Rave : 2003 : Too Many Ocks
Now that The Spectacular Spider-Man has been rebooted to a new series, it looks like Paul Jenkins is getting back to classic villains. He started with Venom and has moved on to Doctor Octopus. Brian Michael Bendis is using the Ultimate Doc Ock in his mini-series, Ultimate Six. And, hey look, hot writer Brian K. Vaughan is writing the Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Negative Exposure mini-series! And some guy I've never heard of named Colin Mitchell is writing the Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus mini-series entitled Out of Reach. And, for God's sake, enough is enough! That last sentiment has nothing to do with the quality of the books. Jenkins' Spectacular story seems to be shaping up into something quite interesting (if it wasn't for Humberto Ramos' wretched artwork), Bendis' Ultimate take on Spider-Man, the Avengers and the Sinister Six is riveting. Vaughan's tale of Jeffrey Haight, rival photographer to Peter Parker, and his seduction by the intelligent and perceptive Octavius feels fresh which is saying something considering the decades of Ock stories. I haven't read enough of Mitchell's series yet to have an opinion but it certainly holds its own after one issue (though I do find it hard to believe that Spider-Man has time to fire his webs at a wall, pull himself past a flying boulder and put his body between that boulder and some bystanders but doesn't have time to simply grab the boulder with the web and yank it away). However, none of this is the point.
Doc Ock has a new look in most of these books, modeled after the upcoming movie, that makes him look more like an octopus; with an octopus-like snout, dark glasses that look like octopus eyes and new tentacles that look like they're covered with suckers. Rather than making him look sinister, unfortunately, this look just puts him in the same camp as the Penguin and the Mole Man and other characters that seem to have taken on the look of the animal they represent in rather a silly manner. What may be good for the movie is not necessarily good for the comic pages. However, none of this is the point either.
But mentioning the movie finally does get us to the point which is that we all know that Doc Ock is suddenly popular because Alfred Molina is playing him in the upcoming Spider-Man 2 but does he have to be everywhere? Does he have to appear in so many series at once that we get sick to death of him eight months before the movie premieres? Doesn't that strategy seem rather odd to you? Are all of these Otto appearances making you slaver with anticipation? If you're anything like me I assume that they're not. Maybe the idea is to stuff us with Octopus early enough so that we're hungry again when the time comes. But, then, what about all the rest of the people who don't read comics and who might want to read these stories after they've seen Doc in the film? Only they won't be able to read them because by then these issues will be months out of print unless they're able to track down back issues in the comic stores or Marvel just happens to reprint them after the fact in a few trade paperbacks and... Aha! I get it. That's why they're hitting us so hard with Ock's "movie look". The heck with forty years of past appearances. You can't ask the film fans to plunk down their $15.95 for their trade paperback at their neighborhood bookstore and not have the character look like the Molina Octavius they are expecting. So much for my complaint, I guess. I mean, here I was thinking these stories were written for we, the comic fans, and it turns out it's not about us after all. So what if we're oversaturated with Ock? We're just paving the way for the real market and if you can sell the same stories twice then why not toss them at the comic fans before the movie hits? This shouldn't be too much of a surprise these days, should it? By now I suspect we're all getting used to it.