Inner Demons, Outer Heroes, Outer Villains
A Look at Monstrosity in Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2
“I will not die a monster!” Those are the last words of Dr. Otto Octavius in Spider-Man 2. There’s an echo of the tragic to them, like something said by a ruler of Thebes at the end of a play you had to read in junior high. Cadmus, Pentheus, Athamas, Oedipus . . . these were guys who really knew how to suffer, back in the days when misery was an art.
But by the time that Otto utters those defiant words, it’s too late. In the classical and the tragic sense, Otto has, against his will (or as a result of his misdirected will) already been a monster and has served his function as one. As J. Jonah Jameson, editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle points out, it was Otto who made Doctor Octopus, “Doc Ock,” the Hyde to Otto’s own Jekyll:
It’s all over town, Robbie. Gossip. Rumors. Panic in the streets, if we’re lucky! Crazy scientist turns himself into some kind of a monster. Four mechanical arms welded right onto his body. Guy named Otto Octavius winds up with eight limbs. What’re the odds? Hoffman! What’re we gonna call this guy?
Maybe what Otto really means with his dying words is that he’ll subvert, redefine, and reclaim his role as a monster, take it back from the city-wide-panic-inducing function that Jonah has assigned to the role and to him via splashy Daily Bugle front pages. Whom is Otto really defying by refusing to be a monster? Himself? Fate? Bad luck? …