Goblin Love

This will be Norman Osborn's greatest triumph! Beyond killing Gwen Stacy and Ben Reilly! Beyond driving his own son to the brink of madness and death! Beyond kidnapping both Aunt May and Baby May (well, that is, before "Brand New Day" wiped the latter out of existence)! Beyond generally trying to make Peter Parker's life a living hell! What is it? In the Revenge of the Green Goblin limited series Norman Osborn.........bags a Swedish nurse.

It's gotta be the green and purple ensemble.

Of all of the Spider-Man related articles I have written, the ones that have elicited the most feedback by far were the Green Goblin articles, particularly the ones where I probed Norman Osborn's tortured psyche for clues to the motives behind his sociopathic behavior. Something about the original Green Goblin seems to really resonate with comic fans, more so than the varied knock-offs that assumed his name in his prolonged absence. Perhaps it's as simple as the duality of the Goblin's nature. For example, while the Joker is probably the greatest and most recognizable comic villain of all time, he is always the Joker, all the time, never presenting the world a face other than that of the Clown Prince of Crime. We don't even know his real name. Norman Osborn, on the other hand, is a monster that can walk the streets without being recognized for the evil that he is (And yes, Norman has been outed at least twice as the Green Goblin, and both times has managed to overcome it and pull the wool over the world's eyes and con them into believing that he's not. So, the assumption of this article is that his identity is currently secret). That he is the Goblin is something he has to keep carefully hidden from the world at large so that he can continue to function freely within it. Only by adopting another identity can he fully let loose with the rage and the mania that more than once have claimed his precipitous hold on sanity. Everyone has a "goblin," a dark side within them, and most people are able to control that side and not let it out. That Norman is in a position, through his wealth and costumed identity, to give his demons free reign at times, escaping the limitations that society and the legal system put on aberrant behavior makes him a compelling and fascinating character, even if he is a bad guy. And, that, among other reasons, is why I think it was ultimately a good idea to resurrect him, blasphemous though the idea has been to others.

Revenge of the Green Goblin was a highly anticipated miniseries (well, highly anticipated by me, at least) that debuted in October, 2000 and was written by Roger Stern. It promised to explore details of Norman Osborn's clouded background that had never seen the light of day. This miniseries then led into issues #25 of Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker, essentially becoming a five-part story arc that was collected in a trade paperback. Considering that I had written an article some time ago called Goblin Mysteries Solved where I took the liberty of exploring Norman's background, I was curious to see where we would converge and where we would differ. The fact that Stern was always one of my favorite Spidey writers help fuel my anticipation.

The story opens with Norman Osborn slowly recuperating from his disastrous participation in the "Gathering of Five" ritual, in which he had hoped to obtain ultimate power, but received the "gift" of madness instead. Defeated at the hands of Spider-Man and babbling incoherently, he was taken into custody, only to be rescued by members of the Brotherhood of the Scrier, a cult-like organization controlled by Osborn. The Brotherhood, primarily one of Osborn's own executives, Donald Menken, solicited the services of a doctor who devised a medicinal therapy that eventually allowed Osborn to recapture his sanity, and in the interim, he began to fall in love with the nurse who was ministering to his needs while in recovery. But even before love comes revenge, as Norman plots, through the use of psychedelic drugs, to bring Peter Parker to the "dark side" and convert him into an heir that could run Osborn's various legitimate and criminal enterprises, and fulfill his ambitions after his death. Although this would seem to smack of Star Wars (no, Norman did NOT tell Peter "I am your father.") it actually resembles the last third of George Orwell's 1984. Paul Jenkins, who wrote the last chapter of the story, crafted an ambitious multi-layered tale which requires more than one reading to assess its impact. Unfortunately, it ends a bit anti-climactily, as Norman simply gets on his goblin glider, mutters the obvious about himself and Peter actually being more alike than either was willing to admit, and then flies off into the unknown, waiting for Jenkins' great four part story Death in the Family in Peter Parker #44-47.

Unfortunately, the miniseries and the subsequent issues of the regular titles fell below my expectations. For one, I didn't feel we really learned anything more about Norman Osborn than we already had before - except that after thirty-five years we finally learned that his long-dead wife's name was "Emily." But, we already knew that Emily's death was one of the factors that unhinged Norman Osborn, and although it was never explicitly stated before, I always felt that it was implied that Emily's death was directly or indirectly tied into the birth of Norman's son, Harry, which fueled the duality of Norman's feelings for Harry, vacillating between love and hate - something which was confirmed in this story. However, in issue #3, when Norman explains the origin of the Green Goblin to his nurse and new girlfriend, Kolina, he gives her the same tired explanation that we've already seen enumerated many times before, the first being Amazing Spider-Man No. 40. Also, as I discuss later, I don't find it unusual or unlikely at all that Norman could fall in love, but it would be within a very narrow set of circumstances that would be consistent with Norman's character. As it is, Norman seems to fall in love too quickly with Kolina, almost to the point that the reader feels as Norman's top toady Donald Menken does, disgusted at how Kolina seems to have the mighty Norman Osborn "cowed."

What surprised me ultimately was how little this miniseries contradicted my own speculations - in fact, because it so spartanly covered Norman's background, it really didn't contradict anything at all.

So, let's begin our journey to the "Dark Side" in which we examine the various issues raised by the Revenge of the Green Goblin miniseries, and how it expands upon our understanding of the psyche of Norman Osborn.

Emily Osborn
Clearly one of the most influential, but ill-defined parts of the Osborn Legacy was Norman's wife. The first we hear about her is during Norman's ranting during the classic Volume 1 No. 40 of Amazing Spider-Man, and that she died while Harry was still a baby, an event which apparently resulted in feeding Norman's obsession with wealth and power as it plunged him into an abyss wherein he neglected everything else, even the needs of his own son. Much later, in Spectacular Spider-Man #180 as Harry begins his final descent into the madness that is part of the Legacy, which would eventually claim his own life twenty issues later, we see him looking through a family photo album that gives us our first and only glimpse at that time of Mrs. Osborn, and with the implication that as long as she was alive, the family was happy. But after she died...

We then learn in Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #14, that Harry's mother's death devastated Norman, to the point that he would physically strike out at Harry when he mentioned her.

Finally, in Revenge of the Green Goblin #1 we learn her name and begin to understand her role in Norman Osborn's past. However, this understanding is still woefully incomplete, which just so happens to invite certain conjectures on my part.

So who was this woman? How did Norman meet her? And why did she have such a profound impact upon his life? And are there clues in Norman's relationship with Emily that influenced his almost total infatuation with Kolina?

In my article Goblin Mysteries Solved, I speculated that by the time Norman Osborn entered college, he was completely alone in the world. I don't want to get into the details in this article, but I felt that both his parents were dead, the family fortunes completely drained, the family mansion in the hands of others, and no other family members either willing, able (or even existing) to pick up the slack. We know from Untold Tales of Spider-Man that Norman Osborn attended Empire State University - and since the Osborn family had no money at this time, I speculated that Norman was able to attend college by virtue of a science scholarship. So, full of piss and vinegar, a chip on his shoulder and a don't f**k with me attitude, Norman Osborn enters the world of higher learning.

Norman no doubt applies himself completely and absolutely to his studies, determined to be the best and the brightest. He undoubtedly comes off as an arrogant and aloof scholarship student, and the other students completely avoid him. With the exception of one young woman...

Does this seem familiar? It should - because it's exactly what happened to another young science scholarship student at ESU several years later with Gwen Stacy. After all, remember how thin the line is separating Norman Osborn and Peter Parker?

Clearly, Emily would have to initiate the relationship because Norman would have been too hateful, angry and consumed with his sense of purpose to approach anyone. My guess is that Emily noticed that Norman was so intense and always alone, but that he was also staggeringly brilliant. Perhaps like Gwen Stacy at one time, she saw something that she liked about this young man, beyond the obvious public persona. Whether it was maternal instinct, growing infatuation or the simple compassion that one human being feels for another who has been ostracized, Emily decides to reach out to Norman Osborn, probably by flattering his ego, and asking him for help during an experiment or other lesson plan. Unlike Gwen Stacy, whose approach towards reaching out to Peter Parker was anything but subtle (even to the point of trying to slap him), Emily is wise enough to take a lower profile. No doubt suspicious and a bit abrupt at first ("I'm busy"), Norman tries to avoid Emily, but she persists, and Norman agrees to help her.

After that, Emily is probably struck by just how intelligent Norman is, and impressed by his relentless work ethic. This is clearly a young man with a lot of potential. However, his social skills are definitely an area of weakness, something he needs help with. It is a challenge that she is willing to accept.

For Norman, his initial reluctance to accept Emily's attention probably melts pretty quickly as his facade begins to crumble, and he finds out that he actually likes the company and the flattery of a pretty young woman. There probably deep down was an aching need in Norman to be loved and cared for, a need that was influenced by his mother's downfall at the hands of the alcoholic father, and what Norman perceived as her failure to protect him from said father. Additionally, Norman, who is bitter about the family failures, realizes that not only does Emily not have a clue about the misfortunes of the Osborn family, but when he tells her, she doesn't care. In his materialistic mind, he has nothing to offer her, but she likes him anyway. For Norman, this is an epiphany.

With Emily's sociability and her own friends, she is able to expand Norman's social horizons and networking skills, and introduce him to the value of "schmoozing" as I like to call it. With Emily's influence in softening Norman's hard edges, other people begin to see a different side of Norman Osborn. This allows Norman the confidence and freedom to make his own contacts as well.

Now, I imagine that it's hard to believe that the Norman Osborn that we know now, the evil, controlling, manipulative villain, could ever have been "led around" so to speak, and heavily influenced by another. Think I'm going too far? Well, I don't think I'm overstating Emily's impact, and this one panel provides me with the proof. During one of his rememberings back to when they were first married and Emily was pregnant, Norman thinks, "We had such plans." Now, the Norman Osborn we know is a rampaging egomaniac and a control freak, driven by a need to subjugate and control those around him. Many other successful men, even those clearly not as megalomaniacal as Norman Osborn, want full control of their relationships, and never consider anyone their equal. Yet, Norman Osborn clearly thinks of Emily as an equal partner in their relationship. Even a quarter century after her death Norman still thinks of Emily in terms of "we." For a man whose life is determined by "I" and "my" - "we" is a very powerful pronoun that says volumes about his love and affection for his late wife. Also, Norman says that he never felt as "balanced" as he did with her. On some drug commercials, the term "balance" is used to describe the effects of anti-depressants. Is it possible that while Emily was alive, Norman used medication to keep his demons under control? Emily was apparently the one person on earth he was actually willing to listen to. She could very well have encouraged him to take medication to control his anger. In this way, Emily taking care of Norman, helping him to try to overcome his anger, gives us some insight on why he falls in love so quickly and deeply with Kolina, who serves a similar function many years later.

But the Osborns' happiness was not destined to last. According to Norman's recollections, Emily dies after complications resulting from giving birth to Harry. Judging by the context of Norman's thoughts, it took a long time for Emily to die. Needless to say, watching a loved one die slowly, and in pain is a most gut wrenching experience. To me, it remains the seminal event in his life - when he went off the deep end for good. After Emily's death, Norman probably stopped taking any medication. And there was no rehabilitating him after that.

What is it with this Kolina chick?
Lots of folks had problems with this development. However, that Norman could fall deeply in love is not that bizarre. If we have learned nothing about Norman, we have learned that he is a very passionate man. However, it could have been illustrated a bit better just why Norman fell so deeply in love with Kolina. In the normal course of events, Norman's guard is way too strong to allow anyone to get close to him, and he's certainly a lot further along the path of arrogance and madness than he was when he first met Emily. However, in the case of Kolina, he had no choice in the matter. He had to accept the modest creature comforts and tenderness she could provide him because he was incapable of fending for himself, or fending her off. It's likely that Kolina had been ministering to Norman long before he first talked to her. And, since she was foreign she more than likely had no idea just who he was, as her astonishment at his mansion makes clear. It's obviously been months since the end of The Final Chapter and Norman is only now coming out of his deep psychosis. Since it took some time for Menken to find an appropriate doctor, and additional time for the doctor to devise and implement a remedy for Osborn's condition, he spent a considerable amount of time as a raving lunatic. It is quite likely that Kolina ministered to him several times a day. Her soft, accent-laden exotic voice was probably quite a contrast to the other, probably male voices which were no doubt yelling at him, sticking needles into him, and restraining him. It is likely that after awhile, Kolina's voice calmed him down, and as the medication began to work and pierce the veil of madness, he even began to look forward to her visits, even before his faculties fully returned to him. That's why when we first see her; Norman is clearly already smitten with her. For an analogous comparison, we could probably look at soldiers who are grievously wounded during military action and spend a considerable amount of time recovering in the hospital. At first, they may not be able to feed themselves, or walk or talk, and tend to have to undergo months of painful rehabilitation. They are initially completely dependent upon their nurses, who tend to become like angels to them, and more than one soldier has probably fallen in love with his caretaker, even if he was already married. As a fan of Unsolved Mysteries I saw more than one story featuring a Vietnam veteran who wanted to find the nurse who had ministered to him during his recovery period so that he and his family could personally thank her.

And a man such as Norman Osborn has enemies everywhere, ready to strike and destroy him when he's at his weakest. Even Donald Menken was using Norman's vulnerability for his own agenda. However, first Emily, and then Kolina, reached out to Norman at his absolute lowest moments and gave rather than took and did not misuse or abuse his trust or vulnerability.

However, I can't say that I see this relationship lasting, nor can I see a very happy future for Kolina, unless we see her again and learn more about her background (which is highly unlikely). For one, I can't see her enjoying being a virtual prisoner of Osborn, which now that she knows his secret, she essentially is. Also, if she is a reasonable person, he has to be scared to death being in the company of a man who is a genuine psychopath, and a super-powered psychopath at that. Only if she got off on the danger could she have a life with Osborn, but so far, Kolina does not give that impression. Now, although some folks may disagree with me, I can see a woman like Felicia Hardy being attracted to Osborn. After all, she did keep company with the master assassin the Foreigner at one time. As I mentioned in another article, Osborn's combination of wealth and power would be powerfully intoxicating to many women, and Felicia is the type who gets off on danger, although she might have some trouble adjusting to the fact he is completely and irrevocably insane. I don't say that Felicia would be involved with Osborn if given the chance; I'm just trying to illustrate the type of woman it would probably take to be any kind of lasting companion for our ghoulish Goblin.

So, Osborn cares enough about Kolina that he would not want her to be miserable, nor would he want to kill her. But, as far as I'm concerned, it's a bad idea to keep her around, and if I were a writer, I would not want to deal with the baggage of Osborn having a woman. I think the best solution is for Osborn to "wipe" Kolina's mind clear and send her on her way. She served her purpose in this story by showing us another side of Norman Osborn, but otherwise she has no real utility. However, pining for her would give him an extra layer of depth. Because of being the Goblin, he cannot have the woman he loves, much like being Spider-Man has cost Peter more than one woman he loves. It would also keep her from creating story problems in the future.

The Order of the Goblin

The one thing in the miniseries that really gave me fits was the Order of the Goblin. It seemed to me to contradict too many things we already knew about Norman, and was just silly. It does give me an excuse to explain the dual use of the old and new Goblin costumes during the same five-part epic. My guess is that he decided to relegate his new costume to his role as cult leader, since the new version that appears during the miniseries seems to be a more ornate version, while using his old one when he flies around on his Goblin glider out in public, which he did at the very end of this storyline.

Booting Norman out of the Scriers was actually a way to close that loose end from the Clone Saga. Making Norman a Scrier was one of Glenn Greenburg's solutions to some of the unresolved problems of the Saga, and I didn't mind when that tie appeared to be severed. However, now we have Osborn still as cult leader of a new Order. Not only that, but Osborn seems to be fairly careless with his secrets, since surely the fact that he is the Goblin is his second most treasured secret, behind only the knowledge of Spider-Man's identity (at least until "Brand New Day," where everyone has forgotten that Peter Parker is Spider-Man). Why would he so casually share it with a huge group of men, when so many of them clearly left him to join the real Scrier during the 1999 Peter Parker annual? Osborn also seems to have taken the wresting of a huge part of his crime empire from him by someone he considered an imposter, as he refers to Scrier in Revenge #2, pretty much in stride. Doesn't make a lot of sense to me. It also doesn't make much sense that conversely, Scrier would let Osborn retain control of even a small part of the cult. Wouldn't he assume that Osborn would try to regain total control? I also had a problem with the fact that the cult so casually and willingly beats Dr. Bendix to death. I can see Norman being a charismatic personality to where he could convince a group of otherwise reasonably intelligent people to follow him for the purpose of personally enriching themselves, but I just can't see Osborn being such a magnetic, Charlie Manson like personality that he could inspire a large group of people to so mindlessly kill in his name.

It took some real fact twisting, but I think I can satisfy all of my unresolved questions.

I contend that allowing Osborn to live and retain a small part of the cult is a "gift" from Scrier, in return for rebuilding his organization and strengthening it, and for trying to implement the DNA Bomb thing (a plot device from "The Final Chapter" that I don't want to get into here. It's too painful). Scrier seems like a rational being, and while he no longer needed Norman, he probably had no desire to kill him. He subsequently hot wired part of Norman's brain to where Norman will be content with what he has left and will not threaten Scrier.

As far as the cult knowing that Osborn is the Green Goblin and their being so fanatically devoted to him - I suggest that Norman is actually using some kind of mind control. Mind control is actually an old Osborn technique. The scientist Dr. Winkler, who invented the brain washing device that was used on Captain Stacy way back in Amazing Spider-Man #59-60, was working in Osborn's employ at that time. Harry used a mind control device on Liz to make her do his posthumous bidding in Legacy of Evil, and both Osborns used chemical hallucinogenic drugs on Peter Parker at one time or another. So, it's very plausible that while in the Osborn mansion, Norman was subjecting them to mind control, where they will forget their knowledge of Osborn's Goblin identity, as well as other matters when they leave, but will be subconsciously summoned by Osborn when he needs them again. They would have been under such control when they beat Dr. Bendix to death.

Another possible reason for the continued existence of the "cult" could possibly be found in looking at the events of one of the Marvel "Alternaverses," the Earth X universe. When we look at the mythology surrounding the Freemasons, for example, the fact that so many U.S. Presidents and other political and business leaders have been Freemasons have led many to speculate about supposed "control" that the fraternity exercises over important policymaking decisions, including hiring or appointing other Freemasons to prominent positions (I have my own opinion of whether or not this is true - but this is not the forum for it). In the Earth X Universe, Norman Osborn became the President of the United States after the destruction of Washington, D.C. during a battle between Crusher Creel and the Avengers which also pretty well wiped out most of that team. Not all of the details of Osborn's rise to power have been provided, but he was not elected, appointing himself President and taking over by sheer strength of will and power (and by manipulating the public into believing Earth was being invaded by a horde of aliens - a horde that his own companies literally manufactured). Still, Osborn needed help, and he got a big assist from Tony Stark, who helped him keep the peace with the Iron Avengers, created to replace the originals (Stark's motives were that Osborn was the best bet to keep the country unified as well as fed, since there is a food shortage in this particular future).

However, America is a big country, and based in New York, Osborn still couldn't pull a coup of this magnitude without more help, which may explain the continued existence of the Cult of the Goblin. It is entirely possible that in the regular Marvel Universe, Osborn is beginning to harbor political ambitions (in the Spider-Man novel Goblin Moon, Norman tries to orchestrate himself into the Mayor's office - and in Flash Thompson's fantasy in Amazing Spider-Man Volume 2 No. 7, Osborn is the Mayor of New York). Therefore, he would need supporters in many parts of the country, and in key industries. And that's where the cult comes in.

Still, they did look pretty dopey in those costumes. Can't rationalize everything I suppose.

Interestingly enough, the Order of the Goblin has played a significant role in various events in the pages of Spider-Girl. In this universe, Norman Osborn is long dead (really), but the Order lives on.

However, there was one person who seems to be devoted to Osborn without being subject to any overt exertion of control from him.

What is it with this creepy Menken character?
Someone who clearly is a very important part of Norman Osborn's life is Donald Menken, an executive officer with Osborn Industries. Menken first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #239 as the corporate officer briefing Harry Osborn on break-ins at various Osborn Manufacturing locations (break-ins perpetrated by the original Hobgoblin). Menken seems to have evolved from a simple corporate officer to a full-time toady and near-worshipper of Osborn (I'm not ready to make any comparisons between them and Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers - but that keeps cropping into mind for some reason). It seems unusual that Osborn would let ANYONE get that close to him, and it seems that Menken knows most, if not all of Osborn's secrets. I'm pretty sure he doesn't know Spider-Man's identity. At least Osborn was careful enough never to write that down in his diaries, and in this miniseries he states that "juicy secret" will stay his alone (although he did tell Mac Gargan in Marvel Knights Spider-Man as part of his back-up plan should he be incarcerated). However, it's apparent that the ties between Osborn and Menken go way back, because in the miniseries Hobgoblin Lives, Liz states that there's one person in Osborn Industries she really doesn't trust, Donald Menken, and that Menken was actually hired by Norman. Considering that it had been over "seven years" since Osborn's "death," (per Osborn Journals) that must mean that Menken had been with Osborn for quite some time. It's hard to pin down just how old Menken is, because he seems to have de-aged slightly from a paunchy middle-aged type to a more slender, younger man. So, I speculate that Menken probably joined Osborn Industries very early out of school, whether it be college, Harvard Business School, or whatever, and has been a lifer. I can't see Menken possessing such slavish devotion to Osborn if he had experience elsewhere, or had joined the firm as an older man. If he's in his early 40's, which is about the right age for an executive of a major corporation, then he has been with Osborn for almost 20 years. However, in the one-shot Legacy of Evil, Bugle reporter Ben Urich, who's been writing a book on the Osborn/Goblin legacy, interviews the Human Resources Director, who stated that Norman couldn't stand competition and got rid of everyone who he felt threatened him. Yet Menken not only seems to have survived, but thrived under Osborn, eventually becoming the de facto head of Osborn Industries until Harry was old enough and well enough to take over. And even then, under Harry, and later Liz, Menken seemed to continue to play a prominent role in the company.

But how had Menken survived so long in the employ of a psychotic personality? Particularly when Osborn didn't even spare the life of the man who actually did return his sanity to him - Dr. Bendix? And the fact that Menken actually seems to be able to survive questioning Osborn's judgment? And that Osborn told the Order not to allow any further harm to come to Menken, even after he tried to shoot Kolina in cold blood?

Norman's treatment of Dr. Bendix seems a little harsh under the circumstances, but it's not really that hard to understand after Robbie's comment in issue #3 that he was involved in a major malpractice trial years ago. It is likely that Bendix was a less than ethical physician, which probably gave Osborn less than full confidence in Bendix that the next time he needed money, he wouldn't sell Osborn out or try to blackmail him.

Menken is a different case. Norman being a control freak hired Menken himself, and was therefore familiar with his personality. We know that Norman hired him because Liz Osborn said as much during the miniseries Hobgoblin Lives. I suggest that Menken earned Osborn's almost complete trust decades ago in a business transaction. The easiest way to a business tycoon's megalomaniacal heart is to either to make him or save him money or face. Menken's predecessor may very well have botched one of Norman's schemes, legal or otherwise, something that could have ultimately exposed Osborn Industries to criminal charges and significant liabilities. Osborn would have fired (or worse) the bungling executive with Menken temporarily serving in his place. During a particularly heated staff meeting in which Norman was madly ranting and raving, Menken proposes a complex, but brilliant plan to bail Osborn Industries out of trouble. Grateful, Osborn would have appointed Menken to an executive position, which he excelled at. Menken may well have become Bud Fox to Osborn's Gordon Gecko (is that too much of an 80's pop culture reference?) with the exception of giving him Darryl Hannah. Menken probably helped preside over the growth of Osborn Industries by both legal and illegal means. Norman may also have realized that Menken was one of those people who was more than happy being someone's right hand man, with no desire to supplant the man at the top as long as that man ruled the roost. Plus, since it was evident to all that Norman always had in mind for Harry to take over the business, Menken settled comfortably into his position.

However, the events of Amazing Spider-Man #97-99 probably changed some of Norman's perspective. Norman had always considered Harry to be weak, but no doubt held out some hope that over time, he could whip his son into shape. Harry's near fatal drug overdose, though, sent a shock through his system, as he had to face Harry's mortality, as well as his own. It also confirmed to him that Harry just might be beyond redemption. However, I can't see Norman willing to allow his business empire to be torn apart or sold off after his death - which meant that he had to institute some kind of management succession plan at least to keep the company in family hands even if Harry was too addled to run it.

However, as we know by reading the classic Amazing Spider-Man #121-122, Osborn was running into some severe financial problems, which, along with another drug overdose by Harry, helped precipitate this, for the moment, last deadly turn at being the Goblin. On the phone, Norman states the fact that he'll be wiped out if his investments plummet any further. This actually makes Osborn's faking his "death" even more of a multi-pronged plan. In addition to allowing him time to fully recover physically (he just took a glider through the heart - no way he's gonna take on Spider-Man right out of the chute), and providing Harry with the opportunity to fulfill his own destiny as the Green Goblin, Osborn's "death" will also allow his companies to collect the payoff of no doubt several million dollars in Key Man Life Insurance policies - money that will buy the company time to keep out of bankruptcy (obviously after Norman's return, he would have had to settle with the insurance companies - but by then not only was Norman's company back on track, but he had also earned additional millions in his European criminal empire administered as the head of the Scrier cabal). Disappearing thus puts control of Osborn's company into the hands of the only person he could remotely trust with the business at this time (as no doubt dictated in the management succession plan) - Donald Menken.

Menken, knowing that he would be given this responsibility in the event of Osborn's death and Harry's continued immaturity, would have been flattered and grateful, and thus become even more devoted to the boss, even as he no doubt had to notice Osborn's increasingly erratic and troubled behavior. It probably didn't take long for Menken to piece things together. After all, the Green Goblin supposedly "died" after the events of Amazing Spider-Man #40 in a fire at Osborn Industries. Soon afterwards, Kraven the Hunter attacked Osborn in issue #45, babbling about Osborn fronting for the Goblin. Subsequently, Osborn disappears during Amazing Spider-Man #97-99 without telling anyone - even his secretary - and the Green Goblin goes on a rampage. Assuming that Menken has been with Osborn all of these years, it would have seemed more than coincidental to notice that each time Osborn has been hospitalized matches the appearance and subsequent disappearance of the Green Goblin.

Years after Osborn's death, Harry finally gets his act together and begins to assume the reigns of the company. Osborn Industries clearly is back on top and out of trouble. Still, it's doubtful that Norman fully trusted Harry - and thus it was likely that at one time in the intervening period, Osborn re-established contact with Menken and told him that he was alive. Subsequently, Menken continued to keep him informed of everything, allowing Norman to continue to pull the strings from afar.

It's obvious that that Menken knew that Osborn was alive and coming back, because in Sensational Spider-Man #10, Liz Osborn begins to investigate the connection between Osborn Industries and Multivex and requests certain personnel files from Menken. Leaving the room, Menken thinks to himself that Liz better not probe too deeply, lest she discover something that will cost her very dearly. And just what else could that "something" be?

Even the brief appearance of CEO John Stone (another forgotten Howard Mackie character) in Amazing Spider-Man Volume 2 No. 2 who is mentioned as trying to rescue Osborn from the mess left by its founder, does not really alter the facts about Menken. Remember, this was right after the Gathering of Five ritual, when Osborn was still a rambling and ranting nutcase. It was probably a full-time job for Menken to see to Osborn's welfare, including finding a doctor who could eventually cure him of his insanity, and Menken simply couldn't devote the time to running the company at this point. Hence, Stone - and hence the fact that he is no more now that both Menken and Osborn are back, unless of course, you want to factor in Mackie's notorious reputation for inventing characters and never following up with them.

Menken's loyalty probably also had ulterior motives - in addition to the fact that Osborn has likely made him a very wealthy and powerful man. Menken knows that the Goblin Formula is part of the Osborn Family legacy. The power of the Goblin was enough to intoxicate even a level-handed magnate like Roderick Kingsley. Although Kingsley, one of the most rational of Spidey's villains, never quite lost his sense of reality like so many others in a similar position, he still felt a thrill when he exercised the sheer physical power that the Goblin formula provided him, to the point that he just had to come out of retirement in Hobgoblin Lives. Therefore, how much more would the prospect of having such power intoxicate a toady like Donald Menken - who saw no other logical heir to Osborn and thus assumed the power would eventually be his?

As far as why Osborn doesn't simply kill Menken after the latter tries to shoot Kolina (after Osborn returns to his right mind - he did try to kill Menken in a madness induced rage until Kolina talked some sense into him), the answer is not really that complicated. Osborn, though insane, is smart enough to know a valuable asset when he has it. Osborn could simply control Menken mentally, but he knows that having Menken's voluntary worship is better than forcing his complicity. And, since this relationship has probably been cultivated for the better part of a quarter century, it may very well be irreplaceable to Osborn, and he knows it. Plus, Osborn may even realize that the fact that Menken was willing to kill Kolina because he felt she was a threat to Osborn shows just how devoted to the man he is (Menken is just as sick in his own way as Osborn is in his).

However, don't be confused - Menken is not Osborn's friend. Osborn has no friends, only allies, only tools. Maybe Menken thinks he is, but he isn't. The day could very well come when Osborn has no more use for him, and he would dispose of him without a second thought.

What's this wacky stuff about Osborn wanting Peter Parker as his heir?
A lot of folks had problems with this, which is understandable. After all, Osborn's only spent the better part of 13 or so years (Marvel time) plotting Peter's death, including that whole convoluted Clone Saga. And now he says that ever since Normie was born, he's wanted Peter as his heir? Then why try to kill him in the interim?

Hey, remember, Norman always has more than one plan, more than one option. The "heir" thing was one option - not the only one. You also have to remember that at the time that Norman began to consider Peter as his true heir, Harry was still alive. Norman still would consider Harry to be a weakling, and we know Osborn would never consider Menken an heir, so Peter became an interesting back-up plan for him. The Clone Saga was in its planning stages, but Osborn probably could have pulled the plug on that if he'd wanted to. However, when Harry died, Osborn's rage and emotions simply got the best of him, and he decided to go ahead with the "kill Peter" option out of simple, sweet revenge for the death of his son. Remember, Norman loved his son. He really did. He was his son, after all, his true heir. But, he didn't like him, trust him, nor respect him. And Norman Osborn would not be alone among parents in having those feelings. Osborn was still in the revenge mode when he returned in Spectacular Spider-Man #250. However, after the Gathering of Five ritual and its effects forced him to take a "time-out," he had the space in which to reconsider his options and decided to go ahead with the "heir" plot.

After relentlessly watching the videotapes where Spider-Man effectively cleans Norman's clock at the conclusion of "The Final Chapter," Norman probably finally realizes that he truly can't hope to beat Peter solely in a mano a mano physical face-off. To use a well-worn cliché, Norman's crazy, but he's not stupid. He's seen Peter pick himself up off the mat and pull himself together far too many times. After all, if the Clone Saga didn't crush his spirit...Therefore, to finally beat him, Norman has to make Peter choose to join him. This is similar to what Norman probably had in mind when he kidnapped Baby May during Part 3 of "Revelations." He wants a permanent, long-term revenge (though Baby May no longer exists in the "Brand New Day" era). Killing Spider-Man would give him a momentary high - but maybe Norman has realized (much like Doc Ock did during the Clone Saga before he too, "died" - well, temporarily), that if he did kill Peter - after hating him all of these years - well, what would he do for an encore? Maybe the solution is to "turn" Peter, rather than try to kill him. As Captain Kirk once said in The Wrath of Khan about his "unique" solution (cheating) to beating the Kobyashi Maru test "it had the virtue of having never been tried." Since Norman's truly terrific (in his mind) Clone Saga plot failed, well, let's try something completely different.

After all, having Spider-Man in his corner would work for some of Norman's long-term plans, particularly in dealing with other super-powered folks. Spidey isn't the most popular of superheroes, even among the superhero community - but he is respected. He can get his foot in the door at the Baxter Building and the Avengers mansion and the Xavier School. He knows a lot about these people, their powers and abilities - information that Osborn would need in any future ambitions of his.

And as much as an advantage it would be having someone with the power of Spider-Man behind him, Norman also realizes how brilliant Peter is from a scientific basis. Kingsley may have been on the right track when in analyzing a spider tracer, he made the observation that Spider-Man may be as gifted scientifically as Osborn (to which Spidey in an attack of hubris responded that he was better than Osborn). Norman has seen what Peter can do with limited time and resources - imagine, Norman probably thinks, what he could do with the Osborn company behind him?

But the main obstacle that Norman has to overcome in turning Peter Parker is the latter's unceasing and unrelenting hope and optimism in the face of the darkest times. Norman wants Peter to give in to that same angry, bitter, selfish despair that consumed him all too many years ago - the "I'm Mad as Hell," "Screw the World," "I'm in it for me." That's why Norman at the beginning of the limited series saw the "death" of Mary Jane as his perfect opportunity to crush Peter Parker, even though he had nothing to do with it. To have his beloved wife taken away from him in such an arbitrary fashion, it had to make Peter question the point of even being Spider-Man, when clearly nothing was in it for him. He can't even have the people he loves around him. It wasn't just drinking the Goblin formula, or joining Norman on some business or political crusade that would be the final step. Heck, it could have been green Kool-Aid in that vial. Why would Peter need "goblin powers" when it's clear that the powers he's already got may be superior to Norman's? It was a symbolic gesture - it was giving in to the hate and the anger that drinking from the vial represented - and Peter was as vulnerable at this point as he ever was. He nearly did give in, and that's why Osborn can celebrate something of a pyrrhic victory when he tells Peter he's already beaten him even though he's getting the crap kicked out of him when he makes this revelation.

But Norman makes a critical miscalculation, and I think that's what helps Peter turn the tide against Osborn at the end of this story. He forgot about Aunt May - whom Peter "sees" in the vial. Norman has threatened Peter with May before, even to the point of faking her own death with the genetically altered actress (groan - it hurts just to say that). At this time, with Mary Jane believed dead, May is probably Peter's last link with humanity. If May were still "dead" Norman might very well have turned Peter - but the fact that sweet old Aunt May was still alive was the one thing that made him realize that he couldn't give in to the hate and anger, no matter how much he might have wanted to.

So why didn't Osborn dispose of May prior to this? Well, in this case Norman literally outsmarted himself. One, since Norman had "faked" her death before, he probably had reason to suspect that it would not be nearly as effective a tactic this time. Second, and probably a better reason - Norman realizes he has to "give" something to Peter to keep him on his side. Yes, once he "turned" Peter, as long as May was alive that would probably give Osborn an edge to keeping Peter turned, at least in the early years while the old woman was still living and Peter might be more likely to not be completely under Osborn's sway - but more than that - as Norman Osborn's associate - think of all of the things Peter could give to Aunt May! Think of how he would have the resources to reward her for all she has done, and for all the pain he himself has caused her. He could do that - if he worked with Norman. It's a shame that Norman didn't press this case a little harder in the story. That might have made it a wee bit more comprehensible to readers who might wonder just how Peter could even consider getting in bed (not literally) with the man who engineered the murders of Gwen Stacy and Ben Reilly. The chance to do good for those he loves and for humanity in general with the Osborn fortune might have worked to sway Peter as well. Also, think about just how easily those deaths at Osborn's hands could be rationalized by Peter in a weak moment. Remember, Gwen was unconscious when Osborn threw her off the bridge; it was Peter snagging her suddenly out of the air with his webbing and breaking her neck that killed her. Both Peter and Osborn know that. Although Peter outwardly blames Osborn for her death, he knows that he has saved other people in very similar situations - but his own mishandling is what killed Gwen. Again, we're talking about a rationalization. And Ben Reilly? Sadly, a combat casualty. It isn't that impossible a stretch to think that Peter was on the verge of being turned. Remember, Peter is not a hero because he is above temptation; he is a hero in spite of it. He can still consider taking the easy way out - but what makes him a hero is that he resists the temptation.

So, Norman thought he had all of his bases covered and everything thought out. And once again, he proves that he underestimated Peter Parker and his humanity - which is why he tries to beat a hasty retreat ("sayonara gotta fly") - it sucks when a plan blows right up in your face.

But, the plot, though ultimately failed, does have an impact on Peter. In subsequent issues of both Peter Parker and Amazing Spider-Man our hero is weighted down by these events, knowing just how close, just how close, he came to willingly embracing everything he hated.

And that's the end of my evaluation of the Revenge of the Green Goblin miniseries.

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