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Shades of Green: The Green Goblin in Film and TV

By Jason Lethert     January 01, 2002

By Jason Lethert (originallypublished November, 2001)


Fans met the Goblin for the first time in Amazing Spider-Man #14

It takes a lot to pleasefanboys with comic to film translations, but it doesn't take much to draw theirire. All you've got to do is give Captain America a clear plasticshield. Or add Richard Pryor to the film for comedy relief. Or turn Batmaninto a corny glam-fest, offensive in it's superficiality. But the winds arechanging and have been ever since the landmark Batman (1989). Nextspring, many suspect that Sony Pictures will take comic adaptations to the nextlevel with their feature film Spider-Man, but to do it they needto convince us that Willem Dafoe is Norman Osborn - the Green Goblin.

So far, fans have reactedquite enthusiastically to any glimpses of the upcoming film. Last year was quitea different story with Marvel's other heavy-hitter - The X-Men.Many of the initial character designs that leaked onto the web were highlycriticized by fans for their departure from the comic books. Though directorBrian Singer and crew reportedly "agonized over" the harsh reactions,by the time the movie came out, the complaints had melted away.

Spidey's movie has had a fewminor controversies - the "showdown" between Raimi, David Fincher, andChristopher Columbus, for example. And of course there was the villain shuffle -the source treatment by James Cameron included the Sandman and Dr. Octopus -yet, when Raimi came in, he threw out both villains and replaced the two withGreen Goblin.

The largest of thecontroversies dealt with Peter Parker's "organic" web-shooters, but byand large, everyone is ready for Spider-Man to rock. "I'veread the script, and it absolutely kicks ass," said writer Peter David, whonovelized the film screenplay.

Though Sony has been veryforthcoming with news, images and promotions regarding the film, there has beenone area the company is surprisingly mum about - the Green Goblin. The onlyglimpses of GG have been blurry photos, and briefly one production shot leakedto the internet. Then, a week ago Sony revealed Green Goblin conceptual art, andthe mother lode: a full motion sequence of the Goblin in action!

All along, we've had a muchbetter idea of what to expect from the villain's alter-ego. After a few falsestarts casting Norman Osborn (Nick Cage dropped out due to scheduling, then JohnMalkovich's negotiations reached an impasse), Willem Dafoe was signed and isgenerally accepted as an excellent choice. "(He's) a great actor - Ithought Shadow of the Vampire was great - and that may give us apreview of what to expect," David further elaborated at this year's SanDiego ComiCon.

So Norman Osborn seems to beon track, and his alter ego is looks to have big-time potential. But before welook at that aspect of the movie, a look back is in order - the Goblin has beenone of Spider-Mans most venerable foes - both in comics, and in celluloid:

1967: Spidey goes to Hollywood

Spidey's first trip intomotion was Saturday morning Spider-Man cartoon on CBS. The designwas very reminiscent of the John Romita Sr. drawn books of the time, setting atrend for decades to come. Romita, as well as Stan Lee gave as much input asthey could, and were credited as creative consultants.

The series used stock footagefor many of Spider-Man's web-swinging scenes, some of which are surprisinglycool. The stock footage allowed for more fluid and dynamic action. Legendaryanimator/filmmaker Ralph Bakshi worked on many of the episodes. And of course -who could forget that theme song, which itself has risen to iconic status?

And in his translation totelevision, Spider-Man brought his rogues gallery of villains. Chief among themwas the Green Goblin, who appeared in three episodes the first season. Theseries eschewed Norman Osborn, and focused on the Goblin - the short storyformat of the first season kept the characterization continuity of Peter/Spideyconfined to the Daily Bugle.

The Green Goblin was also aspitting image of his comic book counterpart. In fact, some of the more detailed(and less animated) close-ups were surprisingly effective and creepy. And he hadhis full complement of weapons: electrical discharge from his gloves, pumpkinbombs, and of course - the bat-glider. The voice acting was also laudable, if abit goofy here and there.

1982: A Tale of Two Series

In the early 80s, Spider-Manappeared in not one, but two animated series. According to pre-eminent comicmultimedia journalist Andy Mangels, the shows were produced concurrently - therewas the obscure syndicated version, and the more remembered network version thatco-starred Iceman and Firestar. And of course, the Goblin was appeared in bothshows.

The character designs fromthese two series again were solid John Romita Sr. style, and faithful to thelook of the Goblin. Indeed, certain shots recalled famous comic-book covers andpanels. In an interesting nod to continuity, the Goblin's first appearance in"Revenge of the Green Goblin" takes place as Norman Osborn is releasedfrom an asylum, as if to reference to the Goblin's previous criminal activityfrom the 1967 series.

The voice acting was a stepfrom the 60s cartoon - more serious, yet still with the maniacal edge. Thenetwork version of the show also included the character of Mona Osborn, Norman'sniece and college friend of Spider-Man.

The"Spider-Friends", as they called themselves, were afforded a betterbudget, but that apparently wasn't for scripts as the Goblin story in thisseries was apparently the same story as the syndicated version, but adapted toinclude Iceman and Firestar. But, the network version was packed full ofcomic-book touches, such as frequent guest-appearances from famous Marvel heroesand villains. There were also stylish "title pages" that proclaimedthe name of each episode - much like the comic-book covers.

Plus, the opening credits hadcool extra footage - the signature scene of which was that of Firestar flyingaround the Goblin, engulfing him in a highly detailed painted animation of fire.Thankfully, the improved visuals made up for the familiarity of the material.The voice was another improvement adding the evil to his cackle that makes theGreen Goblin Marvel's worthy answer to DC's Joker.

However, there were someelements of the Goblin that missed the mark. Both Goblin appearances had a plotdevice with a corny machine that allowed the goblin to see the past and future.It also would have been nice to see the Goblin rely on his traditional arsenalmore often. But overall, these were somewhat minor complaints.

In the 1980s, the characterof the Green Goblin had long since been dead in the comics, of course with acouple copycats popping up now and again. And with decreased visibility in thebooks, the character appeared in only two of the combined 50 episodes of bothseries. This trend of under-representation would continue in the Green Goblin'snext cartoon appearance, though it would still become the definitive translationof the character - to date.

Continue on to part2 where you'll find:
  • Goblin: M.I.A - more missed exposure
  • Making the perfect Goblin - Fox Kids Scores Big
  • It's Alive! An amateur with spunk brings the Spider - and the Goblin - to life
  • The movie - will it deliver?
  • ...Plus more!

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