What is Marvel's fascination with Norman Osborn, formerly the Green Goblin and the Iron Patriot? This resurrected villain has become the face of evil in the Marvel Universe some forty years after dying! From his first appearance, his identity revealed which led to Steve Ditko leaving the book, the drug issues that plagued his son Harry to finally his murder of Gwen Stacy and his own death, Norman has been Spider-Man's most relentless foe and his most tragic during the Silver Age because he had this split personality where Norman forgot that he was the Goblin. But in times of stress, the evil that dwelt within would emerge and his hatred for the Wall-Crawler took over.

Amazing Spider-Man #121-122 should have been the crescendo to Norman's career. He murdered Gwen Stacy only to accidently spear himself with his own glider. Kirk G writes about that here and I added this about his legacy. Mortality had taken Spider-Man's mortal foe and that should have been the end of him. But in the 90s, Marvel brought back the Green Goblin, citing unknown healing powers. No one except the writers was happy about this. Then they had to have Gwen Stacy have an affair with Norman in the past! This was done to justify another Gwen-look-alike in the MU and bolster Mary Jane as Peter's true love. It is beyond the scope of this article to fully explain how wrong that was! And it was never mentioned again!

But Norman was on the brink of madness when he made his big mistake and foolishly revealed himself to be the Green Goblin. This got him arrested for the first time and placed him in Tony Stark's custody who put him in charge of the Thunderbolts, an easily controllable man doing the dirty work.

As an aside, I would rather believe that this Norman was some alternate reality version trapped in the 616 MU and that the true Norman indeed died. It makes me feel better.

After the events ofCivil War, World War HulkandSecret Invasion!, Norman becomes a national hero, put in charge of HAMMER, creates his own Dark Avengers and pushes through his own agenda. He re-christians himself the Iron Patriot and hunts down the real heroes, now outlaws. But he goes too far (naturally) and it all falls apart during theSiegewhere he is captured and discredited. He should have been locked away and forgotten. But he was not!

There was theOsbornmini-series that shows us how Norman escaped the custody of the US government and why he surrendered. That he learned about a cult that sees him as a messiah. That introduced both Ai Apaec, the South American spider-god and June Covington, the Toxic Doxie who are part of his new Dark Avengers. He now commands HYDRA and AIM and truly believes himself to be the destined leader of the country, if not the world.

No longer costumed, Norman is a charismatic evil. People simply believe that he will win. He has no shame and feels he has been wrong and that history will champion him.

I feel that the current Avengers creators have morphed Osborn into a nightmare version of George W. Bush. A totally corrupt version preying on the liberal fears that such a man may return to power, completely disregarding the will of the populus and ran rampant over the world. Certainly in this year of election, the term "Republican Conservative" brings up bad memories and worse possibilities. Again I stress this is an amped up take on Bush, not a commentary of the actual man. But the boldness of Osborn is frightening. He is not hiding. He is demanding that he be restored to power. Was there not a movement to legally allow Bush to run for a third term? The criminals serving Norman gained authority, much like those in the Bush admonistration quoting over and over again: "I serve at the pleasure of the President." They are not responsible and the President is beyond accountability. This is Norman Osborn's dream and an American nightmare!

What do you think?

 

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Comment by Randy Jackson on February 14, 2012 at 7:54am

Justin Hammer.  Obadiah Stane. The Kingpin.  Countless others. Since "dead" is meaningless in the 616 universe, there were plenty of evil businessmen to choose from. Why Osborne?

But none of them fit the 'evil businessman' archetype that Marvel wanted to hang their half-baked commentary on 21st Century USA on.

Comment by Figserello on February 14, 2012 at 7:05pm

Justin Hammer.  Obadiah Stane. The Kingpin.  Countless others. Since "dead" is meaningless in the 616 universe, there were plenty of evil businessmen to choose from. Why Osborne?

 

Well, seeing as the death of Gwen and the subsequent death of the Green Goblin, (that stuck!) were key moments in all our comics reading lives, Spider-man is Marvel's most iconic hero and the Green Goblin is his most personal iconic villain, perhaps Marvel just wanted to rape all our childhoods?  :-)

 

I'm not going to defend it at all.  Bringing him back for this was really weird.  He hardly even thinks about Spider-man anymore. 

 

He is the most iconic of all those supervillains you've mentioned, and thanks to the cartoons and movies and Spider-man's huge general popularity, the most publicly recogniseable of them.  That would be a big factor, but then they just make him a guy in a business suit.

 

For me the best Osborn appearance during Dark Reign was in Cornell's Dark X-Men, where we go into his head and the Green Goblin's insane malignant primal presence stole the show.  Goblins originally were our internal fears and demons given physical form, after all.  Comics originally worked as these aspects of ourselves given form to act out our anxieties and dreams in garish pantomime adventures.

 

Modern Osborn another example of Marvel trading off the ridiculous four-colour wonder of comics gone by, while trying to make them edgy and modern in a po-faced way.

 

One of the valid objections I've seen to any kind of continuation of the Watchmen is that all the comics since 1986, to some degree or another have developed its themes and revisited its story premises.  (And thus any branded continuation of the franchise is redundant.)  The similarities in their names make me think that on some subliminal level this new Osborn was conceived as an anti-Ozymandias.  Someone who takes off their Silver Age costume to have far more effect on the real world as a 'business-man' power-broker.

Comment by Philip Portelli on February 14, 2012 at 8:24pm

One important fact to consider is that, since Osborn "never died", Gwen now remains unavenged. No one has paid for her death. Osborn was never arrested or charged. Peter went out of his way to seperate Osborn from the Green Goblin so no one connected the two. But re-reading Amazing Spider-Man #122, people witnessed the Goblin's involvement with Gwen's demise. But no one seems to care about that.

In Avengers Annual #1 (2012), Luke Cage finds out about Osborn threatening to kill his daughter. He charges him with a righteous fury. THAT is how Spider-Man should be! Osborn gets hunted down and brought to justice. Every waking moment. Anything less and Osborn has won. And it seems Marvel wants him to keep winning...for now!

Comment by Figserello on February 14, 2012 at 8:37pm

Your quote from that Civil War tie-in was very pertinent.  Marvel don't realise they are doing it, but they continually undermine any heroism or responsibility these characters show.  Osborn's easy ride is one aspect of the slavish respect Marvel has for power and authority, no matter how that power and authority are used.  A good chunk of their readers would seem to concur in this.  If you read threads about creators rights it would seem that a fair segment of their readership naturally sides with the powerful corporations over the little guys.

 

The creators don't think things through very well, or they want us to support people with very dodgy moral compasses.

Comment by Figserello on February 14, 2012 at 9:44pm

Just by coincidence, after writing the above, I read this rather caustic piece on Marvel's current ethos of 'loving the man'.

 

And then the looney guy in charge goes nuts and leads his branch of the government right over a cliff (Seige) and then it's time for Daddy (AKA Captain America) to step in and take care of things. And from then on out it's all basically a story about all the characters getting in on Daddy's good side, because of course Daddy is the government and we all want Daddy's approval, right?

Comment by Philip Portelli on February 15, 2012 at 9:08am

Norman Osborn had the credibility to battle super-heroes directly something Hammer, Stane and the Kingpin lacked. The Kingpin's battles with Spider-Man seemed very contrived and unbelievable. And could you imagine Wilson Fisk as the Iron Patriot? That would take a lot of armor!

Now that I think about it, doesn't Osborn and his Dark Avengers seem very similar to the original Thunderbolts? Without the chance for redemption, of course!

Comment by Philip Portelli on February 28, 2014 at 12:31am

I'm bumping this so everyone can see the weird rationale for Tony Stark giving Norman Osborn the position that allowed him to rise to power.

Comment by Emerkeith Davyjack on February 28, 2014 at 3:42am

...And , BTW , please mallow me to say again that I , as I remember it , recall the " Sins Past " sexual contact between Norman and Gwen to be a rape of Gwen by Norman (" Perhaps " second-degree/" coercion " , to be legalistic about it .) ~ not an affair .

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