Superior Octopus #1 (Writer Christos Gage, Penciler Mike Hawthorne)
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Otto Octavius is the Superior Octopus. (Writer Christos Gage, Penciler Mike Hawthorne)

Superior Octopus examines whether Doc Ock can truly be a hero

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Nov 25, 2018, 10:55 AM EST

Otto Octavius, aka Dr. Octopus, has always been a complicated character, but with his transformation into the Superior Spider-Man in 2013 and now, as the Superior Octopus, he’s become even more compelling. A fascinating study in the anti-villain trope, up there with Frankenstein’s monster, Magneto and Walter White, Octavius has had some shining moments recently (saving Aunt May from the Red Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man #800) but still struggles with his obsession to prove his own genius, not to mention his penchant for evil plans.

Originally created by Marvel legends Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Doc Ock shares many traits with his sworn enemy, Spider-Man. In Marvel Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle, longtime Marvel editor Tom DeFalco said that Peter Parker and Otto Octavius were “both shy, both interested in science, and both had trouble relating to women.” Additionally, DeFalco explained, Otto served as the man Peter might have become if he hadn't been raised with a sense of responsibility.

When Doc Ock stepped into Spider-Man’s suit in Amazing Spider-Man #700 in 2012, fans were able to see what the longtime villain, now imbued with Peter’s memories and most importantly, sense of right and wrong, would do. Writer Dan Slott and Christos Gage (Avengers Academy, Netflix’s Daredevil, Hawaii Five-O), took the idea even further with the launch of Superior Spider-Man.

After some major missteps, including the support of Hydra in "Secret Empire" and more recently, the release of the spider-killing Inheritors from the Spider-Verse in "Spider-Geddon," Otto is trying to claw his way back to hero status. Now in San Francisco, he’s committed to reconciling with Anna Maria Marconi and stepping away from his villainous ways. But can he really be redeemed?

This week, "Spider-Geddon" and "Superior Octopus" scribe Christos Gage spoke with SYFY Wire about his newest series, what kind of superhero Doc Ock really is and bringing the video game version of Spider-Man into the comic books.

Superior Octopus #1 (Writer Christos Gage, Penciler Mike Hawthorne)

Otto Octavius is living in San Francisco, having taken up the mantle of the Superior Octopus in "The Superior Octopus" #1 (Writer Christos Gage, Penciler Mike Hawthorne)

You've had a hand in making Otto Octavius a fairly complicated character, from Superior Spider-Man to his seeming redemption in the "Go Down Swinging" arc (Amazing Spider-Man #800). He's changed an incredible amount. Can you talk a bit about taking Otto from traditional villain to the grey area where he now resides and what that was like as a longtime Spider-writer?

Well, I have to give credit for that to Dan Slott. For me, it's about walking that line... he now has a desire to be heroic, to help people. But his ideas of what to do and how to do it are very different than Peter Parker's. Peter was a natural hero. For Otto, it is less of an easy fit. But it has to be genuine... both his desire to help and his less noble instincts about how. Ideally, readers will both root for Otto and find his choices appalling... often in the same issue!

Spider-Geddon #2 (Writer Christos Gage, Penciler Jorge Molina)

Otto Octavius, now the Superior Spider-Man releases the Inheritors from their world with his cloning technology, leading to disaster in Spider-Geddon #2.

(Writer Christos Gage, Penciler Jorge Molina)

Otto's arrogance has led to his downfall a number of times. The latest example is his cloning tech being stolen by the Inheritors, fueling Spider-Geddon. Will Otto ever learn? Or is he simply unable to see the bigger picture beyond himself? Will he ever break away from his villainous tendencies or is he just better as a villain?

That's the central question: Can he overcome his natural tendency towards villain-esque behavior? Is someone with Otto's instincts and personality still a hero when they do good things, are they even more heroic because it doesn't come naturally... or are they doomed to fail? We'll see.

Superior Octopus #1 (Writer Christos Gage, Penciler Mike Hawthorne)

Otto Octavius and Anna Maria Marconi (his former love interest) meet again, for the first time in The Superior Octopus #1 (Writer Christos Gage, Penciler Mike Hawthorne)

Can you talk about writing Anna Maria and how adding a love interest for Otto has changed him? Is it enough to make him a good person? What do you love about writing Anna Maria?

Anna Maria is awesome because she doesn't pull any punches. She says exactly what she thinks and takes no crap from anyone. But her role in the new Superior Spider-Man book isn't as a love interest. We felt like we'd been down that road already. Her role will be defined in our first few issues. It's something I think is actually more interesting.

Superior Octopus #1 (Writer Christos Gage, Penciler Mike Hawthorne)

Armin Zola and Hydra have no plans to let Otto Octavius out of their grasp, according to Superior Octopus writer Christos Gage.

How might Hydra play into Otto's time on the West Coast, due to his previous association with the group and the fact that Armin Zola showed up in Superior Octopus #1?

Hydra is not known for letting grudges go, so it stands to reason they'll be back at some point. The question is when, and with what diabolical plans!

How does the backdrop of San Francisco play into Otto's story? Does it act as a fresh slate in terms of writing?

It's a different setting than New York, where most of the classic Marvel heroes live, so that's cool, but my favorite thing is that it has a history of weird and eccentric characters from books like Spider-Woman and Daredevil. Like the Night Shift, who become supporting characters and who both our ace artist Mike Hawthorne and I have fallen in love with!

Spider-Geddon #0 (Writer Christos Gage, Artist Clayton Crain)

PS4 Spider-Man meets the Superior Spider-Man in Spider-Geddon #0. 

Tell me what' it's like bringing the PS4 version of Peter Parker into the Spider-Geddon storyline.

It was great fun, and the best part was that everyone - from Marvel to Insomniac to the voice actors from the game — was so excited about it! Yuri Lowenthal (voice of Spider-Man) was thrilled. The best part was knowing it wasn't just a cosmetic thing, like one glimpse in a crowd scene. We could make him an actual part of the story. And given the relationship in the game between Pete and Otto Octavius, having him meet Superior Spider-Man — another Earth's Otto Octavius — had a lot of resonance for both characters.

Spider-Geddon #0 (Writer Christos Gage, Artist Clayton Crain)

Spider-Geddon #0 (Writer Christos Gage, Artist Clayton Crain)

The PS4 Spider-Man story is incredibly heartfelt and stands out as one of the best arcs, I've ever seen/played. What was your experience like working on that game?

It was fantastic! When I came aboard, Insomniac lead writer Jon Paquette and Bryan Intihar were already kicking around ideas, and Dan Slott and I spent a lot of time with them working out the story. We all agreed we wanted to make the best Spider-Man game possible, not worry about tying in with a particular continuity from the comics or movies, but do our own thing, while hopefully respecting the source material. I'm very glad people liked that decision.

At its core, this was a story about Peter Parker becoming a man, going through many of the things young people do (money struggles, romantic travails, being disappointed by a mentor, losing someone you love) and I think that's what resonates with the audience. Every minute of working on that game was a pleasure because it was a labor of love for everyone involved.

Spider-Geddon #3 (Writer Christos Gage, Penciler Jorge Molina)

Spider-Geddon #2 (Writer Christos Gage, Penciler Jorge Molina)

There have been so many great new Spider characters introduced in Spider-Geddon thus far. Do you have a few favorites? What's it like coming up with all of these weird versions of the popular character?

Well, he wasn't introduced in Spider-Geddon, but I love writing the Japanese Spider-Man and his giant robot, Leopardon. As a kid, I loved Marvel's Godzilla and Shogun Warriors comics, and this felt very much like that. As for new characters, I really love Spiders-Man. I personally only came up with one or two-bit players who show up in issue 4, it was the mad geniuses all over Marvel who created the rest!