Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 1996.

Background...

You want to talk Goblins? There is only one if you ask me. Forget all those Hobgoblins, at least up to this point. Demogoblin? Get it out of my face. All those other Green Goblins? Phil Urich, Harry Osborn, Dr. Barton Hamilton? Sorry, no way, not as far as I'm concerned. If you want to talk Goblins, you have to talk the Original Green Goblin. And that, my friends, is Norman Osborn.

But it wasn't necessarily going to be Norman Osborn. There was a rumor circling back in the 1960s that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko had a bit of a dispute as to who the Green Goblin would actually be. According to the story, Stan favored Norman Osborn and Steve favored Ned Leeds. (If there was one reason to favor Ned Leeds as the Hobgoblin, this was it...except that Roger Stern says that Ned wasn't the Hobgoblin either.)

In an interview in the Comics Journal #186 (April 1996) artist Gil Kane says of the early Spider-Man tales, "And by that time, as I understand it, Ditko was doing all his own stories. He did not talk to Stan, they were not speaking for about 18 months before he left the company. Since he worked until issue #36 (actually it was #38), he stopped talking to him at about issue #18. So he would outline all of these jobs and draw them and send them in. And Stan would write them without ever having said a word to Ditko."

Now, believe either one of these stories or not. (Gil Kane does go on to say of his story that, "It may have been apocryphal".) The fact remains that the first issue of Spider-Man written by Stan without Steve Ditko was the issue that revealed the identity of the Green Goblin and that identity was Norman Osborn.

The Original Green Goblin only appeared as Spider-Man's main adversary in 13 issues total. These 13 can be divided up into 4 major story arcs. The first arc dealt with the mystery of the Goblin and climaxed in Amazing Spider-Man #39-40. The third appearance was the famous "Comics-Codeless" drug issues in Amazing #96-98. The fourth appearance was the death of Gwen Stacy in Amazing #121-122. And the second appearance was....err... well, this one. The Spectacular Spider-Man #2. Not the Spectacular Spider-Man comic book that still appears today but something a little bit different.

Back in 1968, when only one Spider-Man comic came out each month (hard as that is to believe) and no comic book shops existed, Marvel decided to try to branch out to the magazine racks with a new quarterly publication. Dubbed "The Spectacular Spider-Man", it was a magazine-sized, square-bound book selling for the, at that time, exorbitant price of 35 cents. (Ten cents more than Annuals, for goshsakes!) The first issue was 62 pages of story in black and white. The second issue was 58 pages of story in color. The third issue...well, the third issue never came out.

So, let's look at this magazine's swan song. Appearing at the time of Amazing Spider-Man #66 (which, by the way, contained a cameo appearance of Norman donning the Goblin outfit that still has continuity buffs pulling their hair out trying to fit that scene into this storyline) and sporting a wonderful John Romita painted cover (and interior art), here is the Green Goblin's first appearance since losing the memory of his identity in Amazing #40.

In Detail...

Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2
Nov 1968 : SMURF 066.600 : SMURF 066.800 : SMURF 067.600 : SM Title
Summary: Green Goblin Lives!
Editor:  Stan Lee
Co-Plot/Pencils:  John Romita, Sr.
Writer:  Stan Lee
Inker:  Jim Mooney
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 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #9
Articles: Aunt May Parker, George Stacy, Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn), Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Gwen Stacy, The Jackal, Jameson, J. Jonah, Mary Jane Watson-Parker

At New York's exclusive Executive Club, Police Capt. George Stacy, Retired, is giving a seminar on "The History of Super-Villains". In attendance at the talk are Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson, Harry Osborn and his father Norman. The slide on the screen is of Spider-Man battling the Green Goblin and this picture is giving Norman a bad case of the sweats, though he doesn't know why.

Jonah Jameson, in a statement harsh even by his standards, says, "That blasted Web-Slinger should have been killed...just like the Goblin was."

Captain Stacy says, "All we are sure of is the fact that he (the Goblin) perished in a fire at the Osborn Chemical Plant."

Peter, now aware that Norman is exhibiting signs of agitation flashes back to his first battle with the Green Goblin, reminding us that Norman is the Goblin and that he lost his memory in the aforementioned fire.

So, we're up to date. No one but Pete knows Norman is the Goblin. Everyone thinks the Goblin was killed in the fire. Everyone also thinks, thanks to Pete, that Norman was somehow a hero in the whole affair. But Peter's whole imaginary construct is about to fall apart because Norman Osborn is so tormented by the sight of the Green Goblin ("This seems to happen to me... every time I hear the Goblin mentioned.") that he can no longer bear to sit still. He tries to bolt from the lecture but collapses before he can get out of the room. A doctor is summoned as a huge head shot of the Goblin seems to gloat over Norman from the slide show screen.

Peter is convinced that this incident is proof that the Goblin is resurfacing in Osborn's mind. He goes to his motorcycle brooding about his last encounter with the arch-villain. He relives the time when the Goblin deadened his spider-sense and followed him home, learning his identity. He recalls the capture and the Goblin's revelation of HIS identity. He remembers the fight, in which the Goblin took the full effect of an electro-chemical blast which obliterated his memory. He reminds himself of how he got rid of the Goblin costume and made Norman appear the hero. (You think maybe Stan was padding the story here a little bit?)

Peter stops by his Aunt's house and one of those wonderfully daffy conversations that Stan used to give to Peter and May ensues. "Say I must be at the wrong address," Peter says, "I thought my Aunt May lived here... not this glamorous fetching female who stands before me. Tell me...didn't I see you on the Dating Game recently?" To which May replies, "I declare Peter...you'll have me blushing like a teeny-booper".

Meanwhile, Norman Osborn has been taken to the hospital for observation. He has become feverish with images of the Goblin and Spider-Man circling around in his brain. Suddenly, the fog lifts from his mind. He sits up straight in his bed, raises a fist in the air, and screams, "At last...I know! The Green Goblin isn't dead! He never died! I am the Goblin!"

Norman hurridly dresses and leaves the hospital, shoving the worried, faithful Harry aside. Something draws him to a bad section of town. There he finds a dimly-remembered Goblin hideout. He dons the costume once again, vowing revenge on Spider-Man..."The most excruciating revenge the world will ever know!"

At Empire State University, Peter joins his girlfriend Gwen in science class. He is so worried and distracted that Professor Warren (gee, whatever happened to him?) chides him with "Mr. Parker if you must sleep in lab, at least be good enough to shut your eyes while you do so."

After class, Pete and Gwen visit Harry who tells them that his Dad has disappeared. This cinches it for Peter. He knows the Goblin has returned. He also knows the Goblin knows his identity. (We know it, too.) He takes Gwen home but is so jumpy on his own that he thinks a child's errant toy airplane is a Goblin attack. He uses his Spider-ability to leap high into a tree with fortuntately only one very small boy witnessing the event; a witness so young he can't get his older friend to believe him.

That night Peter has a full-fledged nightmare of the Goblin capturing him and revealing his identity to Aunt May. He leaps out of bed, determined to stop playing the victim and to take the offensive. He puts on his Spider-suit and goes out into the city searching for his enemy. The Goblin actually DOES pass by behind Spidey but thinks, "Not yet, Spider-Man! Not yet... So long as I know your true identity...you can never escape." Before Peter's spider-sense can fully tingle, the Goblin is gone. Spidey heads home and the Goblin moves to the next step of his plan.

Harry is keeping vigil at his father's luxury apartment. Suddenly, Norman shows up at the door. He claims that he was delirious when he left the hospital but his fever has broken now. He tells Harry he wants to hold a party to celebrate and asks for Gwen, Mary Jane and Peter to be his guests. When Harry invites Peter the next day, Pete is not fooled. He knows Norman is the Goblin again but he still agrees to go.

He stops by the Stacy home to pick up Gwen. (She is resplendant in a red mini-skirt, purse, and heels, along with a chinchilla coat and fishnet stockings.) Peter thinks, "How can I subject this gorgeous creature to the Green Goblin?" (Little does the poor sap know.)

On the way to the party, the young couple banter. Peter gets mushy which forces Gwen to say, "Whoa, Lad! Better drop anchor while you can! Keep talking like that and I'm liable to lead you to the preacher instead of the party." (Excuse me a moment while I get choked up here. I always did prefer Gwen to Mary Jane, even with the slightly-bizarre Stan Lee "hip" dialogue. If moments like this don't make you wonder "What If?", I suspect nothing in comics will.)

Peter and Gwen show up at Norman's apartment. Harry and MJ are already there. As the party gets underway, Norman begins a verbal joust with Pete, taunting his young opponent with comments like, "Tell us about yourself, Parker. I understand you sometimes leave the apartment for a few days at a time." As dinner continues, Norman gets more and more reckless, at one point saying, "We ALL have secrets which we hide from the world! Strange secrets known only to ourselves...Don't you agree, Parker?"

After dinner, Norman pulls Peter aside, putting one arm around our hero in what appears to be a friendly gesture while he secretly uses the other arm (well, fist, actually) to deliver a stiff punch to the gut. Peter realizes that Norman is getting too reckless and that anyone in the group could get hurt. Quickly, he excuses himself, saying he has to call his Aunt May. Norman keeps an eye on him but does not actually follow him into the other room. Peter takes advantage of this. He pretends to call him Aunt, all the while wrapping some webbing around one of his rolls of film and tossing it into the fire. (What was a fire doing in a fireplace in a room that was not being used? I guess the Goblin works in mysterious ways.) "I've made the perfect smoke bomb", Peter thinks. He goes back to the party but is so stiff and tense that Gwen tells him, "You dance very well, Mr. P.....for a statue."

Moments later, the web bomb takes effect as smoke fills the apartment. Harry leaves with MJ and Gwen. Pete uses the smoke as cover to climb out the window but Norman calls after him, "You fool! I don't even have to search for you. Not when I can make you come to me simply by heading for your Aunt!"

The fire department comes and discovers the false alarm (just some smoldering cellophane, according to one of the firemen). Harry wonders what happened to Pete and his father while Mary Jane muses that, "Maybe they found a cooler party". What they've both done, of course, is get into their flashy costumes, both of them heading to the home of Aunt May.

By the time Spidey shows up, the Goblin is already there, circling the house. And finally, on page 39, the battle begins. The Goblin has added a boring weapon to the front of his glider (which is to say, a weapon that drills through objects, not a tedious one) and he uses it to try to skewer Spidey. (Ah, if only he knew!) Peter dodges that but gets hit by a finger blast. (Um...that is, that laser type thing that comes out of the Goblin's finger....you know what I mean!) Norman moves in for the kill but Spider-Man is playing possum and he nails his opponent with a strong left hook. Gobby is staggered but Spider-Man is paralyzed. Yes, he is on the verge of winning but he doesn't know what to do then. He can't just turn the Goblin in. Norman will reveal both their identities. He decides to flee in an attempt to learn Gobby away from Aunt May.

And that's when the Green Goblin unleashes his newest weapon. He calls it his "psychedelic pumpkin" and it emits vapors that Spider-Man breathes. The Webhead immediately hallucinates a double-page spread of the Goblin and some lumpy looking monsters attacking and threatening to reveal his identity to the world. The shapes change to the faces of Harry, Gwen, J. Jonah Jameson and Aunt May, all shocked by the news of Spidey's identity, then on to gigantic figures of the Kingpin, Kraven the Hunter, the Rhino, the Vulture, Doc Ock and the Goblin, ready to attack. A giant Goblin hand reaches down to crush Spidey but Pete uses his will-power to convince himself that none of this is real. With that the hallucinations fade and suddenly Spidey knows the way to defeat the Goblin.

Using his amazing speed, Spider-Man jerks the Goblin's glider away with webbing before Norman knows what hit him. The Web-slinger leaps and steals the Goblin's bag of tricks. Then, to shake his opponent's confidence, he yells out, "Goblin, you're a phony. I could have flattened you any time I felt like it! I was toying with you till now...but you're too dumb to realize it!" Enraged, the Goblin gets into a fist fight but he swings wildly and Spidey punches him out, unmasks him, and pulls a psychedelic pumpkin from the bag. Thinking, "Everything depends on how much I've weakened him...and on the fact that he's mentally ill to begin with", Spidey subjects Norman to the pumpkin's strange vapors.

Spider-Man waves the Goblin's mask in the hallucinating Norman's face and tells him that Spider-Man and the Green Goblin are the two most horrible things in the world, are things from which he absolutely must retreat. The plan works so well that Norman tears the Goblin costume from his body when he realizes, with horror, that he is wearing it. In self-defense, his mind shuts out all knowledge of Spider-Man and the Green Goblin once again. Peter changes back to his civvies, removes all traces of the Goblin costume and rushes Norman to the hospital. Soon after, Harry, Gwen, and Mary Jane also show up at the hospital thinking that perhaps Norman had a relapse and Peter took him there. That's just what Peter wants them to think and while Harry rushes to his father's hospital room, Peter is free to go out to the Coffee Bean with Gwen and Mary Jane. "You must live right, Tiger", MJ tells him, but Peter, even after his great victory, is unable to relax and enjoy the night.

The issue concludes with a full-page "Next Issue" come-on. The illustration is of Spider-Man cowering by a TV camera, boom mike, spotlight and threatening shadow. The blurb says, "The Mystery of the TV terror!" My friends, this story is still a mystery because the third issue never came out. Several years ago, Marvel made some noise about finally printing this story in an annual but, as far as I know, it has still not seen the light of day. How about it, Marvel??

Finally, for all of you obsessive-compulsives out there (yes, you know who you are and you can count me among you), this comparison. "The Goblin Lives" was reprinted in Spider-Man King-Size #9 (1973) but those who have read only that issue have not seen the full story. For the record, pages 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 17, 21, half of 22, 23, 24, half of 25, 27, 28, 29, 33, and 36 from Spectacular Spider-Man #2 are NOT in Spider-Man King-Size. Double page spreads on pages 1 and 2 as well as pages 45 and 46 are reduced in the reprint to one page. New captions have been inserted to smooth over the missing pages. This has been a public service announcement.