In recent years, the classic Spider-Man villain Doctor Octopus has received two incredibly dynamic redesigns, but both have been quickly forgotten in favor of the classic style he's always had in Marvel Comics. Unfortunately, while Otto Octavius has had some tremendous character development establishing him as an LA hero with his own status quo, the changes didn't stick, and this has been reflected in his design, despite both new looks being amazing updates of Doctor Octopus for modern comics.
Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1963 for Amazing Spider-Man #3, Doctor Octopus is one of Spider-Man's oldest villains following the Chameleon and Vulture. With his four mechanical arms becoming fused to his body after a laboratory accident, Dr. Otto Octavius became Doctor Octopus, turning to crime as a supervillain. However, he also later became a hero in his own right when he swapped bodies with Peter Parker, becoming the Superior Spider-Man for a significant period of time in 2013.
Due to taking so many blows to the head, Octavius' body began failing him, culminating in the "Ends of the Earth" storyline from Dan Slott and Stefano Caselli. His gradual deteriorated prompted a redesign that saw Otto modifying his four arms so they were stronger while being attached to a larger frame that housed his entire body as a life support system, making him more machine than man. To survive his condition, Otto transferred his consciousness into Peter Parker's body, controversially taking his place as the Superior Spider-Man. When Peter eventually retook control, Otto's consciousness was transferred to a younger clone body, and he was redesigned as the Superior Octopus in a sleek green and white suit (first appearing in Slott and Giuseppe Camuncoli's Amazing Spider-Man #25), establishing a fresh new era for the character as a villain turned antihero. However, this ultimately went nowhere as he was soon reverted back to first his Superior Spider-Man costume (a variation on Peter's) and then to his original form: a middle-aged man wearing a green and yellow jumpsuit.
Either of these versions of Doc Ock (be it the Machine Octopus or the Superior Octopus) could have been perfect new looks for Otto Octavius had they been permanent, but brand recognition stood in the way. While his more emaciated form was always intended to be impermanent, even Otto's striking Superior Octopus redesign was quickly replaced by his Spider-Man costume for his spin-off Superior Spider-Man series, which allowed Marvel to feature an incredibly recognizable hero on its covers. Worse still, the reversion back to his original look has gone hand in hand with his characterization. Doctor Octopus is back to being a villain instead of the dynamic antihero he was becoming.
One could argue that Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man 2 is the most recognizable version of the character, but even he was allowed to have a redemption arc by the film's end. Tragically, the design of the Superior Octopus suit could even have worked with a reversion to evil, with Octavius' clone body making more of a physical threat to Peter. Sadly, the decision was made that Doctor Octopus should return to his original look, and Spider-Man fans lost not one, but two of the best character redesigns in modern comics.
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