Goblins, Goblins Everywhere, Goblin War Primer Part II: Norman’s Return and Beyond
CREDIT: Marvel Comics
Welcome to the conclusion to our look at the history of the multiple Green Goblins, Hobgoblins and…other, in honor of the Green Goblin’s 50th anniversary and the new “Goblin War” storyline.
Where we last left off: The Green Goblin had briefly been a heroic identity assumed by young Phil Urich, the original Hobgoblin was presumed to be Ned Leeds, and the current Hobgoblin, Jason Macendale, had gone through some unsuccessful reinventions involving demonic possession and regrettable cybernetics.
The Original Goblin Again: ...Norman Friggin’ Osborn.
We’ll condense this: Apparently, the Goblin formula had healed Osborn’s grievous chest wound, he’d woken up in the morgue, hid out in Europe for years, and engineered an elaborate plan that involved Peter Parker being tricked into thinking he’d accidentally changed places with the aforementioned not-so-dead clone of himself from a 1970s story.
Through this, the Green Goblin came closer to destroying Spider-Man than any other villain, mostly in terms of how many readers this “Clone Saga” drove away.
Having been revealed at the last minute as the mastermind of all this mess, Norman managed to clear his name and spent years trying to reestablish himself as a significant threat. There was also a bit where his goons shuffled away Peter and Mary Jane’s newborn daughter, which has been pretty much ignored ever since out of concern that having a kid would make Spider-Man seem old, or something.
We don’t make these decisions, folks.
As Osborn returned, another longtime mystery was finally solved when Jason Macendale was killed in his prison cell by…
Original Hobgoblin Revealed: …the real actual original Hobgoblin, who was afraid that Macdendale would reveal his identity. Yes, Roger Stern had returned for the miniseries Hobgoblin Lives, and the secret was finally going to come out.
In a climactic confrontation, it was revealed that Ned Leeds had been brainwashed into starting the gang war, framing Flash Thompson, etc. by the real Hobgoblin…
…Roderick Kingsley, a corrupt fashion mogul introduced during Stern’s run. As some had pointed out, it would take someone with a background in fashion to come up with something as stylish as the Hobgoblin’s costume.
Roderick soon faced off with Norman Osborn, who stole Kingsley’s company and left him a fugitive. Though there was briefly…
Green Goblin V: You know, we completely forgot this one existed until we researched this article, but Norman briefly used a genetically-engineered Green Goblin to “prove” he was never the baddie, and to act as a bodyguard. It wound up dissolving into gunk while Norman was incapacitated.
There was also…
Hobgoblin V (some donkus): …yet another Hobgoblin who appeared during Secret War, the Brian Michael Bendis version from 2004, not the one from the 1980s where Hobby had a sweet action figure I can’t find at an affordable price.
Almost nothing is known about him, other than he got slammed in the slammer by the end. We’re sure current Spidey-writer Dan Slott has an explanation for him; the man is not human.
Meanwhile, after several years of tormenting Spidey and a few costume updates, Norman’s sanity took a nosedive and he was publicly exposed as the Goblin by Luke Cage and Jessica Jones in the short-lived series The Pulse.
He was subsequently caught and imprisoned by Spidey, where he was still a menace from behind bars, until he discovered he could cause even more trouble by being…a “good” guy.
The Grey Goblin (Gabriel Stacy): Okay, look, we have no desire to relive this any more than you do, but he could come up in the Goblin War, so just skip to the next bit if you know this one…
During Norman’s incarceration but before he got all political, there was a much-derided storyline called “Sins Past” where it was revealed Norman had hooked up with Gwen Stacy while she and Peter had been broken up and she’d run off to give birth to his rapidly-aging Goblin-Spawn, and one of them went crackers upon finding out the truth and got some of Norman’s equipment and has come back a few times despite everyone, everyone clamoring for that story to have been magically erased.
Okay. That wasn’t so bad. Now let’s just all pretend that didn’t happen.
Moving on, the Marvel Universe knew the wrath of a non-Goblin Osborn…
Norman’s Wacky Non-Goblin Political Adventures: When superheroes were required to register with the government, Norman was put in charge of the Thunderbolts program that sent imprisoned supervillains after those who refused to register.
He then earned the public’s good graces by landing the killing blow that ended a massive Skrull invasion, where the shapeshifting aliens had replaced civilians and heroes around the world.
Consequently, Norman wound up in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D., and his new force H.AM.M.E.R. in a Dark Reign that made life miserable for heroes, with Norman forming the Dark Avengers, armored up as the first Iron Patriot.
During this time, there was yet another Goblin…
Menace/Grey Goblin 2: “Brand New Day,” the Spider-Man story after he’d had Mephisto demonically erase his marriage to Mary Jane Watson to restore his secret identity, saw Harry Osborn restored to life, with the explanation that Norman had his death faked by Mysterio and sent to Europe for “rehab” because…comics.
And with any new Spider-Era, a new Goblin-Mystery had to arise.
A gray-skinned, Goblin-Glider-riding being called “Menace” was hassling the NYC mayoral campaign, and once again, the question was: Who was this person? Menace was finally revealed as Harry Osborn’s girlfriend Lily Hollister, who had gotten dosed with Goblin formula and developed a split personality that she used to “help” her father Bill Hollister in the mayoral election.
Lily was exposed, and later revealed she was pregnant…with what was thought to be Norman’s child, as she’d been having it off with both Osborns (once again: Ew). After a lot of people trying to get their hands on the first child born to two Goblin formula-powered beings, everyone lost interest when it was determined Harry was the father (his apparently not being formula-powered in the rebooted version, although this is very, very unclear).
(Addendum: When you find yourself asking the question, “Did Harry have the Goblin formula neutralized from his system or had he never taken it in the rebooted timeline?” it is an excellent sign that you need to leave the house, possibly go on a date or engage in volunteer work. The More You Know®.)
Lily subsequently left the kid with Harry, and has recently resurfaced looking greener, Goblin-ier, and much, much more, um, “feminine.” She goes for a craggier look in her current incarnation, though still green.
Norman’s Wacky Non-Goblin Political Adventures, Pt.2: Naturally, Norman tripped over himself yet again when his sanity took another dive, he orchestrated a flawed invasion of Thor’s home Asgard, and his pawn the Sentry went crackers. Talking to a “Goblin” hallucination and wearing green facepaint under his Iron Patriot helmet didn’t help.
Much fighting later, Norman was incarcerated and disgraced…though there were still plenty of people on his side, specifically…
Goblin Gangs: Under the whole idea that Norman wasn’t that bad, various Goblin-tattooed loyalists taking up as his new runnin’ crew. This resulted in some sweet temporary tats being given out at comic shops.
Norman escaped prison, got some power-absorbing powers, and battled the Avengers again, winding up comatose…though after waking up, he vanished from his hospital bed. DUN DUN DUN!
But as all this went on, Spider-Man had plenty of other Goblin-problems to deal with…
Hobgoblin VI: A Hobgoblin, apparently Roderick Kingsley, was back in NYC and raided an old Osborn hideout for equipment. But he was discovered and decapitated by…
Hobgoblin VII: …Phil Urich again, whose life hadn’t been going that well since his solo series. He’d helped form Excelsior aka “The Loners,” a group of former teen heroes (who recognized a heroic Green Goblin was a very, very bad idea), but had some lingering psychosis going on. After being lip-blocked over his love interest by Darkhawk, Phil cracked (can you blame him?) and fled back to NYC.
While his Green Goblin series had seen Phil as a sort of Peter Parker-type, his role as Hobgoblin turned him into a dark mirror of Pete, one who wasn’t afraid to use his powers and equipment to get cash and impress the girl…when he wasn’t rising through the ranks of the Kingpin of Crime to become his right-hand man.
Unfortunately, like Peter Parker, Phil’s life soon became too complicated for its own good, in part because he hadn’t killed Roderick Kinglsey…but rather Kingsley’s brother Daniel, who’d often impersonated his brother to help him out of jams (usually unwillingly).
The real Roderick Kingsley was hiding out overseas working out a new supervilain franchise gig, and eventually agreed to let Phil stay the Hobgoblin…for a cut of the action
(Incidentally, we have no idea if Daniel Kingsley impersonated his brother as the Hobgoblin in previous stories. Multiple wiki checks, research and harassing current Spider-Writers on Twitter and Facebook have yielded a solid, “I dunno, maybe?” Let us simply assume this was the only time it ever happened before we lose any more hair over this.)
So the Goblins currently in play are:
Goblin King: The head of the Goblin crew in NYC is apparently Norman Osborn, though he hasn’t been seen without his mask. He’s wearing the original Goblin costume, has Norman’s chest-scar from being impaled, and is gathering up a large runnin’ crew to become the “Goblin Kingpin of New York.”
Could he be:
-A Norman-clone or another piece of genetic engineering?
-Normie Osborn, aged up somehow and imitating Granddad?
-Bart Hamilton, less dead than he seemed to be?
-Lefty Donovan, regenerated from the Goblin formula as the Osborns once did?
-Demogoblin, who’s kinda versatile?
-Some other donkus?
-Gabriel Stacy, despite his stories HAVING NEVER EVER HAPPENED?
Goblin Knight: After being exposed publicly as the Hobgoblin by Spider-Man…well, Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man’s body (looooonnnng story), Phil got busted, but rescued from a trip to the hoosegow by the Goblin King, who gave him this new identity. Phil, we think, has even further to fall.
Hobgoblin, original recipe: Yes, Kingsley is back, and playing chesssmaster, which involves franchising out supervillain equipment and identities to up-and-comers. It pays to recycle, and also cuts back on royalties needing to be paid to creators for new characters!
For that matter, let us now count in Hobgoblin VIII, Roderick Kingsley’s goon Claude, who filled in for Roderick in a Goblin King meeting and is now no longer with us. There could be as many as fourteen new Hobgoblins out there by the time you read this article. We’re not sure.
And there’s the aforementioned greener/bustier Menace;
And most recently, let’s add in:
Monster: Peter Parker’s love interest Carlie Cooper, who after figuring out Doc Ock had switched brains with Spidey, found herself caught and mutated. We’ll see where things go with her.
Lest we forget, there have been a number of one-off Goblin characters, Goblins in Marvel sub-universes, along with reinterpretations of the Goblin in other media.
Here are just a few of the major and not-so-major examples:
MISC. GOBLINS: A SELECTION
Film Goblins: Okay, the mask might have looked like he should have been fighting Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd rather than Spider-Man, but otherwise Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of Norman Osborn in the first Spider-Man film was the perfect combination of menace, insanity and even sympathy.
And James Franco was pretty good as Harry Osborn, though his own Goblin outfit and character arc in the first film left much to be desired (of course, that film was so overstuffed as to give everyone short shrift).
We’ll see an older Osborn with Chris Cooper in the rebooted film series with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in May, along with Dane DeHaan as Harry…whom it’s implied might Goblin-ize himself in this flick (Gwen Stacy, played here by Emma Stone, should watch out). Both rebooted film series take the track of making an Oscorp experiment the source of the spider that turns Peter Parker into Spider-Man, thus tying him and the Goblin even closer together.
Order of the Goblin: After his “resurrection,” Norman briefly hung out with this group made of a cult of “Scriers,” enigmatic leftovers from the Clone Saga storyline. They didn’t last long, though they could still be out there somewhere.
Proto-Goblin: In a month of flashback stories, it was retroactively revealed that the Goblin formula was original chemicals by Mendel Stromm tested on Osborn employee Nels Van Adder, who turned into a big red thing and was apparently killed by Gwen Stacy’s dad, Capt. George Stacy, though not before accidentally revealing the notes Osborn needed to complete the formula.
The “Proto-Goblin” only made one appearance, but also appeared in a Spider-Man video game; file him under ‘could come back.”
She-Goblin Androids Legacy of Evil (“Goblinettes”): During the period Harry Osborn was “dead,” he demonstrated previously unseen technical mastery with these female goblin-bots who terrorized Spidey while his “widow” Liz Allen was hypnotized into putting their son Normie in a bath of Goblin formula until Spidey stopped her. It’s the one-shot Spider-Man: Legacy of Evil, which is a fun little read by Kurt Busiek and Mark Teixeira.
Normie Hobgoblin: In the long-running Spider-Girl series, set in an alternate future where Harry Osborn stayed dead and the never-mentioned Spider-Baby was found and grew up, Normie Osborn went crackers and continued in the family tradition with a Green Goblin/Hobgoblin fusion costume (he also had “REVENGE” tattooed across his chest and full-on cornrow dreadlocks). However, he got better and became one of Spider-Girl’s best allies. Huzzah!
Ultimate Goblin/Hobgoblin/Demogoblin: Say it wit’ me now: “PRRRRRKKKKRRRRR!” Norman Osborn was there from the beginning in this alternate-universe present-day reboot of the Spidey mythology, where, synched up with the then-forthcoming films, it was an Osborn-treated spider that gave Peter Parker his powers.
Unfortunately, when Norman tried using the “Oz” drug that infected the spider on himself, it made him a distinctly Hulk-like Goblin with flame-throwing abilities and a split personality. He menaced Ultimate Peter Parker for years, before a climactic battle that left them both dead.
During this run, there were two other Goblins – Harry was infected and became a short-lived Hobgoblin, while Mary Jane Watson was infected and became a Goblin-creature (officially dubbed as “Ultimate Demogoblin” by Brian Michael Bendis). There’s a chance she could still Goblin out to mess with new Spidey Miles Morales.
The Hulked-out Goblins are also found in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, and Ultimate Goblin’s getting a Build-A-Figure in an upcoming Spider-Man action figure line.
Musical Goblin: Let us not forget Patrick Page’s portrayal of Osborn/the Goblin in the very, very expensive Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark Broadway musical. Though this version was inspired in part by Ted Turner, and his origin is closer to the film version of Doctor Octopus, he earned by far the best reviews of any performer in this.
Here he is on Letterman singing about hanging out with the Sinister Six or wanting to have sex with the audience, we’re not sure.
1602 Goblin: There have been many, many alternate Marvel Universes, but we have a fondness for “Master Norman Osborne” from Neil Gaiman’s seventeenth-century “1602” universe, who of course turned into a goblin-type creature in the 1602: Spider-Man miniseries by Greg Pak. We recommend the spin-off minis in this universe; they’re quite fun.
Goblin 2099: Funny story: Writer Peter David, who had conceived of the idea of Ned Leeds retroactively revealed as the Hobgoblin and being replaced by Jason Macendale/Jack O’Lantern, had a case of Goblin-identity-switch later happen to him. The short version is that the future version of Spider-Man, Miguel O’Hara, fought a Goblin who was more of a fellow anti-corporate vigilante than a supervillain.
Some rewritten dialogue in David’s last issue and a few issues after he left “revealed” the Goblin was Miguel O’Hara’s brother Gabriel, but it was later retconned away as a shapeshifter impersonating Gabriel. The “real” Goblin, as David has always said, was to be Father Jennifer, a female priest in this future; her motives and more await another story.
There was also a creepy “Goblin 2211” introduced in a one-shot crossover issue with the “modern” Spider-Man (see pic).
Two-Faced Goblin: Hey, remember how Marvel and DC used to cross over? In the company-merging “Amalgam” line, the Wolverine/Batman hybrid Dark Claw fought “Harvey Osborn,” who donned a Goblin outfit after half his face was scarred. Ah, good times…
That Evil Truck in Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive: We’re reaching, but this thing creeped us out as kids. It occasionally appears at horror movie cons.
Green Gobbler and Hobgobbler: Okay, so the funny animal character Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, had these…
You know what? …I quit.
To give this all a conclusion: The Goblin has lasted through so many incarnations because whoever’s behind the mask, there’s an unpredictable, dangerous quality to the character that breaks most of the “rules” of superhero tales.
The Goblin’s been allowed to discover Spider-Man’s secret identity, kill one of the great loves of his life…and even be reinvented time and time again. And in more recent years, he’s even become a menace to all Marvel heroes. His insanity, ambition and criminal genius mean that he’s constantly evolving as a menace.
The “Goblin War” is set to change things once again…and we can’t wait to see what happens.
Check out “Goblin War” in Superior Spider-Man now!