Enter: Norman Osborn

The title for this section is not meant to be misleading, but due to the fact that the initial story for the Green Goblin was a mystery identity, the villain's alter ego was intentionally hidden.  Thus, the Goblin had been around in the Spider-Verse roughly two years (real time) before Norman Osborn ever made his debut  in Amazing Spider-Man.  And when he was finally introduced, it was not at all obvious that he was the Green Goblin as well.  In the retconned stories like Untold Tales of Spider-Man, the Green Goblin is revealed to be Norman Osborn earlier in his character timeline.  However, Norman's first recognized comic book appearance was in June of 1966 in Amazing Spider-Man #37.


But before beginning the official synopsis, there are some unofficial occurences that are a part of the Spider-Man mythos and are worth mentioning.  It's possible that artist Steve Ditko may have included Norman (or at least the character that would later be known as Norman Osborn) in the background in a handful of scenes from Amazing Spider-Man #2, #23, #25, #26,  #27.  These cameos depict Norman as a member of J. Jonah Jameson's social group at his gentlemen's club (later officially named as The Century Club), a likely hangout for a wealthy industrialist like Osborn.  Moreover, subsequent stories involving Osborn and Jameson have revealed that they were indeed members of the same club and that they had been associates for some time.  Another important note is that the initial connection between Norman Osborn and Peter Parker is through Norman's son Harry, a friend of Peter's from Empire State University.  Harry is first introduced in Amazing Spider-Man #31, along with Gwen Stacy, a future love interest of Peter.


At the conclusion of Amazing Spider-Man #27, the Green Goblin claims that he is going to lay low for a while and wait for the best time to strike against Spider-Man.  So its very ironic that when Norman Osborn is introduced into the Spider-Verse, his life is actually saved by Spider-Man!  Amazing Spider-Man #37 features the criminal mastermind known as the Robot Master.  And there is more to the Robot Master than meets the eye, for he is Mendel Stromm, Norman’s former business partner.  The same man Osborn had arrested for embezzlement ten years before.  

Amazing Spider-Man #37 commences with Stromm being released from prison and making good on his vendetta against Norman Osborn.  He constructs a robot and sends it off to destroy one of Norman's electronics plants.  Stromm is controlling and directing the robot while he remains safely in his laboratory.  Spider-Man intervenes and stops the robot, but not after it completely destroys Osborn's property.  One look at his destroyed plant and Norman is convinced that his ex-partner has returned seeking vengeance.  J. Jonah Jameson even pays a visit to the crime scene to check on his fellow club member and also to suggest that it was Spider-Man behind the attack.  Osborn, however, repudiates that claim.   

Later, Stromm sends a second robot to destroy another plant and, as an added bonus, to kill Norman as well.  Norman tries to reason with Stromm at first, knowing it will be difficult to outsmart him a second time.  Stromm is not interested in working things out.  As things are about to get really bad for Osborn, Spider-Man arrives to save him from the Robot Master.  Interestingly, the business magnate is frustrated with the web-head's intervention.  Osborn thinks to himself, "If [Spider-Man] defeats the robot, it could ruin my plan to get rid of Stromm forever!"  

Clearly Osborn has a much more sinister fate planned for Stromm.  Spidey continues to battle the robot, trying to protect Osborn.  Unfortunately, while Spidey is distracted by the robot, Norman delivers a blow to his blind side.  Norman then leaves Spider-Man behind to be killed by the robot.  Stromm, monitoring everything through his robot, becomes convinced that Spidey was killed by a poisonous gas.  Stromm's robot then leaves to continue to destroy Osborn's plant.  Soon after, Spider-Man wakes up and quickly tracks down Stromm's robot.  The web-slinger quickly defeats it and then heads for Stromm himself.  Within minutes, Spider-Man has Stromm cornered. 

The vulnerable Stromm admits defeat and goes on to say "There's something I must tell you!  Something nobody knows about…".  But then, a gunshot is fired from the window and the shock causes Stromm to collapse, clutching his chest.  He dies soon after from a heart attack.  As Spider-Man goes to investigate the origin of the gunshot, he realizes that the shooter was at least two stories in the air.  Clearly someone with some serious capabilities pulled that off...but who?  

Soon after, Jameson pays another visit to his fellow club member to inform him that it was Mendel Stromm behind the attacks.  Osborn acts surprised to hear Jonah's news, as the publisher assures him that he and Harry are now safe.  After Jonah leaves, a sinister Norman Osborn reveals that he was the gunman behind Stromm's death and that “Spider-Man almost ruined everything for me…and he must be disposed of.”

Norman's next appearance comes in the subsequent issue, Amazing Spider-Man #38.  Norman is featured only briefly in this story. However when we do see Norman, his personal vendetta with Spider-Man is still very much on his mind.  After putting on a disguise, he approaches a gang and offers them a reward to finish off Spider-Man.  He then pays them half of the money (literally, he's the cut the bills in half so that they are worthless until the job is complete). This initiates a wave of reward-seeking gangsters that attack Spider-Man.  But Spidey has no trouble thwarting all of their attempts.  Norman will soon resolve to handling Spider-Man himself, the only way to get things done right.  The battle between the Green Goblin and Spider-Man is about to get personal.

There are some interesting elements to Norman's earliest appearances in the Spider-Verse.  At the conclusion of Amazing Spider-Man #37, Norman states that "Spider-Man must be dealt with."  It can be implied that it was at this point that Norman decided he needed to raise the stakes with Spider-Man and thus uncover his alter ego (ie, the events of Amazing Spider-Man #39-40).  However, that logic renders the whole bit with bribing gangsters to kill Spider-Man a bit wonky.  And considering he's aware of his own alter ego as the Green Goblin, wouldn't he also already be aware that Spidey needs to be dealt with? 

Moreover, what was Stromm going to tell Spider-Man?  Did Norman confide in him at some point and reveal that he was the Green Goblin?  Did Stromm figure it out on his own?  Or did Norman deceive Stromm and reveal the Goblin identity to be someone else like J. Jonah Jameson (similar to what he did with the Crime Master)?  Why is somebody with the capabilities of the Green Goblin paying gangsters to handle his dirty work?  Is it some kind of diversion?  Occam's razor would suggest that all this confusion basically suggests that Norman was not intended to be the Green Goblin when he was first introduced.  However, it is clear that there was an intentional mystique placed around Norman.  For instance, the fact that he was able to fire at Mendel from that height must have required some super power, or perhaps a Goblin Glider.  Goblin or not, Norman Osborn was certainly a shady individual.  A shady individual who was beginning to develop an obsession with the wall crawler.

The story of Norman Osborn's attempts to destroy Spider-Man get even more interesting in the Untold Tales of Spider-Man anthology novel.  In that novel, there is a chapter entitled Identity Crisis, and the events of that chapter take place "a few weeks prior" to Amazing Spider-Man #39.  That continuity disclaimer from the book's editors places this book in "616" continuity and, thus, eligible for coverage on this website.  In this chapter, Norman is enjoying a cigar alongside his friend J. Jonah Jameson at their upscale club when the publisher of the Daily Bugle decides to let him in on a little secret.  

Jonah describes "deep background" to Norman, explaining that it is a technique publishers use when they don't put certain information in print, but they don't discard it either.  Instead they file it away and use it for potential leverage down the road.  Jonah then goes on to describe information that he has on Police Commissioner Maneely, who is currently having an affair on his wife.  Jonah implies that Norman could use that information to help curry favor with other business magnates.  Norman even suggests immediately putting this information to work, helping Herb Irons to pick up a contracting bid he had lost.  Helping Herb, will allow Herb's friend Carlo Lucci to look the other way on union labor issues associated with Norman bringing in cheap labor to rebuild his plant (most likely this is a nod to the electronics plant that was destroyed in Amazing Spider-Man #37 by Mendel Stromm).   

Whilst that information could very helpful for Norman and his Osborn Industries, he also recognized that it could serve a much more sinister purpose as well.  That evening, the Green Goblin pays a visit to a "well-known metropolitan newspaper" in an attempt to steal their deep background file on Spider-Man.  His plan is simple, take their information, combine it with what he already knows and piece together the puzzle of Spider-Man's secret identity.  

When the Goblin arrives at the publisher, there is only 5 staff members present in the building.  The Goblin threatens the crew and demands their deep background on Spider-Man.  One of the journalists resists, stating that people risked their job or marriage to provide the information in that file and that it could even win him a Pulitzer!  The young photographer calls out the journalists and tells him to give the file to the Goblin in order to save them all.  Eventually the Goblin grows tired of the bickering and decides he needs to make an example out of one of them.  When the Goblin makes his way toward the janitor, the photographer steps in the way and confesses to being Spider-Man!

The Goblin thinks this is laughable at first (the photographer is too young!), nevertheless he takes the young man and throws him from the window...to see if he can save himself as Spider-Man.  The Goblin quickly realizes he was right, the boy was not Spider-Man as he falls toward his death.  Suddenly, the real Spider-Man swings in from a nearby building and saves the boy.  Having used all his weapons and gadgets on the newspaper staff, the Goblin realizes he's outmatched against the real Spider-Man.  So he decides to go home as he departs the Daily Globe's window on his glider (this story is told in such a way as to suggest that the Goblin infiltrated the Daily Bugle and that the young photographer could have been Peter Parker, thus providing a twist at the story's end).  

The young photographer tells Spider-Man everything that happened as the web-slinger brings him to safety.  Spidey then realizes that the Goblin has too big of a head start in order for him to catch him.  He'll have to do that another time, but the young man made Spidey aware that the Goblin was after the deep background file on the webslinger...

It would not be long before the Green Goblin realizes it is time to get serious about discovering Spider-Man's identity...

Chapter 2                Next Section

One of Norman's unofficial appearances prior to his official introduction, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #23

Norman's last unofficial appearance as a fellow member of J. Jonah Jameson's gentlemen's club, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #27

After the attack on Osborn's electronics plant, J. Jonah pays a visit to check on his pal...and to suggest that Spider-Man was behind the attack, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #37 

Stromm attacks Osborn for a second time, however this attack is directly upon Norman himself, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #37 

Stromm plans to use the robot first to destroy Osborn financially (but ruining his lab, etc), saving Osborn's death for last, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #37 

Despite Spider-Man's effort to save him, Osborn thinks to himself that the web-slinger should stay out of his business, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #37 

Norman blindsides Spider-Man, knocking him out and leaving him for dead against Stromm's robot, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #37 

Spidey confronts Mendel Stromm as Norman prepares to shoot his former partner, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #37

(above and below) Norman offers up cash to mobsters to "finish off" Spider-Man, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #38

Cover art for the Untold Tales of Spider-Man anthology novel published in 1997 (left) as well as the cover page for the Chapter 5 Identity Crisis (right)