Norman and Otto's Untold Tale

 Norman Osborn was undoubtedly one of the most productive ‘dead’ men the world has ever seen.  This is evidenced by the laundry list of things Norman did to manipulate the life of Peter Parker whilst operating from the shadows (aka Europe) after he had ‘died’ in Amazing Spider-Man #122.  Norman was always fixated on Peter, he plotted against him for years while the world thought he was long dead.  Well, not the whole world; there were others who knew Norman’s secret.  Aside from the Scriers, Mysterio was also aware that Osborn’s Goblin Glider did not kill him.  Interestingly, while in hiding Norman actually requested the company of one of the web-head’s long time foes …Otto Octavius.  Around the time Spidey first battled Carnage, Otto and Norman were building an alliance that would lead to the end of the web-slinger.  
Superior Spider-Man Team Up #11 features a flashback to an incident that occurred “years ago” after Otto Octavius received a letter to join Norman Osborn in Europe.  He accepted Osborn’s offer and made his way to Europe.  Otto was led by Andrew, Osborn’s butler, through spacious halls of Norman’s estate; he was convinced this was a trap.  Octavius was surprised to see Norman (despite the invite) and hostility broke out almost immediately between the two villains.  The animosity was a bit of a misunderstanding as Otto had mistaken Osborn’s calling for a drink (via pushing a button) as a potential attack.  Doc Ock’s tentacles busted through his coat and he quickly strangled Osborn.  When Andrew arrived with Otto’s drink, tensions cooled and he released Osborn from his grip.  Norman was not phased though, because he had a whole slew of machine guns pointed right at Otto from behind a mirror.  

Osborn then put forth a proposal for an alliance, Otto was reluctant because his track record was poor when working with other villains (eg, the Sinister Six).  Osborn’s retort, “Well, all I can say is this time you won’t be working with a bunch of amateurs.  You’ll be working with his greatest enemy.”  Otto disagreed with Norman’s personal assessment but he did agree to work with Osborn to defeat Spider-Man.  

Their alliance initially flourished as Ock basked in the laboratory spoils that Osborn’s great wealth provided.  In exchange for the top-notch scientific equipment, Otto offered Osborn his tremendous scientific acumen.  In fact, Doc Ock stated that that was the reason he believed Osborn invited him to Europe in the first place.  Regardless of Norman’s motivations, the two were optimistic that their collective skill sets would defeat Spider-Man.

The devilish duo even found time to bond on a personal level as well.  After joking about how neither of them were strong in the ‘friends’ department, Osborn explained that his deceased wife Emily was the only friend he ever had.  Norman’s story prompted Otto to tell his own sad tale involving his ex-fiancee, Mary Alice.  Otto’s mother, Mary Lavinia Octavius, did not approve of Mary Alice and insisted that Otto focus on taking care of her (his mother).  So he was forced to break up with Mary Alice; a decision he lived to regret.

Norman and Otto’s conversation soon took a turn for the worst as Otto mentioned that once he achieved his goal of being the greatest scientist to ever live, he would reconnect with Mary Alice.  Norman took offense to that comment and insisted Otto’s only goal should be the destruction of Spider-Man.  Otto claimed that defeating Spider-Man using science was preferred, but Norman felt Spidey needed to be crushed and his soul destroyed.  Technically those are not opposing views, yet the two traded hay-makers as they argued over who’s style of attack against Spidey was best.  Whilst fighting the Green Goblin, Otto soon had an epiphany.  Being grounded in science and data, he resented the ‘crazy’ approach Norman utilized to attack Spider-Man…but Otto quickly realized that Norman’s ‘crazy’ could be the 'spark' necessary to allow Doc Ock to finally succeed against the web-slinger.

Otto quelled the violence by agreeing with Osborn, telling him that they want the same thing, “the destruction of Spider-Man.”  The Green Goblin halted his attack and even acknowledged that he was not quite ready for combat; his Glider-induced injury was not fully healed.  Their alliance resumed.

Otto and Norman created the Octo-Goblin, a battle armored suit that combined the best of the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus’s weaponry.  After weeks of preparation, they were ready to attack Spider-Man.  They noted that Spider-Man must be exhausted from having just recently battled the Scorpion, Carnage and Spider-Slayers (around the time of Amazing Spider-Man #370).  Osborn and Octavius were convinced that they made an incredible team and Otto admitted to himself that the rest of the Sinister Six were not his equal; unlike the Green Goblin!

Otto then returned to the U.S. and completed the final preparations for their attack; that was when their alliance went south.  Osborn called Otto and informed him that “it’s time”…this threw Otto for a loop because it was a week earlier than they had agreed.  Osborn scorned his lack of spontaneity and told Otto to meet him at the hospital.  When Otto arrived Osborn told him there was a change of plans…Otto did not like that.  

When Otto arrived at the hospital, Osborn informed him that he found Mary Alice and...that he had her car run off the road.  As a disclaimer, Osborn mentioned that the Goblin Formula “makes [him] a little, you know…”.  The insinuation there was that it made him a little loopy and thus his testimony may not be entirely accurate.  Regardless, Otto flipped out.  Osborn then settled Octavius, telling him Mary received a blood transfusion and that she was expected to make a full recovery.  But then Osborn dropped the bomb on Otto; he told him that that he infected her with a deadly virus!

The Norman and Otto drama continued in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #12 as a rage-ridden Doc Ock mercilessly attacked the Green Goblin (inside a hospital mind you!).  Civilians scattered as Ock pinned Osborn to the ground, tore open his suit and began pounding his scarred chest with his tentacles and fists.  Otto eventually stopped and the battered Goblin uttered out “Spider-Man is coming.”  Ock realized that that was most likely part of Osborn’s plan, for Ock to over-react causing enough of a disturbance to attract the web-slinger.  Osborn escaped before Spider-Man arrived and Mary Alice awoke briefly and saw Otto there in front of her.  He could barely muster a sentence to her before she fell back unconscious.  Otto then went on a tear to prove Osborn wrong; to show him that science could save Mary Alice!

This story then intertwined with the events of Spider-Man Unlimited (V1) #3, which, ironically, was also a flashback/retcon.  In that story, Doc Ock broke into the Robeaux Research Center, a facility which specialized in AIDS research, and stole some bloodwork.  The implication here is that he stole Mary Alice’s bloodwork and that Norman had infected her with the AIDS virus.  Moreover, it was revealed that Mary Alice’s full maiden name was Mary Alice Anders and that her married name was Mary Burke.  Mr. Burke, her husband, died in the car crash that Osborn had caused.  Dr. Iberia, who worked at Robeaux Research Center, was the physician treating Mary.  He explained to Ben Urich that she contracted the AIDS virus from a blood transfusion.  Norman had also mentioned the blood transfusion in Superior Spider-Man #11, so it could be that Dr. Iberia was wrong about the transfusion transmitting the AIDS virus to Mary Alice (this is discussed more below).

Spider-Man Unlimited (V1) #3 provided more insight into the relationship between Mary Alice and Otto.  For starters, they met at the Atomic Research Center and quickly became an item.  However, Otto broke off their engagement because his mother convinced him that he was abandoning her by marrying Mary Alice.  Otto’s father had died when he was a young man, so his mother was seemingly alone.  Unfortunately for Otto his mother lived a double-standard and Otto soon found out that she was dating someone.  This enraged Otto and as he screamed at his mother, she suffered a heart attack and died.  A despondent Otto carried on his work at the Atomic Research Center and that was when the infamous accident that created Doctor Octopus occurred.  Norman had asked Otto that exact question (whether Otto’s break-up caused his conversion to Doctor Octopus) and Octavius replied, “in a way.”

Otto had not seen Mary Alice since he had ended their engagement, that was, of course, until Norman Osborn brought her back into his life.  With Mary Alice on her death bed, Otto desperately sought to find a cure, hoping his superior scientific intellect would enable him to do so.  After stealing her bloodwork from the Robeaux Research Center, Otto then stole a radioactive isotope; this caused him to cross paths with Spider-Man.  Aware of the bloodwork theft and now the radioactive isotope, Spidey began questioning what Otto was planning.  Spider-Man first considered that Otto may have AIDS, which Otto quickly denied.  During their confrontation Otto escaped but Spidey used a Spider-Tracer to track Otto back to his lair.  Once back at Otto’s hideout, Spidey questioned if Otto was making an AIDS-bomb and then sarcasticly asked him if he was actually making a cure.  Otto claimed that Spidey would not believe the truth even if Otto told him.  The web-head made a interesting observation:  Doc Ock was not stopping from his work to fight Spidey, he was clearly preoccupied with something else.  Soon after, Otto gave up the fight entirely and said, “My formula proved ineffective.”  Ock had failed to save Mary Alice and find a cure for the deadly (AIDS) virus.

Mary Alice died shortly after at the Robeaux Research Center due to heart failure.  At the conclusion of Spider-Man Unlimited (V1) #3, Spidey was still clueless as to what Doc Ock was doing.

After mourning the death of Mary Alice, Otto vowed to kill the Green Goblin.  He returned to Osborn’s European estate in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #12.  As Otto busted through the doors, Osborn came over the speaker system and taunted Ock (interestingly, the speaker was behind a painting of Osborn).  Osborn ignored Otto’s request to 'face him' and to 'stop hiding like a coward,' but Norman informed him that, “I’m not even in [this] country.  I’m away on business.”  As a deflated Octavius left Osborn’s mansion he asked Osborn why he did all this; to which Osborn replied, “We shared a fundamental difference.  But hopefully now you share my views.”  Otto’s rage boiled over as Osborn encouraged him to favor rage over reason.  Otto found a hidden camera and shared the following with Osborn.

Octavius left Osborn’s mansion and Norman came out from hiding; he had been at the mansion all along.  A new feud was born between the two heavy-weights of Spidey’s rogues gallery.  The fear of losing out to Otto Octavius fueled Norman’s attacks against Spider-Man.  In the years that passed, a competition raged between Osborn and Octavius as to who would be first to take down Spider-Man.  An arms-race (pun intended) of sorts ensued and with every mind-game Osborn played on Peter, Ock mastered a new piece of murderous machinery.

Of course Doc Ock would eventually execute a dastardly mind-swap upon Peter Parker that left Spider-Man ‘dead.’  Octavius then took on the role of Spider-Man and once again find himself confronted by the one true Goblin, Mr. Norman Osborn. 


Parting Thoughts:

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a flashback/retcon embedded inside of another flashback/retcon and, truthfully, the Superior Spider-Man Team Up addition does not fit smoothly inside the story from Spider-Man Unlimited (V1) #3.

Did Norman actually infect Mary Alice with the AIDS virus?  That was certainly implied in this story but I’m not convinced you can draw that conclusion.  When Norman recounted his terrible deed to Otto, he prefaced it by saying that the Goblin Formula “makes [him] a little, you know…”.  As mentioned above, that hurts Norman’s recollection and thus its possible that he may not have actually infected her blood.  He may have indirectly done so by having her car run off the road, then in the subsequent blood transfusion she acquired the AIDS virus (as suggested in Spider-Man Unlimited (V1) #3).

A legitimate continuity flub between the two stories is that Spider-Man saw Doc Ock with Mary Alice in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #12.  However in Spider-Man Unlimited (V1) #3, he was completely unaware as to what was going with Otto’s robberies.  Spidey would have been able to make the connection had he seen Otto and Mary Alice together.  It becomes fairly difficult to explain Spider-Man’s clueslessness observed in Spider-Man Unlimited (V1) #3.

Moreover, one must assume that the hospital where Norman and Otto met was not the Robeaux Research Center.  Mary Alice was in a car accident (caused by Norman), her husband died and she required a blood transfusion (which happened to be infected with the AIDS virus).  Presumably Norman tainted that blood transfusion.  Once Mary Alice found out she was HIV positive, she would have been taken to the Robeaux Research Center.  That is why Otto broke in there at the beginning of Spider-Man Unlimited (V1) #3.  Since Spidey arrived at the initial hospital, Otto would not have had time to take a blood sample then.  

Some other aspects are easier to rationalize.  For instance, Dr. Iberia suggested that Otto learned of Mary Alice's condition from a story the Daily Bugle had run regarding the Robeaux Research Center.  However, we know from the Superior Spider-Man Team Up story that it was Norman who enlightened Otto about Mary Alice.  Since Otto never explicitly stated how he learned of Mary Alice in the Spider-Man Unlimited story, we can assume that Norman told him (and it still works).

Also, there were parts of this story that were just outright cheesy.  For one, the idea of Otto Octavius and Norman Osborn flying around together on a Goblin Glider came off really lame and a little out of character for the typically hard-ass villains.  The premise of the ‘Octo-Goblin’ was also a little odd too and it is probably best that that gear never saw the light of day.

Lastly, Norman Osborn certainly exhibits patternized behavior.  When he first debuted his conflict with Spider-Man revolved around proving his superiority over the web-head.  He wanted to prove to himself that the Goblin was better in every possible way than Spidey.  Years later, Osborn tried to re-shape the world in his image with the infamous DNA-bomb he had concocted during the time of the Gathering of Five.  The Goblin-Legacy itself, being passed down from generation to generation can be viewed as Osborn imprinting himself on those close to him.  Osborn’s propagation of ‘self’ onto others is a part of who he is and we observed it again here in the battle with Otto Octavius.  Norman requested that Otto visit him in Europe so that they could work together to beat Spider-Man.  However, once Osborn observed that Otto had a different approach than he, the plan to beat Spider-Man went out the window and Norman became fixated on making Otto more like him.  That was one of the redeeming qualities of this story…although overall, it probably muddied the waters of continuity moreso than clarifying them.



For a complete history Norman Osborn vs Doctor Octopus see here. 

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Otto comes face to face with the 'deceased' Norman Osborn, as seen in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #11

Otto goes on the attack after he believes Osborn to have activated a trap, as seen in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #11

Norman offers to form an alliance with Otto in order to destroy Spider-Man, as seen in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #11

Osborn discusses his deceased wife Emily with Otto as the two bonded over lost loves, as seen in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #11

Norman and Otto argue over the methodology necessary to destroy Spider-Man, as seen in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #11

Otto and Norman track Spider-Man to find the optimal time to attack, as seen in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #11

Osborn and Octavius create the Octo-Goblin and Norman did the honor of trying it out, as seen in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #11

Norman explains to Otto that he had Mary Alice's car ran off the road, as seen in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #11

Civilians scatter as Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin battle in a hospital (presumably not the Robeaux Research Center), as seen in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #12

Mary Alice sees Otto as she lies in bed recovering from the car accident, as seen in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #12

Peter Parker and Ben Urich observe the damage created by Otto's robbery of the Robeaux Research Center, as seen in Spider-Man Unlimited (V1) #3

A preoccupied Doc Ock battles with Spider-Man and does not waste time to explain to the web-slinger what he is doing, as seen in Spider-Man Unlimited (V1) #3

Osborn, via loudspeaker, taunts Otto, as seen in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #12

Norman explains why he tormented Otto and killed his ex-fiancee, as seen in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #12

Octavius leaves Osborn's mansion, allowing him to come out from hiding, as seen in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #12