Red Death

Norman Osborn’s reign as the Red Goblin, the infamous Carnage-Goblin hybrid, was the most deadly incarnation of the villain yet...and that’s saying a lot for ol’ Norman. The one-shot, Red Goblin Red Death, explores that time period and provides a deeper look at some of the events that were featured in Amazing Spider-Man #794 through Amazing Spider-Man #800.  The one-shot is divided into three mini-stories examining three different events within Osborn’s brief run as the Red Goblin. 

The first of these three stories takes place just after Norman initially bonds with the Carnage symbiote in Amazing Spider-Man #796 and is entitled Great Responsibility. Having just killed his two secret agents, a conflicted Norman Osborn converses with the Carnage symbiote as to whether or not this new union is something that is too unholy even by his standards.   Osborn understands that there are ‘lines to cross out of necessity’ but that Carnage’s game involves far too much senseless killing.  Norman refuses at first but the symbiote eventually convinces Osborn to partake, even evoking Spider-Man’s mantra “with great power must also come great responsibility.”  For a look at other instances in which Norman Osborn has employed Spider-Man's well-known life lesson, check out this page.   Osborn  eventually agrees with Carnage on one condition:  that they find a middle ground and so he proposes… 

And with that, Norman Osborn and the Carnage symbiote make their new alliance official and the Red Goblin is born! As a very brief aside, in the third installment of this one-shot (entitled The Wayside Darkness, covered in more detail below) a bit more color is added to Osborn’s actions immediately following the purging of the nanites from his system courtesy of the Carnage symbiote. Osborn senses “an almost imperceptible echo of mercy for so-called innocents.” He rationalizes that this is due to a trace amount of Venom’s symbiote still present within the Carnage symbiote. Osborn commands that ‘biological residue’ be purged as well and after that purging Osborn declares himself “Free!”. 

Returning back to Great Responsibility, with the symbiote’s craving for the death of innocents becoming overwhelming, the Red Goblin goes on the hunt. Again, the rules are one kill and it has to be someone that no one will miss.  Eventually they target a scumbag drug dealer as their victim.  Osborn rationalizes that the world might even be a better place if they murder him (since when does Norman care about that?!).  Osborn instructs the symbiote to wait until the dealer gets into his car, to reduce the number of witnesses, but they symbiote’s insatiable appetite gets the best of him and he kills the dealer in the middle of the street.  As expected, folks witness the killing and when Osborn points that out, the symbiote resolves to kill them too! 

A frustrated Osborn claims, “No, no! we had an agreement!” To which the symbiote retorts, “But you said it yourself, Normie, we can’t leave any witnesses.” 

The Red Goblin then goes on a killing spree, slaying a half dozen people by hand then blowing up the entire apartment complex with his Carnage bombs! With a countless number of innocent lives taken, Osborn questions this new union and the tactics it is employing.  He even asks himself, “how could I allow this to happen?...For respect? For control?...”  Eventually the influence of the evil symbiote takes control and Osborn realizes that this is a worthy cause because it will lead to the death of Spider-Man! 

The second story featured in this one shot provides some insight into Osborn’s targeting of J. Jonah Jameson, who ultimately provided Osborn with the secret identity of Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #797. This story takes place sometime between Amazing Spider-Man #796 and Amazing Spider-Man #797 and features a Norman Osborn that has fully assimilated the Carnage symbiote into his psyche. 

With his sights set on the destruction of Spider-Man, Osborn resolves that first he must uncover his true identity and thus must identify a weak link that could cough up Spidey’s secret. As Norman walks the streets of New York City his approached by a fellow alumnus of Empire State University.  His old college buddy, Ned Tobolowski, immediately recognized Norman and thus tried to initiate a conversation with him. 

As expected, Osborn tries to avoid a conversation with this person whom he does not recognize but the Carnage symbiote in his ear suggests that he kill this fool immediately.  Osborn evades that request from the symbiote, however that changes once Ned mentions that Osborn may still be upset about an incident that occurred when they were in school together. 

Ned’s comments jog Osborn’s memory and suddenly realizes that this was the student who had blabbed all over campus about the cheating apparatus that Osborn had assembled. This ultimately led to Osborn losing his scholarship and almost led to him being expelled from the university. 

For what it's worth, Norman's standing at E.S.U. didn't seem to be too tarnished, at least according to Harry Osborn's description of his dad's reputation in Untold Tales of Spider-Man #25.

Getting back to the story, Osborn has an apparent change of heart and invites Ned to join him for dinner, a request Ned accepts. Unfortunately for Ned, Osborn takes him to an abandoned building (perhaps the abandoned Gentlemen’s Club he take Jonah in Amazing Spider-Man #797?), converts into the Red Goblin and eviscerates his former college pal. The realization that Ned was a loudmouth (and thus a liability) reminds him that the weak link in Spider-Man’s secret identity may be the biggest loudmouth in New York City, one J. Jonah Jameson. 

Norman then arrives in Jonah’s apartment and sneaks up on his old ‘friend’ (for more on the history of J. Jonah Jameson and Norman Osborn, see here). After smacking Jonah around, Norman tells Jonah that he is going to tell him who Spider-Man is because “[he] won’t be able not to.” The rest, as they say, is history… 

The third and final installment in this one shot is centered around Osborn’s grandson, Normie Osborn. This story takes place sometime after the events of Amazing Spider-Man #799 and during the events of Amazing Spider-Man #800. Normie Osborn, recently ‘baptized’ as the Goblin Childe courtesy of his grandfather, finds himself on a school bus with other children. 

Apparently this bus is taking the group of children into the suburbs to go trick-or-treating for Halloween. On that bus, a young boy named Eduardo is being bullied by some of the other students on the bus. Normie, who is sitting aboard the bus in eerie silence, witnesses the bullying and with his grandfather’s harsh lessons playing in his head decides to intervene. But instead of helping the boy, he decides to escalate the bullying and destroys Eduardo’s headphones. 

As the kids exit the bus, Mister Pete, the bus driver, tells Normie he saw what he did and that he better bring him back some big candy bars otherwise he’ll report him. Normie then sneaks back on to the bus, converts to the Goblin Childe and begins to terrorize Mister Pete. Eduardo witnesses the whole thing and soon both Eduardo and Mister Pete find themselves captives of the Goblin Childe. 

Normie brings the two captives to Norman Osborn’s private office, where the Red Goblin is standing in front of a large pile of Spider-Man Halloween masks. Its unclear whether or not Norman killed all the people who wore those masks, but it’s a solid bet that he did. Regardless, when Norman sees his grandchild with his captives still alive, he scolds him for being weak and pathetic (for not immediately killing them). The Red Goblin kills Mister Pete and he then instructs the Goblin Childe to kill Eduardo, who was making an escape. 

Normie eventually tracks down Eduardo and goads him into emerging from the shadows and tells him to be strong and stand up to the Goblin Childe. Eduardo finds a pair of scissors on the ground and attacks Normie, but he’s quickly thwarted. Impressed by Eduardo’s bravery, Normie does not kill him, instead he lets him escape through the window. Eventually Eduardo makes it home to his family with a sense of strength that he will no longer allow himself to be bullied. The story shifts to Eduardo at home in bed, and an apparent piece of symbiote (left by Normie) is on his headphones, perhaps another symbiote-hybrid in the making… 

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Osborn and the Carnage symbiote discuss the feasibility of their bond, as seen in Red Goblin: Red Death (story 1: Great Responsibility)

When Osborn initially joins with the Carnage symbiote he senses the compassion rooted in the Venom symbiote...and he's not happy, as seen in Red Goblin: Red Death (story 3, The Wayside Darkness)

Osborn forces Carnage to expel the trace amount of the Venom symbiote, allowing pure evil to flow through his veins, as seen in Red Goblin: Red Death (story 3, The Wayside Darkness)

The Red Goblin identifies the first victim who's death will mollify the symbiote's need for murder, as seen in Red Goblin: Red Death (story 1: Great Responsibility)

The Red Goblin destroys an entire apartment complex filled with innocent people, as seen in Red Goblin: Red Death (story 1: Great Responsibility)

Osborn's initial reaction to the Red Goblin's killing spree is regret, but the symbiote's presence reverses that psychology and brings about a cold-blooded killer, as seen in Red Goblin: Red Death (story 1: Great Responsibility)

Osborn converts to the Red Goblin in front of his old fried Ned Tobolowski before killing him, as seen in Red Goblin: Red Death (story 2: Big Mouth)

Osborn arrives at J. Jonah Jameson's apartment and attacks him before abducting him, as seen in Red Goblin: Red Death (story 2: Big Mouth)

As the Red Goblin, Osborn terrorizes (and presumably slaughters) innocent people who happened to be dressed as Spider-Man, as seen in Red Goblin: Red Death (story 3: The Wayside Darkness)

When the Goblin Childe arrives at his grandfather's study with his two captives, he finds the Red Goblin standing before a pile of Spider-Man masks, as seen in Red Goblin: Red Death (story 3: The Wayside Darkness)

The Red Goblin scolds his grandson for not immediately slaughtering his two captives, as seen in Red Goblin: Red Death (story 3: The Wayside Darkness)

The Goblin Childe allows his potential victim, Eduardo, to escape certain death, as seen in Red Goblin: Red Death (story 3: The Wayside Darkness)