Personal Demon

Norman Osborn is many things to many people and throughout The Osborn Identity story arc he was a face-altering weapons-dealer poised to rule the eastern European country of Symkaria.  Unfortunately for Osborn, Spider-Man decided that he was not going to allow Norman to continue his arms-dealing ways, so he put a stop to the former Green Goblin’s reign of terror over Silver Sable’s homeland.  The final confrontation left Osborn, once again, on the run from the law and vowing to reclaim his Goblin Formula-induced strength (and madness!) in order to achieve whatever nefarious goal he has planned next…

Osborn's next plan would arrive sooner than expected and in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #32 the webslinger's arch nemesis was looking to regain his Goblin identity.  Deep within the confines of one of his infamous Goblin Hideouts, a frustrated Norman Osborn self-administers another experimental trial of an amped-up version of his Goblin Formula.  Norman is determined to use the Formula to overwhelm the nanites circulating his system that are preventing him from accessing his Goblin alter ego (recall that at the conclusion of the Goblin Nation story arc, Spider-Man used nanites to depower Norman and rid his body of the Goblin Formula).   Unfortunately for Osborn, this trial also fails leaving the former Goblin to lament, “I can’t go on like this, I need [The Goblin].”

Having failed to regain his Goblin strength during his self-administered trials with the Goblin Formula, Osborn opts to try a few alternative strategies to access his inner demon.  Seeking help from a medical doctor, a psychiatrist and even an acupuncture therapist Norman attempts to reverse the effects of his systemic nanites. These professionals also fail to help Norman reach his goal, however the acupuncture therapist recommends an ‘unconventional’ approach.

The story then shifts to Osborn climbing to the top of a snowy mountain (most likely the Himalayan Mountains, although that is not explicitly stated) toward a trio of Tibetan-like monks.  To get a good feel for this scene think back to Bruce Wayne’s climb toward Raj Al Ghul’s temple in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005).

Atop the mountain the three monks (Master Ox, Master Hawk and Master Snake) praise Osborn’s determination and commitment to finding their temple.  Norman asks if they can ‘fix’ who he is on the inside and the monks seemingly agree to help.  Their assessment of Osborn begins immediately and his first test is centered around the Emerald Oracle of Ikkon.  The monks instruct Osborn to place his hand upon the gemstone and “it shall reveal [his] true potential…as a practitioner of the mystic arts.”  After Norman places his hand on the gemstone, the green rock glows and the bright light emitted from it encompasses the room.  The monks are astounded by the gemstone’s response and they conclude his training must begin immediately.

Indeed Norman quickly becomes a pupil for the monks and a series of reading, physical training and meditation exercises under the guidance of his new mentors proves to be incredibly fruitful for the former Green Goblin.  At some point later, Master Ox informs Osborn that although his story parallels that of the powerful mystic practitioners that preceded him, the personal demon that “he must overcome” makes him unique and drives him to achieve more than “any man [he and his brothers] have ever known.”  That’s quite high praise!

Later, Norman poses a question to one of his gurus in regards to his namesake, in other words, why was he called “Master Ox.”  The master explains that every man has a spirit guide, a totem, that connects them to the world and the energy all around.  He goes on to say that that spirit guide will eventually seek Norman out.  Indeed that is what occurs a short time later while Osborn is meditating.  He is approached by a tiger, presumably his ‘spirit guide.’  Norman informs the monks of this development and they agree that it is time for Norman’s final test.  More specifically, its time for Osborn to bond with his totem in the most sacred room of their temple.

Osborn is then led through a hall filled with masks and his trio of mentors instruct Norman to “reach out and accept [his] destiny.”  Norman, at first, reaches for the tiger mask but then concedes, “I accept nothing.  I am Norman Osborn…and I choose my destiny.”  He then grabs a Goblin mask and chooses to bond with it instead (which begs the obvious question of who left a Goblin mask in the sacred hall?!?).  As to be expected, after Osborn bonds with the Goblin mask all hell breaks loose.  He uses his sorcery skills to summon Spider-Man to the temple.  Spidey, who was transported in such a way that left him completely surprised, quickly realizes he’s being attacked by Norman Osborn (because of the cornrows!) and that Norman now has sorcerer supreme-like powers.

Spider-Man tries to match Norman's sorcery and grabs a Spider-mask to bond with, however,  Osborn’s skills are too much for Spidey and he’s quickly defeated.  As the webslinger lay unconscious on the ground, the monks try to make the most of a bad situation and they acknowledge that although Norman did not choose the totem the universe had selected for him, at least he had defeated his personal demon.  But Norman does not stop there, he uses his sorcery to convert Spidey into a spider and then he eats the spider!  Osborn then sets his sights on the three monks and claims that since Spider-Man is out of the way nothing can stop him, but the monks fight back and…

The panels fade out to white…

The story returns to Norman’s initial test with the Emerald Oracle of Ikkon as Osborn suddenly realizes that everything that had transpired after that initial test was all a dream (or illusion).  The monks inform Osborn that this was his first and only test and the one that demonstrated his ‘true potential.’  They go on to say that all other orders will be informed and that “these ways” are not for him.  The temple and the monks then disappear.

A distraught Osborn kneels down on the snowy mountain top in disbelief over what could have been…but he does not stay down for long.  Norman shifts from regret to jubilation as he realizes that he can be the Goblin again and that the Goblin is still inside him!  As the story ends, Osborn vows to find a way to let the Goblin out…

It appears as the though Norman's thirst for power via the mystic arts did not stop on that mountaintop.  Soon after, in Marvel Legacy #1, Doctor Strange is alerted that someone has attempted to breach the defenses of his Sanctum Sanctorum.  That someone, of course, was Norman Osborn.  Unfortunately for Norman he was unable to get past Strange's shrubbery...that's right, his shrubbery.  Apparently Doctor Strange has mystical shrubbery and they are quite the formidable foe...sending Osborn packing.  Nevertheless, Norman's search for power continues...

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Osborn struggles to rid his body of the Goblin Formula-eradicating nanites circulating in his bloodstream, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #32

When the acupuncture treatment fails, his therapist recommends an alternative approach, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #32

Osborn reaches the mountain-top temple and is greeted by Master Ox, Master Hawk and Master Snake, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #32

Norman trains his mind, body and spirit at the temple whilst training to learn sorcery, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #32

The tiger totem selects Osborn, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #32

Osborn defies his masters (and the universe!) by opting to bond with the Goblin totem and not the Tiger, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #32

Osborn uses his sorcery-powers to defeat Spider-Man in front of his masters, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #32

Norman is deemed unworthy to train in the mystical arts because of his failure predicted by the Emerald Oracle of Ikkon, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #32

Norman despondently leaves the Sanctum Sanctorum as he is unable to breach Doctor Strange's shrubbery...err his defenses, as seen in Marvel Legacy #1