Green Goblin / Norman Osborn: Where Do I Start?

772689-166_drgoblin_covHe’s comic’s great bogeyman. He’s rich, he’s smart, and he’s crazy as a sack of cats. Marvel’s Norman Osborn — aka Green Goblin — is Spider-Man’s greatest adversary, and he’s grown to become one of Marvel’s biggest antagonists, even with that crazy hairdo.

Created by one of comics’  most iconic pair of creators, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Norman Osborn wasn’t always the Green Goblin. He was introduced as merely the father of Peter Parker’s friend Harry Osborn, and it wasn’t until nearly two years later that the pieces fell into place when the Green Goblin was unmasked to reveal Norman’s cackling face behind it. In the beginning he was merely a shrewd industrialist not so far removed from a pre-Iron Man Tony Stark, but after taking a serum to give him superhuman abilities he found his mind warped in the process. Adopting a costume straight out of your local Spencers and using technology from his tech company Oscorp, Osborn went on a terror spree across New York City and Peter Parker’s personal life as the Green Goblin.

After decades of terrorizing the webcrawler, Osborn graduated from Spider-Man villain to villain-at-large in Thunderbolts. That prompted his central role as head of the U.S. government’s superhuman taskforce H.A.M.M.E.R. (replacing S.H.I.E.L.D.) and through the year-long “Dark Reign” storyline, carving a place for Osborn as one of Marvel’s most recognizable and feared villains. And in this week’s Where Do I Start?, we sit Osborn down on the couch and try to suss out the four best stories to get to know him.

Dark Reign: The Goblin Legacy: It’s a book created for a very specific time and place — being Marvel’s 2008-9 “Dark Reign” storyline, but it holds up as a quick introduction to the Green Goblin and Norman Osborn. Forgetting the passable framing story, the meat of this is a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #39 and #40, in which Norman Osborn is revealed to be the Green Goblin. Despite the modern recoloring, this classic Lee and John Romita arc holds up as the quintessential text for Osborn. Also included in this is Marvel Universe Handbook-style entries about Norman and his associates to better know your neighborhood Goblin.

Thunderbolts The Ultimate CollectionSpider-Man: The Death of The Stacys: This two-issue storyline from Amazing Spider-Man was a turning point for superhero comics, and arguably the great Spider-Man story ever told. Norman Osborn, back after a long absence, returns as the Green Goblin and sets his sights on Peter’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy in an effortt to really bring the hurt to Spider-Man. Osborn throws her off a bridge and Spider-man, in attempt to save her, accidentally breaks her neck with his webbing. Cue Spider-man going on a rampage, fighting Green Goblin to (apparent) death from an impaling Goblin Glider.

Thunderbolts: The Ultimate Collection: Collecting Thunderbolts #110 through 121, this run by Warren Ellis, Mike Deodato Jr. and some fill-in artists really redefined who Norman Osborn is in the modern age. It retroactively became the launching pad for the year-long “Dark Reign” storyline going through all of Marvel Comics in 2008 and 2009. In this, Ellis puts Osborn (sans the Green Goblin mask) as head of a revamped version of the Thunderbolts, now comprised of super villain convicts the government hopes to make a wetworks squad. Ellis really gets to Osborn by going inside his head, harnessing the decades of wackadoo behavior into a riveting character that’s very believable and very frightening.

Spider-Man142Spider-Man: Revenge Of The Green Goblin: This great forgotten classic by Roger Stern and Ron Frenz has a monstrous story where Norman Osborn kidnaps Spider-Man and fills him full of drugs in order to provoke hallucinations and brainwash him over to Osborn’s side. Some gripping work, and a great untethered Norman Osborn.

Peter Parker, Spider-Man: Return Of The Green Goblin: Humberto Ramos has become the defacto Spider-Man artist of our time with his work on Amazing Spider-Man with Dan Slott, but he started long before Slott was even a force in comics. This early 2000s story by Ramos and Paul Jenkins was pitched as the final showdown between Spider-Man and Green Goblin:Peter a man without a father and Norman a man who lost his son (before he came back). After failing in a last-ditch attempt to convince Peter to become his son and heir, Osborn and Parker go at it and tear up some real estate and lives, including paralyzing Flash Thompson. In the final moments the adversaries’ punches don’t matter anymore and it all comes down to a riveting and frank conversation between the two that final puts Osborn over the edge.


  1. I hated Ramo’s art when that Peter Parker Spider–man arc came out. Which is funny cause now I love him. I think his style changed a little and so did my taste. Any one else used to hate Ramos but now love him?

    • Hate and love are strong terms, I disliked it when I first saw in one of the Green Goblin stories but after “Big Time” I started to enjoy it. He doesn’t hold a candle to John Romita Jr. IMO tho.

    • I actually used to like him a lot and now I don’t care much for him. I think his style now looks a lot like J. Scott Campbells’, it used to be more unique, and while I like JSC’s style, I don’t like it when it is used by someone else.

    • Never liked his stuff and I still don’t care for it. I’m loving Slotts writing though so I slogg through the Ramos issues…

    • I don’t like Ramos’ style at all.

  2. Norman Osborn is the best Spidey villain put there, (cept when Venom is in the room). His hair is enough to show he’s crazy, it’s always looked like sideways cornrows to me. Some of my favorite stories with him were “ASM:American Son”, “Deadpool: Dark Reign”, and “Dark Avengers”. Maybe “Siege” too, if you consider all of his crazy out of his goes moments together. His best stories are when you see him at his worst, he’s trying to hold it together, he’s got a plan and powers, but he’s just too crazy for his own good. Least that’s how I see him.

  3. Peter Parker return of goblin is one of my favorite Spiderman,stories