Monday, November 10, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #249

"SECRETS!"
Written by: Roger Stern | Breakdowns by: John Romita, Jr. | Finishes by: Dan Green
Letters by: Joe Rosen | Colors by: Bob Sharen | Edited by: Danny Fingeroth
Chiefed by: Jim Shooter

The Plot: While hosting a housewarming party at his new home in New Jersey, Harry Osborn receives a blackmail package from someone aware of his father's identity as the Green Goblin. In Manhattan, Jonah Jameson finds himself with a similar demand. The next day, Harry is accompanied by Peter Parker to the Century Club, where a number of blackmail victims, all wealthy and powerful men, are gathered to meet their blackmailer. Peter waits outside while Harry and the others enter a meeting room to find themselves in the presence of the Hobgoblin. When Jonah and Harry stand up to the goblin, he is revealed as a robotic stand-in. The true Hobgoblin then bursts into the room, having used the robot to ferret out troublemakers, but is attacked by Spider-Man.

Hobgoblin gets the better of Spider-Man by using a gas on him which dulls his spider-sense. Thus incapacitated, the wall-crawler is easily defeated by his foe. As Spider-Man passes out, he attempts to tag the goblin with a spider-tracer, but fails. Hobgoblin prepares to kill Spider-Man, but is stopped by the Kingpin of Crime, another club member. The goblin, unwilling to challenge the Kingpin, departs, unaware that the crime lord has planted the discarded spider-tracer on his glider.

Kingpin brings Spider-Man around with smelling salts and informs the web-slinger that, believing Hobgoblin to be a potential threat to his operations, he has planted the tracer. But unknown to the Kingpin, Spider-Man is unable to follow the tracer's signal without the aid of his spider-sense.

The Sub-Plots: As he changes out of his costume inside a guest cottage at the Osborns' home, Peter is hit on by a delightful young lush named Shirley. Outside by the pool, Peter strikes up a conversation with Mary Jane, much to the chagrin of a group of men putting the moves on her, and reflects that he finally feels at ease in her presence and he actually likes having her as nothing more than a friend.
Hobgoblin Clues: Harry indicates that whoever the blackmailer is, he must be a member of the Century Club, having reserved one of the meeting rooms for his gathering. However, as the victims file in, Jonah is informed by a steward that the room was reserved in his name.
The Hobgoblin's skill with, or at least resources to purchase, robots is shown again via the advanced automaton he initially uses to address his victims. It speaks, and it moves, even standing from its chair and lifting Harry by his lapels.

The goblin is aware of the Kingpin's status in the underworld, and defers to him when commanded to leave Spider-Man alone.
Continuity Notes: Liz explains that the Osborns' enormous mansion is the result of Harry's suggestion that they "splurge" once he received the full inheritance from his late father.
Peter recalls that he proposed to Mary Jane in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #183. In the same scene, his spider-sense goes briefly crazy, the first signal that the SECRET WARS are coming.
At the Daily Bugle, Jonah explains to Marla Madison that he is being blackmailed over his role in the creation of the Scorpion -- something he had confided in only one man, Norman Osborn.
When Harry receives his blackmail packet, he gets on his motorcycle and drives off into the woods. Peter follows, noting that the last time Harry acted so oddly, he was "coming down from a bad acid trip" back in college. Harry then shares the blackmail information with Peter -- photocopied pages from Osborn's journal. As he looks the notes over, Peter encapsulates the full history of the original Green Goblin across two story pages.
During their fight, the Hobgoblin taunts Spider-Man by recalling the Black Cat's interference in their last battle, as seen in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #85. Later, Spider-Man recalls that the Green Goblin had dulled his spider-sense in AMAZING #39.
Among the other blackmail victims this issue are George Vandergill and Roderick Kingsley -- the former in his first appearance here -- both of whom will go on to become Hobgoblin suspects when Stern returns to the character years later for his HOBGOBLIN LIVES limited series.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "[This issue's cover artist, John] Byrne called me up one day and said, 'I really like this Hobgoblin character... who is he?' I said, 'I'm not going to tell you.' He said, 'What do you mean you're not going to tell me? ... I told you Guardian was going to die in ALPHA FLIGHT.' I said, 'I didn't ask you to. You volunteered that.' And every once in a while, he'd call me up: 'Is it this guy?' 'No.'" -- The Spider-Man Crawlspace Podcast, episodes 35 & 37, 2008

John Byrne Speaks: "I asked Roger ONCE who he had in mind for Hobgoblin. He declined to tell me, and I gave the matter no further thought." -- ByrneRobotics.com Forum post, 2010
John Romita, Jr. Speaks: "If not for Roger Stern, the Hobgoblin stories probably wouldn’t have been good. Roger’s take on Spider-Man was consistent with Stan Lee’s and what I grew up on." --- "When Hobby Met Spidey", BACK ISSUE! #35, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2009

The Spider's Web: Danny Fingeroth compliments Bob DeNatale's turn in the editor's seat last month, then fans weigh in on issue 244, the first part of the second Hobgoblin story. And of course, more guesses as to the goblin's true identity. Ideas this time include Flash Thompson, Kris Keating, Stan Lee, former Daily Globe publisher K.J. Clayton, Nathan Lubensky, Dr. Jonas Harrow (a minor villain who, as it happens, will play a small role in Stern's HOBGOBLIN LIVES limited series), Ned Leeds, and Aunt May.

Also On Sale This Month: Spider-Man unmasks himself to the Black Cat in PETER PARKER #87, and works with his reformed foe, the Sandman, in MARVEL TEAM-UP #138.

My Thoughts: Roger Stern begins his final story arc on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN by revisiting the Hobgoblin in a story which, I would argue, truly defines the character in a way no other appearance yet has. When the Hobgoblin first appeared in issues 238 and 239, we knew virtually nothing about him. He was after Norman Osborn's caches of Green Goblin gear, but we were uncertain what he intended to do with those items, other than dress up in a snazzy new costume and glide around the city. When the goblin popped up again for issues 245 and 246 and subsequently again in SPECTACULAR #45, we found that he was after the secret of Osborn's strength formula, something to give him an edge in his inevitable confrontations with Spider-Man. But other than that short-term goal, the Hobgoblin's real motives remained unclear.
It's an unusual, but very cool, way to introduce a villain. Essentially, the Hobgoblin's origin story has been told through five issues over a year or so. Now, with all the gear acquired and the formula coursing through him, the Hobgoblin is finally ready to begin pursuit of his true, long-term agenda. And it fits with the previous stories, which saw him acquiring physical power via Osborn's technological and scientific creations. He still wants power, but with his physical abilities at their peak, he's moved on, looking for intangible power. The goblin wants to control New York's captains of industry. We don't know why, but at this point it appears unlikely he has some grand scheme in the works for which he needs these men. He wants to control them simply to prove that he can.
All of which fits quite nicely with the depiction of the man behind the mask in issue 238, who coveted the Green Goblin's equipment simply because he would be the only one to possess it, and who felt a need to be free of the constraints of society by dressing up in a frightful costume and taking to the night skies. Even if he doesn't have a definitive endgame in mind for the Hobgoblin -- and why would he, in an ongoing serialized story? -- Stern certainly knows how the man's mind works, and everything he's done to this point springs from those original thought balloons on the final pages of his first appearance.

(And none of which fits Ned Leeds at all, I might add.)

From the housewarming party, Mary Jane, and Harry's revelation to Jonah's confession, the reappearance of Roderick Kingsley and the spooky reveal of the Hobgoblin, hidden behind a curtain and seated calmly before his gathered victims, and even up to the Kingpin's casual interference in the Spider-Man/Hobgoblin fight, this issue is a chilling masterpiece, and easily one of my top favorites from Stern's run on Spider-Man.

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