Squandered Legacy:

The Rise and Fall of

the HobGoblin

Part Two

The Goblin in Decline

In Our Last Episode
The appearance of a brand-new villain, the HobGoblin, and the mystery surrounding his identity engergized the spider-titles during the mid-1980's. However, Roger Stern, the writer responsible for creating the Goblin, left Amazing Spider-Man after issue #251, taking the secret of Hobby's real moniker with him. Although the title was turned over to the more than capable and certainly Spidey-knowledgable Tom DeFalco, Stern supposedly had not told DeFalco who he intended the HobGoblin to be (the more I read, the less I am sure of the facts. I have read it both ways - that DeFalco knew, and that he didn't know). And as DeFalco began to lay his own web of intrigue surrounding this new entry to Spidey's menagerie of bad guys, his promotion to Executive Editor at Marvel began to drag him away from his duties on the lead spider-title, which set a chain of events in motion that resulted in the HobGoblin mystery coming to a very unsatisfying conclusion...at least for the time being.

At the end of Amazing Spider-Man #261, the HobGoblin mystery was now nearly two years old, and with no apparent end in sight. If you were a betting man, at this time you would have had to have placed your money on Lance Bannon as the new Goblin's true identity, since the paucity of clues at that time seemed to point to him (his prominance in the first few issues of the HobGoblin's introduction, his apparent financial resources, and his need to be elsewhere more than once). Stern had left behind one solid clue that the Goblin was Roderick Kingsley (who it turned out to eventually be), but the clue was so obscure that no one would have recognized it as a clue until the HobGoblin Lives miniseries several years later. Stern never even hinted once that Ned Leeds was a Goblin suspect (although he was immediately a fan favorite suspect), and Tom DeFalco didn't begin to focus any attention Ned's way until issue #260, when wife Betty was surprised she couldn't reach him where she thought he was supposed to be. In issue #261, we learned that the Goblin knew Mary Jane Watson by name, which seemed to be an important clue.

Hobby was proving to be a busy character, as not only had he aligned himself with the crimelord known as the Rose in order to topple the Kingpin of Crime, but he was also attempting a subtle, yet hostile takeover of Osborn Manufacturing. As the previous two-part story concluded, the HobGoblin had not only been seriously pummeled by Spider-Man (and swearing to come back bigger and badder), but he also discovered that he had tapped the last of Norman Osborn's resources - and that he was now on his own. It seemed to be a key turning point in the HobGoblin's evolution. Up through this time, DeFalco had succeeded in keeping up the momentum established by Stern, but also added his own twists by the revelation in issue #257 that Mary Jane Watson knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man (but DeFalco also gave us Puma - ugh)!

However, after issue #261, the title began to drift off course, which leads me to speculate that DeFalco, though he knew who the HobGoblin was from his own perspective, did not have a coherent plan or strategy to ultimately unfold that mystery. And if you want to know in detail part of what was happening behind the scenes at the spider-titles at that time, then check out Why I Don't Discuss Spider-Man by Jim Owsley/Christopher Priest, who was the editor at the time. Now, a caveat is that this is one man's (Priest's) opinion, of the goings on at the time, and you would likely get a different story if either DeFalco or Ron Frenz (the artist on Amazing at that time) were to pen their thoughts. In fact, later in this article we do have a couple of pertinent quotes from DeFalco. Anyway, even though the HobGoblin is mentioned only once, and as an afterthought, in Priest's article, you can see how he got lost in all of the turmoil, and how things ultimately proved so unsatisfactory when the mystery was first resolved. I will say, that after reading this article, I have some sympathy for DeFalco. I'm not a manager in real life, but do a lot of administrative work, and it becomes very easily for you to not complete your own work when your boss keeps loading you up with work on his own projects, as Shooter apparently did to DeFalco. I'm fortunate in that my boss understands this problem and cuts me some slack - apparently, though, Shooter was not so inclined.

Finally Back in Action
The HobGoblin did not appear again until issue #275, 14 months later, thereby bringing the momentum of the Goblin story to a screeching halt. DeFalco's busy schedule resulted in a succession of guest writers on the lead spider title, including Bob Layton (#262), Craig Anderson (#264), and Peter David (#266 & #267 - the latter which was the entertaining "The Commuter Commeth" where Spidey finds out that the suburbs are just as menacing in their own way as the Big City). And of course everything in every Marvel title had to grind to a complete halt as Secret Wars 2 wormed its way throughout the Marvel Universe. For example, the first SW 2 related story appeared in ASM #268, and the last one in ASM #274 in a completely pointless tale where the Beyonder and Mephisto mentally torture Spidey to see what makes him tick. Secret Wars was not a factor in every issue during this time, but The Powers That Be would not have allowed major developments in the HobGoblin story to happen concurrently.

However, the HobGoblin mystery wasn't completely ignored, as there was another clue that Ned Leeds was the Goblin, which was ultimately where it seemed that DeFalco was headed. In issue #268, after the government has cordoned off the section of Manhattan where the Beyonder turned an office building into gold, JJJ coordinates a meeting with all of his staffers to see if anyone has learned anything, and ace reporter Ned Leeds suggests that they NOT pursue the story - that as the government seemed real serious about keeping the operation secret, he was concerned about the pressure they could bring on the Bugle - and their personal lives. Now, for a crackerjack long-time investigative reporter, this is a bizarre statement. Ned obviously felt he had something to hide. We noted in the last part that Leeds and Richard Fisk, who was later revealed to be the Rose, had hatched a plan to topple the Kingpin. Of course, we didn't know this at the time - we didn't find out until after Leeds was dead a couple of years later. Anyway, Fisk would get the pleasure of destroying his father's criminal empire, and Leeds would not only get a good story, but also feel like one of the good guys. However, I speculated that Roderick Kingsley, the real HobGoblin, co-opted this plan after learning about it when he hypnotized Ned after issue #251 when he caught Ned following him after a battle with Spider-Man. Kingsley then brainwashed Ned into acting as a HobGoblin doppelganger when dealing with Fisk, but for the most part, when the HobGoblin needed to flex muscle, which was often, it was still Kingsley. Anyway, in #268, Ned really does think he's the HobGoblin, which he is trying to hide - but he thinks he's a good HobGoblin, even though he's not the real HobGoblin, which he doesn't know. I think my head hurts.

And our old pal Kingsley finally began to edge back into the picture in issue #271, as either he or twin brother Daniel (whom we don't know exists yet) spies Peter dropping Mary Jane off at Kingsley Limited's offices, as MJ has hooked a modelling gig with Kingsley. Peter, mindful of his previous meetings with Kingsley as Spidey, is aghast. In this issue also, Ned storms out of the Daily Bugle after an argument with Betty, claiming that he has "work to do." Lance Bannon shows up as well, passing off a photo assignment on Peter because he's "too busy."

Finally the HobGoblin returned - this time in the special "double-size" #275, which after ignoring the titles for more than a year for reasons I discussed in the previous part, I gave in and bought it, only to be disappointed by more going in circles - not only that, but Peter was boo-hooing to Mary Jane about how he was going to give up his Spider-Man identity - yet again - even though in issue #200 he declared that he would never again toy with giving it up. Oh well.

In this issue, we clearly see Ned Leeds's mental disintegration, which we now know was induced by Kingsley's repeated brainwashing. Leeds is acting whacky and threatening, particularly towards Flash Thompson, who has been seeing Leeds' wife, Betty, on the sly. Betty asks Joe Robertson to stop sending Ned on undercover assignments that last weeks at a time, to which Robbie thinks "what undercover assignments?" Of course, a reference to Bannon being out (again) keeps that particular charade going. We even get what might have seemed like a transition from Leeds to HobGoblin, as after the confrontation with Flash Thompson (discussed below) Leeds departs, and then the Goblin tells himself that he must calm himself down and not let his emotions rule his actions.

However the HobGoblin in this scene is still likely Kingsley, who was unnerved over an unspecified event, since we know that a non-super powered Ned could not have held his own against Spider-Man as he did in this issue. So, why is Kingsley talking about needing to calm down - particularly since up to this point he's always been so cool and calculated? Well, I believe that we're actually beginning to see Roddy get rattled by all that's going on. We'll touch on this a little later, but I think you'll see that Kingsley actually starts having so many irons in the fire that he begins to lose his grip on things - which ultimately supports his decision to abandon the HobGoblin identity.

In an odd development, when Leeds confronts Flash Thompson about seeing Betty, Flash easily flattens him and goes on his way - with Leeds promising vengeance. Theoretically a normal man shouldn't be able to deck a super powered person - which as we know now, Leeds was not exposed to the Goblin formula. However Peter Parker was flattened by Ned Leeds himself back in issue #193 when Ned thought Peter was seeing Betty (boy, Ned sure is the jealous type, isn't he - either that or Betty is a real skank). Probably the only difference is that in issue #193, Peter didn't see it coming (spider sense not working?) and was likely caught completely off guard. In #275, Ned is clearly spoiling for a fight, but still loses - so to me that proves Ned wasn't really the Goblin, and that even though DeFalco was leaving all kinds of red herrings playing him up to be - this may be proof that the clues were just that - misleading diversions.

Anyway, the HobGoblin is spoiling for a fight with Spider-Man, but Peter is too busy sulking on MJ's shoulder to come out and play. So, Hobby heads to Grand Central Station and decides to pick a person at random to threaten to get the web slinger's attention. Hobby zeroes in on Flash Thompson's now ex-girlfriend Sha-Shan, who has walked out on Flash due to his relationship with "that tramp Betty Leeds" (see, I'm not the only one who thinks Betty may not be such a nice girl). Coincidentally (or not), Sha Shan was recently visited by Ned Leeds when he was trying to find Flash so he could get punched out by him. The Goblin says that she's the perfect target. At first, this might suggest that this was another hint that the Goblin was Leeds - but then he makes a statement that is classic Kingsley. The Goblin tells Sha Shan that he has selected her because she is not nearly attractive enough for anyone to miss, and that he has always had a thing for beautiful women. Now, admittedly, which of us red-blooded guys doesn’t have a thing for beautiful women? Kinda goes with being a guy (yes, that's a generalization, but I'm not going any further) - so I guess Ned could have said that. But then, Lance Bannon was dating the gorgeous Amy Powell and was a photographer. He'd be more likely than a reporter to make such a comment. However, the sheer coldness and matter-of-fact nature of the comment about Sha Shan’s lack of attractiveness suggests Kingsley. In fact, it was a perfect Kingsley line, given his experience in the fashion industry, as well as his tendency to usually be in the company of attractive women. Naturally, even though this was the 275th issue (every 25 issues seems to be an "event" issue nowadays), there was no resolution to the HobGoblin mystery, which had now passed three years.

Flash as the HobGoblin?
And now we come to the third irritating tease (the other two were issues #245 & #251), as evident by the accompanying cover. The mystery surrounding the HobGoblin's identity was really beginning to piss me off come issue #276. The cover, of course, leads us to believe that the HobGoblin's identity will be revealed - for the third freakin' time! I had to think - where were the editors at this time, allowing this chain-jerking to go on?

Hobby and Spidey's latest battle proved inconclusive and they go their separate ways. Flash Thompson, a bundle of raw nerves after all of the turmoil in his personal life, gets a microphone shoved in his face by reporters staking out Sha Shan's hospital room after her ordeal in the prior issue and is asked about the HobGoblin. He replies in typical Flash Thompson style, that he thinks the HobGoblin is a creep and a coward. The scene shifts to the Daily Bugle, where we see Lance Bannon taking off for parts unknown.

Oddly enough, #276 does bring in, of all people, Roderick Kingsley as a possible suspect after all of this time. We seem him watching TV when Flash mouths off on TV about the HobGoblin being a "coward," after which he tells the attractive woman whose company he is currently keeping to take off because he has work to do (we know that this Kingsley is Roderick not only because of the sharp, commanding tone he takes with his date - a confidence which Daniel does not exude - but because the HobGoblin himself refers to this scene in HobGoblin Lives).

Soon after this, the HobGoblin confronts Spider-Man, and during the battle, Hobby lets loose with a full zapping barrage from his fingers that seems to be aimed at our hero, but really is directed towards a gas furnace, which needless to say results in a very colorful explosion. As Spidey staggers about, he can't believe his luck when he apparently comes across an unconscience HobGoblin. Ripping off his mask - he finds out that the HobGoblin is - Flash Thompson? The coppers arrive to take Flash to the pokey, and Kris Keating's goon squad, acting on a tip, search Flash's apartment and discover all kinds of HobGoblin paraphenalia. Case closed, except that at the end of the issue we see the "real" HobGoblin pondering over his capturing and framing of Flash just for this moment, thinking that it couldn't have happened to a more deserving fellow. Additionally, in #278 when the Rose asks the Goblin why he selected Thompson to frame, the Goblin simply replied "why not?"

Ha ha. Glad he thought it was funny.

And it might have been a neat cruel and ironic joke had all of the characters involved hadn't completely taken leave of their senses during the next few issues. I mean, come on, Flash Thompson as the HobGoblin? Who would believe that - especially Peter Parker and Mary Jane? The only thing that would remotely have qualified Flash to have been the Goblin would have been his military experience (a fact largely ignored in the present day since it would be rather difficult to explain how Flash fought in the Vietnam War), which he conceivably could have used to fashion weapons, but even then...Peter in particular had known Flash for years, and yet he actually considered that Flash could be smart enough to duplicate Norman Osborn's/Mendell Stromm's Goblin formula and technology - and more unlikely yet improve or otherwise enhance it? And so what if the cops discovered Goblin stuff in his apartment? For one, considering that the Goblin had already used one doppelganger in Lefty Donovan, why didn't it occur to anyone that the Goblin could be using another? This was simply dumb and lazy plotting, and an utter waste of the readers' time. It also illustrates that the Goblin mystery was fast running out of steam for DeFalco to have resorted to this tactic. This is only my speculation, but he apparently wasn't ready to reveal the Goblin's identity and was trying to buy time, bringing the Goblin back, but justifying another few months of stringing things along by the real Goblin laying low and letting Flash take the heat. At at this time, nearly all of the guesses coming in had Ned Leeds pegged as the HobGoblin. Apparently Ned's erratic flashes of temper and frequent disappearances had sunk in (in issue #278, Robbie notes that Ned used to be so easygoing, but that something had changed him). So, either DeFalco's deception was working perfectly, or he wasn't doing a very good job of building a mystery since everyone seemed to zero on the same candidate, rather than at the beginning of the HobGoblin saga when Stern was writing and the guesses were all over the map. But, after three years and three phoney revelations, someone should have decided to pull the plug before the ultimate resolution either became too obvious or would be too much of a letdown.

But believe it or not, we still had another year to go.

What could have made this scenario of Flash as HobGoblin seem a little more plausible was actually Jim Owsley's suggestion in Web of Spider-Man #29 (when he was feverishly trying to tie up all of the loose ends in making Leeds the HobGoblin) that Kris Keating was the one who actually planted the HobGoblin goods on Flash Thompson, at the behest of Ned Leeds, whom Keating believed to be the Goblin. Supposedly, Keating had given Leeds a pass on being the HobGoblin because in doing so, Leeds passed along information on organized crime activities to Keating and allowed him to make a lot of high profile busts. Theoretically then, since Keating had done the planting, he may very well have continued to ram through the Thompson-as-HobGoblin angle down at the precinct and in the DA's office to the point that no one even had a chance to consider that maybe this loud mouthed ex-jock couldn't have been the Goblin. And, we will have to assume that Keating was very thorough and considered all of the possiblities that people might remember Lefty Donovan had been used by the Goblin, and had prepared for this. We have to assume because we certainly didn't see it.

But then that brings to mind the fact that Kris Keating had previously been painted as something like the JJJ of the police force by Roger Stern in previous issues - that is, Keating was an arrogant, obnoxious, loud-mouthed, foul-mouthed blowhard who had no use for Spider-Man, and was a bit too quick on the trigger, but he was still an honest cop. So where does Keating get off making deals with a murderer like the HobGoblin simply to make himself look good? Well, in Spectacular Spider-Man #129 Peter David wrapped up his long and involved Foreigner-Black Cat storyline by revealing that the real Kris Keating was long dead, and that the Foreigner had used that identity as part of a training program for his assassins. So, the Foreigner, as Keating, would likely have been very intrigued when Leeds first presented his proposal of cooperation. It's something the Foreigner would enjoy doing as it would allow him the opportunity to bust his old pal the Kingpin's chops, as well as collect information on mob activities for his own use. And it's also something that Kingsley would do. Having used Ned to cut a deal with Richard Fisk/the Rose on the organized crime front - he probably figured that in order for the HobGoblin to not be within the triggers of every cop in New York City, he needed someone on the inside there as well, thus having all the angles covered. Kingsley is nothing if not a meticulous planner. And remember in Amazing Spider-Man #289 when Jason Macendale showed up at the Foreigner's office and put out the contract on the HobGoblin, and how quickly Leeds was killed? The Foreigner must have already known that Leeds was the Goblin - and how could he have known? Well, because either he or his people were posing as Keating - whom Leeds aproached - and as we discussed last time regarding the Rose - this was one of the reasons that Kingsley used Leeds in this manner - in order to safeguard his own identity and set up a fall guy in the event things went awry. And of course, in #289 we learn that the Kingpin already knew that Leeds was the Goblin and had evidence that he showed Spidey. The Kingpin probably already knew that the Foreigner and his operatives were posing as Keating, and may very well have known that there was a relationship with Ned Leeds, and investigated that connection. However, it is unlikely that Kingsley knew that Keating wasn't really Keating.

Geez, I'm winded. Did you all follow that? I need to get back on track.

But still - Peter Parker of all people should have known better - that Flash couldn't have been the Goblin. Peter's stupidity on this one I can't explain away, although I'll gladly listen to suggestions on how this might have been plausible.

Four months later, in Amazing Spider-Man #280, the HobGoblin mystery limps along as two ultimately very important relationships are either introduced or enhanced: Kingsley/HobGoblin and Jack O'Lantern/HobGoblin. Mary Jane, who at this time has become an established model at Kingsley, Ltd., notes that Roddy seems to spend an awful lot of time in his workroom, and wonders what he does there. She tries to pass a message along to him, but he barely pokes his head out. When he shoos her off, he returns to his room, where we discover that he has been in conference with a shadowy figure holding a pumpkin bomb, who tells Kingsley that they could both go to jail if anyone ever learned the "truth" about them. Oooh, how cryptic. Anyway, looking back, it was clear that this was the first time we indeed saw the Kingsley brothers together, even though one was obscured. Since the HobGoblin told Betty Brant in the later series HobGoblin Lives that Ned never did learn his real identity, there would be no reason for Ned to be anywhere near Kingsley, Ltd. Oh, I suppose that Kingsley could have "suggested" to Ned during one of their brainwashing sessions that Kingsley would supply him with weapons, but I honestly don't see Roderick allowing that line to be blurred, or taking the chance that someone would see Ned with him. I don't think he would have had Ned show up within 1,000 feet of his own business.

And while the HobGoblin and Jack O'Lantern had worked together before, with Jack coordinating the recovery of the battle van back in issue #257, issue #280 begins their mutual antagonism which eventually results not only in Ned Leeds' death, but ultimately Jack O'Lantern's himself.

Since everyone is still weirdly convinced that a loudmouthed jock like Flash Thompson, currently rotting in jail, could be the HobGoblin, Jack offers the Rose his services as a replacement. Of course, the Rose knows for a fact that the Goblin isn't in jail, but he does still believe that Ned Leeds is the Goblin, and as we know by the last several issues, Ned Leeds is losing his grip. The Rose sees this as an opportunity for the two to kill each other, which does actually fit in with the Rose's recollections in Web of Spider-Man #30, when he mentions that he began to plot Ned's murder after Leeds starting acting whacko. At the end of #280, a figure that is clearly the Goblin in his civilian identity leaves Kingsley, Ltd. and runs into Mary Jane, who is clearly pleased to see him, and curiously enough - he appears pleased to see her as well. In fact, the two seem awfully chummy. MJ asks why she hasn't seen him lately, and the Goblin tells her his life has been rather chaotic lately. This reinforces the clue DeFalco left behind in issue #261 when he established that the HobGoblin knew Mary Jane. Fortunately, again, this works for BOTH Leeds and Kingsley. But like I mentioned in the last part, it oddly does not work for the man DeFalco ultimately had planned to peg as the HobGoblin.

Issue #281 further sows the seeds of discord between the HobGoblin and Jason Macendale/Jack O'Lantern as the Goblin wants to smack down Jack for springing Flash Thompson in the previous issue, which interfered with Gobby's plans to operate a little longer under the radar, as well as for trying to undercut his relationship with the Rose. Jack, on the other hand, believed springing the man believed to be the HobGoblin would get him jobs within the underworld.

Issue #282 has another key character introduction, this time Richard Fisk's pal Alfredo, who plays a more critical role later as the Gang War gets underway, when we find out that the Rose is Richard Fisk, and Alfredo was his old college roommate (like Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones?). During the post-Ned is Dead HobGoblin retcon written by Priest/Owsley in Web #29 & #30, we learn that Alfredo was actually a key member of the plot to take down the Kingpin - that it was really the trio of Leeds, Fisk, and Alfredo. However, Alfredo's introduction is one of the most subtle and surprising of all - he shows up as one of Mary Jane's dates!

More confusion is heaped upon the already existing confusion when Kris Keating comes in as a last-minute suspect in #283 through his comments on how much the HobGoblin case means to him, and he seems to have a real mad on for catching up with Flash. We get another in a long line of Leeds/Bannon teases when Peter's spidey sense goes off at the Bugle offices as he and Leeds stare each other down during an argument, as Leeds is really going off the deep end on Betty's infidelity. But, when Lance Bannon shows up also, we are supposed to believe that Peter's spider sense could have detected him as well. Clearly though, we now know it was reacting to Leeds. This doesn't necessarily means that Leeds is in HobGoblin mode, since it's hard to tell exactly when Kingsley has turned the HobGoblin switch on or off with Ned, and I've always maintained that whenever we saw the HobGoblin in the comics up until the Gang War, it was always Kingsley. However, as a result of Kingsley's brainwashing, compounded with Ned's own problems, he has clearly become an aggressive, violent person that Peter's spider sense would react to.

Peter's spider sense also goes off at Kingsley Ltd., where he goes to pick up MJ. The two pass by Roddy's mysterious workroom, where "Roderick" is being verbally lashed at by the HobGoblin. Kingsley mentally expresses his concern that the Goblin is getting more violent and obsessed with Spider-Man, and thinks that he'd better take precautions to make certain the Goblin never turns that anger on him.

As stated before, I don't think that this could be Ned, so it has to be both Kingsley brothers, with "Roderick" really being Daniel. But then why is Daniel so concerned about the HobGoblin becoming more violent since we've been led to believe that Ned is the violent one? And would Daniel turn his own brother in?

Well, considering that this very same scenario essentially played out in HobGoblin Lives, I don't think anything here contradicts that. Even though Roddy doesn't appear to have flipped his lid like Ned or like the Osborns before him, his continued drummings by Spider-Man have been wearing to both body and mind. Roddy's got a healthy ego, after all. Additionally, you've got to realize that all of his oh-so-brilliant plans are coming apart at the seams. Due to the effects of the brainwashing on Ned Leeds, Kingsley is beginning to lose control of him. Ned's subsequent erratic behavior is turning the Rose against him and his framing of Flash ultimately failed because that goofball Jack O'Lantern barged into matters because of his own agenda - and all of this just as the Kingpin is about to temporarily abdicate the New York City crime scene. And that doesn't include his own financial empire that he still has to run! So yes, he's starting to become unglued himself. However, the difference between Kingsley and some other supervillains is that he actually sees this beginning to happen to him, another reason for him to eventually abandon being the HobGoblin.

And Daniel did eventually turn on him after HobGoblin Lives because he was sickened by Roderick's utter disregard for life. In this instance, however, since Roderick soon afterwards stops being the HobGoblin, Daniel probably tables any notion of "taking precautions."

Gang War
The beginning of "Gang War" storyline, which ran in Amazing Spider-Man #284-288 really marks the end of two things (1) Kingsley's run as the original HobGoblin and (2) the existence in any sort of sense in the HobGoblin mess, and much of this had to do with some behind the scene changes at Marvel. According to Christopher Priest, Tom DeFalco's promotion to Executive Editor played havoc with his writing schedule, and EIC Jim Shooter ordered Priest (then Owsley) to fire DeFalco, even though, Priest claims that the reason that DeFalco was chronically late was because of all of the extra assignments Shooter was giving him! Priest fires DeFalco, who has only started the "Gang War" story, leaving someone, which turned out to be Priest, to be the one to ultimately script this story. At the same time, Jim Salicrup replaced Priest/Owsley as the editor of the spider titles, and it was Salicrup who apparently told Owsley that Leeds was the HobGoblin, and to orient the clues that way.

Although when things first played out, they seemed a complete mess, but looking back, I think we can determine at the start of the "Gang War" that Kingsley has indeed abandoned his HobGoblin identity and given the role to Ned full time.

Until the “Gang War” storyline, it is still clearly Kingsley in the role. For one, the fact that he could go mano a mano with Spidey in his previous appearances, which the powerless Leeds Goblin likely would not be able to do. It was established in HobGoblin Lives that Ned had not received a dose of the Goblin formula, which makes sense since Kingsley would certainly not want to create his physical equal. It is likely that Kingsley was wearying of his relationship with the Rose, and much to his chagrin, Ned was contributing to that disintegration. A combination of Leeds' own personal antagonism towards Spider-Man, and the effect of the Winkler brain washing machine was making Ned more confrontational and antagonistic with the Rose and eroding Richard Fisk's confidence in the HobGoblin. This would manifest itself in the Rose's attempt to control and manage the HobGoblin even more, which would surely have pissed Kingsley off when he had to deal with the Rose himself after Ned had poisoned the waters. Kingsley had wanted it both ways, to get the rewards of toppling the Kingpin without investing the risk, and perhaps now he was realizing that he simply couldn't do both. My guess is that for Kingsley, toppling the Kingpin would have been akin to a corporate takeover, which Roddy was the ruthless master of. He may have envisioned a thereafter seemless transition - since we established in the last part that Kingsley likely was eyeing only the Kingpin's legitimate business ventures, and Richard Fisk would subsequently dismantle the criminal empire.

But then, the events that concurrently occurred in Daredevil resulted in the Kingpin temporarily abandoning New York City, leaving the crime landscape up for grabs. The swiftness at which matters deteriorated in the Kingpin's absence probably alarmed Kingsley, as it took almost no time for the infrastructure to collapse into a bloody, violent mess with several warring factions, including Hammerhead and Silvermane, and where even unknowns like the Blue Boys could grab a piece of the pie, and alliances are made and broken on the field of battle. He may have decided that even if he and the Rose won the battle, the resulting empire wouldn't have been worth the effort. A logical thinker, Kingsley probably would have little tolerance for chaos, which is exactly what the situation became. He may even have been a bit unnerved at how emotional and obsessed he was becoming, he was getting on the outs with the Rose and was having to watch his back there, and was now in a personal pissing contest with the Jack O'Lantern, adding to his troubles. There were easier ways for men like him to make money and exercise power. Therefore, Kingsley dropped his dual i.d., juiced up the Winkler machine, and sent Leeds out into the battle, probably hoping that he would be killed, which would have permanently freed Kingsley from the albatross that the HobGoblin had become.

In issue #284, Peter's spider sense goes off when Leeds walks into the Bugle offices. Just prior to that, Spidey had an inconsequential hit and run with the HobGoblin which did not require Gobby to use any fisticuffs, so the Goblin could have been Ned then. Also, at the end of the issue, the HobGoblin mistakes the Punisher for Spider-Man and gets clipped fairly easily by the vigilante. Either the HobGoblin is slipping and becoming careless, or it's not the same man in the costume, since I can't believe the Goblin that we had seen since issue #238 would have been taken down so easily.

Also in issue #284, Kris Keating busts up one of the Rose's bookie operations, and an officer comments on all of the good tips that Keating is getting lately. This could be explained by the events in Web of Spider-Man #29 when Daniel Kingsley tells Keating that he looked the other way on Ned's Goblin escapades in exchange for tips. Later, Spidey sees Kingsley get into a car with Keating. Based on previous events, it would seem that this was the protection against the HobGoblin that Kingsley was seeking - that he was ratting him out to Keating. However, it is more likely that what is happening is Kingsley is beginning to cut his ties with the Rose, and has sent Daniel to rat out the Rose to Keating, because he realizes how dangerous Richard Fisk is becoming to him. This would also explain Keating's "tips" on the Rose's operations and why Daniel Kingsley and Keating were in each other's company in Web #29 when the Rose's hitmen came calling. Even though the Rose does not know that Leeds is not the real HobGoblin, Kingsley is not taking any chances on him finding out.

In issue #285, while getting dressed down by Robbie for his repeated absences and lack of recent contributions to the Bugle, Ned tells him that he has been missing because he has been putting all of his time and energy on a BIG story, and all he needs is certain information on Soviet spy activities during the cold war of the early 60's. Which is probably partially true, but he neglects to tell Robbie that he is also working with the Rose to bring down the Kingpin.

During the same month that issue #285 was released, another story which proved to be crucial to this whole affair was also released - the classic Spider-Man vs. Wolverine one-shot, which just so happened to have been written by - Jim Owsley. In that story, Peter Parker and Ned Leeds go to Europe on a story because Ned has ascertained that several murders in the New York City area are really assassinations of old KGB agents by a shadowy figure known as Charlemagne. Ned is later murdered, apparently due to his investigative activities. It's obvious that when Owsley wrote this story, he had no inkling or intention that Marvel would later pronounce Ned was the HobGoblin - which would explain all of his claims that he was vigorously opposed to Leeds being the Goblin. However, Ron Frenz stated at a convention in Pittsburgh that he and DeFalco decided that the Goblin was Ned. Of course, we know that both men were booted off Amazing Spider-Man before they could make the revelation. A biography of Priest indicates that when Jim Salicrup took over as editor "overnight Ned Leeds became the HobGoblin." So what happened?

Well, Tom DeFalco had pulled a Roger Stern - not telling anyone who he planned on making the HobGoblin - and he got fired before he revealed the answer. So who was this mystery man?

In my research, I was under the impression that DeFalco intended for Ned Leeds to be the HobGoblin. This was based on comments that artist Ron Frenz supposedly made to convention-goers during a Pittsburgh convention. And when DeFalco has been posed the question of the HobGoblin's i.d. at times, he has stated that he has forgotten, or he has simply declined to answer, perhaps justifiably tired of rehashing events more than 15 years old that are tinged with lots of painful memories. However, after my article originally posted at Hero Realm, a couple of faithful fans, "Master Planner 23" and "gerardmcm" referred me to archival posts from the Spider-Girl Message Board, where Tom DeFalco is a regular poster. The posts were from May, 2001. I did not include links to DeFalco's quotes since I do not know how long archival posts will be available, so I have included the entire text of some of DeFalco's responses to questions posed to him:

Question: You and Ron Frenz started your Amazing Spider-Man run in the 80's - why did you both leave part way through the "Gang War" storyline?

DeFalco: My editor decided that he didn't like the way Ron and I were producing the book. He wanted it to be more grim and gritty and have less soap opera - so he fired us. (Priest states in his comment that then EIC Shooter demanded DeFalco's firing because he was consistently late. Oh boy. Don't you just love two completely irreconcilable perspectives?)

Question: In your mind, who do you think was the HobGoblin? When I read those stories my thoughts are you believed it was Ned Leeds. Was just wondering what made you think it was him?

DeFalco: I moved about a year ago and found my old spider notes stored in the attic. Ned was only a red herring. I actually intended the HobGoblin to be Richard Fisk, the Kingpin's son. I was also going to reveal that Roderick Kingsley was the Rose. The aforementioned editor went in his own direction.

Question: Did you know that Roger Stern wanted Kingsley to be the HobGoblin?

DeFalco: Yes, but I didn't agree since we had already seen Kingsley in the same room as the HobGoblin. Roger's idea of Kingsley's "evil twin" scenario didn't really appeal to me...so the twin had never been established or mentioned.

Well, that was interesting, wasn't it? Reminds me of the classic movie Rashamon in which different characters have completely different takes on the same event. Like I stated earlier, I was always under the impression that Stern never told DeFalco that he intended Kingsley to be the HobGoblin based on interviews conducted several years ago, and that according to Ron Frenz, DeFalco had intended the Goblin to be Ned Leeds. However, since these posts are directly from DeFalco, with no intermediary, we will take him at his word.

So, while DeFalco probably never told then editor Owsley that he planned for Richard Fisk to become the Goblin, he must have made it clear that Ned was only a red herring, which would explain why Owsley would write a story where Ned gets killed off. And when Jim Salicrup came in, without knowing what DeFalco had planned, saw that many of the clues pointed to Leeds - and figured that's where Tom was headed.

Hmm. Richard Fisk as the HobGoblin? Roderick Kingsley as the Rose? I'll have to think about that for a minute.

Of course, even though by this time we can assume the fix is in for Leeds to be the Goblin, per Salicrups' instructions, the tease over Lance Bannon hasn't stopped yet. In #286 Bannon turns over a lead on a gangland meeting to Peter Parker because he has "plans." In the same issue we finally learn that the Rose is Richard Fisk, the Kingpin's son. This revelation was likely solely Owsley's doing, as we know that DeFalco intended for Kingsley to be the Rose. However, Glenn Greenburg stated in Part 27 of "Life of Reilly" when discussing the Rose, that Tom had never really intended the character to be anyone in particular. Again, DeFalco says something else, so we'll go with DeFalco.

Another subtle indication in this issue that the HobGoblin at this time was Ned Leeds (or at least not Roderick Kingsley) was during a battle with Spider-Man, Spidey decides to stop tangling with the Goblin in order to rescue some people that are trapped in several burning buildings. He tells the Goblin that if he wants to kill him – this is his chance. However, inexplicably, the Goblin lets Spidey go about his hero duties and leaves – which implies that he does not necessarily want innocent people killed. This would be consistent for the Leeds Goblin, who in some strange way still thinks he's one of the good guys - but not the Kingsley Goblin – who wouldn’t have cared. Jack O'Lantern abandons the HobGoblin in this battle with Spider-Man (the two were thrown together very briefly when Jack started working for the Kingpin), cementing their amnity, and the Goblin subsequently abandons the Rose, formally ending their relationship. It's never really explained why Ned would have ditched his relationship with Fisk so suddenly since they had planned it for a long time, but it can likely be assumed that not only was Ned simply going out of his mind, but also that he was apalled at how the situation had spun so completely out of control, with too many innocent people in danger, and wanted to cut his losses. While Ned may have still saw the HobGoblin identity as a way of getting back at Spider-Man, for reasons including his wife Betty's fear of him, he realized that he had bitten off more than he could chew in trying to topple the Kingpin.

The end to the mystery finally seems to be winding down in issue #287. The HobGoblin, knowing that the Kingpin is coming back into town, takes the Rose's pal Alfredo for a ride in order to find out when. Alfredo responds to these threats with “You’re really getting into this HobGoblin thing,” implying that whoever was beneath the mask was only supposed to be playing a role. After the Goblin finds out from Alfredo when the Kingpin is coming into town, Leeds then appears at Peter Parker’s doorstep to tell him than an informant has given him this information. The HobGoblin then exchanges the Rose’s identity with the Kingpin for information on Soviet spy activities, the story that Ned Leeds was working on. So, Leeds has clearly abandoned any notion of knocking off the Kingpin, and is content to simply barter with him to achieve his personal goals, including turning on the Rose. In fact, he tells Peter "like it or not, the Kingpin is a stabilizing influence over this town's underworld," a realization which may also have contributed to his leaving the Rose, as mentioned earlier.

Another curious thing happens in issue #287 as Mary Jane thinks she sees a man on a glider heading toward the Kingsley building. Once inside, she hears Kingsley arguing with a man in that infamous workroom. When Kingsley's vistor leaves, MJ sees that it's Lance Bannon - who tells MJ to forget that she saw him. If Kingsley was no longer the Goblin, and Leeds did not know of the Kingsley/Goblin connection, why was he seen heading toward the Kingsley building? It could have been that Ned was beginning to feel drawn to the Kingsley building for reasons he didn't completely understand (perhaps beginning to pierce through the brainwashing) or he simply could have been flying around, and it was sheer coincidence that MJ saw him at that particular time.

In issue #288, Alfredo has a mad on for the HobGoblin for dropping him in the river in the previous issue, interrupts a fight between him and Jack O'Lantern, and actually seems to get the best of the Goblin! Again, this should not have happened if the HobGoblin was truly superpowered, but it turned out to be amazingly accurate in the final denouement several years later. Of course the Goblin could be bested by Alfredo because he wasn't super-powered, because he wasn't the real HobGoblin.

Also in #288 Ned drops in on Lance at his apartment and tells him that he's going on a European trip (this is the one that he's already been killed on - the one featured in Spider-Man vs. Wolverine) and that he needs a photographer. While there, he sees Bannon's pictures of the HobGoblin, and as he leaves, Bannon cringes about "if anyone ever suspected." Leeds accidentally leaves his notes, so Bannon goes over to his apartment to return them, only to see Flash Thompson and marvel at his "incredible stroke of luck." Soon after that, we see the HobGoblin administering a brutal beating to Flash (with no Bannon in sight). In revealing his i.d. to Flash so that he knows who has bested him, he accidentally shows his face to Betty - and she recognizes him and passes out. This seals the deal that Leeds is the HobGoblin at this time. Theoretically, it could still be Bannon, as Betty knows Lance from working at the Bugle - yet it doesn't seem that the revelation that Bannon was the Goblin would be enough to cause Betty to pass out, nor does it seem that the conflict between Bannon and Thompson was so personal that Bannon, if he had been the HobGoblin, would have felt it necessary to reveal his i.d. to Flash to seal a triumph. Framing Flash as the HobGoblin, if it had been Bannon, would have only been business, not personal. With this Goblin, the connection with Flash is clearly personal.

So, what the heck was going on with Bannon that he was studying HobGoblin pictures, arguing with Kingsley, talking about it being lucky to find Flash? This was never really revealed, either, since Lance served his purpose as a red herring, and then when the mystery was over, was quickly dropped. My best guess is that like Leeds before him, he was investigating the HobGoblin and trying to deduce his identity. Since we know that he was close with Sargeant Tork (as revealed in Gang War), it's possible he could have picked up hints of Keating's and Kingsley's meetings and other suspicious behavior. With Bannon now dead, too, I guess this doesn't matter anyway.

The Gang War comes to an end in issue #288 when the Kingpin is brought back to New York City, aided and abetted by the U.S. Government, which realizes that Fisk, though a despicable presence, is strong enough to keep the acrimony between the various crime families under control. Without the fat man's influence, it has become a bloody, violent mess taking civilians with it, so the Government makes a deal with the devil. However, the war ends, and Leeds has survived, which resulted in Kingsley having to resort to another plan to off him in order to ensure that the HobGoblin appears to die with him. In HobGoblin Lives, Kingsley tells Betty Brant that he spread the word among the underworld that Leeds was the HobGoblin, hoping to precipitate his demise. As it turned out, Jason Macendale's personal grudge against the HobGoblin, combined with the fact that Kris Keating, whom Kingsley thought he was using Ned to use him, turned out to be the Foreigner or one of his operatives, played right into Kingsley's hands.

We've spent a lot of time recounting how the mystery of the HobGoblin's identity unfolded, but something that should also be apparent is how the HobGoblin's stature as major supervillain declined during this period. During Roger Stern's tenure on Amazing Spider-Man, the Goblin was a solo player, in charge of his own destiny, and carrying on his grudge against Spider-Man on his own terms. He was a singular menace, inspiring fear and anxiety whenever he appeared.

The HobGoblin under DeFalco, however, seemed to lack that dominating presence, particularly once he allied with the Rose, and briefly, with Jack O'Lantern. With the exception of issue #275, the HobGoblin is almost never seen outside of the Rose, or outside the context of doing the Rose's bidding. One case of this is Web of Spider-Man #24, in which Peter Parker is in Atlantic City with Aunt May and the rest of the old folks from her halfway house. The HobGoblin's appearance in this issue is only incidental as he shows up with the Rose's henchmen, doing the Rose's dirty work, and he and Spidey get into a meaningless fight. Under Stern, the HobGoblin was clearly portrayed as the successor to Norman Osborn, which added to the tension of the stories considering the impact of Norman Osborn on Spidey's life. However, after issue #261, this aspect of the Goblin's existence was downplayed and eventually ignored, which in the end resulted in him being just another costumed clown rather than Spidey's No. 1 Headache and an A-1 BadAss. Nowhere was this more apparent than during the "Gang War" storyline when all hell was breaking loose. The HobGoblin could have been anyone, and it wouldn't have made any difference in the story.

The Final Solution?
And that brings us to issue #289, where the HobGoblin's identity is finally (at least up to that point) revealed. Peter David drew the unenviable task of telling the tale that resolves the HobGoblin mystery. Since Jim Salicrup had decided that the Goblin was Leeds, David had to explain to the world how a guy who we saw murdered four months ago in the Spider-Man vs. Wolverine one shot could have been the same guy under the Goblin outfit just last month at the conclusion of the Gang War.

Without a doubt, Peter David is one of the best writers in comics, and the quality of many of his Spider-Man stories stand out during the character's long history (he also wrote some of the best Classic Star Trek comics). However, his spin on the HobGoblin mystery was an ugly and unsatisfactory resolution to what had been one of the spider-titles' most provocative mysteries.

The story begins with Jason Macendale, aka the Jack O'Lantern, placing a contract out on the HobGoblin with the Foreigner. Surprisingly, this doesn't take very long at all, and the Foreigner soon announces that the HobGoblin is dead. Switch to stateside, and Peter Parker and company are watching the arrival of Ned Leeds' body from Europe, since as you remember, he was apparently murdered to keep him from investigating Charlemagne during Spider-Man vs. Wolverine. After the Kingpin chastises the Foreigner for assassinating the HobGoblin without his consultation, Fisk puts the word out on the street that he wants to see Spider-Man. When Spidey shows up, Fisk provides him with evidence that Ned Leeds was the HobGoblin, and we flash back to Ned's final moments in the hotel in Berlin. We see Ned writing in his journal about how many times his wife, Betty, had nightmares about Spider-Man due to his alleged involvement in the death of her brother (and that was waaaaayy back in Amazing Spider-Man #11 first volume), and Ned prayed for the power to do something about it - and boy did he get it! This provides us with the first motive for Ned to be the HobGoblin. In the midst of switching identities, several of the Foreigner's assassins break in on Leeds, where inexplicably, they easily get the drop on him and subdue him. As they close in for the kill, Leeds calls for help from Spider-Man(??!!) and then he is garrotted. The rest of the issue, revealing that Jack O'Lantern is now the new HobGoblin, is an afterthought after this bombshell.

This sucks in so many ways I don't know where to start.

First of all, why in heaven's name can't the guy who was Spidey's No. 1 foe for several years meet a more meaningful fate? Being easily handled by four goons, and then crying out for help from Spider-Man like a big wussy - in Europe of all places? Yeah, like Ned had a "Goblin Call" that could be heard across the ocean (although Peter was supposedly in the next room, Ned didn't know Peter was Spider-Man). But then I guess this wasn't a singlular occurrence. After all, during the Clone Saga, Kaine busted in on Doctor Octopus and effortlessly snapped his neck. Boom - end of a classic villain that had been around for over 30 years - so I guess Ned shouldn't take his pitiful ouster personally, eh? Still, the only way he should have been taken out was after a fierce battle - and he should have died proudly, not crying that his arm was broken, and then hollering for Spider-Man's help.

And speaking of long-term characters, Ned himself, outside of the costume, had been in the spider titles since Volume 1, issue #19 of Amazing Spider-Man. He had been Peter's rival for Betty Brant's affection, and Betty had been Peter's first true love. Not that Ned was a great character. Frankly, he was probably the one exception to a problem that I have discussed in other articles, that of Spidey's supporting cast being slowly gutted. The absence of Ned Leeds is not felt that much as he was ultimately replaced by a better character, hard-boiled Bugle reporter Ben Urich. Leeds really had no personality or function other than to be an ocassional background voice and to complicate Betty Brant's life, to lead Spidey to a certain story, or be the ocassional hostage, as he was for the Jackal during the first Clone Saga. But whether he was the real HobGoblin or not, or even that great of a character, he had been in the titles for so long, had been Peter's romantic rival, and even a finalist for the identity of the original Green Goblin. He simply deserved a far better fate than he got. The mess started with Jim Owsley, who hadn't even been born when Stan Lee and Steve Ditko first plugged Ned Leeds into the titles - so who the hell was he to deep-six this character? And Ned's death was just a plot device to scream "danger! danger!" and justify Spidey staying in Germany. The death of any Bugle reporter could have accomplished those objectives. Even when Owsley was spider-editor, all of his stuff was being reviewed by Jim Shooter, who was normally a lot more careful about things like this (Shooter put the kibosh on Bill Mantlo's idea of Spidey having an illegitimate child). This essentially meaningless and careless story point completely trashed a mystery more than 3 1/2 years in the making at that time. Someone should have been clubbed for this.

And it all added up to the worst thing - that we were denied a final battle between the Leeds Goblin and Spider-Man. Even if the character was going to be killed off, it should have been in that context - of a final battle. Even when Doc Ock was killed during the Clone Saga, the previous encounter between him and Spidey, where he learned Spider-Man's secret identity, saved him from succumbing to the Vulture's poison, and confessed feelings toward the webslinger (no, not those types of feelings) was perhaps the most intense encounter in their history. His death, while meaningless (and thankfully reversed by Tom DeFalco later), was at least preceeded by a dramatic and eventful confrontation. The Leeds/Goblin character deserved at least that much - if nothing more than a mutual identity revelation before his death - but it's clearly not Peter David's fault. There would simply have been no way to work one in in the story he had to write - but that still doesn't preclude me from listing the story as one of the 10 Worst Spider-Man Stories.

Web of Spider-Man #29 & 30 tries to be the final word on the Leeds HobGoblin story. Written by Owlsey, what is significant about #29 is that as the Rose tries to clean house after Ned's death, he sends his two primary gunmen after Kris Keating and "Roderick" Kingsley, who both just happen to be in Kingsley's office arguing about Leeds' death, and whether or not they will be implicated. The Rose's men appear to kill Kingsley, but Keating gets away. This doesn't explain how Richard Fisk figured out that there was a connection between the HobGoblin and Kingsley, since we've established that Ned probably never set foot in the Kingsley building. My guess is that since Ned did meet with Keating, the Rose was likely aware of that connection, so it was really Keating the Rose's men were after. However, since it's likely the Rose had other sources within the police department, someone probably informed him of the Kingsley/Keating meeting that took place in issue #284. Since during that time Keating was busting the Rose's operations, it's likely that the Rose assumed there was some connection, and just decided to take everyone out just to be safe. However, as we now know, this was not Roderick who was shot, but Daniel, and he did survive. Issue #30 is from the perspective of Richard Fisk confessing to a priest about his career as the Rose, and it becomes closely intertwined with the origin of the Leeds HobGoblin. We finally learn about the deal struck by Leeds and Fisk, and the rationale for Leeds taking up the HobGoblin identity - that he saw the opportunity to write the news story of the decade - and that his reign of terror within the underworld ranks was to make a name for himself while gathering vital information for his expose on the Kingpin. And it just so happened that he became obsessed with Spider-Man and allowed the HobGoblin identity to consume him. Uh-huh. That certainly wasn't the sinister, egomaniacal HobGoblin Roger Stern created in issues #238-251, the HobGoblin that murdered the informant who found the Green Goblin's equipment, the HobGoblin that set Lefty Donovan up to experiment with the Goblin formula, and then disposed of him like yesterday's garbage, the HobGoblin that blackmailed members of the business community with information from Norman Osborn's old journal, the scientific mastermind that improved on Norman's old equipment. Nor was this Rose even the same Rose that Tom DeFalco created originally. They were really just pretenders, straw men set up to hastily bring to a close a once enthralling storyline that had long ago run completely out of gas, and one which Marvel now just wanted to go away.

After this month, the gears are shifted completely in the spider-titles. Peter and Mary Jane get married, Spidey acquires a brand new supervillain in Venom, Jason Macendale is firmly established as the HobGoblin, and Richard Fisk and the Rose are out of the picture for a long while. And this sorry situation is finally over.

Laying Blame
There probably isn't a "who" who can be blamed for why the HobGoblin mystery came to such an unsatisfying resolution, since it was a mutual effort - but one that occurred because things simply spun out of control, like the Clone Saga, of which there are many similarities. Roger Stern certainly didn't intend for it to happen this way, since he didn't want Ned to be the Goblin, but he was off the title after the first HobGoblin story arc. Even though DeFalco had his own ideas who the HobGoblin was, he clearly didn't anticipate getting fired from the lead title, either, nor did he anticipate that his duties as Executive Editor would disrupt the flow of his stories. Jim Owsley clearly didn't want Leeds to be the Goblin (particularly not after he killed him off in an earlier story!), but after firing DeFalco, which precluded Tom from finishing this story, the burden fell on Owsley to finish it. Jim Salicrup probably didn't say to himself "how can we conclude this story in the most screwed up way possible" but perhaps he sensed that the mystery had gone on for too long and needed to be resolved as soon as possible. Also, the titles were about to embark on a new era with Peter Parker and Mary Jane's marriage, and it was time to jettison old loose ends. Peter David just cleaned up someone else's mess. Jim Shooter? Too busy running the insane asylum.

As I implied before, there are several similarities to this and the Clone Saga. In fact, everyone thinks the Clone Saga ran on too long because it lasted for more than two years - but the mystery over the HobGoblin's identity lasted over four! The person who came up with the idea (Roger Stern - HobGoblin, Terry Kavanaugh - Clone Saga) didn't see it through to its conclusion. Several writers became involved, muddying the waters. Editorial changes occurred. Big crossover events (Secret Wars II, Onslaught) mandated by management resulted in postponement of the storylines' resolutions. Each had significant supervillains (HobGoblin, Doctor Octopus) meet utterly meaningless deaths. What we don't know is whether or not Marvel's marketing department, which had a significant say in pushing the Clone Saga's length because of a spike in sales, did something similar with the HobGoblin saga.

This is not saying that the original mystery that inspired this whole scenario, the identity of the Green Goblin, was done much better. After all, Ditko reportedly wanted the Goblin to be Ned Leeds then, who had been a character in the titles since relatively close to the Goblin's introduction, but Stan overruled him and made the Goblin a character, Norman Osborn, that had only been introduced only two months earlier! Remember, Norman was first formally introduced in issue #37, and was revealed as the Green Goblin in #39. Look at it this way, for two years this character has been battling Spider-Man, with his real name a big mystery, and then it turns out to be a guy we just met! However, a major difference is that the Green Goblin identity was settled within about two years after the character was first introduced, and there weren’t all of these relentless and false teases about the revelation of his identity. The Green Goblin's son had been a character in the titles for a little longer (issue #31, but still over a year after the Goblin was first introduced). But, as it turned out, Stan lucked into picking Norman Osborn, as he proved to have been the best possible choice for the Green Goblin anyway.

Not so with Ned Leeds, nor really with Lance Bannon, who was the only other logical choice based on the clues given. We discussed some of their pitfalls in the last part. For one, they were both too obvious. Also, we would have had to have taken it for granted that Ned was already a murderer, for example, and had all of this scientific expertise we never knew about. Lance might have been an interesting choice for the HobGoblin, since he was young, about Peter’s age, was a competitor of Peter's in civilian life, and also apparently had money - plus we really didn't know a whole lot about him. A great deal of compare and contrast could have been made between these two – Peter, the working class hero – and Bannon – a child of privilege who went down the wrong path. The contrast between Parker and Bannon could have created conflicts in BOTH identities, just as the earlier Osborn/Parker conflicts did – which is really part of the idea behind the Goblin Legacy – the knowledge of Spider-Man’s i.d. - and carrying the battle beyond the costumed identities. But as we also discussed last time, either Leeds or Bannon reinforces the sloppy pattern of making Daily Bugle employees superheroes or supervillains. But is that any less sloppy than making the Green Goblin the father of one of Peter's classmates? Not really, I guess.

What about Tom's idea that Richard Fisk was the HobGoblin and Roderick Kingsley was the Rose?

As the Rose was originally written, and taken in the context of what we knew about Kingsley then, I could see some attributes the two might share, since the Rose's erudite personality gave the impression of a person of great sophistication who considered himself above some of the pettiness and the gruesomeness that went along with being in organized crime. I can see that being consistent with Kingsley's fashion industry background. Still, unless the times that we saw a wimpy, fussy Kingsley would have been just an act for the public (and remember, DeFalco had jettisoned the twin brother idea), since the Rose never displayed such tendencies, it's just as well that this resolution never saw the light of day. Maybe in that situation, Kingsley would have been braver under a mask and surrounded by gun toting bodyguards, explaining the personality disparity. It's true that Kingsley (before he became the Goblin) was essentially a criminal anyway, since he accumulated much of his wealth and power by stealing from other people, so I suppose that it wouldn't really be that much of a stretch to make him the Rose. It's no less of a likelihood than Jake Conover, Bugle reporter, being the third Rose, which was also scripted by DeFalco. I suppose that, of course, is where the suspension of disbelief comes in anyway when the subject comes to costumed super-villains.

Richard Fisk as the HobGoblin. Hmm - don't really like it, but I suppose that's simply because I never liked that character. We first met Richard Fisk back in the first volume of Amazing Spider-Man, when it was revealed that he had become so despondent upon finding out that his father was a crimelord that he faked his own death and took on the identity of "the Schemer" to take on the Kingpin. This revelation made the Kingpin catatonic, and Fisk later tried to square things with his father by joining up with Hydra. However, the last time we saw him was Amazing Spider-Man #164 in which the Kingpin had Spidey's life force sucked from him to save Richard (needless to say, Spidey sucked it back - but it had been with Richard long enough to rejuvinate him). But, given that at that time we knew relatively little about Richard Fisk - I suppose he could have been retroactively written as the HobGoblin. Nothing previously established really contradicted that idea, unless you count that in ASM #261, the HobGoblin clearly knows who Mary Jane is. I suppose that we could make the stretch that since MJ dated Alfredo, and hung out with jet-setting types, that she could possibly have met Richard Fisk. But I honestly think that revealing Fisk as the HobGoblin would have been met with collective indifference by the fans. I think people were expecting the Goblin to be revealed as someone close to Spidey in either one or both of his identities - I know I was.

Other good HobGoblin suspects at the time, such as Keating, Kingsley, Blake Tower and Roger Hochberg, had virtually disappeared from the titles after Stern left the series (although Kingsley and Keating did come back in #271 and #276 after each being missing almost two years or more) - so no time had really been spent developing them. Perhaps the fear at Marvel was that after the mystery had lasted so long, the fans would feel cheated if the HobGoblin wasn't someone they knew well. I think that may be why Jim Salicrup dictated the Leeds as Goblin scenario even though Ned was already dead. Probably Owlsey's Spidey and Wolverine story with Leeds' death was too far along to change it, and Salicrup looked at all of the clues left behind and surmised that people would have been disappointed if the Goblin hadn't been Ned Leeds, since that's who most readers seemed to have pegged for the role. I suppose he could have decided that Lance Bannon was the Goblin, since that would have precluded the need to write a retroactive story explaining how a dead character could be the Goblin, and would have allowed for that dramatic, unmasking confrontation between him and Spidey, but maybe Salicrup felt that Bannon was just a spoiled preppy, and that the anger and violence Leeds seemed capable of in previous issues simply made him the logical candidate. I suppose we'll never know. It is fairly easy to see though, how the editorial problems and the disarray at Marvel that existed during this time, and contributed to the unsatisfactory resolution of the HobGoblin story, could continue to grow, fester and feed into the events that gave us both Clone Saga and Marvel's virtual collapse during the 1990's.

Whatever. We have what we have. The HobGoblin is dead. Long live the HobGoblin.

NEXT TIME: Goblins, Goblins, everywhere. The Faux Goblins (no, I'm not referring to Goblins in the Ultimate line) take over as the Jason Macendale HobGoblin and the DemoGoblin send Norman Osborn's Legacy straight into the crapper. Jason goes through three different incarnations and still sucks as a HobGoblin. No wonder Harry Osborn briefly tries to reclaim the Legacy - until he dies as well. And then there's a good Green Goblin? What a mess.

What's next? Norman Osborn coming back from the dead? Ned Leeds really wasn't the HobGoblin after all? What kind of dummies does Marvel think we are?

And if that doesn't get you worked up for Squandered Legacy Part 3, then maybe you should be reading Millie the Model!


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