Green Goblin: Who is the Emerald Psychopath?

Green-Eyed Monster

Green Goblin: “We all wear masks, Spider-Man. But which one is real? The one that hides your face… or the one that is your face?

The Spectacular Spider-Man “The Uncertainty Principle” (Season 1, Episode 9)

Halloween is in full swing. Parents escort costumed children as they trick or treat. Pranksters run from house to house, armed with rotten eggs and toilet paper. A merry time is had by all until a piercing cackle echoes through the air. Looking up, the revelers see something soar past the moon. A monster with green skin and a purple tunic crouched atop a bat-winged platform.

Machine guns sprout from the platform as the monster flies towards the panicking crowds. Several people are mowed down during his strafing run. The monster hurls bladed discs left and right, raising the body count even higher. Spotting a cluster of children, it tosses a Jack-o-Lantern shaped bomb. The explosion punctuates his laughter as The Green Goblin flies away.

The Green Goblin is one of Marvel’s cruelest characters. He started out as a pain in Spider-Man’s neck, but became his arch nemesis and a world-class threat. So who is he? How did he get his powers? Why is he Spider-Man’s most hated enemy? Let’s find out.

Chartreuse Criminal: Green Goblin’s Backstory

Goblin Mask:Remember… your little accident in the laboratory?
Norman:The performance enhancers.
Green Goblin:Bingo. Me! Your greatest creation. Bringing you what you’ve always wanted. Power beyond your wildest dreams and it’s only the beginning…”

Spider-Man (2002)

Green Goblin debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man #14 in 1964. He was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. He was envisioned as an actual goblin brought to life by magic before being changed to a superpowered madman.

Norman Osborn was the heir to the formerly wealthy Osborne family headed by Norman’s abusive father, who had run their business into the ground. A vengeful Norman rebuilt his family’s empire into Oscorp. A hectic schedule and hunger for wealth ironically drove him to neglect his own son, Harry.

An experimental compound exploded in his face and gave Norman superpowers, but drove him mad. He became a crime lord and channeled a childhood nightmare into his new identity as The Green Goblin.

The Green Goblin began a crime wave that Spider-Man couldn’t stop. After several fights, the Goblin discovered Spider-Man’s secret identity. He kidnapped Peter Parker, revealed his own identity, and challenged Peter as Spider-Man to one final battle. Green Goblin suffered a head injury during the fight and developed amnesia. With Norman Osborn unable to remember his alter-ego, Spider-Man thought the threat of the Green Goblin was gone forever. How wrong he was.

Sins Past: Green Goblin’s History

Green Goblin:You’ve spun your last web, Spider-Man. Had you not been so selfish, your little girlfriend’s death would have been quick and painless. But now that you’ve really pissed me off… I’m gonna finish her, nice and slow.”

Spider-Man (2002)

The amnesia wasn’t a cure-all. Norman would regain his memories when stressed or confronted by a reminder of the Green Goblin, attacking Spider-Man until the memory loss took hold again. The most severe relapse occurred when Norman’s son Harry nearly died of a drug overdose.

Blaming Peter for his son’s overdose, Green Goblin kidnapped Peter’s fiance, Gwen Stacy. During the ensuing fight, Gwen was knocked off the side of a bridge and suffered a broken neck when Spider-Man tried to save her. An enraged Spider-Man tried to kill Green Goblin, but the Goblin accidentally impaled himself on his glider.

A previously unknown healing factor allowed Osborn to reawaken in the morgue. Realizing this was the perfect way to fake his death, he fled to Europe to plot against Spider-Man. Green Goblin was used as the final Deus ex Machina to resolve an event called The Clone Saga that revealed him as the ultimate mastermind behind that convoluted story. Even worse, his actions caused Spider-Man’s wife, Mary Jane to miscarry.

Spider-Man already had plenty of reasons to hate the Green Goblin, but one was so icky that Marvel had to retcon the entire story out of existence. The infamous story Sins Past revealed that Osborn had an affair with Gwen Stacy and fathered twin children by her. He then raised the Goblin Twins to think that Spider-Man was their father and had purposely killed their mother. Can you guess why this story was hated?

Dark Reign: Green Goblin’s Modern Stories

Norman Osborn:This is my country.

Thunderbolts #124

Green Goblin has messed with other people besides Spider-Man. After killing the leader of an invading Skrull army, Osborn used his influence to become the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. This led to the event Dark Reign, where Osborn had almost complete control of the superhero community for about a year. 

Osborn led a villain team called The Dark Avengers during this period. To appear more heroic, he traded the Green Goblin persona for a Captain America-themed Iron Man armor called the Iron Patriot. Osborn was finally deposed when he led The Dark Avengers and an army of villains in an attempt to conquer Asgard.

Norman Osborn recently starred in the event Go Down Swinging, where he enacted a plan to finally kill Spider-Man. He kidnapped the villain Carnage and stole his Symbiote, bonding with it to create the Red Goblin. The fusion of Spider-Man’s two deadliest foes pushed the wallcrawler to the brink, but was ultimately defeated when Spidey managed to scramble Red Goblin’s brain. Osborn was left thinking that he was Carnage and Spider-Man’s secret identity was Norman Osborn.

Grinning Glider: Green Goblin’s Powers and Personality

Narrator:Yeah, he’s riding around on that Glider thing
And he’s throwing that weird Pumpkin Bomb
Yeah he’s wearing that dumb Power Rangers mask
But he’s scarier without it on.

“Ode to a Superhero” by Weird Al Yankovic

The Goblin Formula gives Green Goblin super strength, speed, durability, and a healing factor at the cost of driving him mad. He also carries a “bag of tricks” filled with Jack-o’-Lantern shaped pumpkin bombs and bladed discs called razor bats. Green Goblin’s gauntlets can fire lasers called Sparkle Blasts.

The Green Goblin used a rocket-powered Flying Broomstick in his first appearances. Later writers realized that was too cheesy and his ride was upgraded to the Goblin Glider. The glider is more agile than the broomstick, not to mention faster and armed to the teeth. The most common armaments are machine guns, missiles, and payloads of pumpkin bombs for bombing runs.

The Red Goblin makes the Green Goblin look like a hooligan in a Halloween costume. In addition to all of Green’s powers and weapons, the Red Goblin has all of Carnage’s powers. These include shapeshifting, generating weapons, tendrils, webbing, and a bastardized Spider-Sense. But wait, there’s more! The Goblin Formula bonded to the Carnage Symbiote, removing its traditional weakness to fire and sonic vibrations.

All of these powers and upgrades cost Norman Osborn his sanity. He was already a greedy, bigoted jerk before the Goblin Formula. His insanity, villainy, and overall personality has made Green Goblin one of the most hated characters in the Marvel Universe, only slightly less despised than the murderous machine Ultron or unrepentant Nazi Red Skull.

The Actors Who Play Green Goblin

Len Carlson – Spider-Man (1967)
Neil Ross – Spider-Man (1981)
Dennis Marks – Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
Neil Ross – Spider-Man: the Animated Series
Steven Blum – The Spectacular Spider-Man
Steven Webber – Ultimate Spider-Man
Josh Keaton – Marvel’s Spider-Man
Dave Wittenberg and Hiroshi Yanaka – Marvel Future Avengers
Willem Dafoe – Spider-Man (2002)
Chris Cooper – The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Jorma Taccone – Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

Didya Get All That?

A greedy goblin who wants Spider-Man squashed.

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