Tag Archives: Doctor Octopus

Marvel’s Top Ten Stories: 1961-1965

Presenting, just for fun, Marvel Comics’ ten best stories from 1961-1965!

Why only a five-year period? For proper apples-to-apples comparisons, firstly. The comics medium has changed quite a bit over the years, so it’s hardly fair to compare, say, ten-year-old comics to fifty-year-old comics. Plus, the shorter period is more manageable and allows me to highlight more great books over time—sometimes complete storylines, sometimes standout single issues, whatever is merited. (I’ll get to later periods…eventually. And note that these are grouped by release date, not cover date.)

So we begin at the dawn of the Marvel Universe. True, many books from this era don’t hold up particularly well, not to the adult reader. They are dated indeed. But in the foundation of each series are strong, enduring concepts and flawed but heroic characters that people of varied backgrounds can relate to. Plus, the old comics offer plenty of charm with their fast-paced displays of free-flowing imagination. Looking back on these early issues, it’s not hard to see why the characters have survived the decades.

(Spoilers ahead, but these came out over five decades ago, so…)

Let’s get to it. As Stan Lee would say, Face Front, True Believers! Make Mine Marvel! Excelsior! ’Nuff Said!

Wait. Not ’Nuff Said yet. We need the list…

10) The Amazing Spider-Man #3 (by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko)

The superhero genre has a simple but effective formula: The hero almost loses to the villain but ultimately prevails, often improving him or herself along the way. Doctor Octopus’s debut shows an early example of that formula in action, back when flawed superheroes were still a fresh idea. As the book opens, Spider-Man is feeling supremely confident in his crimefighting abilities, and he’s itching for a challenge.

And he gets one, and he gets clobbered, leading Peter to wonder if he’s even cut out for this superhero lifestyle after all. So he’s got a choice: quit, or try again but do it better this time.

Peter Parker is still growing into his role at this stage, and that’s part of what made this series so novel—the superhero was actually growing as a person.

And we haven’t seen the last of Spider-Man on this list. The Amazing Spider-Man was easily Marvel’s strongest series of this era. Continue reading

Today’s Super Comic — Nova #7 (2013)

nova-7-2013So the first issue wasn’t a fluke. Seven issues in, and Nova is tremendous fun.

I appreciate how the creative teams take their time developing this young new Nova into a superhero. Sam Alexander learned a lot in the first storyline, but he’s still got ways to go before he’s ready for the big leagues (i.e., the Avengers, the team his mother prefers he not join at the age of fifteen—very smart mother there).

Issue #7 is framed around Sam searching for an opportunity to save the day in grand heroic fashion. He flies all the way from Arizona to New York City looking for action. He bumps into a Spider-Man who’s not himself (he’s Doctor Octopus in Spidey’s body, which is a whole other long story), but that’s the closest he gets to encountering a super-villain.

He keeps looking to lend a hand somewhere, and he keeps failing to be of any use—in the big situations, anyway. But when he thinks smaller and stops aiming too high, he manages to perform a good deed of genuine value, and he matures just a smidge.

Much more interesting than reading about a superhero who’s perfect from issue #1.

Writer: Zeb Wells

Penciler: Paco Medina

Inker: Juan Vlasco

Cover: Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines, and Marte Gracia

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Nova vol. 2: Rookie Season (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Fantastic Four #267 (1984)

Fantastic_Four_Vol_1_267Not all comics have happy endings, and this one’s is absolutely tragic.

Fantastic Four #267 doesn’t initially seem like it will go that way. Sue is suffering from complications in her pregnancy, but Reed and friends have identified a potential solution, and a very comic booky solution at that. The leading expert on the radiation that afflicts Sue and their unborn child is none other than psychotic felon Doctor Octopus, of course, so Reed must appeal to the villain’s better nature and recruit his aid.

Naturally, a fight breaks out, and it’s a great one. The images of Mr. Fantastic’s elastic limbs fending off Doc Ock’s lengthy mechanical appendages are visually spectacular, but this isn’t a normal battle. Reed isn’t fighting to save the world or a bunch of strangers—he’s fighting to save his family. For the aloof scientist, the stakes have never been so personal. All he has to do is reason with this one unstable man, they’ll put their gifted brains to work solving the problem, and everything will turn out okay, right?

No.

Excuse me…got something in my eye…

Writer/Artist: John Byrne

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Fantastic Four by John Byrne Omnibus vol. 2 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Amazing Spider-Man #11 (1964)

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_11Catch-up post 3/4!

The best comic book series in the 1960s was easily The Amazing Spider-Man. More than any other book at the time, Spider-Man put character first and did so without skimping on the excitement. It set the template for many teenage superheroes to follow, but at the time there wasn’t anything quite like it.

Issue #11 serves as a great example of a typically solid ‘60s Spidey story, incorporating relationship drama, well-choreographed action, and a fallible hero. I first read this one as a kid in the ‘90s, about thirty years after it debuted, and I loved it. It’s not timeless, but it holds up remarkably well compared to its contemporaries.

Doctor Octopus returns for (I think) only his second appearance…and who’s that picking him up as he’s released from prison? Why, it’s Betty Brant, Daily Bugle secretary and Peter Parker’s first girlfriend. How about that? Should Peter maybe reconsider his decision to tell her he’s Spider-Man?

Stan Lee’s story is plenty engaging, and Steve Ditko’s layouts bring the action to life. And to spice up the typical hero/villain confrontation, Spidey sprains his ankle right before the fight starts. And that’s classic Spider-Man in a nutshell—he’s the guy who hurts himself before the bad guys even get the chance.

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciler: Steve Ditko

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in The Essential Spider-Man vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 8 and up