Harry Osborn thought he had found the love of his life…and I’m not referring to his ex-wife Liz Allan, rather Lily Hollister, the daughter of NYC mayoral candidate Bill Hollister. But after she turned down his marriage proposal (atop the Statue of Liberty!) back in Amazing Spider-Man #585, things took a turn for the worse. She declined Harry’s proposition because she felt that it happened 'too quickly' and she feared Harry’s unstable past. Harry didn’t give up on her though, and when he surprised Lily at her house so that he could explain why she should marry him, he inadvertently discovered she was the Goblin-like villain Menace! This meant the end of their relationship but the pain for Harry was just beginning.
Discovering that his girlfriend was secretly terrorizing NYC as Menace took its toll on Harry and he started drinking again. However, thanks to Carlie Cooper’s support, Harry was able to get back on the wagon and as a result he’s been attending AA classes. As a part of his rehabilitation, Harry is confronting some of his demons from the past. The number one demon on that list is his father, Norman Osborn, who (at the time this story takes place) is the current leader of the Avengers Team.
The second chapter in Amazing Spider-Man: Extra #3 entitled Nice Things features a flashback story involving a young Harry Osborn being raised by his father as a single parent.
The story takes place ‘over a decade ago’ and begins with Norman teaching Harry how to ride a two-wheel bike for the first time. Not just any bike either, this is a beautiful new red bike that Norman recently bought for his son so that he could teach him how to ride it. This story is told using Harry as the narrator and he explains how proud Norman was when he’d finally succeeded in learning how to ride the new bike.
But the pride did not last long, because soon after Harry began riding around town he was duped by some local kids. The kids tricked Harry into letting them ‘borrow’ his bike, but after he handed it over they just rode off with it and never returned. Harry recalls that day being the first time he had felt ashamed and he was afraid to tell his father the truth. He does eventually tell his father the whole story and Norman calmly tells his son, “Meet me in the car. We’ll fix this”. The two hop into the car and soon find the kids responsible for stealing the bike, in fact, it’s right there with them. Norman gets out of the car, reaches into the back seat, and removes a baseball bat. He then grabs the kid by his collar, throwing him from the bike. As the boy darts off, Norman smashes the bike to pieces right in front of Harry. After he does so, he provides Harry with some ‘fatherly’ advice, “Maybe next time you’ll remember what happens to your nice things if you don’t take care of them”. Harsh!
The story then transitions into the present where it turns out that Harry was sharing this story with his AA class. He tells the group that there has been a lot of nice things in his life that he has allowed to be ruined and he’s decided that he doesn’t want to be the kind of guy that allows that to happen anymore.
On his way home from AA, Harry is approached by Lily who is on a Goblin-glider in the form of the villain Menace. She tells him that she’s ‘moved on’ and that she is going to continue being Menace. Harry warns her against an alliance with Norman Osborn because, as Harry says, “when he’s through with you, nobody gets to have you”. But Lily is gone before Harry can finish his sentence. The end…for now.
For an 8-page story sandwiched between two others, this one is surprisingly information-rich, which is certainly a good thing! Lots of stuff to talk about.
Starting with the timeline for this story, we know that Harry was off the wagon in Amazing Spider-Man #590 because he had reached out to Peter for help after he had started drinking again. Unfortunately, Peter was out of town (actually he was in the Macroverse) with the Fantastic Four, but Carlie Cooper was there to aid Harry. We also know that this story precedes the events of the American Son arc, in which Harry finds out that Lily is pregnant with Norman’s child. So this story featuring Harry in AA most likely occurs between the events of Amazing Spider-Man #591 and Amazing Spider-Man #594.
It’s a little more difficult to place the events from the flashback, but I did want to point out a few things. First, taking both Amazing Spider-Man #40 and Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #14 into consideration, we can postulate that Harry was in at least middle school when Norman was exposed to the Goblin Formula. I have my own Osborn timeline (which I won’t share here) but I feel pretty certain that Harry was around 16 years old when Norman got his Goblin powers. If you’d like to discuss why I feel that way, please feel free to email me. So this story precedes Norman’s exposure to the Goblin Formula and the reason I wanted to point that out is that we can clearly see that Norman was a little ‘off’ even before he became the Green Goblin. That’s important to note. Also, since I brought up Amazing Spider-Man #40, remember when Norman is telling Peter about his past as single father and he mentions all the ‘presents’ he would buy Harry? If you do, then you probably recall the red two-wheel bike with the big bow on it that Romita Sr. had squeezed into the panels. I’d bet that was the same bike from this story, but that is pure circumstantial speculation on my part and I haven’t confirmed that was the author’s intent. Still, it is a pretty cool coincidence!
On to the plot…is Norman a tough father or what? This story illustrates just how violent and unpredictable Norman’s mood swings can be! It must have been very difficult for Harry to cope with that facet of his father and it certainly helps explain the unstable character traits Harry exhibits in his life as well. You get the impression Norman was the kind of dad who would be fine one minute, next minute he’s punching a hole in the wall because you forgot to put the milk back in the fridge. Remember that back in Spider-Man: Revenge of the Green Goblin #1 Norman states that his wife Emily had brought balance to his life, so without her around Norman must have been a ticking time-bomb. Harry has an excellent quote in this story in regards to his father, “Even when he was good…he was still Norman”. To me this is completely in line with the idea that Norman never provided a healthy environment for Harry to grow up in and thus never truly loved his son the way a mentally stable father would have. Again, I just don’t think that Norman is capable of ‘love’ in that fashion, not after Emily died.
As far as the interaction between Harry and Lily at the end of this story, I found it interesting that Harry immediately expects that Lily is working with Norman. As far as I can tell, there was no direct evidence that would have made Harry aware of this alliance since he was not there in that prison cell when Norman approached Lily back in Amazing Spider-Man #588. So how did Harry figure that out? If he knew, why did he jump back with her so quickly at the onset of the American Son arc back in Amazing Spider-Man #595? So while I’m impressed by Harry’s astute conclusion, I have to admit that I’d really love to know how he figured it out or whether it was just pure gut instinct on his part…To add yet another wrinkle into this story, when Harry is passed out drunk in Amazing Spider-Man #590 he has the engagement ring (which was his mother’s by the way) that he had used to propose to Lily, but back in Amazing Spider-Man #588 Norman is seen giving the ring back to Lily as part of their alliance…how could that be? Seems like a continuity flub if you ask me, but it is of extreme relevance here because that ring could be crucial as to how Harry found out about Lily and Norman in the first place…
A little too short of a story to warrant a 4 or 5 webs mark, but then again, any story that features Norman smashing up a kid's bike with a baseball bat can’t get anything lower than 3 webs in my opinion. With that said, I think this was a very well written character piece on Norman that substantiates what we already know about that corn-rowed menace, 3 webs…nuff said!