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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Except Patch was seen watching the Goblin at one point during the Crimemaster story, I would have thought Patch/Foswell was the Green Goblin. Wish Ditko would print an explanation on exactly what he was planning with that guy. I really think he had something big in mind for Foswell. If they weren't speaking then Stan Lee might have killed him off because he had no idea what was being planned for him and didn't want to have to come up with something for a character he probably hadn't intended to use again after #10. That is I think Foswell would have vanished after that one appearance if Ditko didn't keep bringing him back.

Ditko got to run his Objectivist dog with Mr. A and other self-published titles, and like all polemics, they're painfully boring.

Static started out okay. His first couple of stories were pretty good. Then it degenerated into Static wanting to help people, his girlfriend saying to hell with other human beings, and her dad being manipulated into going along with whoever had the best story to tell him at the moment. Obviously Ditko didn't trademark his characters, or there wouldn't be another guy named Static now. Does that mean if Ditko decides to make a new Static comic he can't use that word on the cover?

Wasn't Shag pretty much a copy of the Creeper, only green?

 

Objectivist Spider-Man may have made for a funny parody comic by Peter Bagge, but not for an iconic superstar appearing in several comics each month and in mega-hit movies decades after his first appearance   Mr. A pouts, "hey, I never wanted to be in a big budget movie anyhow.  I'd have to compromise my ideals for that and let writers and directors tell me what to do.  Bah, humbug!"

It might be interesting, if he could be talked into it, to see a one shot or miniseries of what he'd do with Spider-Man today. Of course he'd have to have 100% control or he'd walk and Marvel's not likely to go along with that.  

Fred W. Hill said:

Objectivist Spider-Man may have made for a funny parody comic by Peter Bagge, but not for an iconic superstar appearing in several comics each month and in mega-hit movies decades after his first appearance   Mr. A pouts, "hey, I never wanted to be in a big budget movie anyhow.  I'd have to compromise my ideals for that and let writers and directors tell me what to do.  Bah, humbug!"

Bwah-ha-ha! Yes, exactly! That cracked me up, Mr. Hill!

I think Mr. A would decide the people that make movies are crooks and decide to go after them, maybe pretending he wanted a movie made just to get into the studios, hunt for evidence, and make everybody hate him.

which might have been fascinating but not particularly appealing to most readers.

As CapCom noted, I find that's the case with most of Ditko's solo comics. I have a bunch, because I loved his art and found his perspective interesting--for awhile. But boy, do those characters talk a lot, often using diagrams. And what they say doesn't look much like how people act in the world I live in.

I live in Illinois. All criminals here aren't nobodies, they're elected officials.

From what I understand of Ayn Rand, Ditko's Spidey would have had no guilt over letting the crook run past him. He would've gagged every time Uncle Ben said, "With great power comes great responsibility." I don't think that's the Objectivist motto.

-- MSA

Had Ditko 100% control over Amazing Spider-Man, the book would have been cancelled by '68.

What if Ditko just wanted to leave Marvel (and Stan) and used the Green Goblin as an excuse?

In the MMMS record the Marvel Bullpen made, Stan attempts to get Ditko to say something. Someone says "There he goes!" and Stan says "Out the window? I'm beginning to think he is Spider-Man!" This was probably just good natured kidding by Stan because Steve didn't want to say anything on tape, but if Ditko felt embarrassed about speaking and refused, Stan making the Spider-Man joke probably humiliated him. It may be they just had personalities that clashed and it was easier to say he left because of the Goblin than try to explain various problems going back several years between them.

 

"I live in Illinois. All criminals here aren't nobodies, they're elected officials."

Reminds me of the Smothers Brothers joke that the more power people have the more clothes they can afford to wear, and the less power people have the less clothes they can afford to wear. Those with no political power are called the less ons. And those with a lot of political power are called the more ons.

A lot of the non-Objectivist things in Spider-Man are just in the scripted dialogue, which came from Stan, not Steve.

How soon did Ditko embrace this philosophy? Was he in that camp when Spider-Man started, or later. Did his views just become more adamant?

Also, it's been established that Steve didn't leave because of the Goblin but because he felt he was cheated of creator credit (in the media) and of money from all the licensing. He had a major problem with both Lee and Goodman.

That's probably why Clayton Moore got kicked off the Lone Ranger for one season, trying to get some of the money the studio was making from plastering his face all over the place.

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