Monday, November 3, 2014


Writer: Bill Mantlo | Artists: Al Milgrom & Jim Mooney
Letterer: Diana Albers | Colorist: Bob Sharen | Editors: Tom DeFalco & Danny Fingeroth
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter | Gracious Plot Assist: Roger Stern

The Plot: The Hobgoblin finally perfects Norman Osborn's strength enhancement formula in the form of a chemical bath. After immersing himself in it, the villain emerges super-strong. He sets out to test his now power by killing Spider-Man.

The goblin conveniently finds the web-slinger out for an evening constitutional with the Black Cat, and attacks. Spider-Man proves a match for his foe's newfound strength, but when the Cat attempts to offer aid to her love, she spoils his hastily planned trap and allows the Hobgoblin to escape into the night.

The Sub-Plots: Harry and Liz Osborn host a lunch at Central Park's Tavern-on-the-Green, where they announce to their assembled friends -- Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, Ned and Betty Leeds, Flash Thompson, and his girlfriend Sha Shan -- that they're expecting a baby.
During lunch, Flash gives Peter the cold shoulder, while Mary Jane hints that, although she believes she and Peter are wrong for one another, perhaps their story isn't completely over.

Later, Spider-Man pays a visit to the Black Cat's apartment and enjoys dinner with her before they head out on the town. The Cat reveals to Spidey that she never had "bad luck" powers as she had claimed when they first met, and that her abilities were actually the results of carefully rigged battlegrounds of her choosing.
The Cat also tries to get Spider-Man to remove his mask, as he had nearly done once before in the hospital, but he is hesitant to do so.
Continuity Notes: The Hobgoblin spends the issue's first couple pages recapping his recent activities in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, his thoughts accompanied by Al Milgrom's renditions of several of John Romita, Jr.'s panels from those stories.
At Tavern-on-the-Green, Liz and Betty contemplate how their group of friends has remained together through so much. For the record:
  • Liz was Peter's high school crush and Flash was the school jock.
  • Betty was Peter's first girlfriend through his work at the Daily Bugle, though she eventually married Bugle reporter Ned after she and Peter broke up.
  • Peter and Flash moved onto college together at Empire State University, where they met Harry.
  • Mary Jane also attended ESU with this group, though she met Peter outside college through her Aunt Anna, Aunt May's neighbor.
  • Flash left school to join the army and served in "Southeast Asia" (a.k.a. Vietnam), where he met Sha Shan and brought her back to the U.S. with him.
  • Sometime later, Liz returned to Peter's life and met Harry through him.
Everybody got that?

During the same lunch scene, Peter thinks about the tragedies in the lives of both Harry and Liz -- her brother, Mark Raxton, is Spider-Man's one-time foe, the Molten Man, and Harry's father was the Green Goblin, a fact Harry does not currently remember.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "...I didn't plot SPECTACULAR #85. My editor asked if Hobgoblin's empowering could take place in SPECTACULAR, and I sort of consulted on it. But it didn't happen quite the way I would have preferred. But since it didn't screw things up, I didn't complain." -- Message Board posting, 2012

Spectacular Spider-Mail: Letters appear regarding SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #80, a J. Jonah Jameson solo adventure by Bill Mantlo. Danny Fingeroth also drops by to inform readers that he will be out of the office next month and Bob DeNatale will handle the following issue as part of Assistant Editors' month.

My Thoughts: Bill Mantlo takes a swing at the Hobgoblin, and the results are surprisingly decent. Mantlo, as always, has a fine grasp of Peter Parker's and Spider-Man's dialogue, so there are no issues there. He also seems to have toned down his purple prose quite a bit since the last time we checked in with him. His take on the classic supporting cast is strong as well, with some excellent soap operatic sub-plot material between them. Simply seeing all these characters united in one place is a nice touch, and something Stern sadly hasn't done yet. Mantlo even works in a couple characters Stern has yet to utilize -- Flash Thompson and Sha Shan.

But the Spider-Man/Black Cat scenes are the story's downfall. It's really hard for me to buy the Cat as Spider-Man's domesticated girlfriend. Granted, she doesn't want to be domesticated here, but the scenes between the pair read like a romantic sitcom rather than a Spider-Man soap opera. These two, who had excellent "will they or won't they" sexual tension in the past, are now just another couple dealing with mundane problems while mooning over one another. Once their romance became official, it lost anything that made it special.
Mantlo's Hobgoblin is off here, as well. His speech is too stilted and his decision to simply go attack Spider-Man does not at all fit with the calculating schemer Stern has shown us so far. And the story's artwork by Al Milgrom is not nearly as dynamic as Romita's efforts over on AMAZING. It's not even up to the same standard Milgrom himself set just a couple months before in AVENGERS 236 and 237.

It would have been preferable to see Stern handle the goblin's strength upgrade himself, but, as the writer himself notes above, at least nothing is "screwed up," and the Hobgoblin remains at large as an even more credible threat than before.

Next Issue: We'll check in on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #17 to get Roger Stern's take on the Kingpin.


  1. Once their romance became official, it lost anything that made it special.

    In other words, they were Moonlightning before it was mainstream.

    The strong hints that Hobgoblin repeated Norman Osborn's mistake and stayed too long in the chemical bath with cost to his mental sanity were probably Stern-approved?

    1. Actually my assumption is that the possible madness is what Stern means when he says it didn't happen quite the way he wanted. Stern has said that, while the Green Goblin was certifiably nuts, the Hobgoblin was intended to be completely sane and rational. I have a quote to this effect which will be posted next month to go with one of the SPECTACULAR issues featuring Hobgoblin and Green Goblin together.

    2. An assumption supported by the evidence that Stern (or anyone) never seemed to pick up that plot point, now that I think about it. Good call too that, I like my Hobby businesslike.

  2. Also, did Liz and MJ carefully omit mentioning that MJ was supposed to be Harry's girlfriend at some point, though I don't know how serious she was with it? At least, that was the given rationale when Norman Osborn bought the gang in to watch a show where MJ was dancing.

    If memory does not fail, he got a mild seizure then because there was a Goblin equipment hideout in the very building. Funny that there's always one where MJ is working... and that Goblin killed her worst competitor Gwen Stacy, and that men around MJ just flock to assume the Gobby/Hobby mantle, and the last one even sold his soul to a demon... (talking of Macendale here, and no one else ;) )

    The supposed Gwen/Norman Osborn fling does not do service to Spidey history is what I'm trying to say.

    1. I don't think Mary Jane and Harry were ever a serious item. They just dated casually in college. MJ, like Gwen, always seemed to have eyes for Peter even when she was with someone else.

      And yes, the Gwen/Norman thing was a travesty. I cannot fathom how anyone at Marvel thought it was a good idea. I know JMS wanted the Goblin Kids to be Peter's, and when that was shot down he came up with the Osborn angle instead, but really -- he should've just dropped it entirely, or been instructed to drop it entirely, rather than come up with such an abominable alternative.