The Problem with Character Resets and Overuse: The Lizard

by Luke Smith

020123C-1 The Problem with Character Resets and Overuse: The Lizard“Brace Yourself guys, This is a Long One…” In this article, I will be using my favourite Marvel Comic character, The Lizard, as an example of how long-term continuity can ruin an otherwise great character – Warning: Spoilers for the last 60yrs ahead!

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This is the tragic story of The Lizard – an Amazing Spider-Man character study. Despite being one of the BEST Spider-Man villains to ever be created, the Lizard is an extremely broken character, especially when it comes to the continuity and story arcs within the Spider-man universe.

Dr. Curtis Connors, aka The Lizard: Spider-Man’s most INNOCENT villain

Inspired heavily by Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story, The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Lizard is one of Spider-Man’s most intriguing comic book characters.

This is the story of a good man, who has had something terrible befall him.

Doctor Curtis Connors is a good man; a war hero, in fact. He is a doctor, a family man, and teacher. Time after time, he has proven to be one of Spider-Man’s most deadly foes. Yet, despite his strength and viciousness, Spider-Man can’t bring himself to hurt or destroy him. After all, inside this monstrous reptilian creature lies his friend.

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How it Began

Dr. Curtis Connors, a gifted surgeon and research biologist, was born, lived, and worked in Florida with his wife Martha and son Billy. Connors was a highly determined and intelligent scientist, educated with twin doctorates in both biology and biochemistry. However, shortly after he qualified, the good Doctor was called upon by his country to the battlefield to serve as a military medic.

It was here, during a battle over enemy lines, that Curt was injured by a piece of shrapnel that infected his arm, leading to amputation.

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Returning home, all Curt wanted to do was hold his family in his arms. He began studying lizard DNA after becoming fascinated by certain lizards’ ability to regrow limbs after injury. He created a formula that, at first, appeared successful, regrowing his arm and enabling him to hug his family once more. This was short-lived, and he soon transformed into a humanoid reptilian monster!

Fearing what he was becoming, Connors attempted to formulate a counter-serum but as he worked, he could feel his thoughts clouding over as he became more Lizard than man. In order to save his family, Connors fled into the Florida swampland and disappeared.

Some time passed, and soon stories began to circulate of a monster lurking in the swamps, a reptilian creature protecting his territory from trespassers. It was during this time that Connors discovered that he could both communicate and control other reptiles and formed a community of eyes and ears within his newfound homeland.

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It didn’t take long for the stories of this monster to spread, and soon the Daily Bugle publishers challenged Spider-Man to prove the creature’s existence and defeat it, once and for all. Believing that having an expert in the field on-side could prove useful in his mission and knowledge of his work with reptiles, Spider-Man seeks out Curt Connors. However, he soon discovered the shocking truth.

Using Curt’s notes and home lab, Spider-Man created a counter-serum for the Lizard’s transformation. He hunted down the doctor and force-fed him the antidote, returning him to his human form. Connors went on to remain allies with Spider-Man after this event, helping him with several future endeavours.

He and his family moved from Florida to New York and were soon shocked to learn their Lizard nightmare was far from over as Curt began to suffer multiple relapses, turning back into the Lizard at times of extreme stress and or Anger.

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The Nightmare Continues

At first, The Lizard didn’t realize that he and Connors were one and the same, and thought himself to be the result of an experiment by the doctor.

During these early transformations, the general public also had no idea Connors was the Lizard, but that wasn’t to last as S.H.I.E.L D soon came knocking on the doc’s door. Connors then found himself employed by Shield to examine dinosaur tissue samples collected from the Savage Land. He was assigned a partner, Dr. Vincent Stegron, who seemed to know Connors’ secret. Stegron was fascinated by Connors’ experiment and soon formulated a similar serum to transform himself into a humanoid dinosaur.

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It was while working with Shield that Curt created The Enervator, a device that he later uses on Spider-Man in order to restore him to full health after an injury. However, as they began work, the radiation that emitted from the machine began to trigger the Lizard transformation once more.

Fortunately, (for a time at least) they avoid this disaster and Connors regains control.

That is, until Stegron kidnaps Curt’s son, Billy, which, along with the previous stress, triggers another transformation in the doctor! The Lizard identifies his connection to Connors and attacks Stegron to save his son. After the battle, Spider-Man restores the doctor to his human form and everything seems to be fine once more.

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It is NEVER over…

A few years pass and Doctor Connors takes a position at the local university. He begins to conduct various experiments on an iguana using his Enervator machine, but the feedback from the machine begins to trigger his transformation once more. Stumbling, Curt falls into the machine and his energy is transferred to the iguana, transforming it into a similar creature to that of the Lizard.

Fearing what he has created and concerned for his family’s safety, Connors uses the machine to initiate his own transformation for the first time, leading to a showdown between the two reptilian monsters.

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As the story unfolds, Spider-Man is able to modify the machine to transfer all of the Lizard energy out of Connors and into the iguana. This supposedly cured Connors and returned the iguana back to its original state.

During this process, Spider-Man neglected to shield himself from the machine’s radiation and became a humanoid Lizard himself! This led to Dr. Connors saving Spider-Man with an antidote!

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The Secret Wars

The Connors family thought that they could finally move on and find peace, but this wasn’t to last. The Secret Wars event saw Connors return once more to his Lizard persona by the powerful being known as the Beyonder.

When the Secret War was over, Connors returned home (now in human form) along with Spider-Man and his new Black Suit. During this time, Curt had been missing for over a week and returned in torn clothing, forcing his wife to realize the monster he had promised was gone forever was indeed back. Fearing for her life, Martha took Billy and left.

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The next time Connors transformed, he maintained mild control of his actions, using his abilities to rescue his wife and son from a criminal mastermind known as the Owl.

After this event, it seemed Connors had control over the beast, only transforming if he consciously chose to wield it. However, when New York was overrun with demons from limbo during the event titled Inferno, the Evil Lizard persona re-arose again.

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The Time of Nightmares Begins

Sometime after the events of Inferno, the Voodoo priestess, Calypso, used her powers to take control of the Lizard. She used him to attack Spider-Man in an act of revenge for the death of her lover, Kraven the hunter.

During the battle, Connors awoke in the Lizard form and fought against Calypso’s magic. He found an abandoned lab that had once belonged to Doctor Octopus and used a sample of his son Billy’s blood to attempt to return his body back to that of his human self. Once “healed,” Curt confessed to his crimes as the Lizard and was locked up in The Vault. However, Calypso soon came looking for her Lizard minion and forced him to transform. This time, she couldn’t control his mind, leading to the Lizard striking her down.

Connors then attempted to flee, but a bounty hunter named Warrant kidnapped Billy and used him as bait for the creature. A showdown occurs, and the Lizard is supposedly killed, falling into the murky depths. (Connors did indeed survive and had the charges dropped against him)

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No Escape

Still wanting to cure his ailment, Curt continued his work within the lab. When sampling a piece of Lizard tissue, a new monstrous beast was created and Connors was once again forced to initiate a change in himself to take it down and protect his family. Despite not being fully cured, but now showing signs of control over the beast, Martha and Billy returned home to Curt. Their happy family wasn’t to last as both she and Billy were diagnosed with cancer, caused by a leak from a chemical factory near their home.

Martha sadly dies of the disease but Billy thankfully survives, his cancer going into remission with treatment.

This stress brought on by his wife’s death causes Curt to transform once more, hunting and killing the CEO of the pollutant factory that caused their illness.

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By now, the line between Curt and the Lizard had become extremely blurred. In an attempt to keep his son safe, Connors staged a bank robbery in order to have himself arrested and put behind bars. However, this prison stay was cut short when the Lizard was recruited into the green goblin’s Sinister Twelve.

Some time passes and Stegron (The Dinosaur Man) returns. He uses a relic to turn Connors feral once more and during this state, the Doctor turns his own son Billy into a humanoid Lizard monster too!

Thankfully Mr. Fantastic is on hand to cure the young boy.

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Even MORE time passes (Remember guys, Spider-Man is over 60 yrs old!), and a student of Connors, Melati Kusuma, steals and modified his Lizard serum to help regrow her amputated legs.

Her situation secured her an internship under Doctor Connors’ supervision as he knew that she was interested in the Lizard Formula, and he promised her they would work to make it safe together. He forced her to promise that she wouldn’t do anything reckless until then.

After a scientific breakthrough in the lab, the eager young girl couldn’t wait and used it on herself. The modified serum granted the young girl the regenerative properties she desired, all the while keeping her own mind.

Understanding her situation, Connors refused to press charges against the young scientist. But instead, requested that she use her newfound abilities for good and join the Initiative at Camp Hammond under the code name “Komodo”.

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The Time of Nightmares Continues!

Feeling better about things, Connors attempted to get his life back on track and regain parental guardianship of Billy. He falls for a new love interest, only to relapse back into the Lizard persona when she sleeps with their boss!

He and the man are fighting, when suddenly Curt realizes the Lizard is arising within. He attempts to take his suppressant serum, only to be stopped. (Big mistake!)

The Lizard kills the man, along with five others within the building. During this time, Curt was fully aware of the Lizard’s actions but was helpless to do anything, trapped within the reptilian form.

The Lizard, not wanting to be suppressed again and wanting to show dominance and hurt Connors, did the unthinkable… He tracked down, killed, and ATE his son Billy! This act killed Connors and the Lizard took over permanently.

Shedding its skin and taking on a new form, the Lizard made its way into the sewers, where it remained.

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Months passed, and the vampire scientist, Michael Morbius, appeared on the scene. Morbius, having had dealings with Curt and the Lizard in the past, wanted to heal the Doctor and bring Connors back once and for all. 

Using DNA he’d harvested from the exhumed corpse of Billy Connors, Morbius created a serum to cure the monster.

However, unknown the those around him (Spider-Man and Morbius), the serum failed. True, he had reverted back to his human form, but it was the Lizard persona still in the driving seat of Connors’ body.

Living in secret within the shell that was Connors’ body, the Lizard formulated a new serum, hoping once again to regain his Lizard form. But during this time, he began to exhibit behaviour and feelings he had never known before – he began feeling guilt over the dreadful things he had done.

Shaking this off, the Lizard restored himself once more, only to have Spider-Man once again save his friend by administering a cure into the Lizard’s skull.

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It appeared this attempt had failed, as the Lizard remained in his reptilian form. He was arrested and locked away, only for the readers to soon realize that the Lizard persona was dead and Connors was now willingly serving penance, alive in the monster’s body.

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It Always comes back to Clones

Soon, The Jackal visits the Lizard, wanting his assistance with a project. In return, he offers Connors his cloning technology to bring back replicas of his dead wife and child. Connors agrees, just wanting to be happy once more. But as you and I well know, nothing is ever that straightforward in comic book storytelling.

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At the end of the clone conspiracy storyline, the Jackal detonates a trigger that causes all the clones to degenerate, including the Lizard’s Martha and Billy. In order to save them, Connors transforms them into lizards using a modified version of his original serum.

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As time passes, Connors regains control over his transformation and installs a chip to the rear of his neck ignorer to stop him from being able to harm any living thing. 

Because of this and a handful of gifted patents, Connors is welcomed back as a teacher at the University, where he currently remains.

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As you can see, the character of the Lizard is very much broken.

He’s been overused multiple times throughout the years by writers who love the idea of this great character. Don’t get me wrong, some of these stories are superb! But honestly, there are only so many times you can hurt a man before you fully destroy him.

And (sadly) the Lizard isn’t the only one. Many characters within comics share this fate. As the years go on and the comic books containing their lives continue, each finds themselves being stretched and overused!

This inevitably leads to a reset of said characters every few years, forcing them to never truly evolve or move past what they once were, especially when it comes to new movie adaptions being created.

Sticking to the Status Quo

No matter how far Eddie Brock’s Venom goes, he will always reset to being a Spider-Man villain. No matter what Magneto does with his fellow Mutants of the island of Krakoa, he will always be the villain of the X-men.

If Like Me You LOVE the Lizard, Here are his KEY Stories (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly):

Amazing Spider-Man 006 (1963)
Amazing Spider-Man 032 (1966)
Amazing Spider-Man 044-045 (1967)
Amazing Spider-Man 074 (1969)
Amazing Spider-Man 101 (1971)
Amazing Spider-Man 106 (1972)
Marvel Team-Up 019 (1974)
Giant-Size Spider-Man 005 (1975)
Amazing Spider-Man 164-166 (1977)
Spectacular Spider-Man 032-034 (1979)
Spectacular Spider-Man 039-040 (1980)
Secret Wars 001 (1984)
Secret Wars 006 (1984)
Marvel Team-Up 141 (1984)
Spectacular Spider-Man 127 (1987)
Amazing Spider-Man 312-313 (1989)
Spider-Man 001-005 (1990)
Amazing Spider-Man 365 (1992)
Amazing Spider-Man Annual 027 (1993)
Web of Spider-Man 109-111 (1994)
Spectacular Spider-Man 237-239 (1996)
Untold Tales of Spider-Man 024 (1997)
Spider-Man: Lifeline 003 (2001)
Spider-Man: Quality of Life (2002)
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 2) 011-013 (2004)
Marvel Knights Spider-Man 010 (2005)
Sensational Spider-Man (Vol. 2) 023-027 (2006)
Spider-Man Unlimited (Vol. 3) 015 (2006)
Amazing Spider-Man 552-553 (2008)
Avengers: The Initiative Special (2009)
Amazing Spider-Man 621 (2010)
Web of Spider-Man (Vol. 2) 006 (2010)
Amazing Spider-Man 630-633 (2010)
Amazing Spider-Man 679.1 (2012)
Amazing Spider-Man 688-691 (2012)
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) 004 (2016)
Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy (2017)
The Clone Conspiracy: Omega (2017)
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 5) 001-002 (2018)
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 5) 014-016 (2019)
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 5) 019.HU (2019)
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 5) 026 (2019)

00080221C_Green-Footer The Problem with Character Resets and Overuse: The Lizard*Any perceived investment advice is that of the freelance blogger and does not represent advice on behalf of GoCollect.

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