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Michael P said on August 2nd, 2013 at 3:22 pm

These days, killing a character is less an act of creative arrogance and more a ritual sacrifice to the gods of hype and sales.

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I actually LOVED Bendis’ take on Norman. It just clicked for me, though I’m sure it was derivative or whatever. I just dug the idea of a weakened, bewildered public showering misplaced adoration on a guy who is pretty patently unstable. Similarly loved the idea of the Cabal, the Dark Avengers, and everything leading up to the clusterfuck of awful that was Siege.

I will say, though, that there’s certainly merit to the idea of Norman being an enduring skeleton in Spidey’s closet, probably second only to Uncle Ben.

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Will "scifantasy" Frank said on August 2nd, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I’m just put in mind of Peter David’s story about Jack O’Lantern and the Hobgoblin:

http://www.peterdavid.net/2011/11/11/weird-twisted-reasonably-true-comic-book-stories/

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I’m completely with you on this one, John. I was talking with a friend about it and said that the making Norman Osborne into Lex Luthor was always a bad plan, because when you get down to it he’s basically the main character in American Psycho.

He’s not some Machiavellian manipulator, one step ahead of his foes. He’s a barely-repressed psychotic who has a hard time keeping himself together in public. If you ask me, when people find out that he’s the Green Goblin the general response from people who know him should be ‘that explains it.’ I imagine his secretary being utterly terrified of him, certain that at the very least he’s embezzling the company for millions and more likely there are several dead bodies he’s had to dispose of.

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Sisyphus said on August 2nd, 2013 at 4:44 pm

If they’d done Clone Saga right, then it would have been Otto Octavius who played the part that Norman Osborne did. Of course, anyone who might have realized that probably would have realized that Clone Saga was a dumb idea to begin with. (Although, the Ultimate Spider Man’s Clone Saga is a decent story).

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@Sisyphus: It couldn’t have been Otto Octavius for two reasons. One, whoever was behind it all had to know Spider-Man’s secret identity, and Doc Ock didn’t. Two, he was dead at the time. (In the immortal words of Eddie Izzard…) He’d been murdered by Kaine earlier in the Clone Saga, and it would have been very hard to spin that off as part of the plan (because Kaine wasn’t even in on the Jackal’s plan, let alone the plan behind the Jackal’s plan.)

There’s a great, absolutely great article on the Clone Saga here: http://lifeofreillyarchives.blogspot.com/2008/03/introduction-and-update.html

It goes over the whole thing in astonishing detail, with interviews with the principals behind the scenes at Marvel and lots of other goodies. It really does help you understand how the whole thing imploded.

There was also a comic called “101 Ways to End the Clone Saga” that Marvel put out around then that gave some of their other plans out in a humorous, out-of-continuity fashion. Mephisto was invoked then, too.

(Personally, that’s how I’d kill Norman, if I was asked to do such a thing again. Mephisto shows up and announces that all the deals are off. Everyone gets their memories back, history reverts, and the people who died will now go back to being dead. Aunt May, Harry, and Norman. “Wait, what?” Norman asks. “Oh come on, Norm,” Mephisto says. “You were impaled through the chest by a chunk of metal the size of a small dog. That’s not the kind of thing you recover from with a few weeks of spa treatment in Europe.”)

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My biggest problem with the resurrection of Norman Osborn is that – in addition to monopolizing the “villain mastermind” role for nearly a decade after returning – they started making him retroactively responsible for every single hardship in Peter Parker’s life. Norman was pulling the strings behind nearly every aspect of the second Clone Saga*. Norman Osborn got Gwen Stacey pregnant and killed her to keep things quiet (as if being the hero’s love interest didn’t provide the villain with enough motive). If Peter’s childhood pet got hit by a car then we’d eventually find out Norman had been driving. If Peter were to stub his toe in the kitchen then it would somehow be Norman’s fault. I’m still waiting for Osborn to take credit for the Superior era.

*Thus diminishing the impact of established villains like the Jackal and new villains like Judas Traveler.

For a while they were so desperate to make Norman their “go to guy “ that they were putting him in situations where he simply didn’t fit because they’d rather try to jam a round peg into a square hole than use another person from one of the greatest rogues galleries in comics. Heck, when he wasn’t stealing pages from Baron Helmut Zemo’s playbook he was hatching schemes that would have made more sense with guys like Doctor Octopus, the Kingpin, and the original Hobgoblin.

PS: Plus “the hero’s best friend” is an infinitely more interesting choice of villain than “the hero’s best friend’s creepy dad”.

Edit: And can we all just take a moment to appreciate just how breathtakingly stupid the “Aunt May was an actress Norman hired” retcon Byrne made was?

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Thank you. Norman Osborn as Avengers level power-player is inherently stupid, because when you read his old appearances he’s just too damn direct for that. For chrissakes, his Plan A was “put on green and purple goblin booties and fly around town on a rocket glider chucking bombs at people.” Subtle and Machiavellian he is not.

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I completely agree with all of this, which is why the only post-resurrection comic I liked Osborn in was Thunderbolts, when Warren Ellis showed how completely unstable he was and unfit to be a master manipulator.

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SIlverHammerMan said on August 2nd, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Hadn’t they already done the “big villain turns out to be a nobody” thing with Crime Master? Incidentally, I love the idea of Crime Master being some low rent hood who realized he could go big with a mask, Remender’s retcon in Venom that it was some weird legacy title missed the point completely.

I never really thought of Norman Osborn as a failure before, in my head he’s more like the perfect collision of a Batman-villain-style psychopath and a grandiose thematic villain, Patrick Bateman with gimmicked gadgets. He should have all the resources but none of the sense of fairplay.

I do think he should have stayed dead though, however understandable the urge is to bring him back. I’d be more excited for a remake of the original saga than an unnecessary follow up.

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SIlverHammerMan said on August 2nd, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Oh, one more things:

Can we all agree that the Ultimate Comics Green Goblin is vastly inferior to the original? I mean, Spidey has more than enough villains who are big dudes who punch people, Ultimate Green Goblin doesn’t even present an interesting fight.

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Ian Austin said on August 2nd, 2013 at 7:27 pm

I still say Dark Reign works much better with The Kingpin.

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The Kingpin wouldn’t have overreached like Norman did in Dark Reign.

Heck, the Kingpin wouldn’t have been interested in running SHIELD/HAMMER/whatever. He’s happy to dominate New York City.

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Nice invasion of Asgard, Kingpin. YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE SIGNED IT.

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While I agree that his role in the Clone saga is awful, that he’s mainly famous for the impact he had on Harry and Gwen decades ago, and that Norman as Lex Luthor is trite, I’m not that upset that he got brought back.

Warren Ellis can be partly blamed for the Luthor-esque version of Osborn we’ve gotten, but he also played Osborn like a psycho who was barely keeping a lid on things, and when that lid got blown it was a great moment. The thing I find fascinating about Norman Osborn as a character is that he’s a complete nut, but he doesn’t know he’s a complete nut.

Or rather, he knows and wants to pretend it’s not true. Even without the Goblin serum Norman Osborn is an egomaniac who views himself as the definition of masculinity and intelligence, but his madness constantly undermines that. He despises this one inherent weakness that defies his aggrandizing self-image. That’s a great dynamic for a character, and a refreshing change of pace from crazy supervillain like Joker or Carnage who just revel in their mental illness.

The problem is that nobody has figured out what to do with Norman since he was brought back. His run in Thunderbolts was fun, but it couldn’t last. Once it ended, he needed to move on to something else. Making him into Lex Luthor was just the path of least resistance. I’m curious to see what Slott does with him, but ultimately Norman Osborn just needs a new status quo and some new goals. He’ll pursue them with unmatched ambition, but his insanity (and the blindspot he has for it) will always tear apart his dreams.

Though none of this changes the fact that Ock is Spidey’s true nemesis.

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Tim O'Neil said on August 2nd, 2013 at 10:06 pm

In hindsight they should have gone with Dr. Doom. Sure, it would have taken a few contortions to explain why Doom would care (he doesn’t like Spider-Man, sure, but it’s not something he spends a lot of time thinking about). But there aren’t many other characters who had the resources to do it. And most people, even if they would have complained about Doom being only very occasionally a Spider-Man foe, would have probably accepted it as the least of all possible evils.

If they had done it right, it could have been great – it’s revealed as a very old plan of Doom’s that just recently came to fruition, a mindfuck to get back at some ancient slight, a plan Doom himself had half-forgotten about until Spidey found out and traced the mystery back to its source. It makes a lot more sense than using Mephisto to erase the marriage, that’s for sure. At the time I believe Dr. Doom had just returned from the Hero’s Reborn universe, so it could have been plausibly sold as connected to that.

It would have been a much better fix, in terms of pulling the band-aid off quickly and cleanly instead of doing it in such a way that it makes a huge weeping sore that doesn’t heal for almost twenty years now.

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Osborn’s best portrayal to me was in the mid-90s Amazing Spider-Man series where he was nothing but a crazy person. He didn’t have any grand designs or criminal aspirations. I mean, he spoke to his alter ego. He was just a crazy guy doing crazy things which seems like somebody Spider-Man should have to deal with.

He also provided my favorite line in any Spidey appearance…

(after seemingly killing Mary Jane, Spider-Man dives into the river to save her, but can’t find her. Spidey pops his head above water and sees the Goblin flying above him)

Osborn: What’s a matter, Spider-Man, no quick comebacks, no clever one-liners?

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@ Ian Austin:

Dark Reign (and the Thunderbolts and the Sinister Twelve*) would have worked better with almost ANYONE but Osborn. Not only is it ridiculous that the authorities would give him that kind of power to a know super-criminal (at least Kingsly and Fisk can pull off the “everyone knows but no one can prove it” thing) but the Green Goblin’s history for stabbing his allies in the back should prevent other villains from wanting to associate with him**. Freaking CARNAGE has a better track record with teams.

*I actually laughed at the “big reveal’ that Norman Osborn was the mastermind in Millar’s Marvel Knights Spider-Man arc. He’s it stops being a surprise when you do it at least twice a year.

**At this point I think it’s safe to say Norman has “Joker immunity”. I find it unlikely that the Joker hasn’t been shot in the head by a cop. I find it even more improbable that Norman hasn’t been slaughtered by an alliance of Robot Master, Harry Osborn, the Jackal (and 500 Spider-Clones), Molten Man, the Hobgoblin, and all the other morally challenged people that have reason to hate him.

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Patrick Rawley said on August 3rd, 2013 at 8:11 am

You just threw out the baby with the bath water.

It was Warren Ellis who really redefined Norman Osborn as a major threat in the MU at large. The barely-repressed psycho-thing you disparage.

Doc Ock is a chump. A never-was.

The Green Goblin IS Spider-Man’s true arch-enemy, ala Luthor, Joker, Red Skull, Shadow Thief, etc.

Next you’ll say someone other than Gorilla Grodd is Flash’s Nemesis.

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Patrick Rawley- Spidey did fine without Norman for 20 odd years. And a key part of the reason for Doc -Ock being a chump is writers insisting on him bearing the consequences of fighting a guy like Spidey, despite plenty of characters fighting enhanced enemies and never showing the slightest bit of wear and tear.

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Ian Austin said on August 3rd, 2013 at 7:29 pm

The reason for Kingpin in Dark Reign is that he’s someone who, if he got the chance, would take advantage of superhero doubt for his own end.

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Medaka444 said on August 3rd, 2013 at 8:55 pm

The only with this I have is that Seavey propagates the rumor that Ditko wanted the Green Goblin to be a nobody and that’s why he left he title. Early on, before Ditko left, he and Stan Lee left several clues that very strongly pointed towards Osborn. John Romita said he revealed the Goblin to be Osborn because he strongly believed that’s who Ditko wanted him to be. I don’t know where this rumor comes from.

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Norman isn’t even the best Goblin; the original Hobgoblin is. I’d even argue that Harry was the best GREEN Goblin. The Clone Saga certainly would have worked better if the mastermind had been Harry as originally intended.

Actually it would have worked fine if they had just left it at “the Jackal did everything himself”. Stories where they explain how villains are funded tend to be boring and/or implausible. Just look at Bendis’ Secret War.

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Ditko said in an essay a few years back that he knew the Goblin’s identity from the first (he doesn’t say Norman but does say it’s one of Jonah’s friends and his son was one of Peter’s friends, so …). And that yes, having done the “My god it’s—it’s—who is he?” bit with the Crime Master it wouldn’t have worked twice.
Stan Lee’s memory is that when he asked Ditko about unmasking the Goblin, Ditko just pointed at a businessman in a crowd scene and said “It’s going to be him” and that Stan pressed him to build up the character before the reveal. But he doesn’t claim Ditko had any issue with the change.
Ditko also said that he didn’t even talk to Lee after issue 25 or so, so it’s not like they could have argued about anything–he just dropped off the finished pages.
So yeah, I think that legend is dead.
I do agree that Osborn is a lousy manipulator. Which was one of the objections the Clone Saga people had to using him to wrap things up.

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Bryan Rasmussen said on August 4th, 2013 at 2:21 am

“PS: Plus “the hero’s best friend” is an infinitely more interesting choice of villain than “the hero’s best friend’s creepy dad”.”

sure, it’s a more interesting choice but it is harder to do because it is also the more cliched choice.

Also for Spiderman’s story best friends dad as villain gives possible reflections on Uncle Ben. But yes Norman dieing was better because then Harry could become the villain with a compelling Batman style origin to explain his reason to hate Spiderman.

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Doctor Octopus may very well be Spider-Man’s one true archnemesis, but Norman Osborn does a pretty good job filling the role of Peter Parker’s archnemesis.

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NewtypeS3 said on August 5th, 2013 at 9:19 am

@ Tim O’Neil

“a mindfuck to get back at some ancient slight, a plan Doom himself had half-forgotten about until Spidey found out and traced the mystery back to its source.”

…that would have been perfect. Peter and Ben go through hell, high water, clones, and Jackals – slowly making their way around the world (or just New York)… only to wind up literally in Latveria, in front of Doom.
Who just goes “…oh, yes. That. My… apologies, I’d forgotten about it entirely.”

And then it turns out it was a malfunctioning Doombot.

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“He’s a barely-repressed psychotic who has a hard time keeping himself together in public.”

This. I consider Green Goblin to be a subpar villain, but – on the other hand – I think Norman Osborn is a fantastic one, especially with that American Psycho vibe. I read him as a sociopath – in public, he can control himself and act in a charming and inteligent manner, but when the doors close, he beats his business partner to death with an ashtray and paints his face green or whatever. Green Goblin is hard to take seriously because of his, well, being a goblin, and Osborn as a psychopath works because we all have a tendency to connect people in power with corruption, sociopathy and insanity.

That said, I’m not sure about whether Spider-Man stories are the best place for him. This interpretation of his character doesn’t lend itself to flashy superhero fights; he works better as a kind of a predatory shadow of some corporate offices.

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Actually, this sounds like a great idea for the next Marvel crossover: Doom assigns a Doombot to arch each one of Marvel’s heroes via complicated plots and painful situations. Eventually the heroes overcome their situations (perhaps by swapping villains and/or teamwork when expected to not) and converge on Latveria, and defeat… hrm, let’s say a giant Master Mold knockoff Doombot. Maybe Doomstaadt transforms into it, or into an even bigger one. After the deck’s cleared, they go toe-to-toe with various incarnations of Doom, each with different toyetic armor. And in the end? All Doombots. Doombots in a predestination paradox, causing Doombots.

Meanwhile Victor’s been orchestrating it all from the Microverse while trying to capture Captain Universe’s power in a Cosmic Cube… no wait it’s Kristoff… no wait, it’s Thanos… no, Thanos-suit with Doom inside

Oh forget it. Eventually they were rescued by, oh, let’s say…Moe

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I think I largely agree with those who feel that while the Green Goblin isn’t a very scary villain, Norman Osborn (especially at his craziest) does work on several levels.

Of course, I don’t think that necessarily disagrees with your assessment of the Goblin lineage as something that works best as being passed on – especially since so many of those who have taken up the Green have not been among the most stable of individuals.

(Indeed, the retconned death that I most object to is that of Harry Osborn, whose original demise – and whose mental breakdown in the role of the Green Goblin – was one of those few comics that really stuck with me on an emotional level when I read it in my childhood.)

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SIlverHammerMan said on August 5th, 2013 at 9:01 pm

The thing that annoys me most about Harry Osborn’s resurrection is that they haven’t done much with him since Brand New Day. Like, they’ve already undermined his arc and the impact of his story, so the least they could to is make it worth it.

Peter Parker’s best friend who’s a young father, as well as a recovering addict, recovering headcase, and recovering supervillain is a great character to have available for use. Instead he’s been put on a bus as far as I know, and that’s a colossal waste.

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A nitpick relative to Lex Luthor: technically speaking, his “billionaire genius” persona is itself a retcon, as it’s an artifact of the John Byrne reboot of the character (as considerably amplified in Lois & Clark and the various DCU animated series produced by Bruce Timm). Thus, Luthor’s mad-scientist “chump” persona is actually the original, lately re-adopted in the comics.

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After reading the new issues of Superior it hit me that – while Harry and Roderick are still the best Goblins and I still dislike that Phil is a villain now – Phil Urich and (pre-retcon) Ned Leeds are better foils for Peter than Norman. They both use their jobs in media the same way Peter did; they gather information useful to their alter egos while profiting off their own exploits.

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Seems like I stopped reading comic books in time. I started reading paperbacks and couldn’t afford both. A couple problems seem to be that some of the writers think they’re more brilliant than they are, some imagine that they’re slumming working in the medium and some don’t respect the characters. I think comics should be written for fans and provide role models for kids, not deconstructed so writers can chat respectably with people at cocktail parties.

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Jeffrey Wright said on April 11th, 2014 at 7:14 am

Norman Osborn is a true archenemy of Peter Parker, while Doc Ock is a serious threat and #2 villain for Spidey, he is still a loser. That’s what he is – a loser, failure, wannabe.

True, reemergance of Norman Osborn was problematic and author puts some valid points against that decision. However, I disagree with the notion that Osborn’s character development was handled badly. He is a compelling villain and there is a reason for why he is so popular.

In short, article looks like a bizzare rant against character development in principle + rant against story not going along with author’s megaplan. There are no arguments for why Osborn is a bad villain, not at all.

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Interesting read. I preferred Harry Osborn as the Green Goblin, due in large part to the fantastic way in which the character was portrayed by J.M. DeMatteis. “The Child Within” left an indellible impression on me as a young kid (I was born in 1978). It could have been interesting to see what direction the character would have gone in had his death been (far more easily) retconned in “Revelations” instead of Norman’s, but we’ll never know the answer to that. Either way, I am in agreement that some characters just need to stay dead. I could make the same point for Kraven, but that’s another story for another day.

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