Last new entry, and last character, from The Amazing Spider-Man 2: when Electro makes his debut in Times Square and is defeated by our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, he’s brought to the Ravencroft Institute, a criminal asylum in which he’s supposed to be rieducated. Unfortunately, Oscorp has tentacles everywhere, and Electro becomes the guinea pig for the gruesome experiments of Dr. Ashley Kafka, portrayed by Marton Csokas. Needless to say, the German scientist discovers it’s not a good idea to mess with a supervillain. He’s likely the character who suffered the greatest change from the comicbooks: first of all, he’s not such a Nazi-like psycho in the comics, quite the opposite. Second, he’s not a “he”. In the comics, Ashley Kafka is a woman, even if her role in Ravencroft is more or less the same as it is in the movie. Let’s see together.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Ashley Kafka moved to New York City when her parents split up, while she was still very young. She grew up with her mother, a weak-willed woman who let her be the housewife, and Norma, her mentally handicapped sister. Since her mother was unable to cope with Norma’s state, it was up to Ashley to take care of her, and she did it the best she could, at least for a child. Growing up, Ashley became more and more intolerant towards Norma, especially since she sacrificed all her adolescence to her: while other boys and girls her age had fun altogether, she was forced to take care of her sister, a situation she couldn’t bare anymore. The girls’ mother died of some disease when Ashley was nineteen, and for her this was the occasion she had waited all her life for finally thinking of herself: she left Norma in an orphanage, and started living her own life. The place, however, wasn’t the best possible, and Norma died little after: the sense of guilt, albeit subconsciously, ended up molding her life nevertheless, and Ashley entered Empire State University, where she gained a degree in Psychology. As a therapist, she eventually kept living her life taking care of other people’s problems instead of her own, but she proved to be one of the most skilled people in her field. She started specializing in criminal insanity, and achieved many successes with experimental therapies. Her studies gained the attention of US Government, that funded her researches and helped her found the Ravencroft Institute: the asylum was built as a maximum security facility, with a private security guard an an extremely skilled equipe of therapists. At fifty-four years old, Dr. Kafka had finally given a shape to her dream.
Kafka’s achievements attracted the attentions of many other scientific personalities, and when Spider-Man faced and defeated Vermin, a geneticist working for Baron Zemo who had become a giant humanoid rat, Reed Richards himself suggested the hero to bring Vermin to the Ravencroft. Despite many of her colleagues renounced to treat Vermin, both scared and disgusted by his appearance, Kafka accepted to start a therapy with him. She managed to unravel much of the monster’s past, and she discovered that his father had raped him more than once when he was a child; when she was about to find a bond to work on, however, Vermin escaped, and Kafka volunteered to help Spider-Man capture him again. During her time with the hero, she managed somehow to work on some of his problems as well, and she helped him to cope with the loss of his parents when he was a child (she also faced, as a reflex, the issues with her own parents). The two managed to capture Vermin, and to bring him back to his human state: when his therapy was finally over, and succesfully, the man who was once known as Vermin, Edward Whelan, became her assistant. The Ravencroft grew and received more funds after the Vermin therapy, and Kafka tried to repeat the success with Harry Osborn, who had become the second Green Goblin. The authorities, however, decided Goblin was more self-aware than Vermin was, and took him away without Kafka completing the therapy. With astronaut hero John Jameson as her chief of security, Kafka took in many other patients, but her successes dramatically decreased in number, since many maniacs she was treating didn’t have the slightest intention of being cured at all…
Ashley Kafka is a brilliant and skilled psychologist, a woman with a strong personality who never gives up in front of anything or anyone. Firmly believing that anyone can be rehabilitated, she tries her best to “cure” also psychos like Carnage or Carrion, and other deranged supervillains such as Venom, Chameleon, Shriek, Vulture, Electro or Doctor Octopus. Her faith in her own methods often brings her to a blind arrogance, that leads her to make more mistakes that she would normally afford herself to do: her greatest strength, in this moments, also becomes her greatest weakness.