Monday, November 24, 2014


After Roger Stern left AMAZING SPIDER-MAN in 1984, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz continued as the creative team, and furthered the Hobgoblin storyline. But internal editorial politics eventually forced them off the series, and soon thereafter the Hobgoblin was posthumously unmasked as Ned Leeds, who had been killed off a few months before the revelation. Jason Macedale, Jack O'Lantern, then took over as the new Hobgoblin.

Spider-Man's living black costume eventually escaped and was replaced by a cloth version which the wall-crawler wore for a few more years, as well. The alien costume, of course, went on to become one half of Spidey's foe, Venom. Shortly after the Hobgoblin reveal and shortly before the end of the black costume and debut of Venom, Marvel made the controversial decision to marry Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in 1987's AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "The only way the writers were able to keep that marriage going on the printed page for as long as they did was by changing who Pete and MJ were, by turning them into different people. And a lot of talented writers worked on Spider-Man during that period, doing their best, but that marriage never quite worked for to me. It was like hearing about two old friends who'd run off and made this terrible mistake."

The marriage roughly coincided with the arrival of David Michelinie as series writer. Michelinie's run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN would last for seven years and close to a hundred non-consecutive issues before he quit, mirroring Stern's own departure years earlier, due to incompatibility with returning editor Danny Fingeroth at the outset of what would come to be called the "Clone Saga".

I've stated my appreciation for the Clone Saga before, so I won't get into it here, but suffice to say that it is one of the most polarizing periods in Spider-Man's history. Peter Parker was replaced by his clone, Ben Reilly, for about a year's worth of comics, following from a year or so in which both had been in operation at the same time as Spider-Man and the Scarlet Spider, respectively. During this storyline Aunt May passed away in one of the most touching comic books ever printed, and then the Clone Saga ultimately concluded with Ben's death at the hands of the original Green Goblin, the long-thought-dead Norman Osborn, back in action.

Around 1996, in the aftermath of the Clone Saga, Peter returned as Spider-Man. He and Mary Jane moved into Aunt May's old house in Forest Hills and Peter returned to his freelance work as a Daily Bugle photographer. A classic feel returned to the stories as colorful villains began popping up again, Peter and Mary Jane re-enrolled at Empire State University, and Spider-Man was generally more chipper in costume than he had been in some time.

Meanwhile, Roger Stern had spent years at DC as one of the main Superman writers, where he participated in several classic storylines including "The Death of Superman". But Stern was troubled by the Hobgoblin's death in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #289, as written by Peter David (but apparently dictated to David by then-editor James Owsley). Stern felt that the Hobgoblin as originally created was too strong and canny to meet his end at the hands of several non-powered assassins, the fate depicted in David's story. Stern was vocal about his objections in the fan press and on the convention circuit, leading to Marvel assistant editor Glenn Greenberg contacting him in 1996.

Glenn Greenberg Speaks: "I read an interview with Roger Stern, in which he said that the Hobgoblin revelation story was nothing like what he had in mind for the character. News to me! Noting that most fans seemed to be dissatisfied with that story, Roger went on to describe how the details in Peter David's story essentially proved that the guy who was revealed to be the Hobgoblin simply couldn't have been the real guy. Roger stated that his original idea could still be done, if the folks at Marvel were interested, and he had already offered more than once to come back and do it. But no one had ever taken him up on it."

-- Greenberg Gets Repackaged, Greenberg's Grumblings, 2011

A story, which would allow Stern to conclude the Hobgoblin mystery as he had originally devised it, was concocted in the form of a mini-series titled HOBGOBLIN LIVES. In order to ramp up for the mini-series, Stern's editors, Greenberg and Tom Brevoort, asked then Spider-Man group editor Ralph Macchio to plant appearances by potential suspects in the pages of the ongoing Spider-titles. Thus the months immediately prior to HOBGOBLIN LIVES saw -- via very minor cameo appearances -- the returns of long-absent and/or forgotten supporting cast members such as Donald Menken, Roderick Kingsley, and one or two others.

With his characters back in circulation, albeit only via minor cameos, Stern was ready to begin HOBGOBLIN LIVES.
Next Issue: The original Hobgoblin returns in SPIDER-MAN: HOBGOBLIN LIVES #1.

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