Little is known about Dr Curt Connors' life as a child. As an army surgeon, herpetologist (a person that studies amphibians and reptiles) and professor, he is obviously a brilliant man. He always pushed himself, from grade school to medical school, graduating at the top of his class. When he was drafted into the military, he performed battlefield surgery on wounded GI's, until a grenade wounded his arm. The arm became gangrenous and was amputated. This ended his career as a surgeon. He turned to studying lizards and their ability to regenerate missing limbs. By stimulating an area of the brain called the "R complex," he hoped to mimic the ability in humans. He created a formula and tested it on himself. (Spectacular Spider-Man #238)
Naturally, things got worse after that. The serum changed him into the Lizard, a creature that hates humanity, Dr Connors and his family. Reports from Florida of a strange, man-like reptile in the swamps made their way to New York City and drew the attention of Spider-Man. He sought out the help of Connors, not knowing that he was the Lizard. Connors' wife, Martha, explained to the vigilante what had happened to her husband and the masked man set about creating a formula cure in Connors' lab. (Amazing Spider-Man #6)
After Connors was returned to normal, everyone hoped that the change was permanent. Eventually the Connors family moved from Florida to New York City and Connors became a professor at Empire State University. The changes began again, after Connors helped Spider-Man create a formula to melt the protective hide off of the Russian agent known as the Rhino. He theorized that the fumes in the formula, which shared certain ingredients with the Lizard formula, had re-triggered the Lizard transformation. (Amazing Spider-Man #45)
Spider-Man and the Lizard battled off and on for years, with Connors usually being changed back to normal. The family suffered during these years but no more than when Martha died of cancer, caused by toxic chemicals from a nearby factory. This left their young son, Billy, with his father, who still risked transformations. Eventually, the inevitable caught up with Billy and he was killed by the Lizard. The murder was an attempt by the creature to kill Curt, who still resided in the animal's mind and could influence its actions. (The same was true of the Lizard. It was always in the back of Curt's mind, whispering to him.) The creature hoped that if Curt's son died, he would give up and fade away. It succeeded. (Amazing Spider-Man #632)
The Lizard's whereabouts are currently unknown, but still seethes with hatred for all mammals.
Emotional Instability Caused by Post Traumatic Stress
Connors' war time experiences, plus the multiple transformations into the Lizard, must have caused him great stress. Post traumatic stress is very common among people that have been to war, seen acts of terrorism, been to prison or suffered other kinds of traumatic events. There are many symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.) The person often "relives" the event that caused the stress, avoidance (staying away from people or places that remind you of the event) and constant states of emotional arousal. When so aroused, a person may be very irritable and have angry outbursts.
While its never explained why Dr. Connors' moved from Florida to New York (Amazing Spider-Man #32), its possible that he moved as a part of the symptom of avoidance. The swamps may have reminded him too much of being the Lizard and decided that the concrete of N.Y.C. was as far from a swamp as he could get.
Curt also explained in a later transformation that he had some control of being the Lizard and used it as an escape from his emotional pain. "When Martha died, I was secretly satisfied, because her death gave me a great excuse to become the Lizard and take out my frustrations on the world," he explained. (Spectacular Spider-Man vol 2, #13) Some of that pain must have been taken out on his family, such as when he backhanded his son into a pile of trash while taunting Spider-Man. (Spectacular Spider-Man vol 2, #13) He also screamed at the terrified boy during the kidnapping, "Stop screaming, you little brat! Why wont you stop screaming? I cant hear myself think!"
A Negative World View
A "world view" is "a set of assumptions about physical and social reality that may have powerful effects on cognition and behavior." Dr Connors showed many times that he had strong, negative opinions on the state of humanity and the environment. After returning to New York from Florida after a long time away, he looked at the city and didn't like what he saw. "Its a charnel house of filth and decay...a horrifying example of urban influence. It has become a microcosm for the world of the future--of what this planet will become should mankind be allowed to continue its perilous course towards Armageddon." (Spectacular Spider-Man #237)
Connors further expressed his dissatisfaction with humanity when Peter Parker visited him in Miami. After Peter declined a glass of water offered to him by Connors, Curt went on a tirade. "I know what it is, Peter. You're not used to the filtered water down here. Sad, isn't it...that someday everyone's drinking water will have to be filtered due to all the blasted pollution! Just another example of how we're wrecking this planet!" (Spider-Man Unlimited #19)
Martha Connors also saw how her husband's world view was hurting he and the family. After finding the Lizard and some partially transformed lizard assistants at the Miami reservoir, she called him out. "I think I've finally figured it out, Curt. These transformations of yours. This distaste for all of humanity that has escalated so much over the years. It hurt you, didn't it--more than you ever admitted to yourself--losing your arm due to man's inhumanity to man." (Spider-Man Unlimited #19)
Feeding the Beast: Curt's Rage
By Connors' own admission, he was a strongly driven young man. He must have worked very hard in order to graduate in the top of his class in med school, perhaps sacrificing other aspects of his life in the process. He was clearly very eager to be a surgeon, a goal that he strove for and which was taken from him on the battlefield. He must also have been a caring, compassionate man to be a surgeon. As his wife said, it must have hurt him to have lost his arm because of "man's inhumanity to man."
He may have ignored or tried to suppress the anger he felt, which nevertheless was still there. The fact that Curt resents humanity and the Lizard also despises all mammals raises the possibility that the monster is a result of Dr. Connors' psychological pain. Sigmund Freud's ideas about the Id, ego and superego play into this theory. The id represents the lusty, animal part of human thoughts. The superego is the moral, restraining aspect of human actions. These two opposite forces are balanced by the ego, which tries to negotiate the desires of both. When Curt gets upset, he would transform into the Lizard, showing that the id had taken over his mind. When the superego took over, he changed back to loving, caring Dr. Connors.
Dr. Connors' psychological trouble stemmed from his childhood focus on being the best, academically. He drove to be a surgeon, but he lost that ability when he lost his arm while performing medical service to GI's on the battlefield. This anger, post traumatic stress and chemical dependency on the Lizard formula fed into the monster which terrified his family and the community. Had Curt gotten psychological help, he may have prevented the death of his son at the monster's hands and his own demise.