Amazing Spider-Man #800 has delivered an 80-page finale to “Go Down Swinging” with one of the most dangerous showdowns ever between Spider-Man and his arch-nemesis Green Goblin. Norman Osborn has bonded with the Carnage symbiote and relearned Peter Parker’s alter-ego, forcing Spider-Man into a showdown for his own life and the lives of his loved ones. It’s bound to be one of this year’s most talked about issues.
That makes sense considering that over more than 50 years this pair has become one of the most iconic rivalries in superhero comics, giving even Batman and The Joker a run for their money. No foe has done more damage to the lives of Spider-Man or Peter Parker during the history of Marvel Comics than the Green Goblin. That is why we’re going back to the very beginning to look at their best showdowns over the years. From the Goblin’s first appearances during the Lee and Ditko era right up until today, this duo has remained relevant and it has resulted in some stunning battles across the years.
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #27-28
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Steve Ditko
This isn’t the Green Goblin’s first appearance, but it’s certainly his finest when being drawn by co-creator Steve Ditko. At this point in his career, it became clear that the Goblin was as important of an antagonist as Doctor Octopus or any other villain. His appearance had been worked out (replacing a broom with the iconic glider) and he was now operating in conjunction with other bosses. Unlike Crime-Master in this story, Green Goblin was here to stay.
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #39-40
Written by Stan Lee
Art by John Romita Sr. and Mike Esposito
This is the moment when Green Goblin became the Spider-Man enemy. After Ditko left the series, Stan Lee was able to decide the villain’s identity as Norman Osborn, the father of Peter Parker’s best pal at the time. The added complication of having Peter’s identity revealed made the Goblin his most dangerous foe. A convenient case of amnesia simply transformed him into a ticking time bomb at the end of this climactic encounter.
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #96-98
Written by Stan Lee
Art by Gil Kane, John Romita Sr., and Frank Giacoia
These issues are best known for breaking Marvel Comics free from the Comics Code Authority as the publisher chose to show Harry Obsorn addicted to drugs. They also brought the Green Goblin back and made his alter-ego Norman a more sympathetic figure. Instead of being purely evil, he was torn between genuine feelings for his son and the effects of the Goblin Serum. This led Peter Parker to spare his friend’s father again, one of his greatest mistakes.
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #121-122
Written by Gerry Conway
Art by Gil Kane, John Romita Sr., and Tony Mortellaro
If there was any debate as to who Spider-Man’s greatest foe was, this is the story that puts it to rest. It is one of the definitive moments in Spider-Man’s career, having already been adapted to film twice in some fashion. In addition to being one of the best crafted stories of the Silver Age, it reshaped the stories of both Spider-Man and Green Goblin forever, making the former an even more tragic hero and pushing the latter past the point of no return.
Spectacular Spider-Man (vol. 1) #178-184, 189-190, 200
Written by J.M. DeMatteis
Art by Sal Buscema
These issues comprise Harry Osborn’s swan song as his father’s villainous legacy consumes his life. In addition to be a gut-wrenching Spider-Man story, it’s also one of the best superhero stories about cycles of abuse. While Harry can’t break free from what was done to him, he is able to spare his family and friend a similar fate at the cost of his own life.
Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man, Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin
Say what you will about Dafoe’s costume, this is still one of the best comic book adaptations ever put to film. The rivalry between Spider-Man and Green Goblin is captured perfectly, including Norman’s wavering sanity, the danger to Peter’s loved ones, and their final showdown. Everyone who doesn’t read comics knows how important this rivalry is already because Spider-Man got it right on the first try.
Peter Parker, Spider-Man (vol. 2) #44-47
Written by Paul Jenkins
Art by Humberto Ramos and Wayne Faucher
Most of the comics surrounding Norman Osborn’s return from the dead were not what most people would call good. However, this short story left behind the plotting of “The Clone Saga” and essentially locked the two characters together forcing them to reflect on their relationship. It’s a surprisingly quiet story that gets to the dual tragedy that forms the basis of this pair.
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #568-573
Written by Dan Slott
Art by John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson
After Norman Osborn returned to life, he rose to prominence, taking control of national security and leading teams of villains. This is the best story from that era in which Green Goblin begins to work as much as a mastermind as an individual threat. Watching Spider-Man struggle against Osborn’s genius combined with Green Goblin’s strength and durability made this a truly frightening struggle.
Ultimate Spider-Man (vol. 1) #156-160
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley, Andy Lanning, and Andrew Hennessy
When it was announced that the ultimate version of Peter Parker would die, there was no doubt who would be responsible. In their final battle, Spider-Man and Green Goblin have one of the most personal fights in any form the characters have ever taken. It’s also one of Spider-Man’s greatest triumphs as he is able to stop a foe who vastly overpowers him in order to save those he loves most. It’s the inverse of “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”, and a death Spider-Man fans can be proud of.
Superior Spider-Man (vol. 1) #27-31
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, John Dell, and Terry Pallot
The finale of Superior Spider-Man made it clear there was at least one villain that only Peter Parker could handle as Spider-Man. Even Doctor Octopus was no match for Norman Osborn at his most devious, and the look on Green Goblin’s face when Peter returns is worth the entire series that came before it. This is the story that made it clear this rivalry will abide no substitutes.