There were several casualties to the accident which created "Doctor Octopus," some to the initial explosion, others to radiation poisoning. Octavius had taken the brunt of the explosion, which not only dosed him with the lion's share of radiation but fused his multi-armed apparatus to his body. Not only that, but further examination showed that his brain had been altered significantly -- damaged, according to a neurologist named Kevin Hunt. Octavius was in a coma for several days, and no one expected him to survive.
(Dr. Hunt would later recant his diagnosis, saying that what he'd thought was damage was Octavius's brain reworking itself to accommodate the inclusion of four extra -- and very inhuman -- limbs into the man's mental self-image. Despite this, among psychiatrists who have studied the special twistings of Dr. Octavius's mind, there remains some question as to how much of the man's sociopathy is congenital and how much a result of the trauma of his accident. The idea that Otto Octavius became evil because of brain damage continues to be a pervasive one, especially to the general public.)
Meanwhile, the surgeons at the Bliss Private Hospital fretted over how exactly to remove Otto's harness without endangering his life. So many nerves had been tapped, and the damage to that area was so extensive that they were afraid that the process of removing the device would kill him. In the end, it was decided to at least get rid of the extra arms in order to facilitate treatment.
Otto surfaced into a haze of screaming agony as the sawblade bit into the metal of one of his new limbs, and instinctively he lashed out to protect himself and stop the pain. Within minutes, everyone in the room except for Octavius himself was dead, and he sank back into unconsciousness.
Otto woke again, groggy and disoriented, in a high-security section of the Bliss Private Hospital. His first thought was to return to work, and when that was denied him, when he saw the bars covering his window, he grew angry. Always, there were obstacles in his way. Always, he was being denied, held down, held back. But no more! His new arms tore off the bars on the window with nothing more than the merest thought. No, not even thought, Octavius realized; he could make his arms do his bidding with only the slightest flicker of intention. Whatever else the accident had done to his brain and nervous system, it had also given him complete mental control over the tentacles. Otto had always felt a strong connection to the arms when he'd donned the harness (unsurprising, since along with the manual controls the apparatus included a neural connection via the spine), but now they were as much a part of him as the limbs he'd been born with.
The sense of power was intoxicating. Otto quickly commandeered the hospital labs, taking several members of its staff hostage. Even the arrival of Spider-Man didn't slow Otto down; the overconfident web-slinger was quickly overpowered by the newly tentacled scientist. No longer disturbed by his own inclinations toward petty sadism (and, indeed, already addicted to the feeling of being in utter and complete control), Otto humiliated the would-be hero quite thoroughly with mocking words and a contemptuous backhand before tossing him out the window much as one would a piece of trash. The only flaw to this victory was that, during the melee, Otto's hostages had escaped. No matter; Dr. Octavius had already decided to move on, letting his new limbs carry him away. Minor setback aside, Octavius felt flush with victory; his mind was on fire with possibility.
As it happened, victory and possibility weren't the only things affecting the good doctor, and the fever that gripped him now was as much physical as it was emotional. "The sickness was upon me," he'd say, years later, when describing those hellish twenty-four hours to Stunner (a young woman who he'd be drawn to more strongly than he'd ever be to anyone, and the only person -- apart from his late and little-lamented mother -- to enjoy his complete confidence). "And in it I saw my destiny with a clarity that I had never known before, nor since. The power inherent within the atom was mine. Radiation was my mother in a far more significant manner than could be attributed to that cloying, possessive creature who had given me birth. It joined me with my other half, these arms which had become so much more than mere machines. It shattered the shackles of societal conformity with which the plebian masses had sought to bind me and gave me the strength to tear away the meek disguises that I had always worn. Like the light which struck Saul on the road to Damascus, the illuminating shock of that fated 'accident' took the scales from my eyes and enabled me to truly see. I was shocked... disgusted... horrified, even, that I had allowed myself to be so handicapped, that I had been such a willing participant in my own enslavement. But no more. No more.
"I had always been haunted," he told the rapt and deeply infatuated blonde, "by glimpses of the world remade in nuclear fire, shaped by my arms and guided by my vision. Only the fever enabled me to see the vision as a clear and perfect whole."
(He spoke with such passion that Stunner -- heady with her own newfound power though far less villainous by nature -- had no words with which to gainsay him. His speech was full of destruction, of murder on a grand scale, but instead of the rantings of a madman, Stunner heard the words of a visionary. The woman who in another life was known as Angelina Brancale was willing to do or believe anything to be under Octavius's influence. Like his ability to control machines -- specifically, his arms -- by thought, Octavius's charisma was limited in focus but all the more powerful within that focus... a fact which Peter Parker's Aunt May was to discover soon enough.)
Filled with dreams of atomic cataclysm and ego fulfillment, Octavius invaded the U.S. Atomic Research Center. It was laughably effortless; these mere mortals were nothing more than ants, weak and panicky, easy to scatter into a chaos of fearful confusion. A few attempted to stand against him, some by force, others by words. The ones who attempted violence died quickly, impaled or crushed by the power of a lashing metal tentacle that moved with the speed of thought; Otto simply reacted to the threat, and afterwards paused to examine himself. He was surprised -- in an abstract, academic sort of way -- at his own complete lack of guilt, of any strong feeling at all. True, these pathetic simians were so much his inferiors that they may as well be a different species -- he'd known that since he was a child. Even so, he mused, he'd been overestimating the value of their lives. These broken bodies were nothing to him; the sight of blood and tissue on the ends of his arms did prompt a desire to clean them off, but only because he didn't want the delicate mechanisms to become fouled.
The ones who tried to halt Octavius with words -- those unlucky few manning the small but powerful atomic heart of the complex -- had a few more seconds to contemplate their fate. Theirs were his first truly conscious murders (rather than the result of an instinctive self-defense), and as they died, as they wept and begged, as everything about them affirmed that he, Otto Octavius, was in complete and utter control, he found that he did feel something after all.
Satisfaction. Fulfillment. Even, in a cold and vicious sort of way, pleasure. Octavius smiled, happy for the first time since his mother had destroyed his relationship with Mary-Alice, and quickly set to work to set free the reactor's radioactive core.
It was, again, Spider-Man who came to interfere with his plans to release a nuclear holocaust on the surrounding area (the thought that he himself might be harmed by the meltdown never entered Otto's head). Octavius was surprised, then annoyed. He'd been merciful to the fool in the silly costume back at the hospital, certain that he'd taught the "hero" a lesson and not yet confident in his ability to commit cold-blooded murder. Now, however... now he would finish off Spider-Man for good.
Spider-Man, however, turned out to be cleverer than Octavius had estimated. Not only did he figure out a way to evade the security cameras (forcing Octavius to leave the control room in order to hunt him down), but he managed to create a chemical concoction that fused two of Otto's arms together. Even so, the strength inherent in those arms was not lessened, and even a shot of webbing to the face to temporarily blind the sociopathic scientist didn't guarentee victory. It was only with a well-timed punch to the jaw that Spider-Man was able to take Octavius down.
When Octavius regained consciousness, his head throbbing, he found himself wrapped in so many layers of that webbing -- a material he would come to loathe almost as much as the man who'd created it -- that he was unable to free himself before the authorities (alerted by the wall-crawling wonder) arrived.
Though frustrated at first at this defeat and burning with anger at some of the "witty" remarks of the police who arrested him while he was bound and helpless, Octavius quickly realized that prison itself offered certain... opportunities. Though he could have affected an escape quite easily, he chose to remain quiet and docile. His good behavior, combined with a blameless record previously (he didn't even have a parking ticket to his name), the recent traumatic events of his mother's death and his accident, Dr. Hunt's diagnosis of brain damage, and some stunningly persuasive arguements by his lawyer, brought Octavius a lightened sentence. A case of temporary insanity, they said; the staff psychiatrist at the U.S. Atomic Research Center was even able to back this up, pointing out how he'd warned his superiors that Dr. Octavius was under severe emotional stress.
Otto Octavius was incarcerated for just under a year, and in that time was a model prisoner. Carolyn Trainer's father used his influence to get his daughter on Octavius's visitor list (once again indulging her obsession with this particular scientist, actions he would later deeply regret), and she went to see him often, bringing the latest journals and, at his prompting, talking about her own studies in the computer sciences -- specifically, the embryonic fields of virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Though not attracted to her the way he'd been to Mary-Alice (likely because she was a bit too much like himself in temperament, not that Otto would have acknowledged this consciously), he decided that this particular young woman was more than just another drooling idiot; Carolyn had potential.
In the meantime, Octavius used his time in prison to perfect his control over his new limbs and make contacts within criminal society. Though most people were certain that "Doctor Octopus" was done with and that Octavius would turn back to a life of pure science once his time behind bars was done, Octavius himself had already decided that he would never bow his head to the rod of law and order again, and he already had plans lying in wait for his eventual release...