Monday, December 8, 2014


Co-Plotter: Roger Stern | Co-Plotter/Scripter: Glenn Greenberg
Penciler: Luke Ross | Inks: Al Milgrom
Letters: RS&Comicraft's Liz Agraphiotis | Colors: John Kalisz
"Editor": Ralph Macchio | Cause of Gray Hairs: Bob Harras

The Plot: Norman Osborn, back from an extended stay in Europe, is making the rounds on television to promote his new book, "Survivor of the Big Lie", which explains that he is not and never was the Green Goblin. Meanwhile, Roderick Kingsley sits in prison, fully aware that Osborn's claims are a lie and he is indeed an insane supervillain. Kingsley tells his attorney that he has one remaining Osborn journal hidden away, which will reveal the truth about Osborn. Kingsley's attorney informs the district attorney's office of this fact, and word eventually reaches Osborn himself.

As Kingsley is removed from Great Neck Maximum Security Prison for a meeting with the D.A., the Green Goblin strikes and kidnaps him. However Peter Parker and Betty Leeds are nearby, tipped off about the meeting, and Peter slips away to change into Spider-Man. He has a brief scuffle with the Goblin, but the villain escapes with Kingsley.

Some distance from the prison, the Goblin lands and reveals that he is not Norman Osborn when Osborn appears to confront Kingsley.

The Sub-Plots: Thanks to Osborn's book, public opinion has turned against Spider-Man (moreso than usual, I mean).

At this point in Spider-Man's life, Osborn is functioning essentially as his Lex Luthor -- a sinister "behind the scenes" mastermind who hides behind the veneer of a wealthy philanthropist. He has forced Jonah Jameson (one of the few who knows Osborn actually was the Green Goblin) to sell him a large stake in the Daily Bugle -- leading to the resignation of Joe Robertson. He has Flash Thompson working for him as a personal assistant, and he has debunked a previous book by Ben Urich which accused Osborn of being the Green Goblin, thus discrediting Urich as a reporter.
Jameson, however, isn't taking this lying down, and we see that he has a handgun hidden in his desk drawer.
Continuity Notes: Spider-Man briefly flashes back to his major confrontations with the Green Goblin, including their first battle, the time Osborn learned the web-slinger's secret identity, the night Gwen Stacy died, and the day Osborn returned.
Kingsley declares that all the Osborn journals -- except the one he still has -- were destroyed in a warehouse fire in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #251.

Jill Stacy, cousin of the late Gwen Stacy, puts in a brief appearance and it is noted that she recently suffered a gunshot wound in PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN, and she informs Peter and Mary Jane that her father, Arthur Stacy, used to work for Norman Osborn -- as seen in PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN #-1, a part of Marvel's "Flashback Month" event.
Betty is tipped off to Kingsley's removal from prison by the same guard who allowed her to view the former Hobgoblin's lockdown in HOBGOBLIN LIVES #3.

As he leaps into battle with the Green Goblin, Spider-Man wonders who could be beneath the mask, since the stand-in Osborn used recently was apparently killed in the recent "Spiderhunt" crossover.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "Unlike the Green Goblin who was insane, this guy is sane. Dangerously sane. Hobgoblin approaches everything in a very analytic manner. He studies things. He's a great -- I wouldn't say schemer -- but a very good planner." -- "The Making of the Hobgoblin", MARVEL AGE #5, Marvel Comics, 1983 (scanned article available at Marvel Comics of the 1980s)

Glenn Greenberg Speaks: "[Ralph Macchio] strolled into my office one day and said, 'Glenn, I need someone to take over SPECTACULAR. Do you think you can come up with a three-parter to get me through the next three months, something big and attention-getting, that I can really play up in the marketing materials?' I paused for a second, thought about it, and then I looked up at Ralph and said, 'Yes -— but before I talk to you about it, I need to make a phone call. I'll get back to you in a little while.'

"And then I called Roger Stern."
-- "Greenberg Gets Repackaged", Greenberg's Grumblings, 2011
Also On Sale This Month: The Rose and Black Tarantula remove their masks in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #436. The Black Cat crosses our hero's path in SENSATIONAL #29. PETER PARKER #93 features a Spidey/Ghost Rider extravaganza. And because you demanded it (?), the web-slinger meets Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy in the SPIDER-MAN/DEVIL DINOSAUR 1998 ANNUAL.

My Thoughts: Boy, does this issue bring back memories. This era of Spider-Man has its detractors -- though not so many as the "Clone Saga" period which preceded it -- but for me, the Spider-comics from late 1996 to late 1998 were one of my favorite periods for the web-slinger. Aunt May had passed away -- something I was totally okay with, since she had long since ceased being an interesting character -- and Peter and Mary Jane were living in her old house in Forest Hills. As noted above, Norman Osborn was serving the "Lex Luthor" role to great effect. The Stacy family -- Jill, her brother Paul, and their dad Arthur, were intriguing and logical additions to the supporting cast.

Now, obviously nostalgia plays a great role in this. When these issues were coming out, I was going through my first couple years of college. I was reading books weekly for the first time ever (previously I would bum a ride to the comic shop once a month), and, at the risk of exposing my geeky side (too late), I was gamemastering a MARVEL SUPER HEROES ROLEPLAYING GAME campaign about once a week, drawing on my weekly purchases to inform the action. Marvel in general was doing some great stuff around this time, with all the "Heroes Return" books. And I believe this was the era of Joe Kelly and Steve Seagle, followed by Alan Davis, on X-MEN. Kind of a clusterfudge behind the scenes, but I loved those books as they were coming out. And, again, the creators on all four Spider-Man titles were doing -- in my opinion, at least -- nice work, especially in terms of sub-plots.

Then John Byrne came along and ruined all of it.

But the Byrne reboot is still a few months away at this point. And we're really only here to talk about Roger Stern's Spider-Man, so now that I've waxed nostalgic, let's get to it.

The sub-plots listed above are really the main meat of this issue, with Osborn's machinations being the biggest. Otherwise the story is primarily concerned with setting the players up for the next couple chapters, as Kingsley is broken out of prison and comes face to face with his goblin predecessor -- both the mask, worn by someone new, and the man formerly behind that mask, Norman Osborn.

I suppose for many, a Hobgoblin vs. Green Goblin story is a big deal. For whatever reason, for me, it wasn't. It hadn't been during "Inferno" ten years earlier, either, when Harry Osborn as the Green Goblin battled Jason Macendale as the Hobgoblin. They're goblins of two different eras. They just look... wrong... to me on the same page together. And, if I'm honest, I've never been a big fan of the Green Goblin. To some, he's Spider-Man's greatest foe. To me, he's kind of silly looking. I find the Hobgoblin to be much more menacing and scary, physically. I absolutely love Osborn in the "Luthor" role, but I'm indifferent to him as a costumed villain.

But it's good to see Kingsley revisited at last, almost two years after HOBGOBLIN LIVES. I recall that following his incarceration in that series, he was never spoken of again. I don't even think HOBGOBLIN LIVES received so much as a mention in any of the core Spider-titles, which struck me as odd at the time, but perhaps that's owed to the fact that the mini-series came from a different editorial office.

At any rate -- Roderick Kingsley is back, dangling blackmail material -- as he is wont to do -- over Norman Osborn's head. The real fun will be in seeing what Osborn does about it.

Note: All images above come from my original copy of SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #259, because that was a lot easier to scan than the HOBGOBLIN LIVES trade paperback.

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