Sunday, December 7, 2014
HOBGOBLIN LIVES, REVISITED
A little more than a year ago, when Not Blog X reviewed HOBGOBLIN LIVES, I suggested in a comment that the series could have been better served as a twelve-issue maxi-series. Specifically, I was thinking of BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN, which launched, over at DC, around the same time as HOBGOBLIN LIVES. LONG HALLOWEEN is a thirteen-issue murder mystery set over the course of one year in Batman's life. But while the series' killings occur regularly, one on a holiday in every installment, they are not always the main plot of a given issue. Readers might see Batman tangling with the Joker or the Mad Hatter even as the "Holiday Killer" is busy in the background. I propose that this format would have served HOBGOBLIN LIVES tremendously well.
Imagine a year-long limited series -- though it needn't actually be set over a year in Spider-Man's life; a few weeks or a couple months would be plenty -- which begins, as HOBGOBLIN LIVES does, with the trial of Jason Macendale, the characters remembering Ned Leeds, and the murder of Macendale as the original Hobgoblin gears up to aid the Kingsley brothers in their bid to take over Osborn Manufacturing.
This could then lead into the Hobgoblin bombing the Osborn plant. Spider-Man begins to investigate Osborn. Perhaps at this point, someplace around issue 4, Peter finally joins forces with Betty and Flash to get to the bottom of things, and their group investigation begins in earnest, bringing the likes of Roderick Kingsley back into the characters' lives. Imagine a scene in which Spider-Man bumps into Kingsley and verbally jousts with him like the old days, without realizing this is the Hobgoblin right in front of him; I think this would help to make the ultimate reveal resonate much better. The readers would be invested in Kingsley's development after a dozen issues, rather than barely glimpsing him across three. And better yet, Spider-Man could have one or two skirmishes with the Hobgoblin prior to their final showdown, rather than placing their reunion and the ultimate unmasking all on the same afternoon.
The twelve-issue format would fix some of these issues. For one, we could see some actual detective work by Spider-Man and his allies, letting them, rather than the story, check off possible suspects. And the Hobgoblin's backstory could perhaps be trickled out over a handful of installments, rather than dropping as a massive info-dump in the final issue. We might also see Jonas Harrow serve some purpose to the story, rather than simply providing unnecessary exposition to the readers in the first issue, then vanishing entirely. And I might even suggest throwing in one more suspect; after all, Lance Bannon was a contender for the Hobgoblin's identity years before. But since Bannon is dead at this point, I would add District Attorney Blake Tower, the most intriguing reader suggestion from the letter columns of the era, to the mix. He fits all clues to a tee, and would make for an exciting red herring.
But this train sailed well over a decade ago. HOBGOBLIN LIVES turned out just fine. Yet I just can't help wondering, sometimes, what it could have been, given an expanded format in which to breathe and really develop a really compelling, satisfying mystery.
Did I get carried away with the cover mock-ups? Too much? Yeah, I thought so. But at any rate, the clumsy Photoshop jobs were assembled using bits of Ron Frenz artwork from around the web, including some Hobgoblins from the late, lamented SPIDER-Girl series (and one John Romita, Sr. Spider-Man).