There’s always going to be a debate about who’s the greatest supervillain in the comic universe. We even can boil that down further to the argument of who’s the greatest Spider-Man villain. Or the question, who is Spidey’s true archenemy? But when it comes down to it, there is no villain who has caused Peter Parker more pain and trouble than the Green Goblin. The first time we ever saw the Green Goblin was in 1964, in The Amazing Spider-Man #14. He was sick and twisted, unhinged and unpredictable.
Initially, the Green Goblin’s identity was kept secret and there were a few different stories out there about who he was originally supposed to be—in the minds of the creators, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, at least. Regardless, Ditko left the series after issue #38 and John Romita Sr. picked up where he left off. In the very next issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, the new Marvel duo revealed that the Green Goblin’s secret identity was Norman Osborne, Peter Parker’s friend Harry’s father
Over the years, the Green Goblin costume has been taken up by several characters. There’s also been some offshoots of the character, like the Hobgoblin. Yet, most of the evil deeds, the worst of the worst, have been performed by none other than Norman, so we’ll try to focus on that. In fact, some of the most shocking events in comic history have come at the ends of Norman Osborne/The Green Goblin, so there’s no shortage of heinous acts to choose from for this list. There are also some events which have been ostracized from the Spider-Man canon, so we will also tread lightly where necessary. Norman Osborne has died, come back, killed many and maimed more. He’s conniving, powerful and psychotic. But what are the most terrible things he’s ever done? Here are the worst of the worst of the Green Goblin’s deeds: the 15 most heinous acts committed by the Green Goblin.
15. Tortured Spidey
After Norman is beaten by Spider-Man in The Final Chapter arc, he decides to try and bring Spidey in as his own heir to the Goblin throne in an arc called The Goblin Heir. To do this, he drugs Peter, weakening his spider sense and begins to feed him hallucinogens in his toothpaste and subliminal messages in CDs to trigger goblin dreams and hallucinations. Peter, at one point, passes out and wakes up in Norman’s mansion. Over an extended period of time, Norman tortures Peter, demanding that he embrace the darkness and drink the goblin serum. Peter almost gives in as he shirks from the light and reaches for the formula, but at the last minute he throws it at Norman and fights him, defeating him and causing him to flee. While not all of the torture is displayed, the implied violence is enough to give it a spot on this list.
14. Used Numerous Test Subjects
Norman Osborne has used a number of test subjects throughout the Spider-Man comics, testing new compounds on them and new serums, usually ending in their destruction. From the very beginning with the proto-goblin to the much reviled storyline involving Norman’s and Gwen Stacy’s children, people are only guinea pigs for the Green Goblin. It’s unknown exactly how many of Osborne’s staff and followers have been killed in the name of science and progress, so we will just lump them all together here in one sum. Norman’s insensitivity to these test subjects goes all the way back to Nels van Adder, the employee who became the proto-goblin and asked Norman for help. All he did was steal the formula and turn himself into the Green Goblin. He’s a heartless man.
13. Cruel Treatment Of Harry
More of a lifetime worth of events than any one thing, Norman’s treatment of his son, Harry, has got to be considered one of his worst acts. Norman is about the worst father there is. He’s never satisfied with Harry and makes it a mission of his to locate an heir who is a better man than his own son. On a number of occasions, Norman reveals that Harry is a disappointment and he has found someone more suitable to be his child. Due in large part to Norman’s abuse, Harry strives to become something like his father or even better than him, leading him to become an incarnation of the Green Goblin and eventually insanity.
12. Spidey’s Parent Decoys
Peter Parker’s parents have always been gone. There was never really any indication why they weren’t in his life until The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5 came around and revealed that they had been killed by the Red Skull. That’s also why it was such a shock to readers when they showed up in The Amazing Spider-Man #366 alive and well saying that they had been held captive all these years. Turns out they weren’t alive and this was all just a practical joke being played on Peter. These were life model decoys made by the Chameleon, who was working for Harry Osborne. After Norman had died, Harry picked up the Green Goblin costume and decided to get some revenge on Peter, and this, my friends, is a cold dish of revenge.
11. Made A Fake Aunt May
We always knew that aunt May was going to die at some point. Hell, Peter’s been fearing her death since the earliest comics. In fact, aunt May has died a couple of times and come back. Yet, there’s one “death” that involves the Green Goblin and it shows him at his worst. So in the comic, A Death in the Family, aunt May dies of a stroke. She says to Peter in her final moments that she always knew he was Spider-Man and it’s really beautiful. Except it was not what it seemed, like every death in a comic book. After Peter went to her funeral and mourns her and even moves on, it’s revealed that aunt May was just a genetically altered actress hired by Norman Osborne. The real aunt May was being held captive somewhere else. Harsh move Osborne, even for you.
10. Killed Songbird’s Mother
When Songbird’s (Melissa Gold) mother came to visit her randomly, it seemed like she was trying to atone for her past mistakes. It’s revealed that her mother is a recovering alcoholic and she wasn’t exactly a great role model for Gold when Melissa was growing up. Well, Songbird isn’t having any of the apologies or the excuses. She asks that her mother leave her alone and not bother her again. It’s then revealed that Norman Osborne is with the mother. Knowing him, he’s behind the apology as well, for whatever reason. Later, we hear that Songbird’s mother had been killed while driving under the influence. Just doing some simple math leads us to believe that Norman was probably a voice of encouragement for her to start drinking again and probably driving, too.
9. Killed Ben Reilly
Ben Reilly was the first successful clone of Peter Parker, appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man #149. Both Reilly and Peter Parker are unsure which one of them is the original and that question lingers over them both for some time. Though Reilly battled internally with whether or not he wanted to be a superhero, he takes up Spider-Man’s helm when Peter Parker retires. On one fateful mission, Reilly has his spider sense disabled by a gas bomb, and he is attacked by the Green Goblin and beaten to a pulp. Norman then tells Reilly that he is really the clone. Later, as a goblin glider is threatening to impale Spider-Man, Reilly jumps in front of it and takes the destructive force in his spine. This causes him to fall off the building and land on a car. As he dies there, he tells Peter Parker that he must become Spider-Man once again. It’s also revealed here to Peter that Reilly is a clone when his body quickly decomposes after he passes.
8. Turned Carlie Cooper Into Monster
Carlie Cooper is a childhood friend of Gwen Stacy and friends with pretty much everyone else that was introduced in The Amazing-Spiderman #545. She and Peter Parker get close and eventually even go on a few dates, smooching and everything. Cooper, unfortunately, learns the hard way what happens when you get too close to Parker though. While working for the NYPD, she confronts Doctor Octopus in Dying Wish, and she discovers that he was actually Peter Parker trapped in Doc’s body, hinting also that she knows Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Because of this, the Goblin King has Cooper kidnapped and brought to his lair where he asks her to reveal Spider-Man’s true identity. When she refuses, he sprays her with goblin formula causing her to change into “Monster.” In the end, Cooper is cured but she moves away. Though it didn’t kill her, this little torturous event is definitely one of the Green Goblin’s most heartless actions.
7. Buried Aunt May Alive
When Norman Osborne used the missing Aunt May as a reason to force Spider-Man to break him out of prison, we wondered if this would finally be her last appearance in the comic, but, then again, aunt May can’t really die, can she? After a whole thing about Mary Jane almost dying the same way as another famous Peter Parker girlfriend, the Green Goblin tells Spidey that May is “Down Among the Dead Men.” Spider-Man solves the riddle and goes to his Uncle Ben’s grave, where he finds aunt May buried alive in the coffin. Gross, right? She was attached to oxygen, so she was alright.
6. Intoxicated Flash Thompson
Flash Thompson is a famous character in the Spider-Man saga. He’s been a bully of Peter Parker, a college friend, an alcoholic, and most important of all, Venom. In an effort to get a Spider-Man by hurting the people he cares about, Norman picked Thompson up from his Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. From there, he force-fed the poor guy whiskey and put him behind the wheel. Thompson then crashed into the high school that Peter works at. Though Thompson survived the accident, he suffered brain damage and memory loss. The crash also killed Parker’s hamster, which Norman Osborne said he would replace. Maybe he’s not such a bad guy after all.
5. Killed Seward Trainer
Originally Seward Trainer was hired to spy on the cloning experiments that involved Spider-Man. When he was caught in the act, he was blackmailed by Norman Osborne and his posse. The first order of blackmail was to mess with the cloning results. He was told to switch the results so that Ben Reilly was listed as the original and Peter Parker as the clone. This worked. Reilly and Parker believed the results and essentially switched lives, with Reilly becoming Spider-Man and Peter Parker moving away to a normal life. Soon after, however, Peter Parker came back after he discovered some clues that led him to believe they were being duped. It all came out into the open when they were attacked by Hobgoblin and Trainer saved Reilly’s life. Then Trainer went missing. The next we see of him, he’s in a dark alley being killed by Norman and his limp body being thrown to the ground.
4. Kidnapped Peter’s Baby
When Peter Parker and Mary Jane got down to having a baby, comic fans were excited to see what kind of trouble this would bring, and Amazing Spider-Man #418 didn’t disappoint when the little thing was ready to come out. First of all, while Mary Jane was in labor, we saw that there was a shadowy figure watching over everything. After the baby came out, it seemed like it was a stillborn and a nurse carted it away. Next it was revealed that this nurse, Alison Mongrain, delivered the baby to the mystery man, who revealed himself to be Norman Osborne. Fans are still waiting to learn what happened to baby May. Is it dead? Is it growing up? Is it a Spider-Baby?
3. Killed The Wife Of A Security Guard
Norman is never helpful and, if ever he ever appears to be, there is almost certainly an ulterior motive lying in wait. That’s exactly what happened when a security guard who worked for OsCorp asked him for help. The security guard’s wife had been very sick, but the doctors could find nothing wrong. They searched for everything they could but she slowly got worse. He wondered if Norman could take a look at her. So Osborne agreed and took a look. Once he figured out what the problem was, he ordered the man to do exactly what you shouldn’t do with that illness. Soon after, the woman’s condition worsened and she became much more ill than she ever was before. She was rushed to the hospital and put on a breathing machine having fallen into a coma. Norman predicted that she wouldn’t live through the week. Why would he do this, you ask? Just because.
2. Killed His Dog
Animal cruelty is often considered worse than killing humans in fiction. In this case, it’s right up there. In order to show that he can take control and be powerful like his father, plus to save money for his family, Norman decided to kill his family pet, the dog. The kicker here is that Norman was just a child at the time. Now, we all know what they say about people who act violently towards animals when they’re young. This was also the first kill that Norman ever made, marking him as a psychopath and a villain from a very young age. It also shows how ruthless and dark he is at his very core. There’s no coming back from killing a dog.
1. Killed Gwen Stacy
Of course it’s the worst thing that the Green Goblin has ever done. It’s one of the worst things any villain has ever done and it marked the end of the Silver Age of comics. “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” is one of the most famous story arcs in comic history and it ran through The Amazing Spider-Man #121–122. It started with the Green Goblin abducting Peter Parker’s love and luring Spider-Man to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge. From there, the Green Goblin threw Stacy from the top, which caused Spider-Man to sling a web and catch her before she hit the water. Unfortunately, when he pulled her back up, he saw that she was dead, killed from whiplash due to the sudden stop. Many fans argue that this was the turning point for comics, that if someone purely innocent like Gwen Stacy could die than anyone was fair game. This wrinkle led to the Bronze Age of comics, which are considered grittier and darker than the comics that came before them.