|First appearance||The Amazing Spider-Man #14 (July 1964)|
|Created by||Stan Lee
|Full name||Norman Virgil Osborn|
Commission on Superhuman Activities
|Notable aliases||Green Goblin, Iron Patriot, Super-Adaptoid, Goblin King, Mason Banks|
Norman Osborn is a fictional supervillain appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, and first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #14 (cover dated July 1964) as the original and most well-known incarnation of the Green Goblin.
As the amoral industrialist head of Oscorp, Norman was exposed to an experimental formula which enhanced his physical abilities and intellect, but also drove him to insanity. He has since endured as Spider-Man's archenemy, Osborn has been part of the superhero's defining stories including "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" and the "Clone Saga". He is the father of Peter Parker's best friend Harry Osborn. However, he has also come into conflict with other superheroes in the Marvel Universe, of particular note being the focus of the Dark Reign storyline as the original wielder of the Iron Patriot armor.
As the Goblin he adopted a Halloween-themed appearance: dressing in a goblin costume, riding on a bat-shaped "Goblin Glider", and using an arsenal of high-tech weapons, notably grenade-like "Pumpkin Bombs", to terrorize New York City. Although Osborn sometimes works with other supervillains such as Doctor Octopus and Mysterio, and groups like the Sinister Six and the Dark Avengers, these relationships often collapse due to his desire for unbridled chaos. The character has been in various top villain lists as one of the greatest Spider-Man enemies and one of the greatest comic book villains of all time.
The character's popularity has seen him appear on a variety of merchandise, inspire real-world structures (such as theme park attractions), and be referenced in a number of media. Osborn has been adapted to serve as Spider-Man's adversary in live-action, animated, and video game incarnations. The character has been portrayed in film by Willem Dafoe in the 2002 film Spider-Man and Chris Cooper in the 2014 film The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Among others, actors Neil Ross, Alan Rachins, and Steven Weber provided Osborn's voice in the animated Spider-Man series of 1981, 1994, 2008, and 2012.
- 1 Publication history
- 2 Fictional character biography
- 3 Powers and abilities
- 4 Characterization
- 5 Other versions
- 6 In other media
- 7 Reception
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Marvel Comics editor and head writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko are credited with creating Osborn, they each collaborated with one another on how the character would be portrayed. According to Ditko: "Stan's synopsis for the Green Goblin had a movie crew, on location, finding an Egyptian-like sarcophagus. Inside was an ancient, mythological demon, the Green Goblin. He naturally came to life. On my own, I changed Stan's mythological demon into a human villain."
The Green Goblin debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man #14. At this time his identity was unknown, but he proved popular and reappeared in later issues, which made a point of his secret identity. According to both Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr., who replaced Ditko as the title's artist, Lee always wanted the Green Goblin to be someone Peter Parker knew, while Ditko wanted his civilian identity to be someone who hadn't yet been introduced. Lee elaborated: "Steve wanted him to turn out to be just some character that we had never seen before. Because, he said, in real life, very often a villain turns out to be somebody that you never knew. And I felt that that would be wrong. I felt, in a sense, it would be like cheating the reader. ... if it's somebody you didn't know and had never seen, then what was the point of following all the clues? I think that frustrates the reader." However, Lee prefaced this statement by admitting that, due to his self-professed poor memory, he may have been confusing the Green Goblin with a different character,[a] and in an earlier essay he had said that he could not remember whether Norman Osborn being the Green Goblin was his idea or Ditko's. Ditko has maintained that it was his idea, even claiming that he had decided on it before the first Green Goblin story was finished, and that a character he drew in the background of a single panel of Amazing Spider-Man #23 was meant to be Norman Osborn (who is not introduced until issue #37).
Ditko left the series with issue #38, just one issue after Norman Osborn was introduced as the father of Harry Osborn. The first issue without Ditko saw the Green Goblin unmasked. John Romita, Sr., who replaced Ditko as the title's artist, recalled:
Stan wouldn't have been able to stand it if Ditko did the story and didn't reveal that the Green Goblin was Norman Osborn. I didn't know there was any doubt about Osborn being the Goblin. I didn't know that Ditko had just been setting Osborn up as a straw dog. I just accepted the fact that it was going to be Norman Osborn when we plotted it. I had been following the last couple of issues and didn't think there was really much mystery about it. Looking back, I doubt the Goblin's identity would have been revealed in Amazing #39 if Ditko had stayed on.
In the landmark story "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" (The Amazing Spider-Man #121-122), the Green Goblin kills Gwen Stacy and later perishes in a fight against Spider-Man. However, the story's writer, Gerry Conway, had Harry Osborn adopt the Green Goblin identity in the aftermath of "The Night Gwen Stacy Died", later remarking that "I never had any intention of getting rid of the Green Goblin as a concept". Harry Osborn's becoming the Green Goblin was mostly well-received, with fans remarking that Harry was more menacing than his father had ever been. Writer Roger Stern later introduced the Hobgoblin to replace the Green Goblin as Spider-Man's archenemy.
The "Clone Saga", a retcon was made, which determined that Norman Osborn survived the events of The Amazing Spider-Man #122, and had been playing a behind-the-scenes role in Spider-Man's adventures since then. During the "Clone Saga", the Spider-Man writers were met with a massive outcry from many readers after the decision to replace Peter Parker with his clone Ben Reilly as the true Spider-Man. Eventually, the writers decided to reveal that one of Spider-Man's arch-enemies had been manipulating events from behind the scenes. The initial plan was to use Mephisto, but they felt a more down-to-earth character was needed. It was then suggested that the semi-zombified cyborg "Gaunt" be revealed as Harry Osborn (who was killed in The Spectacular Spider-Man #200).
Gaunt was a late entry to the controversial storyline, created mainly as a plot device to return Harry to life; the plan for the character included Harry regaining his humanity, taking credit for tricking Peter into thinking he was a clone, and assuming his father's Green Goblin identity. However, this narrative was rejected by newly-promoted editor in chief Bob Harras, and eventually Norman was chosen to be the mastermind. Following the Clone Saga, Green Goblin re-established himself as a supervillain and Spider-Man's nemesis, serving as the main antagonist of several arcs thereafter.
Osborn returns in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #75 and is blown up at the end of the issue. It is shown in Spectacular Spider-Man #250 that he has recovered, and he returns to his civilian life. Without the Green Goblin identity, Osborn would then go on to attack Spider-Man indirectly, through minions and via smear campaigns designed to portray him as a monster. However, Norman would still wear his Green Goblin costume in battle.
Following the Civil War story arc, Warren Ellis began writing Thunderbolts, and Osborn was brought into this title as the director of the eponymous team. He was one of several characters offered to Ellis, who picked him because, according to Thunderbolts editor Molly Lazer, "[t]here was something about Norman, his instability, and his fixation with Spider-Man that Warren liked, so he's in the book!" Ellis admitted not being very familiar with the character, saying: "All I remember of the Norman Osborn character was from the Spider-Man reprints my parents used to buy me when I was very young, and Norman Osborn was this guy with a weird rippled crewcut who was always sweating and his eyes were always bulging out of his head. That guy as a Donald Rumsfeld-like public governmental figure... [Joe Quesada] talked me into writing the book while I was still laughing."" Lazer confirmed that the new team was answerable to the Commission on Superhuman Activities, giving him the opportunity to do what he wanted: "He's a free man with a lot of power .... And his agenda, well, it's not that secret. He wants to get Spider-Man."
Writer Christos Gage took over for the Secret Invasion tie-in stories, which end with Osborn taking credit for the defeat of the Skrulls after he kills the Skrull queen Veranke. This allowed the character to be placed into an influential position in the aftermath Dark Reign. Although the dark turn at the end was always part of the plan for the storyline, Brian Michael Bendis, Secret Invasion's writer, says that Osborn was picked for the leading role because of the changes implemented by Ellis.
To quote the movie Speed, he's 'crazy, not stupid.' He's clearly fiercely intelligent and a natural born leader, with the ego and competitive drive to succeed against all odds. He also just happens to be crazy as a shithouse rat. [...] I think the secret to understanding Norman is that he doesn't realize he's the villain. He thinks he's the hero. He truly believes that he deserves public adulation, and it bugs the hell out of him that so-called 'superheroes' are getting it instead of him.
He appeared as a regular character in the Dark Avengers series from issue #1 (March 2009) through issue #16 (June 2010), as well as the mini-series "Siege", which saw Norman being arrested for his crimes, following the events of the Civil War storyline. At this point, the character was more involved with the Avengers and only made three minor appearances in Amazing Spider-Man.
The first was "Brand New Ways To Die" which featured Norman and the Thunderbolts versus Spider-Man and the original Venom. His second appearance explained that following Mephisto's alteration of Spider-Man's past, Norman's return was significantly altered. He had returned earlier than he had originally, and, due to concern for his son's mental wellbeing after once again becoming the Green Goblin, had arranged for Harry's death to be faked, with help from Mysterio.
In his final appearance in the storyline, Norman attempts to convince Harry to become a super-hero so that Norman can kill him off and exploit his demise. It is also revealed that he was sleeping with the supervillain Menace (Harry's ex-girlfriend), with Norman believing that the villain's child she was carrying was his.
A five issue mini-series followed, written by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Emma Rios. The mini-series would lead into a dual storyline running in the pages of New Avengers #17–24 and Avengers #18–24, in which the character formed a new version of the Dark Avengers and ultimately garnered new powers, having turned himself into a Super-Adaptoid.
Fictional character biography
Norman was born in New Haven, Connecticut as the son of industrialist Amberson Osborn. Amberson, a brilliant student in the fields of science, became an alcoholic after losing control of his company, and was physically abusive toward his family. Norman quickly came to despise his father, resolving to be a better breadwinner while developing early homicidal tendencies as a means of relieving the stress of his father's abuse.
In college, where he studied chemistry and electrical engineering, Norman meets and gets married to Emily Osborn and eventually they have their son Harold "Harry" Osborn. In his adulthood, with the help of his college professor Mendel Stromm, he co-founds the firm Oscorp Industries and establishes himself as owner and president. However, his wife becomes ill and dies when Harry is barely a year old, the stress of which pushes Norman to work harder, leading him to emotionally neglect Harry.
Hoping to gain more control of Oscorp Industries, Osborn accuses Stromm of embezzlement and has his partner arrested. Searching his former mentor's possessions, Norman discovers an experimental strength/intelligence enhancement formula, but in attempting to create the serum, it turns green and explodes in his face. The accident greatly increases his intelligence and physical abilities as intended, but also has the side-effect of driving him into destructive insanity.
The original Green Goblin
Norman adopts the Green Goblin identity with the goal of becoming the leader of organized crime in the city, and intends to cement his position by defeating Spider-Man. Acting on his own as Green Goblin, or through his employment of other super-criminals such as the Headsman, he would harass Spider-Man many times, but fail to achieve his goal. Soon, Mendel Stromm returns from prison, and attempts to exact revenge on Osborn using an army of robots, but Norman is saved by Spider-Man, and Stromm apparently dies of a heart attack.
In order to discover his nemesis's secret identity, Osborn exposes Spider-Man to a gas that nullifies the hero's spider-senses. This allows Osborn to stalk Spider-Man until he learns that his nemesis is Peter Parker, a college student (and his son's classmate). While Parker is going about his civilian life, Osborn surprises and knocks him out with an asphyxiation grenade, taking him to his waterfront base. After unmasking himself to Parker, the latter goads him into recounting how he became Green Goblin, and uses the time to break free. In the ensuing battle, Spider-Man accidentally knocks Osborn into a mass of electrical wires, wiping out his memory. Feeling sorry for his nemesis, and wishing to avoid the shame that would befall the Osborn family (and by extension, Parker's best friend Harry), Spider-Man destroys the Green Goblin costume in the resulting fire and tells the authorities that Osborn lost his memory while helping to defeat the Green Goblin.
Soon, Osborn is troubled by repressed memories of the Green Goblin and Spider-Man. After a presentation on supervillains by NYPD Captain George Stacy restores Osborn's memory, he experiences a brief return to his Green Goblin persona. While abducting Parker's friends and threatening Parker's elderly aunt, he is exposed to one of his own "psychedelic bombs", causing a relapse of amnesia.
Later, Osborn stumbles upon an old Green Goblin hideout which, again, restores his memory. However, the shock of seeing Harry Osborn hospitalized, overdosed on drugs, causes Osborn's amnesia to return once more. After the final restoration of his memories, the Green Goblin kidnaps and takes Gwen Stacy to a bridge. During Spider-Man's rescue attempt, Osborn knocks Gwen off the bridge, resulting in the girl's death. Spider-Man, traumatised and obsessed with revenge, tracks Green Goblin to his hideout, and in the ensuing battle, Osborn is impaled by his own goblin glider.
While Osborn lies in the morgue, it is revealed that the goblin formula gave him a previously-unknown healing factor which restores him to life; in the process of sneaking out, he kills someone with a similar physique to himself to feign his death. No longer suffering from bouts of amnesia, Norman escapes to Europe, where he can move freely and unnoticed. During this time abroad, believed dead by the general public, he orchestrates several plots, including replacing Aunt May with a genetically altered actress, and faking his own son's death.
Most significantly, however, he utilizes his fortune to build a vast network of criminals, spies, dupes and co-conspirators to help engineer what would be an almost impossibly complex and meticulously planned plot to destroy Spider-Man's life. To achieve this, he becomes the leader of the Scrier cabal, taking as his pawns Seward Trainer, Judas Traveller, the Jackal and Gaunt (Mendel Stromm, returned from the dead as a cyborg), all of whom he utilizes to carry out revenge against Peter Parker. It is this group of individuals who become crucial in duping Parker into believing that he is actually a clone of himself created by the Jackal, while claiming that the clone – who comes to be known as Ben Reilly – is actually the original.
Frustrated by Parker's perseverance despite everything that's been inflicted, Osborn publicly reveals that he's alive on Halloween. During the battle that ensues between them, Osborn attempts to kill Parker by impaling his nemesis with his goblin glider. When Reilly sacrifices himself to save Parker (and immediately deteriorates on death as all clones do), Parker realises he is actually the original. During this same period, Osborn may or may not have been responsible for the murder or abduction of Peter's newborn daughter, after one of his allies apparently prematurely induces Mary Jane's pregnancy and the stillbirth of the baby.
Returning to his former seat of power, Osborn regains control of his business and also buys out the Daily Bugle, humiliating former friend and societal peer J. Jonah Jameson as he no longer has control over the newspaper. He also torments Ben Urich and demands a retraction over Urich's exposé of his time as the Green Goblin, providing faked evidence that he never was the supervillain, despite Urich's extensive research. However, he saves his most sadistic treatment for Peter, acting not only as a constant reminder of all the pain he's inflicted on his nemesis over the years, but a looming threat that could strike at any time.
This build-up of pressure eventually makes Spider-Man snap by savagely beating a civilian and non-resistant Osborn in front of the latter's CCTV, which, combined with Osborn convincing the Trapster to frame Spider-Man for murder, results in Spider-Man becoming a fugitive again. To get around this, Spider-Man adopts four new identities, using two of these identities to convince the Trapster to expose his own role in Osborn's scheme, and provide fake evidence that the Spider-Man that beat up Osborn was an impostor.
For a time, Osborn retires his costumed persona and uses a stand-in so as not to be suspected of being the Green Goblin. This fifth Green Goblin kidnaps Norman's grandson and clashes with a wanted and injured Spider-Man. Norman also crosses paths with Roderick Kingsley and initiates a hostile takeover of the latter's corporate empire, in retaliation for raiding the Goblin's arsenal and identity.
While his stand-in is masquerading as the Goblin, Osborn joins a cult, hoping to receive great power from the 'Gathering of Five', which will grant the participants Power, Knowledge, Immortality, Madness or Death, but while he believes that he receives Power, he is instead driven further into madness, and threatens the world with genetic bombs. It is during this time that Peter learns May Parker is alive and Osborn's actress died in her place. Osborn's complete madness is evident, as he hallucinates unmasking and killing Peter; yet in reality Peter easily defeats him. He is rescued from custody thereafter by his cabal of henchmen.
A few months later, a highly unstable Osborn has partially regained his sanity with the help of anti-psychotic drugs. He comes to see Parker as the son he had always wanted and attempts to have Parker take on the Green Goblin mantle using physiological torture but ultimately fails. Osborn's next plan involves using a drunken Flash Thompson to drive a truck into Midtown High School, resulting in an accident that causes Thompson brain damage. This successfully enrages Parker into what Osborn anticipates will be a climactic battle. During this confrontation, an emotionally weary Parker tells Osborn he is tired of their constant battle, and declares a truce.
Osborn's Green Goblin identity is revealed to the public once again through an investigation by Jessica Jones, after Osborn murders one of the reporters from the Daily Bugle. After a battle with Spider-Man and Luke Cage, Osborn is arrested and sent to prison for the first time. Things were far from over, however. From behind bars, Osborn again masterminded a plan against Spider-Man. This time, he has MacDonald "Mac" Gargan kidnap Aunt May. The plan was for Spider-Man to break Osborn out of prison in exchange for his aunt's life. Peter reluctantly agreed and with the help of the Black Cat proceeded to break Osborn out, only to have twelve of his greatest enemies waiting for him on the outside.
Osborn had assembled a team of supervillains, which included Gargan, newly bonded with the Venom symbiote. However, Mary Jane had contacted SHIELD, and the villains were faced not only by Spider-Man, but the combined might of Captain America, Iron Man, Yellowjacket, Daredevil and the Fantastic Four. During the fracas, the Green Goblin manages to escape and kidnap Mary Jane Watson, taking her to the George Washington Bridge in order to replay his murder of Gwen Stacy. However, a drugged Doctor Octopus intervenes, attacking the Green Goblin. Spider-Man is able to save Mary Jane after a bolt of lightning sends the two villains into the river. Following some verbal clues from the Green Goblin, Peter also discovers where he had hidden Aunt May, and rescues her as well. It is revealed that Osborn sent Peter a letter before the fight, thanking Peter for giving his life meaning and purpose, but Peter never received the letter due to moving from his residence. After this battle, Osborn attempts to escape to Paris, but is apprehended by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
Years after Gwen Stacy's death, it is revealed that Osborn had a one-night stand with Gwen after she was overwhelmed by his charisma, which led to Gwen's pregnancy with her twin children Gabriel and Sarah. Osborn thus has three motives for killing Gwen; revenge against Spider-Man, to prevent Gwen talking of their affair and creating a scandal, and to take their children to raise by himself thus becoming his ideal heirs. Mary Jane Watson was the only person who knew of their liaison and their children's existence prior to her eventual relationship with Peter, despising Osborn for his immoral behaviors long before through her later romance with Spider-Man discovering he is the villainous Green Goblin.
The children, who rapidly aged to adulthood years shortly after Gwen's death, return to attack Peter; they believe that he is their father who abandoned them and responsible for Gwen's death. However, after Peter learned the details of Gwen's past with Osborn and the twins from Mary Jane, he is able to convince Sarah of Osborn's villainy, the truth of her paternity and circumstances of her mother's death, and stabilized her physiology with a blood transfusion. However, even after Gabriel himself learns the truth of his relation to Osborn after watching a video message from him at one of the Green Goblin's lairs, he aligns with his father despite knowing he killed his mother, stabilizing his own condition using a variation of the Goblin formula, and like his father, at the cost of his sanity.
H.A.M.M.E.R. and the Dark Avengers
Norman Osborn attempts to distance himself from his Green Goblin persona after being prescribed medication for his mental state. During the "Civil War" over the Superhuman Registration Act, Osborn is appointed director of the Thunderbolts superhero team, now tasked to apprehend anyone who resists registering. While in this capacity, he directs the Thunderbolts to apprehend or kill Spider-Man, but after Mephisto changes reality, Harry Osborn is alive once more, and no one (including Norman) knows Spider-Man's secret identity. In the end, Spider-Man manages to evade this coordinated attack and escape.
During the "Secret Invasion" by shape-shifting extra-terrestrials, the Skrulls, Osborn shoots and kills the Skrull queen Veranke. He leverages this widely publicized success, positioning himself as the new director of the S.H.I.E.L.D.-like paramilitary force H.A.M.M.E.R. to advance his agenda, while using his public image to start his own Dark Avengers, substituting Moonstone for Ms. Marvel, Bullseye for Hawkeye, Venom for Spider-Man, Daken for Wolverine and Noh-Varr for Captain Marvel, as well as manipulating Ares and the Sentry into helping to further his cause.
Osborn himself leads his Dark Avengers as the Iron Patriot, a suit of armor fashioned by himself after Iron Man's armor with Captain America's American flag colors. Osborn simultaneously forms the Cabal alliance with Doctor Doom, Emma Frost, Namor, Loki and the Hood, but this 'alliance' quickly falls apart when Namor and Frost betray the Cabal to aid the X-Men.
Norman's attempts to exert his authority are increasingly jeopardized by various superheroes. After Stark deletes the Registration records so that Osborn has no access to the information recorded about heroes after the Act was implemented, Osborn is tricked into attacking a brain-damaged Tony Stark in an original Iron Man suit, thus showing Osborn brutally assaulting a physically and mentally incapable Stark that was not even attempting to strike back.
Harry Osborn is approached by Norman with the offer of a job within his father's personal Avengers. Harry initially declines, but after a visit from Lily Hollister revealing that she is pregnant, he accepts. Norman welcomes him into Avengers Tower and wants to make Harry into the American Son. Harry is shown to have an ulterior motive, however, based on his compulsion to protect Lily and his child. Disabling the camera in his room, Harry sneaks off. He finds a cure for Lilly's Green Goblin condition that will be safe for both her and the baby, but she pushes him away. Lily reveals that it is a ruse to coerce Harry into becoming American Son, whom Norman had plotted would die in a tragedy to increase sympathy for Norman and his Avengers. She also reveals that the baby is not Harry's but in fact Norman's. In retaliation for this, Harry dons his American Son armor, and fights Norman in his Iron Patriot armor.
During the battle, Norman declares that Harry is no longer his son, and that he has bred a better child to replace the 'failure' of Harry. After further taunts from Norman, Harry lashes out and defeats his father, declaring "I was never your son!". When Harry has the option of killing Norman, Spider-Man tells him to decapitate him, since Norman's healing factor may repair a blow to the head. Spider-Man also cautions Harry that killing Norman will cause Harry to "become the son Norman always wanted". Seeing what he may become with his actions, Harry instead backs down, and turns away from his father forever.
After the New Avengers are forced to allow Osborn to capture Luke Cage when he needs medical treatment, the team uses a tracking device Osborn had planted in Cage to trick him into blowing up his own house, after rescuing Cage from Osborn's custody. Osborn then creates a rationale to invade Asgard, claiming it poses a national security threat. During a pitched battle with several superheroes, Sentry causes Thor's world to fall to Earth. In the middle of Osborn's fight with Captain America, Stark removes Osborn's armor remotely, revealing Osborn used green facepaint to create a goblin-like look. Osborn screams that they do not know what they have done, only for Spider-Man to knock him down. He tells them they are all dead as the Void is released. Osborn knocks out Rogers and tries to escape, but is captured by Volstagg. Incarcerated in The Raft penitentiary, he blames his Green Goblin alter-ego for ruining his chance to protect the world as Iron Patriot.
When transferred to a secret underwater government base, Osborn takes steps to ensure his release from prison. He uses a group of followers known as the 'Green Goblin Cult' to break out with the aid of corrupt senators; he plans to turn himself in after killing his fellow escapees, setting him up as a 'champion' of the judicial system. After the breakout he awaits his trial in a new prison, this one controlled by his cult members. Using his staged persona as a voice for the 'disenfranchised', Osborn plans to regain the Iron Patriot armor and creates a new team of Dark Avengers, this time substituting June Covington for Scarlet Witch, Ai Apaec for Spider-Man, Barney Barton for Hawkeye, Skaar for Hulk, Superia for Ms. Marvel, Gorgon for Wolverine and an A.I.M.-rebuilt Ragnarok for Thor. In the team's first fight with the New Avengers, Osborn reveals he has the Super-Adaptoid's powers, declares himself the head of world security, and orders that the Avengers be arrested for war crimes. However, double agent Skaar betrays Osborn, allowing the Avengers to dogpile Osborn's body, overloading him with superpowers and sending him into a coma. A.I.M. and HYDRA pick up Osborn's leftover resources, and H.A.M.M.E.R. is disbanded. After the Hobgoblin returns to New York, a nurse and doctor are called to Norman's hospital room, only to find him gone.
The Goblin King
When the children that work for the Vulture are discussing what to do after Superior Spider-Man (Otto Octavius's mind in Spider-Man's body) brutally defeats the Vulture, the Green Goblin approaches them and tells them that he will be the one that crushes Superior Spider-Man. Green Goblin is later shown having gathered a new gang of followers together in the sewers formed from discarded members of other villains' gangs like Vulture, Owl and the third White Dragon's gangs. These henchmen escaped their organisations unharmed because Superior Spider-Man is more focused on the larger threats (where the original Spider-Man would focus on individuals).
As he builds this army to attack Superior Spider-Man, Norman takes on the new alias of the Goblin King. The Hand ninjas who evaded capture arrive at the sewers and join up with Goblin King's Goblin Underground. The group revels in the news that, thanks to Superior Spider-Man's assault, the Goblin King now owns over the half of New York's organized crime. He claims he now owns New York City as the Goblin Kingpin of Crime. With the help of Menace, the Goblin King later releases Phil Urich from a prison transport, and upgrades Urich's Goblin armor and weapons. Goblin King asks in return only that Urich dedicate his only identity from here on as the Goblin Knight. Goblin King trains Goblin Knight, anxious to confront Superior Spider-Man. Goblin King later poses as Hobgoblin and is sighted by some of the Spiderlings.
Upon Carlie Cooper being brought to the Goblin King's lair by Menace, he receives Carlie's journal from Menace which reveals to him that Otto's mind is in Spider-Man's body. The Goblin King douses Carlie with the Goblin formula, causing her to mutate into the new superhuman villain Monster. He demands to know Spider-Man's identity, but Monster first asks Goblin King to reveal his own identity. Goblin King assures her he is Norman Osborn, but refuses to remove his mask ntil she has proven herself a loyal follower, and dispatches Monster and Menace on a mission. Goblin King battles and kills Hobgoblin, although it is revealed to be a servant acting under the original Hobgoblin's orders, with Roderick Kingsley still in hiding abroad.
Having staged a coup of New York after spreading his resources by exploiting Otto's reliance on technology, the Goblin King directly confronts Otto, angry that he was cheated out of the opportunity to defeat his enemy, but offering Otto the chance to join him. Otto rejects the offer, but when he finds that he cannot win against the Goblin King's resources, having had his new allies abandon him, and with his faith in his own abilities gone, he sacrifices himself to restore the original Spider-Man's mind. When Spider-Man arrives for the final confrontation, the Goblin King quickly realizes that the original personality is back in control when Spider-Man responds to his nemesis' taunts with his own wisecracks. In the duel that follows, Spider-Man unmasks Goblin King, learning that he has undergone plastic surgery to change his appearance, acting as the CEO of Alchemax and intending to re-establish himself as businessman Mason Banks, now that Norman Osborn has become too publicly known as a supervillain. Spider-Man defeats and strips the villain of his powers with a serum devised by Otto, but Norman manages to escape through the discreet aid of Liz Allan. In hiding once again, he reflects that the various heroes will be unprepared for him when he returns with his new identity and approach as a businessman, no longer afflicted by the mental illness associated with the Green Goblin formula.
All New, All Different Marvel
Norman's position as the Goblin King was quickly usurped by the Goblin Knight (Phil Urich). However, a mysterious man with a bandaged face is soon shown to be selling Goblin-based weaponry globally to attack Parker Industries. This man reveals himself to be Norman Osborn, alive again post-Secret Wars and still planning on getting revenge on Spider-Man. He is revealed to have played a part in the recent coup of Symkaria. He restores a semblance of his original features via a twisted form of plastic surgery, and intends to release a modified version of the Goblin formula to turn the whole country into Goblin-powered soldiers programmed to be loyal to him.
However, in his final confrontation with Spider-Man, despite exposing his foe to a series of gases to temporarily neutralize all of his powers, and triggering an EMP to shut down his web-shooters, Spider-Man is still able to defeat Osborn as the two clash. Managing to escape while Peter is distracted, Osborn resolves to find a means of restoring his powers, concluding that he has only ever defeated Spider-Man when allowing himself to draw on his inner demons.
Powers and abilities
Norman Osborn was turned into the Green Goblin by a chemical solution he had devised based upon a formula originally conceived by Professor Mendel Stromm. The process granted Osborn superhuman strength, speed, reflexes, and stamina as well as a low-level rapid healing factor.
In addition to these physical advantages, the serum also greatly enhanced Norman's already-above average intellect, making him a bona fide genius capable of making breakthroughs in advanced areas of genetics, robotics, engineering, physics and applied chemistry. The Goblin formula is also said to have driven Osborn insane; defects in his personality were strongly augmented by the serum, resulting in dangerous mood-swings and hallucinations.
Following his confrontation with the returned Spider-Man after his campaign against Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man's body, Norman Osborn has not only been 'cured' of the Goblin formula, but his body is now incapable of regaining his old powers. He has since claimed to have 'perfected' the Goblin serum so that it will grant the subjects powers while also reverting those he chooses to a more basic mentality where they will accept his orders.
Weapons of the Green Goblin
The Green Goblin is armed with a variety of bizarre devices. He wears a green costume underneath bulletproof chainmail with an overlapping purple tunic. His mask has a built-in gas filter to keep him safe from his own gasses. The Green Goblin's trademark weapons are his pumpkin bombs and razor bats. As their name suggests, the bombs were designed with the appearance of jack-o'-lanterns. These varied in function, from smoke bombs to traditional explosives. While the razor edged bat-shaped boomerangs-could cut through very durable surfaces and materials. The gloves of the Goblin uniform were fashioned with minuscule conductors that allowed for the release of electricity at nearly 10,000 volts of an undetermined voltage. Originally, Osborn used a mechanical broomstick to fly through the air during his first few exploits as the Green Goblin. The Flying Broomstick did not last long, however, and was improved upon, creating the Goblin Glider. The Goblin Glider was a more efficient flight system than Norman's Flying Broomstick. The Glider allowed the Goblin to carry a wide array of armaments, including heat-seeking and smart missiles, machine guns, extending blades, a flamethrower and a pumpkin bomb dispenser/launcher with him as he flew and had much greater speed and mobility than the Broomstick.
Weapons as the Iron Patriot
During the events of the "Dark Reign" storyline, Osborn created the identity of the Iron Patriot (an amalgam of Iron Man and Captain America) to cement his standing as a hero. As the Iron Patriot, he utilized an outdated version of Iron Man's armor painted in Captain America's colors. The armor featured superhuman strength, enhanced durability, flight, magnetic impact blasts, heat seeking missiles, miniaturized lasers, flamethrowers, and a communications system housed in his helmet which allowed him to interface with any U.S.-controlled satellite or computer network. While the original Iron Man armor utilized repulsor technology, Osborn's design does not; Stark destroyed all but one repulsor, and stated that "Oz is too stupid" to make his own repulsor-based weapons system. The star shaped Uni Beam projector on his chest, because of its shape, also has a less powerful output than that of the original Iron Man model.
Powers as the Super-Adaptoid
Following his time in prison, A.I.M scientists converted Osborn into a Super-Adaptoid, capable of absorbing the abilities of any mutant, mutate, alien, android or other such super powered being by touching them. In this form he possessed considerably increased strength and durability; where he was once approximately as strong as Spider-Man, he now possessed sufficient strength to overpower and throw Luke Cage a significant distance away from him. He could also levitate, and he was able to defeat the Vision in an aerial conflict between the two.
He is known to have absorbed the abilities of Luke Cage, Vision, Red Hulk and Protector, and it is suggested that he also absorbed the abilities of his current Dark Avengers. In his final form, his body grew to the Hulk's size, and like Hulk he was capable of creating shockwaves by hitting the ground or smashing his hands together. His durability was sufficient to withstand the combined attacks of all the Avengers, and he demonstrated remarkable healing abilities, recovering in seconds after Daisy Johnson used her powers to make his heart explode. He could also turn intangible by manipulating his density, as the Vision does.
However, Osborn had no control over his Super-Adaptoid abilities; he would automatically absorb the powers of any superhuman he touched, even if he did not consciously want to. He was also limited in how many powers his body could hold, as the A.I.M. scientists warned him that absorbing too many powers at once could overload his systems. In the end, he inadvertently absorbed the abilities of all the Avengers and New Avengers when they all touched him at once, and the unstable combination of their multiple different powers caused significant damage to his body chemistry, resulting in him becoming comatose. After he regained consciousness, these powers were apparently burnt out, returning him to his Goblin-level strength instead.
Norman Osborn has consistently been depicted with several unusual weaknesses related to his psychosis and to his personality. He suffers from manic depression, has a pronounced narcissistic personality disorder co-morbid with severe anti-social psychopathic traits, and in some depictions, a multiple-personality disorder. For some of his early appearances he and the Goblin were separate personalities; his Goblin side disdaining his human weaknesses, while his Norman Osborn persona was primarily motivated by his concern for Harry. Although his anger over his son's failing health as 'Norman' helped to provoke his transformation back into the Goblin, this supposedly separate and more compassionate side of him never reappeared after he was believed dead. Norman is also highly sadistic, showing a complete lack of empathy for the lives of innocent people who stand between him and his objectives. These weaknesses have often been referenced in stories featuring him and exploited by his enemies.
Norman Osborn is shown to be severely manic depressive. This has been referenced several times in a myriad of Spider-Man stories. When he is not under the direction of a psychiatrist and taking medication, he has dangerous mood swings. At the apex of his mania, he is paranoid, delusional, and suffers from visual and auditory hallucinations, including hearing the voice of his Green Goblin persona and seeing its face in the mirror rather than his own. Previously, Osborn's arrogance caused him to refuse to submit to psychiatric treatment unless forced to; he viewed mental illness as an imperfection and therefore would not admit that he is mentally ill. In later conversations with the Sentry, Osborn revealed that he had come to accept his own mental illness.
Superhuman psychologist Leonard Samson says of Osborn: "In clinical terms, the words psychotic and psychopathic are far from synonymous... but in Norman Osborn's case, both apply. I'd characterise him as a bipolar psychotic with concurrent aspects of psychopathic megalomania and malignant narcissism. In layman's terms, a lethal cocktail of intersecting personality disorders that makes him one of the most dangerous human beings on the planet."
There are many examples of Osborn's pronounced superiority complex, to the point that he will rarely, if ever, admit that he has made mistakes. He often transfers blame for his shortcomings to others or claims that he was better than he was; even before his accident, he spent more time providing Harry with gifts or outings rather than actually being there for his son or trying to listen to his problems, and nevertheless claims that he was still a good father, likely due to the abusive nature of his own father.
Having become the Goblin, he generally views other people as dim-witted pests, lacking in creative vision, unworthy to be graced by his presence. He goes out of his way to remind others of their personal failures and shortcomings and to remind those in close relationships with him, such as his son, that they are incapable of measuring up to his achievements. When he first learned Spider-Man's identity, he claimed that, when Spider-Man had defeated him in their previous battles, none of those victories counted because Spider-Man had only beaten his lackeys, or been rescued by the intervention of other super powered beings such as the Human Torch, despite the fact that he always departed the battles after Spider-Man's victories rather than trying to defeat his foe himself.
He also missed the opportunity to lead the original Sinister Six because he felt that joining the group would mean admitting he needed the help of others to rid himself of Spider-Man. Although he later formed the 'Sinister Twelve' when Spider-Man sent him to prison, he expressed anger at Mac Gargan for acquiring the Venom symbiote rather than using the new Scorpion suit provided for him simply because Gargan was not doing what he wanted, despite Venom being more powerful than the Scorpion.
When he participated in the mystical ritual known as the Gathering of Five, he appeared convinced that he would automatically receive the gift of power from the ritual – which would bestow upon the participants power, immortality, knowledge, madness and death, respectively – only to receive the gift of madness instead, subsequently requiring an elaborate cocktail of drugs to restore himself to a semblance of sanity.
During his time in charge of H.A.M.M.E.R. he was provoked into attacking Asgard by his Goblin side because his ego couldn't allow himself to consider the possibility that the Asgardians wouldn't threaten his power. Later events revealed that Loki at least slightly influenced Osborn's decision to further Loki's own goals. During his attempted takeover of Earth's superhuman security defenses, he was shown reflecting that humans are all barbarians who require the strong like him to control them, dismissing the Avengers as no better than him despite the obvious distinction between Osborn's demands for power and the straightforward respect that the general public have for the Avengers.
It has been shown that since having suppressed the rampaging Green Goblin personality and becoming the more dominant personality, Osborn has proven to be just as (if not more) evil and cruel. Osborn has demonstrated a high degree of sadism: while in prison, a guard once asked him for his advice in helping his critically ill wife; Osborn's advice led her to a quicker and more agonizing death. As director of the Avengers, he allowed Bullseye to continue to function as an Avenger, even after Bullseye allowed over thirty innocent bystanders to be killed during a skirmish with a supervillain.
As director of H.A.M.M.E.R., he directed his officers to shoot down an airplane full of innocent people just to see whether his enemy Pepper Potts was powerful enough to rescue the passengers with her Rescue armor. Because these actions threatened the hero persona he had carefully crafted some in the media began to see him for what he really was, and many of his highly credible former enemies spoke out against him. His Goblin persona vied for control of his body, as depicted in the January 2010 issue of Dark Avengers, where he is shown writhing on the floor and imploring, apparently to himself, "Why won't this face come off...?", and finally took over when Osborn's Iron Patriot armor was defeated by Captain America and Iron Man at the end of the "Siege" arc.
Since being cured of the Goblin formula, Osborn claims that his sanity has also been restored. However, he has expressed satisfaction at plastic surgery that 'restored' him to a twisted version of his original features, and intended to use a modified version of the formula to essentially 'infect' the entire country of Symkaria to become goblin-level soldiers without the intellectual capacity to defy him.
A number of alternate universes in Marvel Comics publications allow writers to introduce variations on Osborn, in which the character's origins, behavior, and morality differ from the mainstream setting. Marvel 2099 depicts Osborn has a radical trickster who wants to prove that Spider-Man (Miguel O'Hara) is in the pay of a megacorp. He has bat-like glider-wings and a bag of "tricks", similar to the 20th century version. He also has the ability to project illusions. In Earth X, Osborn's business ventures have completely taken over the United States. Citizens work in his businesses, shop in his stores and eat his food and is partially responsible for the deaths of the Avengers as he sent them to battle a now Super Intelligent Absorbing Man. In the Marvel Noir universe, Osborn is a former circus freak who was mistreated from the audience for his reptile-like skin disorder. This fueled his ambitions in earning his "respect" by becoming the major Crime Lord in New York. The Ultimate Marvel version of Osborn was an industrialist and scientist who is trying to perfect the Super Soldier drug for S.H.I.E.L.D., an obsession that leads to the neglect of his wife and son.
In other media
Norman Osborn has appeared in comics, cartoons, films, video games, coloring books, novels, records, and children's books. Osborn also appeared in other print forms besides the comics, including novels, children's books, and the daily newspaper comic strip The Amazing Spider-Man, which debuted in January 1977, with the earliest installments written by Stan Lee and drawn by John Romita, Sr. Osborn has been adapted to other media including games, toys, collectibles, and miscellaneous memorabilia, and has appeared as the main character in numerous computer and video games on over 15 gaming platforms.
On television, he first starred in the ABC animated series Spider-Man (1967–1970) and later on other animated series featuring the superhero include the syndicated Spider-Man (1981–1982), Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981–1983), Fox Kids' Spider-Man (1994–1998), Spider-Man Unlimited (1999–2000), Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (2003), The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008–2009), Ultimate Spider-Man (2012–2017), Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers (2014–2015), and Spider-Man (2017–present).
Norman Osborn was featured in a trilogy of live-action films directed by Sam Raimi and played by Willem Dafoe. Osborn was the main antagonist in the first Spider-Man film; he later made cameo appearance in Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007) as a halluincation in Harry's head. After the success of Marc Webb's 2012 Spider-Man film reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, which featured many references to Osborn, the character appeared in the sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, portrayed by Chris Cooper.
Osborn appeared as the main antagonist in the Broadway musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, began previews on November 14, 2010 at the Foxwoods Theatre on Broadway, with the official opening night on June 14, 2011. He also appears in the 2014 Marvel Universe: LIVE! stage show.
Comics journalist and historian Mike Conroy writes of the character: "Of all the costumed villains who've plagued Spider-Man over the years, the most flat-out unhinged and terrifying of them all is the Green Goblin."
IGN ranked Norman as the thirteenth greatest comic book villain of all time being the seventh highest Marvel Comics supervillain on the list. They referenced storylines such as "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" and "Dark Reign" saga as one his most prominent roles. While an ongoing comic book storyline during the time of the list, they praised his depiction in the "Dark Reign" saga stating that while he was once a great villain in his Green Goblin persona, he evolved past that when briefly being successful taking over S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers on his own without the Green Goblin persona. IGN then ranked Osborn as the 13th greatest Marvel Comics supervillain in 2014. Stating that "no villain has taken so much from Peter Parker or left such a lasting impact on his life". IGN also ranked him as twenty fourth on their top 100 villains list in 2016 being the third highest Marvel Comics supervillain on the list after Magneto and Doctor Doom and the fifth highest comic book supervillain with DC Comics supervillains Joker and Lex Luthor being the only other higher ranked. IGN ranked him as the second greatest Spider-Man villain in 2014 only behind Doctor Octopus. His rivalry with Spider-Man is listed as the second greatest archenemies in comics.
Wizard magazine also ranked Norman's Green Goblin persona as the nineteenth greatest villain of all time with Galactus, Magneto and Doctor Doom being the only Marvel Comics characters higher on the list. They also placed him twenty eighth on the greatest comic book character list being the fourth highest supervillain only lower than Doctor Doom, Magneto, Joker and Luthor. Newsarama placed the Green Goblin as the second greatest Spider-Man villain of all time in 2017 behind Doctor Octopus. CollegeHumor ranked him as the fourteenth greatest comic book villain of all-time. Complex ranked him as seventh in the 100 greatest comic book villains of all time. WhatCulture named him as the seventeenth greatest comic book villains of all time. Screen Rant named him as the second best Spider-Man villain of all-time. Comicbook.com placed the character debut in the third place as the best Spider-Man villain. GamesRadar ranked him as the third in the top 50 greatest Spider-Man villains. ComicsAlliance ranked him as the number one greatest Spider-Man villain.
- It is possible that Lee was thinking of The Big Man. The Big Man was a mob villain who, like the Green Goblin, was created by Lee/Ditko and had the mystery of his identity played up before being unmasked as someone Spider-Man knew from his civilian life. Moreover, later in the interview Lee suggests that he had the Green Goblin confused with "a gangster."
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