Squandered Legacy:

The Rise and Fall of

Part One

The Mystery Begins

Once upon a time, Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin, really was dead. However, the impact of his legacy of evil upon our favorite wall crawler was so pervasive that even dead, he was still the most heinous of villains, having inspired not one, but two successors, each unsuccessful in claiming Norman's legacy as their own. By March 1983, one of these successor Green Goblins had died and the other no longer remembered his days in spandex. Neither they, nor any other Spidey villains at that time, could raise the levels of fear and anxiety the way the original Goblin could.

Roger Stern must have realized this when he assumed the writing chores of Amazing Spider-Man beginning with issue #224 (after spending 18 months as the scribe of Spectacular Spider-Man). Of course, I have never talked to Stern myself, nor read every single interview with him, so I can only assume what went through his mind based on what I have read, as he attempted to recreate one of Spidey's deadliest foes. Of the three Green Goblins, Norman Osborn was the only one who really packed a whallop. Both Harry Osborn and Bart Hamilton, although they possessed the costumes and the hardware and the knowledge of Spidey's secret identity, paled in comparison to the brilliance, ferocity, and sheer pathological behavior of Norman Osborn. Neither had had super powers (up to that time) and neither possessed Norman's business and scientific acumen. But in 1983, barely more than 100 issues after the deaths of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn in the classic Amazing Spider-Man #121-122, the idea of reviving the original Green Goblin was simply not an option. Not only would that have seemed even more sacriligious at that time, about 9 years after the fact (as opposed to the 23 that passed when Norman was finally revived)- but there simply wasn't a storyline at the time that demanded the return of Norman Osborn, unlike years later when a little thing called the Clone Saga had become such an ungodly and unwieldy mess that only Norman Osborn could have bailed Marvel out of it (See my article The Return of Norman Osborn ). Harry Osborn had been more of a disturbed child than an evil criminal mastermind, and Bart Hamilton, supposedly dead after the events of Amazing Spider-Man #180 wasn't particularly memorable, which ruled out any need to revive him.

Still, Stern needed a Goblin - but it was apparent that it had to be an all-new Goblin. To come up with a 4th Green Goblin would seem like retreading old ground, plus it would likely diminish the memory of that classic villain. So - why not have someone find Norman Osborn's old equipment and recast himself with a new name, a new color scheme, and rebuild the Goblin Legacy, which had been in disrepair since Norman's death? Plus, as the introduction of the original Green Goblin became a mystery that lasted two years - who was this masked man - Stern saw the challenge and the fun of creating a brand new villain, a new mystery, with new speculations and hysteria as spider-fans tried to guess the identity of this new Goblin.

And the fans came up with a lot of suspects, even though if you read the original issues, there were really only two legitimate contenders, neither of whom was the choice of the HobGoblin's creator! The appearance of the original HobGoblin in 1983 was a huge success, the capper to Stern's nearly four year run on the spider-titles. It injected a level of action, suspense and anxiety that had not been seen in the titles in several years. Stern's original HobGoblin saga, which ran sporadically from Amazing Spider-Man #238-251, was one of the highlights of Spidey's long career, and made my 10 Top Spidey Stories list.

But after that year, the HobGoblin fell victim to the most terrible of evil plots, the kind that sap the strength and vitality out of even the greatest of characters. It was a plot indirectly hatched by Marvel itself, with its changes in creative teams, editorial directions, and annoying tendency to drag storylines out way beyond their useful life, no doubt fed by some artistic egos along the way. All of these combined to brutally short circuit the career of what could have been one of Spidey's greatest all-time villains. Yet, there are those who would say that he still belongs on that list. Hobby is still a favorite, as evidenced by the numerous requests that I received to write a series of HobGoblin articles, and the discussion that he inspires on the bulletin boards. However, I personally think his popularity is based on what he could have been, rather than what he actually was. Even Stern's return to writing the character more than a decade later in the miniseries HobGoblin Lives and the "Goblins at the Gate" story in Spectacular Spider-Man just prior to the reboot could not completely rescue him from the obscurity and irrelevancy he was ultimately exiled to - at least for the moment in the current continuity. As Spider-Girl fans know, he is a vital and pervasive player in that series.

This series of articles will examine the HobGoblin Legacy from the beginning to what currently seems to be its end. We'll look at his beginnings, the prime suspects and the pretenders, and the ultimate resolution. We'll compare the HobGoblin to the original Green Goblin, why he held so much promise, where the character went wrong, and see if there is any future for him. The first two parts of this series will examine the history of the HobGoblin as it originally unveiled, from his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #238 to his apparent unveiling and death in issue #289 - but we will take a look at it from the perspective of always knowing that Roderick Kingsley, whom according to Stern was his only choice, was the original HobGoblin. I bandied about different approaches to writing these articles, including one where I would pretend as I wrote it that I really didn't ultimately know where it was going to lead, and looking at the clues from that perspective. But, the first draft of that approach was so awful and disjointed (much like the way it really unfolded) that I even confused myself. So, I decided that the only way to truly approach this was to try to stay as linear as possible, presuming that there really was a coherent plan from beginning to end. And that's quite a presumption.

We'll look at all of the clues left behind by Roger Stern and Tom DeFalco, as well as fan speculation on just who the HobGoblin was. We'll see whether the ultimate resolution really fit with those clues, and whether Kingsley really was the best choice for the HobGoblin. He may have always been Stern's choice - but was he the best choice? Part 3 will detail the careers of Jason Phillip Macendale and his demonic counterpart, the DemoGoblin, as they combined with the spider writers to squander the Goblin Legacy. The fourth part will highlight Kinglsey's return in HobGoblin Lives as Stern revives his greatest creation. And finally, this series will end with a special "Osborn vs. Kingsley" article, in which we take a look at the only meeting between the two characters ("Goblins at the Gate") and compare them pumpkin bomb by pumpkin bomb. I'm looking forward to writing that one.

History Lesson - with some editorial commentary
Before I start my long-winded exposition, let me give a brief history of the HobGoblin in his various forms. I've noticed on some of the boards that people have been asking questions about the HobGoblin, his connection with the Green Goblin, and who he really was, so it leads me to believe that I don't want to make the intellectually arrogrant assumption that everyone will know right away what I'm talking about.

In Amazing Spider-Man #238, a mysterious figure discovered one of Norman Osborn's, the original Green Goblin's, old hideouts. He modified Osborn's costumes and equipment and assumed the identity of the HobGoblin. Inevitably, he began to tangle with Spider-Man, but was no match for the wall-crawler until he duplicated Osborn's (really, Mendell Stromm's) Goblin formula in Spectacular Spider-Man #85. After Stern left the spider-titles around issue #251, the Goblin Saga meandered along, with the character allying himself with a mysterious crime lord called the Rose. Finally, after the "Gang War" story arc presented in Amazing Spider-Man #284-288, issue #289 revealed that the HobGoblin had been Daily Bugle reporter and long-time acquaintance of Peter Parker, Ned Leeds. However, this revelation was presented posthumously, as Leeds had been murdered several months earlier in the classic one-shot Spider-Man vs. Wolverine. What we were told was that Jason Macendale, the original Jack O'Lantern, first introduced in the long-defunct Steve Ditko series Machine Man, and who had become a bit player in the spider titles, hired the assassin known as the Foreigner to murder the HobGoblin. After this murder, Macendale copped the costume, the equipment, and the name, but not the powers, of the original HobGoblin, believed to be Ned Leeds.

Macendale was ineffective as the Goblin since he had no powers, and took to threatening Harry Osborn and his family to obtain this information (which at that time Harry had no idea how to obtain the power) in Amazing Spider-Man #312. After this gambit failed, Macendale made a pact with the head demon in another one of Marvel's grossly overlong and ridiculous crossovers, called Inferno, and received the powers of a demon, which gave the HobGoblin all kinds of gimmicks, but also physically deformed him (Spectacular Spider-Man #147).

It didn't help the character at all.

After this nonsense went on for awhile, Macendale and the demon were split in Web of Spider-Man #86. Macendale returned to being the plain old HobGoblin, and the separated demon became the DemoGoblin. These two co-existed for some time until the DemoGoblin was killed off in the early days of the Clone Saga (No Adjective Spider-Man #48).

Macendale was still a rinky-dink Goblin until further along in the Clone Saga, when he forced the first son of Kraven we were introduced to (not Ron Zimmerman's "Al" but the doofus that called himself The Grim Hunter) to give him an elixir created by the original Kraven. Well, he got super powers finally, but he remained a rinky-dink Goblin.

The writers rejiggered Macendale again near the end of the Clone Saga when they gave him all sorts of cybernetic implants and crap and promoted him as "Not Your Father's HobGoblin."

That didn't work, either.

Finally, in 1996, Roger Stern was brought back for the three-part mini-series HobGoblin Lives, in which the original Goblin really turned out to be Roderick Kingsley, a fashion designer and business mogul who had sporadically appeared in the titles for nearly 15 years, and who had employed Mary Jane Watson at one time. Kingsley, embarrassed by Macendale's continual blundering in the role (what took him so long?), killed Macendale, and assumed the identity anew - after which he was finally defeated and unmasked by Spider-Man. Kingsley (and Stern, as it turns out) had been able to throw everyone off the scent by using his twin brother, Daniel, to pose as himself while he was off doing HobGoblin stuff. Kingsley had brainwashed Ned Leeds as a stand-in HobGoblin when he needed him, and it was Leeds who had entered the alliance with the Rose, later revealed to be Richard Fisk, son of the Kingpin. When Kingsley tired of being the Goblin, he set Leeds up to be murdered.

However, by the time we found out that Kingsley had been the original HobGoblin, Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin, had turned out not to be dead, and the stage was set for Spectacular Spider-Man #258-261 "Goblins at the Gate," in which Osborn springs Kingsley from jail, but after it turns out the two can't get along and bust each other's chops for a brief moment, Kingsley leaves the country with a wad of cash, and is seen on the beach sipping a drink and wondering whether the world has heard the last of the HobGoblin. And neither Kingsley nor his orange and black alter-ego have been seen since, in the regular continuity. Obviously, since Spider-Girl is essentially an extended "What If?" (and a very good one at that), Kingsley's appearances there will not be included in this series.

You can exhale now. I really did try to make it as simple as possible. O.K. - now we're ready to rock and roll.

Early Kingsley
The earliest place to start looking for the HobGoblin is with Stern's very first regular entry into the spider-verse, Spectacular Spider-Man #43, June 1980, his first issue after taking over for Bill Mantlo. Notice the rather effiminate looking dude at the bottom of the cover? It's Kingsley, all right, but is it our boy Roddy - or is it brother Daniel? Hmmmm...

Our first view of Kingsley is actually from Spidey's perspective, as he looks through a skylight window and sees Kingsley working on sketches. He has followed his spider tracer which he placed on one of a group of thugs that robbed some chemicals from ESU's science lab, but seeing Kingsley, he comments that "He's too short, too skinny! Boy and they used to call ME Puny Parker. Even at my spindliest, this guy would have made me look like Hercules!" Anyway, it turns out that the gang that Spidey was tailing is working for a brand new villain, a woman this time, by the name of Belladonna, who has a grudge against Kingsley. Spidey barges in and comes to the rescue of the fashion designer, but rather than being grateful, Kingsley blisters Spidey with a lecture about wrecking his studio. After a little homework, it doesn't take long for Spidey to find out that Kingsley is a rat, that he has made enemies of half the fashion world, in the previous year driving a dozen small European cosmetics firms out of business just to start his own line of Kingsley fragrances. Belladonna later disrupts one of Kingsley's fashion shows in spectacular fashion, but the resulting clash between her and Spidey is inconclusive as Belladonna gets away, and the plot is not picked up for a few months.

Our first impression is that Kingsley isn't an overtly masculine fellow (but he was fey, not gay, according to Roger Stern in Comic Creators on Spider-Man). In fact, he seems to come straight out of Fashion Mogul Cliche 101. The Belladonna story resumes in issue #47, and Kingsley returned in #48, as we learn that Belladonna's was one of the cosmetic businesses ruined by Kingsley's underhanded tactics (he hired a model to fake being severely disfigured by one of her company's products). However, this Kingsley seems the nervous, flighty type, hardly the candidate to be a cold, calculating, budding supervillain. In fact, he doesn't seem like the same fellow who chewed Spidey out months before, but is deathly afraid of the webslinger after Belladonna suggests that Spidey will kill him. Anyway, Spidey puts an end to Belladonna's criminal career (she hasn't been seen since, which in a way is too bad, but she was a single-motive villain), and the fate of Roderick Kingsley is left in the air, although Spidey suggests that there might be an investigation of Kingsley's activities by the proper authorities.

Oh, by the way, of the two panels above - the panel on the left is Roderick Kingsley and the panel on the right is Daniel Kingsley. I'll tell you how I know in Part 4. And as smart as I thought I was - turns out a perceptive reader of my articles also figured it out.

Kingsley makes a brief appearance in issue #57 at a social function Peter has attended with Jonah to take photos, and we see what a social louse he is as well, as his current girlfriend and ex-girlfriend bump into each other.

Something ironic is that other characters we first meet during Stern's tenure on Spectacular, will also figure prominently in the HobGoblin saga, including gestapo cop Kris Keating, and the mercenary called Jack O'Lantern.

Behold the HobGoblin!
Stern flipped over to Amazing after Spectacular #60, beginning with Amazing #224, which featured the return of the old, ugly bald dude named after an old, ugly bald bird (O.K. I stole that line from Tangled Web #14), the Vulture. Over the next year, Stern's contributions to Spidey lore included bringing the Black Cat back into Spidey's life and the two part Juggernaut story considered by many to be one of Spidey's best.

But it wasn't until Amazing Spider-Man #238 that Stern introduced his lasting contribution to Spidey-lore. A bank robber called Georgie the Thug escapes from Spider-Man by hiding in the sewers, and accidentally discovers, in pristine condition, one of the old hideouts of the Green Goblin! Georgie brings back a shadowy figure, a "dude he just knew would be interested," to the old hideout. After raiding this hideout and dispatching Georgie via an exploding van, this figure begins the process of laying the Green Goblin to rest and giving birth to a new name in terror - the HobGoblin! We can tell by his thoughts that this HobGoblin is an intelligent, meticulous man, perhaps a distinguished one, certainly possessing some finesse - and apparently not given to the bouts of rage and insanity that plagued his distinguished predecessor, Norman Osborn. As he slowly becomes intoxicated with the ramifications of what he has discovered and begins to play with the equipment, including the glider, he begins to understand Osborn's obsession with his dual identity, as seeking to escape the constraints of society is something he can well understand. This Goblin, by his own admission, already knows how to wield power and plans to take the spoils of his discoveries to heights that not even Osborn himself could have imagined. And as an afterthought, maybe someday he will even settle scores with Osborn's old enemy - Spider-Man.

The response to the HobGoblin was tremendous as readers were thrilled to see a return to a cunning, dangerous Goblin, which had been missing since Norman's "death." Plus, it opened up a whole new guessing game as to the villain's identity, which used to be a lot of fun in Spider-Man, with the original Green Goblin and the Jackal - the one who actually wore a costume, not the wisecracking genetically engineered furball of the Clone Saga.

The Plot Thickens
Beginning in the very next issue, #239, the HobGoblin goes on a series of mysterious raids at various Osborn plants and warehouses, trying to accumulate as much of Norman's old equipment and notes as possible. Needless to say, this makes Spider-Man very nervous, since he was the only one who really understood the significance of these break-ins and what the thief was taking. Spidey fears that Norman Osborn may have left evidence of his own dual life behind for this mystery burglar to discover. Issue #239 also introduces us to Osborn executive Donald Menken for the first time, as he is the one briefing Harry Osborn on the break-ins. Menken pops up a number of times later, most prominently as Norman Osborn's lackey in The Revenge of the Green Goblin miniseries. We later learn in HobGoblin Lives that Menken is the only holdover executive from Norman's days with the company, and it is likely that Menken is the only one who knows that Norman Osborn is still alive and well and manipulating things behind the scenes. Looking back at this, it's interesting to note that while Menken was keeping Harry Osborn informed, he was also no doubt keeping Norman updated as well. It is likely Menken's presence that results in Norman realizing that this new HobGoblin has not simply imitated him, but has actually stolen his property.

Issue #239 also presents the first battle between Spider-Man and the HobGoblin, a battle that reveals to the new supervillain just how clearly overmatched he is as Spidey thumps him good. Before this battle, messing with Spider-Man was not on the HobGoblin's priority list (which would seem to preclude the theories which propounded that he was any number of old villains, including Mysterio and the Chameleon), but afterwards, tangling with the wall crawler begins to take on a more personal edge. Knowing that the Green Goblin was Spidey's match physically, the HobGoblin realizes that there had to be something which gave Norman Osborn that edge - and thus begins his quest to discover the secrets of the Stromm/Osborn Goblin Formula. He doesn't return until issue #244.

Did anyone else notice just how prominent Lance Bannon was during these few months? In the very first HobGoblin issue, at the scene at the first Osborn warehouse robbery in #238, when Peter and Joe Robertson arrive, Bannon is conspicuously already there, taking pictures, and seems quite surprised to see Peter. Bannon is also featured in the following issue as his girlfriend, Amy Powell, tired of Lance's indecisiveness regarding their relationship, tries to make him jealous by making a play for Peter Parker (a play that is interrupted by the long awaited return of one Mary Jane Watson). During one conversation, Lance makes an elusive comment to Amy about being "busy," and when she questions him further, he regroups and states he's trying to get in on the ground floor of JJJ's new magazine. It's curious that Bannon clearly appears to have some money, as suggested by his fancy car and apartment. How did he get that, and keep a girl like Amy Powell around, on a photog’s income? Any number of things, such as rich parents, an inheritance, etc., could have explained it, but it made for interesting speculation since it was clear that the HobGoblin had to have money as a result of renting a massive house on Long Island in the next Goblin story where the experimentation with the formula takes place.

The first of three what ultimately became very annoying teases began in issue #245, as the cover to the issue illustrates. The HobGoblin discovers notes on the Goblin Formula, but knowing how Norman Osborn disintegrated mentally, is wary of dabbling with it himself, and brainwashes another thug, Lefty Donovan, to follow Osborn's notes and experiment with the formula. As with Norman years before, the formula explodes in Donovan's face, but does give him the power of the Green Goblin. Wired with sensors, Donovan goes into battle against Spider-Man, which allows the real HobGoblin to monitor the changes in his body chemistry. However, Spider-Man begins to get the best of Donovan, so the HobGoblin takes control of the goblin glider by remote and crashes it and Donovan into a wall, killing his dupe. Only Spidey is not fooled by the apparent revelation that Donovan is the HobGoblin.

No harm no foul yet, as the mystery is less that six months old, and no one expected it to be resolved this soon. Nonetheless, looking back, it was also a harbinger of the mess that was to come.

The next major development for the HobGoblin takes place, not in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, but in Spectacular Spider-Man #85. The mysterious new Goblin believes that he has successfully duplicated the Goblin Formula and immerses himself therein. Eager to give his new found powers a test run, he tries them out on Spider-Man and the Black Cat. No clues are dropped for those looking for hints to Gobby's identity, but otherwise this issue is another exciting chapter in the saga of a villain who is fast becoming a "player" in the world of Spider-Man. HobGoblin had yet to fully tap his potential, but one thing he seemed to promise was that of being a multi-dimensional villain. Forgive the generalization, because like most generalizations, it is faulty, but typically, many villains, even good ones, tend to be one-dimensional and are only interesting when they are, well, being villainous and wearing their costumes - and we have little interest in them when they are not. The Green Goblins, both Harry and Norman, were exceptions to this rule, Norman in particular. No one except Spider-Man knew what evil lurked in Norman Osborn's heart (sorry, Shadow). For awhile, Venom was an explosive villain that generated action and excitement when he appeared (before he was run into the ground), but Eddie Brock wasn't particularly interesting. And does anyone really care about Max Dillon? And what's also funny, that until Roger Stern arrived on the scene, we didn't even know some of the classic villains' real names. It was Stern who provided names, and therefore other dimensions, for the Vulture (Adrian Toomes) and the Kingpin (Wilson Fisk). But the HobGoblin had the potential to be both interesting in and out of costume (whenever we found out who he was). He certainly seemed to be Spidey's intellectual equal - and with his new found power, he was his physical equal as well. He also seemed to be more complex that the typical "get super powers, go on crime spree for money" villain. He already had money, apparently, and he also already had power. Therefore, to be the HobGoblin must have been filling some other unspecified, unmet need that would later be revealed. I was hoping that this Goblin would soon find out who Spider-Man really was, and the battle could be joined on an even more personal level.

The HobGoblin played his next card in a three part story arc that had me anticipating, incorrectly as it turned out, that his identity would be revealed at its conclusion in issue #251. It also apparently successfully threw everyone off the track who might have had reason to suspect that Roderick Kingsley was the HobGoblin.

A mysterious person has summoned movers and shakers from all over New York to the high brow Century Country Club, blackmailing them with secret information particular to them that they certainly would not want to become public. For Harry Osborn, it is the re-awakening of his nightmare, which will ultimately end only with his own (temporary) death several years later. His package contains evidence that his father, Norman Osborn, was the murderous Green Goblin, the man who killed Gwen Stacy.

J. Jonah Jameson has also received a package - which details his involvement in the creation of the supervillain known as the Scorpion. Apparently, Jonah had told only one person about this - Norman Osborn, which suggests a closeness between the two men, at least from Jonah's perspective, that seemed to be completely ignored after Norman returned post-Clone Saga. However, it does illustrate a point I made about Norman in my Goblin Love article - that Norman doesn't really have friends, only allies and acquaintences. The fact that he was maintaining files of confidential information on his "friends," including evidence of their misdeeds, clearly wasn't so he could use them later in a novel he was writing. Norman was probably caching such information for possible future use in an unrealized scheme or in plans for revenge against those he felt harmed him in some way.

Harry asks Peter to go with him to the club for moral support, and it turns out that the HobGoblin is blackmailing a large number of club members. And sure enough, there's Roderick Kingsley, just one of the group. He is seen thinking "Osborn would have had proof of the kickbacks." When Harry Osborn confronts the Goblin, it is revealed to be a robot, and Kingsley prominently proclaims that the real HobGoblin "could be any one of us!" After the real Goblin shows up, Spidey also makes the scene, and another fight commences, this time with Spidey on the wrong end, saved only by the Kingpin's intervention.

Do we get another potential clue to the Goblin's identity from this intervention? The Goblin thinks "The Kingpin of Crime! I forgot he was a member." Assuming that the membership rosters of your typical ritzy New York City country club aren't public knowledge (if completely supported by private dollars), then how does the Goblin know that the Kingpin is a member - unless he's on the roster as well? And since by this time Wilson Fisk is only suspected by the general public of being involved in some shady businesses (Harry, for example, is unfamiliar with the scope of Fisk's activities), it's curious that the HobGoblin is very well aware of them. If not a country club member, could Gobby be an investigative reporter? A member of the law enforcement community? More than likely, though, since we know that the Goblin was Roderick Kingsley, he was probably already paying tribute of some sort to the Kingpin, since the New York fashion scene is not without its organized crime influences either. And unlike Norman Osborn before him, in his pre-Goblin days Kingsley was more likely to pay for the privilege of operating and be done with it, rather than deciding to confront it head on like Osborn would have, being the Green Goblin or not.

After the events of issue #249 shake out and #250 starts up, Harry drops what turns out to be a rather nonsensical clue to Peter - that the Goblin seemed so familiar with the club's operations he could be a member. While ultimately true, there was nothing in the HobGoblin's exchange with the members of the club to indicate that - therefore it must have been in the documents provided. Or, it could simply have been that Harry was commenting on the HobGoblin's prescience, that even though he had blackmailed and threatened them, the Goblin knew the members would band together and pretend nothing had happened.

However, in #250, Stern leaves his ONE AND ONLY REAL CLUE to the HobGoblin’s true identity, and it’s not even an obvious one. In issue #250 when Spidey is about to drop in on Kingsley after the meeting, the designer is pacing the room thinking to himself of all of the times for my brother to be out of town. It seemed like it was just a throwaway line, but it clearly wasn’t using 20/20 hindsight. Since Kingsley's female acquaitance was already talking to him, it wouldn’t have been a "dead" panel needing enhancement. So, there was no need for Kingsley to be thinking anything, let alone pondering where a never before mentioned brother was. But this Kingsley seems to be a complete craven coward, quaking in Spider-Man's presence, and apparently also with the fear of the HobGoblin's blackmail attempt hanging over him. This Kingsley also appears rather scatterbrained, even forgetting the name of the woman he was consorting with. Surely, he couldn't be our cool, calculating supervillain.

Apparently no one other than Roger Stern thought so.

It seemed that many spider-fans, including this one, expected the HobGoblin's identity to be revealed in issue #250, and felt cheated that it wasn't. However, in looking back, there was nothing that Stern or Marvel said that implied that such a revelation would occur. We must have just assumed it.

But then as the story concluded in issue #251, we got the second of the three infuriating teases. With the Goblin's battle van sinking in the river, Spidey moves in for the capture, and the Goblin, realizing the odds are against him, agonizes that he can't be unmasked now, that it was be a disgrace to him - and his family. Again, there apparently appears to be more to this Goblin than meets the eye - a family whom he is concerned about? This Goblin also appears concerned that he might be considered insane and he makes a point of saying that Norman Osborn was the crazy one - not him.

However, our chain is jerked once again. The story ends with Spidey seeing only a ruined mask floating up towards the surface.

I was pissed.

In hindsight, it's logical that Stern hadn't revealed the HobGoblin's identity at this time because he really hadn't begun the serious groundwork of laying the clues and piling on the suspects. The first prolonged story arc simply introduced us to the HobGoblin. A potential second Goblin story arc might have laid the groundwork for the ultimate revelation of his i.d. As it is, the only suspect that seems to have really popped up was Lance Bannon. I'm fairly certain that had Stern continued on the title, he would have started lining up the suspects to where there were several to chose from. Also at this time, Roderick Kingsley had really only surfaced prominently in one story, back in Spectacular Spider-Man. The revelation at this time that Kingsley was the HobGoblin could have been met with a collective "huh? Who is this guy?" But apparently, Stern did not anticipate leaving Amazing so soon after starting the mystery. By this time, Tom DeFalco was already filling in the scripts over Stern's plots, before taking over completely by issue #253. But why did he leave the title with the job incomplete, when he seemed to have so much to offer? To this day, I have no idea and my research didn't really give me any clues either. Does someone out there in fandom know?

Anyway, by the conclusion of this first major storyline featuring the new Goblin, the guessing game over his identity was the no. 1 topic in the letters pages, although it must be said that the return of Mary Jane Watson after a nearly four year absence generated quite a bit of excitement - but I've already done that series. So who were the names being dropped as suspects by the spider-public? Let's look at some of the main ones:

The Suspects
If you hadn't already noticed, my guess for the first finger to point in any direction was squarely at Lance Bannon, Peter Parker's photographer competition, first at the Daily Globe, then at the Bugle. Bannon had first been introduced in Amazing Spider-Man #208 as another Daily Globe photographer. Lance was cool and preppy, unlike Mr. Parker, and soon became a thorn in Peter's side, stealing photographic opportunites from under him and undermining him in other ways. We knew so little about Lance that anything was possible. Bannon was a popular red herring up for the identity of the HobGoblin until the very end of the "Gang War" storyline. Perhaps that's why he ultimately wouldn't have been a good choice - he was too obvious.

Speaking of obvious choices, Ned Leeds was also a popular suspect from the get go with the fans, but as far as clues left by Stern, he was definitely a non-starter. Ned only showed up once during Stern's run, and that as part of a double-date with Peter and MJ where Peter discussed his decision to drop out of grad school and concentrate on his photography. However, historically, Ned had always been a popular suspect for mysterious supervillains. Reading between the lines in an internet interview quoted in Starlog's Spider-Man and Other Superheroes magazine, released concurrently with the first Spider-Man film in 2002, Steve Ditko had apparently settled on him as the Green Goblin before over-ruled by Stan Lee. Also, if you read the lettercolums from the day, he was an early fan favorite suspect for the identity of the Jackal after that character first debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #129. That for years he was actually considered to be the original HobGoblin was somewhat ironic given this previous history. But for Ned to have really been the HobGoblin would have required some leaps of faith considering what had already been established about that character. By making Ned the HobGoblin, one has to assume that he was a murderer even before he donned his costume the first time, since he blew up George the Thug in the van that hauled the first stash of Goblin goodies to Hobby’s hideout. This also presumes that Ned deliberately sacrificed Lefty Donovan’s life in issue #244. Since Ned had been around since issue #19 of the first volume of Amazing Spider-Man, nothing suggested he was capable of this kind of behavior. Now, I suppose that if you look at Ned's reaction to Betty leaving him the first time (around issue #184) and his reaction to Peter Parker when he thinks he's moving in on Betty (issues #193 & 195 - slugs him in the first one, grabs his already broken arm in the second), it could be argued that Ned was already unstable and beginning to emotionally disintegrate. After all, Leeds had displayed a volatile temper even earlier, in the first volume's issue #38 when he and Peter nearly came to blows over Betty, again, when it appeared that Steve Ditko was setting him up to be the original Green Goblin. So, there is a connect the dots that we could make that Ned was losing his grip, and actually obtaining the equipment, and ultimately the power of the Green Goblin completely unhinged him. Still, the real problem with Leeds is that we would also have to consider that he was a scientific genius trolling as an underpaid, underemployed reporter (like Peter Parker?). Since we knew so little of Lance Bannon, maybe we could make that reach, but Ned had been around too long, so to say he was a closet chemical and technological wizard - nah. Jim Owlsey’s origin tale in Web of Spider-Man #30 presumes Ned first became the HobGoblin to fight crime and write a good story, all part of a noble cause, and then later flipped his lid - which clearly contradicted what had been established about the Goblin before, that he was already a killer. Leeds' apparent lack of funds to subsidize his HobGoblin activities (until the alleged partnership with the Rose), though, stops being an issue if we make the assumption that Leeds is already a screwloose and a murderer, since stealing money would then be nothing to him.

But both Lance and Ned came with still more baggage, that of being Daily Bugle employees, and journalists in general. Frederick Foswell, the Big Man back in issue #10, had been the first Bugle employee revealed to be a super-criminal. Years later, but just after the Clone Saga, reporter Jacob Conover was revealed to be the third Rose (after Richard Fisk and Sargent). If Stern had not written HobGoblin Lives and Ned had remained as the original Goblin (or even if it had been Lance), that would have been three Daily Bugle employees who were later revealed to be supervillains - not counting the fact that free-lance photographer Peter Parker was Spider-Man! Or that Bugle intern Phil Urich, the nephew of reporter Ben Urich, was the "good" Green Goblin - no. IV. And Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson had funded the creation of the Scorpion, the Fly, and several Spider-Slayers, in addition to his own son being the Man-Wolf. Across town, Eddie Brock, who worked for the Daily Globe, was Venom. And that's just off the top of my head without doing any research.

So, that the New York newspaper community, and the Bugle in particular, had become a breeding ground for a notable superhero and villain community was just plain sloppy editing - which supposedly was the reason that Lee vetoed the choice of Leeds as the original Green Goblin in the first place!

Bannon and Leeds were the primary suspects. However, the fans were full of guesses, some logical, many not.

The one that kept incessantly and inexplicable popping up was that J. Jonah Jameson was the HobGoblin. Now, really. I can’t believe that anyone would seriously consider that Jonah was the Goblin, or a costumed creep of any kind, considering his noted distate for the bunch. I suppose that the fact that Jonah would have had the financial wherewithal, and even the access to the technology, since he was a regular employer of Spencer Smythe for several years, threw people - but again, the HobGoblin we were first introduced to was rather indifferent to Spider-Man at the very first. And we would also have had to believe that Jonah was capable of murder, as he would have been had he really blown up Georgie the Thug.

Another silly choice was Harry Osborn, since the Goblin's calm reaction of “to imagine that a respected businessman like Norman Osborn was the Green Goblin" should have eliminated him right away. And what may happen in the movies notwithstanding (it's been speculated that in a later Spider-Man film Harry Osborn will become the HobGoblin rather than another Green Goblin - which makes sense in terms of marketing a movie and related merchandise), in the comics Harry would never have adopted another identity outside of the Green Goblin, either for good or for ill.

An intriguing choice that was put forward by several fans was Mendell Stromm. Not a bad choice, but back then, though, Mendell was really considered to be dead, sort of like his business partner Norman Osborn, so this wasn’t an option. Stromm would have been an interesting choice for a number of reasons, one being that Norman Osborn had screwed him out of their mutual business and had him arrested. The HobGoblin's raiding of equipment and subsequent purchase of Osborn stock could have been a way for Stromm to get the business back and exercise some posthumous justice on Osborn. Plus, he was established to have had real technological expertise, have been previously known as the Robot Master.

For some of the same reasons, and perhaps an even better choice, would have been Jonas Harrow, who was a scientist, had worked for the villainous Brand Corporation and had been a peripheral villain in the spider titles for several years. However, the HobGoblin referred to Spider-Man as "Osborn's enemy," not his own, which theoretically should have eliminated Harrow, as well as a couple of other spider-villains who were mentioned by more than one reader as a suspect: the Chameleon and Mysterio. One existing villain suggested by more than one guesser, the Jack O'Lantern, turned out to be an ironic pick. It was also somewhat ironic that the Kingpin's son, Richard Fisk (a character that has FAR outlived its usefulness) was also suspected by a fan, not only because that character turned out to be the first Rose, but someone else very important to the Spider-Man mythos had made that conclusion as well. More on that in Part 2.

Other interesting choices were Peter’s lab partner in grad school, Roger Hochberg. One fan made the fact that Hochberg's last name included H,b,and g in that order, a clue. Not too bad of an idea. Hochberg seemed to have been created as the Peter Parker who hadn't been bitten by the radioactive spider in high school. He could have been the nerd who received great power and abused it - the direct antithesis of Peter. But the college student who hankers to become crime lord would have been a stretch. When Peter dropped out of grad school, and Stern dropped out of the titles, so did Hochberg.

District Attorney Blake Tower was also mentioned early by a fan. I'll have to admit, he would have been a good choice and frankly, was my early favorite, particularly since in the first story arc the Goblin was frantically worried about public exposure. Tower was the DA who cleared Spidey of the murders of George Stacy and Norman Osborn back in Amazing Spider-Man #186 and though no huge fan of the web slinger, had defended him in a verbal joust with JJJ. To have him turn out to be the HobGoblin would have been a bitter betrayal for Spidey. In the early part of the HobGoblin story we see Tower pondering what the connection between Spidey and Osborn could be.

Kris Keating wasn't a bad pick, I suppose, but the HobGoblin seemed to have a bit more class than the loud mouthed, foul mouthed gung ho cop. But then, Kris Keating wasn't all he appeared to be either, was he?

Donald Menken, Norman's no. 1 toady, was also a pick of a fan, and Stern even mentioned him as a possible suspect in HobGoblin Lives. Someone even picked Norman Osborn himself, which was really curious.

But no one guessed Roderick Kingsley, which isn’t surprising, considering his appearance with the HobGoblin in issue #249 seemed to eliminate him at the time. Well, it did. Little did we know...

The Alliance with the Rose - and the Beginning of the End
After Tom DeFalco takes over the writing chores, the HobGoblin begins his slip from #1 villain status to also-ran. The ongoing tease with the HobGoblin's identity was actually crucial in me giving up the series for awhile, although I did some Byrne-stealing to see keep up with things.

Now don't get me wrong, I like some of Tom DeFalco's stuff. I think he's doing a great job right now with Spider-Girl. His knowledge and respect for Spidey's continuity (there's that dirty word, maybe I should have said "baggage," since that the politically correct term Marvel has foisted on people so much that it's entering the general vocabulary), is unquestioned. I also liked how he moved both Peter and Mary Jane's characters a huge step forward in issue #257 with the revelation that she already knew that he was Spider-Man. However, he has turned in some clunkers (most recently Mysterio Manifesto), and one of those turned out to be perpetuating the HobGoblin tease. Part of his dilemma, which he has mentioned in interviews, is that Stern refused to tell him who the Goblin was. This is somewhat understandable on Stern's part. He no doubt had a certain proprietary interest in the character that he created. And it is really amazing that during DeFalco's run, even though he came to a different conclusion about the character's identity than Stern, didn't threally throw up any serious roadblocks in the way of clues that made Stern's ultimate resolution of the HobGoblin's identity to be that much of a stretch. But it still doesn't seem that DeFalco, who had settled on one suspect, really had much of a plan for laying the groundwork and methodically working towards that revelation. If he had, surely it would have wrapped up during his own tenure, rather than having it left to a third team to finally resolve it.

The HobGoblin is diminished under DeFalco's reign. The minute that he joins forces with the Rose, the story begins to fracture, and rather than a single, compelling mystery about the HobGoblin’s i.d. and the building of his feud with Spider-Man, harkening back to the old days of Norman Osborn, we begin a convoluted tale involving the Rose, the Kingpin, the father/son Fisk feud, organized crime in New York, ad infinitum. Rather than being Spidey's No. 1 foe, and the tension building from there, the Goblin simply begins to become one of several foes, and his influence and hold over Spidey diminishes. Perhaps DeFalco meant to harken back to the Lee-Ditko days when the original Green Goblin joined forces with the Crime Master, the difference being though, the Crime Master lasted for a very short time and didn't seriously compete with the Goblin.

This time period is also where things begin to get REALLY complicated, because if we follow the timeline of HobGoblin Lives, it is after the battle in issue #251 that Kingsley staggers back to his hideout, only to find out that he has been tailed by Ned Leeds. It turned out that after being humiliated by the Goblin, J. Jonah Jameson put Leeds on his trail, hoping to expose him. But Kingsley turns the tables, captures Ned and subjecting him to hypnosis and mind control, begins to use Leeds as a duplicate HobGoblin.

On first glance, this would seem to be illogical. Why didn't Kingsley just kill and dispose of Ned then and there, as he did with Georgie the Thug and Lefty Donovan? Why did he take the big chance of bringing someone else into the fold, and having to maintain control of him, even if he never did learn his real identity - particularly as we learned that he already had a twin brother to use as a double?

Part of the question is its own answer. We grant that Kingsley would have used a double for him in his civilian identity - why would it be a huge stretch to assume he would use another double (who didn't have to look like him) in his costumed identity? But you also have to consider that Roddy did a major gearshift in deciding what he wanted to do with his HobGoblin identity.

When he first discovered Norman Osborn's equipment, it was really like a toy with him, and being an accomplished acquirer of things, he went on to collect as much as he possibly could (he who dies with the most toys wins), and then started playing with the toys by putting on the cheesy costume and riding the glider. He only started tangling with Spider-Man because he literally ran into him in issue #239 - but messing with Spidey wasn't his primary objective. He simply had no idea just how personal the Green Goblin was to Spider-Man, and just how determined Spidey would be in tracking down the man who had taken his equipment. But after getting pulped in his first confrontation with the web slinger, he started to take things a bit more seriously, hence his search for the Goblin formula. Still, Roddy didn't seem to have any big plans, just getting off on the thrill of knocking some heads. When we see what our first introduction to Kingsley was, that he was a skinny little twerp, we see that the idea of manifesting raw physical power must have been extremely intoxicating, perhaps even moreso for him than Norman Osborn, who in his civilian identity was rather formidable looking anyway. However, not being much of a leg-breaking type, Kingsley had spent his life in the subtle, methodical, underhanded pursuit of power and privilege, so he resorted to his old tactics in his first official supervillain deed - blackmailing his rich buddies in the country club, with the HobGoblin identity to add a little color and strike fear. The fact that he didn't seem to have any immediate aspirations to be a crime boss jives with the fact that he later gave up the identity partially because of his distate for their petty rivalries and jealousies, and that he doesn't seem to be the complete control freak that Norman Osborn is (that's more a subject for the upcoming Osborn vs. Kingsley article).

That may have changed in issue #250 when the Kingsley Goblin runs into the Kingpin at the club. Being a meticulous planner, and since Kingsley certainly had not planned on dealing with the Kingpin, rather than join a battle without having anticipated the ramifications, he hastily decided to opt out. But that didn't mean he liked having to back down from the fatman in front of the public and beat a retreat without accomplishing his objective.

So, after issue #251, when he drags his wet, sorry ass out of the river, having been bested by both Spider-Man, from the hero angle, and the Kingpin, whom he now realizes he can't avoid, from the other side of the railroad tracks, Kingsley has got to be wondering whether or not this costumed supervillain thing is really for him, or whether he's going to simply be a Goblin sandwich crushed between a couple of formidable enemies. But then Ned Leeds drops into his lap. Although Kingsley would not have any reason to know who Ned was, he probably was curious as to why someone was following him, whether or not he had been figured out, so rather than immediately kill him, he decided to find out what he knew. And what he got was a bounty.

Naturally, he found out why Leeds was tailing him, but he also no doubt discovered that Leeds was a prominent investigative reporter with contacts in organized crime, AND - here's the real bonus - that Leeds had already been trying to work out an alliance of sorts with the Kingpin's son to bring about the end of the fatman's criminal empire. This would fit in with the "origin" of the Rose and HobGoblin that for Ned was postulated postumously (whew, don't want to say that ten times real fast) in Web of Spider-Man #30.

That Kingsley would then set his sight on the Kingpin’s criminal empire and ally himself with the Rose becomes more understandable than Kingsley waking up one day and deciding that in addition to his highly successful fashion empire, he really wants to be a crime boss. Leeds and Richard Fisk had already done a lot of the heavy lifting and a lot of the initial planning anyway! Remember at the end of HobGoblin Lives when Daniel Kingsley tells Betty Brant that Roderick never had anything he didn't take from someone else? Well, he stole Belladonna's company, stole Osborn's equipment and other discoveries, and now he decides to "steal" Leeds' & Fisk's plan! Although convoluted, it actually works out quite consistently. After all, without a doubt, Wilson Fisk had to have numerous legitimate business interests that he used to cloak his criminal activities and to launder money. Kingsley was always looking to expand his business empire, which is clear by the fact that he was buying up large quantities of Osborn Manufacturing stock, something which Harry Osborn notices to his dismay in Amazing Spider-Man #260. Kingsley is still after Osborn's company in the HobGoblin Lives miniseries years later. Kingsley would have known that neither Leeds nor Fisk had any intention of maintaining the Kingpin's criminal empire - Fisk wanted to destroy it, and Leeds wanted to be in on the action. All they lacked was a little extra muscle, which Kingsley now had with his super powers. If Leeds' and Fisk's plan succeeded, Kingsley could sweep in and gorge himself on the spoils. This would make much more sense to Kingsley than aligning with an already established crime lord such as Hammerhead or Silvermane, whom he wouldn't be able to trust as far as he could - well - whom he couldn't trust period. At this time, Kingsley, much like Fisk, and even like Leeds, was naïve in believing that he could be on the peripheral edges of organized crime and not be sucked into the real dirty, ugly work that had to be done and be tainted by it.

That Kingsley set up Leeds as a doppelganger, while it was done retroactively, actually and ironically jives with what Norman Osborn first did many, many years ago when he started as the Green Goblin, if you assume that Untold Tales of Spider-Man is part of the regular continuity. We know by reading the original Lee/Ditko run of Amazing Spider-Man that the Green Goblin and the Crime Master had an alliance, and according to the dialogue, they knew each other's identities (this obviously was before Norman Osborn was even formally introduced in the spider-titles). However, in UTOS #25, when Kurt Busiek gives us the actual scene in which the Green Goblin reveals his identity to the Crime Master, the face beneath the mask is none other than J. Jonah Jameson! Turns out Osborn used a mask of Jameson this time as he had no intention of telling a punk like the Crime Master his real identity, which knowing Norman as we do all of these years later, makes perfect sense. So, once Kingsley decided to join in on the plan the idea of a double surfaced - and Ned Leeds, having stumbled onto him after the events of Amazing #251, literally walked right into the part. Kingsley, like Osborn before him, had too much at stake to trust ANYONE with his real identity (other than his brother Daniel), but knew that in order to gain the Fisk's full cooperation, he had to give him a name and a face - it just happened that it wouldn't be his own. Leeds had already earned Richard Fisk's trust - and by essentially giving Leeds some extra heft by making him seem to be the HobGoblin, this would further entice Fisk to close the deal on the plan. Leeds, under the control of Kingsley, handled all of the upfront negotiations with the Rose, but once the alliance was firmly cemented, Kingsley resumed the role of the Goblin, since Fisk would be counting on the Goblin's super powered strength and skill. Again, since Kingsley had long had his brother Daniel pose as him, it was no stretch for him to have another double as the HobGoblin. So, we can likely assume that between issues 251-257, when the HobGoblin seems to be out of commission, it is Leeds acting in the role for the benefit of securing the alliance with Fisk. This is also why it is likely that Kingsley secured the services of the Jack O'Lantern to retrieve the sunken battle van rather than go after it himself. He wanted Leeds to spend his time working with Fisk, which meant he himself would have to stay out of action as the Goblin. Once the deal was sealed - the Goblin that made the public appearance with the Rose featured above is Roderick Kingsley again - it is likely that the Goblin we saw until the Gang War in later issues was still Kingsley.

Anyway, as the storyline resumes, the first person Tom DeFalco points to as a possible HobGoblin suspect is - guess who - Lance Bannon. In issue #254, Peter brings some pictures in, and the secretary comments that his major competition, Lance Bannon, hasn't been seen in weeks. Issue #254 also brings the Jack O'Lantern squarely into the Hobgoblin mystery, as he manages the retrieval of the battle van from the river.

In the last story to really try to develop the Goblin as a character at all, issues #259-261, Harry Osborn discovers that someone is buying up huge blocks of Osborn stock. Oddly enough, this thread is not followed up again until HobGoblin Lives, although it is strongly implied that it is the HobGoblin who is making these purchases - adding to the holdings he already had. Having exhausted all of Norman Osborn's known hideouts, and determined to know if there are more, the HobGoblin strikes at Harry himself, kidnapping a pregnant Liz Osborn (and Mary Jane, who happened to be with Liz at the time) and threatening their lives if Harry does not come up with more information on other Osborn caches. Unfortunately, the younger Osborn doesn't have a clue where any might be. After ripping through his father's old belongings and demolishing an old roll top desk, Harry finds one last journal, which was the summary of all of his secret Green Goblin locations, and meets the HobGoblin at a pre-arranged location.

In issue #260, we have the very first clue that Ned Leeds just might be a legitimate HobGoblin suspect. Betty is trying to reach Ned on the phone, and failing that, wonders just why that is. So, it has taken nearly two years from the HobGoblin's introduction to the dropping of the first clue that it might be Ned - which supports, in my opinion, Stern's claim that he didn't plan on Ned being the HobGoblin. In the letters to the editor section in issue #264, when a writer asks if anyone really knows who the Goblin is, the answer comes back "Tom knows who the HobGoblin is" - so it is likely by the time DeFalco drops the first Leeds clue that he has made up his mind who the HobGoblin is - but as we will learn in Part 2 - it was not Ned.

The Goblin takes Harry to the warehouse where he is also holding Liz and Mary Jane, and we discover that the HobGoblin knows Mary Jane by name, which raises MJ's eyebrows. In one of those funny coincidences, knowing Mary Jane by name worked for both Leeds and Kingsley, and would even have worked for Bannon. However, it would likely not have worked for DeFalco's choice. Spider-Man comes to the rescue, and nearly defeats the HobGoblin, only having to let him get away in order to focus on saving Mary Jane and the Osborns when the warehouse catches fire. Later, the HobGoblin discovers that the journal brought to him by Harry does not reveal any new hideouts or secrets, and he thus realizes that he has probably already taken all he can from the late Norman Osborn. Now, he is truly on his own.

Also, so was I. It had now been two full years since the HobGoblin was first unveiled. The original Green Goblin mystery had also lasted two years (25 issues to be exact), and I thought that two years was enough for the HobGoblin mystery. The conclusion of this story line left little doubt that the mystery wasn't going to be resolved anytime soon, which was a key reason I became frustrated and dropped out of comics for awhile. Yep. This was the second time I quit. The first had been during Denny O'Neil's run, but I came back when Roger Stern took over the title. Also, at this time, I was graduating college and was pre-occupied with just what the hell was I going to do with the rest of my life. Whatever I decided, I wasn't so sure that Spider-Man had any place in it. So, when I got a job and left my parents' home, I left my comics there as well, and abandoned any curiosity I had about the HobGoblin's identity.

But, as we all now, that certainly wasn't - the rest of the story.

NEXT TIME: Does the HobGoblin mystery get deeper - or just get dumber? Another irritating, and highly unlikely, fake unmasking, a writer change, an editorial change, a highly regarded one-shot that had the unanticipated effect of screwing everything up - and finally - the truth. Well, at least the truth that lasted a decade before an even better truth replaced it. Confused? Of course - so am I! But we'll try and get through it together next time in Squandered Legacy - The Rise and Fall of the HobGoblin Part Two.

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