Norman Takes a Ten Count:
Death in the Family

Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin is back - and being the deadly arch enemy of the hero that he is - he wants someone dead! However, as we find out at the end - his intended victim is not you think it is.

That's the premise, and the surprise, behind Paul Jenkins' Green Goblin story arc "Death in the Family," which ran in Peter Parker #44-47 (August-October 2002). It really hadn't been that long since we had last seen Norman, as Jenkins sent him off in failure after having failed to turn Peter to the "dark side" in Peter Parker #25 (January 2001 - analyzed in Goblin Love). However, being a good citizen at Marvel, Jenkins brought the Goblin back to help Marvel capitalize on his appearance in the first Spider-Man film, released in May 2002. Brian Michael Bendis did the same in Ultimate Spider-Man #22-26, possibly giving Spidey fans a case of Green Goblin overdose (or in Ultimate's case, the Hulk-Goblin). Nonetheless, this was a good overdose, as with Jenkins' story, we got what was certainly one of the best, and more controversial Spider-Man stories in many a year, especially involving his number one nemesis. In fact, I rated this one as the story of the year for 2002 (see Spider-Man 2002 ). All too many times, the Marvel hype machine promises a tale that will take things to a new level but doesn't deliver. This one actually does. It's just a shame that some of the issues that it raised were never really followed upon.

This was one of the toughest Spidey stories I've ever analyzed, and one of the hardest articles to write. It certainly wasn't your standard hero vs. villain slugfest. Frankly, I'm not entirely convinced I pulled it off successfully. But, throwing caution to the wind...

The Story
Both Peter Parker and Norman Osborn are going through a weird phase. Considering that they dress in gaudy costumes and beat the crap out of each other, the fact that they would have weird phases every now and then shouldn't be considered unusual. Peter's separation from his wife, Mary Jane, is seriously wearing on him, but he can't even bring himself to talk to her, especially when he calls her in California and hears her use her maiden name. Now, you would think this wouldn't really bother Peter, since I believe that MJ has always used her maiden name professionally. Still, this is probably just symptomatic of the fact that he is in the trough of his most recent mood swing - and everything is getting to him. With his relationship with MJ in trouble, he's beginning to dream about Gwen Stacy again - and her death at the hands of the Green Goblin. Not good. Not good at all.

Of course, when it comes to being crazy and weird, Norman Osborn does laps around just about everyone. Big surprise. He talks to himself, his dead son, and empty masks hanging in the closet. To his way of thinking, it's been too long since he last got his ass kicked by Spider-Man, so he's itching for another fight - and nothing gets his old nemesis' blood boiling like some veiled threat to his loved ones. In a driving rainstorm, he pays Peter and visit, and like the tormented bully who just got slapped around by his old man and is looking for the first skinny geek to take his humiliation out on, Norman proceeds to pick a fight with Peter (as well as some pickled peppers, but that's another story).

But Peter's flat out tired of Norman's crap and doesn't want to play with him anymore (you can almost hear Al Pacino "every time I try to get out they pull me back in!"). So, in order to get Pete's attention and force him back into the sandbox, Norman does a few of those ghastly and evil things that ghastly and evil arch enemies are prone to do:

All in all, typical evil supervillain stuff, setting the stage for the standard superhero vs. supervillain battle where the combatants trade punches, threats and insults. But then - here comes the wrinkle. After the bruising and bloodletting, it is time for the coup de grace, where the hero is about to reign supreme over the villain and foil his latest nefarious scheme. Peter has finally overcome Norman Osborn, and has him down and looks like he may finally deliver the death blow - literally - until it occurs to Peter what Norman has been up to all along. At the very last possible moment after pushing Peter to the point of no return, Norman seems to sag and give up, and that's when Peter realizes - Norman wants death to come.

Set up again! But this time, Norman had an entirely different angle. In the past, he tried to set Peter up in any number of ways (1) to force him to fight so the Goblin could kill him (2) to thoroughly discredit him (ala the scene in Spectacular Spider-Man #250 where Spidey beats Norman to a pulp, all for the security cameras), or (3) to actually accept the Goblin as a mentor and a father figure. This time, however, Norman tried to manipulate Peter into putting his greatest foe out of his own misery.

The magnitude of this revelation staggers Pete, who backs off and sits quietly down at the end of the room. Later, a broken and bloodied Green Goblin picks himself up and just as quietly sits down next to Peter.

What happens next was rather controversial among spider fans as Peter actually shares a laugh and a few moments of, dare we say, "bonding" with the Green Goblin (fans have also noted similarities to Alan Moore's classic Batman/Joker tale The Killing Joke). However, this isn't a sentimental moment by any means, which I'll get into later. Peter relates his dream to Norman, the dream about Gwen dying, but it starts with a plane carrying Mary Jane crashing into a building - and rather than finding MJ in the rubble, he finds Gwen. Peter realizes what his dream means, and uses that to stick a dagger into Norman's heart. If Norman wants to get to anyone in Peter's life - he can - and there's no force on earth that can stop him. But Peter isn't going to let Norman hold that over his head anymore - he's not going to live with that fear any longer. It's like waking up in the morning and crawling out of bed. You know that this could very well be the day you die - that you could be in an automobile accident, or have a heart attack, or get mugged and brutalized, or get struck by lightning - but if you let that fear rule you, you'll never live, never crawl out of the bed. And Peter has finally realized that this is how he has to deal with Norman's deadly knowledge of his secret identity. Remember in the old days when Peter agonized about Norman "being the only one who knows who I am!" and how that drove Peter's approach to dealing with Norman? However, he now realizes that it is something he simply is going to have to live with as if it were an allergy or a trick knee. So, he tells Norman to do his worst - but warns him that not only neither can he be broken, but he won't do a 180 the other way and kill Norman, either.

And Peter has history on his side. Norman murdered his girlfriend - and Peter survived. He literally took his life away from him by making him believe he was a clone - but not only did he survive, but he actually bonded like a brother with Ben Reilly. Norman killed Ben during the end of "Revelations" and Peter survived. He kidnapped Baby May, letting Peter and MJ believe she was dead (which Peter still doesn't know about - this is another unresolved subplot that Marvel hopes we will forget)- and Peter survived. Norman even tried to go as far as brainwashing him and breaking down his will, but at the very last moment - Peter picked himself up and defeated the Goblin. Norman has done his worst - and Peter has always survived. It hasn't been easy, and it has left a lot of physical and emotional scars that will remain with Peter until his dying day - but in the end - he survives. And now, it seems that he realizes this. Norman can't do anything more to him than he's already done. And so he calls Norman's bluff and begins to walk away.

And predictably, as if to test Peter's latest declaration in their long war - Norman threatens to kill those he loves. Without hesitation - Peter tells him to do it - and leaves. With Norman's bluff called - the Green Goblin suffers his worst and most humiliating defeat.

The next day, a devastated Norman Osborn strolls into work, shuts his office door, cancels all his appointments, looks at the gun in his drawer, and ponders taking himself out. But he can't.

So it goes (RIP Kurt).

Lots of stuff to talk about. Lots of unanswered questions. But before we start, let's get one thing out of the way:

What about that great art - huh?
I can't believe this - a dark, moody, grim story, and you get an artist whose speciality looks like Pokemon. I know that the correct term is manga and that manga is very, very popular, particularly among kids, but I call it Pokemon art. It isn't that I don't like manga. One of my non-Spidey comic series was Gunsmith Cats. But manga doesn't work for Spidey, and it was rather inappropriate considering the tone of this particular story. Maybe it works with some of the more light-hearted fare that Zeb Wells scribed during the last days of Peter Parker, but this was an important tale featuring Spidey's greatest villain - and the one appearing in the concurrently released motion picture to boot. I would've given John Romita, Jr. a leave on Amazing to do this tale, since I was rather fond of his take on Norman and the Goblin in Peter Parker #75, which was the last story in the "Revelations" story arc. But then, no one asked my opinion. So, we get stuck with what at times seemed like the Spider Chimp vs. the Samurai Goblin.

And no, I'm not being contrary because Norman has a different costume. In all honesty, I don't think that Norman Osborn would have only one version of a Green Goblin costume. We're talking about a super rich dude who gets off on gadgets and toys and violence. The excuse can be made that Spider-Man, for example, doesn't update his arsenal (beyond the licensing aspect - that a certain Spider-Man look has been sold to the public for 45 years) because Peter Parker's economic means are limited. But Norman's aren't. He could have the traditional costume for when he's just flying around the city creating a modest amount of mayhem and havoc, the Goblin Lord costume with fangs and big dopey ears that John Byrne gave him during "The Final Chapter" when he wants to preside over the remnants of his Scrier cult (see Goblin Love), and then a more heavily armored version for when he wants to cause some serious chaos and destruction. Although at first I thought the different look was an attempt to make him look closer to the Power Ranger movie version that came out at that time - I really think it's more the manga influence. This seems to be re-inforced with the fact that Norman is also conducting business talks with a group of - Japanese businessmen. Like I said, Samurai Goblin.

What about that weird scene at the graveyard?
The scene with Norman Osborn at Harry's grave, the second scene in the story, which begins Norman's participation, is genuinely creepy. It also seems to present a boatload of continuity conflicts, until you realize what is really going on inside Norman's tortured brain.

First, it's curious that Norman even feels the need to visit Harry's grave at all. Norman never struck me as the sentimental sort - but this seems almost, well, human of him. And he's not there to spit on Harry's grave, such as Superman's arch-nemesis Lex Luthor did to his parent's graves. Of course, it's always been apparent to me that as twisted and gruesome as Norman's view of the father/son relationship was, he did love Harry, and Harry's death has haunted him. He never understand his son, but Norman wouldn't be the first father who didn't understand his child.

In an apparent contradictory moment at the grave, he tells Harry that he was so much like his mother, and that he was "always a disappointment to us." Wait a minute - Norman deeply loved his wife, so much so that losing her was one of the pivotal moments of his life that ultimately broke his sanity (see not only Revenge of the Green Goblin, but also Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #14) - so how is that an insult to Harry to say he was like his mother? I suppose you could infer that Norman wasn't really insulting Emily, just acknowledging that as a woman, she was simply more emotional, "softer," or "weaker," qualities perfectly acceptable for a woman in Norman's patriarchal mind - but not acceptable for a male Osborn. This doesn't answer another contradiction - since depending on which of the two sources listed above that you reference, Emily Osborn either died as a result of giving birth to Harry (Revenge), or when he was still very small (Spectacular Annual #14) - so how could Harry be a "disappointment" to Emily when it was very likely that the poor woman never even got to know her own son?

That's because Norman Osborn isn't really talking about Harry and Emily. He's talking about himself and his mother - being a disappointment to his parents. From what little we know of Norman's father, he was an alcoholic, abusive Type A male, which Norman himself eventually became, only without the alcoholism (although some therapists might characterize Norman as being on a perpetual "dry drunk," where the subject still exhibits the behavior, but doesn't need to alcohol to stimulate it. I'm not a shrink, don't ask me - but it is a real term). There was a time in Norman's life, however, that he wasn't so driven, when he loved artsy fartsy, far out things like writing and comic books and science fiction (see Peter Parker Volume 1 #96). He even took dance lessons (as he revealed to Kolina in Revenge of the Green Goblin Part 1)! It's clear that Norman's relationship with his father was acrimonious, and the elder Osborn, struggling with all of his failures, had little tolerance or understanding of young Norman's artistic pursuits. It's likely that the night's abandonment and isolation that his father forced him to endure in the old family homestead, detailed in Amazing Spider-Man Volume 2 #25, was part of the elder Osborn's attempt to beat that out of him. Norman would also interpet his father's eventual suicide (I speculate in Goblin Mysteries Solved that his father, the massive failure that he was, ended his own life, although no Marvel scribe has provided the official answer of what happened to Norman's father) as any child would likely interpret a parent's suicide, as his fault, that he must have somehow done something wrong that caused the parent to do that. And although we also know so little about Norman's mother, it's a fair bet that she didn't survive her husband long, as I've always believed that Norman was all alone in the world when he entered college, and his relationship with her is the center of his dislike of women in general. So, what it comes down to is that the mighty Norman Osborn, a rich, successful, powerful, and driven man, deep down is plagued by feelings of inadequacy, and considers himself to be a failure and a disappointment to his family. But by transferring that sense of failure and disappointment to Harry, Norman avoids confronting his own feelings and emotions on the subject.

But what about the part where Norman states that Harry "died of a drug overdose just to spite me." Huh? Is Paul Jenkins playing a little loose with continuity? We all know, and Norman even knows (having acknowledged it in Osborn Journal) that Harry died as a result of immersion in the experimental, and ultimately toxic, new Goblin formula. You could consider it to be a continuity glitch (Jenkins' stories tend to have them), but then you'd be missing the point of how Norman thinks. Harry had to die as a result of his own actions, his own weaknesses - not because of Norman's influence. Thinking like a true sociopath, nothing can ever be Norman's fault.

This scene illustrates the nature of Norman Osborn's defense mechanisms - when confronted with unpleasant facts - distort them. It has allowed Norman to live and function with what he's done - a defense mechanism that his son did not have. Harry was a decent, extremely sensitive, and tormented soul, and his death was due as much to the fact that he was unable to reconcile his demons as it was the experimental Goblin formula. Harry had spent his whole life desperately seeking the approval and acceptance of a man he held in the highest esteem, a man of great intellect, wealth, and power whom he constistently felt inadequate and unworthy when contrasted against. And then he was confronted with the knowledge that this same man, whose love he so desperately craved, was a criminal and a murderer, and had killed one of his closest friends, whom he had known most of his life - Gwen Stacy. Not only that, but he discovered that Dad's greatest enemy, the man who was there when he met his "death" - was his best friend. So, two of the people he loved and trusted most in the world had been lying to him for years - keeping secrets from him, not trusting him - not accepting him into their world. They had both betrayed him in their own way. And he couldn't handle it.

Norman, on the other hand, just twists the facts around. Accept part of the blame for Harry's psychosis and death? No way - that was Peter Parker's fault. On days that excuse doesn't wash anymore - o.k. - Harry died of a drug overdose because he was trying to "spite" Norman. Another default of the paranoid mind.

And that's why Norman is a true psychopath - he can justify anything, any action. Harry was not - and could not. And so he died.

Why isn't Harry buried next to his mother?
Interesting, no? As you could see in the scene with Norman at Harry's grave, there is no grave for Harry's mother, Emily. In fact, when Norman Osborn was believed to have been dead, Harry had been buried next to him (most notably shown here at the end of Spider-Man Unlimited #2), but Emily was not there, either. Now, if Norman loved her so much, as was shown in the Revenge mini, then wouldn't he have wanted to be reunited with her in death? Wouldn't he have been buried next to her?

Yes - but Norman obviously had her cremated and her ashes scattered. Why? There could be a number of reasons. The easiest and most likely reason could have been that was her wish for the disposition of her remains. Although if we want to work it into our twisted analysis, Norman's pain could have been so intense that he wanted no reminders of her. In Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #14, he becomes enraged at the mere mention of her by a young Harry - she's dead and there's no point in talking about her. But this also goes to what I believe is Norman Osborn's darkest secret - that he himself was in someway, directly or indirectly, responsible for Emily's death (I speculate further on this in The Goblin Prince , leaning toward him feeling responsible because he was unable to cure what killed her). Not Harry. Norman. By cremating her and scattering her, not only does he give himself the illusion of purging her from his conscience memory, but he also destroys the evidence of his complicity. It has always been my opinion that Emily's death and Norman's complicity in same, is what drove him irrevocably mad and NOT the goblin formula exploding in his face.

Or, perhaps the most ghoulish possibility of all - Norman has her in suspended animation - waiting for the day that he can revive her.

But while you're thinking about that one - think about this one. You just saw that in Spider-Man Unlimited #2 Harry's grave simply stated "In Loving Memory." However, the stone in this current story arc states "Beloved Son, Father, and Husband." Of course, the real answer is that Ramos didn't check how Harry's stone read, but then again, how would he know where to look? I only noticed it myself because I was re-reading Maximum Garbage for reference in another article. It isn't like Uncle Ben's stone, which we have seen so often, that an artist or writer probably should take the effort to ensure that it looks consistent. So, no problem here - but let's have fun with it. Obviously, when we first saw Harry's stone - Norman had not returned from the grave - and Liz probably would have chosen the language we saw in Unlimited #2. So - who would have gone through the trouble to order Harry a new stone, with the new language? There is no indication that Liz ever even met Norman Osborn before his return in Peter Parker #75. She knew enough of him to know that he was a sick, mean-spirited bastard who ruined his son's life. So, when Harry died, she would not have ordered the stone to read "Beloved Son" because she did not believe that Norman really loved Harry.

But alas - Norman did. And it was likely that he was the one that ordered the new stone to reflect that. It was the most he could do, since he was not there to bury his son in the first place, as he was hiding out in Europe when Harry died.

Again, it's these little quirks in Norman's personality that make him so fascinating.

Where's Kolina and Menken?
Kolina Frederickson, Norman's nurse (who was his primary caregiver as he was recovering from the insanity induced during the Gathering of Five ceremony) and new girlfriend, and Donald Menken, his loyal toady were two very prominent characters in Norman's prior appearance, the Revenge of the Green Goblin miniseries. However, they are total no shows here. And neither have been seen since. When Norman is at the company during strategic meeting sessions, Menken is no where to be found. So what happened to them?

Of course, the REAL answer is that Paul Jenkins either felt the characters were baggage, or simply not material parts of the story he wanted to tell. And he was correct. They would only have gotten in the way. That doesn't mean that another writer, Roger Stern for example, since he wrote the last Goblin mini, couldn't bring those characters back right where he left them.

However, taken in the context of the story we do have, we can probably speculate that their absence, particularly Kolina's, is one reason Norman has his death wish.

It's most likely that when Kolina realized the magnitude of just what kind of man Norman Osborn was, which she was getting clues about at the end of the Revenge mini, it created a permanent barrier in their relationship. He was no longer the dashing, charismatic, kind, though ill, mega rich businesman she thought he was. Since she found out he was the Green Goblin, she also had to find out that he was a murderer, a meglomaniac, a psychopath, and a very, very dangerous man. Not that the Swedish newspapers detailed the exploits of the Green Goblin in all their gory detail - but she probably would have seen enough at the conclusion of the Revenge mini to make those observations. No dummy he, Norman could sense the change in her attitude toward him. However, I do not think that Norman could have harmed her in any way. He knew that with the drugs and technology at his disposal, he could force Kolina to love him - but not even Norman would want that. He could exile her to an island or other property owned by him and under constant guard by his people, but that would make her miserable - and he would not want that, either.

Also by this time he had no doubt realized that he could no longer completely trust Donald Menken. By the end of the Revenge mini, it was clear that Menken was getting a little weird, a little too obsessed, particularly when he tried to murder Kolina, when in his mind she was distracting Norman and causing him to re-evaluate some of his behavior and actions. Norman then realized that Menken had his own agenda, that of trying to manipulate himself into the position of being Osborn's heir. And while Norman Osborn trusts no one, he probably trusted Menken as much as he would anyone, since Menken knew virtually all of Norman's secrets (apparently, except for Spider-Man's identity - Norman entrusted that to Mac Gargan) So, now, for the first time in probably a couple of decades, Norman has no one that he can trust at the helm of his company.

I don't think, though, that Norman would want to kill him, either. To be in the position he was in, to simply have survived working for Norman as long as he had, he probably had performed numerous invaluable and irreplaceable services for Osborn over the years, notably including (1) keeping Norman apprised of the goings on at the company on while he was "dead" (2) setting up Roderick Kingsley to pull the rug out from under him in "Goblins at the Gate" (my speculation) and (3) getting Norman out of confinement after he went whacko at the end of "Gathering of Five" and "Final Chapter," and getting him medical attention, all discretely. Of course, this doesn't include those services he must have performed even prior to this to get in Osborn's good graces.

And while Norman is a sick, evil, cold-hearted bastard, I don't think he could so readily turn his back on someone who had done him such service.

So, my guess is that using the Winkler device (a memory altering device developed by a scientist in Norman's employ, and used more than once by Roderick Kingsley), he wiped both of their memories of any knowledge of him and placed them both somewhere where they would never see him again. Which is fine with me. Norman doesn't need a girlfriend, at least not a normal one (although a sadistic part of me would love Felicia Hardy to make a play for him - but she knows exactly who and what he is and wouldn't do such a thing). And Menken - I think he's done as a character - plus his devotion to Norman was a bit too weird for me at times.

Why did Norman hurt Flash? Wasn't he being nice to Flash before the reboot?
Norman's hurting Flash is a bit contradictory toward his apparent affection toward him in the pre-1999 reboot days, when he hired Flash as his personal assistant when Norman owned half of the Daily Bugle, and professed an admiration of his working out of his own problems. Of course, Norman was just using Flash in a JM DeMatteis subplot that had the plug pulled like all of his other subplots when the reboot occurred. But therein lies a false presumption that Norman cares about anyone. First of all, as Flash was Harry's friend and roommate at one time, Norman sees Flash as just as guilty of betraying Harry as anyone else. Remember, Flash also got the invitation to the Bugle during Peter Parker #75, which featured Norman's infamous return from the dead. He wasn't just trying to get back at Peter - remember how he stated that "each of you has earned my hatred." It isn't just their association with Peter Parker that caused him to hate them - it was them personally as well.

Also, Flash's alcoholism is too painful a reminder of Harry's own drug dependency - which Norman would consider to be a personal weakness rather than a genuine illness. And remember, Norman's father, an abusive man was most likely an alcoholic, judging by the fact that in the few flashbacks we see of him, he always has a drink in his hands.

So - Norman hates drunks, too. He calls Flash "a little freak," which is also language he uses on Peter. So, it isn't just the fact that Flash Thompson is an acquaintance of Peter Parker's that put a big target on his back in Norman's eyes. It was also Norman's own hatred of and lack of understanding of chemically dependent people, and his perceived belief that this makes Flash a weak and worthless human being, who also betrayed Harry.

Why Would Norman Osborn want to die?
It's not hard to understand Norman's death wish. It probably isn't the first time he's had one. A person with his degree of mental illiness is bound to have severe mood swings. People from bleeding heart liberals like Mitch Snyder and Abbie Hoffman, to "beautiful people" like Marilyn Monroe, to the ultimate psychopath Adolph Hitler, committed suicide. Although it has never been specified, I have also always believed that Norman's father killed himself after all of his failures, which would also provide a genetic basis for both Norman and Harry's suicidal impulses (remember, Harry was ready to kill himself in Spectacular #200 by blowing up BOTH Peter and himself). But for those who can't do the deed themselves, there is also what is known as "death by cop," where someone deliberately presents a dangerous threat to police so that they will be shot dead. I first heard this term after an incident involving a driver who tried to run people off the roads just north of Columbus, OH, getting the cops to pursue him, and after they ran him off the road - charged them with a weapon - and they obliged him.

Norman now knows that there is no refuge for him, no escape. He can't stop being the Green Goblin. It's been such an essential part of his life for so long, the only means that he can express the rage within him, that he can't just walk away from it. But he also can't have any semblance of a normal life as long as he is the Goblin. Thus, he had to end his relationship with Kolina, the only woman he had ever loved other than his dearly departed wife. And he now has no one he can trust. Even his most valued aide, Donald Menken, whom he relied upon heavily during critical times in his and his corporation's lifetimes, turned out to be using him to further his own agenda.

And let's rattle off all of the other negatives - his son is dead. His wife is dead. His daughter-in-law thoroughly despises him. His grandson is too young to have any sort of a real relationship with, and probably deep inside, Norman knows that he would screw that up too. And the one person who probably understands him the best, the one he can actually relate to, the one he actually has the most in common with - is the one he hates the most. Which is probably one reason he keeps coming after Peter Parker - not just to beat the crap out of him - but it's probably the only real relationship, though sick and twisted, that he has left with another human being. Peter Parker is the only one that Norman can vent on from both of his personalities. There is their shared interest in science, as well as the mutual grief they both feel from the loss of Harry that in some weird way actually bonds them together. In fact, Norman's strange 1984ish plot to brainwash Peter into accepting his place as Osborn's "heir" in volume 2 Peter Parker #25 wasn't just to get Peter Parker to obey him, it was also a way to replace Harry - with the type of son that Norman Osborn always wanted.

Which is another irony in the relationship. Both Peter and Norman have exactly what the other needs - no, craves, and yet because of the conflict between them, there is no chance of them connecting in a way to satisfy those mutual needs. The history of Spider-Man has also been the history of Peter's search for, loss of, and even betrayal by, potential father figures. His biological father died while Peter was either a baby or a small boy, precluding any sort of relationship. Uncle Ben died when Peter was just 15 and in the midst of his adolescent angst, leaving him without a male figure to guide him into adulthood. The next potential father figure, Captain George Stacy, died while Peter was in college, and with his last breath confessed that he knew the secret of his dual identity. And the man that Peter has the most in common with, the man who meets almost all of Peter's requirements for a father figure, is his greatest enemy. It works a little better in the movie version of Spider-Man because the movie lacks 45 years of convoluted continuity, but it's nonetheless true. Norman even alludes to it in Part one (issue #44) when he refers to Peter as the son without a father, and himself as the father without a son.

Norman also might be in the process of losing his mind again, which seems to be happening when Norman looks at the hanging Goblin mask in Part 1 and tells it to stop staring at him. Could this be the beginning of the return of the multiple personalities fighting for control of Norman's psyche again? And, after his "death" in ASM #122, although always insane, with the exception of the aftereffects of the Gathering of Five ceremony, Norman has been in control of his multiple personalities. However, could Norman feel his control slipping, and wants Peter to kill him before he completely loses it again?

When it gets down to basics - Norman Osborn is one of the saddest, most miserable people on the face of the earth. But like someone who is scared of the sight of blood and blades - he can't slash his own wrists, so he tries to get someone to put a bullet in his head.

Of course, this was written years before Norman found a "side job" as the Director of the Thunderbolts. Will this give Norman the focus he needs to keep the Green Goblin at bay? At this time, only Warren Ellis knows...

What was with all that mumbo-jumbo about not "hating" Norman? And why didn't Peter just break the SOB's neck?
Well, Pete didn't mean it 100% literally that he didn't hate Norman. It was a chess move on his part.

You see, Peter really was thinking about permanently cleaning Norman Osborn's clock ("maybe wishes do come true"), but when he realized just how desperate Norman had become, a change of strategy was called for. Peter does not want to kill anyone - but they were both at the point that neither would likely win the fight. Peter could not kill Norman - but it was clear that he couldn't just take him to jail, either (I'll explain later).

Of course Peter Parker hates Norman Osborn. He will always hate him. But there is a difference between hating a person for what he has done, and acting on that hate to the point that it permanently alters your life and your destiny. Norman himself reminded Peter during the previous story arc of the thin line they walk on together, of how little really separates the two. And what separates the two is that Peter has never acted on his hatred. Norman has for years - it's gotten him what he's always wanted, but he has paid a horrible price for it - and now he's at the point where he simply wants to die. Peter knows that if he acts on his own hatred and his baser emotions, the differences between him and Osborn evaporate - and when he looks at Norman Osborn, he sees what he himself could become in another 25 years - after having spent nearly a lifetime hating.

And remember all of the things I mentioned that Norman has done to Peter? And even though Peter keeps bouncing back - he inevitably always winds up bouncing back right into another confrontation with Osborn. So, Peter really had no choice this time - he had to try a change of strategy - he had to walk away - to end the cycle of violence. He had to call Norman's bluff. It was the only way to beat him.

How? Well, sure - Norman could still kill everyone - but what would he gain? Nothing! In fact, Norman would actually lose. Peter protects his secret identity to protect his loved ones. With no loved ones to protect any more - what prevents Peter Parker from talking to Larry King and giving them both up? Again - nothing. As I discuss later, people may not believe Spider-Man hauling Norman Osborn off to jail, claiming he's the Green Goblin - but it would be another thing entirely for Peter Parker to first reveal that he was Spider-Man and then reveal that Osborn was the Goblin. It's unlikely that Norman would be able to survive a new round of investigations if Peter fully cooperated with the authorities (of course, this became somewhat moot as the result of events in Civil War, but in a time of mind wipes and deals with the devil - who knows when and if what was old will be new again).

And Peter's vow to avoid killing isn't just some noble, self-righteous mantra (although with lazy writing that's how it seems at times, with Maximum Garbage being one of the worst offenders). It's absolutely essential. Perhaps deep in Peter's mind, he knows that the first person he voluntarily kills won't be his last. Think of an alcoholic - it's easier for him to say no to the first drink than it is the second once he's had the taste. Once Peter is able to cross that threshold the first time, to make that big leap of justification and rationalization - then all other killings would come easier. Sure, he can justify killing Norman Osborn - there's probably no other person he could justify killing more. But then, that will make it easier to kill the next villain - and the next. And then Spider-Man becomes the menace that J. Jonah Jameson has called him for years. And Norman wins from beyond the grave. Norman knows enough about psychology and the effects of power that if he goads Peter into killing him, he will have an eternal revenge. He will have set him on a path that will ultimately destroy him.

As far as Norman "losing" to Gwen - that's a little muddier to explain, since by killing Norman, Peter could finally avenge Gwen and give her the justice that for years we thought she had obtained, but realize that she was ultimately cheated of because Norman never really died. Peter knows that Gwen went to her grave loving him, but believing that Spider-Man was a murderer, responsible for the death of her father. Peter spent the time between Captain Stacy's death and Gwen's own agonizing over this, and avoiding the day of reckoning that certainly would have had to have occurred had Gwen lived. To kill Norman would not only confirm what Gwen believed about Spider-Man till the day she died, but in his mind, might also shatter her faith in Peter Parker, and he would feel that he had indeed lost Gwen's love. So the choice is, to keep Gwen's love for him alive in his heart, or satisfy his lust for vengeance. And we can now see that it really wasn't any contest.

Still, Peter just might have accidentally let himself get pushed that far except that Norman Osborn once again demonstrated the sloppiness and overreaching that ultimately trips him up every single time, something I discuss at length in the Kingsley vs. Osborn article. It finally occurs to Peter that Norman is manipulating him when he threatens to kill his own grandson. It doesn't sink in at first - but then Peter realizes that this has all been part of a larger con by Osborn - and he brings the game to a halt. Norman would never harm his grandson - never. Yes, he's ruthlessly used him as a pawn, see "Spider Hunt," when Green Goblin V kidnapped him, but Norman also risked exposure and a premature confrontation with Spider-Man when he was still recovering from the Gathering of Five induced madness to save young Norman from the rebellious Scrier in the 2000 Amazing Spider-Man Annual (we didn't see Norman, but his presence was strongly implied). Norman's relationship with his namesake is likely too complex to discuss here - but in a nutshell, particularly after Peter's rejection of him in the Revenge storyline - the relationship with his grandson is only chance to recapture and rehabilitate his relationship with his dead son. So no, he would never harm little Norman.

This is far from the first time that a villain has reached a crossroads in his relationship with Spider-Man. Kraven the Hunter in the classic "Kraven's Last Hunt," after formally beating Spider-Man, realized that he had no where else to go - and killed himself. Doctor Octopus, during the Clone Saga, desperately worked to save Spider-Man's life from the poison injected into him by the Vulture, because his own life would have become even emptier than it already was without the challenge (amusingly parodied in Peter Bagge's Megolmaniacal Spider-Man). Mysterio in Daredevil, realized that the Ben Reilly Spider-Man was not the one he had been fighting for several years, and rather than face a "phoney" Spider-Man, chose someone else to bedevil before he blew his own brains out (we think). And the Chameleon tossed himself off a bridge (we think) when his relationship with Spider-Man had crossed a certain threshold - after he had become Spider-Man and invaded his personal life (in a bizarre way, much like his half brother Kraven. Kraven became Spider-Man - while Chameleon became Peter Parker). Now, Norman, has reached a similar epiphany. Each of these people reached a crossroads, a point where there is a desperate desire to connect to Spider-Man in some way, for good or ill, in order to make some kind of sense of the relationship which has consumed their lives. But with Norman the pain is much more profound than any of the others, because unlike the other villains - there really IS something valid in his relationship with Peter Parker - something that actually could have been productive. That was what Norman tried to wrestle back in the previous story arc, what had been lost. And maybe in a way that would have made up for all of the other losses.

And therein lies the somewhat sick, twisted world of the super powered class. When you realize the joke, the absurdity, what can you do besides laugh (unfortunately, this is almost a dead ringer for the scene in Webspinners #11, also written by Paul Jenkins, with both Peter Parker and the Chameleon on top of the bridge - and the Chameleon utters "I love you, Peter," and the two bust out laughing). Both Peter and Norman have realized it - and they are perhaps the only two who do - which is why Peter states to Aunt May at the beginning of the story that there's only one other person who could understand his dream. It's this ridiculous cycle of violence against each other that they are trapped in. And it is ridiculous. When Doc Octopus saved Spider-Man's life after he was injected by the Vulture's poison, he basically admitted that his life has become so intertwined with Spider-Man's that he wouldn't know what to do without him. Octopus, as intelligent as he is, still didn't seem to grasp not only the irony, but also just how sick that is. But here's the thing - Norman does know. He admitted as much to Peter on the glider at the end of Peter Parker volume 2 #25 of just how stupid their conflict is - two grown men, both borderline personalities, dressing up in silly costumes venting their hostilities against the world out on each other.

But what about the laughter? That's actually very easy to explain. These two men are both physically and emotionally exhausted after a long battle. Both have given themselves over to total rage in this battle. Both have actually also cried during this time when their emotions hit the other extreme. So, what other emotion is there to express, but laughter? When Osborn jokes about being "Coffee Man" rather than the Green Goblin, he's admitting what I've mentioned before, that they're playing a stupid game, of grown men dressed in costumes working out their psychosis on each other. It's such an absurd thing - so they laugh at themselves for a moment before moving on to the story's denouement.

In a clever artistic device, the appearance of the sun actually underscores Norman's defeat and disillusionment. Many times the night is used to underscore a characters' gloom and depression. However, as we know from the Revenge of the Green Goblin miniseries - Norman likes the night, feels comfortable in it - a thought which is carried forward in this story - where most of it takes place during driving rainstorms. However, at the end, when Norman is at his emotional low, the sun is bright and shining.

And what makes Norman's defeat doubly agonizing, and perhaps what stops him from really reaching for that gun in his drawer, is the possiblity that he can't die, at least not like that. Remember before the reboot, in Peter Parker volume 1 #96 when Jonah threatens Norman with a gun and Norman tells him to go ahead and shoot him, that how does Jonah know that Norman won't still come back? Not that Norman could take a bullet to the brain and come back and function, like he did after taking cold steel to his heart, but it's conceivable that the Goblin formula would keep his body functioning - and with his mind gone - he would endure the fate of a living death, worse than the alternatives.

Why Didn't Peter just haul Norman to Jail? How could he let a nut like Norman run loose?
Yeah - based on what? That he's wearing a stupid costume? He has no evidence to tie Norman to the Green Goblin's crimes. None. Whatever links there might have been, Norman broke them back before the 1999 reboot when he trashed Ben Urich's book Legacy of Evil and had Green Goblin V flying around impersonating him. Although Peter likely had such evidence long ago, he either destroyed or obscured it to protect Harry Osborn. Short of wearing a wire like he did in Amazing Spider-Man volume 2 #54 on the gangster Forelli, and caught Norman in the art of confessing something, then that might be one thing - but then again, Norman is likely smart enough that he would design and wear something as part of his mask that would distort his voice patterns so that no one could compare the Green Goblin's patterns with Norman Osborn's. And besides, Spider-Man is considered to have a mad on for Norman Osborn anyway, based on the brutal beating he gave Osborn for the television cameras in Spectacular Spider-Man #250. Although subsequent events cleared him of some of the stuff Osborn was trying to pin on him - the fact that Norman has made public statements condemning Spider-Man, it wouldn't stretch the public's fancy much to suspect that Spidey would just put a Goblin costume on Norman and try to frame him. So, no, knocking Norman out and taking him to jail was not an option, unless he was willing to reveal his own secret identity. He either had to kill him, or just walk away, and he chose the latter. Which also emphasizes how ridiculous their cycle of violence is. Other than killing each other - what's the point? Peter can't expose Norman - and guess what - Norman's not going to expose Peter, either. Oh, it's an implied threat, but Norman's not going to do it. He admitted as much (to himself, not Peter) in Revenge of the Green Goblin when he stated that Spider-Man's secret identity was going to stay his secret as long as he lived. And why would he give someone else the means of going after Spider-Man? Norman wouldn't want Doctor Octopus or the Vulture or Mysterio, or the Kingpin, or some punk off the streets knocking off Spider-Man. If it happened during the routine course of events, well, that's one thing - but Norman is not going to make it easier for someone else to do. That's his privilege. And although Norman did later tell the secret to Mac Gargan, it was in the context of a backup plan in the event of Norman's incarceration.

But remember when Peter told Norman that he didn't have to take him to jail that just being him was a life sentence? He was right. The Green Goblin used to be Norman Osborn's escape from the constraints of society. It has now become his prison. So Peter knows that he can't take Norman Osborn down - but he knows who can - Norman Osborn. By walking out on Norman, he made the strategic decision that did indeed lead to that very thing in the pages of The Pulse in 2004, where Norman's grip on reality becomes so tenuous that he blows his own cover.

How Could They Ignore the Clone Saga?
Seems kind of convenient that one of Osborn's greatest schemes hasn't even been mentioned once in the last two major confrontations between the characters - especially the death of Ben Reilly. Jenkins claims that there is no editorial edict from Marvel that the Clone Saga and the ancillary events (i.e. the existence of Ben Reilly) be ignored. Still - it seems funny that not even any allusions to this event show up. Ben Reilly's death was foremost in Peter's mind when he busted in on Norman in Spectacular Spider-Man #250 and beat the crap out of him. My guess is, while there is no edict, there probably is a "gentlemen's agreement," not to deal with it. And, from a writer's perspective, to consistently cram all of Norman's sins against Spider-Man and the world into an expositition each and every time he showed up would be wearying and probably dilute the story.

Why Doesn't Norman Play the Baby May Angle?
I heard this a lot - but Norman doesn't know where Baby May is. It's pretty apparent that Tom DeFalco had Kaine grab her in Amazing Spider-Man #435 -although the tag team of Harras-Mackie-Byrne chose to ignore this. DeFalco finally got a chance to finish this storyline in the "alternate" Spider-Girl future. Although a Scrier later told Osborn in Sensational Spider-Man #32 that they had "persevered" against Kaine and it was revealed that the infamous "package" actually turned out to be Aunt May rather than Baby May - there's plenty of wiggle room in this to imagine that Kaine still has the baby somewhere - outside of Norman's knowledge.

Why Doesn't Norman Tell Peter that he slept with Gwen?
That would certainly have made Peter want to kill him, wouldn't it have? But there would have been no reason at all for Peter to believe him. It would have had the same effect of Norman saying that he had shagged Aunt May - to absurd to be believed. Besides, Gwen's kids were one of his backup plans, and a card he wasn't ready to reveal. There has yet to be any indication that Norman knows that Peter knows the truth about Sarah and Gabriel's parentage.

Where Does Norman go From Here?
Unfortunately, Norman is suffering a bit from overexposure right now, with two major storylines in two years in the Spider-Man titles, not counting his long (and it's always long there) appearance in Ultimate Spider-Man. This was unfortunately somewhat necessitated by marketing concerns involved in having Spider-Man fight the Green Goblin in the comic books to coincide with a similar scenario in the first Spider-Man film released during 2002.

Norman's been soundly beat, no doubt about it. However, Norman needs not only to take a substantial rest, but when he does return, he needs to have his horizons broadened. At this time, there's not a lot more than can be done with Peter and Norman's relationship and Norman needs to be able to emerge from the darkness he is in. One of the worst things that happens to super villains is that their sole purpose becomes bedevilling the superhero that they have no identity of their own. While this does make for interesting character analysis, it becomes death dramatically for a character.

So, Norman needs new enemies and new goals - and he got them when he was named Director of the Thunderbolts. For example, in the present storylines, Moonstone has been trying to undermine him by having his medications switched around so that she can ascend to his position. But in the spider universe, there's a natural enemy in Roderick Kingsley, no doubt still smarting from being bested by Osborn in "Goblins at the Gate." Also, the Kingpin himself tried to whack Osborn in Peter Parker #95 during his own return to prominence after he butted heads with Osborn in the trade Made Men. The Punisher has a mad-on for Norman Osborn after Osborn lied to him during the crossover "Spider Hunt" just prior to the 1999 reboot. And of course, Miles Warren, who has to be out there in some form, should have realized by now that Osborn was using him the whole time during the Clone Saga. And then, who's to say that the clone of Gwen Stacy wouldn't have a grudge that she'd like to settle with Mr. Osborn? Now there's a confrontation waiting to happen.

Possibilities, possibilities, possibilities.

Hey! How come Osborn is spelled "Osborne"? at the very end of the story?
Ack! I'm out of time - maybe later, eh? Like, whenever Part 4 of The Evil That Men Do comes out. Yeah, I'll get around to it then.

What? It did come out? The series was completed?

Oh, damn.


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Copyright 1998-2008 by J.R. Fettinger. All rights reserved. All original content is the exclusive property of J.R. Fettinger. Spider-Man, the Green Goblin, and everyone else who appears in the Spider-Man comics is the property of Marvel Entertainment, and are used in these articles for the purpose of analysis and commentary. The Spider-Man Crawlspace banners are used with permission of The Spider-Man Crawlspace.