It's a story at least as old as Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll & Hyde: the benevolent scientist who takes his experiments too far, and winds up transforming into a dark reflection of himself. But Doctor Curt Connors is not just any scientist — he's a friend to Peter Parker, better known as the Amazing Spider-Man. And when he transforms, he becomes the Lizard, a cold-blooded reptilian monster dedicated to the destruction of humanity.
With the Lizard, as portrayed by Rhys Ifans, appearing as the primary antagonist in the latest entry in the Spider-Man film series, "The Amazing Spider-Man," we're going to take a look back at the Lizard's history in the comics, from sympathetic man of science to green-scaled nightmare.
The Lizard first appeared in 1963's "Amazing Spider-Man" #6, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Curt Connors was a devoted husband and loving father who lost his arm in service to the military. Becoming interested in the regenerative abilities of reptiles, he developed a serum using their DNA which he believed would give him back his arm. It did, but at a great cost: he became a humanoid lizard, and quickly began losing his mind to the Lizard's savage instincts.
As the Lizard, he formulated a plan to pour a variant of his serum into the swamps of the Florida Everglades, which would grant non-humanoid reptiles his level of intelligence, turning them into a reptilian army he could use to conquer the human race. Fortunately for Connors, Peter Parker came to investigate reports of a giant lizard for the Daily Bugle, and having discovered his plight, used his own scientific knowledge to restore Connors to his human self and return him to his family.
Connors was able to repay his debt during the classic Master Planner Saga, running through "Amazing Spider-Man" #31-33. Peter's beloved Aunt May had contracted a blood disease due to a transfusion from Peter's own radioactive blood, and a cure was beyond Peter's own limited scientific background. So he turned to Connors, who was able to devise a cure to save Aunt May's life, thereby forming an enduring bond with Peter — a bond that would be tested by Connors' troubles to come. Connors would soon discover that he had not been permanently rid of the horror of the Lizard; during times of extreme stress, a reaction could be triggered causing him to revert to the Lizard persona, putting Connors in need of Spider-Man's intervention time and again to help him recover his humanity.
Curt Connors continued to serve as Spider-Man's chief scientific ally, assisting him when an experiment gone wrong caused Spider-Man to grow four extra arms in "Amazing Spider-Man" #100-102, and even conducting tests which proved that he was the true Peter Parker, after the villainous Jackal created a clone in order to cast doubt on the hero's identity in "ASM" #150. Connors was even employed as a professor at Peter Parker's alma mater, Empire State University, and the two grew closer as Parker served as his research assistant.
The Lizard was not to be the only source of sorrow in Connors' life however, as he learned during the "Spider-Man: Quality Of Life" miniseries, when his wife Martha and son Billy were both diagnosed with cancer, contracted from exposure to toxic chemicals illegally dumped by the sinister Monnano corporation. Billy eventually recovered with treatment, but it was too late for Martha; she died, delivering a crushing blow to Connors that put him on the edge of descending into the Lizard persona permanently.
2010's "Gauntlet" storyline finally provided the impetus to push him over that cliff, when in the "Shed" arc, running through "ASM" #630-633, the manipulations of Ana Kravinoff (daughter of Kraven the Hunter) caused the Lizard persona to reemerge and commit a crime from which Connors' mind could never return; the Lizard devoured Connors' son Billy. The Lizard himself underwent radical changes in this latest transformation, gaining a frightening new appearance as well as new powers, including the ability to telepathically influence the reptilian portions of mammals' brains, which he put to use in driving a frenzied mob to attack Spider-Man. Ironically, however, with the disappearance of the Connors persona, the Lizard seemed to develop some measure of a conscience, as he saved Spider-Man from the brink of death at the last moment.
Now, coinciding with the "Amazing Spider-Man" film which is slated to hit theaters July 3, "Spider-Man" writer Dan Slott plans to follow up on this monumental change with a storyline entitled "No Going Back," beginning in "Amazing Spider-Man" #688, out June 27. Is there truly "no going back" for Curt Connors? Readers will have to pick up the comics to find out.
What's your favorite Lizard story? Let us know what you think in the comment section below or hit us up on Twitter with your thoughts!