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SPIDER-MAN: REVENGE OF THE GREEN GOBLIN - Roger Stern, Paul Jenkins & Howard Mackie
On the eve of their latest battle, the Spider-writers discuss Spider-Man and the Green Goblin's deadly relationship.
By James Busbee
September 27, 2000
Every great hero has that one villain who stands above all the rest, that archenemy who isn't a cartoonish 'bad guy,' but a dark, disturbingly close reflection of the hero himself. Batman has the Joker, Wolverine has Sabretooth and Reed Richards has Doctor Doom, to name a few. But who's Spider-Man's greatest foe? It's not Doctor Octopus, though his brilliant intellect and deadly tentacles are a match for Spider-Man any day. And it's certainly not Venom, even though he's physically beaten down Spider-Man worse than any other foe.
No, come November, Spider-fans will learn once and for all that nobody
tops the Green Goblin. Under the direction of writers Roger Stern, Paul Jenkins and Howard Mackie, the Green Goblin is about to ascend not just to the role of world-class villain, but once again to the realm of comics legend.
'What we're trying to do is take a new look at an age-old relationship,' explains Jenkins. 'These guys have been whacking on each other for what, 34 years? We want to illuminate that relationship by showing you that there's been something going on between these two all along, something that might be called 'a thin line between love and hate.''Deadly Relations
Stung in recent years by a litany of 'sweeping changes' many perceived as little more than ill-conceived gimmicks--the Clone Saga, Spider-Man: Chapter One
--longtime Spider-Man fans can be forgiven if Jenkins' quote inspires another round of cringing and eye-rolling. Fear not, Spider-fans--Peter's not
going to learn that Norman Osborn is his long-lost father, nor will he confess his long-suppressed love for the Goblin. Stern, Mackie and Jenkins are going for the heart of the story by focusing on the trials and tragedies of the men beneath the masks, these enemies who know each other better than most best friends.
In that regard, psychological gamesmanship has always been at the heart of the Spidey-Goblin saga. For instance, they've known one another's secret identities for years, but have never revealed them, each preferring to take down the other on his own. But Stern, Jenkins and Mackie want to ratchet the head games up another level.
'Over the years, we have seen the Green Goblin go through many stages of development,' notes Mackie. 'His motivations have covered everything from wanting to be a crime boss to wanting to take over the world. At the core of it all, the stories have not
been about Green Goblin and Spider-Man, but about the relationship between Norman Osborn and Peter Parker. Even when Harry [Osborn, Norman's son] was the Green Goblin, it was Norman's legacy that drove and motivated him. There is a very unique relationship that exists between Norman and Peter, and that relationship is at the core of the current storyline.'
Stern has started the ball rolling with the three-issue Spider-Man: Revenge of the Green Goblin
mini-series, which updates readers on Norman's whereabouts since his last titanic fight with Spider-Man. In that brawl, which appeared in Spectacular Spider-Man
#263, the Green Goblin thought he killed Spider-Man. Later events revealed that the Goblin's perceived 'victory' was all in his mind, the result of insanity he suffered as a result of the mysterious 'Gathering of the Five' ritual.
The mini-series, which began in August, opened with a chillingly lucid Green Goblin looking back on that fight and seeing, for the first time, the truth of what happened: 'When I close my eyes,' muses Norman, 'I see myself laughing off Spider-Man's strongest blows...see myself hurling him through the glass wall of my corporate headquarters. But every bit of evidence proves that just the opposite happened...I thought I had him helpless, but the power...the victory...was all in my head.' Norman Osborn is now healing himself, body and mind, with only one thought on his mind--vengeance.
'The last time they fought, the Goblin was left gibbering,' says Stern. 'Now he's back on an even keel, reasserting his status quo. He's got the self-control to deal with Spider-Man, he's developed another Byzantine scheme to strike at Peter Parker and this time, he might just succeed.'
The Green Goblin's strike comes at the worst possible time for Peter--his wife, Mary Jane, has died; he has almost no money; he's living in a crappy apartment--in short, he's ripe for the Goblin's attack. 'He wants to defeat Spider-Man, but he knows that Peter is the key,' says Stern. 'Peter is at a low ebb--which is just what Norman needs to make his plans work.'
Norman himself narrates the series, which gives readers a previously unseen look into the mind of the Goblin. 'The series takes place almost totally in Norman's mind,' says Stern, 'and his mind is a very, very scary place. There's bugs and other crawly things in there!' While Stern is loathe to go into specific plot details, he notes that the titles of the three issues provide a strong clue as to the direction of the series: 'Madness Takes Its Toll,' 'Lives in the Balance' and 'Surrender to the Dark.'
Despite the sinister edge of the series, Stern adds that Revenge of the Green Goblin
is, in one sense, also a love story. 'We see Norman in love, believe it or not,' says Stern. 'For the first time, we're going to see his late wife, Emily. We're also going to learn how his romantic entanglements have led him to where he is now.'A New Perspective
Psychological drama will also play a heavy role in November's Amazing Spider-Man
#25 and Peter Parker: Spider-Man
#25, the two special anniversary issues that pick up where the mini-series concludes. 'Amazing
and Peter Parker
explore the next stage of the relationship between Norman Osborn and Peter Parker,' says Mackie. 'They also address the recent appearances of the Green Goblin, appearances that have been occurring without Peter's knowledge. And what about how beaten up and tired Peter has been feeling lately?' he teases.
To keep the surprises of Stern's series intact, Mackie and Jenkins are hesitant to reveal specific plot details about the anniversary issues, but their discussion of the entire Goblin arc's theme hints at things to come. 'Here are two guys who, despite these years of hatred and anger between them, are closer than they would ever be prepared to admit,' says Jenkins. 'Just like the [psychological] profile of a criminal is very close to that of a cop, these two are extremely close to one another. They're not just two loons that run around in spandex beating the crap out of each other.'
Mackie agrees: 'Peter's relationship with the Green Goblin has never
been straightforward. From the very beginning, Peter knew he was going into battle against his best friend's father. Plus, Norman has always known how to push exactly the right buttons in Peter. Norman certainly feels as though he knows Peter better then Peter knows himself, and acts accordingly.'
And why might that be? Jenkins has a pretty good idea. 'Think of it this way,' explains Jenkins. 'Here's Peter, a guy who was, in a way, fatherless, with the brief exception of Uncle Ben. Then there's Norman, on the other hand, a guy who's Peter's complete opposite in every way...except
he has aspects of things that Peter would want in a father. He could be a strong father figure. And Norman, for his part, never really had the kind of son he wanted, so in a way he's looking at Peter as a sort of 'heir,' the son he wished he had. Norman is perhaps a little closer to admitting the truth than Peter is, and that's where a measure of the conflict comes in.'
But comics fans who fear they'll be getting a touchy-feely Spider-Man anniversary shouldn't worry. 'It shouldn't be forgotten that in the middle of all this, they have this enormous bloody fight,' says Jenkins. 'But it's really our intention that when you come out of this, the two of them will have redefined their relationship.'
It's a relationship that has, for decades, fascinated fans. Aside from his terrifyingly outlandish appearance, the Goblin is, in many ways, one of the most 'human' of all super-villains--and thus one of the most disturbing. The Goblin is not a megalomaniac; he's not completely
unhinged. He is, in short, more like us than we'd like to admit.
'The Goblin, when well-written, is not an unremorseful, unrelenting lunatic,' says Jenkins. 'Plenty of times, we see Osborn going about his daily business. He's an intriguing guy--he's a very real person, the head of this big business, who every so often pulls his Goblin mask out and says, 'Okay, now it's my time to be a compete loon.' It's almost as if the Goblin is his escape from the pressures of day-to-day life. That's what makes him a great character, because you realize he's also two seconds from being completely lucid.'
'He is an obsessive character,' continues Stern, 'and his personal obsessions are always what bring him down. He's never been quite normal in that way. He's still off his nut, but now, he's striving to gain control of himself as well--and those two together are a very scary thing.'
'There's no more powerful moment than when you'll see the loony Goblin cackling away, and then he starts acting human again,' concludes Jenkins. 'When the Goblin, still dressed in his mask, begins to talk calmly to Peter and say, 'We're not that far apart,' it's terrifying, because you realize, there but for the grace of God--and a couple of misfiring synapses--go I. And we're all teetering on the edge of that anyway.'