The debate over the best villain in comic books is one that rages on in every conversation at every Comic-Con, Marvel movie marathon and… ok not really, everybody usually agrees that it’s the Joker. But occasionally, you’ll see fans throw names like Magneto and Doctor Doom into the discussion. Every time this debate is sparked though, I always wonder why the Green Goblin isn’t put in that discussion as well.
Introduced in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #14, the Green Goblin did not start out as Spider-Man’s signature villain. He originally was just another “villain of the month” kind of character, but his popularity ensured that he would reappear in the books.
It was numerous incredible storylines and the torment he inflicted on Peter Parker though that secured Norman Osborn’s legacy as Spider-Man’s number one villain with a bullet (or a pumpkin bomb, I suppose).
When you have a character that has been in publication over 50 years, there are going to be some little nuggets of trivia that slide through the cracks of most comic fans. Luckily, you have one of the biggest Spider-Man fans you’re ever going to meet here to drop ten facts about the Green Goblin on you that you probably didn’t know.
Before we dive into the list though, I just want to make clear that I’m mainly focusing on the Earth 616 (mainstream Marvel Universe) version of Norman Osborn. I’m not going to deal with any of film, television or alternate versions of the original Green Goblin. If I was going to do that, we would be here all day, but for now, enjoy these top ten facts you didn’t know about the Green Goblin.
10. He Originally Didn’t Use His Trademark Glider
The Green Goblin’s arsenal of weapons is iconic. The electric gloves, pumpkin bombs, gasses (amazingly not his own flatulence) and razor bats have all been used by the Goblins. But what about his menacing bat-shaped glider? Amazingly enough, this wasn’t a part of the Goblin’s original bag of tricks.
Rather than the vehicle the Goblin is standing on, Norman Osborn originally used a jet-powered broom-stick to maneuver around. Instead of looking menacing, this machine made Osborn look like the least attractive old-timey girl riding a rocket ever. By the time of his second appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #17 though, he showed off his bat glider for the first time and has used variations of it since then.
9. Norman Osborn Was A Total Nerd As A Kid
Most people would take one look at Norman Osborn and think there was no chance in hell that he was anything but cold and heartless as a child. I mean, yes, he does dress up as a purple and green goblin, but that could easily be explained by his psychosis from the Goblin formula. But what if I told you Osborn was just like us; a total nerd?
That’s right. In Peter Parker: Spider-Man #96, Osborn drops a little nugget of his past to Spider-Man. When he was a kid, Norman actually read comic books! Not crazy enough for you? How about the fact that he wanted to be an author!? He decided against it because he didn’t want to be a starving artist, but just imagine that Norman Osborn could have been the Marvel Universe’s Stan Lee. Now that’s an alternate universe worth reading.
8. He Was Lex Luthor Before Lex Luthor
A common criticism against Norman Osborn from some comic book fans is that he is nothing more than poor man’s Lex Luthor. Both are insanely smart businessmen with an affinity for science and have obsessive hatreds of the superheroes they oppose. But Luthor clearly outclasses Osborn in terms of intelligence and fighting skill, so Osborn is nothing more than a poor Luthor clone, right? Wrong.
While the current version of Lex Luthor might be a suit and tie wearing businessman/criminal mastermind, he originally wasn’t that at all. Up until the DC Universe reboot in 1986, Lex Luthor was a typical mad scientist character who had no company to finance his criminal empire.
So who was the original businessman with a passion for science that terrorized a comic book superhero? Good ole Norman Osborn of course!
7. He Tried To Make Peter Parker The Green Goblin
After a while, you just have to admit that the enemy who keeps defeating you is simply better than you. In 2000, Norman Osborn reached this conclusion about Peter Parker. If he couldn’t beat him, he would have to make Parker join him as the heir to the Goblin legacy. The result of this scheme was one of the best Spider-Man stories ever.
For two issues, Osborn beats Peter down psychologically by convincing him that the light will only hurt him, that the darkness is good and his only friend. It starts to work as Peter’s spirit is near the end of its rope and he’s actually considering sipping the dreaded Goblin formula. However, Peter’s willpower wins out and he throws the formula back in Norman’s face and escapes from the Goblin’s clutches.
I give you points for creativity, Norman, but you gotta do better on execution my man.
6. Harry Osborn Isn’t Norman Osborn’s Only Child
Even the most casual of Spider-Man fans would know that Norman Osborn has a son named Harry Osborn. That same Harry Osborn is also best friends with Peter Parker, which has led to a buffet of fantastic stories involving this triangle over the years. But Parker’s relationship with Norman’s other two children is a little more complicated. Why is that? Well how about if I told you what these twins’ mother’s last name was? Stacy.
That’s right, in a 2004 storyline titled Sins Past, it is revealed that prior to killing Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #121, Norman Osborn impregnated her. Even crazier, she gave birth to the two twins (Sarah and Gabriel) which Osborn raised himself while he was recovering from his sudden case of glider in the chest.
The two twins have rarely made appearances in the Spider-Man books since that storyline, but nothing will ever erase the knowledge that Norman Osborn is the father of Gwen Stacy’s children. Blehhh.
5. There Have Been Five Different Green Goblins
While there may be only one true Norman Osborn (yes I know of alternate realities in comics, shut up), that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s only been one Green Goblin.
While the eldest Osborn may be most closely associated to the role, there have been four other “people” (I’ll explain later) that have taken up the mantle of the emerald goblin.
First up is Harry Osborn, who has spent the most time as the Goblin aside from Norman himself. Next up is Bart Hamilton, one-time psychologist of Harry Osborn who used his relationship with Harry to gain access to the Goblin equipment (but not the Goblin formula) but died quickly after trying to take over New York’s underworld.
Next we have Phil Urich, the first person to take up the Green Goblin identity as a force for good. While his run didn’t last long, he did add a new trick to the Goblin arsenal with a mask that shot sonic waves.
Last and most certainly least, we have some… thing. This lab experiment was created by Norman Osborn to throw off suspicion that Norman was the Goblin to the public and he eventually disintegrated into goop.
While he wasn’t the only Green Goblin, Norman Osborn was definitely the most menacing and most qualified for the role.
4. He Has A Healing Factor
*Yes, Osborn is currently without his powers in the comics, but let’s just pretend he still has them alright? Alright.
Once Norman Osborn bathed in the Goblin formula, he was granted a wide gamut of super powers. It may have cost him his sanity, but the formula did give Osborn superhuman strength, speed, agility, stamina and enhanced intelligence. What a lot of people don’t realize though is that another power that Osborn possesses is a healing factor.
While nowhere near the level of a Deadpool or Wolverine, Osborn is able to repair massive amounts of damage if given enough time. This is how Osborn was able to survive being impaled by his own glider back in 1973.
3. He Once Tried One of the Most Ridiculous Plans In Comics History
Comic books have had some truly insane plans for world domination hatched by supervillains. Usually, you hope that villains in the tier of the Green Goblin would be free of these creative brain farts. But come on, this is 90s Marvel Comics, all logic goes out the window.
In a 1998 storyline called “The Final Chapter” (haha), Norman Osborn creates a “DNA bomb” that would disintegrate the human race into raw DNA so that Norman could re-shape it into his own vision. Only because of Reed Richards does Osborn’s plan fail.
Urghhh this is dumb. Dumb dumb dumb dumb. Prior to this plan, Norman’s plans revolved around ruling New York’s underworld while tormenting Peter Parker’s life at the same time. I have no idea when re-shaping the human race came into play, but it never should have come up. Ever.
2. He Almost Called Himself Mister Coffee
No, your eyes do not deceive you. I believe this owes a little bit of an explanation.
In a 2002 storyline called A Death In The Family (not to be confused with the iconic Batman story with the same name), Norman Osborn attempts to push Spider-Man to his breaking point and get Peter to kill him.
After a mentally and physically tiring fight, the Goblin and Spidey sit down to have a little chat about their relationship and then seemingly out of nowhere, Norman drops the bombshell that would rock the Spider-Verse for years to come.
One has to really wonder why Marvel hasn’t made an alternate universe yet where Mister Coffee takes on his arch nemesis, the overanxious Starbucks customer.
1. He Almost Wasn’t Norman Osborn
While it seems like a no-brainer nowadays that the Green Goblin should and ultimately will always be Norman Osborn, But it almost wasn’t.
According to Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, Stan Lee’s original concept for the character in Amazing Spider-Man #14 was for something completely different than what we got. Instead of the Green Goblin being a human being, Lee instead wanted the Goblin to be an ancient, mythological demon. Ditko though wisely stepped in and changed the story so that Goblin was a human instead.
Osborn’s identity as the Goblin wasn’t revealed until Amazing Spider-Man #39 (the first Spider-Man story without Ditko), but it was only because of Ditko that the door for Norman Osborn to become one of the greatest villains in fictional history was made open.