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?


Views: 1150

Comment by Captain Comics on February 8, 2012 at 6:17pm

The weird thing is, they draw him to look like Tommy Lee Jones now. What does that mean?!??

Comment by Figserello on February 8, 2012 at 7:12pm

And sometimes he looks like James Caan, too.


There's plenty to chew over in this topic.


I think its to Marvel's credit that they kept him dead for so long.  That his work continued by his son and various pretenders gave the Spider-world a sense of 'reality' and a little more than just the 'illusion of change'.  He probably really came back because of the first Spider-man movie.


The whole sad but strong affair with Gwen thing was a car crash.  But witers have an urge to break as well as an urge to build, and that's what we saw there.


I think Morrison hit on it when he wrote in Supergods that for the last 10-15 years the world has been mesmerised by war and militarism.  He said something to the effect that the comics of this era affirmed people's belief that only soldiers and the ridiculously rich truly understand how the world works. 


Norman Osborne, a former millionaire CEO of a weapons company with ties to the military, fit that bill very well.  His most effective opponents?  Nick Fury and Captain America.


The lead up to Siege and how it played out was a long semi-satirical engagement with Bush's presidency.  At least I think so.  It's hard to tell anymore when they are satirizing the shady byways that Bush led his country down, or whether they are getting on board whole-heartedly.  I believe Wolverine runs an extra-judicial death squad now, on top of all his other activities?  Bush will be lappiing that up, assuming he can get someone to explain the big words to him.  :-)


Osborne should be depicted as a pathetic zero, but it sounds like the writers are in thrall to him as someone who has all the secret knowledge that only the rich and military insiders possess. 


Having read a ton of Marvel comics from Secret Invasion to Siege, it seems to me that most Marvel writers have a very garbled stance on the Bush legacy.  In the main, they believe it was bad, ( a now-fashionable view) but they trip over themselves to depict in an appreciative light the individual practices that made it bad:  the militarism, the torture, human rights abuses, and the alignment with the interests of the super-rich.



Comment by Randy Jackson on February 8, 2012 at 9:16pm

Norman Osborne was a great villain.  In 1969.  Now he's become Marvel's version of the Joker--overused, straining credibility because no one has just shot him, essentially a parody of himself.  Why'd they bring him back? I dunno--why'd they bring back the Jackal? Why is the Sandman a villain again? Heck, when will Bucky be revived--again?

Maybe he's so kewl because he's a sadistic killer.  Or because he's Marvel's version of Lex Luthor. Dunno, but I've seen more than enough of him to last me a lifetime.

Comment by Philip Portelli on February 8, 2012 at 9:57pm

Doctor Doom, Magneto, the Red Skull, the Leader, even Doctor Octopus are Marvel's elite villains. Originally the Green Goblin kept to himself. In fact I cannot think of one non-Spidey appearance that he made until his "death". But now the Goblin is the demon that drives and torments him, not an actual identity. The only other non-costumed antagonists that would be similar to Norman are Justin Hammer (too obscure), Cornelius Van Lunt AKA Taurus (dead himself) and Wilson Fisk but Marvel already ruined the Kingpin too much to be taken seriously.

There are factions in this country who want a return to the Bush era where people did what they were told and obeyed their President. Bush = Strong America, Obama = Foreign Muslim Socialist. Too bad the Republican party cannot back one man before the Republican convention and show an unified front without sabotaging each other. Osborn does represent the elitist shadow dictator as he claims to be working for "our" benefit.

I live in NYC. I saw the Towers come down. I wanted a strong leader and a quick response. We all did. What we got was a seemingly endless series of conflicts which continued long after "Mission Accomplished" and an administration with an obvious agenda and a lot of still unanswered questions. That is what Norman represents to me: the promise of strength wrapped in falsehoods.

That his murder of Gwen Stacy is ignored by the government, and yes, Tony Stark spoke volumes to me at the time. One of the greatest and shocking deaths of this genre was reduced to an indiscretion of a man in power who was "needed" so stop trying to bring it up, like Bush's military "service".

Now he has new followers but probably the same agenda. He already formed his own Avengers again. Next he'll probably try to kill Peter's new girl-friend because that's what he does. By now, he can no longer help it!


Comment by Figserello on February 8, 2012 at 11:22pm

Saying why we think he's rubbish (he is!) only goes so far.


When Warren Ellis redid the Thunderbolts with Osborne in charge, (with issue #110) the sales went from 27K (o dear!) to 62k (yay!), and the title became a respectable seller overnight.  (Although that might say more about Fabien Nicieza's continuity-scrapings than Osborne's appeal.)


Then Dark Avengers with Osborne as the de facto star became Marvel's top selling title or in the top 5 for most of its run.


The writers certainly loved him, but the comics-buying public liked something about him too. 


It could be the Judge Dredd factor where sheepish little fanboys actually respond to a tough uncompromising authority figure who will deny them the responsibility of making their own decisions and moral choices.


He didn't start to take on aspects of George W until he shot the Skrull Queen in Times Square, which was ironic, as the real George wouldn't risk his skin actually being involved in a conflict.


Maybe he's George W Bush, as George wanted to be seen be his people, rather than what George was actually like?


Ellis' run was good, tackling the darkest aspects of W's war on terror in comicbook fashion as it did, but for the most part, the comic-buying public's love of Osborne doesn't reflect well on them.

Comment by Philip Portelli on February 9, 2012 at 8:50am

The appeal of Dark Avengers, and Thunderbolts for that matter, was to witness these villains pretend to be heroes then have to do heroic things. The corruption is compelling because we are waiting for justice yet want to see how far they'll go.

Then there are the converts like Songbird, Radioactive Man, the Fixer and Marvel Boy/Protector. "Playing" hero led to becoming real heroes. It wouldn't happen to Norman but the tiniest possibility was there.

Comment by Randy Jackson on February 11, 2012 at 7:01pm

Yes, but there was no need to create a new villain given the tons of perfectly good ones Marvel had around.  No need to resurrect any either.  Dr. Doom, Dr. Octopus, Dr. Bong (okay, I keed), the Kingpin, Moses Magnum, the Red Skull, Count Nefaria, MODOK, Hydra, AIM...trust me, there were plenty of villains that would have sufficed.

Comment by Figserello on February 11, 2012 at 7:26pm

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


Osborne is an Ozymandias figure.  (Similar name too, to the Watchmen guy, I've just noticed.)  He used to be a ridiculous costumed villain, but now he's a guy in a suit, who knows how the world works (arms and wars, spin and money) and has big plans.

Comment by Philip Portelli on February 12, 2012 at 8:27pm

More than big plans, Norman Osborn feels that it is his right to command and that he, and he alone, can save the country by taking it over, of course! And killing Spider-Man. Let's not forget that.

This is from Civil War Files: Whose Side Are You On? in the voice of Tony Stark, "I knew he possessed the Triple-A qualities of so many of my peers in the business elite: affluent, arrogant and aggressive." ...to know the real Norman Osborn, a monster born from a lineage of monsters, liberated from the confines of morality by his chemically induced insanity." "He was once a shrewd businessman; if all goes well, perhaps we can see to it that those managerial skills are used for the betterment of society once again." "It is a question of utilitarianism versus justice, and perhaps the pragmatic decision to put Osborn to good use for America....I fear my friend Peter Parker may disagree."

After Civil War, he became part of the govenment's Commission on Superhuman Affairs and field director of the Thunderbolts. After Siege, Captain America laments, "How could the America I know let Norman Osborn rise so high in our government?" "Cunning, charismatic and ruthless..."

Osborn went from a pawn to a king only to be checkmated but the game begins anew....

Comment by Philip Portelli on February 13, 2012 at 7:14pm

It was not so much an "abandonment of moral standard" but a circumventing of it. They (the government, Tony Stark and Marvel) put a known killer and psychopath in charge of their "dirty deeds" department because they wanted to be above it, seperated from it and believed that he could be controlled, contained and when the time came, disposed of. They were wrong.


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