How Green Was My Goblin -

Comic Book Retrospective

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How Green Was My Goblin

An affectionate tribute to Spider-Man's arch-foe, the Green Goblin, just in time for Halloween

By Arnold T. Blumberg     October 31, 2001

The variant Halloween cover to SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #240 and the first part of "Revelations," featuring the return of Norman Osborn.
© Marvel Characters Inc.
"Black cats and goblins and broomsticks and ghosts, Covens of witches with all of their hosts, You may think they scare me, you're probably right, Black cats and goblins on Halloween night. Trick-or-treat!"
poem as quoted in John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN

Yes, there's no better time of year than Halloweenthe best holiday of them alland no better way to celebrate here in the land of comics than to take a look back at the career of the most Halloween-oriented villain ever to grace the pages of my favorite series, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (and its associates and affiliates, of course). Spidey seems to have a penchant for green-garbed villains. There's the Vulture, Sandman, Doctor Octopus, the Lizard, Electro, and so on. But no one took to the wearing o' the green with the same ferocity as the ultimate Spider-villain, the Green Goblin, AKA industrialist and would-be criminal mastermind, Norman Osborn. OK, OK, I hear some of you in the back there shouting "What about Jack O'Lantern?" I'm going to have to ask you folks to leave quietly. There we go, now let's get on with the ghoulish business of ghosting a Goblin as he goes about his job, shall we?

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

The Green Goblin, indisputably Spider-Man's deadliest enemy, began as little more than a colorful costumed thug in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 (July 1964). His principle aspiration unite the criminal forces of New York City under his rule. His method spark a wave of inter-gang squabbling and eradicate all pretenders to the underworld throne. While his persona would take on a far more maniacal and mythical tone, this would in fact remain one of his primary motivations for the rest of his career. Soon, very soon, there would be a far more important goal: to humiliate and destroy Peter Parker, alias The Amazing Spider-Man. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, however.

A Goblin revealed! Cover to John Romita's first AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, #39.

The Goblin was an effective arch-villain for the wall crawler, enhanced by a serum that gave him added strength and endurance, but he was also a total cipher. We never did see his face indeed, the mystery of who wore the Goblin mask was part of the character's charm, and a master plan devised by creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. It would also be one of the principle causes behind their eventual rift and Ditko's departure from the title; they couldn't agree on who the Goblin really was! That revelation would wait until #39 (August 1966) and the arrival of new Spider-artist John Romita, when the truth was finally exposed the Green Goblin was Norman Osborn, father of Peter Parker's roommate Harry! And what's worse, Norman knew about Peter's dual identity. Fortunately, their first encounter sans masks ended with Osborn succumbing to amnesia, a plot device that would recur whenever Osborn's memories returned and the Goblin flew again.

The middle chapter in the famous non-Code drug story arc, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #97.

Norman and his alter ego turned up again in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #2, a magazine format comic released in 1968, and in a number of other AMAZING issues, including the famous (or infamous) #96-98, an intense story about Harry that dropped the Comics Code and made history with its frank depiction of drug addiction. The Spider-Goblin war was escalating, but the most terrifying encounter of all was yet to come.

The cover that dared readers to guess the tragic truth. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #121.

If there was any doubt that the Green Goblin would be forever known as Spider-Man's most important foe, that doubt was extinguished along with the life of Peter Parker's true love, Gwen Stacy, in the pages of the infamous AMAZING #121-122 (June-July 1973). In the legendary tale, Osborn snaps yet again, remembers his alter ego and that of Parker, takes to the skies and abducts Parker's one true love Gwen Stacy. On the top of the George Washington Bridge and epic battle takes place, during which the Goblin shoves Stacy to her doom. Spider-Man catches her with a webline, but unbeknownst to either Spidey or the Goblinand in a moment that would spark decades of controversy and debateSpider-Man's own attempt at rescue kills Stacy when the sudden jerk snaps her neck.

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

Enraged at the death of Gwen, Parker vows vengeance and hunts down the evil Goblin, cornering him in an alleyway but stopping himself before succumbing to his dark impulses. Fate steps in, however, as the Goblin's glider malfunctions and impales the black-hearted villain against a wall. The Green Goblin was no more.

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

Ah, but we're comic book fans! We know very well that death is but a door. Although Norman Osborn may have died, the legacy of the Goblin lived on and truly gained mythical status as his son, Harry, took up the mantle with the sole desire of gaining revenge against his one-time best friend for his father's "murder." But while Norman was ingenious in his insanity, Harry was merely unhinged, tainted by the Goblin strength formula and transformed into a lunatic who lacked his father's clarity and skill. It would eventually lead to his own death, but before then, still another would don the green and purple garb of the Goblin Harry's own psychiatrist, Bart Hamilton! Talk about your petty thugs.

A ghost from the past - the birth of the Hobgoblin in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #238.

For Spider-fans, there was no more powerful defining moment in the '80s than the birth of a new Goblin menace. A shadowy figure discovered a stash of Norman's equipment in AMAZING #238 (March 1983), altered the Goblin costume and adopted a color scheme of pumpkin orange. The Hobgoblin was born, and a new mystery began that would last even longer than the one surrounding the original Goblin's identity. The saga of the Hobgoblin took on its own myriad twists and turns (and only recently reached a satisfying conclusion in Roger Stern's superb miniseries, THE HOBGOBLIN LIVES), but fans knew that the one true nemesis of the webbed one still lie moldering in the grave. Hmm, what was that we said about death and comic books?

Spider-fans also well remember the fiasco that was the "Clone Saga," in which it was supposedly revealed that the clone from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #150 had in fact won that battle and assumed Peter's life while believing himself to be the real McCoy! Enter Ben Reilly, another Parker, who turned out to be the true Spider-Man returning home at last. What a mess! The story never worked, the explanations grew more and more outlandish and unacceptable, and the Spider-mythos was in danger of unraveling forever.

In a post-"resurrection" appearance, Norman Osborn tries to increase his power in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #441.

Then, an editorial inspiration explain everything in one fell swoop by laying it all at the feet of a master manipulator, a man with a reason for screwing with the Spider's life in a profound way. At the same time, resurrect a name from the past that will so thrill fans, they will gladly forgive the horrible missteps of the last few years. And lo, there was a Goblin! Norman Osborn himself returned from the grave in the landmark "Revelations" story arc in 1996 actually from a prolonged exile in Europe, where he fled after miraculously recovering in the morgue at the end of #122. And so the saga of the Green Goblin began anew, with Norman engaging in all manner of bizarre rituals and plots designed to make Peter's life a living Hell.

As of this writing, Norman has abducted Peter and wife Mary Jane's baby girl, May, and has gone even more insane after engaging in a supernatural rite. We've even seen a softer side to Norman when romance reared its head. Convinced of his superiority, disappointed by a son with no ambition or ability (but angered by his death nonetheless, for which he naturally blames Parker), and plagued by the existence of an enemy that he must destroy, Norman Osbornthe Green Goblinwill never be satisfied until the Spider is squashed once and for all. The battle between good and evil goes on.

So Happy Halloween, Spider-fans, and rejoice in the knowledge that the Green Goblin is with us again, to disgust and delight us with his malevolent machinations. And when you're out trick or treating this holiday season, and you see a flying, smoking pumpkin heading your!


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