EP0081: Spider-man: Origin of the Hobgoblin

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We take a look at the first stories featuring the man who would become the Hobgoblin.

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Are you ready to find out about the origin of the Hobgoblin? Join us as we take a look at Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin, straight ahead.

So I didn’t talk about the Hobgoblin stuff when I was doing my review of Essential Amazing Spider-Man Volume Eleven so that we could get in some issues that were not covered in that but rather covered in the trade Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin. The first Issues are not actually The Origin of the Hobgoblin, but they do tell us about Roderick Kingsley who would eventually reveal to be the Hobgoblin. And essentially the thrust of three Issues from 1980 was of Spider-Man battling Belladonna. Belladonna had a really strong sort of film noire look to her. Roger Stern was the creator of the Hobgoblin and he also wrote these issues. And it’s a simple crime story really.

It begins with some of Belladonna’s goons robbing Peter’s lab at Empire State University. He pursues as soon as he can and gets led to the studio of Roderick Kingsley, but Kingsley couldn’t be one of the goons who robbed him. Spidey says of him,”He’s too short, too skinny…and they used to call me Puny Parker!” But at any rate, Belladonna tries to rob Kingsley, but Spidey comes in and saves Kingsley from Belladonna, fighting her and her men, while she does manage to get away. Kingsley calls Spidey a ‘ruffington’ and says he made everything worse, that they would have just stolen some designs and he would have been able to trace those, and Spidey responds to this argument – particularly when the Daily Bugle was mentioned – by webbing Kingsley up and leaving him there to stew for an hour or two while waiting for the webbing to dissolve. Belladonna then sabotages the fashion show of Kingsley and Spidey once again rescues Kingsley, but Belladonna gets away by messing with Spidey’s vision when she hits him with some of her poison, which isn’t lethal but it makes it so he’s blinded just long enough for her to get away.

Issue Forty-Seven opens with a crime that the police attempted to blame on Spidey; however, Peter deduces that they’re not going to be very open to Spider-Man coming to look around the crime scene, but he decides to come in as Peter Parker, photographer – and he’s able to stay. And he points out some things such as the hand marks on the side of the wall, which indicates that somebody was out there, not Spidey and that he gets the police to see somebody was trying to impersonate Spidey and frame him. And Spidey immediately suspects the Prowler because the types of marks that were made were the type of things that the Prowler used to do. But Spidey finds that Hobie Brown who was the Prowler has actually retired, and he stored his equipment upstairs on the roof in a storage area in his apartment complex, but discovers that they’re gone. And it turns out that the Prowler’s tools have been taken by another Spider-Man villain, the Cat Burglar, who is really not all that effective against Spider-Man. He was from way back during the Lee-Ditko era, and he just gets totally overpowered but he does manage to lead Spidey into a room that locks and reveals reinforced walls from which he can’t escape, and that there is a death trap set by Belladonna because she doesn’t like Spidey and thinks he’s strange and that he’s gotten in the way of her plans.

And so you get a great cliff-hanger at the end of Issue Forty-Seven with Spidey trapped and seemingly doomed. However, while Spidey can’t get through the steel, he is able to break through the window. And he gets out to find that Belladonna, while it look like she was standing behind the glass…really was not…it was just a TV screen. At any rate, they do get out and Spidey escapes, the Cat Burglar’s taken to do with the hospital and put under guard, but the Cat Burglar eventually escapes. Meanwhile Spidey realizes that a woman who was in the fashion industry really does look a lot like Belladona even when she’s in her disguise; and so Spidey confronts who he thinks is the sister of Belladonna but is actually Belladonna, and learns about Roderick Kingsley’s overall activities and that, simply put, Kingsley tried to buy out the sister’s firm in Paris. But they weren’t interested in selling so he ruined their business with malicious rumours. So Belladonna sends Spidey off in the direction of Kingsley but then she calls up Roderick Kingsley and tells him that Spider-Man is now part of Belladonna’s crusade, and so Kingsley grabs a gun and ends up shooting Spidey when he comes through the roof. Meanwhile, while Belladonna’s trying to make a getaway she finds the Prowler/Cat Burglar there very upset with her, and the Cat Burglar’s ready to kill her. But Spidey springs out – it turns out that he had noticed Roderick Kingsley carrying the gun and so had thrown a mannequin through, thus saving his life and saving Kingsley from being convicted of murder. And so Belladonna is rounded up, but we’re assured that Kingsley’s going to suffer a decline in popularity in the fashion industry.

And this is all important to the Hobgoblin because Kingsley was later revealed to be the Hobgoblin. That kind of seems unlikely but it’s an interesting idea. We’ll take a look into the point a few years later in Amazing Spider-Man 238 and 239 when the Hobgoblin gets started. And it begins with Peter visiting Aunt May and thinking about his uncle Ben and how Uncle Ben died. And right afterwards a speeding getaway car comes by and he changes to Spider-Man and takes up pursuit of bank robbers. And he manages to capture three of them; however, the fourth one runs off into the sewer and Spidey decides to leave catching him up to the police, because he might catch him and he might not, and the sewer stinks.

However, this particular sewer is located near Osborn Manufacturing. Oscorp was not a thing at this point. And the criminal just happened to stumble on the Green Goblin’s old lair, and he tells another criminal about it who remains in the shadows. And they raid the lab of its equipment and of Norman Osborn’s journals, and our Mr. X has the idea that in order to cover their tracks so no one knows that they had been there that they would go ahead and set the lab on fire. Never mind that that actually ended up attracting attention to the fact that this was there, when if they just left everything intact nobody would know they had been there since no one knew about the secret lairs.

The Boss kills off Georgie, the henchman who discovered the first Goblin headquarters, and concludes his raid with the last one on his own after designing the Hobgoblin costume. He fights Spider-Man and is really in for a shock. He survives the battle and manages to get away, but really is stunned and doesn’t understand how the Green Goblin could even manage to stand up to Spider-Man for as many battles as he had. Of course, the story does have the fact of dumping a ton of guilt over the creation of the Hobgoblin on Peter – as if he didn’t have enough of that. Peter moved on to other things and Spider-Man had other adventures in the meantime.

The Hobgoblin was a shadow that was over him this whole period just because he had access to Norman Osborn stuff, and there was a concern that Hobgoblin might even know his secret identity. So, that added to a sense of kinship. But we don’t get another Hobgoblin story until Amazing Spider-Man Number 244, and I’m skipping over some of the stuff that’s not really Hobgoblin-related, more towards ongoing character stuff because Issue 244 has a lot of that in there. But there had been some theft from Osborn Manufacturing’s chemical division, and Spidey investigates and manages to catch the gang that’s behind it; but Lefty Donovan who is the main man helping the Hobgoblin gets all the information that’s needed to him so that the Hobgoblin can recreate the Goblin formula and be as strong as Norman Osborn was. The first attempt at this does not go well – it blows up in the face of the one who is experimenting on it, and we’re left in doubt as to who is who throughout this. Issue 245 actually opens with Hobgoblin’s mask pulled aside and Spidey looking at the face of the person behind the mask, and that does happen in this Issue sort of.

However, the man who got burned is put in the hospital for three weeks and can’t really say anything, until eventually he emerges as the Hobgoblin and really does have the super strength. He is actually able to throw this big, giant slab of brick from the Goblin Glider in one scene. Spidey does fight him and manages to get the mask off revealing the face of Lefty Donovan, who regular Spidey readers know would not be Hobgoblin since we saw him talking to the Hobgoblin the last book. However, after this reveal, the glider flies out of control and Donovan is killed and everybody but Spidey assumes that Donovan is in fact the Hobgoblin and that’s the end of the case. But in Peter Parker – The Spectacular Spider-Man Number Eighty-Five it’s revealed that that wasn’t the case at all. Lefty Donovan’s death and the public perception that Hobgoblin was dead was only a front so that he could better develop the formula, I guess, so that it wouldn’t explode this time; and so he actually bathes himself in a vat of the stuff so that he’s got the power and strength. And he goes out on the town.

At the same time a big focus in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man is on a romance or potential romance with the Black Cat, and the Black Cat is an interesting romance in that she’s the reverse of a lot of Peter Parker’s past girlfriends, who not only didn’t know that Peter was Spider-Man but if they had known really probably would not have approved. She loves Spider-Man but when Peter took off his mask for her she asked him to put it back on because she had a romantic idea of who Spider-Man was and what his life would be like, a Peter’s was just too ordinary for her. They’re dealing with this conflict when Hobgoblin comes about just…not really a specific purpose in mind. Really he just serves, despite the cool experiment theme, as kind of the Villain of the Week for the story. And the fact that when Spidey and Black Cat try to fight Hobgoblin they essentially step on each other’s toes, Hobgoblin gets away and Hobgoblin remarks that they’re their own worst enemy.

Now, I kind of get what Bill Mantlo who wrote this particular Issue – everything else in here was written by Roger Stern – I get what he was going for. But there were probably better ways to show it than this, because they’re both pretty competent fighters; and Spidey and Black Cat have teamed up and they’ve fought against each other, and are in the same class, though obviously Spidey has some additional strength, agility and powers, while the Black Cat doesn’t at this point -though I think there definitely is an opportunity for conflict when you have people who are romantic partners fighting together, because the protective urges can go into overdrive. At any rate, this leads into Amazing Spider-Man Number 249 to 251 which actually begins with members of an exclusive club some blackmail notices. Harry Osborn receives one threatening him with the revelation that his dad was the Green Goblin. J. Jonah Jameson receives one that threatens to reveal that he created the Scorpion, he helped finance it.

And so they go to the club…Harry had told Peter about his threat and so Peter went along for support but they wouldn’t let him into the club because he wasn’t a member. However, Peter learned the Hobgoblin was about so he showed up and Hobgoblin and Spider-Man fought. And Hobgoblin actually got the upper hand in this. He released a gas that negated Spider-Man’s Spider Sense which was something that Norman Osborn had discovered, and it would knock it out for quite some time. And he was actually ready to finish off Spider-Man when Kingpin stepped in, threw a tray to block Hobgoblin’s fire, and actually pitched a spider tray so that it missed its mark, right onto Hobgoblin’s person. Because at this point he viewed Hobgoblin as a very ambitious man and a threat potentially to his organization. And to him it just made more sense to have Spider-Man take care of him rather than risk this damage to the organization.

So, it’s a kind of a neat twist at the end of Issue 249 with Kingpin saving Spider-Man’s life. I also loved the cover of Issue 250 which brags that it’s a normal size 250th Issue, because so many magazines, comics, they – for every milestone – they would do a double-sized Issue. So, that was just a nice little twist. But, at any rate, even with Kingpin’s help Spidey can’t track down Hobgoblin because the way that the Spider tracers have worked since early in Spider-Man’s career is that he managed to tune the Spider tracers so that they would emit a frequency that would guide his Spider sense, rather than him having to carry along this tracker device. And so he can’t actually follow the Spider tracer at first. So Spidey tries to get information from the victims and he can’t do it. However, he knows one person among them other than Harrys, and he also knew Harry didn’t know anything, so he decides to question J. Jonah Jameson and finds him typing out a confession to be released in the paper admitting to his role in creating the Scorpion. And Spidey just lets him have it about how hypocritical he has been, and how in creating the Scorpion Jameson had done the exact same thing that he repeatedly accused Spider-Man of doing. However, Spidey rips the note out of the typewriter and says that he’s going to take care of it. But Jameson just starts retyping it after Spidey leaves.

And Peter tracks down an old Spider tracer that’s in Aunt May’s old jewelry box. And so, he takes it out and he has to deal with some problems with the battery and such to get it working again, but he’s now able to manually trace it and gets to Hobgoblin’s lair. And he fights Hobgoblin and the journals and a lot of equipment gets destroyed, and they’re both unconscious at the end of Issue 250; however Hobgoblin gets up and gets into his battle van. Yes, he has a battle van, and decides to run Spidey over. However, Spidey wakes up just in time to leap on top of the battle van, and he is right on top of the…on the windshield, and rearing back to punch and Hobgoblin brags about it that it’s made of jeth plastic in quote, “You need a concussive force equal to an exploding mortar shell before you could, could…” And then Spidey punches it and cracks the plastic and he finishes the sentence with, “scratch it”. However, Hobgoblin wasn’t done. He turns and crashes the battle van through a tavern, drive to the middle of the tavern and assumes that Spider-Man’s dead; but no, he is not dead. He had seen the restaurant coming and he had jumped onto the top of the van, and he gets into a position where he rips of the roof, opens it like he’s peeling back a can of tuna, and the fight goes on from there until Hobgoblin drives the van over into the Bay, and they continue to fight even as the water is sinking in, and the Hobgoblin’s triggered the self-destruct mechanism.

I mean, this is just such an epic fight! Spidey does escape before it apparently self-destructs, and a ruined Hobgoblin mask is found which is taken to mean that the Hobgoblin is dead – though I don’t think Spidey puts too much stock in that at the end of the book. And the story ends with Jameson actually following through and revealing his role in the Scorpion, and stepping down as Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Bugle, but staying on as publisher. Spidey thinks mainly to himself that he still hasn’t taken responsibility for the Spider Slayer stuff and indeed we already talked about The Revenge of the Green Goblin trade where he was blackmailed by Alistair Smythe over that. At the same time Peter comforts Harry over the revelation about his father, and just urges him to be a good person and a better example to his son than Norman Osborn was to him. And then Peter runs off, changes into Spider-Man to investigate a mysterious object, and is whooshed away into Secret Wars.

Overall, I really loved this story arc. It was the end of Roger Stern’s time writing on Spider-Man, with him shuffled off the title. And many people at Marvel didn’t really agree with his setting Roderick Kingsley to be the Hobgoblin. Hobgoblin developed to be such a major super villain to have some puny, weak fashion designer/whatever else hustler Roderick Kingsley is being the Hobgoblin could be somewhat disappointing. I mean, it’s like, OK, the secret identity of this great new super villain is some guy that I created four years ago as a two-shot character in a series about an obscure super villain. But I guess it does make it a clever twist, and it does at least infer some explanation to how Kingsley got all the money to do this, though it also doesn’t really provide an example of why he’s pursuing this life of crime thing, given all the stuff he has. And there are some things that are silly by modern standards such as the battle van. Why does he even have that with all of the gliders he has? It makes as much sense as the Spider-Mobile. The tension that Stern put into the story for well more than a year, and the sense of mystery that grew I think by breaking up the Goblin Issues and just having this sense that this Issue is still out there and this is something that’s going to come back to haunt Spider-Man was a really clever way to do it. I love the fights scenes in this. I also like the honesty that Hobgoblin has as he realizes what he’s up against, and how in saying what he’s fighting as. The Spectacular Spider-Man stuff from 1980 is probably just more fun, it’s just a general crime story; but these main stories from The Amazing Spider-Man are just fantastic, classic run.

So, I’ll gladly give this series a rating of Classy. Alright, that’s all for now. If you do have a comment email it to me: classycomicsguy@gmail.com; and be sure and follow me on Twitter and rate the show on iTunes. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.

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