Back Issues: Green Goblin Makes His Case as Spider-Man's Greatest Enemy

There are a number of classic villains in Spider-Man's rogues gallery, but the Green Goblin can make a case of being the web-slinger's most iconic nemesis. The character will make a return in Spider-Man: No Way Home, with Willem Dafoe reprising his villainous role from Sony Pictures' first Spider-Man trilogy. Fans have watched Green Goblin terrorize Spider-Man in the comics, numerous animated shows, and on the big screen; but no matter how many times he dies, he always finds a way to return from the grave. Each resurrection attacks Spidey in a different way, because there are only a small number of antagonists that know Spider-Man as intimately as the Green Goblin.

The wealthy Norman Osborn is a creation of the legendary comic book creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko but, surprisingly, the Green Goblin beat Norman Osborn onto the comic page. Green Goblin's first appearance came in 1964's Amazing Spider-Man #14, with Norman Osborn debuting the following year in 1965's Amazing Spider-Man #23. The Enforcers, a low-level gang, were recruited by Green Goblin to help him take down Spidey, though they would be unsuccessful. Green Goblin's identity is kept a secret to Spider-Man and the readers, which serves as a shock when its revealed the father of Peter's best friend is secretly the villain in Amazing Spider-Man #39.

The cover to that issue has the iconic image of Green Goblin pulling a tied-up Peter Parker by his Goblin Glider, with Peter's Spidey suit peeking through his civilian clothes. Fox's animated Spider-Man cartoon from the '90s even adapted their fight and this image in one of its more memorable episodes with a stunning action sequence. And it's Norman's connection to Peter through his son Harry that makes the Green Goblin/Spider-Man rivalry so compelling.

Sony's Spider-Man movies haven't been shy about adapting this rivalry's references from the comics. When Gwen Stacy was a casualty of Spider-Man and Green Goblin's war in Gerry Conway and Gil Kane's "The Night Gwen Stacy Died," her death was re-enacted by Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man 2; both versions of the characters' necks broke when Spider-Man used a web line to break their falls from a high distance. Green Goblin met his end in the same story arc in the comics when he was impaled by his glider. Of course, Dafoe died the same way in the first Spider-Man film.

After Norman Osborn's death, Harry would also take on the role of Green Goblin when he learned Peter Parker was Spider-Man in "Like Father, Like Son." James Franco played Harry in the movies, and like his comics counterpart found himself fighting Peter in Spider-Man 3 before teaming up with him to fight Venom and Sandman in the film's climax. Harry would try and fight his goblin tendencies in the comics before ultimately dying himself in 1993's Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #200.

Jumping ahead by a decade, Harry was brought back to life in the fallout from the controversial "One More Day" storyline that saw Peter make a deal with Mephisto, trading his marriage to Mary Jane in exchange for Aunt May's life. "Brand New Day" found Harry alive again, with all of Peter's friends and family seemingly unaware he used to be dead. Unfortunately, Marvel recently revealed this Harry Osborn was actually a clone the entire time, and one of the secret identities of the villain Kindred in Nick Spencer's Amazing Spider-Man run.

Of course, Norman Osborn also returned from the dead as well, thanks to the goblin serum giving him regenerative abilities to heal being impaled. In another much-maligned story arc, "Sins Past" revealed Norman Osborn and the teenaged Gwen Stacy had an affair, with Gwen giving birth to twins. Thankfully, this sordid tale was retconned from existence in Spencer's final Amazing Spider-Man comic storyline.

Aside from being the Green Goblin, Norman Osborn has taken on other roles in the Marvel Universe, including leader of the Thunderbolts, the armored "hero" Iron Patriot and leader of the Dark Avengers during the Dark Reign publishing initiative, the Goblin King, and the Red Goblin — when Norman took possession of the Carnage symbiote in the conclusion of Dan Slott's years-long run on the web-slinger. 

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Fans have only gotten small glimpses at Green Goblin in Spider-Man: No Way Home trailers and TV spots. However, we do hear his creepy voice and iconic laugh, confirming the rumors that Willem Dafoe is back in that green armor. Merchandise for the Sony/Marvel film teased a new look for the Green Goblin, with the villain ditching the helmet for a smaller visor. How big a role Green Goblin has in Spider-Man: No Way Home remains to be seen, but at least Dafoe gets another opportunity to return to the fan-favorite role that helped put Green Goblin on the map for movie audiences.

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