The Goblin Cult

At the conclusion of the Origin of the Species story arc, Spider-Man informed Harry Osborn that he (Harry) was the father of Lily's son, not Norman.  The news came as a shock and soon Harry decided to leave New York City and his son Stanley privately and away from the dangers (Goblin related and not) that lurked throughout the Big Apple.  Harry was forced to raise the boy as a single father, since Lily decided to place herself in seclusion to prevent the baby from being harmed by anyone else who may try to attack her (doesn't make much sense, but whatever!). 
To celebrate Harry's new life-path, his close-friends threw a Halloween party in his honor at May Parker's house in Amazing Spider-Man #647.  Vin Gonzalez, who had recently been released from prison, made an appearance at the gathering.  He had been busted for taking part in the Spider-Tracer murders during the Character Assassination story arc.  Vin changed while in prison, but not for the better and quickly made his intentions known to Harry once the two had a moment alone.  Vin gave Harry a message from Norman…that he better take good care of Stanley.  At first Harry was confused by Vin's comment, but then Vin clarified his intentions and flashed a Green Goblin tattoo on the underside of his forearm.  Vin then referred to Norman as his 'higher power'…Harry was in complete shock. 
Vin had to leave the party early because of his enforced curfew and as he was leaving, he was confronted by Harry outside of May's home.  Harry told Vin that he made a promise to himself to keep Stanley safe at any cost and he was not going to take threats from Vin nor his father.  Vin tried to reassure Harry that he and Norman were not threatening him but before Vin could finish his sentence, Harry zapped him with a tazer rendering him incapacitated.  As Vin writhed in pain on the ground, Harry took the opportunity to clear the air and distinguish himself from his father.  He told Vin that he was not crazy (like his dad) and that he was in control, at which point he unloaded on Vin beating him to a pulp.  After Harry got a handful of shots in, he left Vin bloodied on the ground and told him that he never liked him.  He explained further that he loved Lily very much and that his father had taken her away from him in every way possible.  Harry claimed that the only thing left from her was Stanley, and he was going to keep that part of her. 
Vin's flashing of the Green Goblin tattoo marked the official debut the Green Goblin Cult, a group of individuals who secretly 'worshipped' Norman Osborn and his worldview.  This cult would play heavily in getting Norman removed from incarceration and they should not be confused with Norman's other cult-following, the Order of the Goblin.

Osborn #1 begins with Norman Osborn in his cell at the Raft, admiring the work of his cell mate, a small spider. As he watches the spider trap her prey, Norman finds a new appreciation for the tactic of waiting and allowing one's enemy to 'ensnare' themself.

At the offices of the Front Line newspaper, a distraught Norah Winters invites Peter Parker to a lunch date claiming that she has something important to tell him. She tells Peter that she always thought she had 'guts' as a reporter. But now she feels as though she traded in her journalistic integrity because she allowed herself to get bullied off of her story (regarding Norman's corrupt American Son experiments) by Osborn. Peter encourages her to write the story now since Norman is safely away in prison, Norah obliges.

During a private meeting in Washington D.C., Colonel Copeland briefs three senators (Morrison, Kohut, Muffoletto) as to the current status of Norman Osborn. The colonel explains that Norman is currently being held without charges because the powers-that-be do not want anything done in haste. The fear is that if Osborn's trial is not executed flawlessly, he'll be able to beat the charges using an insanity plea. As a temporary measure, Senator Morrison suggests moving Osborn to a 'privately operated facility', the mere suggestion of that prison causes Senator Muffoletto to fret.

The story then transitions to this 'privately operated facility' aka the Special Containment Center (S.C.C.), where a priest is making one of his routine visits. Father Coulmier is admitted by a security guard who questions the priest's motives for these visits, citing he gets no pay or 'bonuses' for doing so. The mild-mannered priest simply states, "God has a plan for all of us". As Father Coulmier enter the prison we see the current 5 inmates that inhabit the Special Containment Center.

1. Pryor Cashman aka Kingmaker, a demon entity

2. Xirdal, from a reptilian alien race

3. Carl Rives, aka 'Carny' Rives, a phasable entity, he had recently been removed from the SCC

4. June Covington, aka The Toxic Doxie, a gifted chemical biologist and geneticist

5. Ai Apaec, aka The Decapitator, a South American chimera god with the body of a spider (an interesting potential cell mate for Norman, keep an eye on him!)

Back at Norman's cell at the Raft, Senators Morrison and Muffoletto inform Osborn that he is to be transferred. After Norman gets under their skin, they leave in a huff and he prepares for his transfer.

Shortly after, Father Coulmier receives a call from Senator Morrison informing him that "It's done." (referring to Norman's transfer to the S.C.C.). Coulmier returns to his quarters, sheds his priestly garb and looks at himself in the mirror. As he stares with a devilish smirk into the mirror, he reveals the tatoo on the back of his neck...a tatoo of the Green Goblin!

Meanwhile, back at the offices of the Front Line, Norah gets wind from one of her informants that Osborn has been removed from the Raft, but no one knows where to. This freaks Norah out and she immediately suspects he's been placed into the witness protection program and that he's gonna kill her if she goes public with her story. The search for Norman's whereabouts begins just as he is being ushered into his new digs at the S.C.C.

Osborn #2 begins in the same manner as the first issue of the mini series, with Norman Osborn expressing his admiration for a member of the animal kingdom. This time, instead of a spider, it's the hyena, a so-called 'opportunistic hunter'. Osborn is sharing his thoughts with Father Coulmier, during what appears to be a monitored therapy session. Osborn explains to Coulmier that being opportunistic does not imply a lack of character, rather, it demonstrates 'a good deal of sense.' Norman places emphasis on his point by slamming a rolled up newspaper on the table in front of him, startling Coulmier. He tells the priest he was swatting a fly, but Coulmier quickly replies, 'we don't get flies down here.'

Their session is unproductive as Norman responds to Coulmier's commentary with sarcasm, but soon the priest asks the prison guard to leave so that Osborn can receive the sacrament of penance in private. Once the guard leaves, Coulmier informs Osborn the true reason for his interest in the former villain. 

The priest tells Norman that he is a man of faith and that he and his associates believe that Norman has a 'crucial role in bringing about a better world'. Norman is quite intrigued to be a cult leader (once again!), but refuses aid from Coulmier in escaping. Norman believes himself to be political prisoner, so escape would hurt his cause. Coulmier tells him that there are two ways out of the S.C.C., death and when 'they' need you for something (the former seems most likely). The moment Coulmier issues that statement, alarms go off across the S.C.C., there's a security breach in the Second Wing.

Back at the Front Line, Norah Winters receives a suspicious envelope with a return address located somewhere miles off the coast in what seems to be a non-existent locale. Inside the envelope she finds a note with three words, 'Pier 84. Midnight', on the back of the note is the Goblin Cult image (identical to the tatoos on Vin Gonzalez and Father Coulmier).

After Norah is tipped off to the existence of a Green Goblin Cult, she immediately begins investigating some of the folks who have chose the Goblin as their messiah.  However in Amazing Spider-Man #649, Norah quickly discovers the hard way that the Cult members are not the friendliest of people.  While amongst the members of a biker gang, who also happen to be white supremacists as well, Norah was nearly killed after inquiring about their devotion to the Green Goblin.  The bikers were not the brightest bulbs in the pack and the most Norah was able to extract from the gang was that they embraced Norman's stance against foreigners and keeping them off of American soil.  To quote them, "America is for Americans!  White Americans!".  Luckily for Norah, Spider-Man and the Black Cat were able to step in before things got ugly, and they dismantled the biker thugs in a matter of minutes.  

Returning to Osborn #2, with the alarms still blazing at the S.C.C., Marty, the schmucky security guard from the Third Wing, appears to have a mental breakdown and the prisoners take advantage of it. Ai Apaec grabs the guard while June Covington tries to coerce him into opening the cell gates. Marty fails to get the gate open for June, so Ai Apaec squeezes the guard with its spider-legs, killing him instantly.

The story then returns to Osborn and Coulmier, both of which are lying face down on the ground while the alarm is sounding. Norman becomes fed up with waiting for the guards to allow him to return to his feet, so he does what any impatient person would do...he kills the two guards and begins his escape. Before leaving, however, Norman returns to the Third Wing where he finds their guard slain. Osborn informs the group of prisoners that he will free them, but first he promises that if they don't do what he says until they are beyond the prison walls, he will kill them. The prisoners agree to his terms.

The group of five make their way down the prison halls, looking for an escape route (since none of them know exactly where they are). While leaving, Xirdal (the reptilian inmate) sees the dead guards (the ones Osborn killed) and decides that she doesn't want to follow a murderer into battle so she goes off on her own. After she opens a hatch door, a flood of water is released, seemingly killing Xirdal. Osborn watches her die and says, 'someone chose poorly'. Norman was somehow aware that he's miles underwater. When Father Coulmier asks Norman how he knew that, he replies, 'whoever heard of a cesspool, with no flies'. It appears Norman astutely recognized a clue that Coulmier had given him earlier in the day.

Osborn #2 concludes with Norah's rendezvous at Pier 84, where she is meeting up with her mysterious informant. The informant refuses to give Norah his name, rather, he directs Norah to her 'chariot'...a submarine! She's headed to the S.C.C....

In keeping with the first two installments of this mini series, the opening scene in Osborn #3 pays homage to a member of the animal kingdom, this time it’s the instinctive habits of the leader in a pride of lions. However, instead of Osborn issuing the praise, it's Senator Sondra Muffoletto discussing politics and sharing a meal with her staff in Washington D.C. The senator explains to her people that all human beings are animals and that there are certain essentials (food, water, shelter, community, and protection) that all animals require. In order to secure these essentials, whether it’s a group of humans or a pride of lions, strong leadership is required. Muffoletto delineates the four things a leader must do well.

1. Distribute resources

2. Enforce the rules

3. Protect the group

4. Play the part (ie, inspire confidence and trust by your actions) and don’t flinch!

The fourth characteristic is the tricky one and the Senator explains that it cannot be taught, an animal is born with the necessary trait…

This bit of foreshadowing transitions the story back to the S.C.C., where Norman Osborn leads a group of recently freed prisoners through the halls of the detention center. His following includes June Covington, Pryor Cashman, Ai Apaec, and the man posing as a priest, Father Coulmier. Norman leads them to the Second Wing (which houses the prison’s general population) where all hell has broken loose and a prisoner uprising is in full swing. It’s clear Norman plans to seize control over the entire S.C.C. otherwise he would have stayed far away from the Second Wing and focused on his escape. Instead, Norman takes them into the heart of the melee.

Upon entering the Second Wing, Norman spouts some latin to inspire his small group of followers, “pax pro eo optimus arma (peace through superior force)”. The Second Wing is in complete disarray as security guards are being torn limb from limb and the bloody riot spares no one. Norman instructs his fellow members of the Third Wing to find 'the biggest, ugliest creature on the floor and make him your…’. But before Norman could finish his sentence the biggest, ugliest, creature on the floor found him and tried to make him his…, well, you get the picture. Osborn finds himself getting pummeled by a 10-foot tall inmate (who looks like a member of biker gang) while the rest of the general population watches in enjoyment.

One of the spectators to Norman’s beat down is Norah Winters, who is ‘safely’ watching the ruckus from the Second Wing’s observation deck alongside her mysterious companion. Norah immediately recognizes Norman. Meanwhile, back at the offices of the Daily Bugle, staff member Sarah Saulsby struggles to contact Senator Muffoletto and her people in regards to both Norah’s disappearance and Norman Osborn’s recent ‘off-radar’ status. Sarah had found a lead from Norah’s notes that suggested 'Pier 84' was of importance and she wanted to find out from the senator what the significance of that pier may be. The message eventually reaches Senator Muffoletto.

Returning to the S.C.C., Norman’s entire group is now under attack from the prisoners in the Second Wing. However, they seem to be holding their own quite well against the other inmates. June Covington takes on a Blob-like inmate, who thinks he has her beaten, but June reveals some interesting facts about herself. June has altered her own biology in numerous ways. She has bones that soften to diffuse impact, glands that distribute relaxin to allow her joints to easily dislocate, and she’s increased her pain threshold. All of this makes her a formidable foe, but she saves the best for last, a neurotoxin in her blood that induces paralysis in her victims. She easily defeats the poor man’s Blob.

Amidst the chaos, Norman is still being battered around by the giant biker-like inmate, and despite the cheers from the crowd for the ‘old man to stay down’, Norman keeps coming back for more. But ol’ Norman soon turns the tables on the inmate and with one powerful blow he knocks him clean off of his feet. After taking control of the fight Norman exclaims, “Your turn! Come out and play with Uncle Norman!”…classic line. Norman’s victim issues a sheepish look as he and the rest of the inmates soon realize who this man is, the great Norman Osborn! Soon, cheers of ‘Osborn! Osborn! Osborn!’ ring throughout the prison and the inmates flash their Goblin tattoos. Norman relishes the moment.

Back in D.C., Senator Muffoletto receives word about Sarah’s 'Pier 84' inquiry and she immediately phones Senator Morrison. She requests to meet Morrison in person, but he declines, stating they have nothing to talk about. Remember that their initial committee meeting was off-the-record and Morrison appears to be covering his tracks all the while framing Muffoletto for his deeds. Muffoletto realizes this and drops her teapot after she reaches the unfortunate conclusion…she flinched! See, there’s a reason I included that whole lion leadership bit from the story’s beginning…

Osborn #3 concludes with Osborn addressing his newfound followers, who are all cheering him on. Before Norman could issue out a speech, Father Coulmier directs Norman’s attention to the observation deck. Unfortunately for Norah, she could not phone anyone for help before she is abducted by Ai Apaec upon Norman’s command. Norman now has a prisoner of his own, a lady he has a small amount of history with, Miss Norah Winters…poor gal.

As Norah stared into Norman's eyes, she had a stunning realization at the onset of Osborn #4...there must be a God! She reasoned that since nature has a 'fondness for balance', then there must be a benevolent deity somewhere to even up for the evil that stood before her! Norman immediately questions his captive as to how she arrived at the S.C.C. and after she explains that she was following a lead, he has a wonderful idea. Osborn hands her a pad and pen (not sure where he got them from) and informs her that he will give her the story of the century, he then focuses his attention on the inmates. Borrowing a bit from Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, Norman addresses the crowd as 'Friends, Countrymen, Reprobates' and explains to them that they have all been unlawfully detained. He goes on to say that he will not stand for the injustice they have received and that he will burn the prison to the ground. The prisoners cheer madly in his support.

Osborn was ready to prepare a strategy for his escape, but something did not sit right with him as far as Norah's arrival at the prison, more specifically her anonymous escort who seemingly disappeared just as Ai Apaec snatched her. Norman pointed out that a whistle-blower would have a lot to gain by exposing the S.C.C., yet this source clearly did not want a public connection made between he and the prison. Norah quickly interjects with the claim that she was approached only after she looked into Norman's last visitor (Sondra Muffoletto) at the Raft.  "Visitors", Norman remarks as he corrects Norah and suddenly Norman puts it all together.  He realizes that Muffoletto was being set up and that she was the key to his escape.

Norah scoffs at Norman's plan to expose the S.C.C. to the world, she believes that no one would care once they realized who was locked away in there. But Osborn plays the patriot card and contends that if these prisoners were born on American soil, then they have rights and they deserved a trial. Father Coulmier interrupts their soap-box bickering and informs them that there is a code that could be used to telephone the surface, within seconds Osborn had Muffoletto on the line. Norman reminds the Senator that she is being set up (a fact she realized at the conclusion of Osborn #3) so he bargains for a legal escort out of the prison, a transfer back to the Raft, and a trial. In exchange, he would help the Senator bury this story and Norah would return to NYC as if nothing had happened. Muffoletto takes Osborn up on his offer and then tells him where the escape pod in the S.C.C. was located. Immediately after getting off of the phone, Muffoletto contacts the Pentagon and orders an attack on the S.C.C.

Coulmier was surprised to see Muffoletto provide Osborn with such an obvious opportunity to double-cross her and simply make a run for freedom. Norman was suspicious as well and decided to dig a little deeper into the motivations of his priestly associate. After Osborn questions the nature of Coulmier's 'grand plan', the priest responds that it was simply to free him from incarceration. Coulmier went on to say that despite being aware that Osborn's freedom was also the intention of others, he was not privy to their motives. After hearing the priest describe him as 'a man of lawlessness and a man whose ascension is a herald...', Osborn decides to test the Coulmier's convictions. He sends the priest on a suicide mission.

As the group (which included Norah, June Covington, Pryor Cashman, Ai Apaec, and Norman) made their way to the escape pod, Norah's anonymous source appeared before them, one Carney Rives! Rives, a phasable entity, was originally a prisoner in the Third Wing but he was removed just prior to Osborn's arrival in Osborn #1. Norman pilots the escape pod, with six passengers packed in, as Coulmier begins opening hatch doors in an attempt to implode the prison. But Coulmier's suicide mission is a futile attempt, as the U.S. Navy fires missiles at the S.C.C., annihilating the prison just as Osborn and the others make their getaway!

The opening scene for Osborn #5 immediately follows the events of the previous issue as Norman and his crew navigate their escape pod to safety at the surface of the ocean.  Ai Apaec created a cocoon to protect the pod and Osborn, as well as his fellow inmates, was now officially a free man.

The story then transitions to a time three weeks after Norman's escape from the S.C.C. as Norah Winters and Senator Muffoletto are called to a Senate investigative hearing on Osborn's disappearance.  Chairing the hearing was none other than the Green Goblin Cult co-cospirator Senator Bill Morrison himself!  Morrison rips into Norah's story (which she published in the Daily Bugle) on Norman's disappearance and the S.C.C. as a secret prison.  He cites that there very little corroborative evidence backing her story up.  Unfortunately for Norah while she was Norman's captive she was drugged and brainwashed in order to muddy the waters of her memory (this was part of Norman's deal with Muffoletto as he attempted to bury this story for her), making her an unreliable source of factual information.

Fed up with Morrison's facade, Muffoletto interrupts Norah's interrogation and confesses her involvement in Norman's illegal transfer to the S.C.C. as well as his escape.  She threw herself at the mercy of the committee as she claims that she was convinced the country was not safe with Norman in the system.

Whilst Norah and Sondra were defending themselves at the Senate hearing, Norman was out and about in Manhattan at the First Bank of New York.  He accesses a lock box and appeared to make a withdrawal, shortly after doing so he was sharing cocktails with the lovely (but deadly) June Covington.  The two share a romantic dinner after which Norman called for his 'ride'...he was turning himself in to the authorities!  Meanwhile, June heads off for a job interview.

The word of Norman's surrender spread like wild fire and it did not take long to reach Senator Bill Morrison who became infuriated with the news.  He quickly sends his subordinate to find out more information on Osborn's status, as Morrison was now in full panic mode.  Later, at the Federal Courthouse in New York City, Osborn (dressed in his prison garb) addresses the media.  He claimed to be proud to live in a country that guaranteed him a day in court and that he was proud to have had a role in keeping it that way.  Norah makes her way to the courthouse and confronts Osborn for what he did to her while she was captive.  After briefly antagonizing her (and not answering her questions), Osborn was carted off by the authorities back to the Raft.

Norman's journey ends exactly where it began, in a lonely spider-web-filled prison cell at the Raft.  Soon after returning to the Raft, Muffoletto pays him a visit.  The humbled senator wanted some closure on this whole debacle as she questions Norman's motives throughout his escape.  Muffoletto asks Osborn why he arranged to have all the prisoners killed and, in short, Osborn describes it as a mercy killing.  Osborn points out that he promised them all justice and that their dignity had been robbed the moment they were imprisoned there, so the only logical thing to do was kill them all (d'uh!).

Muffoletto leaves after asking for God's mercy on both Norman and herself, Norman then reminds the Senator that he may still save the world someday (I guess we'll wait and see on that one).  As Muffoletto walks away, Norman's new doctor arrives with his meds...the new doctor is June Covington!  Norman is already planting the seeds for yet another escape from incarceration...

As an interesting side note to the Green Goblin Cult saga, Carlie Cooper, Peter Parker's (current) girlfriend, actually entertained the idea of branding herself with a Green Goblin tattoo in Amazing Spider-Man #659!  Of course it was a bit a of drunken revenge aimed at getting back at Peter by using his arch nemesis Osborn as a means of hurting Peter, as opposed to some well-orchestrated plot to join forces with Norman.

Carlie, luckily for Peter, eventually has a change of heart and decides instead to embellish her belly with a Spidey tattoo...certainly a much more pleasant image for Peter to gaze upon.  She showed Peter her new tattoo in Amazing Spider-Man #660.

As another interesting facet to this story, there's this question...was this the first time Osborn loyalists sported Green Goblin tattoos as a sign of support?  The answer:  No.  For more information, see here.

It appears that the Goblin Cult has also gone global.  In Spider-Man #20, Miles Morales encounters a branch of the Goblin Cult in Japan.  This band of Elvis-inspired Goblins were essentially harmless, nevertheless it is worth including them to demonstrate the sphere of Osborn's influence.

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Harry uses a tazer to subdue Vin Gonzales after Vin had confronted him, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #647

Harry proceeds to beat Vin mercilessly outside of May Parker's home, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #647

Senators Kohut, Morrison, and Muffoletto are briefed on the status of the recently detained Norman Osborn, as seen in Osborn #1

Norman is informed in his Raft prison cell by Senators Muffoletto and Morrison that he will be transferred from his current location, as seen in Osborn #1

Father Coulmier removes his priestly garb, revealing a Green Goblin tattoo on his back, as seen in Osborn #1

Norah receives an anonymous tip regarding the Green Goblin Cult at her Daily Bugle office, as seen in Osborn #2

Father Coulmier requests that the prison guard give he and Osborn some privacy in order to apprise Osborn of his mission, as seen in Osborn #2

Coulmier insists that Osborn escape the S.C.C. citing that there is no legal why out of there, as seen in Osborn #2

Norah investigates into the Green Goblin Cult and nearly pays with her life, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #649

Norman makes quick work of the prison guards that held he and Coulmier at bay, as seen in Osborn #2

Norman and his fellow inmates from the Third Wing walk freely through the S.C.C., as seen in Osborn #2

Coulmier briefs Osborn and the others as to the specifics behind the riot in the Second Wing, as seen in Osborn #3

Norman gets pummeled by one of the inmates during the prison riot, but he soon returns the favor, as seen in Osborn #3

Norah and her anonymous informant watch the prison riot 'safely' from above, as seen in Osborn #3

June Covington kills a fellow inmate using the toxins pulsing through her bloodstream, as seen in Osborn #3

Norah finds herself the unfortunate captive of Norman Osborn, as seen in Osborn #4

Norman rallies the inmates to his war cry, as seen in Osborn #4

Osborn strikes a deal with the desperate Muffoletto to ensure himself a transfer and a trial, as seen in Osborn #4

After Coulmier pledges his devotion to Osborn, Norman sends him on a suicide mission, as seen in Osborn #4

The U.S. Navy fires on the S.C.C. as Coulmier releases the pressure valves from inside the prison, as seen in Osborn #4

Norman and his cohorts reach the surface of the ocean in their escape pod, as seen in Osborn #5

Norah and Sondra appear before the Senate at an investigative hearing over Osborn's disappearance, as seen in Osborn #5

Norman makes a withdrawal from a lockbox at the First Bank of New York, as seen in Osborn #5

June and Norman share a meal and conspire together as Norman turns himself over to authorities, as seen in Osborn #5

Norman addresses the media on the steps of the Federal Courthouse, as seen in Osborn #5

June greets Osborn at his prison cell in the Raft, as seen in Osborn #5

Carlie backs out on her original plan for a Green Goblin tattoo and instead gets a Spider-Man tat, much to the enjoyment of Peter Parker, as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #660