Harry Osborn-The Goblin Prince

Part 3: Goblin's Return

When last we left poor old Harry Osborn - just as his life seemed to be finally coming back together - it was ripped apart once again. His lady love and angel of mercy Liz Allan, probably more responsible than anyone in restoring Harry's sanity, has abandoned him, tortured by the guilt she feels over the apparent death of her stepbrother Mark Raxton, aka the Molten Man. Just a wee bit stressed at this turn of events, when his roommate Flash suggests that perhaps Liz wasn't worthy of him, Harry flips out and attacks Flash, threatening to kill him! Could it be that Harry is beginning to revert back to his Green Goblin Jr. personality? Or could even more sinister forces be afoot?

Trust me, I'm a Doctor
But we need to step back a little to formally introduce one of the major players of this series' events. In Amazing Spider-Man #167 (April 1977), Harry, Liz, and Flash are leaving the movie theater (which is playing the film "Obsession" - a film that starred an actor who developed his own connection to the Spider-Man universe many years later - Cliff Robertson) when comes a roarin' in a fancy set of wheels with the requisite blond babe in the passenger seat, Harry’s shrink, Dr. Barton Hamilton. And what a hip dude he appears to be, with that groovy full head of hair and that swinging goatee - the height of late 1970's style. Of course, most Spidey fans with their amazing precognitive powers just knew that this was no casual introduction and that Hamilton was destined to be more than just your typical supporting player. After all, he had his own introductory panel and his name in bold font. Not only was he hip, but stylish too. Take a look at that cool jacket and pipe (from issue #174). This guy is just too rad. And he's also sensitive and caring! In issue #169, he watches Harry and Liz leave his office, and notes that Liz was just the medicine Harry needed.

O.K. - so what is wrong with this picture?

Being a witless 14-year-old at the time (as opposed to being the witless 40+ geezer I am now), I didn't have a clue to where this was going. I should've had my geek card revoked.

But you would think that if I missed the significance of Hamilton's prominent introduction - I couldn't possibly have missed the next clue - that dastardly looking goblin mask that was clearly seen in Hamilton's office in issue #174 (as we saw in Part 2 when Flash and Peter take Harry back there after he flips out).

No, I didn't catch that one, either.

Aha - here comes another chance at redemption! In issue #175, as we quietly eavesdrop on one of Harry's therapy sessions, he tells Hamilton that he believes that Liz left him because she felt that she just wasn't good enough for him. After Hamilton, correctly I might add, calls Harry out on the arrogant and self-absorbed nature of that statement - the younger Osborn explodes in a fit of rage and attacks Hamilton. The lamp is knocked over and two figures are fighting in the dark. The victor, his identity obscured, declares that "The only one who could possibly oppose me is finally beaten! Now, at last, the time has come for the Green Goblin to live again!"

Being the Goblin loving fan I was - I thrilled at the possibility of Harry Osborn becoming the Green Goblin again - and this time - instead of being somewhat lame and overmatched as he was in issues #136-137 - he was going to be a seriously bad MF.

It was going to be a long 30 days.

I was clearly a total moron.

It didn't occur to me that if it really had been Harry, then rather than the somber ending of the Hitman falling to his death from the Statue of Liberty, the issue would likely have ended with a full page shot of Harry clearly standing tall and uttering those infamous words about the Green Goblin living again.

It's interesting how suddenly and quickly Harry turned violent after spending the last two years in the titles as a harmless, heavily medicated feeb. Even Harry's disintegration near the end of his life (as it was originally told), though still somewhat quick, was more logical than this. It made perfect comic book sense, but even considering the stress and the total despair that Harry was feeling at the time, it seemed a bit too convenient.

But - there might have been more to this that meets the eye. Harry's rage was all a ploy by Hamilton. This could have been accomplished in two ways (1) Hamilton could have been "juicing" Harry - rather than giving him sedatives - he could have been injecting him with stimulants to make him more irritable and paranoid, or (2) it could have been the result of post-hypnotic suggestion. We later learned that Hamilton used hypnosis therapy on Harry. He could have very easily planted the suggestion that whenever the subject of Liz would be brought up - Harry would automatically go into a violent rage. Hamilton could have wanted to force a confrontation with Harry to whether or not he was ready to become the Green Goblin. After all, if he couldn't take out an enraged Harry Osborn, then he would certainly have no business tangling with evil crime lords or super powered vigilantes such as Spider-Man. Contrast Harry's behavior here with his more rational behavior later in the story arc, when the events would actually seem to call for him to be even more enraged and loony that he was when he first attacked his doctor. If Hamilton miscalculated, and he really couldn't take Harry, he probably had a backup plan, including a direct alarm to the police, and Harry's assault would have simply looked like a crazy patient attacked his shrink. But, apparently the good doctor had been doing something with his spare time and whatever training he underwent (maybe he bought a bowflex machine or something) served him well and he defeated Harry. Len Wein's hyperbolic writing "two figures...trading blows that would fell the strongest professional prizefighter" grates a bit here. Remember, neither Harry nor Hamilton have super powers at this time - and even under the most extreme conditions - I don't really see a couple of skinny white dudes no matter how crazy being able to take down Muhammad Ali - the heavyweight champion during this time period.

And that brings us to Amazing Spider-Man #176-180, the capper to Wein's 30 issue run on the title, and the most epic (as far as length) Green Goblin tale up to that point. It's a favorite of many Goblin fans and although I was originally enthralled by it when I was buying it off the racks in the late 1970's, today I find it just "o.k." which may not be fair to the parties involved. The story goes to the well on the already exhausted and abused "Aunt May's heart problems" cliché, and there's a gaping hole where the motivations of the primary villain are concerned. But - the story is 30 years old - so let's keep things in perspective.

As I just mentioned, one of the key undercurrents once again through this story is dear old Aunt May's medical condition. When I was originally writing this, we were near the end of the JMS Era, where May knew that Peter is Spider-Man and is portrayed much more realistically and supportive. Therefore, when reading this story, it's a bit painful to see the doddering, senile old fool with the frequent heart attacks. As Peter goes to visit her, he sees a note on her door that she is participating in a protest march at City Hall. She must have anticipated that Peter would meet Mary Jane later, since in the note she reminds him to take his rubbers.

Oh - she means galoshes - because it looks like rain.

My mistake.

Unfortunately, May's also written somewhat out of character here with her strident militancy. Wein had introduced an interesting little subplot with May becoming a Grey Panther and marching for the rights of the elderly, which at the time was a refreshing change of pace for the character. But then in issue #176, May is actually assaulting a police officer by striking him with her sign (for standing in her way from barging in on the Mayor), which is amusing on first read, but less so later on. This is the kindly old woman who believed that Doctor Octopus was misunderstood, yet she's committing a crime by whacking a police officer. Then she collapses from a heart attack!

After taking May to the hospital and being assured that she is fine (for the moment, hint hint), Peter decides to visit Dr. Hamilton's office to check up on Harry - but when he gets there - it's been trashed and the police officer on the scene says that it looks like one of his patients did him in. Peter knows exactly what patient the cop is talking about and follows a hunch that "Harry" will be looking to settle an old score with his roommate Flash Thompson (I assume that it's because a couple of issues earlier Flash enraged Harry by suggesting that Liz wasn't good enough for him).

Spidey heads to their apartment, where sure enough, the Green Goblin is zapping Flash with his Goblin finger sparklies. Before he gets his clock cleaned by the wall crawler, the Goblin tries to distract him by throwing Flash out of the window. One of the little jollies I get in reading these old comics is the final panel, as Flash is sailing through mid-air; Spidey stands there for dramatic effect and says "Lord no! He's doing it again. Just like he did to Gwen Stacy - the Green Goblin is murdering somebody near to me!" Now, the way I figure it - the law of gravity would have resulted in Flash going splat on the pavement by the time Spidey had finished taking this huge dramatic license! Maybe we just take our comics too seriously these days.

Of course, Spidey saves Flash, but the Goblin gets away - and in issue #177, at one of Norman Osborn's old hideouts, we see the Goblin talking to someone he is holding captive, tied to a chair with a convenient hood draped over his face, which probably fooled only me. The Goblin rants and raves about his ambition to be the Crime Boss of all New York (remember, this was back in the days before Frank Miller brought the Kingpin into Daredevil's mythology and firmly established him as the major domo of crime), which was one of Norman Osborn's old goals, and it would have made sense for Harry to want to follow in the old man's footsteps. He tells his captive that he feels that he owes him a great deal from their "psychiatric sessions together." So, it's clearly Harry in the Goblin suit - right, right?

Stumbling upon a gangland execution leads Spider-Man to a restaurant atop one of the World Trade Center towers (a sad irony which further dates this story) where he finds the Green Goblin effortlessly manhandling New York's assembled crime bosses, who had been listening to a pitch by crime lord Silvermane (before he became a cyborg - but after he "got better" after devolving to pre-embryonic matter in the classic Amazing Spider-Man #75 (August 1969)),to organize all of the gangs under his leadership. The Emerald Elf then makes his own pitch - he'll bring Spider-Man in if the mobs agree to unite under his control. Silverman tentatively accepts the Goblin's offer, but realizes that he can't possibly take the chance that the Goblin might actually succeed.

And guess what - in the hospital - May's condition has taken a turn for the worse as she has another heart attack (what a shock!), and she may need surgery - but the doctors can only operate if her next of kin signs the consent forms - but Peter Parker can't be found (remember, this is the March 1978 issue, and cell phones are as science fiction as Star Trek communicators). Finally, Mary Jane gets hold of Peter, but just before he gets to the hospital - horrors! - The Green Goblin attacks and captures Spider-Man! This, of course, sets up the dramatic conundrum and overused cliché best illustrated by the cover to Amazing Spider-Man #178, (a variation of which is spoken of so fondly by Stan Lee in numerous interviews). Anyway, in my Mary Jane articles - I cite this story as a key reason why she did not accept Peter's first marriage proposal, which came only four issues later. Fortunately, with the unwitting help of Silvermane's goon squad, who are attempting to take out the Goblin, Spidey escapes, and is able to get to the hospital and sign the surgical consent forms. Aunt May is saved - at least until her next attack, which actually occurs in Amazing Spider-Man #183 - also referenced in my MJ articles. I think this was the last straw for a lot of us on Aunt May - and we began to hope the old lady would just hurry up and die already.

The Goblin attempts to exact retribution on Silvermane at a packed Radio City Music Hall. Just coincidentally, while visiting May at the hospital, Joe Robertson (under orders from JJJ) sends Peter to Radio City to get pictures of the action. As Spidey joins the fray, we see the Goblin's captive finally break free from his bonds, and when he pulls his hood off we find out that it's - Harry Osborn? B-B-But that means that the Goblin wasn't Harry - that it was - Bart Hamilton?

Duh.

Issue #179 is not only significant for being the penultimate part of this epic tale - it's the only time that we see one of the most dreadful weapons of the Goblin's arsenal being used. Deadlier than the goblin glider or the pumpkin bombs or the smothering ghosts or the electro-bats or the crescent moon blades or the sparklies coming out of the fingertips - it's the Sonic Toad! What - you doubt the power of the Sonic Toad? Well doubt no more true believer!

This device was clearly so deadly that neither Harry, nor Norman, or even the two Hobgoblins dared use it again. Of course, it would have been a handy dandy weapon to use against Venom and Carnage. Neither one could survive the ear-splitting agony brought about by a chorus of Sonic Toads!

After allowing Silvermane to fall to his (apparent) death, the Goblin takes the unconscious Spider-Man to a certain Brooklyn incinerating plant that we last saw in Amazing Spider-Man #151, where Spider-Man dispatched the body of his clone. The Goblin is about to toss Spidey down the smokestack when the webslinger revives and the battle commences. Spider-Man defeats the Goblin and unmasks him - but rather than it being Harry Osborn - gasp! It's Bart Hamilton - Harry's shrink! What a surprise! What a plot twist!

Only to me apparently. Even 30 years later, my ignorance shames me. Of course, even Spider-Man himself should have been ashamed that he didn't figure it out earlier. He didn't notice once that there had to be something different about this Goblin - from the voice, to the build (at this time - the Goblin suit is just a green and purple spandex uniform - no apparent exoskeleton or body armor), the fighting style, the speech patterns - nothing! I suppose that we could assume that the mask had some kind of voice modulator so that the Goblin could speak in his distinctive style without wearing his voice out (try it - try to talk like you imagine the Green Goblin would sound - and see how long it takes before your voice gives out) and to keep people from identifying him through his voice (a precaution that Norman obviously did not take when he returned years later in Peter Parker #75).

So, in true supervillain monologue tradition, Hamilton gives Spider-Man "The Story" of how he not only became the Green Goblin, but also how he had hypnotized Harry into taking those pictures of Spider-Man disposing of his clone back in Amazing Spider-Man #151, and then mailing the photos to J. Jonah Jameson in order to expose him. Speaking of Harry, after Hamilton's soliloquy is done, young Osborn suddenly flies in, in full Goblin gear, seriously p.o.'d, and wanting a pound or two of Hamilton's flesh. The two engage in the first ever Battle of the Goblins (there have been three - and I'm sure all good Goblin and Spidey fans know when the other two were), and Harry soon gets the upper hand. However, sickened by Hamilton's obsession with the Goblin identity, and realizing the madness it drove him to as well, Harry rips the Goblin costume from his body and tells the psychiatrist that the Green Goblin is dead. We get an idea just how sick Harry must have been this whole time - because we see as he rips the Goblin costume off - that he put it on over a full suit and tie!. I don't know about you folks, but I find a suit constricting enough - putting a spandex costume on over it - Harry would've had a hard enough time moving his arms and legs, let alone engaging in a knock down drag out brawl (see Spider-Man Annual #9 aka the original Spectacular Spider-Man #2 for what Norman Osborn was wearing when he ripped off his Goblin suit - just his underwear). Anyway, while Harry is busy with his very own monologing moment, Hamilton catches him off-guard and knocks him out, but then accidentally blows himself up by triggering a bomb as he's sliding backward on a moving conveyor belt.

Oops. Maybe not quite as dumb as sending a glider straight into your own chest because you forgot that your adversary had the extra sensory perception to sense it coming and the speed to get out of the way - but it probably ranks up there.

And in what appears to be yet another one of those inexplicable bouts of amnesia that Osborns are susceptible to, due to Hamilton's blow and the concussion of the bomb's explosion, Harry wakes up not knowing where he is or what has just happened. How conveeeeeeeenient. So, Peter invents a lame "Hamilton let an experiment get out of control," cover story and Harry buys it.

But at least Harry finally gets a happy ending for once. When Peter takes him back to his and Flash's apartment - who is waiting for Mr. Osborn but Liz Allan - all apologetic from her earlier disappearing act. Peter leaves the two lovebirds in their icky and gooey embrace and walks into the sunset as another era in the life of Spider-Man comes to an end.

Looking Back
Amazing Spider-Man #180 (May 1978) was the last we would see of the Green Goblin, any Green Goblin, for more than ten years (Harry didn't suit up again until Amazing Spider-Man #312, which was the February 1989 issue). And we have never seen Bart Hamilton again, so he's could be as dead as dead can be in the Marvel Universe (of course, for years it was said that the only people dead for certain are Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy, and Bucky Barnes - and all you Captain America fans know what happened recently!), although that didn't stop people from speculating that he was actually Goblin #5 in Norman's employ just prior to the Gathering of Five obscenity, since the doctor who was fixing him up stated something about wearing the costume "again." Only Wein himself knows whether or not he truly intended for the Green Goblin's story to be over. He certainly left an "out" as we never saw Hamilton's body. But neither Marv Wolfman, nor Denny O'Neil, the writers who succeeded Wein, seemed to show any interest in bringing the Goblin back. Not only that, but Harry Osborn's own story seemed to have come to a conclusion, as he quietly faded into the background, since his next significant appearance did not occur for several years. But that's later.

I wasn't engaging in hyperbole when I said earlier than an era had come to an end with issue #180. Len Wein was essentially the last spider writer to leave Peter largely where Stan Lee had left him years earlier. Although there had been the illusion of change through Wein's tenure, with Harry and Liz dating and then getting engaged, J. Jonah Jameson meeting and falling for the intellectually dreamy Marla Madison, Peter was still struggling through college (although the debate of whether or not Peter should graduate was in full swing), and his relationship with Mary Jane was pretty much at the same place it was when Gerry Conway signed off in issue #149. Oh sure, they'd had a spat, broken up, and then got back together again, but that was about it. And he was still taking pictures for that cheapskate Jameson. But things dramatically changed right after that.

Whither, Bart Hamilton?
So - how good of a Goblin was Bart Hamilton? Did he have the potential to grow beyond a "bait and switch" supervillain, or was that truly his only purpose? Looking back with that fabulous 20/20 hindsight, it's apparent that Hamilton proved to be an uninspiring villain, or else some writer somewhere would have bothered to revive him. He wouldn't have had to be a Goblin - he could have shown up as a disfigured lunatic looking for revenge. But apparently, no one considered bringing him back. When Roger Stern came up with the Hobgoblin, he stated he dismissed the idea of a 4th Green Goblin, which seems to mean that he never even considered reviving Goblin #3 - Hamilton. Stern may simply have realized at the time what is obvious to everyone now – there are two things that separate the Green Goblin from the rest of Spider-Man’s villains (1) his knowledge of Spider-Man’s dual identity (o.k. - so that's not valid anymore in the Brand New Day world) and (2) the fact that the Green Goblin is an Osborn - and there's a whole lotta history between Peter Parker and the Osborns which makes their conflicts special.

However, someone could have done something with Hamilton if they had tried. With his profession as a psychiatrist, and the accompanying intellect, he could have used many of the tools of his trade, along with the various pyrotechnic tricks in Norman Osborn's old arsenal, to seriously mess with Peter's mind and those around him. But then again, he might have come off as Mysterio in a Green Goblin costume. Yet, what I did like about Hamilton was that he had other agendas as the Goblin rather than simply trying to get revenge on Peter Parker, even if it was the lame "get a costume and become a crime boss" gig. Although the Goblin and Spidey's battles are more personal than most, at his core the Goblin is still a criminal, and as such should always be engaging in dastardly deeds that Spider-Man has to stop. Harry Osborn was at his core a screwed up kid who dressed in Daddy's clothes and played with Daddy's toys - but not a master criminal.

But then again, part of Hamilton's problem, and why he was never revived – could be the lack of a clear motivation to even being the Green Goblin. The logic he gives Spider-Man in issue #180 is a comic book motivation at its worst. Hamilton says he "felt a sense of power as I had never known before" and later tells Harry "you know the sense of superiority it gives you - the almost limitless power!" To which I say – power - what power? A green and purple costume and the ability to fly on a glider and play with some high tech toys? Again, neither Harry (at first) nor Hamilton had super powers. Also, Hamilton learned in issue #179 that a well placed shot from a bazooka could put his glider and him out of action for good. Besides, look how much good the costume and weapons did for Jason Macendale. The guy was a joke. The true power of the Green Goblin was not in the costume and the weapons. Yes, the super powers were part of it, but even more so was Norman Osborn's superior intellect and his insanity, which made a lethal combination. Macendale had neither - nor did Hamilton.

Roger Stern was more careful when he created the Hobgoblin years later, as he allowed us to be a part of Roderick Kingsley's (although we didn't know it was Roddy) steadily building intoxication with becoming a super powered costumed criminal. After all, Roddy was already rich and crooked and capable of making money the old fashioned way - by manipulating people and ripping them off - so why put on a costume and get your butt kicked by Spider-Man on a regular basis? Unless your motivations simply start out as more visceral - doing it for shits and giggles, which is how Roddy started - as an overgrown boy with lots of shiny new toys to play with. And even then, his first big criminal act (not counting the murders of Georgie the Thug and Lefty Donovan) as the Hobgoblin was a simple blackmail scheme. Later it became more of an obsession, more personal...

But Hamilton was found wanting in that department. Still, we might have a clue by Hamilton's statement that "there was so much for me to do, so many injustices to be revenged," but first he had to get Spider-Man out of the picture, knowing that the Green Goblin was too personal an issue for the webslinger to let someone run around in the costume using the gadgets. However, it is interesting that Hamilton at first devised a non-violent solution to get Spider-Man out of the way. Admittedly, he wasn't ready to take Spidey on in a fight himself, and probably didn't have the resources to hire super powered goons to do it for him, but this may give us another look into Hamilton's psyche. He may have had very similar motivations to what allegedly drove Ned Leeds to become the Hobgoblin. Becoming a crime boss was not the ends in itself, but rather a means to another end. Hamilton probably was seeking to avenge some personal grievances, but likely also saw using the Goblin identity to correct what he saw as injustices in society at large. Like Leeds - he thought he could keep the corrupting influences of such power at length and not be impacted by it. He could play a bad guy, but not be a bad guy. And like Leeds - he was wrong. But then Ned really wasn't the Hobgoblin anyway.

And now even my head is beginning to hurt.

Still, what turned Hamilton from an intellectual, dispassionate observer of the criminal mind into a supervillain wannabe? What made him think that he could take on Spider-Man and the entire New York criminal underworld? With Ned, for example, it was the continuous exposure to the Winkler Machine, which Kingsley used to brainwash him, and which eventually started driving him insane. Hamilton may have realized early on that he could not hope to physically play in the same sandbox as Spider-Man, not even with the most extreme body building regimen (Think about it - could Arnold Schwarzenegger at his prime stand up to someone with the strength of Spider-Man? Not a chance) - so he tried to take a short cut. With his knowledge of and access to drugs, he might have concocted some kind of steroid or PCP-based elixir that did indeed make him somewhat stronger - but it would also have given him an extreme case of "roid rage" - and would have been addictive as well. Like a meth junkie, he may very well have been rotting his brain away but was too hooked to stop and becoming too crazy to notice what was happening.

But that's just speculation - and kind of weak at that. Obviously, the original writer didn't really give it that much thought.

It’s interesting to speculate what Gerry Conway, the writer who chronicled Harry’s first turn as the Green Goblin, would have done with him had he stayed on the title past Amazing Spider-Man #149. He had left Harry in loony bin limbo upon his departure, and it was Wein who brought him back seemingly cured of his psychosis. Would Conway have tried to turn Harry into a recurring criminal Goblin? Would he have created his own Goblin #3? Or was he done with the character and never gave it another though? I suppose we’ll never know. I doubt that Conway himself even remembers. In a Newsarama interview, Conway indicated that he was writing Amazing Spider-Man with the firmly held belief that there wasn't going to be a comic book industry for much longer.

Now, here’s a question. More than once, Hamilton refers to Peter disposing of his clone. How in the world would Hamilton know that the body in question was of Peter’s clone? How would he have known which one was the "real" Spider-Man and which wasn't? After all, it could have been someone who had received plastic surgery to look like Peter Parker, a robot copy (there've been a few of those known to exist), or maybe that was the real Spider-Man that had been dropped down the chimney. Harry told him, you say. Well, how would Harry know that the body in question was Peter’s clone? After all, the whole cloning scheme was actually funded by Norman Osborn, and he used and manipulated Professor Warren's obsession with Gwen Stacy for his own ends. Could Norman have mentioned this to Harry in his delusional ravings before he left for his final confrontation with Spider-Man back in issues #121-122? "Harry, I know you're out of your mind on LSD and I'm a raving lunatic, but let me tell you about this massive Clone Saga thing I've got planned..."

Nah.

Still, Warren didn’t clone Gwen and Peter until after Gwen’s death, because it was only after she died that he became obsessed with “reviving” her. And that’s when Osborn sent his Scriers to Warren to offer their financial and scientific assistance. Therefore, it couldn’t have been something that Norman blurted to Harry in this hypothetical ranting and raving that he might have done. It also couldn’t have been something that Harry came across in Norman’s journals for a couple of reasons (1) According to Roddy Kingsley, Norman’s journals ended just before the events of Amazing Spider-Man #39, when he was on his way to discover Spider-Man’s secret identity. Norman wouldn’t have been able to leave notes behind without Kingsley discovering them, since Kingsley looted all of Osborn’s old hideouts, and besides, before Warren even got the idea of cloning Gwen, Osborn had abandoned America for Europe, and did not return until little Norman was born, as we saw in Peter Parker #25.

Here’s my guess: it’s apparent that Hamilton had Harry following Peter and Spider-Man for some time – otherwise how did Harry just happen to be there at the old factory to take pictures of Peter disposing of the clone? I speculate that during this time period, Harry had followed Peter to Shea Stadium, where the final battle with the clone and Jackal took place in issue #149. Shea's a big place. Harry could have watched the entire drama unfold, hearing all of the back and forth talk about the cloning, and leaving just before the bomb exploded. How could Harry have been following Peter without him knowing? Easily – Norman had long ago invented a method for dulling Spidey's spider sense. He could have left notes on this, along with notes on operating the glider and the other Goblin gear (but apparently not the super strength formula - that was kept with Osborn's private journals, which Hamilton apparently never found). Remember at the end of issue #148, when the Jackal sneaks up behind Spider-Man and clips him? No one should be able to sneak up behind Spider-Man – and even Warren’s logic that he was always Peter’s friend and therefore undetectable doesn’t wash. It’s more likely that Hamilton had Harry mix up a batch of the sense-dulling chemicals and had already used them on Peter so that he wouldn’t notice that Harry was following him all over the place. This explains how Warren was able to surprise Spider-Man. And Harry would have reported back to Hamilton about the whole affair at the stadium, and therefore informed him of the cloning.

Or, here’s an even more horrifying possibility:

Harry knew about the cloning because he was the mastermind behind the Clone Saga after all! And Norman merely co-opted Harry's plan!

Auugggggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm not going there.

As far as why Hamilton had Harry take pictures of Peter disposing of the clone, that’s fairly easy to deduce. Hamilton knew that he would not be able to take up the mantle of being the Green Goblin without dealing with Spider-Man. However, at this stage, Hamilton knew that he would be no match for Spider-Man, particularly without Norman’s enhanced strength. And it’s apparent that Harry had never seen Norman’s journals, or else he would have known about the strength enhancing formula and how to duplicate it. By mailing the incriminating photos to JJJ, Hamilton was hoping that Peter would be exposed and Spider-Man would be finished and he would never have to face him. But of course, this failed, and Hamilton turned to other means.

After this epic Green Goblin adventure, Harry Osborn almost disappears from the cast of supporting characters under Marv Wolfman and later Denny O’Neil. In a way, this isn’t really surprising. When Wolfman took over the lead Spider-Man title, he clearly had change in mind from the beginning. Peter proposed to Mary Jane, she rejected him; he was graduated from college, became a graduate student and teaching assistant, and met the woman who later becomes a very important player in his life, Felicia Hardy. Mary Jane also took a sabbatical, Peter finally left the Daily Bugle - there was a lot going on. Harry appeared destined, at least temporarily, to live in the realm of formerly important supporting characters.

That is – until the coming of Roger Stern – who just happened to bring a certain rogue fashion mogul with him...

Amazing Spider-Man #180 (May 1978) closed an important chapter in the life of Harry Osborn and the Spider-Man titles. The pretender to the Goblin Legacy, Barton Hamilton, Harry's shrink, died in an explosion during a battle with Harry and Spider-Man. However, even through all of this turmoil, Harry does not yet realize the whole truth of his situation. He still does not know that his “late” father, Norman Osborn, was the original Green Goblin. As a result of hypnosis, memory repression, and God knows what other kinds of "therapy" received at the hands of Dr. Hamilton, he only believes that he was playing dress up in a Green Goblin costume. As far as he (and even the rest of the world, except for Spider-Man) knows, the "Green Goblin" was an alternate identity that he adopted to cope with his own feelings of weakness and powerlessness, compounded by the death of his father and exacerbated by his own drug use. Now, with Hamilton dead and Harry re-united with his love, Liz Allan, the Spider titles change course.

Len Wein wrapped up his 30 issue run with #180, and after a fill-in issue written by Bill Mantlo; “Marvelous” Marv Wolfman began an unfortunately all-too-brief 23 issue run with a truly stunning and unanticipated event. After a pep talk with Aunt May, his college graduation looming, and a desire to bring some order to his life, Peter proposes marriage to Mary Jane Watson, which, of course, she turns down in issue #183 (see Why did it Have to be you, Mary Jane?). He goes through the long anticipated graduation ceremony is issue #185, but as all Spidey fans know, failed to actually graduate because he was a credit short. I was buying the comics off the racks at the time, and remember how every month of Wolfman’s run something important seemed to happen. As I mentioned earlier, there was the proposal, the rejection, "graduation," and in issue #186, Spidey is cleared by the New York District Attorney's office of the murders of Norman Osborn and George Stacy, under which a dark cloud of suspicion, largely perpetuated by J. Jonah Jameson, hung over him for years. Later came the debut of the Black Cat (#194), Peter’s enrollment in grad school, walking out on JJJ and taking a job with the Daily Globe (a long overdue subplot that was sadly underutilized by Wolfman's successor, Denny O’Neil), and the return of the Burglar who murdered Uncle Ben (#193), which led to the faking of Aunt May’s death (#195 – though certainly not for the last time) and a final confrontation with said Burglar in issue #200, which I consider one of the top 10 Spider-Man stories of all time.

Whew.

Over in the “other” title – the recently debuted Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man (written by Bill Mantlo), after a shaky inaugural two years, began to pick up some real traction, with a terrific Daredevil team-up against the Masked Marauder, and the first (and by far the best) appearance of Carrion (the only time he was really a Miles Warren clone). This time period saw the opening up of new subplots and new supporting characters, as Spectacular focused on Peter’s grad school experiences, primarily his relationship with the other teaching assistants and a certain shy young girl by the name of Debra Whitman.

And no, I didn’t forget that this series is about Harry Osborn – but that’s just the thing – Harry was largely MIA, with the exception of scattered, brief, sometimes snippy, guest appearances. It’s clear that both Wolfman and Mantlo wanted to move on to other types of stories, because not only was Harry himself merely a background figure for four years, Mary Jane was also jettisoned. After breaking up with Peter in issue #193 – she made only a couple of cameo appearances in the next four years. This was actually a fairly logical development. Sometimes characters need a break every now and then until another creative team has a fresh angle on them.

Harry made a brief appearance in issue #185, when he attended Peter's graduation ceremony, and was responsible, along with Flash, for dressing Peter up as John Travolta in one of the guiltiest pleasures and stupidest Spider-Man stories ever in Spectacular Spider-Man #24 (November 1978 - and c'mon - do I really have to tell you who the villain was in that story). He and Liz showed up in issue #188 on a cruise with Pete and the gang, which was hijacked by Punisher arch nemesis Jigsaw (you know - these people really should know better than going on these cruises - didn't they learn anything from when the Tarantula did the same thing back in issue #134?), and the two were briefly taken hostage. He also attended a party for Pete when the latter was to pick up his diploma (which, of course, he didn't show up to because he was shackled to J. Jonah Jameson in issue #192), and voiced his disapproval at Peter's treatment of Betty Brant in issue #195. His last appearance for awhile was going to the movies to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture with Peter and Flash in issue #203 (April 1980). Why such a blatant plug? Because Marvel was publishing a (very poor) comic adaptation of that film, which led to one of the worst, and mercifully short-lived, Star Trek comic book series of all time.

But I digress.

The next time that Harry is even in the titles as part of a story is Spectacular Spider-Man #63 (February 1982), scribed by Mantlo, which actually seems to be written as a good-bye to the character. A new hospital is burned to the ground, and footprints melted into the concrete leading away from the hospital tell Spidey that this was not your typical pyromaniac at work. But wasn't he dead?

Yeah, right.

Knowing that Liz's stepbrother, the Molten Man, like most supervillains, is a serious grudgemeister, Peter figures it's only a matter of time before Mark Raxton tracks down Liz and Harry. Except - where are they? Displaying his typical fidelity to his friends, Peter has long since lost track of the two of them, and rings up Flash Thompson. And holy cow - they've already gotten married and left town! Flash tells Peter "I guess Harry meant it when he said he wanted to sever all ties with the past and get away for awhile." Flash does have Harry's current address because the Osborns sent him a Christmas card.

Too bad Pete was wasn't astute enough to be a little offended - although no one can say he didn't deserve that little snub for all the attention he paid to Harry's problems over the years. Looking back, it seems that the only time that Peter ever got overly concerned about Harry was when he was worried that the younger Osborn was going to don the green and purple tights.

When I first read this issue more than - ahem - twenty years ago, I remember being a little disappointed. With all of the talk about the engagement, I was expecting a big wedding issue. We got one years earlier when Betty Brant and Ned Leeds were married (Amazing Spider-Man #156 May 1976) – so why not Harry and Liz, particularly considering that we saw Liz (although not referenced by name) at the mythology's very beginning in Amazing Fantasy #15, and Harry was Pete's best friend, as well as the son of his greatest enemy? However, the fact that Harry and Liz decided to drop from sight is fairly easy to understand. The society pages would have a field day with “Former Drug-Addict, Goofy Costume Wearing, Pale Imitation of his Brilliant, but Murdered Old Man Marries Molten Man’s Step-Sister.” Sounds like a headline you read while standing in the checkout line of the grocery store, right next to the President shaking hands with space aliens. Plus, Harry had been kidnapped and used by a man he trusted, his psychiatrist, who turned out to be short a few pumpkins of his own, exploiting Harry’s psychosis and emotional problems for his own self-gratification. If you could, you’d drop from sight yourself, and that’s what he and Liz did.

So, I’m not surprised that they eloped. Sometimes people prefer to elope for the simple reason of not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings by not including or inviting them to the festivities, so they exclude everyone. They also could have simply woke up one day, and realizing how fragile life is (hey - when you're related to supervillains, things could happen at any time), decided to run off and get married rather than wait. People do that all of the time. However, considering that both Peter and Flash were Harry’s roommates (at different times) and close friends, it was surprising that Liz and Harry did not invite or otherwise inform them, and they didn't even let Pete know after the fact. I suspect that their exclusion was Liz’s doing. For one, Liz’s relationships with Peter and Flash had some baggage, and she may not have felt comfortable with an old boyfriend and another man that she was interested in at one time standing there.

Anyway, Peter finds out that the two of them are living in a simple ranch house in suburban New Jersey. Spider-Man, knowing that the Molten Man wanted to take Liz to the grave with him the last time they met, goes down there to hopefully head off the old hot one, but he's too late.

But, Harry started growing some stones when he took on the Bart Hamilton Goblin. Rather than being a victim of someone else's madness all the time, he starts to show some strength and takes the first steps to actually becoming the man his demented father wanted him to be. He is angry with Spider-Man at first because he had actually calmed Raxton down and was getting close to convincing him to give himself up before Spidey barged in and stoked the Molten One's anger. But once Raxton is enraged past the point of calming down, Harry takes action. Even though he knows that he doesn't have a prayer against Raxton, he cracks him over the head with a chair anyway, telling Spider-Man that he's tired of someone else always fighting his battles for him. Later, he tries to hose Raxton down, which, along with the help of his neighbors in one of those sickening heartwarming neighborhood moments actually cools the Molten Man off enough for Spidey to knock him into a swimming pool. This results in one of those patented comic book pseudo-scientific chain reactions where Raxton actually reverts back to his pre-flaming form. However, in the process, Harry and Liz's home burns to the ground - but the neighbors all pitch in to help them out until they can rebuild. Spider-Man reflects "sounds like Liz and Harry have found themselves a little piece of paradise on Earth. Super types like the Molten Man and I don't belong here. We're the serpents waiting to chase them out of Eden. Harry and Liz have found their niche. I won't intrude on them further."

Paradise on earth in New Jersey?

Whether or not this was what was intended, or it was just a nice way to end the tale, it reads almost as if this was intended to be the epilogue to Harry Osborn’s story – happily married and living a quiet life.

But then came along a fella by the name of Roger Stern, and another Goblin to bring Harry back into the stories to stay.

So, we can speculate that even though Harry and Liz had settled in New Jersey to get away from it all, that didn’t mean he was idle. As the settlement of his father's estate began to wind down, he began to seriously ponder his future. Did he really want to come back and run his father’s company – or sell it off (or just get someone else to manage it) and simply sit back, collect big fat dividend checks and live off his trust fund for the rest of his life? A lot of spoiled rich children do just that.

But a lot don't - and Harry was one of those. Now, it's a foregone conclusion that since Norman is still alive and in Europe keeping a close eye on things, he's not going to let Harry sell the company. That's what his old crony Menken was there for, and he probably kept Harry apprised of every significant event going on at Oscorp (which even in a non-conspiratorial way makes sense as Harry would soon become the largest shareholder in the company). Menken was also no doubt dropping all kinds of variations of the "this is what your father would have wanted," line.

But I doubt it took too much convincing. Harry clearly had way too much to prove, to himself, to his wife, to those at Oscorp who no doubt talked behind his back figuring that he was nothing more than a young, addled dope fiend...and of course, his father. He was too smart and too prideful to merely live the life of luxury on the back of what his father had built. We see several issues later, when Oscorp is under siege by a mysterious player trying to mount a hostile takeover, that Harry has become very protective of the company, as it is his father's lasting legacy to him and his own heirs, as he soon found out that Liz was expecting (see below). Realizing that hiding out in suburbia was not the life he wanted, for himself or his family, he called Menken up and told him he was ready to plunge headlong into the business. He took a seat on the board of directors and all of the appropriate committees, and began learning the ropes.

Of course, Menken was not guiding him out of any misguided sense of charity or affection, since he never forgot who he was really working for. But for awhile, all was going smoothly...until Amazing Spider-Man #238 (March 1983).

A mysterious stranger, infamously revealed many years later as shady fashion mogul Roderick Kingsley, finds one of the lairs of the Green Goblin, stocked not only with weapons and costumes, but Norman Osborn’s personal journal, in which he describes in detail the sordid history of Goblin, ending just before he discovered Spider-Man's secret identity Amazing Spider-Man #39 (August 1966).

Of course, the reason this lair was left behind was because Osborn was originally as dead as dead could be at the time. In retrospect, now that we know that Norman was alive all this time, and since he always has his plans thought out – he had left a string of hideouts throughout the city, ready for Harry to resume the legacy when the time came. But still, why leave the journal? Couldn't he have foreseen that someone might accidentally stumble upon it and learn all of his secrets? This seems rather sloppy of Norman, but then again, he could be very sloppy. Leaving the personal journal behind could be seen as leaving a road map for Harry to follow. For example, he may have written a forward to Harry that Kingsley did not mention simply because it was not relevant to him. But that’s a stretch. Perhaps the simplest and most logical explanation is that Norman simply forgot about it. After all, there are no entries after issue #39 (we know this because in issue #250, Kingsley notes that the last entry was about Norman developing the chemical to dull Spider-Man's senses, so that he could discover his identity - and Kingsley ponders whether or not Norman actually learned this), but we know Norman had at least two subsequent turns as the Goblin (not counting his final, “fatal” one in the wake of Gwen Stacy’s death) in which he could have made entries – although the first turn, dramatized in the original magazine Spectacular Spider-Man #2 (November 1968) happened during the course of one night, in which Osborn likely wouldn’t have had time to write down anything. Or, it's possible that he simply no longer thought that the journal was relevant since he already documented the development of his primary weapons, stockpiled incriminating information on all of his cronies, and his primary focus had changed from building a criminal empire to exacting revenge on Spider-Man. Regardless, once the Hobgoblin begins raiding other Goblin hideouts, as well as blackmailing the other members of Norman’s Country Club, Osborn probably realized that he made a huge mistake in leaving the journal behind.

We finally see Harry again, and for the first time, Donald Menken, in issue #239, as Menken apprises “Mr. Osborn” of the thefts. Harry is clearly in charge by this time and we learn in issue #249 that the estate finally settled and Harry came into his "full inheritance." This time, however, Harry seems to be a little wiser to his father's deeds as he is not surprised to learn that his father had stuff stashed in places that were not documented in official company records. Of course, the biggest shock was yet to come.

It doesn't take long for Harry to reconnect with the old gang, and in Spectacular Spider-Man #85 (December 1983) we discover that Liz is expecting, and in the aforementioned issue #249, Harry and Liz have invited them all to a huge party at the mansion to celebrate. However, Harry's celebration is short-lived, as he receives a mysterious special delivery that provides details about his father's life that he had long since forgotten.

Seeing Harry shook up and departing the scene in haste, Peter follows him and finds him sitting alone in quiet contemplation. Harry tells him that he is being blackmailed by someone who has proof that his father was - the Green Goblin! "My father was a criminal - a murderer. He...he killed Gwen." Harry has to struggle with realizing that the man whose attention and approval he craved for his entire life was also a sociopath who murdered his oldest friend. Of course, as troubling as this was, it was learning another man’s secrets that really pushed him over the edge – but we’re not there yet. Surprisingly to Harry, Peter seems to be taking this rather calmly, even volunteering to help Harry out, despite who is father was and what he had done. If Harry were reading between the lines, it would seem...as if Peter already knew...

And now that we're talking about Peter taking the news rather well (how would you react if you found out for the first time that the murderer of your true love was the father of your best friend? You'd stagger off and probably throw up, and feel as if a scab was brutally ripped away), Harry doesn't seem to be all that surprised himself. He knew that his father had secrets. Although Menken had probably been thorough in covering both the Osborn family’s tracks – Harry had to wonder why he would have chosen the Green Goblin of all criminals to emulate. Naturally, he felt inadequate, and adopted the Goblin identity because it represented power and the ability to rise above societal norms - but then again, a lot of other supervillains could represent the same. Heck - why not create a tin can for a suit and kick ass as Doctor Doom? Now there's power. Even if he rationalized it that it was because the Goblin was Spider-Man’s greatest enemy and Spider-Man had been a suspect in his father’s death – why even dress in a costume at all? Why not just be a shadowy behind the scenes figure wrecking havoc as his old man had originally started out? And besides, who's to say that by flying around as a fake Goblin that the “real” Green Goblin wouldn’t show up and pummel him? Do you suppose that Harry wondered how he ever got access to Goblin gear in the first place? Or how the "real" Green Goblin never re-appeared after his father’s death? Harry had issues, but he wasn't stupid, and he probably already had some idea of the man his father had been - but really didn't ever want to know the truth. Even worse, though, was someone else knowing the secret and threatening to expose it.

Harry meets the Hobgoblin for the first time in issue #249, even standing up to him and taking a swing at him - or at least - the robot version of the Hobgoblin, which Roddy used as a distraction to ferret out the troublemakers before zooming through in person. Unfortunately, this was the first of many times that the Goblin with the orange and black fashion scheme would make Harry's acquaintance.

The next time was Amazing Spider-Man #260 & 261 (January-February 1985), as the original Hobgoblin (and although Kingsley was beginning to use Ned Leeds as his doppelganger, this is still clearly Kingsley) crashes Oscorp and later kidnaps Liz and Mary Jane (who happened to be with Liz at the time) believing that Norman would have had to make a copy of his journals (the originals were destroyed in issue #250) and that Harry would know where they were. In issue #260, Harry sees Liz being kidnapped and after trying to rescue her, is swatted away, but then thinks that if any harm comes to his wife and unborn child, the Hobgoblin will regret the day he ever heard of Harry Osborn - the son of the Green Goblin! Did this portend a Green Goblin vs. Hobgoblin meeting? Well, unfortunately not - as this is merely a tease for the next issue (the real Goblin slam down doesn't occur for another 50+ issues). Harry has no idea where his father kept anything - but does find a journal in an old desk. He presents it to the Hobgoblin, but it turns out that these are all locations that Kingsley has already looted. The Goblin takes Harry captive, and tosses him in with Liz and MJ. However, as we've seen before, Harry isn't about to take any crap lying down and comes prepared packing a firearm. While he vapor locks the first time he has a goon in his sites, he recovers and is soon tossing pumpkin bombs at the Hobgoblin.

Although Spider-Man (again) saves the day, the trauma triggers Liz's labor, and the baby, Norman Harry Osborn is born in issue #263 (we learn his name in issue #265). Interesting that even after finding out what kind of man his father was, Harry still names his son for him! Perhaps by having a better relationship with this "Norman" Osborn than he had with his own father, he believes that he will bring closure to that troubled relationship and heal those emotional scars. Of course, Harry's father vowed to be a better parent than his own father had been - and failed. As a side note, the original Hobgoblin does not make trouble for Harry again after issue #261 because there is no point – he believes that Harry has nothing else to offer him.

An interesting side note to this story is that we find out that when little Norman was born, he had a secret surprise visitor - his grandfather, who snuck into the country in order to see his grandson, and perhaps take him from Liz and Harry and raise the boy himself (why he didn't and more, in Peter Parker: Spider-Man volume II #25 January 2001). So, since Norman came back for his grandson’s birth – why didn't he just deal with Kingsley right then and there? In Osborn Journals (February 1997), we learn that Norman was concocting a plan against Hobby, but that he was “distracted” by learning about Judas Traveler (who unfortunately played a major role in the Clone Saga). Maybe Osborn's plan wasn't ready (he may have had informants seeking out the Goblin's identity, and was waiting to learn it before striking - which would make sense). However, it is just as likely that Kingsley unwittingly outfoxed Osborn.

As I detail in my series Squandered Legacy, Roddy became becoming increasingly dissatisfied with his role as the Hobgoblin, finding that the criminal element that he once sought to control was simply too fragmented and too much trouble for him. He began using Ned Leeds more and more as a doppelganger, finally setting Ned up to take the fall in the infamous Amazing Spider-Man #289 (June 1987). As Kingsley leaked out word that Leeds was the Goblin to cover his own tracks, word also reached Osborn’s own spies – and the Foreigner simply beat Osborn to the punch. Jason Macendale, the new Hobgoblin, would have been of no interest to Osborn as he was not the Goblin who stole and modified his technology. And unlike Phil Urich years later, he wasn’t using the name “Green Goblin,” which Norman obviously had a proprietary interest in.

Flash forward (pun somewhat intended) to the wedding that never really happened according to Brand New Day. In Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (1987), Peter asks Flash to be his best man, rather than Harry. I found this surprising, and wondered if the author of the piece, David Michelinie, was aware that Harry was really Pete's best friend. Since Flash had been more prominently featured in the titles up to that point (as a bogus Hobgoblin suspect), he might have incorrectly assumed that Flash was the more prominent character. Still, from a story perspective, we could assume that considering all of the problems that Flash had been through lately (the failure of his relationship with Sha Shan, a dubious affair with Betty Brant, which led to a beating at the hands of the Leeds Hobgoblin, being set up by the Kingsley Hobgoblin, spending time in jail, and the general mess his life was in), Peter might have simply felt it would be an appropriate gesture to a troubled friend, and even cleared it with Harry first.

And once again, things are quiet for Harry and Liz.

But not for long.

Second verse same as the first. We just saw how the original Hobgoblin barged into the life of Harry Osborn, the son of Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin, erroneously believing that Harry was the keeper of Norman's secrets. However, after Amazing Spider-Man #261 that Hobgoblin, Roderick Kingsley, realized that Harry had nothing else to offer, and ultimately left him alone. Kingsley soon grew weary of the Hobgoblin role, and framed Daily Bugle reporter Ned Leeds for the Hobgoblin’s crimes. Embittered by his own failures against the Hobgoblin, Jason Macendale, the original Jack O'Lantern, contracted the master assassin, the Foreigner to murder the Goblin. However, Kingsley had planned well, for when Leeds was murdered, the original Hobgoblin was assumed dead - and Macendale took over the role. This was bad news for Harry, because now there's another Hobgoblin eager to learn Norman Osborn's secrets - of which Harry has no better idea of what they are than when the last Goblin wanted them!

The stage is now set "Inferno." Frankly, I know very little about “Inferno,” as Spidey was only a peripheral player, and I wasn’t regularly buying comics at that time (although doing plenty of Byrne-stealing). This was yet another one of those infernal (pun intended) company-wide crossover events that Marvel dreamed up to suck as much cash out of the comic buyer's pocket as possible. So, being the contrary old fart that I was even in my early 20's, I refused to purchase ANY of the other Marvel titles to get the whole story, since I figured it would be a waste of time and money. Nothing in the intervening two decades has convinced me that I was wrong, and my faithful readers are encouraged, of course, to try. All you need to know for this article is that in the Marvel Universe in 1988, demons tried to take over New York City and turn it into Hell on Earth, which considering the condition of the city at the time, the demons were superfluous. Actually, now that I think of it - I don't know what the demons' ultimate objective was, since like I said, I didn't read anything outside of the spider-titles. Anyway, New Yorkers, being the skeptical hard to fool breed that they are, sense that something is going awry when statues and various other inanimate objects start coming to life and attacking - kind of Night at the Museum on a much larger and deadlier scale.

When next we meet those lovable Osborns, Ozzie, Sharon, Harry and Liz, they are now ensconced in the Osborn family home on Long Island. But for Harry, it turns out to be his own Amityville Horror filled with Osborn family ghosts. The first indication that something is wrong is when Harry begins to suffer from a series of nightmares - nightmares featuring the Green Goblin. We first see this in Amazing Spider-Man #311(January 1989). For a heaping helping of irony, check out Amazing Spider-Man #61, where we see Norman Osborn having disturbing visions in which the Green Goblin prominently figures, not long before his own memories return and he re-assumes the role. After one of these episodes, Harry checks in on little Norman to ensure that the boy is o.k., and we see the "sinister" (yeah - that's in quotes) visage of the Macendale Hobgoblin outside the Osborn home. Naturally, with this being a crossover - we don't have to wait long to pick up the story in Spectacular Spider-Man #146 that very month. Harry awakens from yet another nightmare, and Liz believes that it is them living in the old Osborn house that's bringing about all of the old demons.

Harry calls Peter and asks him to come out to the Osborn Chemical plant in Manhattan and by his tone, Pete fears the worst. Harry confides about the nightmares, and Peter tells Harry to move out of the old man's house and back to New Jersey. Harry is reluctant, obviously, feeling that he had "unfinished business" in Manhattan and was compelled to come back (that, and maybe he really didn't want to live in New Jersey). Then, all of a sudden the plant itself seems to come alive, with pipes attacking the duo. Harry passes out as Peter changes to Spider-Man (oh, please), and the plant is destroyed in the chaos that follows. Even though insurance will rebuild it (but you gotta wonder about insurance rates in New York City, what with all of the destruction caused by various superhero and supervillain scuffles), Harry is angry because the plant that is rebuilt will not be the same as his father's, the one whose halls he walked as a child when he would visit the elder Osborn. And that night, almost as if on cue, Harry awakes from yet another nightmare and staggers into the bathroom - where he sees a familiar face staring back at him.

The story continues in Web of Spider-Man #47 (February 1989), which opens with the Macendale Hobgoblin ripping through the ruins of the Osborn plant looking for - something (three guesses what). Unable to find it there, Macendale streaks toward the Osborn home. Also heading there is Peter Parker, who finds Harry tearing apart his attic, steadily freaking out, and frantically looking for something himself. Macendale attacks the Osborn family, demanding that Harry give him his father's formula, and then Spider-Man shows up to engage in some fisticuffs. Knock, knock Harry and Liz - figure it out! At first, Harry has no idea what the Hobgoblin is talking about, and as a delaying tactic, sends the Goblin on a wild goose chase into Manhattan just to get him to leave his family alone. But - as young Osborn becomes more enraged that he was unable to adequately protect his family from evil - the fog begins to clear. Knowing that Norman Osborn wouldn't stand by and let his family be threatened - Harry heads back into the attic - and finally remembers what he had hidden away.

It is interesting to ponder whether or not it really was “Inferno” that unlocked Harry’s memories or simply his own demons coming back to haunt him. After all, the only “demon” that Harry really saw in his home was his father! But what could really be happening is that Harry has been letting his psychological treatment lapse.

When you’re mentally ill – there is no cure, no magic bullet that all of a sudden makes you sane. It's not even like cancer, where radiation and chemotherapy only last for so long before either your tumor shrinks - or you have to face the unpleasant alternative. And, a severe case such as Harry’s would have required heavy duty medication and intensive therapy in addition to the institutionalization. Not only that, but considering that Harry had actually committed several crimes as the Green Goblin (blowing up his and Peter's apartment, hijacking trucks), he was probably under court mandated treatment as well (his old man's name and money would have kept him out of jail). And until he ascended to the head of Oscorp, he probably continued his regimen. However, I suspect that after he took over Oscorp, a number of things began to "distract" Harry. First of all, it could be that the court mandated supervision came to an end. Second, Harry may very well have jumped into the running of Oscorp too quickly and with too much fervor. The stress of running the company (including dealing with Kingsley's covert takeover attempt), repeated visits by two different Hobgoblins as if they were irritating relatives who wouldn't stay away, and the expectations that he was placing on himself (I'm sure Harry had a lot of doubters in the business community over whether or not he was worthy of taking over the old man's post - particularly after his drug problems). I suspect that as the pressures began to pile up, Harry's doctor probably wanted to make changes to his medication. However, Harry probably did not care for how his anti-psychotic drugs made him feel at times, and did not want to increase his dosage or change medications. And with someone with a case as severe as Harry's you know he had to be on some seriously strong stuff which may have made him feel like he was mentally trying to wade through molasses at times. He may even have fell prey to ego – thinking that he had mastered his demons and didn’t need chemical help anymore. So, as we see, the “voices” in the form of his "deceased" father, begin their gradual return.

Speaking of Hobgoblins, as we know, Jason Macendale was nothing but a pansy in the role, getting his butt kicked all over the place. So, naturally, he comes to the conclusion that what he needs to tilt the tables in his favor is super powers. Believing that the original Hobgoblin is dead – the only chance he feels he has is with Norman Osborn's super strength formula – and that Harry knows where it is. So, being the big brave goon that he is, Macendale threatens Normie and Liz if Harry doesn’t dig up the formula. But, how did Macendale even know that there was such a formula? While Kingsley and Macendale did business together in their respective costumed identities, I simply can't see Kingsley blurting out any of his secrets to a punk like Macendale. And since he never gave Ned Leeds the formula, I suspect that he didn't tell Ned anything about it, either. Plus, how would Macendale have known about the Osborn connection? How did he know that the Hobgoblin wasn't a mutant or cybernetically enhanced (shades of things to come in his own future)? And Osborn's journals were destroyed in Amazing Spider-Man #250 with no copies made. I actually had written a tortured paragraph where I tried to explain the discrepancies - but I decided that it was worse that simply acknowledging that at this time there are so many different hands in the Spider-Man cookie jar that glitches were bound to happen.

So while Harry doesn’t seem to be in complete knowledge of everything just yet, he does remember where he stashed some gear during his own turn as the jolly jade goon. Tired of continually being fearful and of being “weak,” Harry decides that there is only on way to end the threats on his family – to take care of the Hobgoblin personally.

Amazing Spider-Man #312 (February 1989) is a favorite among many Spider-Fans, as it is the first meeting of the Goblins – although, admittedly, these are the second stringers. Still, that meeting, combined with the ever popular art of Todd McFarlane, who was on fire at the time, created an instant fan fave. Boy, I'm glad I got this off the shelf all those years ago instead of trying to find it in the back issue bins for a ridiculously inflated price.

As the Green Goblin, Harry confronts Macendale at Oscorp's downtown headquarters, where he told the Hobgoblin the secrets to the formula was hidden. Spider-Man intrudes in the middle of the Battle of the Goblins, where Harry is barely hanging on. Remember, it was way back in Amazing Spider-Man #180 (May 1978) since he was last on the glider - and although Macendale is not powerful, he is a much more skilled fighter than Harry and has spent more time in a ridiculous Halloween getup. Harry remembers the knowledge of the glider and weapons he picked up in his months of practice after his father's "death," but has lost the edge that being flat out nuts gave him. Spider-Man tries to trick Harry into revealing whether or not he remembers his secret identity, by telling Harry to leave and go stay "with that Parker kid," but Harry doesn’t bite, telling Spider-Man that he won't bring anyone else into this - not Peter, and not him. Spidey takes this as an admission that Harry's memory has not fully returned. Now, it is possible that Harry really does not remember at this time – but he realizes that the safety of his family is his first priority – and any conversation with Peter Parker about his choice of pajama wear can wait.

Showing just what a lame punk he is, Macendale is tricked as Harry circles above him and unloads a full bag of pumpkin bombs, wrecking his glider and causing the FauxGoblin to crash. Harry has Macendale at the wrong end of a fully loaded purple finger and tells him that he'll give him a point blank sparkle blast if he ever threatens his family again (Now, this is where I would have taken a little summary justice into my own hands. I'd have fried Macendale's face right there - after all - with all of the chaos going on - who would have noticed another dead costumed cretin?). Macendale tells Harry that he needs his father's strength-enhancing formula - to which Harry replies that if he knew where it was - wouldn't he have already used it on the Hobgoblin? DUH! Furious, the Goblin throws Harry aside and tries to incinerate him with a barrage of firing fickle fingers, but Spidey comes to the rescue and pushes him out of the way. Macendale escapes and Spider-Man makes a surprising proposition to Harry - stating he did pretty well on his own and that "New York could always use another crime fighter." Harry angrily rejects the offer, telling Spider-Man that he has responsibilities - something he'd understand someday "if you ever get married." With that, Harry returns home to Normie and Liz, leaving both Spider-Man and us to endure the finish to this crossover, which includes Macendale being turned into a real demon by Master Demon N'Astirh - whatever. I discuss this in much more detail in my Hobgoblin series Squandered Legacy.

Harry is the Green Goblin again, but it's a Goblin of a different color that we're talking about now if you believe Gerry Conway's narrative in Spectacular Spider-Man #147, where he says that Harry is "a man transformed" that yesterday he was "tormented by dreams and confounded by amnesia" but "today he knows himself and has made peace with a troubled past." We later see Harry checking in on Aunt May out in Queens in Web of Spider-Man #48, to ensure that she's alright, thinking to himself that it's the least he could do since Peter tried to help when the Hobgoblin attacked his home. Hmmm. Harry also tells May that Peter was fine when he left him a few hours ago. Hmmm again. While Harry did see Peter in Web #47, it was for the briefest of moments. Peter had just reached Harry in the attic when the Hobgoblin attacked and then Harry bailed out to help his family. Harry didn't see Pete again, but of course, Spider-Man showed up and started fighting the Hobgoblin.

Do ya think?

We see Harry briefly in Amazing Spider-Man #318 (August 1989) looking through a loft in Soho, which as Harry tells us, the return of his memories reminded him that his father owned this building. Pressing a hidden button, Harry uncovers yet another hideout of the Green Goblin, with a complete goody stash, and ominously talks about one more task to complete before setting his "master plan in motion." But it takes almost a year before this little subplot plays out! In issue #319, as Harry and Liz move into the building, Liz sees a Green Goblin mask in a box and panics before Harry assures her it is just trash his father left behind and that he will dispose of it. In issue #321, Harry invites Mary Jane and Peter to live in the loft above him and Liz, as the Parkers have been booted from their Bedford Towers condo by Jonathan Caesar (who you will recall, was infatuated with Mary Jane). Peter is really excited about the skylight in the bathroom, to which Harry responds "Peter, you're weird."

In Web of Spider-Man #62 (March 1990), the Molten Man, recently paroled (o.k. I don't get this - if the Molten Man was paroled - that meant he had a parole board hearing - of which Liz and Harry would have been notified. Other affected parties can come in and speak for or against the potential parolee. Now, considering that Raxton had freaked out the last time we saw him and threatened to burn everything down around him, as well as kill Harry and Liz - no one spoke out against him at his parole hearing?) comes to Soho looking to get some money out of Liz. Everyone assumes the worst, and of course, Spider-Man shows up in Soho (what a coincidence) to do some knuckle busting with Raxton. We soon find out that he was merely looking for a loan so that he could go straight and rebuild his life elsewhere.

Later, in the company of Harry and Peter, Raxton mentions that he didn't explain this to Spider-Man and Harry looks directly at Peter and asks "Spider-Man was here?" Harry tells Raxton that he won't loan him any money, but will give him a job, which Raxton eagerly accepts.

So, I think Harry has remembered that Peter is Spider-Man since "Inferno."

Things finally start moving on the Goblin subplot in Web of Spider-Man #65 (June 1990), as Mary Jane, while babysitting young Norman, accidentally stumbles upon a Green Goblin costume, although Harry allegedly told them that he had destroyed them. In Web of Spider-Man #66 Mark Raxton is picked up by Tombstone for a little "meeting," in which the pale one tells him that his boss, Hammerhead, is very interested in a new chemical preservative that Oscorp is developing for agricultural purposes. However, the mob thinks it would work wonders for the coke trade - and figures that since Raxton is Harry Osborn's brother in law - he can get access to the preservative. If he doesn't comply, they'll steal it anyway and pin the theft on him.

However, Raxton decides to double cross Tombstone, since Harry is giving him a second chance by giving him a job and Raxton doesn't want to screw that up. So, after getting Spider-Man's attention, he proposes that the webslinger help him turn the tables on Tombstone.

In the meantime, Peter and Mary Jane decide to confront Liz about MJ's discovery of the Green Goblin costume in the alcove. Liz is furious (and in denial) with the two of them, and naturally, when MJ leads her to where she saw the costume, it's gone.

Back at the plant, the Molten Man leads Tombstone and goons into the Oscorp facility where the chemical preservative is stored, but everyone's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is there waiting for them. And if that wasn't enough of a surprise - look who drops in to join the battle:

With Harry's help, the Molten Man and Spidey nab everyone (except Tombstone of course), but Spidey's got more than a few questions for his new green pal. After demanding an answer, the Goblin merely says "You might say Harry Osborn and I are fairly close. He asked me to keep an eye on his property - so I did." It's interesting that neither Raxton, nor Joe Robertson (who was at Oscorp on a tip that his old nemesis Tombstone would be there), questioned just what a notorious criminal such as the Green Goblin was doing there! After all, if you remember, no one realized that the Green Goblin had been killed back in Amazing Spider-Man #122, only Norman Osborn. And the Goblin made several more appearances over the years, although he was two different people (Harry and Bart Hamilton). As far as the general public knows, the Green Goblin is still very much alive, and still very much a criminal!

Next issue, we see Spidey chasing Harry through the sky, and catching up with him, demands to know what he's doing playing superhero. Harry tells him that he's missed the excitement, and wants the Green Goblin to fly again - this time as a force for good. Spidey responds that being a costumed crime fighter isn't a great line of work for a family man, to which Osborn angrily responds "Now that's strange coming from you, Spider-Man" before flying off. Of course, this is Spidey's first clue that all of Harry's memories have returned.

After a talk with Mary Jane, Peter decides to confront Harry, but he's not around. Doing a little snooping, Pete discovers an invoice for renovations to an industrial structure, and that leads him to find Harry's Goblin hideout under the Brooklyn Bridge. When the Green Goblin arrives, does Spider-Man do the responsible thing and have a sit down chat with Harry over the magnitude of what he's planning? No - he immediately starts punching the Goblin out! after learning that Harry wants to vindicate his father's name - and the name of the Green Goblin.

Frankly, I think this qualifies as one of Spider-Man's most stupid moments. I cannot imagine just what Peter was thinking. Harry freaks out when feelings of powerless and helplessness overwhelm him - after all, Harry became the Green Goblin again when the Hobgoblin did that very thing! So, Spidey figures the way to get through to Harry is to beat him up and humiliate him and rub his inadequacies in his face. And from a writing perspective, it was sloppy of Gerry Conway, who wrote this story, or the editor of the spider titles, Jim Salicrup, not to reconcile this with Spider-Man's suggestion in Amazing Spider-Man #312 (written by David Michelinie) that Harry consider becoming a crime fighter!

So, when Harry starts to freak out again, Spider-Man makes matters worse by trash talking about Norman Osborn, which sends Harry over the edge. Naturally, I'm sure that Spider-Man did not realize the harm he was doing, and admittedly, he might not have been set off like he was if Harry had simply stated that he wanted to play superhero and not brought in the topic of vindicating his father's name. This is where Harry screwed up. He knew that his father murdered Gwen Stacy and he knew just how personal that was to Spider-Man. Harry shouldn't have brought his father up in this situation. Peter would like nothing more than for Norman Osborn to rot in hell and his memory cleansed from the earth. And he goes for the jugular when he tells Harry "There was nothing good about Norman Osborn. Not from the minute he decided he could gain more by being a crook than a legitimate businessman - or a decent father." Harry immediately goes into denial, arguing that Norman was a good and kind man who loved him. Of course, that's what Harry desperately wants to believe. It's clear that although Harry knows the truth, he cannot reconcile the two versions of Norman Osborn - the father whose affection and approval he desperately wanted, and the murderous psychopath he really was. Harry's inability to deal with this is a major factor leading to his fate as it originally played out.

The situation gets out of control, with the Goblin threatening to kill Spider-Man and saying really, really stupid things such as "within seconds you will be dead and the name of Osborn will be clean of all the grime you've heaped upon it." And this is what also leads me to believe that Harry was going off his medication. He loses control far too easily. Rather than simply being mad, he becomes totally irrational, almost as if he has been completely consumed by the Green Goblin identity. So, Spidey has to put him down, hard and fast. But, when Harry awakes, do he and Peter settle down for a long overdue heart to heart? Nope. Spider-Man tells him that the superhero business is not for him, and that his family would be devastated should he lose his life on such a foolish endeavor. And then - he swings off into the night! It's almost like Peter is in denial himself - that if he doesn't bring the subject of his secret identity up with Harry, then Harry really doesn't remember it. Of course, the truth is what it is, as Harry utters a little bombshell out of earshot.

And what is done by the Spider-Man writing staff with this key revelation? Absolutely friggin' NOTHING! At least not until "The Child Within," which began the countdown to Harry's demise.

I was very disappointed in this outcome. Marvel's failure to pursue the dramatic possibilities of Harry knowing Peter's secret identity - and using it in stories other than Green Goblin vs. Spider-Man battles is one of the great wasted opportunities in the entire mythology. I seem to recall reading that Marvel once considered going with a "Harry as a Heroic Goblin" run, but I'll be damned if I can find it anywhere - so it may merely be a flawed memory or post hypnotic suggestion. Still, it would have been interesting, for example, to have a run similar to that of the Black Cat in the Spider-Man titles - where she and Spidey were essentially a team for about a year and a half. One of the books, Spectacular or Web could have featured Peter and Harry working together in costume, while Spidey ran solo in the other books. This could have been a huge irony, Spider-Man working together with the son of his greatest enemy (old Norman would have really freaked out from his European exile at that). The idea that Peter wouldn't want his best friend and a family man exposed to the danger is hypocritical and actually holds very little weight. Harry already had two different Hobgoblins come looking for him and threatening his family. And let's not forget that his wife has the Molten Man for a brother - a man who had already wanted to kill her on two different occasions. Tombstone had come knocking on Oscorp's door looking for an experimental agricultural compound. Not only that, but there would be no telling how many other enemies Norman Osborn had made in his lifetime (Mendel Stromm had tried to kill Norman once), or how many other of his secrets the criminal element would crave. Face it, Harry Osborn already had a target on his back, and Peter is being more than a little disingenuous in his trying to talk Harry out of being a superhero.

Now, naturally, of course, a Spider-Man/Green Goblin partnership couldn't last for various logical and storytelling reasons - and I would have written it where Harry eventually got his ass handed to him more than once and realized that being a heroic Goblin wasn't for him.

But even if that sounds too lame, there were other ways that Harry could worked with Spider-Man without donning the green and purple duds. After all, Harry Osborn would have been too valuable a resource for Spider-Man to ignore. An excellent example in a rather dumb storyline was "Spider-Man's Totally Tiny Adventure," which ran through the Amazing, Spectacular and Web annuals in 1990. In it, Spidey accidentally gets a whiff of Ant-Man's shrinking gas - and as you can guess by the title - stars in his own version of "The Incredible Shrinking Man." In Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #10, once Mary Jane sees what a shrimp her husband has become, Spidey suggests that she take him to Harry Osborn to try to find a cure for his condition. Harry does what he can, and although he does not succeed (Spidey is returned to normal through other methods), we are given a glimpse of a direction that could have been taken, of Harry providing covert scientific and other support for Spider-Man. Although these titles came out during the same year Web #67 did, nothing in the story suggests that Harry knows that Peter is Spider-Man - yet - he seems more than willing to assist Spidey - particularly since it is Mary Jane who's doing the pleading. There is no dialogue that suggests that Harry, MJ, and Spider-Man have all acknowledged that they know that he knows that they know that he knows...but duh! MJ comes to Harry in a state of panic with a steadily shrinking Spidey?

As I described in a previous part of this series with Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #14 - not all of the content in these annuals were devoted to Spider-Man. I wouldn't recommend that anyone actually purchase these unless they're in the cheapo bins. In Amazing Annual #24, the Spider-Man story (and a feature on the loft in Soho) comprises only 27 out of the 54 comic pages, with the rest of the issue taken up by stories featuring Solo, the Sandman (back in his good guy phase), and Ant Man. In Spectacular Annual #10, there is similar waste, this time with backup stories starring the Prowler, the Rocket Racer, and Sandman again. Web Annual #6 is better, as 2 of the 3 backup stories feature Aunt May and Mary Jane.

Of course, even with Harry behind the scenes, it would have represented a fundamental change in the series. Spider-Man would really no longer be a loner if he and Harry became partners and he could run to Harry for support instead of figuring things out all on his lonesome (of course, then 15 years later, the idea was good enough to put Spidey in New Avengers, wasn't it?). Ultimately, something would have had to have been done to split them up, as was done with Spidey and the Cat - but still, what interesting tales could have been told!

Even years later, it is frustrating to read something like Web of Spider-Man #67, which comes across like bad formulaic soap opera drama where no one acts like a reasonable human being - or asks the question or says the thing that a normal person would do - but does something totally false merely to create or prolong a sense of drama. Once Peter suspected that Harry probably knew who he was - if he was truly a friend - he would have sat down with him in a non-threatening fashion - over dinner, or coffee, or something, and they would have had a long, long conversation about the state of affairs, much like Peter and Aunt May many years later in Amazing Spider-Man volume II #38 (February 2002), a story which incidentally was called "The Conversation." And either they would have worked it out and buried their respective hatchets, or things would have gone sour and the relationship would have fallen apart, as it ultimately did. Harry is still a sick person who needs constant help, and as I've speculated, he was probably letting his treatment lapse. That would have been a challenge for Peter to deal with. But, for Spider-Man to just show up at "the Goblin Cave" and start beating the crap out of Harry without trying to level with him first - with the express purpose of showing him how powerless and inadequate he really was - doesn't work for me. It's another example of how Peter's failing to be honest with Harry, and failing to truly treat him as his best friend, contributed to so much mutual misery.

Oh, I suppose that when Harry's memories finally cleared, he could have gone to Peter himself and initiated the contact. But, I'm not so sure if I were Harry, that I would have done that. After all, Peter has been the one so obsessive about maintaining his secrets from Harry for years, and Harry might have logically believed that even if he did confront Peter, the latter would have continued to lie to him, or come up with some lame story, or otherwise insult his intelligence. The ball really was in Pete's court - and he blew it, and would pay dearly for many years to come.

Or maybe I'm just looking at this way too seriously.

NEXT TIME: Harry Osborn meets his final destiny. Well, that is, until Joe Quesada and Mephisto got involved. It's Harry's death, his posthumous schemes, and his resurrection in the Final Part of "The Goblin Prince."


Back to Spidey Kicks Butt!

Back to the Table of Contents

Write me at MadGoblin

Or join me on the to talk about this article with me and other Spidey fans!