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Goblins a Go-Go

We give you a quick rundown on the many Goblins buzzing about the Spider-Man titles

By Arnold T. Blumberg     April 22, 2002


The free-wheeling Phil Urich tried to remake the Goblin image starting in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #225.
© Marvel Characters Inc.
Recently we gave everyone a heads-up on a problem sure to plague anyone who wishes to learn more about a certain webhead this summer - namely, the many versions of this guy that are currently web-swinging their way across the many Marvel Universes available on the comic shop shelves these days. But while multiple Spideys present their share of challenges to new readers, he isn't the only one wearing several dimensional hats, as it were. There are quite a few versions of Spidey's arch-foe, the Green Goblin, gliding through the skies as well, past and present, and since the feature film hitting theaters in May puts the Goblin front and center in a knock-down, drag-out battle with the wall-crawler, we should probably clarify who's who in this category before we take a well-deserved nap.

In fact, there's an additional wrinkle with sorting out the Goblin problem - there have been a number of different Goblins in the "Prime" Marvel Universe alone, to say nothing of the ULTIMATE Goblin now menacing that world's webbed one. But as most of us already know, it all began way back in the 1960s, in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14, when a grinning gargoyle on a flying broomstick zipped into view and fought Spider-Man for the very first time. He was strange, a bit unsettling, but certainly colorful. And we all knew he would be back soon enough - but who was he? Ah, therein lies a tale.

Harry Osborn and Bart Hamilton compete for the Goblin mantle in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #180.

Green Goblin I - Norman Osborn: The first and most famous Goblin began his career as a colorful gangster constantly seeking to unite the underworld under his rule. But it was the mystery of his true identity that had fans excited to see him return again and again. There was only problem - co-creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko couldn't decide who was under that grotesque green mask! According to some versions of the story, this tension was part of Ditko's decision to leave the Spider-Man series, paving the way for John Romita to step in and take over the art chores. When Romita's first issues, #39 and #40, hit stands, they contained a two-part Goblin epic that brought the mystery to an end but opened the door to a whole new dynamic between Spidey and his greatest enemy.

Gobby was actually lunatic businessman Norman Osborn, who had imbued himself with super-strength thanks to a secret formula. Following the revelation of his identity, Norman fell in and out of bouts of amnesia, with Peter always worrying that one day Norman would snap yet again, don his green and purple togs and threaten Peter's secret identity. And after several lapses, he did crack one last time. Unfortunately, the victim he claimed was not Peter's identity, but his girlfriend - Gwen Stacy.

Harry and Peter fought for the last time in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #200.

We've been through this story many times, so suffice to say, Spidey sought revenge for the tragic murder of his girlfriend, but it was fate that stepped in and killed Osborn when he accidentally impaled himself on his own glider. And that was that...but not quite. As it turns out, Norman had also developed incredible healing abilities when ingesting that Goblin formula, and he survived his apparent death, going into hiding and manipulating Peter's life from afar until his return during the "Revelations" storyline of 1996. Osborn was revealed to be behind the Clone Saga debacle and went on to take his rightful place as Spidey's arch-foe once again. His latest appearance will coincide with the feature film's release in May.

The end of the road for the Green Goblin...or was it? AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #122.

Green Goblin II - Harry Osborn: When Norman fell in battle back in AMAZING #122, son Harry had no idea daddy would be able to just walk out of the morgue. Harry had a troubled history with his abusive father, but a twisted sense of loyalty to him as well, and his on-again off-again drug addiction did nothing to help clear his mind either. Harry actually witnessed that "last" battle back in the '70s and underwent a psychological trauma of his own.

The first appearance of the Green Goblin in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14.

Soon he too would become the Green Goblin from time to time, presenting Peter with an all-new challenge. How could he defeat this new Goblin without hurting the friend inside the scaly suit? Striking that balance would be a running conflict in Spider-Man's career for years to come, until Harry's own untimely demise in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #200.

Harry Osborn's Goblin career began in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #136.

Green Goblin III - Bart Hamilton: I've always said that psychiatrists are nuts. Early in Harry's Goblin career, Osborn went into therapy and spilled his guts to Dr. Hamilton. This "medical professional" was so enamored with the notion of achieving the Goblin's power and launching an underworld takeover that he too took on the identity, prompting a three-way showdown between Spider-Man, Hamilton and Harry in full costume. Hamilton did not prove to be as adept at super-villainy as the Osborn clan, however, and his career was mercifully short-lived.

Willem Dafoe stars as the Green Goblin in SPIDER-MAN

Green Goblin IV - Phil Urich: While Harry did briefly regain enough of his sanity to toy with the notion of becoming a heroic version of the Goblin, it was Daily Bugle newspaper reporter Ben Urich's nephew who succeeded in being the first super-HERO known as the Green Goblin. Having discovered an old cache of Harry Osborn's Goblin equipment, Phil also got doused with the same super-strength formula that empowered both Osborns. His Green Goblin had a decidedly different costume and attitude, but of course his do-gooder approach was ultimately overshadowed by the evil legacy of the Goblin name and Norman's malevolent return.

A different kind of Green Goblin debuted in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #6.

ULTIMATE Green Goblin - Norman Osborn: It was bad enough keeping track of all those Goblins back when there was only one Marvel Universe, but now that there's an ULTIMATE line, there's another Goblin flitting about out there. This one is also secretly Norman Osborn, and he's still a lunatic industrialist who took a strange new serum that gave him super-strength and some other intriguing powers. But his decision to undergo the transformation was sparked by his observations of what happened to this universe's Peter Parker following that famous spider bite (the arachnid had been infused with the same drug). Naturally, Osborn didn't fare as well as Peter, losing his mind and gaining an all-new, demonic visage that puts the old Goblin suit to shame. He too will be rearing his ugly head yet again in May.

Norman Osborn began his first bout with amnesia at the conclusion of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #40.

Movie Green Goblin - Norman Osborn: Yup, still Normie, still rich and powerful, still crazy. He seems to have dropped the whole Goblin look of past Osborns for a Power Rangers-esque robot suit, but why quibble? He's still the ultimate Spider-villain, and the details of his origin will doubtless be a crucial sequence in this new Spider-saga.

Notice we didn't even touch on the whole Hobgoblin lineage? That's a convoluted tale for another time, but for now at least, you should be able to tell the various shades of Green Goblin apart. So practice dodging those pumpkin bombs - next month promises to deliver a whole gaggle of Goblins!

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