Amazing Spider-Man #700
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Credit: Marvel Comics

Be careful what you wish for: When Doc Ock became Spider-Man

Contributed by
Jun 23, 2020

Comics are a fantastic form of storytelling, and some of the best narratives come when when extraordinary individuals are forced to reckon with the most ordinary of human emotions — love, frustration, jealousy. Jealousy in particular is a complicated emotion to explore because it's one often composed of other emotions like anger, resentment, inadequacy, and helplessness. It's also made up of thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and a relative lack of possession or safety. Some even consider it a culture-specific emotion.

However you think of jealousy, the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it" is evergreen, primarily when those wishes are rooted in envy. In the closing issue of The Amazing Spider-Man (#700, written by Dan Slott and illustrated by Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, and Edgar Delgado), Dr. Otto Octavius' jealousy of Spider-Man gets him more than he could have intentionally wanted, because of everything it takes to be the person under the mask.

Credit: Marvel Comics

We've all experienced some form of jealousy — I know that I have. It's not an emotion I'm proud of, but it's valid nonetheless. I found The Amazing Spider-Man #700 more relatable than I care to admit. It's one of my favorite issues for that very reason. It's all about getting what you've wanted because you feel like you deserved it more than the person who actually has it, but learning that in reality, what you want was never really for you or you simply aren't ready for it. Wanting something from a purely superficial level often results in writing checks you can't cash. Doc Ock's Spider-envy has been one of his motivators for years. Once he finally gets it, the realization of Peter Parker's life is too much for him to bear. His final act of vengeance becomes the ultimate reality check.

The issue picks up after Doc Ock has managed to switch bodies with Spider-Man after requesting to see him on his deathbed. It opens with Octavius in Peter's young and healthy body, with his incredible powers, and also the love of Mary Jane Watson — all of which he obtained without paying any dues. So, of course, aside from being a selfish person, he doesn't at all appreciate any of it. How could he? It takes an extraordinary person to want to receive such great power and not accept the great responsibility that comes with it but to choose it continuously. That's not something that can be understood overnight. It's something Peter Parker woke up every morning to embrace for years, even with the pain and trauma caused by having possession of gifts so powerful.

As the issue goes on, Octavius does what he can to stay a step ahead of Peter Parker, who is stuck in his broken failing body. As they battle back and forth, he begins to realize how much Peter was holding back, just how powerful he really is. At one point in the story, Otto knocks Scorpion's jaw clean off of his face with one punch.

Credit: Marvel Comics

It's not just Parker's brute strength that Octavius discovers; he also begins to understand just how much Peter's loved ones and their faith in him helps him endure the significant responsibilities he has. As the real Peter Parker, stuck in Doc Ock's body, makes his way into the safe room Octavius has hid away Peter's loved ones; Mary Jane expresses to Doc Ock how much she believes in Peter. She knows he'll be up to the task to keep them safe, not because he is Spider-Man, but because he's Peter, the person with an unmeasurable will. At that moment, things begin to come to light for Octavius. The full reckoning comes after Peter fails to complete the brain transfer, but succeeds in imprinting all of his life memories into Octavius' mind. It's more than Otto can handle — being Spider-Man pales in comparison to being Peter Parker.

Octavius succeeds in getting what he wants — Spider-Man's life — but his jealousy prevents him from ever considering what that actually entails. I felt his humility at this moment — sometimes the most humbling teacher is getting what you wanted and realizing you weren't ready for it, that you are out of your depth.

Credit: Marvel Comics

It's easy to fall into the trap that is believing you could do better with someone else's opportunity, especially when viewing it from a superficial angle. Not having a full understanding of what it actually takes to get the finished product, it is then easier to lean into jealousy and arrogance.

After Peter dies in Octavius' body, Ock makes a promise to Peter not only to embrace being Spider-Man but to be the best version of Peter Parker he can be, reconciling his jealousy and hatred for a person he couldn't be on his best day as Dr. Otto Octavius. Imagine if he'd been able to come to this realization before putting his own body through hell in repeated attempts to take away all that Spider-Man had, instead focusing on doing what he could with the power he already had. There is more than enough room for everyone to be great in their own way at their own speed. Life isn't fair and sometimes seeing others with things and opportunities we feel we deserve is all-consuming, but Doc Ock's experience is a lesson in how we should focus on respecting what we have and how to maximize it until better comes along — or we make better for ourselves.

Credit: Marvel Comics

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