Harry Osborn
The Goblin Prince
Part 2
Goblin in Crisis

PERSONAL DIGRESSION: Ah, college. Actually, I don't wax that nostalgic about it. I don't miss it. It was four very interesting years of my life, but I would NEVER want to relive them. I never want to be that stupid, naive, narrow-minded and intolerant ever again. But, I suppose if I hadn't been all of those things, I wouldn't have been 17-21 years old, wouldn't have enjoyed myself as often as I did, and wouldn't have learned the lessons I needed to learn. In the end, I left my college years relatively unscathed. END PERSONAL DIGRESSION

Unfortunately for Harry Osborn, his college experiences contributed to his permanent emotional scarring. Harry's own personality flaws and his crazy old man had already laid the groundwork for a ruined life, but then he fell in with the wrong crowd in college. There were two people in particular he probably would have been better off never knowing: Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. The first was a lousy friend. The second was a girl with whom he should have never become involved.

Harry made his most important college acquaintance when he met Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man #31, later inviting Pete to be his roommate in his swanky new pad in issue #46. Issue #44 is another turning point for Harry as he first lays eyes on Mary Jane Watson, the girl who later takes his heart for a drive and then sends it careening over a cliff. MJ comes to the Silver Spoon (the hangout before the group found the Coffee Bean, which ironically enough, Harry now owns in the “Brand New Day” continuity) looking for Peter and turns every head in the place. And the fact that Peter knows her and she's looking for him is as stunning as her blazing red hair and life of the party personality. It takes almost no time for Harry and Mary Jane to start spending some time together. The magnetic attraction between a hot girl and a hot car is a powerful force, as Harry is driving MJ to "where the action is" in issue #45, no doubt the Frenzy Ville A Go-Go disco that she told Anna Watson and May Parker she was going to (no relation to the Gloom Room A Go-Go, where MJ gets a job as a dancer in issue #59). Really, that's where MJ said she was going, and she knew a rich kid with a cool set of wheels that would look good showing up in. This would ostensibly qualify as Harry and Mary Jane's first date - although it is probably more a chance get together than a real date. MJ is clearly interested in Peter, and Harry is still likely carrying a torch for Gwen. In issue #46, after Harry makes Peter the apartment offer, he tells him to call Mary Jane and "I'll call Gwen" to double date. Peter thinks to himself "he's sure been seeing a lot of Gwen lately," being more than a wee bit jealous.

Peter really didn't have much to worry about in that regard, although it's apparent at this time that after a night of dancing with Mary Jane turns him on his head, Harry wants to know where he stands with Gwen. In issue #47 he jokingly asks her "why don't you admit that I'm the secret love of your life?" Later that issue, Harry refers to her as "my Gwen" to Peter. However, that night proves to be memorable for Harry, but for the wrong reasons, as Kraven the Hunter tries to kidnap him to force the hand of Norman Osborn - whom Kraven believes was an intermediary for the Green Goblin (who owed Kraven money for going after Spider-Man). In issue #50, Gwen turns down an offer to go out with Peter because she has a date with Harry, although she is clearly sending Peter signals that she'd rather be with him. In issue #51, Harry reminds Mary Jane that Gwen is his date, to which MJ responds only because Peter didn't ask her first, and Gwen takes the fifth.

So, is Harry in love with Gwen Stacy?
Well, that's hard to say. Probably a little. He is clearly attracted to her. After all, who wouldn't be? Still, as many years as they have apparently known each other, through high school and now college, there probably have already been some ground rules, either spoken or unspoken about their relationship, that it's not going in that direction. When we first meet Gwen in the Ditko issues, it's clear to all that she is advertising herself as available and enjoying every minute of it - and Harry doesn't seem to mind. So why is she dating Harry - is she cruelly just stringing him along? I don't think so. Dating Peter's roommate is a sure way of staying close to him and constantly reminding him that she's out there. It's is the safest way of keeping herself available - should that ever elusive Mr. Peter Parker finally start noticing her AND she can always create uncertainty in Peter's mind - that if he doesn't move soon - there are any number of acceptable candidates. Heck, Harry might even be in collusion with her. He's known Gwen long enough to know when she's seriously interested in someone - he may be working behind the scenes on her behalf saying "my Gwen" in front of Peter to test whether or not it makes him jealous. Regardless, Harry is no doubt very protective of Gwen and his relationship with her. They've been close for a long time, and she's filled a void in his life - always looking out for him, sticking up for him in the presence of others, and being her friend has guaranteed him a certain amount of social status. So, he doesn't have to be in love with Gwen to be jealous of her interest in Peter Parker. After all, if she starts spending all of her time with Peter - then he's alone again. Gwen's his buddy, and he still really doesn't know who this Peter Parker character is.

It's pretty apparent that Gwen did not consider Harry to be a potential romantic partner. For one, as we discussed in Why did it Have to be you, Mary Jane, like most young women who enter college, they want to play the field and see what else is out there. Also, Harry doesn't really appear to be Gwen's type considering what I think we've learned about her. Harry was an overtly sensitive, emotional male, of above average intelligence, but not an intellectual powerhouse. He also seems needy, and a lot of women do not like needy men. Contrast that with the woman he eventually married, Liz Allan - who became a nurse to take care of her stepbrother. We'll talk a little more about Liz in awhile, but she seemed like the type of person who wanted to be needed by someone. She spurned both Peter and Flash after high school for various reasons - but one of them was probably that it was pretty apparent that both of them could get along just fine without her, and she wanted to be the center of someone's life. And I think that judging by Gwen's attraction to Peter, and even to Norman Osborn in "Sins Past" (let's not debate the story, let's just accept it and move on) Gwen was drawn to men (1) with formidable intellects and (2) who were emotionally distant. Harry was clearly neither. And it's unlikely that comic book Harry is a playboy or has had a whole lot of success with women (I say this to distinguish him from movie Harry, as I doubt that any kid who looked like James Franco had any problems getting women). Although you would think a rich kid wouldn't have any trouble getting dates - he wasn't always rich. As we've examined earlier, it took a long time before Norman finally struck pay dirt. Harry was also rather nerdy himself (I mean - a bow tie - really!), and you know how much luck nerdy teenagers have with girls. It's a fair bet that his pal Gwen fixed him up now and then, and they would have double dated with Gwen and whoever she was dating at the time, but I doubt that any of these relationships really took hold. Gwen would approach one of her girlfriends about doubling and the response would often be "Harry Osborn? Eeeew." I can also see Harry being as awkward around girls, perhaps even as bad as Peter and doing and saying some really dumb things. Afterwards, Gwen would ask "Didn't your Dad tell you (fill in the blank)?" and of course, the answer would always be no. However, if Harry did consider Gwen a potential romantic partner at one time, it wasn't long before another young lady easily supplanted Ms. Stacy as the object of Harry's affection.

Harry and Mary Jane
When you read the original issues, it's interesting just how little Harry and Mary Jane's relationship was covered. We never saw them out together (unless it was with Peter and Gwen), never saw a moment with just the two of them, and were given very little context for how serious (or not) their relationship was. The only time we actually saw it in action was when MJ dumped him during the infamous drug issues in Amazing Spider-Man #96-98. We don't even know for sure when they started seriously dating. So, much of the following discussion is going to be inferences on my part. While issue #45 was their first outing, Gwen and Harry were still seeing each other, and Mary Jane pretty well made it clear that it was Peter Parker she was interested in. Peter and Gwen did not have anything resembling a date until they accompanied Professor Miles Warren to a demonstration of the nullifier in issue #53. Their relationship really didn't progress right after that because what followed was the storyline where Spidey lost his memory and thought he and Doc Ock were buddies in crime. And then, Gwen was mad at Peter because she believed that he assaulted her father in issue #60. So, Mary Jane still had every reason to believe that Peter might choose her over Gwen - but does she really want him to? She knows that he's Spider-Man and is more than a little spooked by him. Studious mama's boy by day - knuckle-busting costumed vigilante by night. Which one does she get if she becomes involved with him? But at the end of issue #62, when she sees Pete in a serious funk, she realizes that it is Gwen he is in love with, and that she doesn't really have a prayer with him at this time. To be honest, she's probably rather relieved. Harry Osborn may have been sloppy seconds, but he wasn't a bad consolation prize, not a bad one at all. He was rich, and his old man, although a bit weird, was a prominent figure in New York City. Harry had a nice car. He was a nice enough guy. And he really seemed to like her. Considering that she was in an emotional tug of war over whether or not to pursue a serious relationship with Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde Peter Parker, Harry seemed refreshingly normal. Although he was a slow starter, he followed her lead, and learned how to have a good time. And Mary Jane, with all of her problems and deep-rooted insecurities, was always looking for a good time to make the pain go away.

College Life at ESU
Without a doubt, the original issues of Amazing Spider-Man presented a virtually antiseptic view of college life - where when the kids weren't studying - they were out at the Coffee Bean doing nothing more harmful than dancing to a jukebox and getting caffeine buzzes. This was a REALLY strange parallel universe considering what went on during the late 60's and early 70's when the stories were first written. But it's not like there was much choice -the Senate hearings and Seduction of the Innocent were still pretty vivid memories to anyone employed in the comics field at that time. There was no way Stan and John Romita were going to show keggers and reefer parties in their full glory. Stan only became emboldened to do the drug story when an agency of the U.S. Government asked him to. Plus, since the stories revolved around Peter Parker, you weren't going to see that anyway because that isn't the type of person Peter was, or is, even today. He was raised by two old people and was as square as they came. But just what were Flash, Harry, Gwen, and Mary Jane doing anyway? There were lots and lots of parties. Harry probably tried to invite Peter to a few (and hosted some himself), but he was never around or never had time. I remember early in my Mary Jane series, I suggested that Mary Jane didn't take drugs, not because she was some puritan or "good girl" but because she didn't want to take the chance on letting her guard down. Alcohol in particular has a very nasty way of releasing all of one's inhibitions, and can turn normally reserved people into blubbering idiots. And yeah, I DO know what I'm talking about. A few drinks and MJ could have been a bawling mess, spilling out her life story. So, I still believe it's a valid intellectual argument that MJ avoided booze and drugs like the plague. But the more I think about it, particularly in the context of the 1960's when the stories were first written, I now have a hard time believing that Flash, Harry, Gwen, and Mary Jane didn't sit around and get trashed or high ever now and then. A big man on campus like Flash Thompson probably had pledged a fraternity - and even if he didn't, he still would have been a frequent guest at frat parties. Peter didn't need drugs or alcohol because being Spider-Man was his release, his rebellion against authority and his outlet for his teenage angst. Flash and Harry, on the other hand, were the poster children for teenagers dealing with unsympathetic and authoritarian fathers who were almost begging to have kids who rebelled against them and what they stood for. Flash's father was an alcoholic, as was Flash himself. And Harry was a rich kid with too much money, an inattentive father who didn't care what he was doing as long as he wasn't bothering him, and too much time on his hands. Gwen? Hmm - hard to say. First of all, I can imagine that while she adored her father, she probably enjoyed at times not having to be "Captain Stacy's daughter" with all of the generalizations and expectations that come with that. However, since she still lived with her father, and his approval meant the world to her, she'd have had to be very careful sneaking in and avoiding contact with him. And even then, a sharp old cop like him could pick out when a kid's had too good of a time. Where this is going is that Harry Osborn had clearly been using well before the drug issues. Even Peter made the observation that he always seemed to have a lot of pill bottles. And Harry had a lot of stress in his life. Even if Mary Jane did take a hard line against drugs and alcohol, and made Harry avoid doing that stuff in her presence, he had clearly acquired a taste for it at one time, and it wouldn't take much for him to become dependent.

Harry's Problems
Harry had three major factors working against him (1) he was falling too hard for a woman who didn't feel the same about him (2) he had a lousy father and (3) he had a lousy best friend. Yep - you heard me. Peter Parker was a crappy friend to Harry, and there's no telling the grief that Peter himself may have been able to avoid in the future if he had spent a little more time with Harry actually being his friend. But first of all, it's clear that Harry wasn't just in love with Mary Jane. He was completely smitten with her, which he came by honestly. After all, his old man, Norman, had his head turned around completely by Emily, a woman he met and fell in love with at college. Norman also fell hard and fast for his Swedish nurse in Revenge of the Green Goblin as well. Of course, there's a big difference between the future Emily Osborn and Mary Jane Watson. MJ was a heartbreaker and Harry Osborn was the type of kid begging to get his heart broken. Plus, as we'll see in the future - Harry and Liz Allan got engaged VERY quickly after they began dating.

But was Mary Jane ever really in love with Harry? Sadly, I don't think so. Even as late as issue #82, while out with Harry and in the presence of Flash and Gwen, MJ tells Peter "Maybe if you're all that groovy, you deserve Mary Jane." And I don't think MJ was the type to like needy men, either. She did not want to be responsible for anyone else's happiness, and she was terrified of commitment (although we didn't learn all of this until years later). Harry no doubt got pretty serious pretty fast. And no, I don't think they had sex. And I'm not touching on whether or not MJ was a virgin when she started sleeping with Peter, either. But in fairness, Mary Jane probably began to notice early some things about Harry that she didn't like. We have to realize that although Harry was a decent kid, he was still the son of Norman Osborn. And there are a couple of things that come with the Osborn genes: a bad temper, and an addictive, controlling personality. Remember that the Stacy-Osborn twins of “Sins Past” had violent tempers and an addiction to painkillers. Harry was likely possessive and very, very jealous, and MJ was not the type of girl who was going to let any man control her, or dictate what she did and didn't do, and who she could see. Even if Harry didn't turn to drugs, the chances for the two of them having a long-term relationship were not good. Peter's fantasy in the Earth X: Spidey special many years later of Harry and Mary Jane being happily married was just that - a fantasy.

But where Mary Jane really crushed Harry was in the Amazing Spider-Man 1996 Annual, which had two "untold stories" from the past. It's hard to pin down exactly when this story occurred. It was clearly before the death of Captain Stacy in issue #90, and with references to Robbie's and Captain Stacy's frequent meetings about Spider-Man, and Norman having severe headaches, I'd say it was a fair bet that this was happening around issues #65-75. In this particular story, Norman, tired of Harry being a weakling in his eyes decides to make a man out of him by hiring a bunch of punks to crash a college party and rough him up. Remember, it’s Norman Osborn we're talking about here, not Robert Young, Hugh Beaumont, or Fred MacMurray. Unfortunately, Norman gets more than his money's worth because one of the punks recognizes Captain Stacy, who's at the party (George must have been one hip old dude), and since Stacy put him in jail years before, what was originally just a scare job threatens to become violent. Fortunately, of course, Spider-Man saves the day, but during the confusion, one of the thug's drops his gun in front of Harry - and MJ screams at him to pick it up. Harry, around 18 or 19 at this time, has probably never even seen a gun in his entire life. With the exception of the rifle that Norman used to try to kill Mendel Stromm back in issue #37 - I doubt that Norman owned guns. They would have been way too mundane for him - a man who literally created a one-man arsenal with the goblin glider. So, Harry does what a lot of us would have done at that age and in that circumstance - stands there and craps his pants. MJ's a bit too hard on Harry in this issue, essentially calling him a coward. But, she happens to know that Spider-Man himself is just another 18-19 year old kid; so unfortunately, poor Harry is destined to lose by comparison. At the beginning of this flashback story, MJ already has hurt Harry by dismissing the idea that their relationship is a serious one, which leads into our next problem.

We already know all about Harry's father - but Norman really outdoes himself in this annual. After feeling emasculated by Mary Jane, Harry decides to seek some fatherly advice. Basically, he likes this girl more than she likes him - what does he do? Fairly normal question for a teenage boy to ask of his old man, isn't it? Norman initially appears sympathetic, but when he finds out that Harry's problem is about a girl - he goes ballistic and throws Harry out of his office.

Putting this into the perspective of Spider-history, we know that this is just one of a serious of clashes between Norman and Harry. Beginning with Amazing Spider-Man #61, Harry is beginning to notice that his father is beginning to revert to pre-ASM #40 form (the issue where Norman took a jolt of electricity and forgot he was the Goblin). Norman is having severe headaches, and dreams of the Green Goblin, but doesn't know why. Harry notices that Norman seems to get angrier every time that the Green Goblin or Spider-Man is mentioned. He can't make the pieces fit together and begins to think, "Maybe I don't want to." Not long after this story, in Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2 (or Amazing Spider-Man Annual #9, which reprinted it) Norman flips out and becomes the Green Goblin again and Harry gets a personal demonstration of just how strong and manic his father really is. And then there's this growing hostility and tension between his father and Peter.

Speaking of Peter, the rooming begins to turn sour for Harry fairly shortly. In issue #53, he states that he's tired of taking messages for Peter because he's never around, and is clearly ticked when he sees Peter later that day. He gives Pete a cold stare as he and Gwen come back from the nullifier demonstration. In issue #54, Harry invites Peter to breakfast, but before the latter even acknowledges him, Pete locks up his room so Harry can't enter. Naturally, he's putting away his Spidey stuff - but Harry interprets it as a lack of trust. Peter repeatedly disappears for days at a time, runs out on Harry when the latter wants to just sit and b.s., turns down offers to dinner and coffee, and frankly, is just generally a jerk to Harry. Of course, we know that Peter is Spider-Man and that he has to go kick some bad guy tail and save the city from the likes of the Kingpin, the Lizard, Silvermane, Doc Ock, and even Harry's old man. But is it possible that if Pete had spent a little more time with Harry, gave him someone to vent to when Norman was treating him like crap and acted like a friend who cared about him - could so much of what later destroyed their relationship, including Harry going nuts and turning into the Green Goblin himself been avoided? Definitely something to think about.

So let's run through the list: (1) MJ tells Harry she's not serious about him, and later calls him a coward for not acting decisively during the altercation with the Norman-hired thugs (2) Flash is off to war and unavailable to lean on (3) Harry's supposed new best friend, Peter Parker, never gives him the time of day, and when he is around, he's snuggling up to Harry's former best buddy Gwen Stacy, so she doesn't have any time for him, either and (4) he's rejected and humiliated by the man who's opinion and acceptance means more to him than anything else - his father - who's getting meaner and crazier by the minute. No amount of money can relieve the pain and loneliness he's feeling. But he remembered that he could buy happiness in a bottle. Except, now he needs it just a little bit more. And a little bit more.

Harry Osborn is a disaster waiting to happen.

And then the group is dealt another devastating blow. Gwen’s father, Captain Stacy, dies as a consequence of a battle between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus (Amazing Spider-Man #90). Harry has known Captain Stacy for many years, and while they were never particularly close, Harry likely would have deeply respected him as a good and decent man, and a pillar of strength and consistency as the rest of the world seemed to be convulsing (again, think of the times in which these stories were originally written). And while Harry never had any use for J. Jonah Jameson, on the other hand, and never understood why he and Norman were friends, nor believed his yellow journalism, he would still be concerned about the unanswered questions relative to Spider-Man’s role in Stacy’s death. His good friend Gwen clearly believed that Spider-Man was responsible. After the Captain’s death, both Peter and Gwen withdraw even further, leaving Harry alone, isolated, and with way too much free time on his hands to feel sorry for himself…

The First Overdose
That Harry turned out to have an addictive personality shouldn’t be a surprise. He had both genetics and environment working against him. First of all, there's evidence in Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #14 and Revenge of the Green Goblin that Harry's grandfather was an alcoholic. And while Norman clearly enjoys his hard liquor, his addictions are of an entirely different nature - money and power. In fact, considering that goofy Goblin constitution of his and healing factor - it's debatable whether or not Norman can even get drunk (I’ve heard the same about Wolverine). I have also heard that addiction can skip generations, so this could explain Norman’s lack of substance addiction, whereas his children (Harry, Sarah, and Gabriel) were all addicted to something.

What was especially crushing to Harry was that he began to notice some changes to Gwen’s personality and feelings about him. He never really understood everything that happened, but it was his understanding that his father had helped Spider-Man save Gwen and Captain Stacy’s lives when they had been kidnapped by the Kingpin (Amazing Spider-Man #60). He knew that Gwen had been pretty shaken up – who wouldn’t have been? But – something else seemed wrong. She was avoiding him, almost as if she were ashamed to look at him. And she began to become increasingly moody and physically ill. And whenever he asked his father about his heroic turn, Norman became hostile and refused to discuss anything about it, even when Harry simply wanted to tell his father how proud he was of him. But then again, Norman’s heroism only made Harry feel even more worthless, more incapable of living up to his father’s legacy, as he remembered his recent failure to act when thugs had crashed a party and one dropped a gun right in front of him (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #96).

And this is where Peter Parker really failed Harry. With no mother, no grandparents or any other family he could lean on, Harry desperately needed his friends. His girl wasn’t as much “his girl” as he had thought, and his father wouldn’t talk to him. And Gwen? Gwen has left the country (issue #94), ostensibly because she is overcome with grief as a result of her father’s death, although there seemed to be something else going on. He desperately needed to be able to vent his problems to someone, but no one was there. So, when Harry, high on drugs, tells Peter that he wants him to vacant their apartment in issue #97, while seeing Pete with MJ is the trigger for his emotional (and not serious) ultimatum, Harry is really unloading months of repressed anger, hurt, and disappointment at his roommate. And it’s very, very possible, that Harry is beginning to suspect what darker secrets are being kept from him…

Admittedly, how much of Harry’s issues we can put at Pete’s door is subject to debate. Norman Osborn, of course, was a key factor in the ruin of his son’s life. And there’s no doubt that Harry himself fumbled the ball on his own destiny. As I discussed in Why did it Have to be you, Mary Jane? MJ put Harry down hard, almost cruelly - partially as a result of his extensive drug use. But it’s apparent that she tried to bring Peter’s attention to the problem by coming onto him (probably not the smartest approach one could take), but Peter wouldn’t even talk to her.

We talked earlier about how Harry probably started doing drugs earlier. And the events we’ve described above precipitated his slide into dependency. So much has been said about Harry’s overdose, which occurred in issue Amazing Spider-Man #97 that I really don’t feel that there’s anything even a rambling motor mouth like myself can add. We’ve all heard the story of how the Department of Health, Education and Welfare approached Stan Lee and asked him to do a story on drug abuse and how the Comics Code Authority wouldn’t approve it, and then looked like utter fools when it became a celebrated story. Lee still gets a lot of mileage out of that story, and even Marvel EIC Joe Quesada mentioned that it was the story that brought him into comics – if only because his dad thought it would “teach him a lesson.”

The conclusion of issue #98 is significant for Osborn watchers, because it’s one of those rare instances when the veil of madness and ego that surrounded Norman Osborn was pierced. During the course of their battle, Spider-Man is able to gain the upper hand on the Goblin, and forces him to go to the hospital where Harry is currently being treated. The site of his son, pale, comatose, and near death cracks open the tightly controlled and hidden reservoir of genuine love that Norman feels for his son, and those sudden waves of emotion are more than even Norman Osborn can bear. To see a child of yours that close to losing his or her life, and facing the fact that YOU have failed your child – YOU weren’t there when they needed you the most - I hope that’s nothing I ever experience. The seeds of this current collapse and brief re-capture of his sanity were probably planted during a confrontation with Peter Parker earlier in the issue. As Osborn crashes through Harry and Pete’s apartment intending to administer a whuppin’ to his arch enemy, seeing Peter cradling Harry’s fragile form in his arms forces the green garbed one to turn on his heels and run away.

Unfortunately, each period of sanity for Norman is shorter and shorter. In many ways, the Norman Osborn of the post-massive shock in Amazing Spider-Man #40 was not the real Norman Osborn. That jolt was responsible for literally altering his personality as several areas of the memory center of his brain were overridden. As time went on, Norman’s true personality began to reassert itself, temporarily chased back into its hiding spot from time to time, but soon to be released forevermore.

So while Norman is concerned about Harry, he fails to truly help him the way he needs to be helped. Even at this time, Harry probably needs extensive therapy and treatment, since this deadly overdose didn’t just happen, but was the result of the culmination of years of abuse and emotional neglect. But as always, Norman thinks he knows best. He no doubt refuses to consider that Harry’s problems could be the result of a treatable medical condition, and that it is simply because his son is “weak.” He also likely has zero faith in the medical profession, considering how it failed his beloved wife many years earlier. It’s hard to muster up any sympathy for a monster like Norman Osborn, but it’s very likely that there were only two people that he every truly loved in his entire life up to this moment. One had long ago died, and now he was perilously close to losing the other.

Harry gets clean for awhile, and comes back in issue #105, but he really doesn’t come clean. Nothing much has really changed in his life. Perhaps out of a sense of guilt, and a desire to keep the social circle of friends together, Harry and Mary Jane get back together, but there clearly is no spark to their relationship. Both Gwen and Flash Thompson come back from their respective overseas adventures, and while Gwen seems to have recovered somewhat from her odd behavior, Flash is suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome due to his war experiences. And Peter has to deal with the sudden problem of his Aunt May taking up house with Doctor Octopus, as well as health complications of his own, brought about by a nasty ulcer. And after a brief respite, Norman is flipping out again. So without ongoing professional help, and no real change in the circumstances of his personal life, Harry goes back to his old, bad habits.

But he is about to be dealt the cruelest blow of all, and one from which he will never recover and which will torture him for the rest of his life, regardless of when it ends.

It's hard to pin down exactly when Harry realized that his father was the Green Goblin and Peter was Spider-Man. We never saw Norman tell him any of these secrets, but in the age of retcons, that doesn’t mean anything anymore. Harry clearly sensed something was wrong as early as issue #61 when pondering his father’s problems, as he wondered if he really wanted to have the answers. There were so many indications over the years that Norman Osborn was more than he appeared to be. The sudden relief from their financial problems, which had hounded Norman for years, made Harry wonder what Norman did to suddenly become flush with cash (we know that he was creating supervillains for the Businessmans’ Secret Cabal). All of the late hours, the locked doors, and the strange phone calls. And there was Norman’s growing obsession with the cape and cowl set, and how he would watch news footage of battles between superheroes and villains as closely as a drunk, gun-toting Cheesehead watches a Green Bay Packers football game, becoming extremely angry when the bad guys lost, as if he had some personal stake in the matter. Not to mention his increasingly manic hatred of Spider-Man. There was also Norman’s inexplicable strength (Harry got a first hand glimpse of this in Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #2, when Norman barreled out of the hospital knocking everything and everyone in his path out of the way) as well as the appearances and disappearances of the Green Goblin which seemed to be eerily timed to his father’s emotional breakdowns and sudden recoveries.

Speaking of people exhibiting great strength, there was the little incident in Amazing Spider-Man #80, when Peter Parker, thinking that Flash Thompson was seeing Gwen Stacy behind his back, effortlessly picked up Flash with one hand and was ready to clean his clock. Then there was the time in issue #57, when Harry found one of Spider-Man’s electronic tracers in Peter’s room. Not to mention, Pete’s disappearances and his refusal to allow Harry into his room, as if he were hiding something. And then there was Peter’s really weird behavior in issue #87, when he walked into Gwen’s birthday party delirious, holding Spider-Man’s mask, claiming to be Spider-Man – which brought to mind a little incident from years ago (issue #12) where Doctor Octopus unmasked Spider-Man to reveal the face of Peter Parker. Everyone just assumed then that Peter was faking being Spider-Man to save Betty Brant, but as Harry says “what the heck would make him do it a second time?”

Each incident, alone, means little or nothing. Taken together, and I think there’s good reason that Harry was beginning to stumble onto the truth. But, he has no proof at this time, only suspicions.

Flash forward to Amazing Spider-Man #119 (April 1973) as Peter makes the observation that "Harry has been acting odd lately." When he spots Harry, the younger Osborn collapses into his arms, which brings a head on confrontation with Norman Osborn, who is clearly in the midst of another breakdown. Next issue, Gwen calls Peter to tell him that Harry has been doing drugs again, and as usual, Peter missed all of the warning signs, prompting Gwen's chiding of "Peter, you're so naive." This time, however, Peter realizes what a shitty friend he has been as it finally occurs to him "Maybe what Harry's needed all along is a friend, someone to talk to, not a roommate who vanishes at sundown."

Of course, Pete has his troubles too – after Aunt May leaves to take up house with Doctor Octopus, Peter intercepts a mysterious letter to her from a lawyer in Canada, and is off to investigate. But when he comes back home, he finds out that Harry has completely tripped out again (LSD was the culprit – one of the drugs of choice in those days), setting the stage for one of the most significant moments in comic book history.

The Deaths of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn
We all know what happened and what led up to it. Between his crushing financial problems, Harry’s health, and his own demons, Norman Osborn permanently gives free reign to his true personality, becoming the Green Goblin and embarking on what for more than 20 years was considered his final, fatal mission. We know that after Norman appeared to have been killed by his glider, Harry emerged from the shadows to change his father out of his Green Goblin garb, so that his secret life would remain secret, and that Spider-Man would be blamed for the death of innocent industrialist Norman Osborn.

But – how did Harry know where to be? Spider-Man only found the Goblin when he asked Joe Robertson to investigate Osborn’s property holdings. With all that Norman owned, how could Harry have picked the right one? When last we saw him, when Peter went into the Osborn townhouse in issue #122 looking for Norman, Harry was still in bed, raving and delirious. He had to literally be right there, watching the battle unfold, in order to move as fast as he did to protect Norman’s secrets. He also had to be ready and waiting at the coroner’s office in order to make the payoffs necessary to ensure that there would be no autopsy of his father’s body.

There is one explanation that makes the most sense, and we can actually see a hint in a What If? tale from over a quarter of a century ago (hey, you know you like to read this for some of the obscure stuff I can pull out). In What If volume 1 #21" (1980), the famous "What If Gwen Stacy Hadn't Died?" issue, written by Tony Isabella, Peter is able to rescue Gwen after the Goblin pitches her off the bridge, by propelling himself and catching her in midair, rather than trying to snag her with his web line. After a confrontation scene where Peter tells Gwen everything, he goes looking for the Green Goblin to settle the score. When Spider-Man finds the Goblin, the latter is making a pitch to lead the crime gangs of New York. Osborn escapes with his head still attached to his shoulders only because Spidey is able to defuse his rage by knocking around the scores of thugs whom Osborn sics on him. Never having seen Spider-Man so ready to kill him, Osborn runs to his townhouse and while there, tells Harry the whole story of the Green Goblin, including his and Peter’s dual identities (of course, a flaw in this story is that Harry is totally in his right mind), determined to get his son to join in his crusade against Spider-Man.

Remember, Norman always has backup plans. Knowing that the webslinger’s rage is going to be at a fever pitch due to Gwen’s death, Norman decides that whether or not Harry is ready, he’s going to have to be brought into the Goblin fold. However, Harry is still talking to smoking caterpillars sitting on mushrooms and hearing Grace Slick in his head. But Norman’s got that angle covered as well. He injects Harry with a solution to overcome some of the more serious effects of the drugs he has taken (remember that Norman is a bio-engineering expert). So why didn’t Norman just inject Harry with the Goblin formula then? Well, the last time Norman himself was exposed to it, he was incapacitated for several weeks, and didn’t want to risk doing the same to Harry, since what good would THAT do him (obviously in the intervening years Norman did modify the formula which he gave to his other son, Gabe). Plus, Norman had to overcome the effects of the LSD on Harry – the Goblin formula wouldn’t accomplish that – and the combination of the stimulant and Goblin formula would have killed him. And so, as Harry returns to coherence, Norman tells him the whole sordid tale of the Green Goblin and Spider-Man, and tells Harry to meet him at the specified address if he wants to see the truth about his dear friend, Peter Parker.

However, Norman doesn’t know that Harry actually made it, which explains his surprise in Glenn Greenburg's excellent The Osborn Journal (February 1997), when after his "resurrection," Norman discovers Harry paying off the coroner and then finds him at one of his Goblin hideouts, where Harry is in costume and practicing with the equipment. This would explain why Harry already knows that Peter is Spider-Man (referring to the fact that he says to himself “I’ll continue the war on Parker,”) and why, in issue #123, when Peter runs into Harry in their apartment, Harry just glares at him, wordlessly, refusing to talk to him. Harry knows. If we skip ahead another year, Harry in dramatic fashion finds out in Amazing Spider-Man #134 & 135 that Peter is Spider-Man, but it’s his choice of words in #134, where he says "So, it’s as I’ve always suspected - Peter Parker is Spider-Man." It’s possible that the thought may have crossed Harry’s mind as early as the day he found the spider tracer, but quickly dismissed it. But as we’ve noted, the coincidences became too numerous to ignore (but then again, you would wonder why everyone else in Peter’s inner circle hadn’t already doped it out as well).

I think it’s curious that Harry did NOT attend Gwen’s funeral in issue #123. A later scene with Peter would lead us to believe that Harry was busy with his father’s lawyers settling the estate – but I believe that the real reason Harry did not go was because he couldn’t bear to. He may believe that Peter Parker killed his father – but he knows that his father killed Gwen. Norman may even have confessed that to Harry, explaining why Spider-Man would be in full fury in the upcoming battle.

Harry was already messed up – but can you imagine what kind of information he had to process in a short period of time? First of all, he finds out that his father, the man whose love and attention and approval he has so desperately craved all of these years, is a psychopathic costumed criminal and a murderer. And not only that – he murdered Harry’s oldest and one of his most dear friends. We’ve talked about how important Gwen was to Harry, how she looked after him, protected him, and provided him with a sympathetic ear when his father was too busy to talk to him. And then he finds out that his best friend is Spider-Man, and he and his father have been carrying on a private little war behind his very back! Both have been lying to him, deceiving him, and worse of all, completely cutting him out of what was clearly an important part of their lives. It’s as he never mattered to either one of them – or anyone, for that matter.

As visitors to my site know due to the memorial I have for him, my own father died in 2001, of pancreatic cancer, an insidious and nasty piece of work of a cancer, but in an ugly way, mercifully short as far as cancers go. Once the doctors find it, you really are one of the walking dead. My father died 50 days after diagnosis.

The death of anyone you love rips a piece of your heart out, and it never full heals. Fortunately, my father and I didn't have any unfinished business, nothing left unsaid. I was 37 when he died and had long made my peace with him and his flaws (he was flawed - I was perfect!). But Harry was only around 20 when his father “died.” He probably never heard Norman tell him that he loved him, at least not since Emily died. He never had his father's approval, never had his acceptance. He always came up short. And he also never stood up to him, never "had it out with the old man," a sort of cathartic exercise for some men who need a clear, definitive moment when they cross the threshold from childhood to manhood.

Harry continues to burn his bridges. He sends Mary Jane away in tears in issue #125, and rejects one last attempt on her part to communicate in issue #126, where we also see that Harry has his father's Goblin costume and realize that it was he that removed it (not like it was much of a mystery). In issue #127, he freaks out at Peter and screams "We are not friends, Parker, we never have been. We just shared an apartment. That's all!"

Sadly, he was more right that he realized.

Harry Osborn is again alone, isolated, and angry. And now, he’s going to make them all pay….

The Second Green Goblin
It was 1974. Even all of these years later, I can remember the anticipation in my 11-year-old mind at this next chapter in the Spider-Man Saga. After the conclusion of issue #135, when Harry enters one of his father's old lairs and the announcement that next issue will be the blockbuster of the year "The Green Goblin Lives Again!" I was forever hooked on Spider-Man. Yes, this was the moment. It was a long 30 days between issues - and I repeatedly asked my mother to look for Amazing Spider-Man #136 every time she went to the newsstand (yes, a newsstand - not a specialty shop. Sigh). And finally - there it was - the coolest comic cover I had ever seen up to that point. And you can tell by the scan that it's the well worn original (I don't think I began bagging and boarding until the late 1980's). The dominant image of the Goblin and Spider-Man locked in a struggle to the death, with smaller images of Peter Parker and Harry Osborn also facing off just screamed BUY ME! BUY ME! It illustrated a key reason why I always loved (not that way, perverts) the Green Goblin in most of his various incarnations. When Spidey fights the Goblin, particularly an Osborn – it isn’t a battle between good guy and bad guy – it's personal! The Goblin is the foe that Spider-Man can never find a permanent refuge from, the villain whose legacy will haunt him forever, no matter who wears the costume, or a reasonable facsimile.

Harry’s first appearance as the second Green Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man #136 (September 1974), starts out on an ominous note, with Harry rigging a bomb in his and Peter’s apartment to detonate upon entry, seriously injuring Mary Jane, who was with Pete at the time (fans of the 1990's Fox cartoon will recognize that this scene was also played out in Harry's first turn as the Goblin in the series, the episode "Return of the Green Goblin," except that Liz Allan accompanied Peter to the apartment). After the first battle in issue #136, which Spider-Man survives only because Harry ran out of little sparklies in his purple gloves, issue #137 features Harry kidnapping Aunt May, Flash, and MJ, and placing each in a different location throughout Manhattan. Each location has a bomb, but only one is real - and Pete has only enough time to reach and defuse one. If he doesn’t make the right choice, the one “most dear” to Peter dies. Fortunately, our hero guesses correctly (it was Aunt May, as if I had to tell you), and after rescuing all three, he easily cleans Harry’s clock. A raving young Osborn is carted away to a mental hospital proclaiming the one thing that Peter dreaded hearing the most – the public revelation of his secret identity as Spider-Man. However, considering that this news is coming from a 20 year old boy with obvious psychological problems who claims to be the Green Goblin, he’s given as much credibility as Barry Bonds when the latter says he didn’t knowingly use steroids.

Of course, at this stage of the game, Harry really had very little chance against Peter. While it can be reasonably assumed that it has been a year since Gwen and Norman's death, and Harry has been training on the glider (and probably working on his fighting skills during this time), he still is no match for a battle hardened super-powered warrior like Spider-Man, hence his reliance on gimmicks such as gas and the old kidnapping the loved ones gimmick.

There is a debate on whether or not the original Green Goblin was supposed to have super strength to begin with. In fact, the original Handbook of the Marvel Universe states that none of the Green Goblins had super powers. I suppose they would have explained Norman's strength that he exhibited in the original Spectacular Spider-Man #2 as that born of a manic rage, much like being high on PCP gives its users apparent super strength (while they probably break every bone in their bodies - and yes, I saw The Terminator). That the Goblin had super strength is something that only firmly took hold when Roger Stern created the Hobgoblin, who theorized that there had to be something that allowed Norman Osborn to fight head to head with Spider-Man. Of course, at this stage of the game in 1974, there is no reference to a "Goblin Formula," or any "Osborn Journals." You would have thought that once Harry learned the truth about his father, that he would have scoured all of the old hideouts, and discovered the references to the Goblin formula and the super strength it provided. However, it is possible that Harry did, and dismissed the idea of using the formula on himself, because he remembered how the exploding formula had nearly killed his father years earlier (remember, he erroneously believed that he himself was responsible). Also, he believed that the formula had driven his father mad - and at this stage of the game, Harry does NOT consider himself crazy, even though it's pretty clear that he's working on being a full case nut job like his old man. Therefore, he probably surmises that that will be his edge on Spider-Man, that he will be a clearer and more rationale thinker, which will compensate for his lack of super powers.

Oh well.

Now, I might be stretching things, but the fact that Harry gave Peter a pretty dead-on clue as to which location had the real bomb leads me to believe that he had no true desire to kill May – perhaps telegraphing a subconscious “Please Stop Me Before I do Something Incredibly Stupid.” After all, he could simply have blown all of them up while forcing Peter to watch. But then again, supervillain cliché #2 (#1 is wasting your time telling the hero the details of your evil plot which allows the hero time to beat you) is to actually give the hero the means to thwart you. And as we saw several years later during Harry’s final turn as the Goblin during the 1990’s – after he has made his irrevocable choices and is determined to kill Spider-Man – he promises that no harm will come to Peter’s loved ones.

Behind the scenes (and this is all MadGoblin speculation for those of you who question where "reality" ends and my analysis begins), Norman Osborn, believed dead, watches from an ocean away with bitter disappointment as his son fails to honor the legacy he has inherited and embarrasses the hell out of the Osborn name. Norman approaches the only person he dares share some of his secrets with – Donald Menken – his Chief Financial Officer at Oscorp, revealing that he is indeed alive (I speculated about Osborn’s and Menken’s relationship in Goblin Love – no, I’m not talking about that kind of love – there ain't no slash here “Ms”). As there is no other family, and no one else that Norman can remotely trust, he charges Menken with getting Harry put away to where he can do no more harm to him or his father’s reputation. Norman is so furious that he would just as soon have Harry hidden away in a padded cell, raving madly as punishment for his failure, but Menken is able to convince Norman that he can’t do that – than Harry can be treated. Of course, Menken’s motives are probably not altruistic nor out of any real concern for Harry’s well being. With Norman officially dead, and Harry as the only living Osborn relative, and Oscorp a largely privately held company, the continued survival of the company as an intact entity, and one that Norman will still be able to control and oversee through Menken, depends on there being an Osborn to inherit and run it. And Menken helps Norman see this, one reason among many that Osborn relied on Menken over the years.

So, the answer as to why Harry didn’t blow the lid off the whole Osborn Legacy when he was incarcerated in an institution was simply because no one would have believed him. It could be reasonably assumed that a 20-year-old kid with at least one confirmed case of a drug overdose (we know at least one is confirmed because Jonah and Robbie were discussing disclosing it in the Bugle), a history of drug abuse (the cops had probably pinched some of Harry’s suppliers during routine investigations and knew he was buying – but couldn’t do much with it considering who his old man was), and whose father was apparently brutally murdered, could lose it and dress up like a costumed clown on a power fantasy trip. Also, I don’t believe that Harry incriminated his father anyway, particularly since he had gone to such great lengths to shield his father’s dual life in the first place. Additionally, Menken would have had an army of lawyers swarming Harry so as to protect the Osborn family name, and to protect Harry from himself. This would partially explain why Harry was able to escape criminal charges for blowing up his and Peter's apartment. After all, Harry not only endangered Peter and MJ's life, but ANYONE within proximity of the apartment (I surmise that Spider-Man was able to get Aunt May, Flash, and MJ back to where they belonged before the effect of the drugs Harry had used on them wore off - although now that I think about it - it would have been hard to explain just how Mary Jane disappeared from the hospital considering the regular rounds that medical staff make). However, considering that neither Peter nor MJ would be eager to press their own charges against Harry, and with the Osborn lawyers, it is reasonable to assume he got off with a suspended sentence if he was committed to an institution for treatment. Menken probably even picked the psychiatrist who would treat Harry – getting the best that Osborn money could buy – as well as one who could be relied on to keep his mouth shut if he DID learn anything – Barton Hamilton.

Finally receiving the medical attention he has always needed, and without his father meddling in the process, Harry begins to respond to both drug and psychotherapy. However, after awhile, although Harry has stopped being a raving lunatic - he is unwilling to cooperate with his shrink as far as providing any insight into his short, but troubled life. Hamilton decides to use hypnotic therapy to get to the truth. Calmly, in a trance, Harry provides the details of how his life went off track, beginning with the death of his mother Emily and its devastating impact upon his father. To Hamilton, this begins to appear to have the makings of a classic textbook case - rich boy grows up feeling unloved by an abusive father figure, turns to drugs, freaks out, dresses in a funny costume. Hey, some people when they go crazy start shooting at cops or running through town naked. Dressing up in a supervillain costume probably doesn't really rank. Hamilton figures this is going to be some easy money – but then Harry’s story begins to get REAL interesting...

Harry's Return
Harry's story begins anew with Amazing Spider-Man #151(December 1975) - although he is actually "sensed" by Spider-Man before he is seen later by Peter Parker (I'll fill you in more on this later). This issue begins with what none of us knew was going to be one of the most pivotal and notorious events in Spider-Man history - where Spider-Man disposes of what he believes to be the dead body of his clone. Of course, none of us realized until more than 20 years later just how pivotal this scene was - particularly when Marvel tried to dupe us into believing that it was the clone who was disposing of the real Peter Parker. But I ain't going there. Not now.

On page 2 - Spider-Man's spider sense tingles as he believes that someone is spying on him, but he sees no one and just chalks it up to paranoia and the hell his life has been lately. And as months went by - this seemed like a long forgotten and irrelevant moment - but we all underestimated the Master Plan of new spider scribe Len Wein, who debuted in this issue as the writer of Amazing Spider-Man. In fact, looking back, it's apparent as we are now in an era of plots and loose ends that either seem to go nowhere, linger forever, or are unsatisfactorily resolved, that Wein deserves a lot of credit for some strong and tight plotting during his 30 issue run on Spider-Man. He had one overriding story throughout his entire run (the return of the Green Goblin) and several subplots which moved the characters in the Spider-Man Universe forward, and of course, who can forget that he gave us - the Rocket Racer in issue #172! The one subplot he didn't wrap up, though, was the mysterious house hunter in issue #170 that was looking to buy the old Parker home for the secret it possessed. That was left up to Marv Wolfman, who delayed following up on that storyline so he could conclude it in issue #200. Wein was also the editor at the time - historical note to Marvel fans - it was this dual "writer/editor" situation held by several at Marvel, including Marv Wolfman, that future Editor in Chief Jim Shooter brought to an end - sending ripples and hard feelings through the Marvel Universe that linger to this day.

It seems like just another day of classes on page 5 at old ESU, as Peter is brooding about the death of Professor Miles Warren (surely, I don't have to tell you who he was) in the company of none other than the lovely Mary Jane Watson. MJ thinks she recognizes the person hunched over the water fountain - and sure enough - look who it is.

However, the hip, partying Harry Osborn we knew prior to the famous Amazing Spider-Man #121-122 is long gone, replaced by a simple, almost childlike version of Harry. He is only a fraction of the man he was, overly polite and deferential, and it's clear he's doped up pretty heavily on anti-psychotic drugs, combined with hypnotic therapy (as he no longer remembers that Peter is Spider-Man or his "late" father's connections to the Green Goblin). I remember meeting a guy on lithium who moved and talked like he was in a perpetual fog. Harry later appears at a party given by J. Jonah Jameson for those engaged lovebirds Ned Leeds and Betty Brant, and makes peace with Mary Jane over their failed relationship. By the way, the party is a real treat for JJJ fans, as Jonah is at his curmudgeonly and cheapskate best.

In issue #152, Flash tells Peter that Harry has accepted his offer to be his new roommate. After Pete briefly stayed with Flash (in issue #138) after Harry blew up their apartment, Flash decided that he liked having company, and therefore asked Harry to shack up with him. This probably turns out to be an important part of Harry's therapy, as it precluded him from being alone for extended periods of time - which as you know by reading this series - helped get him in trouble in the first place.

At first blush, such an offer seems to come out of the blue, particularly from the manners-challenged Flash Thompson, whose blue collar background and jock personality seems incongruous with wealthy, spindly and nervous Harry Osborn. But it is in character for Flash. For one, even though back to his earliest days he was a bully and buffoon, he was never truly a bad person, something that tends to be forgotten from time to time by various spider-writers (Mackie and Byrne's particularly disgusting take on Flash after the reboot is a prime example). Plus, Harry and Flash both had lousy fathers in common. Also, Flash is a Vietnam War veteran who was changed and matured by his experiences, and who recently returned to civilian life - no mean accomplishment. It's very likely that Flash himself had to spend some time in therapy to deal with his post traumatic stress syndrome, and therefore he probably is very sympathetic towards Harry's attempts to re-adjust after institutionalization.

But it wasn't long before Harry's most important relationship, behind only the ones with Peter and his father, began to take shape.

Issue #156 (May 1976) features Ned and Betty's wedding, and as the ceremony commences, we see Harry sitting next to Liz Allan, who only recently returned to the Spider-Man Universe in issue #132, after more than a 100 issue absence. Of course, this being a superhero comic, no event can take place without being crashed by a supervillain and his cronies. This time, it's Z-List supervillain Mirage (a poor man's Mysterio) showing up with larceny in mind. Mirage grabs Liz's purse and poor Harry, with a misplaced gallantry, tries to prevent it - only to be swatted away by Mirage. Although unsuccessful, this innocent act of attempted heroism forever changes Harry's life.

In issue #157, after Harry is coming out of a therapy session, he is met by Flash who offers him a ride home. Harry tells him that his sessions are going well according to "Dr. Banning." We later learn that Harry's doctor is actually Dr. Barton Hamilton. More than likely when Wein decided to formally introduce the character several issues later, he settled on a name that he actually liked better. It could be speculated that Hamilton was probably only one of a number of doctors in this particular complex, and Harry, who's still a bit wobbly at this point, simply confused names. He tells Flash that he remembers nothing from the weeks after his father died. But right then, Liz Allan is knocking at the window and asking Harry out on a date, referencing his earlier act of bravery (talk about coincidences, but hey, back then we only had 17 pages per comic, so there was nothing like a good coincidence to keep the story moving). Even though "not exactly operating on all thrusters" Harry knows a good offer when he gets it, and he and Liz leave together arm in arm, with a perplexed and puzzled Flash Thompson wondering just what the heck happened.

We next see Harry and Liz together in issue #160, visiting Aunt May, who's in the hospital yet again, recovering from her being in the middle of another Doc Ock and Hammerhead confrontation (Amazing Spider-Man #157-159). Peter and MJ also come to visit May, and Harry suggests that they double date sometime. It's ironic, considering that years later, these two couples were married and living in the same apartment building!

Oh, remember back in issue #151, when Peter's Spidey sense went off as he was disposing of his clone? Well, seems like it wasn't just a false alarm, as in issue #168, ole J. Jonah Jameson pulls out a package of pictures that was sent to him anonymously - featuring Spider-Man disposing of the body of another Spider-Man - this time one with Peter Parker's face! (Spidey had taken the mask off his clone briefly).

But let’s go back to the lovebirds (speaking of lovebirds, issue #167 features the first meeting between J. Jonah Jameson and the woman who would be the second and current Mrs. J. Jonah Jameson, Dr. Marla Madison. No, don't thank me; it's all part of the service for you like-minded Spidey continuity hounds). Harry's relationship with Liz was literally a whirlwind romance, particularly as slowly as time moves in comics. From what we can tell, Liz never even met Harry until issue #156 at Ned and Betty's wedding. In issue #163, we see the two of them sneaking away to the rooftop of Peter's new apartment building for some serious, uh, snuggle time (they were there attending a party thrown by Glory Grant to furnish Pete's apartment). And then in issue #166, Harry formally announces their engagement. Holy crap! How did that happen?

We know quite a bit about Harry, and we know that when an Osborn falls in love, they fall hard and fall quickly. His father did the same with his wife Emily and later his nurse, Kolina. Harry fell head over heels for MJ pretty fast as well. I would surmise, that even beyond his current vulnerable and drug controlled behavior, that Harry is very susceptible to the charms of a young lady, perhaps subconsciously seeking that "mother" figure that he was deprived of early in life due to Emily's premature and unfortunate death. We have discussed before how needy Harry was, and how that probably turned off women such as Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson, who would find needy men too cloying and smothering. But, it's actually perfectly understandable - Harry has a lot of unmet emotional needs, and I'm not talking sexual. And in Liz, who is a nurse (remember, she told Mary Jane back in issue #133 that she became a nurse to take care of her stepbrother - Mark Raxton - the Molten Man!), Harry finds not only a metaphorical, but a professional care taker! The perfect woman for him! Even Dr. Hamilton notes in issue #169 that Liz Allan was the best medicine Harry Osborn could have.

But we really don't know a whole lot about Liz Allan. We know that when she was "young and stupid," in high school (and who wasn't), she liked the flirting and the teasing, but apparently grew weary of that, as in issue #28, she tells Peter that she's ready to move out of the "dumb blond" phase of her life. She enjoyed the chase, but only to a point. She liked Peter, but could never really get him to take her seriously (although as clueless as thick headed as Peter can be at times - I don't blame him there - Liz was pretty hard to pin down in those days - always messing with his and Flash's heads). If we look at Liz in the original context of the early 1960's, with a rich father (we know he was rich due to a reference made by Betty Brant, that Liz wanted everyone to know "how rich she is"), she grew up probably not imagining a life beyond marrying some other preppie and settling into Junior League type existence - planning and attending parties and other social events and all that sort of nonsense. But her relationship with her stepbrother changed all of that, although it wasn't a relationship we learned about for more than a hundred issues (one of the annoying coincidences of comic books is that everyone seems to be related to a supervillain in some way, shape, or form). Although “only” a stepbrother, Liz for some reason still felt responsible for him. With a last name such as “Raxton,” Mark was probably NOT the biological son of Liz’s father, but of Liz’s stepmother. Liz’s biological mother must have died (or bailed out) when Liz was very young, and her father remarried, this time to a woman with a son. It seems reasonable to assume that Raxton was several years older than Liz. After all, when we first met him in Amazing Spider-Man #28 he was already a partner with Spencer Smythe and had developed the liquid alloy that was spilled on him, turning him into the Molten Man. Mark may have been a teenager when Liz was born, and already out of the house and on his own by the time we first met her, explaining why he was never mentioned in those days - he was already gone. My guess is that Liz had difficulty adjusting to a stepmother, like so many young children do, but someone who helped her out through all of the turmoil was her "big brother" Mark. Having lost his father, Mark could provide a sympathetic ear for "Little Lizzie" (as he probably called her) and a shoulder to cry on. She no doubt grew to love and adore him - plus, if he were already a partner with a scientist such as Smythe, she might have idolized him - which could explain why she was attracted to Peter Parker in high school. That young, scientific genius might have reminded her somewhat of her beloved stepbrother. This goes a long way to explaining Liz's extreme patience with and forgiving nature where Mark was concerned, considering his violent turn in future years, as well as why she became a nurse specifically to take care of him as the physiological changes to his body as a result of being covered with the alloy began to kill him.

However, totally devoting her life to Mark must have left her little or no time for anything else, including a social life. Therefore, Liz probably had to be a pretty lonely young woman. When she gets her life back after Raxton apparently dies at the end of issue #133 (but of course, he's not dead, you know), she has no friends outside of Peter and "the gang" and has probably been so long removed from the dating game that she feels awkward and self-conscience. Of her old boyfriends, Peter is seeing Mary Jane, and Flash is pre-occupied with some of his own problems (not the least, as we learn soon afterward, is that he has been carrying a torch for Sha Shan, the woman he met in Vietnam, and who will soon re-appear in the spider titles). Besides, both of those relationships come with some baggage from her high school days.

And in on his white horse comes Harry Osborn; sweet, innocent, heroic Harry who tried to protect her against the supervillain. Unlike the obnoxious and egotistical Flash Thompson, and the pre-occupied and apparently self-absorbed Peter Parker, Harry is totally attentive and devoted. He clearly worshipped the ground that she walked on (an observation that Spider-Man himself makes in #173), always had time for her and made her feel like she was the most important person on the planet. Harry was probably the type of sap who brought her flowers all of the time and rubbed her feet at the end of the workday (I'm sure a nurse who spends all day on her feet would appreciate such treatment), and makes the rest of us schmoes look bad. In short, he treated her like a queen. And after spending so many years taking care of others, she decided she probably liked someone spoiling her a little bit. And while admittedly Harry's personality has been neutered somewhat by his therapy and drug treatments, it isn’t out of character for him. He would have treated MJ the same way. He would have given her everything she wanted, but his own neediness made her feel smothered. For Liz, however, this was not a turnoff. While, for example, she still liked both Flash Thompson and Peter Parker, it's apparent that neither one would really need her. Liz may very well have been the type who needed to be needed. This could also explain her devotion to Raxton, and her choice of occupation. Some people are simply that way. And Harry's strong emotional needs, coupled with his rebounding from his father's "death," and release from the hospital and trying to find his way, fed right into Liz's nurturing nature (that's a tongue twister). In issue #172, Liz thinks to herself about how Harry is much more confident than he was when they first started dating, and that "I'd like to think I helped in Harry's rehabilitation." Perhaps it didn't hurt that he was rich as well, although she apparently had once had money of her own, and it did take several years for Harry to come into his full inheritance. So, we can see that it doesn't take a whole lot for Harry and Liz to have fallen madly in love with each other in a very short period of time.

And the strength of their relationship probably never really changed, even after Harry worked through all of his problems (for awhile) and began to run Oscorp (we'll get into Harry's final fall from grace at a later date). Remember, after Harry's death, Liz made an almost seamless transition to running Oscorp on her own. Although Harry had a controlling interest in the company, it was still his father’s business, his lasting legacy from Norman, and under no circumstances would he have considered just turning it over to someone who was unqualified. And the Oscorp Board wouldn't have simply stood back and allowed that to happen, either. So, I suspect that in more ways than one, Liz probably was truly Harry's partner, his equal. As he grew into his father’s old role, he probably discussed business at length with Liz, made her an administrative assistant at first, and eventually even put her on the Board of Directors. He relied on her to be his eyes and ears, to catch the social cues and the body language from other Board members that he might miss. He likely encouraged her to circulate among employees, to see what they did, ask what their concerns were, and helped Harry keep a pulse on what was going on within his company (flash forward several years to Spectacular Spider-Man #240 (November 1996) - and after Harry's death and Liz is running the company, she's telling Foggy Nelson, her boyfriend at the time, that "I think it's important that the boss be accessible to the employees - to hear their grievances") By the time of Harry's death, Liz had proven her competency so that Harry's wishes (spelled out in his will) that she run the company in his absence went unchallenged (that is, until Norman himself came back and gave Liz the boot).

There really is something sweet and wonderful about Harry and Liz’s relationship. But this is a superhero comic - and you just know that things aren't destined to go smoothly - particularly when both parties in this couple are related to supervillains!

Harry and Liz's relationship gets its first real challenge in issue #172. After Harry asks Peter to be his best man, the two see Liz hurriedly run by and not acknowledge them. Harry begins to grow worried, and for good reason. Turns out that the Molten Man did not die in issue #133 (was there any doubt?), and he wants Liz to steal some drugs and chemical supplies from her hospital. Unfortunately, she is caught and jailed, which makes Raxton even more desperate to seek a solution to his dilemma: the alloy is causing his skin to dissolve - only temporarily relieved when he dived into a polluted river at the end of #133.

Desperate and out of options, Raxton commandeers a pharmaceutical company and threatens to blow it up if Liz doesn't show. Sadly, Raxton has gone completely insane (not that I'm sympathetic to the plight of your average supervillain, but when your body temperature is running at several hundred degrees and rising, and you're literally melting where you stand - yeah - I can see that he might have some issues), and has called Liz to his side so that she may die with him. Of course, our web slinging hero ain't about to let that happen, and he rescues Liz before she goes up in a big fireball with her stepbrother.

Unfortunately, the same aspect of her personality that made her feel responsible for Raxton's care all of those years, also makes her feel responsible for his untimely death and those of the people he's injured. She runs from Harry, crying that she destroys everything and everyone she cares about. And things just get worse for the young Osborn. In issue #174, he and Flash find Peter, and tell him that Liz's apartment has been cleaned out, and that she left no forwarding address.

You can imagine the effect this has on poor Harry, whose entire life has recently revolved around Liz and their future together. But, for some reason, Harry seems not to be simply distraught, but violent. When poor, thick headed old Flash tries to make Harry feel better, by suggesting that she wasn't good enough for him if she runs out on him after all he's done for her, Harry leaps on him and threatens to kill him!

Peter and Flash take Harry to Dr. Hamilton, who calms him with a sedative. He tells the two that he will take care of their friend, and as they leave, Hamilton muses about how Peter Parker doesn't look a thing like he imagined he would. Hmmm. And not only that – what’s with the weird mask hanging in Hamilton's office?

I don't have a very good feeling about this.

NEXT TIME: Ack! Not again! The Green Goblin returns! But wait - who is that guy in the green and purple tights? Is he a true heir to the Legacy, or just a pretender? That's in Part 3 of "The Goblin Prince”!

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