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Spider-Man's History With The Lizard Explained

Among all the members of Spider-Man's rogues gallery, Dr. Curtis "Curt" Connors is perhaps the closest one that Spider-Man has to a "frenemy." He has probably helped and hurt the webslinger an equal number of times, as both Dr. Connors and his scaly alter-ego, the Lizard.

Seemingly cursed to live a dual life because of a daring experiment, Dr. Connors has used his vast expertise in the fields of biochemistry and surgery to do as much good as he could, all while attempting to suppress his reptilian side. Unfortunately, when rage and stress get the better of him — which, given his line of work and association with the spandex crowd, happens more frequently than he'd like — his cold-blooded persona takes over, hell-bent on eliminating the fleshy, warm-blooded humans and allowing his crawling kin to become the dominant species on the planet.

In nearly every instance that the Lizard has reared his verdant visage, Spider-Man (or some version of him) has risen to the occasion to stop him in his clawed tracks. This has led to many dangerous and deeply personal confrontations, all of which involved the wall-crawling superhero coming up with ways to stop the slimy supervillain without hurting him. Here is Spider-Man's history with the Lizard, explained.

A wartime tragedy and the birth of a villain

Dr. Connors made his comic book debut in 1963's "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #6, meaning he was one of Spider-Man's earliest super-powered foes. In his first appearance, he was depicted as a Florida-based lizard expert with a wife (whose name would later be revealed to be Martha) and a son named Billy. While serving in the military, Dr. Connors lost his right arm during combat. Since his return, he had been attempting to regrow his missing appendage through his research on lizards' regenerative abilities. While he did succeed in regrowing his arm, it came at a terrible cost: It transformed him into a half-man, half-lizard monster.

2010's "Web of Spider-Man" Vol. 2 #6 shed more light on the period of time between Dr. Connors losing his arm and his reptilian transformation, while also fleshing out his close friendship with another biochemist. The issue reveals that when Dr. Connors was sent to a hospital after he lost his arm saving a soldier, he met Dr. Ted Sallis (the scientist who would later become the swamp-dwelling Man-Thing). At the time, Dr. Sallis was attempting to replicate the serum that gave Captain America his enhanced abilities. The two men of science quickly bonded, both of them giving the other crucial advice on how to proceed with their respective projects. In fact, it was Dr. Sallis' idea to look to lizards for inspiration — a piece of advice that Dr. Connors followed, with disastrous results.

Spider-Man vs. the Lizard, round 1

When Peter Parker first crossed paths with the Lizard in "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #6, it was largely because of a challenge from his cantankerous boss at the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson. In the issue, the tough-talking publisher publicly dares Spider-Man, whom he often called a menace to the city, to go to Florida and investigate reported sightings of a lizard-man in the swamp.

Together with Jameson, Peter travels to Florida under the pretense of being there to take photos of the wall-crawler's upcoming battle with the Lizard. Upon their arrival, the teenager immediately pays a visit to Dr. Connors' house, as he is the only known lizard expert in the area. However, when Peter swings by the Connors residence suited up as Spider-Man, he makes a startling discovery: Dr. Connors was actually the Lizard, and had been unintentionally transformed after he conducted his regeneration experiments on himself.

Realizing that there was more at stake here, Peter quickly works on a cure for the Lizard's condition, aiming to reverse Dr. Connors' transformation in order to get him safely back to his family. The budding biochemist whips up an antidote and proceeds to the Lizard's headquarters, a deteriorating Spanish castle by the bayou. There, he battles the Lizard and his alligator minions, successfully curing Dr. Connors and bringing him back to his family. This encounter marks the beginning of their long relationship as both allies and adversaries.

Saving Peter Parker's aunt

One of the earliest instances of Peter Parker enlisting the aid of Dr. Curt Connors occurs in "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #33. After a blood transfusion meant to save his Aunt May's life, Peter discovers that because of the radioactive nature of his blood, she contracted a radioactive blood disease. Desperate to save her from the brink of death, Peter undergoes a mad quest to find a cure.

Spider-Man finds himself fighting the mysterious Master Planner, who is ultimately revealed to be Doctor Octopus. During a skirmish in Doc Ock's secret hideout, the webslinger gets trapped under heavy metal equipment, with the life-saving serum ISO-36 (which Dr. Connors needs to create the cure) just out of his reach. At the point where Spider-Man is about to give up, he remembers his part in his Uncle Ben's death, and finds strength in the fact that he isn't too late to save his aunt. He successfully frees himself and grabs the serum in time to escape from the collapsing hideout.

Upon making it to Dr. Connors' laboratory, Spider-Man takes a small sample of the serum and uses his own blood to test it, confirming that it would work. It's worth noting that at this point, Dr. Connors isn't aware of Spider-Man's secret identity, much less the fact that he's related to Aunt May. Nevertheless, Dr. Connors trusts Spider-Man enough to have him deliver the serum to the hospital, allowing May to have a full recovery.

The return of the Lizard

When Spider-Man successfully cured the Lizard of his condition in their first battle, both Dr. Connors and the webslinger believed that the villainous reptile would never pop up again. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a false. 1966's "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #44 saw the unexpected return of Spider-Man's scaly foe, effectively kick-starting the trend of Dr. Connors finding cures for his transformation that only worked for a limited amount of time.

After working on a different antidote, Dr. Connors suffers an adverse reaction, turning into the Lizard once more. This time, the Lizard demonstrates a greater level of cunning, as he successfully frames Spider-Man for an attempted jewel robbery. Their resulting battle leads to Spider-Man suffering an injury in his arm as the Lizard slips away. However, due to the urgency of the situation, the superhero decides to prioritize apprehending the Lizard.

The next issue, Spider-Man manages to find his green-skinned foe, and tricks him into entering a train's freezer car. With the cold slowing down the Lizard, Spider-Man easily traps him in a web cocoon and takes him to Dr. Connors' laboratory. There, Peter feverishly formulates a cure, which transforms the Lizard back to his human state. Once again, Spider-Man is able to return the scientist safely to his family.

A living vampire — and a six-armed Spider-Man?!

In "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #100, Peter Parker is in a dark place. Tired of spending his days stopping crime and getting nothing but the city's ire in return, the young superhero decides that it's time for him to choose between being Spider-Man and achieving happiness in his personal life. He picks the latter, and quickly goes to work on a serum intended to strip him of his spectacular spider-powers. One would think that Peter would have learned from Dr. Connors' tragic example, and that such a lesson could have prevented him from his impulsive decision. Unfortunately, it didn't — and when Peter wakes up from a fever dream after ingesting his homebrewed serum, he realizes to his horror that he has grown four extra arms.

With no one else to turn to, Spider-Man frantically calls Dr. Connors to ask for his help. While things initially seem to be on track towards them finding a cure for him, matters become complicated with the emergence of the Living Vampire, Morbius. Spider-Man and Morbius end up fighting in Dr. Connors' home, with the latter gaining the upper hand. The stress of seeing this confrontation prompts Dr. Connors' transformation into the Lizard once again. However, to the surprise of both the Lizard and Spider-Man, Morbius' vampiric bite ends up curing Dr. Connors. And so, in "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #102, Dr. Connors is able to use Morbius' own blood to whip up a cure for Spider-Man.

Drafted into the first Secret Wars

Due to their largely grounded nature as characters, Spider-Man and the Lizard are two players in the Marvel universe that you wouldn't normally associate with cosmic adventures. That said, they found themselves smack-dab in the middle of one during the 1984 maxi-series "Secret Wars," a story that is perhaps best remembered as the debut of Spider-Man's alien symbiote costume.

In his burning desire to gain a better understanding of good and evil, a powerful space-faring being known as the Beyonder takes a small sampling of Earth-based superheroes and supervillains, including Spider-Man and the Lizard. The Beyonder crafts an entire planet (Battleworld) to serve as their arena, and promises either side that the victorious team would have their wishes granted. Unsurprisingly, the webslinger and the reptilian villain find themselves on opposing sides. However, the Lizard is quick to bolt after the first clash between the heroes and the villains.

For most of the series, Spider-Man and the Lizard don't really interact. Aside from retreating to a swamp, the only other noteworthy thing that happened to the Lizard in this story was getting burned to a crisp by an infuriated Enchantress. By the end of the Secret War, the heroes emerged victorious, and Dr. Connors shows up alive and untransformed. He and Spider-Man make their way back to Earth together, and for a very short period of time, Dr. Connors found peace.

The torment of Curt Connors

Unfortunately, it didn't take long before the lives of both Dr. Connors and Spider-Man were thrown into mutual disarray once again. After a couple of unpleasant adventures led Dr. Connors to believe that his condition was cured permanently, he ended up falling under the thrall of a villain that sought to use him as a weapon.

"Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #1 sees the voodoo priestess Calypso casting a spell that makes Dr. Connors become a mindless, bloodthirsty, and savage version of the Lizard. Under Calypso's control, the Lizard has no qualms about murdering innocents. Furthermore, he becomes seemingly unkillable; each time the Lizard dies, the voodoo priestess revives him, leading to a never-ending series of torment for the scientist. With the Lizard doing her bidding, Calypso attempts to kill Spider-Man, and very nearly succeeds. However, as with all his other encounters with overpowered foes, Spider-Man finds a way to prevail against the unrestrained Lizard, choking him with metal chains and escaping from their battlegrounds with his life.

The Lizard is later apprehended and imprisoned in the supervillain prison called the Vault. In "Web of Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #109, Calypso makes another attempt at bewitching the Lizard, forcing Dr. Connors to transform into his vicious alter-ego within his cell. This turns out to be a tragic mistake, as the Lizard promptly slashes Calypso's throat and escapes from the prison.

The Spider-Clone versus the Lizard-Clone

Aside from the fact that they both have a scientific background, Spider-Man and the Lizard have another similarity, one that is both unique and peculiar: They both have genetic duplicates. In Spider-Man's case, it's Ben Reilly, a clone created by the Jackal — his obsessive foe and former professor. On the other hand, the Lizard's clone was nothing more than a genetic mishap — a severed lizard tail that received a dose of the transforming serum. Making matters worse was the fact that this reptilian duplicate reared its toothy head at a time when the original Lizard was thought to have been dead.

As seen in "Web of Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #111, following his escape from the Vault, the original Lizard returns to the dilapidated Spanish castle that served as his base in his first appearance. To his immense disgust, however, he finds that it has been turned into a development site. In the ensuing battle with Spider-Man, one of the castle's walls collapses, causing the Lizard to plummet to his apparent doom, right into a pit of quicksand.

Some time later, the Lizard duplicate appears, and while some initially thought that it was Dr. Connors, the differences in his morphology and behavior said otherwise. Dr. Connors did survive his fall, though, as revealed in "Sensational Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #7. The two man-lizards would come face to face in a fatal confrontation in "Spectacular Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #238, with the original snapping his clone's neck.

The death of the Lizard's wife

For all of his scientific brilliance and success at regeneration experiments, Dr. Connors still didn't have the ability to save his wife Martha from cancer. Dr. Connors' spouse would eventually succumb to her disease, sending Dr. Connors into a downward spiral of grief.

In the limited series "Spider-Man: Lifeline," an adventure involving a mystical tablet ends in Dr. Connors getting cured of his Lizard persona (and regrowing his human arm) yet again. Sadly, whatever happiness he and his family derived from this experience was quickly washed away in the digitally rendered comic series "Spider-Man: Quality of Life," which reveals that Martha contracted cancer (likely because of a nearby corporation's toxic activities). Dr. Connors transforms into the Lizard once more in a vain attempt to punish those responsible, but Spider-Man successfully prevents him from doing anything he would regret. Unfortunately, this story was not a total win for the good guys, as Martha does not survive her operation.

The stories that followed depicted Dr. Connors becoming increasingly disturbed and allowing the Lizard persona to gain dominance in his life. One example was in "Spectacular Spider-Man" Vol. 2 #11, which introduced the possibility that the Lizard wasn't a separate persona, but was actually nothing more than Dr. Connors making excuses for lashing out at the world. (Subsequent writers ignored this development, though, and the Lizard has been written once more as a separate persona ever since.)

The Gauntlet — and the Lizard's most horrifying act

If there was ever any doubt that the Lizard and Dr. Connors exist as separate entities in the scientist's tortured head, the Spider-Man storyline "The Gauntlet" should clear all of them satisfactorily. During the Lizard-centric mini-arc "Shed," a transformed Dr. Connors commits a truly horrific act, one that simply would not have been possible had he been in the driver's seat all along.

"Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #632 sees Dr. Connors' Lizard persona (now called the Shed) plotting to establish permanent dominance over the biochemist's physical form. In an attempt to scare the Dr. Connors persona away for good, the Shed decides to brutally terminate his human side's last true connection to the outside world: Dr. Connors' son, Billy. The Shed corners and murders the young boy, and even partially eats his victim's remains. In addition, the Shed demonstrates mental control over the "cold-blooded" side of New York citizens' brains. He even commands an entire mob to kill Spider-Man; the hero is only spared after he makes a successful appeal to the small part of Dr. Connors' persona that he could still reach.

After their battle, the Shed escapes into the sewers. Several encounters later (including a botched attempt to cure him in "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #691), the Lizard ends up imprisoned once again — but this time, with a tragic secret.

A deal with the Jackal

As revealed in "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 1 #691, the combined efforts of Spider-Man and Morbius ultimately allowed Dr. Connors to gain control over his Lizard form. As a form of penance for the terrible acts he has done, he chooses to pretend to be the Lizard and stays behind bars to keep himself away from the rest of society. Dr. Connors' incarceration doesn't last for very long, however — and the reemergence of a Spider-character long thought dead paved the way for the Lizard's twisted reunion with his family.

In "Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy," Dr. Connors is enticed to work with the new Jackal — who is secretly Spider-Man's clone Ben Reilly, driven slightly mad by multiple deaths and resurrections — in formulating a permanent way to revive (via cloning) everyone in Spider-Man's life who has ever perished. As an incentive, the Jackal presents clones of Dr. Connors' wife and child, and for most of the story's duration, Dr. Connors cooperates with him.

Sadly, even with a team of incredible minds at work, the Jackal is unable to solve the problem of clone degeneration. In the end, only a handful of the clones survived, including Dr. Connors' family (who were spared from decaying by a dose of the Lizard serum). In an attempt to find some semblance of normalcy, the Lizard finds the now-transformed Martha and Billy a place to stay under New York City's sewers.

Professor Lizard and the Sinister War

In spite of his extensive history as the Lizard, Dr. Connors' subsequent reintegration into society went fairly smoothly. In "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 5 #2, Peter Parker finds a fully transformed Dr. Connors teaching classes at Empire State University, thanks to a powerful inhibitor microchip that allows the human side of his brain to remain in control at all times. This also gives him the ability to transform back and forth at will. Due to the machinations of a sinister demon, however, the need for an inhibitor chip for Dr. Connors to live a normal life would eventually be eliminated.

With a team of hardened supervillains in tow, Doc Ock pays Dr. Connors a visit in his laboratory during the "Sinister War" storyline. Manipulating Dr. Connor's isotope-genome accelerator, Doc Ock succeeds in physically separating the Lizard from Dr. Connors.

The newly separated Lizard is next seen in "Amazing Spider-Man" Vol. 5 #82, being hunted by Colleen Wing and Misty Knight for the Beyond Corporation.