Return of the Green Goblin

 In: Rave > 2005
 Posted: 2005
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)

Hi I just wanted to talk with you about ur rant and ur review of Amazing spidey 39.

Before I get around to the Ditko/Romita thing I want to talk about ish 39. I love this issue and the issue that follows it they're two of my favourite issues ever. Now you seemed to like it yourself but you think that if Ditko was there it would have been better revelation yes? Upon hours of research I have found the possible and most plausible reason for Ditko leaving and that is the identity of the Green Goblin. As we all know Stan Lee wanted to make it Norman Osborn, a man who'd been seen in the background before and was shown as a somewhat shady character even on Ditko's run. Apparently wanted to make the Green Goblin someone we've never ever seen before. That's right the Crime Master all over again, sure I loved the master planner issues and he was only it for 2 issues but the Goblin being nobody after being around since issue 14? You said you were disappointed that it was Norman imagine the world wide groan if it had been Joe from down the street?

You also said in your review that Ditko created better villains than Stan Lee. I see your a fan of the infamous 'Lee conspiracy' which believes that Lee slept while Ditko and Kirby created all the characters and wrote all the story's and Lee just put his name on them at the end. The point of this being what? It would make sense today because Lee's name sells a comic but who was Stan Lee in the 60's? What would he have to gain by not doing any work, he created the villains and Ditko brought Stan's vision to life does that make Stan a worse creator than Ditko?

On the run with Romita, Lee did create his fair share of 'B' villains true but the run also gave birth to the Kingpin (who you forgot to mention isn't selective memory great?) and the shocker and before you laugh and say 'shocker sucks' in those first issues with Lee/Romita the shocker was dangerous it was well after Lee had gone he'd turned into a lesser villian. Lee/Ditko was about getting charictors created in some true classics and Lee/Romita created their own classics. Spider-man no more/the tablet of time/the infamous drug issues and yes the unmasking of your favourate and mine the Green Goblin. Maybe if Ditko himself hadn't shown Norman holding a gun that was going to shoot Stromm from a window 10 feet up then perhaps the fact that Norman Osborn was the Green Goblin may have been a much harder pill to swallow.

Also in the previous issue Norman's put a bounty on Spider-man's head (obviously not wanting to deal with him yet or maybe to soften him up for his plan of finding out his identity). This is very similar to how Norman still acts today manipulating people with his money and power to suit himself and oh look the name on the inside is Lee/Ditko. Also scripts that plot threads that Ditko and Lee worked on where used in 'Untold tales' which is in continuity and shows Osborn to be a threat since near the start of Spidey's career before donning the mantle of the Green Goblin.

Now onto this Romita vs Ditko nonsense. Ditko is great yes I didn't really appreciate his art when I was young but he's great but he's not and he will never be John Romita. Ditko was great at quirkiness and drawing really fun villains but Romita is a legend he drew villains the way they're still drawn today and despite not creating as many classic villains with Lee he blows Ditko out of the water. Laugh or raise your eyebrows if you wish but that's the simple truth, Ditko is great but Romita is 100 times better on his worst day.

This is of course my opinion only as ur rant and review was yours. I'm sure if you put 10 fans in a room together nobody would have the same likes or dislikes. Their may even be someone who likes the majority of Mackie's run it's doubtful but it's possible (ironically some of his green goblin stuff like revelations and into the darkness I like but there you go).

Anyway if you've made it this far good for you! I won't pretend to have read every issue of Spider-man or know everything about him but I do like to think my opinion is worth some salt. Then again your the one who's name is at the end of the article and I'm sure you don't care less what I say so there you go.

By Glenn Matchett


First of all, all opinions are welcome and respected here. So, I absolutely care what you say even if I don't agree with everything you are saying.

Second of all, we're really not all that far apart. I love Stan and JR's run on Spidey, too. I love many things about this issue. I hope I made clear how much I appreciate Romita's artwork and the suspense generated throughout this issue. I did write these three sentences after all: "Granted, I'm a huge Ditko fan but I think John Romita does such an admirable job replacing him that I can't complain. (And Anne Kong is right. Ditko's women are rather homely. JR changes that in a hurry.) And Stan pulls out all the stops bringing us the most suspenseful Spidey story since the Master Planner trilogy."

But allow me to discuss a few of the points you mention.

No one has ever truly determined why Ditko left ASM. Stan has frequently been quoted saying he never did know why it happened. Ditko himself won't talk. In a recent issue of Alter Ego (#50), Roy Thomas says he ran into Ditko a few weeks after he quit and asked him why he did it. "All I remember from Steve's vague response is a sentence fragment: 'Well, you know, when a guy's working against you...' I doubt if he meant Stan was consciously working against him, just that he felt Stan should leave things to him since he was plotting the book.", says Roy. So, while many people boil it down to a disagreement about who the Green Goblin would be, I think it's probably a bit more complicated than that. Steve, as the plotter, felt that Spider-Man was his book to do with as he would and he didn't want his boss going in afterwards and changing things. (This is not just with the Goblin but with every aspect of Peter's life.) That's not to say that Stan didn't have every right to do that but that didn't mean that Steve had to like it.

As to the Goblin, while it is generally believed that Ditko wanted to make the Goblin a nobody, I find it hard to believe that he would do it with the Crime-Master and AGAIN with the Goblin. He would know what kind of uproar that would cause. In fact, the only quote I've ever seen from Ditko about the Goblin refutes this rumor. It is included in the article "Spider Time" by Will Murray in "Starlog and Comics Scene present Spider-Man and other Comics Heroes" (July 2002). First of all, Steve claims that the character of the Goblin was entirely created by him. "Stan's synopsis for the Green Goblin had a movie crew, on location, finding an Egyptian-like sarcophagus. Inside was an ancient, mythological demon, the Green Goblin. He naturally came to life. On my own, I changed Stan's mythological demon into a human villain." Then he goes on to say, "So I had to have some definite ideas: who he was, his profession and how he fit into the Spider-Man story world. I was even going to use an earlier, planted character associated with J. Jonah Jameson: he [was to] be [revealed as] the Green Goblin. It was like a subplot working its way until it was ready to play an active role." So, if Steve is to be believed, he was definitely NOT going to repeat the Crime-Master "nobody" idea and he had someone in mind. (Perhaps, Merriweather, another JJJ club member.)

I agree that there would have been a groan if the Goblin had been "Joe from down the street". But that's just my point. Norman Osborn essentially WAS "Joe from down the street". Yes, you can argue that he was around as early as ASM #23, in the background at JJJ's club but, for all intents and purposes, Norman didn't show up until ASM #37. Only two issues before he's revealed to be the Goblin. And, as you put it, he "was shown as a somewhat shady character even on Ditko's run". But that's just what Ditko was doing. He was setting Norman up as the obvious answer and then planned to turn it on its head later. Having Norman be the Goblin after the obviously nasty things he does in ASM #37-38 is like reading a mystery and finding out that the killer is the most obvious candidate. You don't think that's disappointing? That's the kind of disappointment that took place here.

It seems to me that most people who love this issue unconditionally are people who did not read it at the time in the original sequence. If you started reading Spidey post-ASM #39, then Norman Osborn is and always has been the Goblin to you. You go back and read his appearances in ASM #14, 17, 23, 26, 27 and visualize Norman under the mask. When you read #39-40, they are powerful and satisfying. But I'm trying to convey the feeling of someone who read them at the time and who spent two years trying to guess the Goblin's identity, only to find out that they never had a chance to guess it. Not until ASM #37 anyway. And that's not much better than "Joe from down the street".

Yes, I did say that Ditko created better villains than Stan and I stick by that. If "the infamous Lee conspiracy" is believing that "Lee slept while Ditko and Kirby created all the characters and wrote all the story's and Lee just put his name on them at the end", then I am NOT a fan of that. I think Stan was very important. Clearly, he wrote the dialogue and was responsible for the whole feel of the Marvel Age. He successfully wrote comics with Gene Colan, Don Heck, Dick Ayers, John Romita, etc, etc, so obviously he didn't "sleep" while others were working. But the very amount of work he had to do moved him into the direction of writing in the now-called "Marvel style" which involved Stan only coming up with brief outlines and having the artist work it all out. With Kirby and Ditko, he knew he had two brilliant comics creators and he allowed even more leeway (no pun intended). There is no doubt that Jack Kirby created much if not most of the FF and Thor mythos. You have only to look at New Gods and Jack's other solo work to see that that is so. But Stan certainly shaped it all in ways that Jack could not. Ditko was given the job of plotting Spider-Man. This isn't conjecture. This is fact. By the time we get to ASM #25, Steve is given the plotting credit and he keeps it for the rest of his run. We can presume that Steve was doing plenty of the plotting before that, if we can use the time it took for Kirby's efforts to get an equal credit in FF to bear fruit as any indication, but of course we don't know for sure. But again look at the new villains during Ditko's run and compare them to the new villains during JR's run. Then look at Ditko's villains in his later work in the Question, the Creeper, Shade the Changing Man, etc. It's pretty clear that the Spidey villains are more Steve's work than Stan's.

This doesn't mean that I don't like Stan and John's run. Yeah, selective memory may be great but it doesn't apply in this case since I mentioned the Kingpin not once, but twice in the Ditko vs. Romita rave. 1. "MJ's first appearance would have never had that knockout quality it had if Ditko had done it and characters like the Kingpin would have never shown up". 2. "compared to how many new villains appear in the rest of Stan's run (Rhino, Shocker, Kingpin)". I agree with you that Stan and John created their own classics. I love Spider-Man No More, the death of Foswell, the Ock story from ASM #53-56, the death of Captain Stacy, the Goblin drug stories and others. In fact, if you look again at my rave, I don't think Ditko would have allowed Peter to become sympathetic to the counter-culture, which is crucial to the development of the character. All in all, in order for Spidey to blossom into what he becomes, Ditko had to go. But that doesn't mean his Goblin story wouldn't have been much better.

Your argument that Norman was set up by Ditko to be the Goblin doesn't really hold any water because Ditko has said that Norman wasn't going to be HIS Green Goblin. Therefore, whatever Steve had in mind with the rifle and the window 10 feet up will probably never be known. But he certainly had something in mind. Same with Norman putting a bounty on Spidey's head. Yes, Steve made Norman out to be a bad guy but that doesn't make him the Goblin. And besides, as I said already, these should have been red herrings (what JR called Ditko "setting Osborn up as a straw dog") to throw us off. Not obvious clues to an obvious solution. As for your Untold Tales argument, come on. Stories written after the fact use Lee/Ditko stories as a foundation. Just because you can later retcon things in doesn't mean Steve had any intention of doing such things. You can shoehorn anything in if you really want to.

As for your opinion that Romita is better than Ditko... well, I just can't agree with you. I love JR too and no one drew MJ and Gwen like he did but Ditko is the total package from which everything stems. A lot of this is a matter of taste (or what you were exposed to when you first encountered Spider-Man) and I'll leave it at that.

And, really, Glenn, do you think there IS someone out there who likes the majority of Mackie's run? Eww.

So, if I don't like Norman as the Goblin, who would I prefer him to be? I would have loved him to be someone like Dr. Bromwell or Mister Warren or even Professor Warren (before Gerry Conway made the Prof into the Jackal, of course.) But, really, I'd just like to see the story that Ditko wanted to write and I'd go along with whomever he chose as the Goblin. The fact that we'll never see that story frustrates me to no end.

As I said at the start, your opinion IS appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to write it to me. When I started writing the Lookback of ASM #39, I was pretty sure I was going to give it five webs. I'm as surprised as you are that I didn't. I just couldn't ignore what I feel was a botched job with the Goblin's identity. But I DID give it four webs, you know. That's pretty damn good, too.

 In: Rave > 2005
 Posted: 2005
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)