EP0077: Spider-man: Revenge of the Green Goblin

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The Green Goblin has a plan for revenge…and it involves a lot of ranting. (of course)

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Transcript below:

Graham: The Green Goblin’s back and he has a revenge plot on Peter Parker. Find out all about it as we take a look at Spider-Man: Revenge of the Green Goblin, straight ahead.

[Intro Music]

Announcer: Welcome to the Classy Comics podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise Idaho, here is your host Adam Graham.

Graham: The latest trade paperback collection of Revenge of the Green Goblin, a story line from 2001, collects not just the 3-issue mini-series as well as the 2 issues of Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker Spider-Man but the rest of Howard Mackie’s run on the title from Amazing Spider-Man 20-29 along with Peter Parker Spider-Man number 29. So, this book also fills the gap for trades for that period between the next chapter trades and the start of G.M.’s run on Amazing Spider-Man. Issue 20 and 21 is a Spider-Slayer story and it’s kind of a classic, traditional story, pretty well done actually with Alistair Smythe out of the wheelchair and back for vengeance on Jameson and blackmailing him on how he’s running Spider-Man coverage in the Daily Bugle. Now, why he’s doing it this way, I’m not entirely certain but there’s a trap set for Spider-Man and for him to be followed by the latest incarnation of the Spider-Slayers. I should note that at this time in Spidey history, Mary Jane is believed to have died in a plane crash and Peter has moved in with roommates including Robbie Robinson’s son, Gloria Grant and Jill Stacy, the cousin of Gwen Stacy. Anyway, once these Slayers are activated, they are going to go after anyone who Spidey cares about. So, he’s got to disarm them, stop them and eventually find a way to defeat the Slayers. It’s not the most innovative plot in the world but it works well enough.

Issues 22 through 24 is The Distinguished Gentleman from New York and this goes to a point where the senator from New York is actually a dangerous traitor to the country, who is planning to use a plague in an effort to take over the world, eventually, but first he kidnaps the venom symbiote and Eddie Brock is mad at Spider-Man because even though Spider-Man pledged to leave him alone, his wife jumped out of a building and he blames Spidey for that. But after kidnapping the venom symbiote,
Ward just lets it go and tells it it can find its way back to Eddie Brock if it wants and so the symbiote crawls away, which is kind of an odd way for this to work, you know, crawling all the way across New York City but regardless, for whatever reason, Ward kidnapped it and it was included in the story, that was resolved and so you have this situation where Arthur Stacy, Gwen’s uncle and Captain George Stacy’s brother is really set on stopping and destroying Senator Ward because he was a traitor and he believes him to be the most dangerous man in the country and he actually begs his kids to leave town and his son actually says, “All this conspiracy nonsense is kind of what’s hurt our relationships”, but it turns out he’s actually right and you do have a really major threat for Spidey to deal with and it’s nice for him to have a battle where this scale is threats to him, to his loved ones and eventually to everyone in New York City and the country.
The plot is a bit nonsensical when it comes to the science of this and how diseases spread and how antidotes are spread. You know, for something written in 2001, it’s a little bit unsophisticated in that regards but again it’s not a bad story.

Then we get into the Revenge of the Green Goblin mini-series and it’s written by Roger Stern, who was a legendary writer in Spider-Man back in the 80s and it reveals just how crazy Norman Osborn has gone and his hate for Spider-Man and he has hatched a plot to get Spider-Man and he has preyed on Peter Parker’s greatest weakness, which is his willingness to use free tooth paste samples which he receives in the mail. Yes, that is right, Peter Parker’s life and sanity are put in peril because he took a free toothpaste sample that Norman Osborn got sent to him in the mail and Peter used it.
If Peter had not used it or had gotten that free sample, you ever get one of those samples and you just keep it around your house and you intend to use it and you never do? If that happens, then Norman’s plan collapses entirely. I think this mini-series, to be honest, was just a bit bloated. You have this subplot with Norman being in love with this psychiatric nurse, who didn’t realize that he was doing the Goblin thing until it was too late and this relationship doesn’t go anywhere.
It just kind of serves as a thin plot for just a lot of Norman Osborn sitting around and monologuing even though this is Spider-Man Revenge of the Green Goblin mini-series, it’s mostly Norman Osborn and I think that you could have saved a lot of time and money and had a better quality product if you just did a one shot issue because the upshot of this is that Norman Osborn hates Spider-Man, he blames Spider-Man and he wants to get revenge on Spider-Man and he tricks him into using free toothpaste. I mean, that’s pretty much the whole story and then that leads to the stories in the main continuity that tie into this and that’s Amazing Spider-Man 25 and Peter Parker Spider-Man number 25 and essentially it appears the Green Goblin is back in town and terrorizing people, people who Peter cares about.
The Green Goblin’s reappearance was actually, there were a couple brief cameos of it in The Distinguished Gentleman from New York story line where we get a couple panels of this Green Goblin attacking and it turns out that. Normie Osbourn, Harry’s son and Norman’s grandson is someone who Norman is aware of and really feels a fondness for and Peter assumes that Normie is a target and steps in to find Norman to make sure that Normie is not taken but, in a bit of a twist, and one that there actually were plenty of clues to, this Goblin, who is tracking down Peter’s friends and terrorizing them is Peter, actually, who has been hypnotized and who goes and rides around riding a goblin glide and flies around, somewhat awkwardly, dropping pumpkin bombs and doing Goblinesque things under the influence of Norman Osborn and his magic toothpaste.
I mean, I thought that was a clever twist though it was one that was…that there were plenty of hints about, particularly when you look at the story and you see a scene where Peter goes to bed and then the Goblin does something and then Peter gets up out of bed looking completely awful. So, it was somewhat obvious what was going on to the reader even if you can read the mini-series. Anyway, with this revelation.
Norman is able to capture Peter and takes him inside a house he went into as a child. It was a house his father sent him into. A house of darkness that defined his whole life. I mean, this is an attempt to make the Marvel Universe a bit darker in its origins and more gritty but really, it’s just a silly retco that doesn’t really deepen the whole Goblin mythos. The upshot of Norman Osborn’s revenge is that he wants to turn Peter into the next Green Goblin but for this final step Peter must make the choice himself. Of course, it’s a choice that’s given under duress without providing Peter any hydration other than drinking from this witch’s brew of goblin juice and after poisoning Peter’s mind through the magic toothpaste.
It’s a fairly good psychological battle though it is a bit talky in and I think you can say that about the whole Goblin story though it’s not entirely uninteresting like in that one X-men gambit story where you just had this incredibly boring monologue. Still, it’s a lot of text. It’s a bit overdone but still not really bad. However, Peter, when he appears ready to actually drink the goblin serum, he actually smacks it away and Norman vows to kill him as the Green Goblin. However, Peter actually manages to beat the Green Goblin despite having had no liquids for two days which should have left him in a weakened state and the Green Goblin is generally a pretty challenging Spider-Man villain but despite that plot point, I think that was a pretty decent turn but the Goblin ends up getting the last word.
He boasts that he won, that Peter was thinking about it and saying, “You hesitated and you’ll never be able to maintain that altruistic facade of yours. It’s going to crumble. The line’s begun to blur, hasn’t it, just for a moment. You’ve reached towards the darkness, you showed your true self. I commend you for holding out this long”, and that does kind of set the stage for future dark and depressing Spider-Man stories. Yeah, I guess, a really kind of a down note for this to end on. And, but that is pretty much the Revenge of the Green Goblin part of this but we’ve got about another 6 issues and an annual in this book.
Next up is The Mask and essentially the encounter with Norman Osborn has Peter thinking that part of his vulnerability was that he didn’t actually know his actually father and Norman was very fatherly with a lot of my boys in fact a ton of my boys, being constantly used throughout that story. So, he decides to talk to Aunt May about his father and she suggests going and meeting with one of his father’s friends. However, they have a good meeting but it turns out that his father’s friend is the father of the Squid. It was a super villain with multiple arms who’s rather lame and he’s making his living and as an enforcer for a local protection racket. You get beat up by a multi-armed mutant if you don’t make your payments and Peter confronts him and manages to defeat the Squid through using a sort of statement that his father’s friend said his father used and that’s taken at the end to be a moral about how Peter is like his dad. I mean, that’s not bad and it’s certainly a bit lighter than what we’ve been getting before but it’s also just yeah, it’s just not really a great issue. It’s just mediocre.

Issue 27 is the Stray and it starts with Spidey running to the cry of a girl who thinks she has her cat up a tree. Spidey climbs up the tree to rescue the cat but when he brings it down it is a stinky feral cat, who is not actually the girl’s cat, which turns out is in her house nearby. However, some hitmen show up to assassinate the cat and it turns out later that they were hired by Advanced Idea Mechanics, i.e., AIM, to hunt down and kill this cat for reasons. They don’t state the reasons because it’s not their job to reveal their client’s business and so we don’t actually know. This story is filler and it’s filler that has filler in it, There are not 1 but 2 two-page spreads in the story and neither are quite impressive enough to merit that much of an artistic display. It does have its fun moments and a good bit of humor but it would have been nice if it made a bit more sense.
Issue 28 is called Distractions and I should talk about Randy Robinson as Peter’s chief noticeable roommate and essentially, he’s very clueless and pushy. For example, he suggested selling off Mary Jane’s stuff as memorabilia and in the comics, Mary Jane has been presumed dead less than six months. So, generally not a good move. Then he tried to set up Peter with Jill Stacy and it was incredibly awkward for everyone involved and his thought is that Peter has to move on and that’s also what his friends think, given that it’s been six months since his wife had apparently died and of course, that’s nonsense. You can’t really put a time limit on people’s griefs or push them to go and start dating when it’s been less than a year when after they lost their spouse but in issue 28, he really outdoes himself, managing to try and set Peter up with a woman who is under house arrest for a crime and really doesn’t have the best sort of social skills when it comes to attracting most men. “Are you into Wicca?” is generally not a great opening line. Though you do have to give her credit for honesty for admitting her felony convictions.
Peter is not at all happy and he confronts his roommates and asked them whether Gloria and Jill were in on it and they said they thought it was a great idea but then he reveals that Randy hadn’t told them some things about the proposed date and he lists these concerns, the piercings, the tattoos, the witchcraft, the criminal record and it’s interesting how even though this was from 2001 how much society’s changed. I think today it would not be politically correct in a comic to have Peter not liking pierced tattooed women. I think that would alienate a lot of comic readers and probably the witchcraft too.
At any rate, this distraction is replaced by another and that is that the Enforcers, characters from Stan Lee’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man, are back and they are out working for the kingpin trying to assassinate a mobster who was trying to sort of go straight, named Jimmy G. Peter puts himself on the line as Spider-Man because Jimmy G’s tried to help him out and the Enforcers have got orders to not only killed Jimmy G., but also his family but this is only a distraction for Spider-Man because he gets mental images of some sort that Mary Jane is alive and so he goes out looking for her and it turns out Mary Jane is being held captive by a random guy who has mind powers and one day Spider-Man swooped down and rescued him and he learned everything about Spider-Man and his life and decided that he wanted it and he kidnapped Mary Jane and faked her death in an airplane and has been biding his time and working behind the scenes to do all sorts of nonsense and Peter shows up and the guy is determined to steal his life and become him and Spider-Man manages to save the day by, well, not actually doing anything. In fact, the would-be super villain decides he doesn’t want to be Spider-Man, couldn’t deal with Peter Parker’s pain and realized he’d just be trading his pain for Peter’s pain and just goes off and dies and kills himself, the end.
The story wasn’t entirely bad. I did like the part where because he was feeling Peter’s pain, the only way that Mary Jane could really hurt the guy was to hit Peter in the head with a chair. That, well, that was a funny part but other than that, yeah, this one was not a great story. It didn’t really provide a satisfactory explanation.
And then that leads us into Amazing Spider-Man Annual number 2001 and the issue Passages and Mary Jane and Peter are getting ready to move back in together. They’re having fun, going on a date, they go up to his basement room after visiting with Aunt May and having dinner and they’ve been having a lovely romantic time but then he has to respond to an emergency and she looks at some pictures while he’s gone. Then he returns from saving the day and she leaves him and she argues that they’re just not the same people that they were before. They’ve been through so much and she doesn’t think she can pick up and go on how things had been going and I think the story, it’s got a superficial adult feel. It’s certainly a heck of a lot better than what happened in One More Day in the way that it destroyed both of these characters is horrible character assassination, if you will, but that’s not saying much. It’s superficially adult but it just doesn’t ring true. It’s a decision that’s totally opposite of everything else happening in the story. It’s also not true to who Mary Jane is as a character. Though a lot of Marvel writers throughout the years got her wrong and didn’t really understand the character and thought the only source of drama that they could come up with her was to have her be a needy person who was acting like a harpy, unable to deal with Peter being Spider-Man and that wasn’t who this character was throughout the run and certainly not at her best.

Overall, this is a hard book to evaluate. There’s some good stuff in here but there’s also some really dumb stuff and it’s not funny dumb, enjoyable dumb. It’s just dumb dumb. The art is mostly tolerable and if you are curious about this era of Spider-Man and want to read it and maybe if you’re a fan of the Green Goblin, I can see this is worth checking out just to see this particular portrayal because it’s an interesting portrayal but overall, I will give the book a rating of not classy. Spidey had a lot of great comics and we’ll talk about them but sadly this wasn’t one of them.

All right, that’s all for now. If you do have a comment, email to me classycomicsguy@gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter at classycomicsguy and be sure and rate the show on iTunes. From Boise Idaho, this is your host Adam Graham signing off.

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