First appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man #14, the Green Goblin has become Spider-Man's greatest enemy. No supervillain has cost Peter Parker more, and as a result, no supervillain has appeared in more Spider-Man movies than the Green Goblin! Whether the Goblin in question is Norman Osborn or his son, Harry, the Green Goblin has plagued Spider-Man's life with tragedy. Here are some of the key moments...
The Night Gwen Stacy Died!
The Green Goblin made his debut in Amazing Spider-Man #14, when he tricked Spider-Man into heading to a remote location, claiming to be filming a Spider-Man movie! Over the months that followed, Spider-Man and the mysterious Green Goblin clashed many times; it was only in Amazing Spider-Man #39 that his secret identity was revealed, and we learned that the Green Goblin was in reality industrialist Norman Osborn, father of Peter Parker's best friend Harry!
Matters came to a dramatic head in Amazing Spider-Man #121-122, in a famous arc known as "The Night Gwen Stacy Died". Osborn had learned Peter's secret identity too, and he kidnapped Peter's girlfriend Gwen, holding her hostage on the Brooklyn Bridge. Spider-Man made a desperate attempt to save her, but her body plunged from the bridge. His web-line snagged out and caught her; for a single blissful moment Spider-Man believed he'd been successful, but when he towed Gwen to the top of the bridge he learned that she was dead.
In a shocking subversion of the superhero genre, readers knew what Peter didn't; at the second his web-line snagged Gwen, there was a small sound-effect. Where most comic book sound effects are overdone, this was subtle, quiet. It was one word.
The web-line that Peter had cast to save Gwen had in fact killed her. The sudden jolt had broken her neck. The superhero hadn't only failed to save the girl he loved; the very attempt he made had in fact killed her. #122 saw a grief-stricken Spider-Man confront Osborn once more, but even in the midst of such rage and pain, Spider-Man was no killer. The Green Goblin made yet another attempt to kill him, launching his Goblin Glider at Spider-Man by remote control; when Spider-Man leaped out of the way, the Goblin was impaled by his own Glider.
It's an iconic plot, and the legendary power of it is only enhanced by the recent 'Spider-Gwen' move (an alt-universe Gwen Stacy, played as a smart homage). The scene was reproduced fairly faithfully in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, where Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy met the same fate. Although Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy didn't feature Gwen at all, he had Norman Osborn die the same way.
Harry Osborn As The Green Goblin
The curse of the Green Goblin was passed on to the second generation, as Harry Osborn too fell to insanity. Drug abuse twisted his mind, and Harry became schizophrenic. His first battle with Spider-Man - in Amazing Spider-Man #136-137 - left Harry amnesiac, but it couldn't last. Years later, with Peter and MJ now married, Harry's mind unlocked the secret of the Green Goblin once more. He confronted Peter in Spectacular Spider-Man #180-183; his story climaxed in Spectacular Spider-Man #200, where he held Mary-Jane hostage.
At the last second, seeing the danger his own son Normie was in, Harry relented; he died a hero, saving lives. Years later, the events of "One More Day" would undo Harry's death, creating a timeline in which he was taken to Europe for rehabilitation after drug addiction.
The Return Of Norman Osborn
By the late 1990s, the Spider-Man comics were in trouble. The "Clone Saga" had become a cumbersome mess, and Marvel was struggling to think of a way to resolve it. Finally, the writers came up with the idea of having it so the entire mess had been a result of someone playing games with Spider-Man's life; although they toyed with using Mephisto, they ultimately chose to go with Norman Osborn. It was revealed that Osborn had never died, and that he'd been manipulating events around Spider-Man for years in order to get his revenge.
In Peter Parker: Spider-Man #75, Spider-Man and the Green Goblin went head-to-head once again. It didn't end well for Osborn, who was briefly believed dead, but the industrialist soon began to plague Spider-Man's life in a very different way. Eschewing his Green Goblin persona, he went public as the head of Oscorp, even briefly purchasing the Daily Bugle. Everything was done to strike home at Spider-Man, with Osborn running a smear campaign against the webhead. This positioned him to take charge of the Thunderbolts program, and this set up a very dangerous arc...
In the aftermath of "Secret Invasion", Norman Osborn rose to a position of real power. S.H.I.E.L.D. was disbanded, and replaced by H.A.M.M.E.R., Osborn's brutal equivalent. The Dark Avengers saw supervillains take over the mantle of various superheroes; Venom, for example, replaced Spider-Man! Osborn himself abandoned the Green Goblin identity, dressing in heavily-modified Iron Man armor as the so-called 'Iron Patriot'. He and Spider-Man clashed several times, with Osborn even successfully capturing Spider-Man for a time.
This climaxed in Spider-Man: The List, a one-shot in which Norman Osborn planned to take his time in killing the wall-crawler. What he'd not expected, though, was for Spider-Man to break into Avengers Tower and steal the crucial files! In a genius twist, it was Spider-Man's intelligence that won the day. Osborn had adapted the uni-beam into a star-shape, and introduced an instability; a well-placed kick caused a backfire. Wonderfully, it was Peter Parker who ultimately emerged victorious this issue, as - out of costume - he broadcast Osborn's files across the internet, and confronted Osborn face-to-face.
The latest confrontation was the climax of Superior Spider-Man. In this arc, Peter's body was under the control of Doctor Octopus's mind. Osborn learned this, and - angered that he hadn't been the one to kill Spider-Man - he lashed out at everything Octavius had ever loved. Realizing that he couldn't beat Osborn, Octavius reversed the process, restoring Peter Parker's mind and effectively killing himself in order to allow Spider-Man to save the woman he loved.
In a wonderful moment, the Goblin is ranting and raving - and Spider-Man cracks wise. Osborn freezes, staring down in shock, and then gasps, "It's you."
Needless to say, it didn't go well for the Green Goblin! He actually wound up depowered, as Octavius had successfully engineered a cure for the Goblin Formula. In a disturbing twist, though, Osborn escaped custody and swore payback...
The Green Goblin is easily one of Marvel's greatest supervillains, and - even though the character has already been used in the movies - it's only a matter of time before Marvel Studios choose to add Norman Osborn into the mix. Meanwhile, when he turns up again in the comics we can expect a very dangerous supervillain; no longer insane due to the Goblin Formula, Norman Osborn may be more dangerous than ever...