This question has sparked heated debates among Spider-man fans for years, and even today, flame wars erupt between passionate fans who quarrel over which character was intended to be revealed as which version of the penultimate villain.

Appearing first in ASM #14, the Goblin quickly became a fan favorite, returning in #17 with a plan to show up Spidey and eliminate him.  By #23, the Goblin was setting his sights on taking over the organized crime of NYC, and by #26-27, he was involved in struggles with The Man in the Crimemaster's mask.

When the Crimemaster was arrested and killed at the end of #27, he died before being able to reveal the Goblin's identity, which had been held secret from readers as well. However police comment that the Crimemaster was no one notable, an unknown.

Although the Green Goblin makes no more appearances in costume under Steve Ditko's artwork, by issue #38, the groundwork for his identity has been laid. With #38, Ditko quits the series and Marvel.

In #39, the man in the Goblin mask has captured Spider-man and reveals himself to be Norman Osborn, industrialist and father of Peter Parker's college friend, Harry Osborn.

But for years, it has been debated whether Ditko had intended Osborn to be the reveal as the Goblin, or if it was going to be Ned Leads, J. Jonah Jameson, or an unnamed non-recognizable average man.

The first time I heard this alternative theory was in a 1982 publication by Fantaco Press, the Spider-Man Chronicles. Today I found a copy of this 1982 fan publication and present a copy of one of the critical article pages here.

And here's the facing page that picks up the narrative with the John Romita, Sr. years that follow. Note the assertion that Lee and Ditko had never agreed on who the Goblin was going to be shown as.

However, even after Norman Osborne developed amnesia and the Goblin was declared "dead", the threat lingered in the background.  In the first Spectacular Spider-man oversided 35 cent magazine, the Goblin returned, his amensia threatening to clear by ASM #66. Through the use of Psycho-pumpkin bombs, the genie was returned to his bottle, and until the famous anti-drug stories of 96-97-98, the Goblin was missing again.

Returning one final time in ASM 121, the Golbin kills Gwen Stacy and is in turn killed by his goblin glider the next issue #122.

While Harry and others have impersonated the Green Goblin later, it wasn't until scribe Roger Stern penned a return of the Goblin costume and tools with the birth of the Hobgoblin in ASM 238 that the mystery began again.

This time, the identity was held from the reader as similar clues were shared with the reader. The Goblin's lair had been discovered. The man was wealthy, powerful, a member of JJJ's club, familiar with the organized crime mob, sparred with the Kingpin, and at various times, used imitators or closely related villains as fall-guys.  For a time, the Hobgoblin retired from view, and was assumed to be plotting in the shadows.

Suddenly, it was revealed that the Hobgoblin was Ned Leads and had been killed by a trio of killer when caught un-awares.  And that's where the issued rested for years.

Finally, Roger Stern convinced Marvel to let him conclude the Hobgoblin saga as he had intended, and in a 3-issue mini-series, he not only revealed that the Hobgoblin was not dead, but that Spidey had overlooked a critical clue...that MJ notices. "How could 3 men over-power the Hobgoblin's augmented strength?"

At the climax of the mini-series, the Hobgoblin was revealed to be Roderick Kingsley, one of a pair of likely suspects that Stern had introduced several years before. Stern insists that he had always intended Kingsley to be the Hobgoblin and that was the original solution to the riff on the Goblin mystery that he had spun and proposed years earlier.

Despite additional writers and editors getting involved and muddying the waters, these two villains now remain as published, as their creator/artist/writers intended them to be revealed.  But the debate continues over whether the right person was revealed in both cases.

What do you think?

 

***Footnote: When challenged on my belief that Ditko had intended Ned Leeds to be the Green Goblin, I had cited the above publication, which I firmly believed had stunned me into thinking that I had missed the first clues. Now, more than 25 years later, when I have a copy of the publication in question in hand....I discover that it doesn't say what I remembered it to have said.

Yet I remember my profound stunned shock when I first learned that it might NOT have been Norman Osborne all along. And as a result, I decided to share the pages I thought would prove my point. But I can't. So, I appologize for my stuborness in any discussion we may have had over the months. I can't back up what I had thought I read here.  But I DO recall someone pointed to the grinning manikin on page 19 of ASM #38 and claiming that it was the proof that Ned Leeds' smile was the Green Goblin's grin, and that was Ditko's final word on it.  But I can't find that in print now either.

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I've heard of that example, too. I don't remember it standing out to me at the time, but I was mostly just reading along. 

Typically, when the artist laid out the pages, he'd write comments in the margins to explain the action or dialogue, especially when two guys were just looking at each other. I've got some of those pages, and you can see where Stan read them and marked off each note as he dialogued the pages. 

I don't know if he ignored Ditko's notes or they weren't provided. It's possible he didn't like the approach being taken or thought changing it would provide more possibilities for later. As the editor, that was his right, but I'd think they'd work that out in advance rather than have either one of them surprised along the way.

I get the distinct impression, both with Stan and afterward, that Ditko was a hard guy to partner with on a comics story. I've seen a lot of artists who thought they were much better writers than the writers they work with. Some were right, but a lot weren't.

It's gotta be tough to create something smoothly and consistently with so little communication and collaboration. That ASM is such a classic is really remarkable.

-- MSA

Interesting stuff. I've heard about this before. I'm out of town right now but I think this was touched on in the book "Was Superman a Spy?" I'll have to check when I get home.

I just went back and read ASM 30 and skimmed through the Master Planner story in ASM 31-33, which I hadn't really done since I was 17(!). The only thing about ASM 30 that stuck with me was the spectacle of the water tower crashing down on Spidey. Looking at it now, it really doesn't make sense that the Cat Burglar, who obviously was a lone wolf, was also running a sophisticated (and expensive) operation involving costumed minions. The sudden revelation in the second Master Planner story that M.P. was Doc Ock was jarring even at the time. The drama of Spidey trying to save his aunt, being trapped and about to drown, and his victory using a previously untapped reservoir of strength overwhelms the other inconsistencies. Looking at the art, however, Doc Ock's face doesn't look quite right. Is it possible that Ditko (or someone else) adjusted the art to remake the Master Planner into Doc Ock?    

Henry R. Kujawa said:

In ASM #30, Spidey crosses paths with The Master Planner's men, AND, a cat-burglar named "The Cat".  The dialogue (written by Stan Lee) clearly indicates the Master Planner's men were working for The Cat... even though nothing in the art makes any connection. The dialogue was totally at odds with the story Steve Ditko was writing.

This is what happens when you have 2 writers working on a book who aren't speaking to each other.

The thing I noticed when I re-read ASM #30 was somethng else entirely.

One of the WEIRDEST 2nd-season episodes of the SPIDER-MAN cartoon series (1968) was "Pardo Presents".  It starts out with what appears to be the shadow of a big CAT going around town robbing penthouses and jewelry stores in such rapid fashion that the police suspect an entire "gang" may be responsible.  We find it's the work of Pardo, a guy dressed in green & purple, and his "pet".  Pardo then  lures an unsuspecting audience to a movie premiere, which begins with a huge eyeball hypnotizing the entire audience, at which point his hired thugs go thru the crowd collecting loot.  Only one person in the crowd is unaffected (but almost!)-- the hero, in his civilian identity.  He gets into his costume and goes after the baddies.  It hit me this was a VERY LOOSE adaptation of "Duel With Daredevil", with Pardo taking the place of The Ringmaster, and Spidey taking the place of D.D.

But--further-- the 2nd HALF of the story is a completely different matter.  Having leaped thru a slit in the movie screen, Spidey unexpectedly finds himself on a rooftop water tower, along with all the other loot (matter transportation was involved).  And looking down from above, is a GIANT CAT.  Before the scene is over, the cat DESTROYS the water tower, as police and army hit the cat with SPOTLIGHTS.  It's a scene straight off the cover of ASM #30!  Except, with a giant cat instead of a cat-burglar.

When Ralph Bakshi & Gray Morrow did an "adaptation", they did it in the strangest way imaginable...

That IS bizarre!

I don't think that J. Jonah Jameson was ever a serious candidate for the Green Goblin. They had already teased the readers with him being the Big Man and that was a red herring! I can't see them thinking that they could get away with that again.

Besides JJJ was the Spider-Slayer! He didn't try to hide it! 

Kirk G said:

He was also behind the Scorpion!

 

Pretty bad place to stand, actually.

Yes, but no one knew that! Apparently the Scorpion kept that a secret. Did Spidey know?
 
Kirk G said:

He was also behind the Scorpion!

 

I just re-read that last week. Amazing Spider-Man #20, wasn't it?  Apparantly, the logic of blackmailing JJJ didn't occur to the Scorpion, and his mental facilities were impaired by the drug/treatment.  He did return to the offices of the Daily Bugle, but after threatening JJJ, didn't spill the beans. I don't know if the story EVER came out...

As recently as ASM #700, JJJ was still freting over his connection with the scorpion, and when Dr.Oct/Spidey nearly takes the Scorpion's jaw off, JJJ's secret appears to be safe once again... how's he going to talk (let alone, eat) when his jaw is gone? (I know, I know, he could type...he could write... he could use sign language... don't write me letters...)

 

I checked and the Green Goblin mystery is mentioned in Brian Cronin's book Was Superman a Spy? Which is a must read for comic book fans.

 

Sadly there's not much else to add. He states what's already been stated here in the comments. Ditko wanted the goblin to be an unknown and Lee wanted it to be somebody that Spidey knew. For some reason I thought there was a bit more to it.

Jason Marconnet said:

For some reason I thought there was a bit more to it.

It wasn't the only reason for Ditko leaving but it was the last straw apparently.

Oh yeah. Right after that section in the book is about Ditko's exodus at Marvel.

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