Squandered Legacy: The Rise and Fall of the HobGoblin

Part Four


HobGoblin Lives!

If you're new to this series and a glutton for long-winded, biased exposition, you can check out the first three parts of this series back at my home page Spidey Kicks Butt or go directly to the articles Squandered Legacy Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Part 1 follows the career of the HobGoblin from the debut of Roderick Kingsley in Spectacular Spider-Man #43 and the HobGoblin in Amazing Spider-Man #238 to Roger Stern's departure from Amazing Spider-Man in issue #251. Part 2 takes us through Tom DeFalco's tenure, beginning with Amazing Spider-Man #252 up through the "revelation" that Ned Leeds was the HobGoblin in ASM #289, and Part 3 chronicles the careers of the Jason Macendale HobGoblin and his demonic offspring the DemoGoblin.

When we finished up Part 3, the dynamic duo of the Amazing Spider-Ben (the Spider-Man clone) and Peter Parker had defeated the latest incarnation of the Jason Macendale HobGoblin, whom I dubbed the CyberGoblin, and he was incarcerated (see the "Blood Brothers" story arc which concluded in No-Adjective Spider-Man #69). As we open Part 4 of this series, the Clone Saga is ending, and due to the vagaries of the publishing schedule, we come to one of the straggling final appearances of Spider-Ben in Spider-Man Unlimited #14 (December 1996), where we meet an unexpected guest star. During a swanky party attended by J. Jonah Jameson, he is approached by businessman George Vandergill (remember him from Roger Stern's run on Amazing Spider-Man?) and an associate about a plan to inject some much needed cash into the Daily Bugle. Jameson rebuffs them, and then is approached by a familiar face...

Now, I have no idea whether this was a warm-up for next month's debut of Stern's HobGoblin Lives mini, or sheer coincidence. I can't even speculate. The writer on this issue was Glenn Herdling, of whom I know nothing. It had been over nine years (real time) since Roderick Kingsley made an appearance, which is explained by his statement that he renounced his US citizenship and is living in Belize, South America. It's not hard to figure out why Kingsley did this. Originally, he probably thought he had closed all of the loose ends of his HobGoblin career when he set Ned Leeds up to be murdered. However, a jilted and unforgiving Rose sent his goons after him and shot his brother Daniel, who was posing as him. Detective Kris Keating (really the Foreigner or a crony - but Kingsley didn't know that), who knew that Kingsley, Ltd. was manufacturing weapons for the HobGoblin, suddenly disappeared (really, the Foreigner simply retired that identity). These two events probably made Kingsley think that a quick retreat was in order. It is likely that the Rose did not realize at the time that his men had only wounded, rather than killed Kingsley, since they were soon afterwards murdered by the Jason Macendale HobGoblin. So, an exodus out of the country before Richard Fisk realized the truth seemed to be a logical idea. Not that Kingsley was really afraid of Fisk, but he likely did not want to confront him, at least not in the United States. Since Fisk was out for blood for the HobGoblin's betrayal of him during the Gang War, the only certain way for Kingsley to finish Fisk off would be to engage him directly, and that meant reassuming the guise of the HobGoblin (Kingsley would not approach Fisk in his civilian identity - he had gone to great lengths to ensure that Fisk did not know his real identity). Of course, Kingsley had invested a considerable amount of effort to make the world believe that the original HobGoblin was dead. And, there was a certain amount of circumstantial evidence that could be conceivably connected to him. The wise businessman knows that sometimes, you can't declare victory, you simply have to cut your losses - which is what Kingsley did. That is, until HobGoblin Lives (January 1997).

The Death of Jason Macendale
In 1996, over 13 years after the first appearance of the HobGoblin, his creator, Roger Stern, came back to the spider-verse and righted two major wrongs (1) overturning the "Ned Leeds was the original HobGoblin" revelation and (2) offing Jason Macendale.

The story begins with Macendale's trial (funny isn't it - how although supervillains continue to be put in prison or in the Vault time after time, they almost never seem to go to trial - except Peter Parker seemed to go on trial fairly quickly during the Clone Saga, didn't he? It must be reassuring to ignore consistency each time you write a story), and the effects it is having on Peter Parker, Betty Brant, and everyone's favorite cigar smoking publisher, J. Jonah Jameson. Both Betty and Peter dream about Ned Leeds, and Jonah, in one of those rare contemplative moments, regrets sending Ned on that infamous trip to Berlin where he met his death, chronicled in Spider-Man vs. Wolverine. We learn that Jonah had put Ned on the trail of the HobGoblin after he tried to blackmail the members of Jonah's country club back is ASM #249 - and JJJ wishes he had forced Ned to stay on that assignment - that if he had, he would still be alive. It's a good scene for Jonah, because for all of his grousing and complaining and chewing out of his staff, we see that he really does care for Betty, who has been with him for a very long time, first as his secretary and then as a reporter, and also for Ned.

The story moves along with a mob scene at the courthouse where Macendale is being led to learn the verdict rendered against him. Unfortunately for Betty, who is in the reporter pool with Peter, Macendale spots her, and decides to play a hunch. He tells the assembled media that he wasn't the first HobGoblin, that Ned Leeds was. Macendale does this to create "reasonable doubt" by telling the world that there was another HobGoblin, so that a jury will be confused over what crimes he may actually have committed. Then we cut to the some of the assorted mini-dramas in the story as Stern begins to play his final cards in the HobGoblin mystery. We see businessman George Vandergill (whom we've met before back in Amazing Spider-Man #249-250) and Senator Robert Martin, whom we haven't seen since Spectacular Spider-Man #39 (February 1980) after Spider-Man viciously beat his son, teaching assistant Chip Martin. The younger, disturbed Martin became a villain known as Schizoid Man and Spidey was suffering from the feedback of a portable enervator that he used to defeat a giant, walking talking Iguana (no, I'm not making this up - just for expediency's sake take my word for it). This feedback was making him more violent, which set up his later transformation into the Spider-Lizard. So, the Senator despises Spider-Man for brutalizing his son. Then we switch to Osborn crony Donald Menken, who is fending off rumors of a takeover of Osborn Industries, and we learn that he has his own agenda that he is about to set into motion. And finally, for the first time we actually see both of the Kingsley brothers together (at least when one isn't wearing a costume). After watching the Macendale revelation on TV, Daniel becomes frantic that an investigation of Ned Leeds may lead to them. We see the disparity in the personality of the Kingsley brothers, Daniel as the nervous, fearful worrywart, and Roderick as the calm, cool, aggressive one. Roderick tells Daniel to tend to the company's "day to day" affairs while he handles the big picture - a significant statement since it's our first hint that the Kingsley we had seen years earlier was mostly Daniel. While I think Roderick would have covered their tracks pretty thoroughly, it became clear that Jason Macendale was a dangerous loose end. Having exposed Leeds as suddenly and unceremoniously as he did, there was simply no telling what else he might say, or what avenues of investigation he might accidentally open up. After all, Kingsley had set up Leeds and spread the word that he was the HobGoblin (which we learn in Part 3 of the mini). Daniel Kingsley was in the company of Kris Keating more than once, and Keating (again, either the Foreigner or one of his subs) DID have contact with Leeds. Also, Daniel had been shot by the Rose's men. We've already assumed that Roderick left the U.S. for Belize because, in addition to trying to avoid a confrontation with Richard Fisk, he feared all of these facts might lead someone to make some circumstantial conclusions. Therefore, Macendale had to be silenced. However, the choice Kingsley makes in how he goes about eliminating Macendale will eventually lead to his own downfall.

In a following scene which illustrates what I consider to be one of the values of Mary Jane to the Spider-Man series, Peter recounts what he knows about Ned's career as the HobGoblin and his eventual death to her. I've always considered this to be one of MJ's strengths, in that while she knows a lot, she doesn't know everything about Peter's Spider-Man career. Therefore, by having Peter discuss these things with her, the audience can be quickly brought up to speed on events that may have occurred years ago, and she can ask the questions that the audience would normally ask. In my opinion this is better than two pages of self-indulgent thought balloons. But I digress.

Anyway, MJ poses to Peter the one question that EVERYONE should have been asking when the Foreigner's goons offed Leeds - and it is something that the writer of the revelation issue, Peter David, should have addressed - how, if Ned was the HobGoblin, could four men have so easily killed him? And Peter realizes what all of us knew before - that they simply couldn't have. This was a real sore point with me when I first read Amazing Spider-Man #289 that Ned had met such a wussy end. If he had really had been the HobGoblin, he deserved a far better fate. Now, finally, Roger Stern rectifies this glaring problem - Ned Leeds was NOT the original HobGoblin. He had been set up.

Hallelujah!

But now, it's time for Jason Macendale to meet the fate he so richly deserves. After a dream in which he relives his HobGoblin and Jack O'Lantern careers, which started after the CIA booted him for being "too extreme," he receives a rather ominous looking visitor. Macendale recognizes the voice as the first HobGoblin (remember, the original HobGoblin had contracted the former Jack O'Lantern to retrieve the battle van from the river back in Amazing Spider-Man #257). The visitor proceeds to tell both Macendale and all of the cameras recording the action, that Ned Leeds was just as much a dupe as the late Lefty Donovan (ASM #245), and brags how he fooled everyone, including the Foreigner and Kingpin. And finally, he puts both Macendale, and spider-fans, out of their mutual misery...

The HobGoblin is dead.

LONG LIVE THE TRUE HOBGOBLIN!

Macendale Post-Mortem
As mentioned at the beginning of Part 3 of this series, following the career of the Jason Macendale HobGoblin gives one a perspective on the status of the spider-titles during the early to mid-1990's. There was rot in the titles during this time, punctuated by the excessive number of guest-star laden, multi-part crossover slugfests. The Sinister Six, unseen since Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 back in 1964, returns no less than four times, in almost back to back appearances in Amazing Spider-Man and No-Adjective Spider-Man, and later with the remnants re-uniting twice during the Clone Saga. The second battle of the Six teamed Spidey up with Ghost Rider, the Hulk, Fantastic Four, Sleepwalker and Nova. Then there were the crossovers, such as Inferno, Infinity Wars, Acts of Vengeance, Spirits of Vengeance, and the ultimate waste of ink, Maximum Carnage. Most of these "events" were completely atypical of adventures that made Spidey popular, as they were either sci-fi or horror laden "epics." And remember, these were only the stories that crossed paths with either the HobGoblin or the DemoGoblin - I didn't mention any of the others that excluded the Goblins! The overexposure and the underdevelopment of the Macendale HobGoblin were typical of this period of wretched excess. All that mattered was generating sales, and that meant printing as many comics with as many popular characters (and even less popular characters that Marvel was relentlessly trying to shill) jammed in as possible. It can almost be compared to a government cranking up the printing presses and printing enough money so that everybody who wants money can have it in any amount they want. For a short period of time, this actually works, but then when the bubble bursts and sanity begins to prevail, the government suddenly realizes that by doing so it has completely undermined the very foundation of its economic system, and collapse is inevitable. This happened at Marvel. Spidey and the HobGoblin were popular enough that Marvel kept slapping them on virtually every cover (and variation thereof) and included them in every story possible, even if not practical. Hobby's appearances in such diverse titles as Ghost Rider, Dr. Strange, Moon Knight, Deathlock and an utterly misleading cover in She-Hulk (he appeared in one panel, yet was prominently featured on the cover) illustrates this overexposure. With so many different writers working with the character, and not necessarily in tandem with each other, and with no one caring about preserving integrity of the characters they were writing, it's easy to see why the Macendale HobGoblin, and Spidey himself, got off track.

Therefore, it is so funny that when Marvel decided to embark on the Clone Saga in this period of time, it was on the assumption that the characters of Spider-Man and Peter Parker needed to get back to basics - but Marvel's idea of back to basics was not changing the direction of the crappy storytelling, nor cutting back on the sheer glut of titles that diluted the quality of the product, which were the things that thrown the character off track, but the complete replacement of the character himself, and the junking of his marriage! Talk about being in denial and avoiding the problem! And Marvel wondered why they had so many angry spider-fans for so long. I think that the current management has finally, grudgingly admitted what really went wrong in hushed voices, but they still have their own blind spots, like their problems with the spider-marriage.

Getting back to the Macendale HobGoblin and the DemoGoblin, one reason why these stories in particular failed is that they had lost any sense of the personal enmity that gripped the previous Goblin tales. The battles between the Osborns in their Green Goblin identities and Peter were personal. The battles with the original HobGoblin, the clear successor to Norman Osborn, were personal. At the beginning, there was something of a personal edge in that the Macendale HobGoblin had engineered the murder of long-time supporting character Ned Leeds, but that was quickly forgotten, and only referenced twice in later stories. As I mentioned last time, the fake Richard Fisk seemed to have more of a grudge against Macendale for the murder of Ned Leeds than Peter Parker!

Unfortunately, none of the writers liked the Macendale HobGoblin enough to give him an actual personality, although Howard Mackie actually made some modest attempts. Whatever grief, whatever agony, whatever demons drove him was never explored. He was repetitively dropped into battle with Spidey simply because he could be. The writers resorted to gimmicks that were supposed to make him more fearsome (turning him into a demon, then into CyberGoblin), but really just made him more pathetic. Sure, Spidey has always had comical villains, silly villains, ineffectual villains, but something more was needed from the man who inherited the Goblin Legacy.

And that will probably be my last word on the Macendale HobGoblin for awhile.

Back in Action
Of course, one big mystery is why Kingsley bothered to become the HobGoblin again and risk the exposure he had earlier so carefully sought to elude. Or - why didn't he just wax Macendale silently - why did he have to give in to the most boring of supervillain clichés - the need to publicly express his devious plans? Why did he bother to leave little pumpkins all over the place, ensuring that everyone knew that the original HobGoblin was alive and well? Kingsley was smart enough to get out of the costumed crime business before - so why take it up again?

Well, megalomania certainly is a factor, but think about it - if you had super powers - could you just hide them under a bushel and never use them? Whether or not you used them to fight crime, commit crimes, or excel in sports, the thrill of having them would almost certainly compel a person to use them. Plus, after awhile, Kingsley probably had developed a proprietary interest in the HobGoblin identity - the way Norman Osborn had towards the Green Goblin name (remember, Norman wanted to waste both the HobGoblin and the Phil Urich Green Goblin for misappropriating his identity and equipment). After awhile, Kingsley probably decided that even if he wasn't going to be the HobGoblin, he certainly didn't want anyone else to be, particularly not a buffoon like Macendale. And, after a time spent knocking heads, I’m sure that he was getting bored with his self-imposed exile in Belize.

Plus - Kingsley may not be as sane as he thinks.

After the death of Macendale, we find "Roderick" Kingsley re-living the nightmare of being shot by the Rose's men, which occurred in Jim Owlsey's/Christopher Priest's HobGoblin post-mortem in Web of Spider-Man #29. Waking up in a sweat, he sees a very familiar and frightening face staring back at him as the HobGoblin states that he is going to renew their relationship.

Another bizarre aspect of this story, now that we know this HobGoblin is Roderick Kingsley and "Roderick" Kingsley is really Daniel Kingsley, is why, when in costume, the HobGoblin refers to Daniel as "Kingsley" and not simply by his first name.

Of course, the real reason, and most obvious one, is that Stern didn't want to reveal his resolution to the mystery prematurely. However, in the context of the story, Roderick is simply playing mind games with Daniel. By not referring to Daniel by his first name while in costume - the HobGoblin hopes to intimidate Daniel even further, and imply that while in costume - there is no familial relationship - that the HobGoblin would be very capable of killing Daniel, brother or no. It also serves to subtly brainwash and dehumanize Daniel, making him believe that he has no individual identity - that he is merely an extension of his brother's needs and has no use or purpose of his own.

Another curious thing is that after Daniel mentions to the HobGoblin that he was shot in the past because he became involved in his madness, the Goblin responds that the Green Goblin was the mad one - not the HobGoblin! This is not the first time that Roderick Kingsley became very defensive of his sanity. On the verge of defeat way back in Amazing Spider-Man #251 the conclusion of the first major HobGoblin story arc, and the last one written by Stern, after Spidey clubs the Goblin, stating that he's crazy, a dazed HobGoblin states that "Norman Osborn was the crazy one - not me - Not Me!" Although Kingsley supposedly altered the Goblin formula to remove the side effects that made Norman Osborn insane - he seems to be quite worried that he will go mad anyway. But then again, I never believed that the Goblin formula made Norman Osborn insane. I believe that he was already insane - but the power the Goblin formula gave him removed his inhibitions and consumed him, making him more prone to overtly insane behavior.

Part 2 of the miniseries starts with the Kingsley brothers (Roderick in his HobGoblin costume, and Daniel) discussing just enough to transition from part one to this installment, and old time Spidey fans will recognize an homage to the mystery that once surrounded the original Green Goblin's identity.

The image on the left is from part 2 of HobGoblin Lives as Daniel is talking to Roderick, whose identity is still obscured. The image on the right is from Amazing Spider-Man #14 Volume 1, the issue in which the Green Goblin first appeared. Look virtually identical, don't they? Whether it was Stern or artist Ron Frenz, you gotta tip your hat to whoever came up with this subtle nod to spider-history.

The scene then moves to the hallowed halls of One Osborn Plaza, home of Osborn Industries, where Roderick Kingsley is planning a covert takeover of Osborn with the help of the company's own Chief Financial Officer Donald Menken. If you'll remember Amazing Spider-Man #260, Harry Osborn was concerned that an unknown person or persons (whom we knew as the HobGoblin) was buying up huge blocks of Osborn stock. Now, it appears that Roderick Kingsley, back in the USA, wants to finish off his plans for Osborn. You'll have to remember how and why Osborn Industries appears vulnerable to takeover. At this time, both Norman and Harry Osborn are believed to be dead, and the company is under the control of the daughter-in-law and widow, Liz Allen Osborn. After all, in Peter Parker Volume 1 #75, it was only the Green Goblin who appeared at the Daily Bugle, not Norman Osborn. J. Jonah Jameson recognized the voice as Norman Osborn's and addressed him as such to the accompany staff - but none of them ever actually saw the Goblin unmasked - which allowed Norman, after he returned in Spectacular Spider-Man #250 to pull off the charade that the person in the Goblin costume was only pretending to be him (although it's doubtful that newshounds JJJ, Robbie, or Ben Urich bought it).

So, with both the founder and the heir apparent dead, and the company in the hands of a fragile, weak-minded woman (I'm speaking from the perspective, still pretty strong in parts of good old boy Corporate America, that women are only good for action in the bedroom, not the boardroom), Osborn Industries is up for grabs.

Anyway, Menken is discussing his part of the plot with Kingsley, that he has used Osborn company money to set up dummy corporations that will appear to be making a hostile bid for Osborn. This will drive ostensibly drive Osborn to look for a "white knight," which Menken will find in his "old friend," Roderick Kingsley of Kingsley International. So, it appears that Menken is setting up Osborn to be taken over by Kingsley, ostensibly to increase his own wealth and power. But I think as the events of the mini-series Revenge of the Green Goblin demonstrate, Menken is fiercely loyal, almost to the point of obsession, to Norman Osborn. Is Menken playing both sides of the fence? I don't think so - I think Menken is actually setting up Kingsley to be overtaken by Osborn, as events of the "Goblins at the Gate," seem to show - but that's a subject for Osborn vs. Kingsley.

During this meeting, Menken receives a call from George Vandergill, who, along with Senator Martin, has somehow discovered that Menken has been setting up Osborn for takeover, and threatens to go to the Securities and Exchange Commission with this knowledge, unless, it is implied, that Menken allows Vandergill to purchase Osborn. Of course, Roderick Kingsley looks upon this phone call with extreme interest, and needless to say, it is no surprise that soon after, the HobGoblin shows up and murders Vandergill to the apparent glee of Donald Menken - who perhaps knows a little more about this attack than he is letting on?

In the meantime, while JJJ has a group of the Bugle's best working on the HobGoblin story, an unofficial team of sleuths comprised of Peter Parker, Mary Jane, Betty Brant, and Flash Thompson are conducting their own investigation (with the help of Spider-Man, of course), since Jonah has barred Betty from officially working on the matter. And here, Stern begins to toss in some more suspects, perhaps giving us a subtle hint of what he might have done had he stayed on the core spider-title and followed the mystery through. One of the first names tossed out is Bugle reporter Jacob Conover, who was fired from the Bugle recently due to budget cuts, and who has been taking an unusual interest in the HobGoblin case. Although Conover is clearly not a serious suspect in this mini-series, it is interesting considering what happened with Conover later in spider-history, as he was also a suspect for the identities of the fifth Green Goblin and the second Jack O'Lantern (aka "Mad Jack"), and was ultimately revealed to be third Rose by Tom DeFalco in Amazing Spider-Man #436. Peter raises the name of Jonas Harrow with Ben Urich, since Harrow has been known to work on and with super villain types. Harrow was mentioned by some letter writers as a potential HobGoblin during Stern's original storyline, although he was largely eliminated in the first part of this mini as we saw him studying the difference in fighting styles between the various HobGoblins. Roderick Kingsley's name pops up because he is on the Century Country Club membership list that the HobGoblin was blackmailing back in ASM #249. Liz Allen Osborn raises the name of Donald Menken during a conversation with Flash, stating that he has her worried, and that he was originally hired by the one and only Norman Osborn before the senior Osborn's "death." Senator Martin, involved with Vandergill's attempt to blackmail Donald Menken, leaves his offices in a panic after Vandergill's death. All of this convinces Betty to go on television and state that she has found her late husband's notes on corporate corruption that he was investigating before his death, which invites the interest of several parties, including the HobGoblin himself, whose attempt to kidnap Betty is briefly stalled by Spider-Man, who seems to plunge to his death (yeah, right) at the end of Part 2.

The third and final part of HobGoblin Lives opens with Stern giving us the final dance of suspects, including Kingsley, Menken, Harrow, Senator Martin, and even J. Jonah Jameson, for some inexplicable reason an early fan favorite if you recall those early letters pages. Of course, this part has the Big Reveal, as even consummate corporate manipulator and planner Roderick Kingsley falls victim to one of the oldest villain clichés - feeling the need to describe in full detail his diabolical plans and how they came about, this time to Betty Brant rather than the hero himself. However, without the use of this cliché, there probably was no other way for the writer to connect the dots on this convoluted mystery.

So, having kidnapped Betty and believing that he has sent "Roderick" Kingsley to destroy all of the spider tracers that Betty had hidden on her person, the HobGoblin begins to finish the tale that began 13 years earlier. As I detailed in Part 1, after the events of Amazing Spider-Man #251, the HobGoblin, in his civilian identity, finds out that Ned Leeds has followed him to his hideout. After capturing Ned and brainwashing him, he discovers that Ned was sent to track him down for the Daily Bugle (in response to JJJ's admonition after the Goblin tried to blackmail him). Although it's not specifically stated here, I believe that Ned also revealed his pursuit of Richard Fisk, which the HobGoblin used to form an alliance with the first Rose. The helpful source list that had accompanied the inside back cover of each issue of this mini-series states that "Richard Fisk recalled his meeting with Ned Leeds in Web of Spider-Man #30 - never realizing Ned had been brainwashed." This implies that the HobGoblin had brainwashed Ned BEFORE his first encounter with Richard Fisk, and that the Goblin had planted the idea of a Fisk-Leeds alliance in Leeds' brain. Fortunately for my doubletalk, it only implies, but doesn't explicitly state this idea. It strains credibility further than it already needs to be to suggest that once Ned was under the HobGoblin's control, the Goblin thought to himself "hey, why don't I brainwash Ned into pretending to do an expose on organized crime, have him follow the Kingpin's son, Richard Fisk, all over the world, and convince him to enter a partnership to destroy his father's criminal empire?" It seems a little less convoluted to suggest that Leeds and Fisk already knew each other, that Leeds was already part of a cabal to expose the Kingpin, and then Kingsley threw in the costumed villain angle, having Ned pose as him for certain crucial meetings.

The HobGoblin reveals that his continued attempts to control Ned made him violent and erratic, explaining his bizarre behavior before he was "revealed" as the HobGoblin in ASM #289, and then explains how he got the idea to frame Flash Thompson, which if you happen to have issue #276 of ASM, you realize that the HobGoblin is really Roderick Kingsley for the first time:

But then there's that problem of Kingsley and the Goblin appearing at the same place at the same time periodically....

The HobGoblin tells Betty that he had grown bored with his "life of crime" and regretted associating with hoodlums, and so decided to set Ned up to be murdered to fake the death of the HobGoblin. He indicates that he had leaked that Ned was the Goblin to several of the criminal elite, which explains why the Kingpin and the Foreigner each thought they knew the HobGoblin's i.d. in ASM #289.

As the HobGoblin finishes his tale, "Roderick" Kingsley barges in with a gun, telling the Goblin that all of this has gone far enough, and that there will be no more killing. Spider-Man bursts in and the final battle commences as Betty obtains a taped confession from a webbed up Kingsley, who begins to weave his own version of the tale. As Spider-Man defeats the HobGoblin and Kingsley finishes his story, both the web slinger and Betty each uncover half of the mystery:

And, we get yet another homage to spider-history, as we compare a scene of the capture of the HobGoblin, to the classic cover of volume 1 Amazing spider-Man #39.

And so it ends. A Legacy Revived. A Villain Redeemed. And it only took almost 10 years and the original writer to fix this mess. And you thought it took too long for the Clone Saga to be ret-conned.

Kingsley Post-Mortem
Looking back and knowing what we know now, it is utterly remarkable that for the most part, the Kingsley character, which had been forgotten by almost all of the spider-writers who succeeded Stern (except DeFalco and Owsley/Priest) over the years, had not been violated or otherwise seriously compromised. DeFalco brought back Kingsley intending to make him the first Rose, but after Jim Owsley had Kingsley shot in Web of Spider-Man #30, no one else used the character except for the one brief appearance that almost coincided with HobGoblin Lives. All of Stern's old clues about the HobGoblin, including that he was a powerful, wealthy sophisticate, were still valid. And even though Ned was intended by then-editor Jim Salicrup to be the true first HobGoblin, the hints that Tom DeFalco had left behind that implied that Ned was NOT the Goblin (such as being easily dropped by Flash Thompson) were eventually followed up and used by Stern to unwind the original resolution. Stern had to do some fancy dancing and double-talk in HobGoblin Lives, but for the most part, it was a relatively neat and clean retcon that made sense - unlike the very messy Clone Saga retcon where everything had to be traced back to Norman Osborn.

Looking back, it makes a lot of sense that Stern would have had Kingsley in mind as the Goblin from day one. Most notably, because Kingsley was his own creation, and during Stern's run on Spectacular Spider-Man and Amazing Spider-Man the character appeared only in stories Stern had written. And by choosing one of his own characters, Stern could avoid the potential for making a continuity gaffe about a character he had not created. And, by having a successful and powerful businessman as the HobGoblin, Stern could evoke memories of Norman Osborn, yet with a few twists, such as making the HobGoblin a saner, more rational, and potentially more dangerous villain. Perhaps it was somewhat repetitive to make the HobGoblin a Norman Osborn-type character, but certainly much less repetitive than making yet another Daily Bugle employee, or another acquaintance of Peter Parker (such as Leeds or Lance Bannon), the villain.

This miniseries does give us an idea who might have been the suspects had Stern continued on Amazing Spider-Man. Lance Bannon was clearly one of Stern's red herrings, and since he had been in the titles less than three years, little was known of him, and he was a competitor of Peter Parker's. However, he was not available for HobGoblin Lives because Terry Kavanaugh had foolishly killed him off in one of the infamous kick-offs to the Clone Saga - the "Who was F.A.C.A.D.E." story. Stern introduced us to Donald Menken in issue #239 of ASM, the issue after the HobGoblin was introduced, and he might have been one of the key suspects. Again, Menken was a Stern creation that he could have tailored any way he wished. Also, I think Stern would have used Senator Robert Martin as a suspect. The HobGoblin had made many curious references to being a man of power, and Martin had recently and briefly appeared during Bill Mantlo's run on Spectacular, and had a pre-existing bias against Spider-Man. I figure this explains Stern's use of a character in HobGoblin Lives that only long-time completist Spidey fans would recognize. Although I have no way of verifying this, it is purely speculation on my part, but I don't believe for a minute that either Ned Leeds (Salicrup's choice) or Richard Fisk (Tom DeFalco's choice) would have figured into Stern's line-up. Both were much older, well-established characters with their own history, types Stern seemed to want to avoid in this mystery. Even a fringe suspect like Jonas Harrow could have been used because not only was very little known about Harrow, but Stern himself had used him in ASM #206 and set up the first confrontation between him and Spidey.

To have made the HobGoblin a long existing character created by another writer would have permanently altered that character and limited his future use in other stories. Many writers, out of respect to those that have gone before them, do not like to make such changes. Not everyone can be Kevin Smith and inexplicably be allowed to destroy a long time rogues gallery character outside of the title of the hero that character bedeviled the most.

Conversely, I can see why DeFalco and others rejected Kingsley as the HobGoblin. After all, he was simply a bit player at that time. There may have been a feeling back in the 80's, particularly as the HobGoblin saga dragged on and on, that the character had to be SOMEBODY we knew well, or it would have been an utter disappointment, hence DeFalco's choice of Richard Fisk, and the use of Leeds and Bannon as red herrings. DeFalco's rejection of Stern's "evil twin" subplot, which he stated he didn't care for during a post on the Spider-Girl Message Board (assuming he knew somewhere along the way this is what Stern intended) is also understandable. He may have simply felt that it was a cheat device. And, not completely understanding how Stern intended for it to work, he may not have felt that he could make it work, particularly since he really didn't care for the idea in the first place. We do know, however, that Stern, by the one panel in ASM #250 that we referenced back in Part 1, was weaving the "evil twin" thing fairly early on - and we can probably assume that given time, enough groundwork would have been laid that when the denouement came, all of the pieces would have fallen into place. In other words, it wouldn't have been just a quick "gotcha" that there were two Kingsley brothers -as it appeared to be in the miniseries - we would have been able to look back at older issues and clearly see that yes, indeed, there were two Kingsleys. DeFalco's dissatisfaction with the ultimate resolution can even be seen in his coffee table book Spider-Man - The Ultimate Guide, released to coincide with the movie (and an excellent reference source for both new and old Spider-Man fans) when he states in the section on the HobGoblin that "though it seems Kingsley is telling the truth, Spider-Man isn't totally convinced that he has unearthed the whole story."

Roderick or Daniel?
The mystery of which Kingsley brother we were seeing at any given time is not even something I'm sure I can answer, but I'll take a shot at it. It's my conjecture that prior to the revelation of Kingsley being the Goblin, we actually saw Roderick very little. I believe that the first time we meet Kingsley, in Spectacular Spider-Man #43, it truly is Roderick, not only because he's actually doing some fashion sketching, but because he is also ballsy enough to stand up to Spider-Man and verbally blast him. After that, I think it is almost exclusively Daniel we see, including later in the same issue during the fashion show disrupted by the villainess Belladonna. I think Daniel is the one who thought he was shooting at Spider-Man in Spectacular Spider-Man #47. In HobGoblin Lives #1 when we first see the Kingsley Brothers discussing Leeds' public exposure as the HobGoblin, Roderick tells Daniel "You just tend to the company's day to day affairs, little brother. I'll worry about the big picture." This tells me that for the most part, the Kingsley brother we have seen most often is Daniel. During Tom DeFalco's run, for example, except for the one panel in ASM #276, it is really Daniel Kingsley we are seeing because that Kingsley appears to be the weak and nervous type, as well as it being Daniel when we see Kingsley exhibiting goofy behavior, such as when he gets the names of his girlfriends mixed up as he did in ASM #250. The Kingsley that met with JJJ at the party in Spider-Man Unlimited #14 would have been Roderick due to the strength of character he displayed, and the meetings with Donald Menken would have been conducted by Roderick because attempting a hostile takeover of Osborn Industries would have been the type of "big picture" thing that Roderick would have handled.

But what was the dead giveaway that I mentioned back in Part 1, where I stated that I could tell for certain that the Kingsley freaking out when Belladonna sabotaged his fashion show was Daniel - not Roderick? Well, let's set that scene up beside one from HobGoblin Lives:

Yep - the "ghod." When you see that, you know it's Daniel.

Now, I would have liked to believe that it was my sheer genius, my brilliant grasp of detail, my veritable treasure trove of spider-trivia that led me to make this deduction - and that only I, the Great and Powerful MadGoblin, the Spider-Man Yoda, as George Berryman called me in an article, could have deduced it. However, I received an e-mail from Andy "Thanos6" Stout soon after Part 1 was published, and he told me exactly what I have just told you. He had figured it out as well.

Sigh. Humbled again. Thanks for bursting my bubble, Andy.

The real and original potential of the character of Roderick Kingsley as Stern had created him was in the ways he was both similar to and different from, Norman Osborn, whom you have to realize, that at the time of the HobGoblin's creation, really was supposed to be dead. One of the keys behind the success of the Norman Osborn Green Goblin was the basic Jekyll/Hyde nature of the character. Norman Osborn was a respected member of the business community. The Green Goblin was a sadistic sociopath and criminal. Only Peter Parker knew that the two were one. Osborn represented the duality of human nature, capable of both good and evil, of love and hate. The purpose of the identity of the Green Goblin was as much to allow Norman Osborn to escape the bounds of society and express his anger and frustration as it was in conducting a criminal career. It's an old story, but a good one - and that type of villain had been sorely missing from the Spider-Man mythos since Osborn's alleged death in ASM #122. Fashion designer Roderick Kingsley as HobGoblin could have recaptured that element of a classic supervillain, but at the same time bringing a slightly different spin to it.

Does that mean that Roderick Kingsley was the best choice as the HobGoblin? Well, in a relative sense, yes. He was probably the best of Stern's original creations to assume the role. It certainly was a better choice than Richard Fisk (DeFalco's choice), whom I always saw as a weak character, and not capable of bringing the kind of power and menace that the HobGoblin needed.

Personally, I suppose deep down I would really have liked to have seen Ned Leeds be the HobGoblin (and NOT be killed off). I kind of liked the idea of the HobGoblin being a long established character, and Ned did have somewhat of a bias against Spider-Man due to Betty's historic dislike of him (since resolved) and was never a real close friend of Peter's. They had once been rivals for Betty's affection, and Ned physically assaulted Peter in ASM #193 when he thought he was seeing Betty after she left him. He had also been Steve Ditko's choice for the Green Goblin, and this would have been a nice homage to that. There were enough hard feelings between Ned and Peter that it could have easily carried over into an explosive relationship in their costumed identities. I would have subsequently explained Ned's murdering behavior early on in the HobGoblin story as due to his suffering from a steadily progressive mental illness, which would have explained his sometimes-early violent behavior. Ned could have been revealed to the audience as the HobGoblin, but not Spider-Man, and we could have seen the building tension between Peter and Ned, and perhaps Ned could have come to slowly discover Peter Parker's dual identity, which was part of the drama of the Spider-Man/Green Goblin relationship. Still, that leaves the very real issue that making another Daily Bugle reporter or employee a super-powered hero or villain was artistically sloppy. Good writing, however, could have pulled it off.

But that's all a moot point now. Roderick Kingsley is the one, true HobGoblin - which considering the alternatives - is actually a pretty good, if somewhat underdeveloped, choice.

However, does this mean now, that as Kingsley was essentially written akin to Norman Osborn, he became redundant when Norman returned from the dead during the second Clone Saga? Well, maybe - and maybe not.

NEXT TIME: Mirror mirror on the wall, who's the baddest Goblin of them all? It's Norman Osborn vs. Roderick Kingsley in "Goblins at the Gate," supplemented by a few of my own personal observations. Is there a place for Roddy in Norman's brave new world? And since we were cheated of a true battle between the two in that story - who would win in a no holds barred fight? And who's the better villain and character? Why, look no further than Kingsley Vs. Osborn.


Back to Spidey Kicks Butt!

Back to the Table of Contents

Write me at MadGoblin

Or join me on the to talk about this article with the Crawlspace Crew!