March 14 — which, sadly, is now in the past — Nick is trying to see how much use of the service he can get for just under a dollar. Every day, he’ll share what he read. See the previous day here.
Yep, this entry is totally late. I may have mentioned I have a busy life (and don’t we all?), and my body just decided to shut itself down and sleep last night when I intended to work on this post. It happens.
I did get my reading in yesterday, and to do it, I decided to give the character search another chance. Marvel Unlimited has a fairly extensive list of characters from throughout the company’s history so you can easily call up issues in which they feature. The good part is that it gets you the results quickly, organized in chronological order from newest to oldest.
Unfortunately, it seems to be far from comprehensive. For the eighth day of Marvel Unlimited, I chose Doctor Octopus as the subject of my character search — I’m getting better at theming these around numbers — and the app gave me 38 results. Think about that for a second. Doc Ock is one of Spidey’s oldest and most enduring foes, and he made his first appearance in 1963. I don’t have time to check through the entire online library, but I’m guessing he’s in a lot more than 38 comic books out of the 15,000 or so you can access (especially since the results I did get included things like Secret Wars and one semi-recent issue of Iron Man).
So while it’s definitely a helpful feature and gave me a nice selection of Doc Ock appearances over the years, it seems strangely incomplete. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the point of it and Marvel only wants you to get sampling of each character’s appearances.
While I ponder that, let’s proceed to what I did dig up:
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #3
Why I read it: This is the origin issue for Doctor Octopus, and it’s by the legendary team of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. As Lee himself might say, ’nuff said!
What I thought: Awesome. A strangely cocky Spider-Man wonders openly if he’s ever going to fight someone who can give him a run for his money. He gets exactly that when Otto Octavius has the accident that bonds his metal arms to his body permanently. Hilariously, Spidey does a complete 180 after Ock smacks him around during their first encounter, wondering if he should quit. That’s quite some determination you’ve got there Pete!
A speech from the Human Torch at Peter Parker’s high school gives him his cojones back, and Spidey is able to out-smart and defeat Octavius. All of this is made even more enjoyable by Ditko’s art, which manages to be dynamic despite working within the extremely conservative layouts found back in the 60s. This issue is a classic, and no arguments will be accepted to the contrary.
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #32-33
Why I read it: The cover for #33 touts this story as “The Final Chapter” between Spidey and Doc Ock. Aw, that’s cute! Maybe Lee even thought that might be the case when he wrote it, but I doubt it. This two-part tale features Pete digging down deep when it matters most in a famous cliffhanger.
What I thought: A lot of the stereotypical elements of early Spider-Man stories are all blended together here. Aunt May is on death’s door (not for the last time!) and it’s partially Pete’s fault, as some of his radioactive blood was used in a transfusion that she received. The only thing that might save her is ISO-36, but wouldn’t you know it, Octavius needs it for his own evil plans. And it needs to be shipped from the West Coast in the days before the internets or Amazon Prime. High drama!
With an assist from Dr. Curt Conners, Spidey gets the isotope shipped to New York, where it’s promptly stolen by Doc Ock’s men. The frantic battle that ensues ends with Parker stuck under a collapsed pile of heavy machinery, and only by summoning up every bit of “never say die” attitude can he escape. You kind of know how it’ll all play out after that, but it’s still cool to see, and it shows how far Spider-Man has come mentally since #3.
As an aside, Doctor Octopus has graduated from a lab coat to his famous green bodysuit for this one.
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #157-159
Why I read it: I wanted to fast-forward to some later Octavius’ stories, and this three-parter by Len Wein and Ross Andru seemed as good as any.
What I thought: Whether you enjoy these issues is largely dependent on how high your tolerance level is for Silver Age goofiness. Doc Ock wants to make amends to Aunt May — his crush on the much older lady always creeped me out, BTW — but he’s being haunted by the ghost of Hammerhead. The first issue has a great cliffhanger with Spider-Man falling to his apparent doom from a helicopter, but it just gets silly from there.
I’m talking stuff like Spidey turning his webs into a hang glider to save himself. Also, a particle accelerator manages to turn Hammerhead back from a ghost into a living being. Wait, what? Then the showdown with the revived Hammerhead takes place in a rotating room with only one window, and Peter wins a battle with centripetal force. I didn’t make any of that stuff up.
Also amusing: the old school way that Spider-Man simply lets Doctor Octopus escape into the sunset at the end. I will say Ross Andru’s pencils were very nice, pretty much matching the mental image I had of Spidey as a kid. You can see Marvel allowing artists to express themselves a little more by this point; even though Andru uses fairly standard layouts, he does have characters breaking free from the confines of panels and such.
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1, cont.) #500
Why I read it: It’s a big anniversary issue with art by John Romita Jr. and Sr.! There’s actually not much Doctor Octopus in it at all, which was kind of a bummer, and possibly shows another weakness of Marvel Unlimited’s character search.
What I thought: The beginning of this issue doesn’t make a whole lot of sense unless you’ve read what came before it, and I did not. Spidey seems to be stuck in the past and future simultaneously, getting a chance to prevent the accident that gave him his powers and an opportunity to save his future self from what appears to be his final battle. He ends up doing neither, then has to fight his way back through his entire history to get to Doctor Strange.
What this means is that we get to see a bunch of iconic Spider-Man moments as illustrated by J.R. Jr., which is fine by me. Ultimately, Pete makes it to the present, helps a bunch of other heroes banish the Mindless Ones, and that’s that.
Except it’s not. Since it’s Parker’s birthday, he gets a special present from Strange: five minutes to talk to Uncle Ben. It’s a nice scene, well-written by J. Michael Straczynski, and the issue ends with a happy Pete and M.J. together. And to everyone who hated “One More Day,” I apologize for bringing that up.
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1, cont.) #600
Why I read it: Unlike #500, this is very much a Doctor Octopus story. The more thing change …
What I thought: Octavius is in bad shape by this point. His body failing him, he’s still a dangerous threat, as he proves by taking over all of New York’s electronics. Shades of Maximum Overdrive, except, you know, a lot better.
Dan Slott hits all the right beats as Spider-Man saves some people close to him with some help from the Human Torch and manages to fix the circumstances that threaten to derail the marriage of Aunt May to J. Jonah Jameson’s dad. The art is by J.J. Jr. again, and it’s just a fun story the whole way around.
The back-up stories are by a variety of creative teams and are worth a look too. The gag covers are also great, particularly one that hints at a team-up with Batman.
Day 8 issues read: 8
Total issues read to date: 122